Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Sunday Poet: Susan Tepper

Poet Susan Tepper

Susan Tepper has been a writer for twenty years. Her stories, poems, interviews and essays have been published extensively worldwide. An award-winning author, Tepper has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize and once for a Pulitzer Prize for the novel. 'Let's Talk' her column at Black Heart Magazine runs monthly. FIZZ her reading series at KGB Bar, NYC, has been ongoing for eight years. Before settling down to study writing, Tepper worked as an actor, singer, flight attendant, marketing manager, tour guide, television producer, interior decorator, rescue worker and more.


In sand you trace a star

before the sea covers its light
that last time – from memory
sketching a cloud in flour

the table to winter

frosted walls, icicles
hung from chairs – you kept
blowing on your hands

insisting that was the last

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

WARHOLCAPOTE A.R.T. Loeb Drama Center Through October 31. Review by Ed Meek


From the Words of Truman Capote and Andy Warhol
Adapted by Rob Roth
Directed by Michael Mayer
Starring Stephen Spinella and Dan Butler

Film critic David Denby once said he has a hard time sitting though a play. Drama is a unique experience today. We sit, without distractions, focusing on what the people on stage are saying and to a lesser extent, doing, since in drama, dialogue is part of the action. Drama has a number of constraints. Unlike movies, there can be no grand battles; there are only so many characters that can fit on a set. We can’t zoom around the galaxy or dive under the water or follow horses around a track. Instead, drama and conflict, expressed in language by a limited number of characters must hold our attention. As in fiction, good playwrights hold back information, leading the audience by the hand through scenes that reveal character and perhaps truth. For example, In Parks’ Top Dog/Underdog, we slowly learn the background of two brothers and the conflict between them, culminating in a climatic conclusion. Along the way, themes of racism, exploitation, and our susceptibility to the con are explored.

Rob Roth developed WARHOLCAPOTE, based on conversations between the two iconic American artists taped by Warhol. Capote and Warhol represent something we don’t see much of today: celebrity artists. Capote appeared on Johnny Carson and was touted by Norman Mailer and critics as a great American writer. His novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s featured Holly-go-lightly, the character played by Audrey Hepburn in the film based on the book. In Cold Blood was a significant predecessor of creative nonfiction and nonfiction television serials like Making a Murderer. Warhol, with his Marilyn portfolio and his Campbell Soup cans, was perhaps the most famous artist in the United States in the 1960s. At the same time, Warhol’s work expressed the way that through fame, individuality is lost. Both Warhol and Capote apparently threw great parties.

The two even hoped to do a play together. Warhol, who was four years younger than Capote was obsessed with him. Capote was already famous when Warhol arrived in New York. He wrote fan letters to Capote daily and hung outside his apartment hoping to meet him. When he finally was invited in, Capote thought Warhol a strange and lonely guy but as time passed, Warhol gained fame and they became friends. Warhol stuck by Capote when he became embroiled in a scandal based on a story he wrote called “A Cote Basque” in which he attacked and exposed a number of his socialite pals. Warhol and Capote remained friends until Capote died in 1984.

Rob Roth says he drew from 59 cassette tapes as well as interviews and other recordings over a period of years to create the play. WARHOLCAPOTE can be charming and entertaining, like listening in to the conversation of an interesting couple at the next table in a restaurant, (There’s a salacious story about Capote and Humphrey Bogart that I wish I hadn’t heard.) but there is no drama, no conflict. No catharsis. Diane Paulus, the Artistic Director of A.R.T. says “the two artists imagined a play that would blur the boundaries between reality and art.” Paulus like Warhol is great at combining art and commerce. The Harvard Museum is currently featuring prints of Warhol’s portfolio of Marilyn Monroe.

Mahler’s film My Dinner With Andre has a similar premise. Mahler thought the conversations between his two friends were really interesting. What if he filmed the two in a restaurant? In My Dinner With Andre, Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregary engage in an argument about opposing world views. Shawn is very animated and enthusiastic in his delivery. Gregory is low key and rational. During the course of the argument, they reveal who they are and what they believe in and prompt us to raise questions about what is important in life. The movie is in essence, a filmed play and their opposing views furnish the necessary drama.

There are other problems with WARHOLCAPOTE. One of the two principle actors dropped out of the play just before it was to begin. Dan Butler bravely jumped in but he had to keep a script in his hands throughout the performance I saw. Unfortunately anyone who plays Capote begs a comparison to the late, great Philip Seymor in the film Capote. Stephen Spinella plays Warhol as a quirky dweeb with a high-pitched flat accent. Warhol was certainly quirky and whimsical but he was also really smart with great business sense. He once said: “good business is an art form.” He was very social, loved to throw parties and go to Sudio 54, launched Interview magazine and successfully married commerce and art in his work.

The play has a great set. At 90 minutes with no intermission, it moves along quickly.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Prayer: fix my set: Poems by Martha Boss

Prayer: fix my set
Oddball Publishing
Copyright 2016
44 pages
Poems by Martha Boss
Review by Lo Galluccio

The new book of poems by Martha Boss, recently released by Oddball Magazine Publishing, is truly a genius treat to read. Martha’s thinking and her pen are tightly bound so that you feel as though the ink on the page is her very own blood. But these are not poems inked in dry salty blood – their effect is more like cherry juice or a Manhattan cocktail. Martha seems loaded with brilliant insights about her own process of creating and the world around her. She eschews capital letters and uses an ampersand instead of “and.” Her book begins with this Whitmanesque declaration:

i celebrate my pen.
keeper of protest & riot.”
And later in the poem she writes:
my pen, desperate avatar
Of truth, translating
Crammed passion.”

Boss, a regular at Stone Soup on Monday nights, writes in free verse, her stanzas no set length and without rhyme schemes. Her own logic about things is jazz enough. In the title poem: Prayer: fix my set, she engages in a monologue to the Maker, in which she begs him to get the remote working and turn on the TV. This is quite entertaining until, at the end, she issues one more request:

Where are you from. Anyway, God?
Give me a sign.
I’m praying.
I’m guessin’ radioshack, please.
Can you fix my set?” p 8

I love the idea that God is at radio-shack, hanging with the other employees in a uniform.
Poems about the movie, “The Ten Commandments,”
hmm …now I’m thinking with my pen.”
Ends with “did God give the order to have Jesus killed?
Wassup with these guys?”

In a confessional poem about her own process she writes that she starts by drawing the sky every day and birds.

I draw every day. Every day I draw
the sky. It’s usually indigo blue. It usually gets me past a bad memory. …& birds. I draw
birds.” P 12

In the playful poem “Cookie Man” Boss coyly feeds a flock of birds some fig newtons...identifying with the birds as they
peck at one & then another & another like they’re seeing if they all taste the same
and they’re not sure what it is” p 26 
She notes from the box that they were made in Mexico which prompts Boss to finish the poem in Spanish:

hay chica. esta la fantasma del galeta-hombre./el cookie-man esta viviendo en el arbol
y ahora we know eso es que pasa a los fig newtons.” P 27
Roughly translated, the cookie man is living in the tree and now we know that is what is happening with the fig newtons. 
In “I walk by the river of everything” Boss takes on a musing stance toward probably the Charles River in Cambridge –

along the reedy banks/of high bio research/I am a single digit/wrapped tight in wool
some other/Ireland river. In a lyrical declarative voice she then sings: in spring we will
float/ our boats/the river of everything/will flow with experiment…and the waste of
ideas/have given it new data./the river moving the mystery/the unknowable genome/in
the undertow.”p 34

All the poems in this collection are good and riveting. In her plain-spoken eccentricity Martha Boss brings her own vision and life to the poetry she writes. There is a staccato feel to these pieces but then sometimes a well-spring of aria that extends the lines. It feels home-made and well spun, like plain funny and fantastic clothes you want to try on again and again. From the aluminum space suit to the cotton dress – all the birds she invokes—draws us into her mind’s resonance of language. I highly recommend checking out prayer: fix my set out.