Exciting New Ventures in LIC

As new towers grow from this previously industrial area, new artistic endeavors and new businesses are developing. In this edition of my blog I’m reposting some short pieces covering, Art, Yoga, Style and Food recently published in www.licspot.com, an excellent news blog that serves the local community well. I’m also reviewing a new literary venture at the LIC Bar.

nature-of-the-muse-poster-full

LIC Bar, (www.licbar.com)at 46th and Vernon, is recovering well from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. It is famous for its regular music evenings, but less well known are those shows that involve the spoken word. Last Sunday, January 27th, LIC-born local writer Audrey Dimola presented “Nature of the Muse”, an evening of fireside reading and ”live writing” featuring herself and four featured writers (plus a special musical guest) built around readings and improvised writing. Queens- based writers Michael Alpiner, Sweta Srivastava Vikram, Michael Stahl and Carrie Noel  joined Audrey, and talented musician Ace Elijah in performances of their own work and an interesting spin on this in the form of improvised writing.

Audrey is excited by this first event that she has developed by herself, with the encouragement of music curator Gus Rodriguez. She met most of the writers at “Boundless Tales” a regular reading event at the Waltz-Astoria (www.boundlesstales.blogspot.com).

Before the event Audrey described the improvised part of the show:

“Members of the audience will be asked to write a little writing prompt on a piece of paper, anything, and they will be put in a pool and the writers, including myself, will each pull one out; two if they’re feeling dangerous, and they will write live with just ten minutes to prepare, presenting it to the audience afterwards.”

The setting for this intimate show was the Carriage House, at the other end of the courtyard from the bar. Regular attendees will recognise this as the setting for Ali Silva’s “Fireside Ghost Stories” and live performances of radio “Suspense” plays. In this tradition what was a cold winter’s night was warmed by a fire in the grate, drinks from the bar and the creative spirits of those involved. The place was full to overflowing, with some late-comers turned away for lack of space.

I’m not necessarily the best person to review an event like this, I take a while to digest poetry. The poet takes me into a world that they have created and I spend a while listening and then processing the thoughts and feelings that are generated. So one writer after another doesn’t always suit me, I’m still in the last piece when the next one starts.

Music is different, at least most music. The singer songwriter Ace Elijah (www.acemusiconline.com) gave us three songs that were carefully crafted and sung in a rather understated style that matched an evening by the fire. Singing with just a simple nylon stringed guitar his songs recalled songwriters from earlier times, especially the mid 20th century; the heyday of crooners like Frank Sinatra and smooth soul singers like Ray Charles. Presented at three points in the evening these were a good balance to the spoken words that filled rest of the time. Hear Ace singing Dead Guy Blues.

Ace Elijah

Ace Elijah

The four main presenters exemplified a range of poetic voices and themes. Birthday Boy Michael Stahl hid his talents behind a screen of mundanity as he read a prose piece themed around his adolescent obsession with mixtapes, using this to provoke laughter from audience members (who presumably shared some of this experience) and to reflect on changes in the way that commercial music is promulgated these days, Spotify and itunes playlists are not the same as the gift of a mixtape. Check out Michael Stahl ‘s improvised poem and his website (www.thedefacedwrittenword.com)

Indian poet Sweta Srivastava Vikram (www.swetavikram.com) treated us to poems from already and soon-to-be published books of her works. She is an award-winning writer who has been twice nominated for a Pushcart prize. She grew up in India, North Africa and the United States and her international experiences as both a child and an adult have influenced her writings. The poems this evening had serious themes, especially around feminity and family disruption, and were very well crafted, delivering important messages as well as entertaining. Hear her reading: Poem

Local writer Michael Alpiner has been poet in residence at the Louis Armstrong Museum in Corona. The work read this evening showed us why he has a position of status within the local literary community. Graduating with a MFA from Queens College in 2010 his work appears in print and onlne journals. He was featured at last year’s NYC Poetry festival. This evening he delivered poems that frequented illness and death and demonstrated his skill in synthesizing the essential nature of human emotions, thought and actions in ways that delivered humour, shock and pathos. Check out  Michael Alpiner reading.

Last to read was Carrie Noel, a young writer with great promise. She delivered sometimes hard-hitting verse, reflecting on family loss, childhood and youthful relationships showing  skill with words and an ability to connect with an audience, even if her delivery was a little fast at times. As she said, she doesn’t often write “happy crap” for people and her words were quite direct, especially towards men when recalling relationships that didn’t work out. Check her out on Facebook under her name. Hear Carrie Noel’s  improvised poem.

Carrie Noel

Carrie Noel

Great skill was also demonstrated by all five writers present as they read their “improvised” works, created in response to prompts from the audience. Each had ten minutes (or less) to create their piece, sometimes two. All were excellent and great examples of how an artist in words may draw on “the Muse” in settings as unlikely as a Victorian Bar in Long Island City.

Although Audrey Dimola had created the show, and offered an introduction, this was the only opportunity she had to show her work, so she read some of her own poems and then two improvised pieces on the themes “Funny Money” and “Sex”, all four showed the depth of her skills as a writer.

Check out Audrey reading her improvised poem ” Funny Money 

This was an evening for the writers and their audience. From the camaraderie in the room I suspect that many knew each other, and this gave an intimate, almost party-like atmosphere to an evening that progressed well beyond its published ending to the obvious enjoyment of those present.

Long Island City – and Queens as a whole – can always use more opportunities for writers and poets to air their work. Audrey hopes that that this will be the first of many similar evenings at LIC Bar and new locations around the neighborhood. For other literary ventures in the neighborhood  check out the aforementioned Boundless Tales reading series (www.boundlesstales.blogspot.com): Queens own literary journal “Newtown Literary” ( http://www.newtownliterary.org ), the open mic events at Waltz Astoria (www.waltz-astoria.com), Jackson Heights Poetry festival’s first Tuesday’s reading series and open mic (www.jacksonheightspoetry.wordpress.com) and the “Oh Bernice” reading series in Sunnyside (www.ohbernice.com).

Audrey Dimola

Audrey Dimola

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Eduardo Anievas in his studio

Eduardo Anievas in his studio

You might recognise Eduardo Anievas’ paintings from their occasional placements in galleries and shop windows around LIC. He has had studios in Hunters Point for three years and recently moved from a large loft area on 5th Street to a smaller, ground level, space at 48th Avenue, between Vernon Boulevard and 11th Street. This position makes his work more visible and accessible to passers-by.

To show his work Eduardo has shifted from extravagant, sangria-laced “Open Studio Series” events in the loft space to making his new studio open for walk-ins on Saturdays from 1 – 6pm. Whilst this might seem daunting to those who might not know what to say to an artist in his workplace I can reassure you that Eduardo will welcome you warmly into this space and may even let you in at other times, if you just knock at his window.

Eduardo comes originally from Santander in Northern Spain, just an hour’s drive from the famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. He has been in the US for some 14 years, and is now married (to an American, Elizabeth, a performance artist), with a daughter due in June. His work has been shown in galleries in Europe and the US but he now prefers to sell his paintings directly via personal contact, local exhibition and the internet.

As an artist you can immediately tell that Eduardo has excellent skill and credentials from his portrait of the Spanish actor, Fernando Fernán Gómez that hangs in the studio. This is not for sale and has been carried around from country to country as a kind of artistic passport that shows how well he can paint in a realistic style. However, his work shows strong stylistic variation with, as a common theme of equal emphasis on figure and background.

Eduardo's portrait of his wife Elizabeth

Eduardo’s portrait of his wife Elizabeth

A look at the paintings on his wall, as well as his website, shows that Eduardo has created a “signature” style of figures in silhouette against a range of backgrounds. Although he has painted these for 16 years they have developed and create different emotional impacts that derive from varied conjunctions of people, colors and backgrounds; sometimes geometric and sometimes more organic. These, however, are only a proportion of his work and a tour of his studio will show his range of subject matter and style.

I especially enjoyed Eduardo’s portraits and his representations of the female form whether nudes, in portrait or in formal poses; many of which have great energy. Some have flamenco as their theme. Others, more subtly, convey powerful abstract energies that surround the female figures in ways that suggest dance. Some paintings convey a quieter mood, especially that of a reclining nude, which has a calmness that allows the beauty of the form to stand apart from its background.

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In the end Eduardo’s work must be seen to be appreciated. You can see more examples of Eduardo’s work on his website www.eduardoanievas.com, or visit him at 1015 48th Avenue, Hunter’s Point.

His studio is open, try knocking.

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Pranavah Yoga is a new studio created by Carolyn McPherson at 47-46 Vernon Boulevard (entrance around the corner on 48th Ave., 3rd floor). Combining her own and others’ talents in teaching a range of Yoga practices the space offers a range of classes and individual sessions for the local community.

Carolyn is committed to both the practice and philosophy of Yoga, seeing it as something that benefits adults and children, as well as families, workplaces and communities. Amongst other groups the center offers pre and post-natal classes and workshops for parents and children. She sees this as practical skill building and an investment in the wellbeing of future generations and recalls positive feedback from mothers that the yoga helped them to deal with pre-birth physical aches and pains, the birth process and recovery.

Originally from San Francisco, Carolyn has lived in the neighborhood for some years and is well known for the classes she has taught in local fitness centers, such as that at the recently flooded Powerhouse rental building. This new venture offers a central location for her own and others’ classes. It will become a focus for both walk-in and planned attendance. For some this can be a life-changing encounter with techniques that have their origins in ancient Eastern meditative arts, benefiting mind, body and spirit. Although often associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, Yoga, or more specifically Hatha Yoga in this case, requires no specific religious commitment.

Carolyn’s background is originally dance, she recalls always having had an interest in her body and wellness, an interest which eventually led her to seek formal training as a yoga teacher. She recognises that yogic breathing, posture and exercises can be taught across a wide age range and can therefore be of value to everybody. She explains that “Pranavah is the sound vibration when chanting the sacred sound of Om”. Breathing is central to living, and good purposeful breathing is a key to wellness. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the group of teachers that Carolyn has brought together includes singers and musicians.

Carolyn McPherson

Carolyn McPherson

The studio space has a sense of peace and tranquillity. The simplicity of the plain wood floor is balanced by plain walls with nicely chosen artwork and quotations. This is a place to leave the world behind, and an experience to take with you when you leave; to carry in your mind and body through busy days at work or with family.

For more information check out the website:

www.pranavahyoga.com

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LIC: Living is a style store, what is sometimes called a boutique; a space where design and ethical integrity reign supreme over a wide range of household articles, adults’ and children’s clothes, toys, cards and art. Opened by LIC neighbours Rebekah Witzke and Jillian Tangen in November last year, this small shop at 535, 51st Street, just up from Vernon Boulevard, offers pleasing colour and design variation that draws stock mainly from small producers in the US and Scandinavia, countries that reflect the national origins of these two innovative women. This is a different kind of store for LIC; reflecting, perhaps, the demographic shifts over the past few years. It is also in a part of Hunters Point that is traditionally difficult for traders; just off Vernon Boulevard and away from the walk-to-subway routes from the condos and rentals that have recently populated the Center Boulevard area. Yet it is worth the diversion, with a mix of goods for sale that offers options for gifts as well as stylish necessities.

Maritime-themed  tableware

Maritime-themed tableware

There is design continuity to this store, even though its stock shows wide variation. Steel cocktail shakers mix with maritime-themed plates; colourful melamine tableware with children’s clothes; books and games with attractively patterned women’s clothes. The stock is displayed with an eye for co-ordination; items must be beautiful as well as useful.

I was interested to see that the owners have teamed up with an artist friend, Mic Boekelmann, to show some of her artwork based on LIC water views, including the iconic Pepsi sign, a view that will soon be unavailable as the last of Cornerstone’s rental buildings rises behind it. Mic is a Philippine born and German raised artist from New Jersey who curates a collaborative artistic community. I was especially impressed by her portraits, not on view here, but visible on her website www.micbstudio.com.

Rebekah Witzke, co-proprieter with a painting by Mic Boekelmann in the background

Rebekah Witzke, co-proprieter with a painting by Mic Boekelmann in the background

LIC: Living also has a website: www.licliving.com, through which their stock may be viewed and ordered online.

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An Indian Jewel in the Heart of LIC

Long Island City has a wide choice of Italian, French, Latin and Asian (S.E. and Chinese) restaurants to balance the range of burger joints, diners, and delis that populate its various neighborhoods. Other cuisines are less well represented, so it was with some delight that a friend told me about a recently opened Indian restaurant close to Court Square.

Aanchal sits on 23rd Street, just behind the Court Square Diner. Its decor has that authentic mix of Indian simplicity (plain wood tables) and faux luxury (moquette and wooden panels); together with unobtrusive TV screens showing Bollywood music videos, with the sound turned down to a level that allowed conversation. We arrived around 8:30pm and there was a lively Indian family celebration at one end of the restaurant. Although the waiter was apologetic we took this as a good sign. We were greeted well and served immediately with complimentary papadoms and sauces. There is no drinks menu, though, as the restaurant is not licensed.

Aanchal has a very varied menu which offers much more than the traditional western favourites of Tikka masalas, Kormas, Tandooris and the ubiquitous butter chicken. We chose a Tandoori Murgh Ke Tikke ($11.95) fenugreek flavored marinated chicken, and Lamb Roganjosh ($14.95). The waiter kindly let us know that the chicken is a “dry” dish, but we were prepared for that and would share our dishes, also ordering a bowl of raita ($2 –a cooling mix of yogurt, cucumber and herbs) and a garlic naan bread ($3.95). We were told to expect a 10-15 minute wait; always a good sign that the meal will be freshly prepared (not that this is a major issue with curries, but it’s good to have fresh herbs and spices, when appropriate), and were offered another round of papads by the observant waiter, noticing our swift demolition of the first round.

Murgh Ke Tikke

Murgh Ke Tikke

The dishes arrived together (as they should) and we enjoyed the range of tastes offered, complemented by the naan, rice and raita. The naan was especially good, clearly freshly cooked, moist and with a flavorsome mix of garlic, herbs and spices. Whilst we had asked for the lamb to be “spicy”, I suspect that they toned down Indian spicy to what they considered Western tastes, so if you want it “hot” make it clear. The chicken was moist and subtly flavoured, the red of the Tandoori spice contrasted with the green garnish (fenugreek leaves, no, more likely to be parsley?) and offered a dish that pleased the eyes as well as the palate. We finished off the lamb but there was enough chicken and rice left to be packed up for a trip home, to be enjoyed the next day (which it was!).

We will definitely return to Aanchal. If you like Indian food this place is as authentic as you’ll get this side of Curry Hill, and easier to get to for Queens residents; those on Manhattan who live close to the E, M and 7 lines and our neighbours in Brooklyn who are near to the G.

Aamchal also deliver and offer what looks like a tempting “All You Can Eat” lunch buffet for $9.99.

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Poetry and a little Jazz

A touch of Jazz and some poetry this week, including some experiments in sound and video.

JAZZ

It’s so good to hear jazz artists who have great affinity for each other and play together without printed music, just concentrating on each other to produce that mix of improvised and written/arranged music that sets makes jazz stand out as a great art form.

Sam Trapchak and Adam Lomeo

I heard bassman Sam Trapchak playing at LIC Bar (www.licbar.com) on Monday April 2nd with guitarist Adam Lomeo in an hour long set that consisted of a range of pieces that allowed each artist to express their individual skills to a high degree as well as show off their attunement to each other. Regular readers of this blog will know how high I rate Sam Trapchak as a player and writer. I haven’t heard him in a duo setting before and recognise how this combination of guitar and bass can be exposing of skill, imagination and creativity. This was a set that combined intimacy with intricacy, Lomeo’s subtley amplified1940s Gibson standing well with the big, but unassertive double bass. Whenever I see a  bass I’m reminded that it is not a bass violin, it is in fact the last remnant of the ancient viol family of instruments, built to play in domestic environments, generally in a consort or supporting instruments such as recorder, crumhorn, virginals and rebec; that in themselves are not loud. So it’s nice to hear it played in this way. LIC Bar isn’t always the easiest place to play intimate music, catering as it does for regular drinkers, sports watchers and random dogs. Fortunately Monday night was not too noisy and the attentive audience were treated to a form of subtle jazz that relied more on intricacy of playing and expresssion than volume and excitement. However, this was not introverted performance. I have been to some jazz sessions where I felt that the presence of an audience did not matter, such were the players concentrating on themselves. Here the two players were definitely aware of their audience and played a range of new and more well known pieces and arrangements, some of which had great energy and movement that engaged you as a listener. Foot tapping if not head banging.

Check out this video of Charlie Parker‘s classic “Moose the Mooch” –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73M1zmnjRqM&context=C435fabeADvjVQa1PpcFMezaDO8tw95GDrZqtYjfH6QNdjIrt7YAA=

I’m still learning how to use photo software and sometimes I get results that surprise me, so I thought I’d show this one of Adam Lomeo:

Adam Lomeo

In Manhattan

I took an excursion across to Manhattan the other week and caught the reunion performance of the band Nonononet at Drom (http://www.dromnyc.com/), in East Village. Nonononet (http://www.sus4music.com/nonononet.asp) is a brass group of nine players (hence “nonet”) who play a range of well arranged music that spans a range from Duke Ellington, through the Beatles to Led Zeppelin, via some of their own compositions. The band consists of leader Robert Susman on trombone, two saxes (one doubling flute and clarinet), two  trumpets, tuba, French horn, drums and percussion.

Nonononet playing at Drom

There is something about brass, that combination of lips and reeds, rich harmonies and strength. I used to enjoy brass band competitions when I lived in the North of England and used to catch my nephew’s brass group “Fat Lips” in clubs around London. Nononononet had a great sound, with lively and skilful ensemble. I love the use of tuba as the bass line, the characterful Dale Turk underlining the ensemble with real aplomb. Though not all were members of the original (and quite youthful) band from the early1990s I imagine that they faithfully reproduced their energy and skills. They played two sets, a good chance to really listen and to allow the planned performance to spread across a couple of hours and to offer a good spread of fast/slow, traditional and new: all music that is designed to entertain. This was real music, real arrangements with real instruments; and played by real people. A very satisfying night.

Drom is a bar/supper club so there was a small cover charge and expectation that you buy food at the table – not unlike other places in Manhattan. In return for this I hope that the band were paid. A nine-piece is an expensive proposition. Here’s a video of one of Nonononet’s own pieces “Aloneness” featuring original member, French Horn player Jeff Scott.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V35qrF7zi4&context=C45c350fADvjVQa1PpcFMezaDO8tw95CStABVUESzdtbdTa1HxQD4=

Check out some more photos on:

POETRY

It’s apparently National Poetry Month, who would know it? Where is the  spread of posters across town, on every street corner, in bus stations, on subway walls and tenement halls. Where are the poets competing to be heard across Times Square, in gated Florida communities and, just as you’re about to fall asleep, grabbing you by the heart, flying screaming from the TV?

There’s http://www.nyc.gov/html/poem/html/home/home.shtml, and http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41 but would you know about these if you weren’t already into poetry?

I’ve met a few poets around LIC and I want to give some of them an opportunity to share their work on this blog. So asked them for some written examples of their work and some have offered audio/video recordings.

Click on the links to hear the readings.

Three are represented here: Lee Goffin-Bonenfant, Audrey Dimola, and Robert Bell Burr

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant is an LIC-based actor, poet and musician. This is her tribute to Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck.

Lee Goffin-Bonenfant

AFTER CLASS, BEFORE THERAPY

Skipping,
stumbling,
sauntering,
soothing, seducing
into the Ritz with a dirty martini

Each one, in turn
looks past the first, beyond the second
and into themselves again
convinced they are someone else’s Different

And Everyone is staring at Anne
exuberant, forceful, loud
constantly the center of attention
accidentally intellectual
like the gaudiest ring in the jewelry shop –
not what you came here for –
a ridiculous thought in the first place
bu so jam-packed with precious stones and eye catching glints
that you can’t help but stare at and long for her
forgetting that a ring is nothing but a beautiful circle around
a gaping hole

(And she is every one of us
setting off all our bells and whistles
because she is more aware than anyone
of the emptiness pressing against her insides
constantly threatening to escape
and expose the nothing she always knew she was)

Little Sylvia
perpetually separate
in a slightly darker shade of burgundy
standing behind herself
with her hand on her own shoulder
giving herself some sympathy or empathy
or the friendship she so desperately needs
and can’t let herself have

instead of letting them find out for themselves
she wears her insecurities like chain-mail
sinking (slumping) slightly under the weight of them
and arming herself with a set of goals
and forced, if objective, confidence

And the spirit self
that watches her body interact
like watching an old TV with the lights on
and your reflection
flickering in shadow behind the players heads
takes constant notes
and reports the minutes to the physical self
for comparison
deconstruction
and conclusion

And where is George in all of this?
The libra holding the scales
The intellectual diving block
from whence these two launch themselves
The Man Overlooked.
While the women stare at each other
through the large hanging mirror on the opposite wall
and cleave to his elbows
in hopes that one of them will win
the prize that loses all (glamour)
once won.

Robert Bell Burr is a poet who lives in Hunters Point

SMOKED OUT, THE FIERY RANTS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhr4cBsTxcE

I see the rainbow where the century ends,

the gold where it begins: a turned frail, white-backed

dinosaur in leg irons astride a world cracked

by famine and drained reserves (that now depends

on quick money schemes). Writhing with loss, it sends

its flame-filled screech out over waste drums long stacked

on desert sands, its arteries and veins part-placqued

from what it daily consumes, feeling “the bends.”

The rights of people, too, seem less than real,

while that same dragon sleeps beside its pile,

guarding its wayward stocks — its vacant smile,

long unctuous, come out of all it doesn’t feel —

there, just dozing, awaiting its finest deal

to top its many all too foul ones. All wile

and no play works its way through its dreams. And vile,

it’s true then, are contracts wearing its seal.

Tears

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZNChG4P2jU

And when he’d stand to take in our applause,
He’d first bow briefly, noting then our joy,
Before he’d sit again, the room grown quiet.
Nor did he seem to tire of the strings,
Each piece so brightly conjured in his hands,
“Recuerdos De La Alhambra” brought tears.
An artist (only) does this, I think.  Tears–
Wondrous surely, gauged by the fierce applause,
Not Pavlovian drops atop clapped hands–
Were there because of some exquisite joy.
The “little orchestra,” so called, six strings,
Our Maestro says, needs fingers that are quiet.
A month has passed.  I’m in my room.  It’s quiet.
No yelling in the hall.  The shouts with tears
My neighbor’s daughter makes, followed by strings
Of curses, then by laughter, and then applause,
That quick-smart kind that means now let’s have joy,
Have stopped.  I take my guitar in my hands.
Artless thick-set fingers, a fat-cat’s hands,
That turn their pages, crispness cutting quiet,
Have flipped to find their favorite, “Jesu, Joy…”
Time was, my proud attempts brought me to tears.
For praise, oh well, my head could make applause.
And yet, as now, the thrill was in the strings.
Once threads of gut, not temperate nylon strings,
They would require much tuning, extra hands,
Applied with swift elan during applause
(Nor can the timpanist tune when it’s quiet).
But I digress.  To get back to my tears,
Or ours, or theirs, they don’t just come from joy.
My waxing here, didactic?…That’s called joy.
But when you’ve heard the bell-tones of the strings
Just before they melt into bright tears,
Nothing’s more pure in all the days of hands.
No other solace matches them for quiet,
Or better lends itself to grand applause.
Are tears in the applause not tears of joy;
Who would know the quiet blush of strings
And suffer his two hands to find such tears?

Query

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefb2bcUGK4

The light came in upon you while I read
a page or two and wrote enough to fill
a sheet torn off the hotel notepad. Still,
the way it crossed your leg, your hip, your head,
then continued with a gentle pulse to spread
itself, as though its source above the sill,
below the blind, a bright square hole, might spill
forever, got me up from my own bed.
Like a voyeur from some peep-holed realm, I thought
but felt quite differently, in fact. What rocks
or sways the mind to find such fiction where
there’s no intent to startle or to scare?
That morning early, while you slept, I taught
myself merely to be a camera box

Audrey Dimola describes herself  as “an editorial acrobat and lifelong lover of words whose mantra is:

burn bright, never regret it. She writes, sings, reads, and dreams her way through life in her native Long Island City and Astoria, Queens, usually wearing leopard print and always rediscovering the magic of everyday. Audrey is best known around town as the former Managing Editor of LIC’s only glossy arts magazine, Ins&Outs, and she has helped to promote and support the arts and culture in Queens for years. Recently, the Queens Poet Laureate selected her for inclusion in the inaugural Queens Poets & Poems exhibition in Queens Borough Hall for National Poetry Month. You can find her portfolio online at audreydimola.com, and the wild multimedia blog she edits at sugarnthunder.com.”

Three poems from Audrey:

for always

For Always audio file

forked tongues in careless mouths
and the tempers rise again.
frivolous arguments
and apologies murmured
through gritted teeth.
how far will it go tonight?
or how deep will the subsequent
silence be
when time again we’re faced with the fact
that we’ve said all we can say?
our paths converged what seems like
forever ago
and still we cannot quite figure out
where to place this
fascinating
frustrating
perfectly
beautiful
torment..
that burns us at the stake
yet comes to salvage the charred remains.
we get older and we stay
to sling the stones of words
we’d like to – but can never –
ever –
forget.
trying to force your words
to fade away
was always the problem.
you never fade.
and if you start to –
one strand of recollection
ignites your memory
and floods my soul with color
the way you always do.
you were all the good things i had lost –
the unapologetically alive.
just being near you
made me more than myself –
vibrant
and amplified.
yet still
i could look at you
and not know what to do.
only now it seems we do know
and are afraid to act on the truth.
you’ll be what i think of –
like our old gravel-voiced friend sings –
when i’m dead in my grave..
because even then i’d wish for
another chance
to fly too close and melt my wings.
in another lifetime, perhaps,
we’ll be what the other needs –
or, perhaps, we already have been
and all this time
have been chasing that dream.
i can only remember you
and being whole –
laughing
and finding my place.
seeking the solace and affirmation
now regressed to the point
where no words can express
the bottomless disappointment
in one defeated breath.
you were everything –
that stubborn archaic hope
that drives men to build
waxen wings
and keep dreaming
what they were never meant to dream.
you were, are, will be –
everything.
that one last riddle
between the sphinx’s paws
i’ve always wished i could solve.
somehow –
the futile hope never dies in me.
another time, another place
another life, another plane –
i’d still be waiting,
wishing for you.
and perhaps,
in another guise
in some time beyond my reach
i’ll feel that familiar hope
that electricity and madness
so breathtaking and infuriating
so perfectly alive –
and all at once
for now and ever
i’ll know –
i’ll know it’s you –
and i’ll love you
just as endlessly
as every time before.

this is for you,
for always.

 


validation

Validation read by Audrey Dimola

it seems to me

validation

is the muse’s silent killer..

you write

and stand on a street corner

holding a sign,

or shouting from a mountaintop,

or thrashing in the sea,

waiting for someone to notice.

we writers have to ask ourselves

over and over –

does it matter?

in so many ways

the greats, and others like them,

have said – write not for an

audience.

the purest writing comes from you,

unadulterated.

praise or criticism may come

afterwards –

or alternately, you may

have only silence.

but whatever you are faced with,

i tell you –

picking up the pen is your

validation.

you have realized

the grand illusion –

created something

out of nothing.

and do you know what else?

have you considered

how much of your audience

is invisible –

simply part of the pen and ink,

the walls of your heart,

the fragments of memory..

spirits of the past,

circumstances of the present,

possibilities of the future –

star-trails and planets

and the universe all one –

it all moves to an

infinite,

luminous bloom

when you take that breath,

that step – to create.

how much more validation

do you need?


four pieces

Four Pieces read by Audrey Dimola

brother
still learning
i worry about you.
you’re tied to me on a thinning string –
i know you grow so weary of the world
you can feel your immortality.
you traverse the streets at night
in your thoughts you wander, too –
but you’re a step ahead of me
because i’m too afraid to leave my head.

sister
such a pure soul
loving wholly, truly
clinging too tight.
stay little –
i only wish i could control my temper
(sometimes it’s hard to know what to say).
you’re afraid, but just like i am
your anxieties always get to you
but i hope they don’t keep you from sleeping
like mine still do.

father
restless spirit
i wish you could believe.
you fight tirelessly against everyone,
against yourself.
take those hands that mend the world
and know how much they are needed –
i wish i could alter your alchemy
to free you from your own mind.

mother
beautiful mother
walking paths i hope to follow –
the light that illuminates your spirit
colors the soul in me too.
undeserving shackles and clipped wings
cannot subvert your hunger for knowledge
you know the things in books before you read them
– you always do.
your calls for inexistence – an end to this – pain me
because no one shines with the light of god like you do.
see yourself the way i see you
because even when you are gone
i will wander endlessly to find you, wherever you are.

the self
my self
the heart in me is clenched –
a volatile soul
watching for the prism of light
splitting through the cracks in the darkness.
intuitions spark
and only confirm what is already inherent –
i only wish i could be the being
i know we all have the potential to become.

four pieces
of this heart to push and pull –
it’s been so long, this back and forth
my spirit almost cannot know another way.
chaos and normalcy walk hand in hand
in this house so weighted by its energy
i cannot leave any piece behind –
or bear to be the one that is left.
all those years ago i was the little girl
just wishing for the pieces to fit.
but through time’s graying lens
it seems i simply want
each piece to find their own peace.

disassociative

“Disassociative” read by Audrey Dimola

and i can’t write to save myself
because the words don’t rhyme
and the feelings don’t flow
like they used to.
i feel like ever since november
i’ve laid to rest the part of me
that could feel pain–
the part that fought
the part that believed
but most of all
the part that survived.
now one day fades unintelligibly
into the next
and sometimes i don’t even remember
falling asleep.
i lose myself
and my thoughts and my words
are mangled and pieced apart
by the train rides and the late nights
and the girl in the mirror
who knows she can’t feel anything at all.
i’m drifting, but so violently
that i seem to destroy everything i touch–
and sometimes i wish i had
a bottle, a drug, a cigarette light
to help me drag this soulless body
through the night.
i burn my bridge to the outside world
and let the embers settle in my throat
until i can’t breathe
and it’s a relief–
because it’s my only chance to get
myself to go away.
every time i close my eyes
the grenade goes off and i see him–
my angel with his secret heart sewn shut.
his halo flickers like a fluorescent bulb
and paranoia sparks a fire in my blood
as i watch him catch a light
on a pair of smoldering eyes
and he savors the smoke
and her smile
without ever knowing i was there.
constellations of
scars and doubts and memories
stare down from the heavens,
laughing in my face
and i wonder
if you ever really know anyone at all.
BOUNDLESS TALES – ASTORIA

Boundless Tales Reading Series, founded by Aida Zilelian, is one of the only reading series in the borough of Queens. Readings run the third Thursday of every month at Waltz-Astoria (23-14 Ditmars Blvd), and Audrey Dimola is excited to be hosting for the summer months. Come out to support local writers and submit your work (fiction/non-fiction, poetry, plays, novel excerpts) if you want to read! See: http://boundlesstales.blogspot.com/

 

Now and again in Manhattan

Yes sometimes I do go over the borders to Manhattan and Brooklyn. This has been a busy week and I have mainly been away from LIC. It’s also been a New Zealand week, with a session of poetry with a group of NZ poets, sponsored by Saatchi and Saatchi and Phantom Billstickers; and also a showing of Taika Waititi‘s movie, “Boy” (http://www.boythemovie.co.nz/ ) – (check out Angelika and Lincoln Center movie times) – together with his Oscar nominated short “Two cars, one night.” Also a T.S.Eliot event in West Village.

“Boy”

Taika Waititi’s Oscar nominated short film: “Two cars one night” stands as a companion to this full length story about a boy’s relationship with his father. Both are written and filmed  with a sharp eye for the world of the child;  both are set, like “The Whale Rider” in East Cape New Zealand rural Māori communities and both touch the balance between bravado and intimacy; themes which transcend the New Zealand setting and touch us with humour and pathos.
In some ways this movie portrays an idyllic kind of childhood, away from the “dangers” of the city. Yet it also deals with the challenges of parental absence, in this case through the mother’s death in childhood and the father’s incarceration. It understands how children fantasize about absent figures, how they take on blame and how they struggle when their fantasy meets reality; in this case when the father (played by Waititi) returns home. The boy faces his father’s own childlike nature, his foolishness and his avoidance of responsibility. All this at a time when he is facing his own prepubescent challenges of developing manhood and sexuality.
It would be easy to view this movie with a western adult’s eye that judges the family and community; a family of children left to fend for themselves in the absence of their father (in prison) and their grandmother (gone to a funeral 300 miles away in her battered Hillman car). The setting of this movie is, in fact a small community where most will be related to each other and the children, although seemingly running free will have the watchful eye of the adults, including the marginal “mad” man on the beach.

That said, this is not a film where adult males get a good press.  The “Boy” (played superbly by James Rolleston) is let down by a father and male teachers. Apart from the “gentle, foolish giant” on the beach the other men are either gang members, stupid petty criminals or tired cynical teachers. They are triumphs of bravado, self interest and insensitivity. The only real authority figure is a woman, Boy’s aunt. Against this background Boy’s processing of his “coming of age’ experiences offer (to quote NZ Band Fat Freddy’s Drop) “Hope for a New Generation” .

 http://www.myspace.com/music/player?song=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myspace.com%2Ffatfreddysdropnz%2Fmusic%2Fsongs%2Fhope-1173912) .

The balance of the child in the man and the man in the child is played out beautifully in the characters of Boy and his father, Alamein.
It’s not surprising to learn that Waititi is also a comedian, he skillfully exercises his own “child in the man” and  points his wit-loaded finger at some of the idiocies of life in this world of “civilised” adults. ( I found myself wondering whether “”Boy” is to some extent autobiographical, after all it was filmed inthe community where Waititi grew up). He has a keen and compassionate eye, and knows how to entertain.

See his recent appearance on US TV station WPIX http://www.wpix.com/news/morningnews/wpix-ff-taikiki-waititi,0,6279282.story.

A word for the music, excellently composed by Wellington band “The Phoenix Foundation”, who also provided music for Eagle vs Shark. (http://www.thephoenixfoundation.tumblr.com/).
Watch this movie, laugh, remember your own innocence and those of people around you and laugh again. And if you are a man, think about it and reflect on your own “child/man” balance.

Poets

Grand Central Station

New Zealand has a strong literary tradition, writers such as Katherine Mansfield and Janet Frame stand high in the pantheon of western writing. A group of New Zealand poets were in New York over the past week appearing with some US poets in a performance evening at the offices of Saatchi and Saatchi, promoted by Kiwi company Phantom Billstickers (http://www.0800phantom.co.nz/), who have spent the past few weeks posting New Zealand Poetry in locations around New York. I like poetry captured in this way, when it comes unexpected in the middle of a journey, unplanned and unsought. A long set of performances can lose me, a kind of poetic gluttony which leaves one full but unsatisfied, because the taste is drowned in the volume.

Janet Frame's Poem "The End" in Times Square

I know Hinemoana Baker from my incarnation as a World Music radio presenter in New Zealand. I had interviewed her at a WOMAD (www.womad.org.nz) festival in New Plymouth and had also heard her partner Christine White perform a very moving piece about her grandmother in a composition competition at Victoria University in Wellington. Hinemoana is both a singer and a poet. She writes intelligent, moving and intelligent poems and lyrics and is a natural unselfconscious performer. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjZsIaDE0tY&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19DBiLIEOUE . I was pleased to hear her in performance at the beginning of what was, for me, quite a long night of poetry, interspersed with a little music.

Another high point was hearing Pamela Gordon reading her aunt Janet Frame’s poetry, once again early on in the evening. Some of you may know Frame’s work as an author of fiction, or through the film of her autobiography, “An Angel at my Table”, by NZ director Jane Campion (“The Piano”, “In the Cut”, “Sweetie”, Portrait of a Lady”).

If you have read her fiction you will be aware of her sense of the essential nature of things, at times like a childs eye finely crafted into sparingly beautiful words.

For example: “Electricity, the peril the wind sings to in the wires on a gray day”

Her poetry is less well known and, like poetry must be, is similarly crafted – in fact to the finest degree. I find it hard to read, or hear, her poetry in more than short doses. Not because I don’t like it, it’s just because it strikes so deep that, like caviar or oysters, it must be digested in small morsels. Pamela Gordon is Frame’s literary custodian. In some ways she reminded me of her aunt, in manner and looks as well as her voice. I was impressed by the way she allowed her aunt to speak again here in New York, a city she had visited when she was alive.

Check out this rare TV appearance  http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/holmes—janet-frame-2000 .

Others appearing at the poetry fest included Kiwi musician-living-in-nyc Hamish Kilgour, (“The Clean”); American poet Gerald Stern, Jay Clarkson, Sandra Bell, David Eggleton, Tusiata Avia, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Otis Mace and (The “Bard of  Cookeville Tennessee“) Jeffery D McCaleb.

T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets – an unexpected direction

As many of you will know, I take a lot of photographs of musicians around New York. Nearly all the photos on my blog are mine (not the two above – they are from Phantom Billstickers). These often take me in to unexpected places. In fact New York is best appreciated from these unexpected directions, when you allow chance meetings to take you to unplanned destinations. In my last blog (the “Jazz Virgin” one) I talked about a band that I had heard at LIC Bar, The Black Butterflies. I usually put a selection of my photos on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100001041228357) and often “friend” the artists to draw their attention to the photos and so that they can keep me in touch with gigs etc. Merecedes Figueras is the sax player in The Black Butterflies and this Facebook connection took me in an unexpected direction last week: a collaborative venture created and curated by Brasilian musician Mossa Bildner (http://www.myspace.com/mossabildnermusic  and http://mossabildner.wordpress.com) of extracts from Eliot’s “Four Quartets” at the Cordelia Street Cafe in the West Village.(http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/)

I hadn’t been to this venue before. The performance space is downstairs in what is basically a cellar bar. It is small and intimate, with tables and a small bar area. Small enough that the instruments used in this performance hardly required amplification.

The Four Quartets were Eliot’s pathway to the Nobel Prize for Literature. They have contributed to our language –

“We shall not cease from exploration,

And the end of our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time”

The title “Four Quartets” lends itself to musical adaptation, in other settings the poems have been paired with existing compositions (for example Beethoven’s final Op 132 string quartet), but I do not know of any other musical interpretation that involves, as this did, extemporisation around written musical pathways – here written and led by Mossa Bildner.

Mossa Bildner

I became immersed in this performance very quickly. The character of Mossa Bildner, standing in front of four musicians (five for the last section) stands strong, but does not dominate; attracts but does not detract. She leads but does not impose her will in ways that are detrimental to the creative process. Mossa had brought together a group of skilled musicians who were well versed in improvisation: Bass player Ken Filiano, guitarist Charlie Rauh, Drummer Christine Bard, Saxophonista Mercedes Figueras and violinist Frederika Krier. Together they each played their own parts in the various sections of the poems selected by Bildner, playing both with her singing and in extended improvisational sections that allowed each to express within the structure that Bildner (and Eliot) has created.

This was a memorable occasion. I was reminded of music I heard in London in the early seventies, Luciano Berio in particular, and appreciated that the differences between “Classical” and “Jazz” compositions might differ only the degree of improvisation involved and the training of the performers.

Improvisational works are essentially “of the moment”, and recordings are thus almost paradoxical to the intent and energy of the extemporised moments. However, they can stand in ther own right, both as mementoes and, perhaps more importantly, as opportunities to hear new ideas, to listen again with diferent ears – for we do listen differently again when we already have some familiarity, we hear new ideas, nuances, links, repetitions and references that were not apparent when we were faced with the newness at first listening. I hope, then, that Mossa may bring a recording of this event to the public at some time in the near future.

Frederika Krier

Mercedes Figueras

Ken Filiano

Charlie Rauh


 

 
(my apologies that I do not have a photo of Christine Bard, the drummer. I try to be inconspicous at gigs and the layout of the room made it impossible for me to take her photo without walking to the other side of the room)

Next week Check out:

at LIC Bar (www.licbar.com):

Saturday, March 3rd 11pm-1am
2/3 Goat

Sunday, March 4th 5-8pm
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Niall Connolly
Kevin Goldhahn

Monday, March 5th
8pm Tim Porter
9pm Xavier Cardriche
10pm Sam McTavey

Wednesday, March 7th
8pm The Stone Lonesome
9pm Michael Louis
10pm Brandywine Creek Boys March residency

Saturday, March 10th 11pm
Shut The Front Door Dance Party!
Dancing and live bands!

LIC artists:

Sky Captains of Industry

Saturday 3rd March 8pm, Bar 4, Brooklyn

Michele Riganese:

Saturday March 3rd Rockwood Music Hall 6pm, 196 Allen Street

Little Embers

Mercury Lounge 8th March at 7pm