My friend Sarah White has gotten really good at reading her work. Not that she wasn't good before, she is after all a retired professor of French and always well spoken. But with several new poetry books under her belt, her life settling into Manhattan, more good attention from the poetry world, and some good karma, she just gave a fantastic reading last night in the Soho20 art gallery with imaginative artwork (watercolor pieces assembled in layers and charmingly iconographic) by Elizabeth Bisbing in happy sync with Sarah's creative energy.
Sarah has a shock of white hair, athletic grace, and an expressive face that rapidly leaps from wry, intelligent, sad, to deeply humored by life. As does her verse. Here is my sketch of her reading...
She read from her recently published books Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson and her chapbook on spouses (mostly made up) of famous characters talking back Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses. Her newest project, still in the nimbus of creation, is a challenge she borrowed from the French writer Raymond Queneau, from his book Exercises in Style, where one small scenario is told 99 different ways. In the '30s Queaneau had been inspired by the variations on a theme in a performance of Bach's The Art of Fugue and applied it to story telling. Sarah has taken the variations into her own rich poetic kaleidosope. She isn't using a story with a beginning middle and end, this is a slice of life, as if watching Mrs. Dalloway for an hour in her home... and then watching her with 3D glasses, vaulting her into parallel universes--some known from childhood, or sending her to a Kafkaesque office block... Sarah is using various verse forms, letters, quizzes, alternate points of view, focusing on different objects or actions, and having much fun. She says her book will have about 50 versions. Word play, sound, and sheer intelligent joy runs through it.
I think I want to write one too. Pass me the Queaneau.