Taylor Cyr Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

I’m sitting in the scratchy auditorium chair, flipping through my phone. I got here early because I hate crowds and I wanted to get a seat close to the end so I can make a quick get away once this is over. I know, I know -I’m a terrible person. These Bathhouse events are for the students. And as a creative writing minor, I should be interested. I should be attentive. But the fact is I just got done with a long day of class and the only thing I’m thinking about is how early do I need to go to bed to get up in the morning without wanting to shove a fork in my eye?

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Karen Thompson Reviews November 2012 Bathhouse Events

Day 1

On the first day of the Bathhouse readings we listened to Dimitri Anastasopoulos, Camille Roy, and Rachel Letvisky read from some of their past works as well as new pieces either recently published or currently being written. Having four creative writing classes this semester I’ve read pieces from every one of those writers.

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CW Faculty and Student Performances

This past week was a big one for both students and faculty. Performers from each echelon exhibited work in the Detroit Metro Area. Both Dr. Christine Hume and CW Grad Student Danielle Etienne were among the artists performing.

On Thursday November 8th at 7:00pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), the blog bore witness to both a Reading & Performance of Catherine Wagner & Christine Hume. Christine Hume started the night with a solemn incantation in a piece titled “Speech Talks Back,” afterwards  Catherine Wagner performed poems from her new book, Nervous Device (City Lights, 2012).

MOCAD

During Dr. Hume’s piece, the gallery space was plunged into near dark, a single light illuminating the reading space. The audience sat hushed, and distracted. Dr. Hume read as simultaneous audio boomed from several speakers. At times ears were overwhelmed with the recording and at other times one could feel the reading more palpably. The effect was incongruous with the play between the two channels of narration creating a third space where the piece took form.  The performance caught the audience in this third space, between the poles of navigation, the reading and the recording.

When Dr. Wagner took the stage, the lights came up and all was visible. She calmed herself using a variety of medieval songs rendered live before the audience. She stood before the audience eschewing the podium for a more intimate relation with the attending crowd. Her poems created laughs, frowns and other expressions as diverse as the material she read. Occasionally a poem would also include sung lyrics. This was not a professional musical performance, but an interaction between an untrained singing voice and a honed reading. Indeed, “the poems of Nervous Device express a self-conscious scepticism about the potential for human connection even as they maintain[ed] an optimistically charged eroticism.”

Flip Salon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday November 10th at 8:00pm, Creative Writing Graduate Student Danielle Etienne read three short fiction pieces at Flip Salon in Ferndale. The exhibition/performance, titled Little Cloud Rising/STRAIGHT TO HELL, also featured artwork from artist Jacqueline Woodrich and live musical accompaniment. The space itself, Flip Salon, is indeed a hair salon. Artwork lined the walls and Ms Etienne read in the “waiting room” while the audience crowded around and watched from a variety of perches. As Ms Etienne read a banjo played on, the aura of white trash hillbilly that Ms Etienne articulates in her piece was brought twanging into the salon space. The audience hooted and hollered throughout the performance as Ms Etienne’s evocative descriptions filled them with laughter or caused them to cringe inwardly.

Each of the events was a remarkable demonstration of the breadth of diversity that is present in the EMU Creative Writing Program and the blog looks forward to more performances of both students and faculty.

Past and Future

The Gregory Brothers incoming to EMU campus November 28th. That’s one week after thanks giving. They will be “speaking” in the Student Center Grand Ballroom, their performance begins at 7:00pm. The Gregory Brothers, of auto tune the news fame, are sure to brighten a dreary November with their unique comedy.

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An account of the events of September 21st by Rebecca Hughes

One never knows what to expect when they show up to a reading, but you know when it’s a Prof’s house, that the A-game will be brought.

First Wendy Kramer presented, “The Morton Salt Girl Monologue: NaCl and the Meaning of Her Mark” accompanied by collaged trademark images she had created of the changing icon over the years. In a performance including visual and auditory cohesion and dissonance, she read both stage direction and script of a constructed text for the girl. This was followed by David Buuck who presented “We are all Sound: Poetics and Public Space in the Occupy Oakland Movement” which expressed an “on the scene” accounting of the challenges of creating and distributing poetics that can attempt to convey, do justice to, or maybe even not to do too much justice to, the movement.

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Ian MacDonald reviews Intermedia Cabaret

EMU student Ian MacDonald reviews the Intermedia Cabaret from earlier this semester:

Intermedia Cabaret –  3/15/12

It was a night of tornados and bare-footedness. In short, a night of surprises. I anticipated a boring, post rush hour commute, a drink or two (since the venue was a bar), and a series of somber, slow-paced intermedia performances that would, likely as not, leave me feeling somewhat depressed for the long drive home. 

Literally none of that happened. Caught in a sudden downpour on I-94, I almost T-boned two cars at 60mph that must have spun out some few seconds earlier, the drivers apparently still too shocked to realize they had come to a rest lengthwise across the highway, and were merely facing the ditch, not in it. The venue was indeed a bar, the operative word there being “was”. And the performances turned out to be full of humor, energy and biting social commentary, the effect of which proved to be enlivening as opposed to melancholic. 

A variety of performers, guests, and guest-performers were in attendance. If they had anything in common it was that they all came prepared. The performances felt rehearsed and confident. If they had anything else in common it was the aforementioned (and still inexplicable) amount of bare-footedness present. Throughout the night, I periodically checked to make sure my own socks and shoes hadn’t mysteriously vanished. 

I particularly enjoyed Brenna York and Elizabeth Mikesch’s musical/poetry/skit/comedy entitled (I’m about 65% sure) “Twat Like Breaking Dongs”. The two of them, sitting back to back, trying to work together to stand up without using their hands was novel gag, as was a particularly fitting bit of repartee on so stormy a night:

“Did you get wet on the way here?”

(…)

“You know…from the rain?”        

Johnah Mixon-Webster and Miranda Metelski’s performance was another highlight. Johnah started off by announcing “We’re improvising. Deal with it”. The ensuing performance including Miranda singing “Rockabye Baby” while Johnah called for “more flesh, more bone, more plasma, more supplication” and later asked “what if language is the compass?”. One of the concluding lines “we are eyes watching eyes watching eyes” seemed to speak to the general goings-on in the bottom of the martini-less martini bar that night.

It was a pleasure to watch some of my more soft-spoken classmates let loose onstage. The drive over, quite possibly, almost killed me, but I’d brave similar weather again for the next one.

Amy Oleynik reviews Capstone Showcase

EMU student Amy Oleynik reviews the recent undergraduate Creative Writing Capstone showcase:

To the Beginning Creative Writer: The Capstone from a Reader’s Perspective

Capstone Reading, April 12th 2012

It’s been four vigorous years and it all comes down to one night. The graduating seniors of the Creative Writing program all come together to recite for you portions of their Capstone Project. This project is one they have been personally working on for the majority of their last semester, a project that is meant to reflect what they’ve acquired, gained and learned throughout their time in the program. I was one of these readers and I’d like to share with you my thoughts on the experience.

There were ten seniors lined up to present their works. With only five minutes for each performance, choosing your material to present was a nerve-wracking task. This was my first real reading. Of course I had presented pieces in class before, but I never was truly nervous of my audience’s reactions. Usually when given a time, it seems so long and you have to stretch your words to fill the space before you can wipe your brow and scuttle off stage. But in this moment, five minutes were barely a breath. What could I read that would sufficiently show my dedication and message? Luckily for me, I had written both short poetry and prose pieces. I was able to present a bit of each, though practicing beforehand made me even shakier.

As I sat in my room reciting to my houseplants, I realized each reading was completely different. I never emphasized the same words, I tried a different tone of voice or speed.  I’m not one for stage fright, but this performance meant more to me than others prior. This was the showcase of my hard spent time and ideas. I wanted to make it count.

My nerves were erased as I entered the Student Art Gallery. The space itself reflected what EMU is about, what we were a part of. Inventive, daring and ever varied. Our showcase was dynamic and multi-faceted. It revealed everything the Creative Writing program promoted and taught us, but it showed how we as individuals give life to the program.

Kylie read an excerpt from her mysterious and fantastical fiction piece. Jonah performed a series of poems that broke the fourth wall and reached out into the audience, asking you to inflect about where you call home. Elizabeth combined film making, appropriated music and narrative in a short film piece. Joseph performed a list poem interwoven with dialogue. David Chad used incredible word play and rhyme scheme to bring us a hilarious commentary on community and communication. Noah delivered a scene about Phoenix, asking us to take a journey through memory to find a final destination. Ian brought us a multi-genre approach in his video about the difficulties of the writing process, featuring many of the other Creative Writing students. Brenna led us through a complex fictional interview with the accompaniment of Elizabeth. And I shared with you moments of my grappling with today’s ideas of feminism.

From this performance alone showed what our program is all about. Collaboration, diverse genres, different backgrounds, attitudes and voices. We each brought something unique to share and invite you to step up to the podium when you are ready. There is a spot here for you.