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.

Jessica Chrisekos reviews Intermedia Cabaret

Jessica Chrisekos reviews the recent Intermedia Cabaret:

Bathhouse Event: Intermedia Cabaret

On March 15th, 2012, Ypsilanti and surrounding areas were plagued by heavy hail storms and dangerous tornadoes. Despite the upsetting weather, my night took a delightful turn at an old martini bar in downtown Ypsilanti.

Writers of all ages and backgrounds joined together to perform their work in an old martini bar. The scene was dark and clustered, something you might expect of a poetry venue. Some of the writers and artists at this event were Rob Halpern, Evan Mann, Nick Compton, and Wolanda Willis. There were many other writers featured, and all performed their pieces with passion.

One of my favorite pieces that night was called “Nonsound, a Musical,” by Rob Halpern. The line that perhaps affected me most was, “Silence, a music we never hear.” Rob Halpern always has a way with words…creating a fluid-like rhythm pleasing to the ear. His sounds and ideas were manifested in his beautiful piece. Also featured was Evan Mann. Evan Mann took a different approach to poetry. His piece, entitled, “I am,” allowed for the use of his body to depict his emotions and reactions. Evan Mann also described how the body is useful in telling stories and saying things that are lost in language. Another writer was Wolanda Willis, who gave a stunning, passionate performance of her work. Her work was dedicated to her mentors, and it’s safe to say that they would be very proud of her work!

While the storm that night may have left some things unsettled, the Bathhouse event helped bring peace and inspiration to me and many other writers and listeners.

Andrew Rybarsyk reviews Konrad Steiner

Andrew Rybarsyk reviews Konrad Steiner’s performance at the Dreamland Theater that was part of this semester’s BathHouse Reading Series:

Konrad Steiner at the Dreamland Theater

I attended the early show of Konrad’s work at the Dreamland Theater in Ypsilanti Michigan; I was curious how his work would appear in an actual live reading and I wasn’t disappointed. The Dreamland Theatre was a very small hole in the wall theater that was dimly lit and furnished with old wooden benches.  Attendance was high and a majority of people had to stand during the show.  The show in general was quite interesting and had a full spectrum of works that kept the show fresh and entertaining, including experimental films, dubs, and readings.

The first work that was presented was an experimental film. It had a much worn appearance and the constant theme was old buildings and balloons to a somewhat creepy soundtrack.  I didn’t like the film; it was too abstract compared to what I’m used to viewing and left me more confused than anything else.

During the night he showed his dub to Minority Report, I had seen this previously for my contemporary forms class.  Konrad attended and spoke to my class regarding the creative process and some background into the making of this piece.  Though I expected it to be an identical showing to the in class presentation Konrad performing live to the audience was very riveting and was completely different and had more life and soul.  Though I fully enjoyed the in class presentation because it gave me a background to his creative process and the tools and materials that he used to make the piece.  I was able to connect with that piece more than any other piece because of this extra info that I had received.

By far the most interesting work that Steiner performed was a dub from an old Nazi film.  The film itself had a intensely high contrast to where everything was either black or white.  Konrad donned a white American Apparel dress and stood in front of the projector so the film played off of him.  He then proceeded to move about the room dubbing over the language with language of his own, purposely covering up portions of the screen.  His use of himself as the canvas was brilliant and the way that he moved around the theater kept the whole audience guessing to what he was going to do next, by far my favorite of all the works he had done that evening.

Konrad’s work at the Deamland Theater in Ypsilanti was quite an experience; I got to see an abstract artist present his work live and in person.  I walked away with a greater understanding of his work and the emotion that goes into this art form that a person watching on the internet wouldn’t fully understand.  Though it didn’t make me a full lover of Konrad’s work I feel I can now make an accurate review of his work since I had listened to the inside info from Konrad himself out of the presentation spotlight, and seen him perform his work live.  For this I am glad that I attended his showing at the Dreamland Theater.

Jessica Chrisekos reviews Capstone Showcase

EMU student Jessica Chrisekos reviews the recent undergraduate Creative Writing Capstone event:

EMU’s Creative Writing Capstone Event

EMU’s Creative Writing Capstone Event was filled with many talented writers, artists, friends, and family. The event, which took place in EMU’s Student Center Gallery, was a collection of student’s works over the course of the last two semesters.

I was one of the readers at this event, but it was interesting to see the different approaches each writer took for their Capstone Project. Many writers used poetry as a way to express their ideas and feelings. Some read from stories they had been working on, and others summed up their work in a short film. While every project was different, each writer delivered their piece with unfailing passion.

The Capstone Event was filled with many passionate writers, but it also reflected the wonderful professors that helped guide and shape students in the Creative Writing program over the last several years. The professors present at the event were Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern, all talented writers and speakers.

I am proud to say that after four years of enjoyable work in the Creative Writing program, I am graduating with not only a better understanding of myself and my own work, but that I’ve learned so much from my professors and fellow graduates. The Creative Writing program was truly a blessing, and all of the students had wonderful, inspiring work to show for it.

Andrew Rybarsyk reviews Capstone Showcase

EMU student Andrew Rybarsyk reviews the recent Creative Writing Capstone Showcase:

EMU Capstone

Last Thursday EMU held its annual Capstone Showcase, where EMU’s graduating seniors can showcase their work to each other as they prepare for graduation.  I attended to support all my friends as they showcase their work and to hear some good poetry.  The gallery was filled to capacity with supporters, so much so that many had to stand or sit in the back for the duration of the presentations.  The presentations themselves were very diverse; from poetry and prose, short stories, films, and a screenplay.  All were very exceptional and were brilliant examples of graduating students work.  Though some technical difficulties plagued the presentation in the beginning soon all problems were solved and the presentations continued without a hitch. 

I was a true fan of the poetry and prose done by and handful of students, each student’s piece was very different and emphasized a different fanatic feature of poetry so each was unique.  Some revolved around their childhood, families, and nature but all were spoken with a beautiful imagery that drew the audience into the piece and made the whole capstone worth watching.

The presented short stories were good though I had trouble with them being read outside of their context.  It felt as if I was dropped into the middle of a story and I didn’t really know how to make of it, they were very well written but from a story standpoint everything seemed jumbled.  This is from the fact that there wasn’t enough time to read an entire short story so a page or two had to be extracted from the piece and altered to make sense within a short time frame.   I would like to read the stories in their entirety so I can get the full story and not just a little teaser. 

By far my favorite piece presented was one that I couldn’t decide if it was a prose poem or a short story or a hybrid of both.  Though I noticed that it shared a similarity to Tan Lin’s work with atmospheric poetry, having words used as a background and providing an atmosphere.  The presented piece was about a family in a car driving to Phoenix, Arizona.  The story followed a loop where some information was recycled and mixed with new information while other bits were left out, forming an ever evolving circle of dialog that by the end you had a hard time remembering what had been said and all you knew was that the family was driving in a car and heading for Phoenix.  I found this remarkable and left me intrigued and wanting more. 

At the capstone there were two films shown, this got me very excited because I am a majoring in film at EMU.  I had forgotten that we were at a writing capstone so I was a little disappointed because they were films of the students reading their pieces to a film backdrop, similar to a music video.  This is not a bad thing, nor did it hurt my view of the pieces.  Sadly one of the films got cut short due to a technology issue and the second film was a dialog between the writer and his friend about how he had a writer’s block and the narration of his story he was trying to write was shown outside of the dialog.  Though I feel that the extended dialog between the two men were shot from two camera angles and was a bit dry.  As a suggestion if the author wasted to keep a dialog between two people he could have shot them moving or used different camera angles just to keep the audience interested during the exceedingly long dialog.

Overall I was very impressed by the work done by the graduating seniors at EMU.  Their work has inspired me to attempt working in different mediums of writing and to step outside of my comfort zone.  I wish only the best for them and their future work wherever it might take them.  I anxiously await next year’s Capstone presentation.

Emily Riopelle reviews Konrad Steiner

EMU student Emily Riopelle reviews Konrad Steiner’s recent appearance at the Dreamland Theater:

Speaking to the Movies

By Emily Riopelle

Konrad Steiner’s presentation at the Dreamland Theater was wonderfully varied and engaging. Steiner presented a collection that demonstrated his range of work including short, abstract films, films in combination with poetry, and his most recent venture: Neo-Benshi. Neo-Benshi is a great example of hybridity in the writing and art world. Steiner not only incorporates literary hybridity by writing his own works and also appropriating from outside sources, but presents a media hybridity as well.

Neo-Benshi can be approached in many different ways, as Steiner detailed after the event. This is part of its appeal to the poetry community. The concept is to take a film clip and write narration or dialogue to be performed in conjunction with it in front of a live audience. The idea dates back to the beginning of movies and was most prevalent in Japan, where narrators spoke with American movies in order to explain the content and context of the Western silent films.

About 15 years ago, Steiner had the idea of bringing the form into the San Francisco poetry world and since has produced several performances with many poets who had many different approaches. The different approaches to the medium range from completely overhauling dialogue and acting as a ventriloquist, choosing a non-dialogue scene and adding disembodied narration, or completely forgoing the movie clip form and turning a clip into, say, an infomercial (as some poets did with an Indiana Jones film).

At the Dreamland Theater, Steiner himself performed his narration to scenes from recent films, Minority Report, and Blade Runner, as well as two scenes with Carla Harryman in conjunction with older Italian films. Steiner’s solitary performances seemed more congruent and connected with the images from the film. In his Minority Report clip, he quoted the Tibetan book of the dead, and also incorporated dialogue for the characters. This clip was also unique in that he carefully edited the footage to incorporate cultural logos and icons as well as news footage covering the Iraq war.

Steiner stated that within this medium his goal is to “not bully, but finesse latent meaning,” from the films.  The Blade Runner clip was more lyrical, and less politically driven. He edited together four different versions of the same scene and narrated with a piece he had written. The piece he read with Carla seemed at the end of the spectrum, only slightly related to the images on the screen. The two read together, slightly overlapping at times and it seemed the film served more as a background and supplement to their poem than anything else.

After the performance, Steiner went into detail about the range of options available within the medium, from pulling meaning from the clip, to creating a subversive text meant to challenge the way we watch a well known film, to juxtaposing a lyrical text over an unfamiliar image. Each of the approaches contains different goals and implications and Steiner encouraged the audience to play with the medium, and “take back the movies,” ourselves.

Ian MacDonald reviews Dodie Bellamy

EMU Student Ian MacDonald responds to Dodie Bellamy’s recent BathHouse reading:

Dodie Bellamy “Whistle While you Dixie”

The few pictures I had seen of Dodie Bellamy in the few works of hers I’d read did not seem to reflect her real-life counterpart. From my vantage amongst the stadium seats I saw her emerge from the adjoining hallway and though I immediately recognized her, her presence was different than I expected; more “hetero-normative” (to borrow a turn of phrase that seems to frequently pop up in her work). Nothing at all then like the academic caricature/extra from a Tim Burton movie that I had foolishly anticipated.  In truth, she reminded me of my mother. And with that association in mind, I suddenly imagined my mother giving voice to some of Dodie’s more colorful writings, my own mother saying thing like “I’m curling back on my spine, ass up in the air, cunt pointed towards the ceiling, and he’s plunging into me” and as this played out across my mind’s eye in all its shakey-cam, neon splendor the real Dodie took the stage and began to read and the horrible spell was mercifully broken.

And before long, my revulsion gave way to laughter. The ensuing pieces Dodie read from we’re comical and immeasurably honest, illuminative and entertaining. There was happy giggling at regular intervals. As I sat and listened and laughed with everyone else I wondered how she choose what to read for these sort of things and how her own perceptions of the venue might influence this choice. Did she decide prior to arriving or was the decision made upon entering the room and appraising for the first time all the faces in attendance? If it is the latter, what was it about our face, Eastern Michigan University’s face, that implored her to share stories and musings about the “inherent male-ness” of whistling, the not-so-subtle libidinal subtext from a scene out of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and an autobiographical account of a young and amorous Dodie hitching a ride with an even younger and more amorous glue-sniffing boy? (All of these from her new chapbook Whistle While You Dixie)

My classmates and I were tasked with not only attending the reading but with asking a question during the Q and A session to follow. Our teacher advised us not to ask something like “So what’s next for Dodie?” the implication being: don’t embarrass me. The night before I sat with my laptop and brainstormed a number of questions, all of which by night’s end, I was sure, would embarrass my teacher. So with a shrug for time wasted I Ctrl-A’ed them into a big blue block of text and hit Delete. Poof!

It was when I passed the little table on the way into the auditorium the next day that I finally thought of a question. The table displayed three short stacks of one of Dodie’s books, presumably to be sold and signed after the reading. It struck me as a small number, maybe fifteen in total that comprised those three stacks and even though I was reasonably sure a great many more hid beneath the table I found myself lamenting the thought that Dodie probably didn’t make much money as an author. Ascending the steps toward my seat I looked across all the faces and wondered how many of them aspired to be writers and of those, how many would actually go on to make a living at it? Would I? Do colleges bear any responsibility for churning out far more applicants than the market can bear or does it fall entirely on the students who go into debt majoring in say, underwater basket weaving, against the practical wishes of their parents?

Dodie responded to my question with her trademark honesty and frankness. Writing in the New Narrative genre (and even mainstream genres) usually requires independent wealth or supplemental income; and the internet seems ripe to amplify rather than decrease this necessity. We’ll see. All I can say is that I enjoyed the reading and I hope she sold all the books she brought — and that my question didn’t embarrass my teacher.

Anthony Alaniz reviews Dodie Bellamy

EMU student Anthony Alaniz reviews Dodie Bellamy’s recent BathHouse reading:

Whistle While You Dixie and Bellamy

 “I was on an adventure,” proclaimed Bellamy as she read from her hard-to-find book, Whistle While You Dixie in the Eastern Michigan University Student Center Auditorium on February 7, 2012.

Whistle While You Dixie is split into an essay and a narrative.  The essay encompassed the first half of her hour long reading and divulged into such topics as the blatant sexual overtones of Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, at least according to Bellamy.

Sadly, though, one cannot watch Snow White in the same, childish, way again, after Bellamy’s explicit reading.

Bellamy excels when she begins to dive into her narrative.

Her power and, what some would say, her nonchalant attitude towards sexuality and the human experience, courses through her slight frame as she reads while recounting her experience on returning home to Indiana.

She meets a young boy who is, “too young to be taken seriously.”

It is her conversational tone through, not only the narrative, but the essay as well, that make her reading, and of course her writing, approachable and easily relatable to any young reader or writer who have had any human experience with sexuality.

The greatest moment of the reading, though, wasn’t the reading at all.  The question and answer session afterwards gave great insights to Bellamy’s own thinking about writing.

When asked if the proliferation of technology would make it easier for writers to reach great popularity, she said, “I don’t know if new technology will make that possible.”

Bellamy’s greatest literary quality is her honesty both in writing and in lecture, yet the true gem to Bellamy is hearing her read her experiences.

Granted, like every writer, she wants them to think, “That I’m brilliant.”  After the reading, I have to agree with her.

Listening to Bellamy as she recounts mundane events should make a writer, like it did me, realize and understand that there is almost always a story in life itself.  This is something Bellamy excels at, especially in Whistle While You Dixie.

Amy Oleynik reviews Dodie Bellamy

Student Amy Oleynik reviews Dodie Bellamy’s BathHouse Reading from earlier this month:

Dodie Bellamy: Her reading of “Whistle While You Dixie” on February 7, 2012

I came to realize in a short amount of words that Dodie sounds like the friend you think you have, the one who says everything too honestly and with too much raw energy, with a potential to go any which way. The one you meet and you’re instantly insulted, which is why you like her so much. Comfortable, yet edgy enough that you don’t sit too close. The type of friend you wouldn’t take home to your parents for Sunday-Monday-AnyDay dinner. In fact, you can’t even mention her lest they ask you, “Oh, what does she write?” or “How did you meet?” which would end up in unsavory stories or explanations you find comical, but obviously those old fogies wouldn’t budge a lip. You’d be reduced to giving her only as a name or at least what she looks like. But questions can still ensue so you bottle her up inside. Yet ever persistently, Dodie peeks out of your conversations and you still trample over yourself to not include her in every word. Either my subconscious is lacking in strength or Dodie’s mark has extreme gusto.

The correct answer is obviously.

Dodie became the song in my head, the one you realize when it’s too late and you’ve been subconsciously at it and now conscious of it, heated and irritated to the point of obsession.

Whistle. Obsession.

He whistled. Habit.

The way whistle looks like thistle and is seen as such in the realm of sounds. Sharp. Quick and usually you want to use your foot to blot out its life, with haste. One mouth pucker and my eyebrows are erect. One tick on my counter from the man with a mustache. And she never mentioned the dwarves, whom I’m sure she’d have many a small penis joke lined up, buried waiting like a jack-in-the-box spring trap. Gasp. Oh ha ha. They do whistle. That’s seven instances left untouched, dripping with potential, right along with the use of the word “ho”. Or how they mine for diamonds and immaculately cut precious stones which they leave (where?) and come home to live in hospitable squalor, none of them daring to build another house. And I’m back to the whistling.

Tick two.

The word most associated with Dodie was uncomfortable, which I did not gain from the reading. If anything, Dodie forced me to reflect on myself, pulling me into my childhood days of Snow White being innocent and talented. She was the woodland creature whispering goddess. The scariest part being the lightning storm instead of the obsessed red mouthed queen asking for Snow White’s heart. (My Creative Writing senses tell me to delve a little deeper into the metaphor for some complexes, but really, I just think she wanted her dead.) Moving from essay to narrative, I still was compelled to feel for the characters meaning I connected with her fear and want of the boy on the far bed. What does that mean! My inner child panics. What happened in my life that I now can relate to Dodie? She is hilariously crude in her sentiments. Have I become like that? More personal reflection and it’s only been an hour. Focus on the peaches and try to remember to make a cobbler when you get the chance. Desserts, yes! Movies, innocent movies! Don’t think! Just watch! Sit, watch, cut up peaches on your couch! The uncomfortable self is found in Dodie’s aftermath.