19 March 2012

Caduceus "Book Tour" #1

Since I received my copies of CADUCEUS three weeks ago, I have given eight poetry readings of various kinds in a wide variety of venues. Each had a kind of theme or focus, so I would like to report briefly on each one.

New York City
26 February 2012

I have already reported on the little presentation I gave at the IAM conference, but now I want to focus in on the poetic theme of my talk and on what I read from Caduceus.

For the theme of this reading, I chose INTERDISCIPLINARY ARTS. I decided to talk about the ways in which poetry can imitate, simulate, and interact with other arts. So, I began by reading "Carmen Rehearses Her Monologue," which is one of my persona poems. It in, an opera singer talks about preparing and performing the role of Carmen and about how she does and does not lose her own identity in the process. The narrative voice slides in and out of Carmen's and the singer's perspectives, both in first person. Before I read, I played a recording of the Overture to Bizet's Carmen, and kept it playing in the background as I read. I was pleased to hear how the changes of music (the overture, as you may recall, presents all the major themes of the opera) sort of fit with the changes in the poem. So my point there was that the reading of a poem could hint at music, could fit with music, could be set, could be sung, could be acted out.

Then at the end I read "Mappa Mundi," which you can read online in an earlier version.

This poem weaves together a few themes. One is the Medieval idea that there are four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Each of the four dragons represents one of these. Another theme is the idea that the Holy Spirit somehow directs, inhabits, and permeates all the stuff of earth. Another is the visual suggested by the winds at the four corners of ancient maps. Another is the dragons drawn on the Chinese Checkers board game!

But I'm also just playing with sounds in this poem, too. It was inspired by a line of Hopkins: "As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame." I just loved the sound of that, and the multiple ideas spun off of the sounds.

To enhance the sounds, then, I like to get four volunteers to help me read this poem. Each of them chooses an "element," and reads the lines associated with that dragon. They stand at the four corners of the room, surrounding the audience. So I begin, reading the stanzas, and the four readers each read one line of the "chorus," then, in succession, so the voices resonate around the room.

This is how I read it, with four friends, at the IAM meeting. And as I said in my presentation, I hoped that this would hint at ways that poetry can relate to music, dance, and drama. Now an illustrator (one of the four readers) wants to illustrate this poem, too! Marvelous!

For the latest version of "Mappa Mundi," and for the text of "Carmen Rehearses her Monologue," you'll have to purchase Caduceus on amazon. If you do, please consider writing a little review on amazon or on your website -- and please let me know that you have done so. Thanks!



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