Wayne Westcott reviews Julie Patton and Creative Writing Faculty BathHouse readings

Two more reviews to wrap up the semester…EMU student Wayne Westcott reviews a couple BathHouse readings from this past Fall:

I first met Julie Patton while escorting her to the bathroom.  I have a thing about bathrooms.  I hate them.  They make me feel awkward in my own skin, and if there’s ever someone else in the bathroom, well I can forget about going to the bathroom.  

On the way to said bathroom, I began talking to her about higher education, art, writing, etc.  Everything about her demeanor made me feel like ’it will all be ok’ somehow.  By the time we reached the bathroom, I was relaxed, I was excited, I was giddy like a damn school girl getting her first Hello Kitty lunch box.  Julie Patton was already influencing me.  She was already in my head.

I mention all this, because I feel the need to expose my feelings before going to her reading at the Sponberg Theater in November, as part of the BathHouse Reading Series.  I went into Julie Patton’s reading an absolute fan of Julie Patton as an overall human being.

So on that November night, when Patton began crawling around on stage, as well played guitar sounds mixed and mingled with her words, I was hooked.  I didn’t understand it, but I loved it.  It was organic(hate that word), it was sensual, it was cool and hip and shit like that.  Most of all though, it was just plain fun.

There was a tremendous sense of improvisation, and every time it seemed to work in Patton’s favor.  Things such as having the audience communally play various instruments together, began to make me think about my writing.  More than that, they made me think about the ‘performance’ of my work.  I started thinking, what can I do to make my work seemingly come to life like she does.

When her performance ended, I was left sitting there, worn out by so much energy being given and taken from Patton.  I wanted to ask her if I could come with her.  Go back to the building she shares with other cast-aways and persons on the fringe of society.  I didn’t ask though, because at the end of the day, that world is hers, not mine.  

After seeing Patton perform, I realized I have to create my own world.  I have to surround myself with positive like-minded individuals.  I need to try and be more organic (still hate that word).

I have to be honest.  I wasn’t quite sure how the night would go when walking to Sponberg Theater for the fall semesters first BathHouse Reading Series performance.  These were the people I would taking advice and instruction from at a graduate level for at least the next two years.  These were the people who would be shaping and influencing my writing the most for the time being.  Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Christine Hume’s performance took me by surprise.  She engaged the audience by including a sort of ‘sound track’ created for the work.  This really added to the work.  It created an atmosphere that really took the work further.  I think for about a week after that, I kept hearing an odd voice saying ’fisting’ at random moments.  That’s when I knew that her performance had really stuck with me.

Carla Harryman’s performance shocked me in a good way.  Her work had language engaged playfulness that I was used to, but in no way put off by.  In particular, her reading from the title Baby had a lasting effect on me.  The way the text seemed to be chewing on words, it was just a great feeling to hear from the author herself.

Then, taking the stage, was Rob Halpern.  Rob was the faculty member I knew absolutely the least about.  I truly didn’t know what to expect from him.  Rob took me by surprise with a type of intensity I had forgotten could be a part of readings.  His language was shocking in a sense that it was unexpected, and that the way it was used and delivered, almost inoffensive.

Overall, the faculty reading really started the BathHouse Reading Series off with  some bang.  It was a reading that made me think about my influences and what I would gain from being at Eastern.  Needless to say, I’m excited to be here.  This reading was just a refreshing assurance of the confidence I have in the education I will be receiving here.

Ned Randolph reviews Julie Patton

BathHouse reviews keep coming in!  Check out Ned Randolph’s creative review of Julie Patton’s recent reading at EMU:

Julie Ezelle Patton is preoccupied with the sonic echo of words in the space of performance.

The author of Notes for Some (Nominally) Awake, Alphabet Soup and Slug Art, Patton alighted briefly at Sponberg Theater in November for the BathHouse Reading Series.

See her crawl and drape over the registry of sound, inching as a slug through the artifice of verbal construction.

Patton invites

Exploration through sonic dissonance. Patton relies upon the spontaneity of her interpretive instrument, which is the artist itself.

With the accompaniment of an acoustic guitar, Dr. Seuss and disjointed loose leaf pages of notes, Patton explored the space of her own mental landscape where words, meanings and sounds collide to create new associations and potentiality.

Patton invites

The audience to do the same. She bends and tumbles through genres which, drawn by the wake of her own energy, follow and wrap around our expectations. She is guttural and brooding, screeching and hissing. The full meaning is realized at the end, if at all, when meaning matters.

Does it … does it matter?

Perhaps that is the point, yet her work defies a single pixilated point. There is no ending in her punctuation, only the sonic scales and tapestry over and through which she pours her instrument.

Appropriating the good Doctor and his Green Eggs and Ham and the opaque reception of a distant war trickling home in flag covered coffins, she engages in linguistic collage.

Then Patton the trickster brings forward a basket of simple instruments for audience members to play in exquisite disharmony. Banging, spinning, knocking – a collision of registries that play that in the space of sonic dissonance rolling over and through the scales of musical composition in manifested debate.

Aaron Diehl reviews and CRTW Faculty and Julie Patton BathHouse readings

EMU student Aaron Diehl offers up two reviews of BathHouse readings from this past semester:

On October 29th, I wandered down to Sponberg Theatre to catch the EMU faculty reading. The performers for the evening were Rob Halpern, Christine Hume, and Carla Harryman.

Christine Hume opened the night with selections from her book Shot. She did an interesting hybrid performance of sound and spoken word. The prerecorded material was played from her laptop, and included ambient noises and a double of her voice reading the piece. I thought it was very successful, as it added a bit of surprise and energy. It was also impeccably executed, as she kept her reading in time with the recording. I was impressed.

Carla Harryman was second, and was probably my favorite performance. She seemed extremely comfortable and confident on stage, and also appeared to be having a lot of fun. Her piece was about a baby, and it was very humorous and enlightening. It was basically a baby thinking way beyond his years. I liked it.

Rob Halpern was third, and read a few pieces, all of which were very sexually charged. Very dark and sometimes disturbing, they dealt with sex and violence. The first piece he read was about a soldier and it was very powerful. He had an odd presence on stage, moving his legs as if he was marching and staggering his speech in awkward increments. He was very successful in a disturbing sort of way.

Julie Patton’s performance on November 9th was very interesting. I go into these reading not knowing what to expect, as they tend to be very diverse. This performance was certainly unique.Julie had an extremely loose demeanor on stage. She was aided by a guitarist, who added an ambient, melodic texture behind her powerful voice. She did not let her writings hold her back on stage, choosing to read what she wanted and riff off the top of her head when she thought necessary. She basically spoke free form, playing with language and sound flawlessly. She was like a combination of singer and poet, with a major focus on the sound of words.At the end of her performance, she pulled out a bunch of instruments and had several people from the audience come up front and just bang away. They made a considerable racket. She danced along and loved every minute of it.

Her performance was inspiring to witness because she was entirely genuine and heartfelt about what she was doing on stage. Very intelligent, interesting, and honest.

Shaun Williams reviews Julie Patton BathHouse reading

EMU student Shaun Williams reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

I thought the reading to be an ethereal and engaging experience that started off rather shaky. The reason I say this is because the vast majority of the audience was turned off toward the beginning. I especially did not understand her lack of organization and fluidity, and I viewed Patton as a strange presence up on stage.

Then she proceeded to lay down on the stage, still reading her work, and at this point the audience in attendance was extrememly interested and awakened. When she was not standing right in front of you, you basically forgot she was there. You put her out of your mind, and in the process, you started focusing on the words as resonating, persistent beings in themselves. This was the highlight of the experience for me. I really found myself drawn into the spectacle of what she did. I believe she got down in a position like that because she wanted her words to transcend her own borders, and she could only do that by keeping out of plain sight.

Patton’s reading was not a reading. It was a play on the audience, and like Shelley and Spielberg, she really created a monster in the form of her words. Never before have words so clearly stunned me before, and it was all because of her dispositions on stage. The sounds were amazing, and it was quite a lively show, not to say that the other two Bathhouse events were not, but rather, Patton’s was far more rejuvinating. Looking toward the stage and around the audience, I could not help but think that the event was a social/creative experiment of some kind. I know that in my own writing, I would like to try to focus on what is created rather than what I am doing or what I am putting into it. All in all, the reading was a strange, vivacious blend of humor, euphoria, and when it was all said and done, excitement.

Dan Turvey reviews Julie Patton

A few more reviews are coming in of the various BathHouse readings this semester.  Below, Dan Turvey reviews Julie Patton’s reading:

I will admit that I was unable to stay for the entirety of Julie’s performance but from the forty-five minutes or so that I was able to attend I was washed in sight and sound.  At first I was rather taken aback by what seemed like a lack of organization on Julie’s part.  Her materials were in disarray and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason as to her selection of pieces being read.  The guitarist in the background was playing notes that at times seemed to compliment the pieces sound and voice and at others felt as thought they disagreed.  I liked the ebb and flow between the two; it added a very well planned third dimension.

As Julie continued with her performance she did another unusual thing.  She assumed the fetal potion on stage, hid behind her basket and continued with reading her pieces.  At this point she began to more actively engage the audience.  I felt myself starting to become part of the performance rather than just an outside observer.  The haphazard selection of the pieces being read then became clear.  It was not about performing in a linear fashion but rather smashing linear conventions and letting the sounds work their magic.

In my opinion the reason she performed in the fetal position was to minimize her physical impact on the stage and let the sound of her words become the star of the show.  I found it rather distracting to continue to try and focus on Julie while she crouched on the stage so I closed my eyes and let the sounds run free.  This is where the success of her performance lies.  For me she brought to light the power of word selection and the impact of such on the reader or listener.  I no longer take for granted the sounds of the words that I write but rather I try to incorporate them into my work.

Overall, I enjoyed the performance and would suggest that anyone who is serious about experiencing the impact that sounds can have on ones own work to attend a Julie Patton reading.

Kylie Hoey reviews Julie Patton

EMU student Kylie Hoey reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

The Bathhouse Reading with Julie Patton was a very unique experience; I don’t think that I will ever experience something like that ever again.  Julie Patton concentrates on sound poetry and prefers to improvise during her performance.  Patton began standing at the microphone down center stage holding a few pages that she was reading from.  She mixed the words and materials in a way that created an entirely new piece.

As the reading went on, however, Patton began to sink to the floor.  When she switched from one book to another, she started dropping things so she ended up on her knees.  At the ending of the reading, Patton was lying completely on her stomach reading for her piece she titled “Blue.” 

Patton’s words were sometimes recognizable, but most of the time it reminded me of sound poetry.  She would say one word and then play with the sounds of that word for the next few minutes.  Patton also rarely spoke the words; she sang or crooned her poetry instead.  This presentation of the poem contributed to the unique experience Patton gave to the listeners.

Before her final piece, Patton pulled obscure musical instruments, and a few conventional ones such as maracas and a tambourine.  She then handed these out to different members of the audience and brought them up in a line in front of the stage.  They made noise with the given instruments while Patton lapped the stage, moving up and down the platforms.  She began to run faster and faster, losing her shoes on the upper platform at one point, screaming.  Finally, she lay collapsed, exhausted.

Mike Moriarty reviews Julie Patton

EMU student Mike Moriarty reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

In her performance on November 9th in EMU’s Sponberg Theater, Julie Patton showcased her unique style and vocal talents while constructing a wild sonic environment that hybridizes music, sound poetry, improv, and possibly some other unnamable genres as well.  Her 1st piece (beginning with “Is it possible that the meaning”) was a brooding soundscape that melted from singing to guttural mumblings.  Words and phrases are broken down into roots and morphed into new linguistic textures.  The possible meaning that is hinted at in the opening line is one that the listener is left to sift for in the shards of language which fall somewhere between obtuseness and depth.

Her strong voice and confident delivery pull the audience into the auditory experience.  Though at some points one’s mind may drift away from understanding in this sea of sound, it is a pleasant drifting.  In another poem she samples Dr. Suess and fuses his playful construction with political commentary “uncle Sam I am…would you eat them in a box comin’ home from Iraq?  Children of Ham.”

Another strength of Patton’s is her ability to engage with the audience, she spoke thoughtfully on communities and the hope of building them through art.  She would later go on to literally manifest a small incarnation of this by walking into the audience, distributing small instruments, and encouraging the audience to make music with her.  This was done with the care and skill of a seasoned performer – simultaneously shaking things up while still allowing people to feel comfortable.  Not only does she engage with the audience, she also engages in spontaneous creation which could be called freestyle, improv or something else entirely.  At one point she couldn’t find the poem she was looking for and said “oh no,”  then began repeating it musically, then mutated the sounds, and then was suddenly in the midst of a poem.  It would be impossible to tell where the extemporaneous words ended and the pre-written poem began – another leap forward in hybridization.

In the poem which began “your language is too flowery” she engages in another playful word collage.  The experience is lush and verbose.  One might speculate that flowers were specifically chosen as the subject because of the beautiful words associated with them, or, as Patton puts it: “divine words grafting one sentence to another.”

Her final piece opening with “What kind of blues you use” periodically meditates on race, music, and blue as an emotive state: “sing disparate Diaspora.”  These kind of poems cover a lot of ground as the language seems to be guiding the direction of the poem.  Although the themes feel grounded conceptually, it is worth considering how her skill and innovative forms could be applied to more narrative storytelling as well.  Regardless, seeing Patton perform is a true experience.  At times it feels like just playing with language and sound, others meaning breaks through making it even more enjoyable.  Put simply, sit back and watch the sound and words wash over you, and through you.

Gerard Breitenbeck reviews Julie Patton

The Julie Patton reviews keep coming.  Gerard Breitenbeck reviews her recent BathHouse reading:

Rob Halpern introduced poet Julie Patton by citing works such as Room for Opal, Using Blue to get Black, and Notes for some (Nominally) Awake. Having lived all over the United States and Europe, Patton currently resides in Cleveland where she’s involved in the Dandelion Society and other urban green initiatives. Her work defies description, Halpert conceded, but nevertheless as submitted as imperfect reductions: “Phono-linguistic pictographs, real-time choreographies and social dream-work.” Patton “explodes typographic connections on page and detours common sense off page.” She “stimulates language games, risks nonsense for new sense, making intrinsic structures volatile enough to change.”

Patton began by speaking into the microphone “Is it possible that the meaning…” letting the last word drone and extend and erode, finally picking it up “is the meaning of another kind… Like what is the language in it… Made… Mated… Aided…Hated…” This transcription obviously fails to replicate the performance, as one of the things which stands out about Patton during is the sensuality embodied in her speech as well as her movements. One gets the sense that Patton’s encounter with words is a living encounter, a real-time exploration of the acoustic parameters and attributes of the word “Made” for instance, a open-eyed stroll through the neighborhood of “Made,” interested in conversing with all its inhabitants.

In the course of her further readings, which are less separate episodes then scenes in a play, unified progressions in a singular performance, Patton employed a tambourine, bells, and one of those turning crank things, among other instruments. In addition, she was accompanied throughout by an ethereal guitar.

In the first few moments of her performance, Patton, clutching a disheveled collection of notes and pages and books, dropped a page in what appeared to be an accident. She did not pick it up, and as the performance progressed it became more difficult to discern whether it had been an accident or not. By the end of the reading, it became clear that the concept of accidents would be absurd as it’s commonly understood. Rather, the paper came free from her hands and came to a rest on the stage, and that was a good place for it, it having found it’s place there. Patton would find herself as well on the floor many times during the performance, sometimes crouched, or on her back, or all fours, sometimes crawling prone down steps, shoes long relinquished in favor of mobility.

Patton uses the entire stage—the entire theater, in fact. At one point she handed out instruments to the crowd, then called them all up in front of the stage. When she had the whole room on fire, her poetry had charged into screaming into the microphone and dancing around the stage before collapsing in orgasmic rapture.

Later, when all had quieted down again, a late coming student entered the theater, and Patton, not missing a beat, acts dramatically startled with a punctuating gasp in the middle of her poem, as though it were all carefully orchestrated and meaningful. Which, of course, in a sense, it is.

Thom Boersma reviews Julie Patton

Another review of Julie Patton’s BathHouse reading, this time by Thom Boersma: 

A diminutive figure stands in an auditorium, an ant dressed in human guise, and this ant terraforms the auditorium simply through sonic endeavors. This ant scats and slithers, builds and destroys, creates sonic dissonance and assonance all under the cover of darkness, and subtle strumming strings provided by some mellow background guitar. This ant is Julie Patton, she astonishes in a way that is both subtle and quiet, and a way that is bombastic and electrifying. Patton performs with a natural relevance, pulling from audience, ambiance, and a veritable Pandora’s Box of poetic trickery.

Patton combines her own works, with the scatterings and smatterings of work splayed out across the stage. She uses sounds upon sounds, and the repetition of those sounds and new sounds to create an atmosphere both poetic and wholly original. While one part sounds like the next, the same part sounds like nothing that has come before it. The movements are kinetic and original, drawing on the electricity of the room and building block after block upon one another. It is fair to say, that while the act was rehearsed, no one performance will be like the performance that came before it.

Patton uses her own words, which are haphazardly held together with ties made of Dr. Seuss, musical interludes, and claims of visual impairment. Julie Patton screams and whispers her way through a variety of performance pieces, combining old school Green Eggs and Ham with new school political mockery. Patton combines sexuality with the earth, dirt and love, flowers, insects, colors, race, and gender, into a performance that steps past the realm of anything normally considered poetry.

The culmination of the piece comes when a seemingly endless stream of simplistic instruments emerge from the basket on stage. One instrument after the other makes its presence known on stage, and then retreats to the hands of some unsuspecting audience member. These audience members pound, shake, and continue to create as more instruments surface, following suit with their fellow escapees. When it seems that Julie Patton has had enough, she calls out to the instruments to return to the stage, and continue “musicing” in unison.

Patton is not just a woman, not just an ant under the artifice of artist, Julie Patton is the performance. Julie Patton takes the realm of poetry and stretches it into the dimension of nature, into the dimension of sound, and then steps on it, smearing into a paste that shares the characteristics of everything she wants it to be. To enter into a performance by Julie Patton expecting anything, is to expect what naturally occurs: chaos.

Reid Raham reviews Julie Patton

EMU student Reid Raham reviews Julie Patton’s recent BathHouse reading:

Having no experience with Julie Patton’s works, I went in to her performance at Sponberg Theater on November 9th without any expectations. Nevertheless, her performance was not what I expected.

Many performers, poets or otherwise, tend to stay rooted in place in front of a microphone stand, maybe shifting their weight if their legs get tired – the typical exception, of course, is musicians. Perhaps this musical side of Patton is what allows her to wander the stage; it certainly allows it to seem natural. Patton’s focus was on sound: she combined her own sound poetry with various musical instruments, including a guitar accompaniment that played whatever came to mind – much like Patton said whatever came to mind. She added musical instruments such as tambourines and bells to her voice, combining the repetitiveness of both that, along with the guitar, created a three-layered feedback loop that both enhanced and masked its repetitive nature.

Adding to the unorthodox nature of the performance was audience participation. Patton, despite repeated claims of being unable to see the crowd from on stage, reacted to various oddities – for example, acting shocked when someone came into the theater during the performance. Near the close of the performance, she recruited – or possibly forced – some audience members to the front, giving them the musical instruments she had, and having them all play at once while she shouted and ran around the stage. The guitar changed from calm background sound to rough electric noise, making an effect not unlike some bizarre exorcism. For the record, Patton called the exercise “musicing,” making note of the word’s status as a verb.

Her focus on audio and visual cues, however, may have dulled the actual poetry aspect of the performance. Her extensive use of sound poetry at the beginning meant her voice transformed almost solely into a vocal accompaniment of the guitar in the background. The effect was a blurring of the words into another instrument, with only jarring and blatant statements being memorable – for example, a perversion of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to reference slightly-outdated and unwelcome political views. In a performance meant to blend everything together, Patton still managed to include aspects that did not fit with the rest of it; however, given the strange nature of the performance, it may have been intentional.

In the end, Julie Patton’s performance was not a poetry reading so much as it was an exercise in form destruction: repetitive vocals, noise, and music combined and clashed to create something unidentifiable. In a way, no matter what one expects in a Patton performance, one can expect to receive something unexpected.