28 June 2006

Jodi Jett is Woman-Stirred

Jodi JettPlease join Woman-Stirred Radio and Merry Gangemi this week for a conversation with Jodi Jett, whose recently released debut album, Revelations, has made some waves in the NYC indie rock scene. Jodi grew up in Kansas and had little, if any exposure to rock and roll. It was more Jesus and less music but comparisons to Lou Reed and Liz Phair have been made.

So. Listen in and decide for yourself if Jodi Jett "makes the kind of rock music that kicks about with desperation in its blood. Its the sort of thing a blues man double her age and experience might reach. That's the very reason Five-time Grammy-winning Engineer/Producer Elliot Scheiner (Beck, Fleetwood Mac, Flaming Lips) was blown away when he heard her music and made the comparison. 'Unique and intelligent. I haven't heard anything like it in a long time.'"

Revelations was co-produced by Jodi and Phil Palazzolo (New Pornographers, Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes, Radio4). Guitarists Peter Mavrogeorgis (Vanity Set), John Nugent (Chop) and Matt Rocker (Sweetblood) all contributed to the record. Bassists Byron Isaacs (Joan Baez) and Tom Ward (The Dansettes) along with drummers David Berger (Erin McKeown) and Angela Webster (The Holy Ghost), and cellist Jane Scarpantoni (Norah Jones) also helped.

Join Woman-Stirred Radio this Thursday 4 to 6 pm. The interview starts at 4:30 (EST). Tune in early and catch some music. WGDR 91.1 fm (Goddard College) and streaming online by clicking "Listen Live" at www.wgdr.org.

25 June 2006

Jan Steckel in Performance

The Underwater HospitalNearly 300 copies have sold so far of Jan Steckel's first poetry chapbook, The Underwater Hospital, published two months ago by Zeitgeist Press. Whoever orders the 300th copy will receive TWO copies for the price of one in celebration. Zeitgeist will do a third print run of the book shortly.

Helping the sales are several positive reviews of the book, including one by Merry Gangemi on her blog Quiddities, one by Julie Enszer in Galatea Resurrects, one by Eugene David on Woman-Stirred, and a fun little write-up in the East Bay Express. Reviews are also forthcoming in Poesy, The Pedestal Magazine, Street Spirit and elsewhere. Links to all reviews can be found on Jan's Books page on her website at www.jansteckel.com.

Copies of The Underwater Hospital can be ordered for $5.00 USD from Zeitgeist Press, from Amazon.com, and from several independent bookstores in the SF Bay Area (see www.jansteckel.com for details). Signed copies can be ordered by sending a check for $6.25 per copy to Jan Steckel, PO Box 18797, Oakland, CA 94619. Make sure to say who you'd like the book signed to and where you'd like it sent. Signed copies can also be purchased for $5.00 directly from Jan at any of her readings.

The Underwater HospitalHere's a picture of Jan performing her poetry recently at Sweetie's Bar in North Beach to an overflow crowd of gloriously bohemian San Franciscans.

Jan will also be reading from The Underwater Hospital at the following events in the USA. See her website Events Calendar for details.

  • Thursday, July 20, 2006, at 7 PM. Co-feature with Diane Frank plus open mic at WORD BEAT, hosted by Debra Grace Khattab and Jeremy Siegel. Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. (near Dwight Way), Berkeley, CA, 510-549-1128.

  • Monday, August 7, 2006, at 7 PM. Feature with open mic at Poetry Express, hosted by Mark States, Nance Wogan and Jim Barnard. Priya Indian Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. (near University Ave.), Berkeley, CA. 510-644-3977. Ask for special seating for poetry reading; 20% off dinner.

  • Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27, 2006. Jan will be one of the featured readers at Tea and Poetry at Perennial Pleasures Nursery and Tea Garden. Event organized by Merry Gangemi. Other readers will include: Grace Paley, David Budbill, Jim Schley, Cora Brooks, David Hinton, Martha Zweig, Peggy Sapphire, Samn Stockwell, and our own Woman-Stirred stars Julie R. Enszer and Merry Gangemi. Perennial Pleasures Nursery and Tea Garden, 63 Brick House Road, East Hardwick, VT 05836. 802-472-5104.

  • Friday, September 22, 2006, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Featured reader at Oakland S.O.U.P. (Sing, Open Up, and Poetize) hosted by Paula Farkas and Selene Steese with open mic at the Temescal Café. For more info e-mail selene@matchlessgoddess.com. 4920 Telegraph Ave. (at 50th St.), Oakland, CA.

  • Monday, October 2, 2006, at 7 PM. Co-feature with Janell Moon plus open mic at The Last Word at Pegasus Books Downtown, hosted by Dale Jensen, Tim Donnelly and Diana Quartermaine. 2349 Shattuck Ave. (corner of Durant), Berkeley, CA, 510-649-1320. Free!

  • Saturday, April 14, 2007, 2-5 PM. Art and Poetry of the Vinograd Sisters and Friends at the Lakeview Branch Library, 550 El Embarcadero, in the Lakeshore district near Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA. 510-238-7344.

13 June 2006

Book Review: Chopin's Piano

Fishman, Charles Adés. Chopin’s Piano. St. Louis, MO: Time Being Books, 2006

Chopin's PianoReview by Merry Gangemi

In opening this book, Chopin’s Piano,1 I know I am about to step into Gotterdammerung, and be surrounded by a fire filled with screaming. In the distance, as I draw closer to the death camps, I will hear the glimmering of Chopin’s music. His exquisite music will buzz and hiss in my ears. But I am ready to witness the brutality hidden behind the façade of art—music, poetry, painting—I am ready to understand something.

I stand, face turned upwards, watching as the most sacred symbol of Chopin’s beautiful music falls from a fourth floor window in a slow-motion mazurka and a vacuum of silence. Spinning and rolling through the air, it then shatters like a bomb on the pavement.

The Polish genius, whose music dazzles millions in hundreds of thousands of concert halls throughout the world: Chopin the anti-Semite.

Throughout Chopin’s Piano, Charles Adés Fishman’s chronicle moves through time before, during, and after the Holocaust. It begins in the sensuous region around Toledo, Spain:

We drive through fields of flowers, blazed meadows
of orange poppies, walk through shaded plazas…
Here is a courtyard where we eat salad and paella
where half a bottle of wine costs little more than soda
The sky, grey-blue above the shattered windows, is stitched
in black threads by swallows whose white-splashed wings flash
in the sun-fire. (23)

This is the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella and the Inquisition, of burnings at the stake, of “cruciform hilts of swords,” and jewels of art: El Greco, the Prado, the Flamenco, of Gypsy sensuousness, “red cactus blossoms/ burst open.” Spain, and the quiet grove where, still unknown, “lies the murdered master of song,” Lorca.

The history and beauty of Spain is the seemingly impenetrable façade that covers a truth:

Where are the Jews of Spain who catalogued the stars
and catered to cardinals and caliphs   who peddled fruit and leather
and cured the pope’s mania? Sufficient unto memory: tears
of the synagogue’s ghosts   El Greco gave each saint and apostle
his dark canvas and his genius   but where are the Jews of Toledo
where is the gold archive of the vanished? (23)

But, as if to assure us it safe to keep this book open, Fishman reminds us of Federico García Lorca:

No, Lorca, I could not find you in the centenary of your birth,
but silently I salute you, the murdered master of song: for your work
that is as solid and richly detailed as a cathedral   for your delicate
and nuanced sensibility   for your lines like flowing waves sculpted
from the true stone of the essential   for your honoring of the noble dead
for the power of your vision and memory   for your witnessing
and for the inexhaustible pulse of your yearning.

This is where the book soars. Here are the intricacies bared, the blade of a surgeon tenderly transplanting and co-joining fact, truth, and hope inside the torpid torso of ignorance and indifference.

Lorca stands as ally, as hero, “You would not go/ into exile   would not escape to France or America/ Another continent, even a Spanish one, was a planet/ where your songs could not live…” one whose art and voice continues to bear witness, more than seventy years after his murder in 1936. Here is Fishman’s tribute to the martyr’s poetic songs, the music of his lust and love of life, murdered for his many differences—not the least of which was his homosexuality—unlike Chopin, the anti-Semite, who fled to France.

In the poem, “1933, after Chagall’s Yellow Crucifixion (1943)”, Fishman describes the painter’s prophetic imagery of Holocaust and persecution, perhaps wrought from Chagall’s childhood experiences in a small Russian village. The painting as dreamscape is riveting:

The storm approaches and a green cloud
that is an open torah unfurls in the ash-gold sky
A green-winged angel sounds her clarion
but the roaring of the wind drowns each note
and the living congregation that would hear it
swims in a sea of terror and desire (33)

Count now, ten years later, to the poem “1943, after Chagall’s White Crucifixion (1938)":

What is this light that holds steady at his feet
that burns like a ghost-shadow softly around his head?
Is not everything alive tormented by this unwavering glow
that will not crack into filaments of whitest fire   that will not
fracture into sparks   or shatter into burnt-black ash? (35)

From the surrealistic mind of Chagall, we are confronted with the conductor-monster Mengele, “invincible but mincingly ready” to “change a whole people into ash.” We see the baby carriages in Birkenau, and “Wisps of memory   ragged dips in the grass…the gash/ in the abandoned universe…,” and the Jew from Poland, Chopin’s Poland, “remembering,/ the way having a star for a heart….” We count the individual tragedies that add up to the net profits reaped by the corporate evil that ran the factory camps. We tally the “The dark star of memory” of the first postwar generations of Germans. We hold our breath as we begin to read “Five Holocaust Memories.” And we are relieved by the German witness who “opened her sack and reached in./ The cheese emerged in her hand with the power of sunlight.” A Dutch witness, on her way to school, who “would climb into the truck. She would honor her father’s words./ She would rescue children.” The Polish survivor, whose labor was futile: “the ashes/ could not be covered.” The Czech survivor, and an American officer, who could not “believe/ the responses of his own heart   that ached for a new language/ in which to speak.”

Buried in the dialectic of hatred is the word hope. Not everyone turned away. But count the Holocaust, Fishman demands, “six/ million periods in twelve-point Gothic type.”

A Child’s Tale brings us to Japan and the atomic bombs: an army doctor stationed at Ujina; a streetcar passenger; a worker at the weather bureau; a student; and an engineer. Fishman tells us that, at Saihoji, evacuated children were housed and “some children hid in a room to weep.”

And we hear the bombardier: “Bomb away!” he cried and forty-three seconds later,/ the earth beneath him died: a cauldron/ of boiling water   a great soup/ of burnt flesh and bones.” And we learn that this man, so many years later, could not ever recover that part of himself destroyed when that “nine-thousand-pound bomb of his destiny/ exploded.”

Inevitably, Charles Adés Fishman returns home to Israel. He returns to the place of burning and recuperates the symbolism of the New Testament Christ and returns it to the Old Testament symbolism of Elija, who challenged the priest of Baal to call on their god for the sign of fire, and who failed, and were killed on the banks of Kishon.

He walks beneath a sky “deep into cobalt and so clear/ I could see the snow shimmer on Mt. Hermon.” It is here, “At the Place of Burning,” where all the pieces of history lie, “melting into the low glare of sunlight and vanishing” into what is and will always be unacceptable:

I felt the light deepen around me then, as if I too
might disappear in a cloud of stars or fire or lift my pen
and bring down a rain that cleansed and healed.
For I stood at the place of burning, knowing
that we wait always at the verge of transformation
and where I was now—this ancient kingdom, Israel—
was home. (107)

And then Charles Fishman acknowledges his hope: he turns to “A Child of the Millennium” and offers us an alternative ending. This child, “five months old,” born in the new millennium is different:

He doesn’t know about race or gender
or that we are murdering the planet   that the earth
is smoldering with underground fires and with bone-
fires of hatred   He doesn’t know about ethnicity
or religion   and will not take with him into the new century
memories of calcined corpses or an interior landscape
peopled with napalmed children…

The book is astounding in its depth of insight and connections made between the artist, art, culture, politics and the ways in which it demands, as it should, that our cultural systems and the individuals who participate within them (or not) are accountable.

1 The structure of this book is crucial: Prologue, Toledo, Counting the Holocaust, A Child’s Tale, At the Place of Burning, Epilogue, and Notes.

Buy Chopin's Piano by Charles Fishman.

Read more from Merry Gangemi.

6 June 2006

Judy Grahn on Woman-Stirred Radio

Update: due to technical problems, the June 8th interview with Judy Grahn has now been rescheduled for September 28th.

Please join Woman-Stirred Radio this Thursday, June 8th at 4:30 pm (EST) for a conversation with Judy Grahn, the globally-acclaimed poet and co-director of the Women's Spirituality MA program, and program director of the MFA in Creative Inquiry, at New College of California. She is also editor of Metaformia: A Journal of Menstruation and Culture, an online academic journal (www.metaformia.com) that debuted in 2006.

Judy Grahn is known throughout the world as a cultural theorist, and a cofounder of lesbian-feminism. She is among the early contributors to the literature of women's spirituality. Grahn’s work focuses on the reconstitution of the rituals, stories, and values of Sacred Feminine traditions.

Grahn’s book, "Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World (Beacon Press, 1993) outlines a new origin theory of culture blossoming from women's peaceful blood rituals, especially menstruation. She is currently writing a book on goddess practices from research she did in India, using metaformic theory".

Judy Grahn has also written:

The Common Woman Poems, She Who: A Graphic Book of Poems, Edward the Dyke and Other Poems, A Woman is Talking to Death, The Work of a Common Woman, The Queen of Wands, True to Life Adventure Stories (ed.) Vols I and II, The Highest Apple: Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition, Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds.

So tune in on Thursday, June 8th 4:30 pm (EST) to WGDR 91.1m (Goddard College) or stream it live at www.wgdr.org. Tune in early and catch some Woman-Stirred music before the interview!!

Become part of the dialogue! Call the air studio at: 802 456-1630.

Woman-Stirred Radio is funded in part by a grant from the Samara Foundation of Vermont (www.samarafoundation.org).

4 June 2006

Play the Woman-Stirred First-Liner Game

Most of the words you see below are from the first line of poems published throughout the Woman-Stirred blog, with a select number added to the pot to help you on your way. Click and drag each word to move it to the desired position.

We look forward to seeing the new poetic creations you come up with. Use as many or as few words as you like, but you must only use the words provided. Please send us your poems by clicking on the comments link below this post.

** Please remember to write down your poem first as the word arrangement will be reset once you leave this page. **

[NB. The click-and-drag function may not work correctly within all browsers. If you are unable to drag the tiles below, and instead click through to Nicki Hastie's website, where the code files are stored, please use this alternate link to fully take part.]

Have fun!

2 June 2006

Mary Listens to Merry and Nicki on Woman-Stirred Radio

I'm feeling shy
in the presence of such
English excellence, the touch
of poetry, lesbian talk
and lesbian walk,
high hasty, full merry, long delight,