Showing posts from May, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Just returned from a weekend with T and D who live in Kingston, near Woodstock. Friday night, after dinner at an Italian restaurant called Mint, we drove into Rhinebeck to Upstate Cinemas to watch "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." A good-fun, feel-good movie, it followed a group of British retirees who traveled to India to stay at the eponymous hotel. The ensemble acting was good though the roles hardly stretched the talents of Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel. India was seen very much through the eyes of these Britishers (a recent widow, a former civil servant, a retired High Court judge, an ex-governess), but it was to the credit of the firm, directed by John Madden, that it fleshed out a few Indian characters such as Dev Patel's hapless romantic. The dialogue was sharp, and the plot provided a couple of surprises ("twist" is too strong a word).

On Saturday, after eating lunch and walking about in Rhinebeck, which boasts the o…

Disappointing Season Finale

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center season-finale-d with a somewhat strange program of French music. Two works by Saint-Saëns and, after the intermission, one by Ernest Chausson. Not exactly the way to go out with a bang. The program was neither populist nor adventurous, and so it fell between the stools.

I know Camille Saint-Saëns through his symphonies, and so was keen to hear his Trio No. 1 in F Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello (1864) and his Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Violin and Piano (1885). As the date indicates, the Trio was a youthful work. I did not care very much for it. I did enjoy the piano-playing of Juho Pohjonen, and was glad that he returned for the Sonata. He and violinist Elmar Oliveira made a fine pair. The music of the Sonata was captivating, and the musicians gave a passionate account of it. Someone three seats away described Saint-Saëns as an academician. There was nothing academic, however, about the performance, my neighbor and I agreed afterwards.



Watched Mike Bartlett's play Cock yesterday at the Duke with GH, TM and J. John could not decide between M (for Man) and W (for Woman). Directed by James Macdonald, the play focused quite relentlessly on gender and sexuality. At first the play seemed rather simple-minded about the complexities of people. After all, we are more than our gender. But it convinced me in the end that its single-mindedness paid off dividends. The choice was that much more stark.

The play opened in 2009 at the Royal Court Theater in London. It moved here with the creative team, but with an American cast. Cory Michael Smith was appropriately a cipher to the audience and to himself as John. As M, Jason Butler Harner was over-the-top and so provided a nice contrast with the cool and gentle Amanda Quaid as W. Quaid was the revelation of the evening, to my mind. Quick-witted and full of suppressed energy, she more than held her own against the men. Cotter Smith, as M's father who came to dinner to fight o…

Poems in PN Review 205

I have five poems in PN Review 205. Also, in the issue, poems by Sinéad Morrissey, Tara Bergin, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, David C. Ward, Alex Wylie and others. Get a copy! Subscribe!

I am particularly taken by Tara Bergin's poem "Looking at Lucy's Painting of the Thames at Low Tide Without Lucy Present." Its every move is a surprise, but all are united by the opinionated, offhand voice. The work of Simon Jarvis is new to me. His three short poems are sharp and evocative, especially the perfect "Colloquium."

Of the reviews, I enjoy David C. Ward's take-down of William Logan's selected early poems Deception Island. Who but Logan would allow himself to be blurbed as "the most hated man in American poetry"? I agree with Sasha Dugdale's estimation of Tiina Aleman's translation of Doris Kareva (conscientious but ultimately unsuccessful), and has bought Luljeta Lleshanaku's Haywire on the strength of Dugdale's strong recommendation.

In …

Fly a Kite for Afghan Women

"This Mother's Day, Amnesty [International] is inviting you to write a message of solidarity for Afghan women. We'll put it on a kite -- kite flying is a popular pastime in Afghanistan -- and fly it during the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 20-21, where President Obama and Afghan President Karzai will be discussing Afghanistan's transition."

To President Obama and President Karzai meeting in Chicago on May 20, 2012 without a single Afghan woman at the table 

I am shouting but you don’t answer—
One day you’ll look for me and I’ll be gone from this world.

      Zarmina, a landai

The pay phone is ringing, ringing—
For love, yet another woman has set herself on fire.

Reading at Barnes & Noble

Last night, at the Barnes & Noble at 82nd and Broadway, Lou Pizzitola hosted a reading of Divining Divas, an anthology of 100 poems by 100 gay poets on their muse. Editor Michael Montlack spoke about putting together the book, and then he read from it, followed by Guillermo Filice Castro, Lonely Christopher, Hansa Bergwall and Rigoberto Gonzalez.

I read my anthology piece, "Study #5: After Frida Kahlo," and then two other parts from the same sequence, "Study #6: After Andy Warhol" and "Study #7: After Yasumasa Morimura." For my second poem from the anthology, I read Steve Fellner's funny and heartbreaking "Ode to Miss Piggy," a poem I remembered enjoying from his book The Weary World Rejoices.

Despite the grey day and drizzle before the reading, the event room was packed, with about 75 people, a nice mix of both men and women. After the reading, the audience asked questions, mostly to do with editing the anthology. Then we signed books,…

Exit Strategies

Music and words. Hard not to make one subservient to the other. Exit Strategies, the May 2 event organized jointly by PEN World Voices and the Met Museum, avoided the issue by and large by having music and words work separately, and so the chief interest of the evening for me lay in their dissonance. GH was less amused.

The music was provided by the Kronos Quartet with a long history of in-depth collaboration with composers like Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich, and with musicians like Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Bollywoord "playback singer" Asha Bhosle, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Mexican rockers Cafe Tacuba and Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov. During the event, the quartet played imperturbably a wide range of music from around the world. The same could not be said of the writers who clearly felt that their words were intruding on the music.

Rula Jebreal, a French-Israeli journalist, asked her American audience a series of questions about the state of political …

Eavan Boland's "A Journey with Two Maps"

Saw the book in Powerhouse Arena last Sunday when we were wandering around Dumbo, GH, WL, TB and me, bought it and started reading it immediately. It forms an interesting companion to this Irish woman poet's body of poetry. Again and again Boland returns to her memory of being a young wife and mother in a new suburb outside of Dublin in the 1970s, when violence in the North unsettled life in the South. "Domestic Violence," which ends the first section of biographical essays, records especially succinctly Boland's forceful attempt to subvert the received poetic tradition in order to make room for, and give significance to, the domestic poem.

The second section titled "Maps" consists of critical pieces on women poets who gave her help and direction in questioning the tradition that she loves. There are essays here on Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, Charlotte Mew, Sylvia Plath, Edna St, Vincent Millay, Denise Levertov, Anne Bradstreet, Gwendolyn Brooks and Pa…