EMU student Jessica Buterbaugh reviews a Jeff Kass reading and the faculty BathHouse reading from this past semester:
CREATIVE WRITING FACULTY
The first BathHouse Reading of the semester on the 29th of Sept. in Sponberg Theater was the faculty reading with Christine Hume, Carla Harryman, and Rob Halpern. Each faculty member had a distinct style and subject matter that enabled the audience to get a good idea of the talents of the creative writing department.Hume started the night off with a selection of her works mixed with audio tracks. The soundtrack, which was made for her work and sometimes incorporated actual phrases from it, was an interesting device. It enhanced the overall mood of the language she was using. I particularly enjoyed her piece where she talks about a recurring dream she’s had all her life.Harryman gave the next performance, which was based on “working non-narratively”. She made ample use of repeated words, alliteration, rhyming, and sound reiteration. Much of her work had a driving, almost frenetic quality to it. It made the times she slowed down stand out that much more. “Baby” was particulary interesting, and featured several phrases that caught my attention, like “regression was a word that gave babies a bad rap”. It was a fascinating look at life/society through the eyes of Baby.
Halpern was the only one of the three that I hadn’t had a class with, so I was very interested to see what his work would be like. Intensely personal are the words that immediately come to mind when describing his reading. Though I sometimes found the eroticism of his work to be a little overwhelming, it was a very moving and engaging reading.
Overall, the faculty reading was a success and had a good turn-out. It was amusing hearing people talk next to me who had no idea what they were about to hear before the reading started, as well as their reactions afterward. I felt like I was able to learn more about the personality of the faculty members outside of the classroom through their writing and performances.
Jeff Kass’ performance of Wrestle the Great Fear on Sept 15th in the Student Center auditorium was highly energetic, motivational, and fun. He tackled hard issues that his high school students face, and that the adults who work with and mentor them face. He remarked in the performance that he’s “trying to be the teacher he never had” for his students. His performance included videos, songs, recitations, anecdotes, and physical performances. His subject matter, while centered around a high school enviroment, ranged from the serious to the slightly risqué, to the flat-out silly.
It was extremely moving to hear him talk about his wonderful, amazing, so talented, so creative student named Angel. A student who had lost her mother, but made it into a strength for herself, and who wrote and performed poetry so well that he wished he never had another student like her because it was too hard. Later in the show there was a video montage of various students of his performing their pieces and Angel on that video is just as amazing, raw, and powerful as Jeff Kass describes her. It was no surprise to me that many of the questions in the Q&A session afterward focused on her.
I loved the video of the piece of gum in the girl’s mouth. I thought it was clever to have a piece of gum narrating its experience insider her mouth as a way to bring up teenage attractions, hormones, and feelings. The nerd song was also very hilarious and entertaining. I liked his view on nerds, that anyone who is extremely dedicate and/or good at something, anything, is a nerd. It was particularly amusing when he called Michael Jordan a nerd, and Steven Spielburg a super nerd. The fact that it was a song only made it more memorable.
He kept the audience captivated the entire show and was truly engaging. I regretted that it was not the full performance, because what I saw was so powerful (and funny!) that I wanted to see more.