Saturday, January 06, 2007


UP FRONT News January 4, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


I’ve attended the Poetry Marathons at St. Mark’s in-the-Bowery Church in Manhattan for several years and have always found these poetry, music, and comedy and theatre performance events to be really distinctive, even for New York City. This year was no exception. There were 164 scheduled performance acts, of which I can only review a few.

Patti Smith, who performs at the Marathons regularly, sang a quiet song about some Lebanese victims of the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah. Ms. Smith, with whom I’ve spoken briefly a few times, about poetry, Tibet and Ralph Nader, is, as far as I can tell, a really fine poet-singer and a dedicated human rights activist. She and I both like the Dalai Lama. Keith Roach, who has over the years emcee’d poetry events at the Nuyorican Poets Café and in the now closed News Room in the Bronx, read an Iraq-related piece and later told me that, while he is against capital punishment (as am I), he feels that fairness would have earned George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, who helped give us Saddam Hussein, spots on the gallows. Steve Cannon the founder and Executive Director of the home-based performance space art gallery “A Gathering of the Tribes”, in his dark glasses very much resembling the also blond artist Ray Charles, accompanies himself on the piano while reciting a short poem about a sometimes “tattered”reality. Philip Glass played a beautiful piano piece with a lot of arpeggios that had me thinking Beethoven. Citizen Reno is a very political comedienne and quite famous, especially in the American underground. She is very funny and dead serious, her performance being a case in point. This true New Yorker confessed that during a recent trip to Los Angeles, she found the most spontaneous group to be the police. She also reminded American that the suddenly beloved Gerald Ford gave us Cheney and Rumsfeld. Indeed, I have been wondering why Mr. Ford insisted that the release of his anti-Iraq War statement be done posthumously. St. Mark’s performer Eliot Sharp is a guitar virtuoso and is now journalistically acquainted with UP FRONT News hero Marty Stewart, who brought rock ‘n’ roll to the music of his friend and for a time father-in-law Johnny Cash. Definitely a high point for me, and I suspect for others, was the performance by musician-activist Rebecca Moore. Ms. Moore, also now a regular at the Marathons, played her song “Bruise Lee”, a bittersweet blues-infused balled about hope and disappointment that with her piano accompaniment and vocal range, had me thinking of Nina Simone. At the time there was a full house, which remained totally silent – until Ms. Moore finished. A real, authentic talent.

Wait ‘til next year.

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