Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Erosion's Pull

Maureen Owen's poems are truly special. She breathes intelligence into all her lines. I just finished Erosion's Pull, the first time I've read a whole collection of hers. There is wry humor, smart observation, and linguistic beauty.

Her titles and breaks within lines are unmistakably hers. These disrupted fragments create a kind of jolting loveliness that I appreciated throughout. I would like to quote some of her work, but I don't think this blog platform will honor the spacing, so I'll just note: "I think I shall become formidable".

Saturday, October 25, 2014

American Ballet Theater

I had a fairly delightful evening at Lincoln Center tonight. I went to see American Ballet Theater. The program was three ballets but I only stayed for the first two, as I started to feel very flu-y.

The first dance was "Sinfonietta" -- a lovely five movement ballet for 14 dancers. The music wasn't my favorite, but the graceful movement was mesmerizing and truly beautiful.

The second, "Jardin Aux Lilas", was much more narrative (which I don't quite care for with dance). It was set at a wedding party, where the betrothed were both in love with others. The set was dark and gothic, a gloomy midnight forest scene. And the choreography was austere and formal. Stunning in parts, but a bit mannered for my taste. Still, I was moved, and, as with the first piece, I was mesmerized.

The third dance was a version of "Fancy Free" a sailor-themed number choreographed by Jerome Robbins and set to Leonard Bernstein.  I have seen New York City Ballet perform this at least once and was curious to see how a different company might do it differently. However, unfortunately, I felt very warm and achy and had to leave during the second intermission.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie

Tonight I saw the movie Gone Girl, which I very much enjoyed. I had read the book a year ago, and although I liked it, I wasn't crazy about it.

The movie, however, is kind of excellent. It doesn't change anything, following the book closely. It's a very good story (I don't want to give anything away), and one of the things that makes the movie more gripping is the way the music and sound effects added tension and suspense to the scenes. Although the book was a total page turner, I never felt frightened, as I did in the movie. The acting was also very good, and I really enjoyed Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne -- that important character never really jumped off the page for me. The actress who played Amy was impeccable and creepy, really good.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Language Arts

I spent a marvelous morning with Cedar Sigo's stunning and shimmering recent collection of poems, Language Arts.

Through musical phrasing, and surprising images, Sigo creates a landscape in which the poet is thinking and feeling through modes of creation. The person IS the poem. And a quiet beauty pervades the language.

So many lines echoed for me ("I love strangers in an ailing mansion", from the poem "Language Arts"). A favorite of mine is "Sea Breeze" ("The flesh is bruised it hurts and I've burned through all my books").

Another favorite, which I'll quote in full, is "Dream":

A curtain dragging gold rises on The Big Heat
Two words are fused to a bloodletting chain
How beautifully the brakemen allow the blood through
I rest on the slip of the black coral sea
Steel quilted in lines wider than the streets
Pinned as a wing or thin cord, that he summons
In order to drive us away, that glamour is an investment
Involving desire and unreality. The poem are perfect
Laid back time machines, ground-blooming flowers
Their endless pastel grime in streaks
A blocking of my own in-expertise, a tunnel
Blown down past the marble to brass
And first to charge the shore, waving our shields
A castle left cooling to ruin
And the islands will flower in and out

Angela Carr and Cedar Sigo at the Poetry Project

The other night I heard Angela Carr and Cedar Sigo at the Poetry Project. Both readers were so elegant in their delivery, even as their poems were so different. Carr's work was like lovely language chandeliers in a room with a mysterious woman. Sigo read beautiful poems situated in his strong and masterful poetic voice. I can't wait to read his recent collection, Language Arts.

Monday, October 13, 2014

American Horror Story: Asylum

Like Murder House, I had mixed feelings about the second season of American Horror Story, Asylum.

Set mostly in 1964 (though veering into the present and even to the holocaust at times) at a decrepit insane asylum run by a repressed nun (an AMAZING performance by Jessica Lange), it follows the disturbing and metaphysical plights of several inmates.

Asylum includes Nazi doctors, aliens, demonic possession, serial killers, evil children, axe murderers, roving mutants, nymphomaniacs, an an elegant angel of death. It's kind of a lot to take. But somehow it mainly works. It is visually dark and monotonous and always creepy. The acting is for the most part very good, with a few standout performances (Sarah Paulson as the lesbian journalist wrongfully institutionalized, for example). And the plot lines are engaging, even as they slip into chaos and become a bit ridiculous. Still, given all that was thrown into this concoction, I think it managed to be a successfully tense and suspenseful exploration of horror motifs.

Favorite part: the possessed nun.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall for Dance, 2014

The other night I enjoyed a wonderful program at Fall for Dance, my favorite NYC performance festival.

The first dance was performed by Black Grace. "Pati Pati" fused western contemporary dance with traditional Samoan slap dance -- utilizing fun and invigorating and complex body percussion. Next was an elegant ballet from the San Francisco Ballet, "Variations for Two Couples" -- very beautiful, but I wasn't too crazy about the music.

My favorite of the evening was "Two x Two" created by Russell Maliphant/Sadler's Wells London. This spare and haunting dance featured two performers on different squares or planes. Each moving separately but it worked together. The lighting was gorgeous and I was really riveted by the dance.

The final crowd-pleaser was the always engaging Mark Morris Dance Group. We got to see the premiere of "Words", which I fully enjoyed. It had a familiar feeling, though, for a new a work, and I think that is because I've seen his choreography several times before.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Not That Kind of Girl

I SO much enjoyed reading Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. I am a huge fan of hers -- think she has a unique perspective, an off-beat sense of humor, an intelligent sensibility, and an ability to mix and match vulnerability and confidence.

Not That Kind of Girl is a memoir of her childhood in New York, college years, and post-college activities prior to Tiny Furniture (which I also loved). It is presented in the form of distinct essays, but flows well as a whole.

There is a large section devoted to misadventures with the opposite sex. These segments are highly amusing, and also poignant, as the younger Dunham fumbles through her attempts to navigate what passes for "romance" in the 21st Century. There was a lot I could relate to from my own youth. In fact, I find Dunham in general to be very relatable, even though we are generations apart.

The writing throughout is masterful, with wonderful little asides and turns of phrase that continually tickled me. She is a great humorist. I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes about her quirky childhood, and her budding neurosis. It was touching to see this child plagued with anxieties turn to her parents and caregivers numerous times, as she clearly grew up largely feeling safe and loved by those around her.

I wanted to highlight many, many parts of the book. Here is one of the few I chose to highlight (for the sake of brevity I am not sharing a brilliant and touching few paragraphs on her fear of death)"

Looking back on her college years, during which she was a bit lost and alienated: "If I had known how much I would miss these sensations I might have experienced them differently, recognizing their shabby glamour, respected the ticking clock that defined this entire experience. I would have put aside my resentment, dropped my defenses. I might have a basic understanding of European history or economics. More abstractly, I might feel I had been somewhere, open and porous and hungry to learn. Because being a student was an enviable identity and one I can only reclaim by attending community college late in life for a bookmaking class or something"