David Boeving reviews CRTW Faculty BathHouse Reading

David Boeving reviews the Creative Writing Faculty’s recent reading that was part of the BathHouse reading series: 

Christine Hume opened the staff BathHouse reading at The Sponberg Theater on September 29th with a mix of audio samples and live performance poetry that steadily spiraled into a type of hypnotizing poetic oblivion. The backing audio, which consisted mostly of recordings of Hume’s own work being read by another, as well as ambient noise tracks, at most times augmented the overall dreamy feeling of her own words. Although at times this mix of ambient audio clips and defamiliarizing poetry did grow to a near overwhelming level, most of the collaboration existed as dense and intriguing. In all, Hume’s inspired and experimental reading started the night off on a powerful level, opening the room up for the next two Eastern Michigan University staff readers, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern.

Carla Harryman read next, performing a number poems, mostly ones of a serial nature relating to a character of sorts, ‘Baby’. What struck me most about Carla was her overall energy and articulation, as well as her ability to theme a portion of her performance around said, ’Baby,’ character. Clara read her work with a great gusto and confidence. It was this coolness and character that really kept the rhythm of the night flowing. Although her ability to keep my attention did not seem as high as that of Hume, Harryman still performed in a way that kept the energy of the night alive. Sadly though, it was during Harryman’s performance that I began to notice a certain amount of disrespect from the audience.

Throughout the performers present that evening, and well before the conclusion of the night, a surprising number of listeners migrated ill-discretely towards different exists about the theater. This strange appearance of behavior displayed a great degree of disrespect toward not only the performing poets, but also toward those that were there and intently viewing the aforementioned  performers. Such occurrences might have been due to the fact that the Learning Beyond the Classroom signup sheet was lain out previous to the beginning of the reading, but this is only a speculation. Regardless, not only was such behavior disrespectful to each reader of the evening, but to a certain degree, distracting to the entire performance. Rob Halpern was the final reader of the night, and sadly enough, he was no exception to the aforesaid disrespect.

Regardless, Rob’s poetry and overall performance could be described as nothing short of captivating and emotionally driven. Maybe it was his physicality; while reading his knees bounced awkwardly as if he were marching in place, augmenting mentions of war and violence within his work. These movements matched so well the theme of his work, that one might leave wondering if he had not rehearsed the performance in such a way. Or maybe it was his decision to not use a podium, thus reading close to the audience, establishing a more personal type of bond between his work and those present. Or maybe it was a combination of both those ideas, working in cooperation with his almost cryptic poetry that seemed to be both physical and personal, as well as large and worldly. Rob’s performance, consisting of not only already published work, but also some new material from his upcoming book, “Music for Porn,” was powerful, to say the least, and a perfect conclusion to a vast and eclectic evening.

At the end of the night, it was easy to say that each reader brought something distinct and wholly them to the hearing pleasure of the audience. Christine worked within a multimedia soundscape. Carla applied the idea of serial works. Rob lastly tugged on the heartstrings of the audience with work that seemed to be just as much about war as it was love. The night was a success, to say the least.