Review of “Love of a Past” Self by Madeline Scharff
It was another icy eve on the streets of Baltimore as I headed to the Terrault Contemporary for a series of readings titled For Love of a Past self. The show featured early compositions of four writers, Christophe Casamassima, Chris Mason, and curators Jonah Beram and Matt Williams along with an introductory slideshow on juvenile writings by Alicia Puglionesi and a musical production by Francesca D’Uva that she also wrote in her younger years. The event took place in a room filled with brightly colored paintings mirroring Andy Warhol subjects, modern Picasso designs, and Jackson Pollock techniques. There was a stage, a foot high, which had a cluttered work desk on it. Williams sat on the edge of the stage making fried eggs with a portable camping stove, passing them out to audience members throughout the night. The atmosphere was welcoming with familiar faces excited to see one another again supporting Baltimore’s arts scene.
Puglionesi began the production with a humorous and satirical slideshow on the historical background of the night’s theme: juvenility. She started with: “how to be the right ‘you’ at the right historical moment” and ended with “in modern poetry, the you that’s closer to death is always the more credible you.” The audience responded with much laughter. It was clear the readings to follow were to be relished, poked fun at, and taken lightheartedly. Williams, Casamassima, Beram, Mason, and D’Uva took to the stage respectively, to present the audience with experimental forms such as sound poetry, stream of consciousness, call and response singing, and allegorical fictional main characters, like those named “Brick Head.” In doing so, these artists were challenging academia by veering away from the more traditional personal and confessional form. At the same time however, they are also joining in a long history of such work and were letting the audience in on it.
Williams read fiction pieces centered on his hockey career. He read, “rumor has it I played ice hockey for 13 years,” in a spooky, hallowed voice as if he were telling a ghost story. The crowed tittered. Casamassima shared the time he visited his parent’s house right after taking LSD. His stream of consciousness was even more laughable than Williams’ decadent description of hockey gear. “Lazy concrete moves under me, 8 plus 9 equals hamburger,” he read with exasperating sound. Beram took the lead though with “brick head”. The audience holding each other for support, trying to not laugh their way out of their seats as he read, “Brick Head left his house to find out if there was more to life than making lard.” Mason concludes with “jibberish poetry”, poems in which the sounds of letters and words are the driving forces rather than the content.
When I asked Mason at the end of the show how it felt being on stage reading poems he had chosen not to unearth for a while he responded with “it started out sensitive then got less and less so.” Beram’s afterthoughts of the show were “I’m just glad no one got up there and broke a leg”. Ultimately, it was a celebratory evening of the artists’ past works in which they allowed the audience to see how they used irony and satire to simultaneously embrace and distance themselves from the content of the work. Furthermore, it challenged the traditional use of language and form as used by romantic and confessional poets, and was influenced by the writing of Fluxes artists, the poetry of Black Mountain, the work of Postmodernists like Donald Barthelme, and Dada artists such as Kurt Schwitters, as well as antiestablishment performance art produced over the last 40 years.
515 Guilford Ave. Baltimore,
March 1st 7:30-9:30pm
Madeline Scharff has a love for pencils and notebooks with scribbles and crossed out lines. She’s happiest when playing with her pup, Lily, and eating apples with peanut butter and honey.