Rochester Rochester Rochester part 3

Part 3

November 11

“Translation with Terri Carrion” with cookies and fruit juice!

The first event in Rochester was a Translation Seminar 2pm-3pm, sponsored by the Foreign Language dept. of RIT. Hosts were Professors Sara Armengot and Diane Forbes. Terri discussed the Tri-Lingual Anthology of Galician writers she is working on for Big Bridge., translated from Galician to Spanish by F.R. Lavandeira, and translated from Spanish to English by Terri. It was a lively discussion of the complexities of translation, the different ideas about literal vs interpretative.

Then 4pm-5:15pm, off to the RIT’s Center for Innovation on campus where we joined up with Carl Atkins (saxophone) and Jay Alan Jackson (drums) for an afternoon performance of ROCKPILE with a light show. The visuals were implemented by: Hung Hsin Wu, Brandon May, Jarrod Parker, Professor Al Biles and Professor Mitchell Rosen. Also creditworthy Dean Ian Gatley, Director of the Innovation Center, and Professor Jon Schull for helping make the event possible, and Tim Stephany for filming it.


RIT Innovation Center

img_1060Light Show

I continued with “It Has Nothing To Do With Us” amidst a electronic light show and then read “Angels Sleep In Peace” which seems to be a performance favorite. Fun to read and the musicians like the way the lines move. Lots of room for improvisation. It is interesting to note here that part of the ROCKPILE plan/proposal was to perform works composed on the road. As I write this blog entry we are down to the last two weeks of the tour and it hasn’t happened. We have been working with far more variables than we had imagined. The big improvisation has been working with the musicians and learning what each musician required to get things going. Learning to listen. (And learning to flex for each other as the road gets wearier.) There hadn’t hardly been time to write on the trip, between packing, driving, checking into motels, unpacking, organizing, symposiums, uploading and downloading, sending out performance notices, visiting new friends, accommodating physical tweaks and twitches as we made our way through the obstacles of being everywhere and “here now”! By the time we get some private time we are exhausted. E-mails to family and friends and sleep more interesting than writing… So we work with previously composed pieces and the work we are reading seems new with each performance. Musicians have their own temperaments, colors and tempos, what could happen to a familiar work once spun in a new musical storm is a mystery to be revealed in the moment. And who knows, we may yet perform works composed on the road before the tour is over!

I concluded with “Phantom, Come Hither”. I didn’t need to read “Phantom”. The vibe in the room really didn’t call for it but I had planned to read it and so followed with my plan. Not the best idea. Another lesson. I need to allow for variability in my choice of work for a reading. This is improvisation too. Though making choices at the last minute is impossible sometimes because the musician collaborators tend to prefer to get some idea of what we are going to do before the show commences. We have mostly been asked to give our musical collaborators, at the very least, a list of poems with first and last lines and some suggestions on tempos and tones. But what it was is what it was and that is what it is. Though tired from being early assault by a revolution of housekeepers and a rushed lunch, rushed conversation, did I bring my cell phone, have my credit card, will I remember your name, have your e-mail, which parking lot? I did okay…

Then David took the stage in his usually shiny way. Apologizing for his body and crutches he made his way to the stage, nodding and smiling to the audience, he was softening them up from the moment he rose from his chair. He had them in the palm of his hand before he even opened a book. Settled in with mic in hand he flashed the audience one of his cherubic smiles and threatened to read his novel. Laughter.
Afternoon poetry
David jazzing out

David set out his first piece, “No Eyes, Lester Young” , with a little bit of jazz history then struck up an improvisation with the reed player, Carl Atkins, who turned his sax sideways in tribute to Lester Young. Jay Jackson, drummer/percussionist was right in there with them. I thought I saw Lester Young at the back of the room but it was a ghost. Charlie Parker sat down to watch the show. I was glad he showed up. David moved on to the blues, a performance of one of his now trademark performances paging through manuscripts, verses, lines, in time, singing verses that seem right at the moment, rendering them as the blues. Yes, David was singing, as he seems to do more and more in each performance and the audience loved it. I saw him do this singing and improvisational versification for the first time at the Shelldance pre-ramble and it took my breath away. It seems this was something he started doing 50 years ago but hadn’t begun doing again until ROCKPILE started stacking up at the door. A long stream of lights unfolded on the screen behind David as he concluded his set. Dots of colors popped on to the screen as Carl Atkins replied to each movement and breath that David gave up. Another beautiful performance.

Rochester Performance-Innovation Center, RIT from ROCKPILE on Vimeo.

And so the afternoon at RIT concluded. A good audience. Good collaborators. And the ROCKPILE Trio was on its way to Japanese food and Writer’s and Books for a no music, poetry reading.

Charlie Parker and Lester Young head out into the afternoon light content to know the story continues.

Sunset in Rochester

The engine was running backward and took us to the next place later and later. And it was cold to the bone. Winter finally caught up with us. Layers and layers of sweaters, t-shirts, hoodies, overcoats, hat, gloves, scarves hardly cut the chill. We caught a quick Japanese dinner, chaos of sushi, edamame, fresh rolls with shrimp, multiple bottles of hot and cold sake, Thai soup, hot and sour soup, dragon rolls…. I met Paulette Swartzfager, a brilliant anarchist from New Orleans recently arrived in Rochester . Gerald Schwartz and John Roche continued to guide us through another Rochester moment… I don’t know what we talked about but we talked fast, ate fast, paid the check and David, Terri and I headed off in Paulette’s car to Writer’s and Books for our first reading of the ROCKPILE tour (without music).

The room was small but comfy. Someone told me it used to be a police station, maybe the reading space was the interrogation room. John Roche gave a thoughtful introduction to the three of us. It was remarkably intimate space and very quiet. Ah, no musicians. The space belonged entirely to the voice as instrument. Enormous possibilities for improvisation. All attention to listening to ourselves. It was easier to focus. And the room was small enough to read without a microphone so no electronic interface. Terri took the stage first. Perfect reading of poems. My favorite was a poem she introduced as a “punk rock” poem. Then I read, no complaints. The flow was easy and satisfying, no pressure to get things done. Then David took over. He read poems I had never heard him read and all was good. Maybe this was the best reading of all? “With or without music?” Is the perennial question. The way I see it is that reading without music is a pleasure, lots of room to move and improvise. A relaxing change from a marathon of performances with musicians, like I say, you got to listen and listening is very hard. It is easier to read without music but not necessarily better. I would never pass up the opportunity of reading with great musicians. Mainly, I think that performing with musicians makes me a better reader.

After the Writer’s and Books reading people stuck around to talk. I got to meet a lot of people I had only met online. There was Stephen Lewandowski whose review of John Roche’s Topicalities I published in Big Bridge , Steve Tills, a close friend of David Bromige, I met on Facebook, and Steven Potter who published some of my poems in Wandering Hermit Magazine. Great to meet these e-mail/Facebook bio photo/poem people human to human. And we even sold some books!!

Then we were back in the cold, frost over everything, in my beard, on my ears, and we headed over to the Lovin Cup for a hot, raucous Karaoke night, dancing and talking about poetry and any other thing that could squeeze through the noise. Gerald Schwartz, Paulette Swartzfager, John Roche and the ROCKPILE trio were buzzed. The waitress was adorable and Terri kept on running her finger through her hula-hoop sized earrings as she took our orders for more food, more drink, more good times to roll! John Roche grabbed the manager and brought her to the table. She was all over the idea of “beat” poetry and how much she loved it. David signed a copy of Beat Thing. As we headed out of the Lovin’ Cup David and Terri paused on the dance floor for some boogie-woogie but were soon joined by a drunk college boy who decided he wanted to do the lambada with Terri. I headed over to intercede. “Uh, oh,” said Gerald. I stepped in front of the college boy and pointed him back to his table and he went without fuss. It was way late and we had a 10:30 symposium. I pointed David and Terri to the door. Greeted by the manager who hugged everyone, they lingered in the freeze. “Walk and talk, walk and talk,” had become my mantra on this trip. New conversations at every step. We would never get home to sleep!!! “Walk and talk, walk and talk.” And so we did finally get in the van and shivered home to the Holiday Inn Express.

November 12. “Editing The Literary Magazine” at RIT:

Coffee in a box

We should have gotten more sleep. But we were burning the candle at both ends and any efforts I made to get Terri and David to cut the party short were met with scowls. But we did get sleep and the motel room had been moved to the furthest end of the building where housekeeping was Indian and contemplative far from the brash sambas of the 2nd floor Puerto Rican Anarchist Convention.

Terri got up early and went to the gym and did the laundry. I tried to locate an electric keyboard for St. Louis . Scored a cup of coffee from the buffet in the lobby. Then we packed our bags and loaded up the van for the next stop, Buffalo- an hour and a half from Rochester . But before we headed for Buffalo we had one more gig at RIT on ‘Editing The Literary Magazine” at 10:30 am.

David at RIT looking for the toilet


The panel at RIT on Editing was moderated by John Roche. Participants included me and Terri representing Big Bridge , David representing Tree, and Steven Huff and Thom Ward from BOA.


These thoughts from Danielle Gatti, with her permission, a student in the class pretty much covers the discussion. 

”I had the best time talking with the editors from Big Bridge and BOA on Nov. 12 and took notes that I thought I would post. First the idea of talking about revisioning really caught my attention. -forgetting initial impulses -fresh images, idea metaphors -line breaks and line lengths -read aloud -half lost in the poem -funny maneuvers -advancing philosophical and psychological opportunities -being too concerned with what the poem was saying as opposed to how its doing The discussion of online vs print was very heated and has its benefits and its drawbacks. Ideas to consider: -permanence -tangibility -verification of identity -assumptions of quality -self-esteem -credibility -subjectivity vs objectivity -instant gratification -copyrights -convenience -availability -circulation -globality -self-published -gatekeepers -online community -intellectual property –categorization… Questions of that kind caught my attention: -First moment…best moment? -take yourself back to the place where you came up with the poem-it’s more important than what you wrote -do we prefer active editors or laissez faire editors? -learn something that you didn’t when you began writing -you can’t be the creator and the audience all at the same time -work capacity -Everything is always practice -the experience itself can be the practice -play, improvisation, attention -invisible seams. 

Looking over all of the notes I had written I remember why I wrote them down. I took so many important tips from all of the editors and one of the most enviable qualities I see within them and most writers is their confidence. I know most of them would say its a facade or the confidence comes with age, but I find being confident can help with writing and being happy with what we wrote, regardless of how it looks in hindsight.”

Thank you, Danielle!


One single comment

  1. Tisa Walden says:

    you guys are beginning
    to look transcendental. . .
    David emails tonight that
    he’s “full but still hungry”
    best photo of him infront
    of the Life/Water machine
    i ever remember seeing —
    by th’ way my code today
    for the blog is pearl/Father

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *