Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wordplay welcomes the poets of the Pisgah Review

It's not unusual, even in Asheville, to be confronted with the necessity of choosing between two or more events that you know would really feed that particular hunger for the beauty of art, for the work of our fellow creatures that we call culture, in very satisfying ways. A few weeks ago, I was faced with such a night, one that featured both the premiere at the Dianna Wortham Theater of the PBS series on Appalachia (it'll be coming to television sets near you in April, and, since it was the event I chose that night, I can say it's very good, well worth taking the time to watch) and the reading at Malaprops of poets from the Pisgah Review, published over a ridge or two from Asheville in Brevard, at Brevard College.

Of course, I actually knew a couple of the poets, and figured I'd be able to track them and their fellows in the Review down; I hoped I could wrangle them into doing another reading for another audience, the listeners of Wordplay. And, sure enough, a few emails later, I was able to persuade three of them, and the journal's editor, Jubal Tiner, to make the trek to Asheville once again.

The show yesterday, then, featured Kenneth Chamlee, Terri Kirby Erickson, and Susan Lefler, all of whom were actually new to me, but all of whom are working in interesting directions. The journal isn't concerned to articulate a regional stance, and certainly doesn't limit itself to one aesthetic, though the work it featured in the most recent issue from these three was more-or-less lyrical in some more-or-less traditional sense (Chamlee, though, threw in a satirical rant about the media's shallow reification of our lives these days, for good measure). And Chamblee's working now on a series of poems steeped in the history of the American west - or West, to cover the mythological dimension it assumed as well - as seen through the prism of the life of the painter Albert Bierstadt. Bierstadt created early iconic images of wild western landscapes, like California's magnificent Yosemite, and lived long enough to see those same territories utterly changed as the railroad builders, the miners, the buffalo hunters, and other agents of the industrial world, advanced into them. Chamlee read some of that work, and gave us a few glimpses of the terrain along his current trail.

Erickson and Lefler likewise explored well beyond the work published in the Review, and ... well, you'll have to listen to the show to hear what these ladies are up to. But it's good, and sometimes hilarious - in a very proper way, of course. There were no heathens in the studio! (Believe me, that will make sense.)

Music for the show came from Geoffrey Keezer's Falling Up, which provided the title tune (sometimes Wordplay's opening theme), "The Palm Reader," and "The Horsewoman."


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