Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Tribute to Iris Berman

I met Iris Berman at Cornelia Street Cafe, at a Pink Pony reading, some six, seven years ago. She read a poem from her flower series, I seem to remember. She dressed like one of those British women you see in BBC films, a floral dress cinched with a ribbon around the waist. Did she once wear a straw hat? She died of cancer some months ago, round about the same time as Brant Lyon, another regular of the Pink Pony. According to Roxanne Hoffman, Iris and Brant hated each other and did not speak to one another though they lived in the same block.

Iris's collages are part of the group show now on at the Active Space. Curated by Daria Kostina and Irina Danilova, Brural: Peripheral Vision brings together works by non-mainstream artists from Brooklyn and the Ural region of Russia. I did not know that Iris was an artist as well as a poet. It was a deep pleasure last night to see her collages. They revealed a feel for shape, color and texture, and a way with words, for many of the collages incorporated found text. One, in particular stuck to the retina. Formed with cut-up strips of a Christian tract, it was a patchwork of gold. A sentence that read "Would you like to know for sure that you have eternal life in heaven?" was cut up in two, and so expressed simultaneously hope and doubt.

I mentioned the collage and then read her poem "Night Animal" about a menacing night intruder into a women's hotel. It was clear that the speaker was both afraid of and attracted to the mysterious creature that finally climbed into her bed and left as dawn filtered in through the shades. I read after Patrick, who was Iris's boyfriend, and Linda Lerner, Robert Gibbons, Jack Cooper, Su Polo and Roxanne also read. The tribute went on too long, I think. The audience, who had to stand, was very respectful, however, and attentive.

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