I must admit, I was skeptical about a “mixed media” arts event. Frankly, if I head out to listen to open-mic poetry, I don’t care to hear a harpsicord, or a bongo, or even a guitar accompaniment thank you very much; nor do I stay for a slam if I went for open mic. Call me a purist. Poetry. Or music. Or visual art. Well, but I know the visual artist, and love her work, so I bravely forged ahead to Union Square in Somerville on a Saturday night for what I might sum up as a three-woman, feminist-leaning, multimedia artists’ event (reading/performance/exhibit). Oh, now I know what you’re thinking, but it worked!
Mary Alexandra Agner began with the odd Willa Cather’s Dedicatory. It was an introduction to the rather fine poem Ode to Pioneers. Geese Speak is a poet’s dream: it began as an exercise to combat writer’s block, yet it turned into a three-word-per-line poem that was quite good, smooth and interesting, not cute and gimmicky. Brutus—an imagined monologue in which the ultimate backstabbing bud apologizes to his wife for leaving her out of the loop on the ol’ planning to off my friend plot—makes the heart of an old Shakespearean tragedy fiend go pitter-pat. The poet plans to write a poem for each of Shakespeare’s plays. Ooh, can’t wait!
Now comes the transition into collaboration. Ms. Agner reads her poem The Marian Lee in front of a lively painting of it, rendered by artist Julia Tenney. Audible sighs from the audience. Cool!
Next up was Carolyn Jean Smith, playing the recorder. I confess my ignorance of the finer points of recorder finesse; however, I do know the difference between average recorder-playing and coming as close to jamming as one might’ve come in the 18th-Century drawingroom. This woman can jam. She made the instrument cry. Yes, cry. Her performance of The Bird and the Donkey included…wait for it…playing two recorders simultaneously. Unreal. This piece of music was also depicted in a painting by Julia Tenney. Don’t ask me how she makes a tear shape into a horse, then flames, then a bird in one painting; a fish or dragon or tree in others. I told you she’s good. You should see her bunny tarot cards.
The only complaint I have about the event is that few of us 21st-Century types have enough class to be big fans of all three media, so as the Bard would say, brevity is the soul of wit. It’s quality art presented in an imaginative and unique manner, so shorter time quantities for each part would be plenty. Brava!