Tuesday, September 16, 2014

THE POEM AS A MOCKINGBIRD

So cool tings a gwan in Pittsburgh. Who woulda thought but some things about this city make my heart stop then beat a little faster, take for example the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts 6-12th grade (CAPA) magnate school which offers students 6 arts majors: literary arts, visual arts, theatre, instrumental music, vocal music and dance. Admission is by portfolio or audition and if the kids grasp of craft is anything to go by the teachers are fantastic and the facilities are … lets just say my parents paid real good money for me to go to high school and that campus looked nothing, nothing like this. 
One of the workshop sessions with the 9-11th graders

Julia and Pittsburgh-TJ, yes there are more of us out here, took me on a tour and may I officially wish I'd had a theatre stage to crew on like that or studio to dance in or a gallery to exhibit in etc when I was in my teens. Anyway I'm here now in a roundabout way and I thought I'd share a few photographs of this city and its amazing folks - strangers say hi, the boys flirt like gentlemen, individuals support literary asylum programs with their hard earned cash, some parents turn up for their children's poetry reading and short of learning how to pound corn and make pap these folks couldn't have made me feel more welcome.

This is my second time at the City of Asylum (CoA). I'm currently, knock on wood, in the fortunate position of not being an asylum seeker but unfortunately theres always some cat tryna shoot a mockingbird. I'm merely a friend of the program and a strong supporter of the work this initiative does in providing housing and a community - for as long as is required - for persecuted writers from all over the world, hosting a reading series, running a visiting international writers residency, liaising with my other adopted US home (Iowa City) by taking on one or two of the international writers participating in the IWP every year  and extending their foray into America beyond the mid west, although the IWP does a good job of that anyway.

A couple of weeks ago I had a grand ol' time with Oliver Lake and his big band. Nothing like 17 very talented instrumentalists bending it like Beckham round your words to make you forget that you don't "do" music :-) very well.

I swung by UPenn to visit Tsitsi Jaji and Bob Perelman's poetry and sound undegrad class and read at the Kelly Writers house alongside the inimitable Gabeba Baderoon. A quick stop over with not much time to do more than check out independence hall, attend a DIVAs jazz night and sit in on a few sessions of the just ended Humanities and Arts Integrated Knowledge University (HAIKU) seminar. I'm guilty of playing the dilettante every time literary translation is brought up but its an area that really does fascinate me, at the very least its implications for 'translation' within the same language say standard British/American English to all the global versions out there. I'd have to broaden my thinking then narrow it down to something, but first I have to listen so I turned up and I did and well… we'll see what comes of this curiosity. 

All in all good trip. My kids, many of whom had never done a public reading, were fantastic on stage tonight.

Three cheers for Pittsburgh, and a couple of serious extra what-whats! for CoA. A few photos to tell the tale truer that I can.


My kids, many of whom had never done a public reading, were fantastic on stage tonight.

View from one of the dance studios
Some of the homes, one used as an office, owned by CoA in Pittsburgh


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