Mountain Word: “Ars Poetica” read by Jeremy Paden

This post is a re-blog of an original post by Mountain Word on July 4, 2011.  Click here to read more about Jeremy on Esse Diem: Easter Sunday, 2010 and Poetic Ruminations from a Small Town.  I attended this reading, and saw what you see on this video, live.  I am pleased to have the chance to share this reading with you.  Something about hearing the spoken word by the poet himself is simply magical.

I wish you could have been there.

Affrilachian poet Jeremy Paden reads “Ars Poetica,” his take on the art of poetry. Paden is an assistant professor of Spanish at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. His poems have been published in the Atlanta Review, Borderlands and elsewhere.

This is the first of a series of video excerpts MountainWord is editing from a two-hour reading by Affrilachian poets and open mic spoken word artists at Bluegrass Cafe on the final day of FestivALL 2011 in Charleston, W.Va. The event was put together by poet and organizer Crystal Good.

Aware, with a Sly Smile – Thoughts on the Space Opera

Interview with The Vampire….I mean, Rob Godbey…..about his experience with the premiere of Saint Stephen’s Dream.  Thank you, Rob!

What attracted you to the Space Opera?
I ran into a Doug Imbrogno at Art Walk a few months ago and he said he was working on an interesting show for FestivALL. I was intrigued by his description of a multi-media space opera. Once it was announced I realized I knew a lot of the cast, so I was attracted by people I know and like to see perform.

What if any expectations did you have about Saint Stephen’s Dream before you saw the show?
I’m not sure I had any. I wasn’t even sure it would be musical, since “space opera” was used to describe “Star Wars.” I would say part of the draw for me was the unexpected — not knowing what form the show would take — but comfortable with the people involved.

How would you describe being a member of the audience in the small space?
It worked really well. The space was intimate and drew the audience in. It wasn’t hard to believe you were in a room on a ship, in orbit. It invited the audience to participate and be part of the show without the awkwardness of many dinner-theater shows.

What was your favorite part of the experience?
When the band played “Enjoy Yourself,” one audience member got up and started dancing. Other members of the audience were moving in their seats and there was a cast member (the Shu’a) dancing away from the stage. The whole room became part of the show.

Which was your favorite character and why?
Gaia de la Phoenix (the Shu’a played by Kathleen Coffee) was my favorite character. She did a great job staying in character with a difficult role. By flitting around the room she pulled the audience attention from the stage and to the larger space of the room. Because she was fun to watch this worked. It expanded the performance and made the room or space part of the performance.

What was the take-away message, or was there more than one?
There were several not-so-new messages that were delivered in interesting ways. We are breaking the planet (and it’s the only one we have). Forgetting the past doesn’t really insure a peaceful future. Censorship is bad. Power corrupts. Individuality versus the collective. And, probably some more. These are good messages, so the fact that they’re not-so-new, doesn’t diminish them. The show’s format allows for many related messages without it coming across too unfocused.

What was your read on the crowd response?
The crowd response was very positive. I think everyone enjoyed the show.

Do you think Charleston shifted as a result of this performance?  Why or why not?
I think the show was very positive for Charleston, because something original and interesting happened right here, with local talent (greater Charleston area or WV). As far as shifted, I think the audience was already there, and small. Shifting would require a bigger and probably not as receptive audience to see some of these ideas. Maybe the show should tour high schools in WV and shift small audiences one-at-a-time (or another population).

What one word would you use to describe Doug Imbrogno?
Oh, I found this very difficult. I went round and round and arrived at Aware versus Discerning and neither captures the quiet humor behind it all; or maybe the one word is “Goulash”, but that’s too uncoordinated.

OK, I’ll go with “Aware,” with the caveat that it is said with a sly smile.

Where Do You Go When the Earth Won’t Have You?

There is a small grouping of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that lingers in my mind from the early 1990s.  One story was about Jean-Luc Picard living one of his many alternate lives on a planet with his wife and child.  The planet is under extreme stress, as the ozone layer is becoming thinner and thinner.  Everyone living on this planet wears long sleeves and pants, as well as sunscreen and hats at all times.  It is phenomenally hot, and much time is spent between Picard and his child working on coaxing life from crops they have planted.

The planet is on shut-down, but the change was so gradual that one gets the impression that generations of people have lived exactly the same way, unable to expose their bare skin to the sun and the outdoors.  Food supplies are entirely altered, and water, not oil, is the most valuable commodity.  One of the most striking things in the story is how extreme the environment seems, and yet how adapted to it the people are.  Suiting up to go outside at all times of day and in all seasons is just normal life to them.

It broke my heart to see this episode 20 years ago, because I have always had the sense that the Star Trek franchise gets it right.  No, not everything of course, but there is a genius in the science fiction that predicted mobile phones and robots, new levels of travel to deep space, race and gender connections and disconnections, and the rise of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

It’s one thing to look back and see that something was spot-on in hindsight, but quite another to see the future.

I don’t know what I will see for sure this weekend at Saint Stephen’s Dream, A Space Opera, but I am anticipating something rather amazing.  My new friend Doug Imbrogno is the kind of man to do something entirely new that smashes expectations and creates new cultural conversations and tools.

I’ll be at the Bloggerazzi table in Third Eye Caberet Saturday night.  No doubt, there will be an operatic follow-up post next week!

Poetic Ruminations from a Small Town

Jeremy Paden and Crystal Good are contributors to Esse Diem.  Jeremy’s poem Easter Sunday, 2010 appeared here this spring, and  Crystal is a writer for the Essays on Childhood project.  Both of them are Affrilachian Poets.

Local Charleston folks, plan to come out and hear these beautiful people and other poets on Sunday at the Fishbowl event!  You will not want to miss this FestivALL close-out extraordinaire.


King of Pain: Always Be?

In 1983, I was just about the happiest pup in the play yard.

September 1983

I was a teenager, and everything – almost – was going my way.  In retrospect, it was one of the best years of my life.  I remember one very difficult rite of passage related to losing a good friend to major mistakes (his), but other than that, all of my memories of that year are very positive.  Like all adolescents, a touchstone of my memories is the music.  That year, The Police released Synchronicity.

One of the biggest hits from this album was King of Pain.  I sang it.  I wrote the lyrics.  I drove around town with my friends listening to it.  I hold it as a “Top 10” of my high school years songs.  And I had no more idea what it was about than I knew how to split the atom in my kitchen.

Today of all days, I know what it is about.  I accepted something today at last that I was postponing, postponing mostly due to my desire that it not be true.  Who can say why some things are clear in one interpretation and not in another?  I think it is in the interpretation, but also in the life experience.  I came across a video of another popular music artist singing the song, and in the first listen I got it.  Maybe it’s today.  Maybe it’s that the artist’s gender and age match mine at last.  Maybe I’ll never know.  But listening today, all of the images that for eighteen years have been strange and mysterious suddenly converged into a single, clear message: Futility is painful.

The images in King of Pain are not just about futility.  The images are nearly 100% images of life in its natural state, being exactly where it is “supposed” to be doing exactly what it is “supposed” to do, and yet being unreachable and unable to continue its purpose.

A dead salmon frozen in a waterfall.  A blue whale beached by a spring tide’s ebb.  A king in a position to lead, who is rendered blind.  A piece of cloth, run up a flag pole, whipped about in a wind that won’t stop.  A fossil trapped in a high cliff wall.  A cat unable to come down from a tree I’m sure it joyfully climbed.

This song is a very sad poem about doing everything right and still being in trouble and not knowing what to do next.

I think I’m really very grateful I had no idea what it was about when I was young.  I wouldn’t mind not knowing now.  But there is more…..all is not lost!

Closer to now.

Whenever someone asks what famous person living or dead I’d like to have dinner with, I am never prepared to answer.  Today, I am prepared.  I want to have dinner with Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner.  I want to ask the man who voiced King of Pain where he is now.  It’s not that I don’t think he still understands where he was in 1983; but he’s 60 years old this year and I imagine that after living nearly twice as long now as he had when he first sang his sad and haunting song, he has a new layer of perspective on those images.

Sting, just drop a comment here on the blog, friend.  I’ll email you and set something up.