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January 24, 1986 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-01-24

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The Michigan Daily

Friday, January 24, 1986

Page 7

Down the path

of vanished alphabets

By Jody Becker
The voices of four widely acclaimed
contemporary poets will "set the
darkness echoing" in Rackham
auditorium this evening as Seamus
Heaney, Donald Hall, Wendall Berry
and Galway Kinnell share the stage in
what promises to be an evening of ex-
cess in aural delights.
It is Heaney whose "Personal
Helicon" from his book Death of a
Naturalist tells us, "I rhyme/ To see
myself, to set the darkness echoing".
If not Ireland's inheritor of the
literary legacy left by W. B. Yeats,
Seamus Heaney is certainly a most
impressive and arresting Irish voice.
Currently a professor at Harvard
University, Heaney : consistently
delivers an unrivaled eloquence and
lyric intensity.
Reading Heaney's poetry, one is
immediately aware of an overriding.
sense of the absolute primacy of
sound in his work. The lines "My
mouth holds round/ the soft blasting.
Toome, Toome ... loam-flints,
musket-balls, / fragmented wares/
tores and fishbones" should only
sound better when spoken in the ar-
tist's own authentic brogue.
But Heaney is as much a poet of
place as he is a poet of sound, and he

is most stirring when he sings of the
land he loves and the violence he
loathes which are his native Ireland.
In "Bogland" he rhapsodises "The
ground itself, black butter," with the
same passion he musters in his most
political poem "Whatever You Say,
Say Nothing", an anguished
testimony to the continuing ravages
of Ireland's religious "wars." "The
'voice of sanity' is getting hoarse,"
Heaney says.
Wendell Berry is the kind of con-
temporary poet that might bring a
sparkle to most eyes. His language
and images are accessible; he con-
sciously avoids the "severely at-
tenuated awareness" he believes
burdens the poetry of many of his con-
temporaries. Berry is a farmer, a
Kentuckian, and real proud of it. Real
However, Berry seems not so con-
sumed with the land and his physical
place as he is concerned with where
he is not, metaphysically, or in
relation to his fellow man. In "The
Contrariness of the Mad Farmer",
from his book Farming, A Handbook,
Berry tells us quite clearly,
"Going against men, I
have . . . heard at times a deep har-
mony/ thrumming in the mixture."
Yep, he's a renegade, a man-apart,
rejecting all that stuff we got

nowadays like vegematics and
VCR's. And that's fine, but Berry pats
himself on the back so thunderously
that he almost drowns out the wor-
d-song, and compromises the beauty
and nobility (?) of his solo journey.
For example: "It is not the only or the
easiest/ way to come to the truth./ It
is the only way."
Still, Berry's clever, if not the most
captivating of the group; especially
when he admonishes those of us
mired in modernity to recklessly
abandon our microchips and "Every
day do something that does not com-
Selections from Berry's later
collection the Country of Marriage do
attain greater resonance, but he only
edges on the magic that poetry can
On the other hand, for Galway Kin-
nell, there seems to be a rabbit in
every hat. Kinnell is capable of pure
magic. The poems flow and dance and
"work" everytime, each more lyric
and delicious than the last.
Presently the director of the
creative writing program at New
York University, Kinnell is quite
clearly the don of contemporary
American poetry. Awards including a
Pulitzer and an American Book attest
to his abilities, but Kinnell's own wor-
ds are evidence enough of genuine

While Kinnell will undoubtedly read
from his recently published collection
of poems The Past, only two poems in
the book achieve the impact and
loveliness characteristic of his earlier
work. In the title poem, Kinnell
examines his existence and "the
same Smith-Corona/ on my back i
even now batter/ words into visibility
with" and seems frustrated with the
"desperate tongue" which "gives a
deadened sound." Even if The Past is
not so full of the poetic dexterity that
illuminates poems such as "Little
Sleep's Head Sprouting Hair in the
Moonlight" from The Book of Night-
mares, from which Kinnell whispers
urgently to his infant daughter,
"Yes,/ you cling because/ I, like you,
only sooner/ than you,/ will go down/
the path of vanished alphabets. . .",
"The Seekonk Woods" show us that
Kinnell can still pull it out; "Right
about here we put down our pennies,
dark on shined steel, where they
trembled, fell still/ and waited for the
locomotive rattling berserk/ out of
Attleboro to brighten them into
wafers." Obviously, Kinnell con-
tinues "ruminating the mouth feel (of
bloom and whither)," as he says, and
shows us it can can still be rich and
Donald Hall returns to a familiar
setting this evening, having taught at
the University for 17 years. In 1975,

Hall retired to his ancesteral home in
New Hampshire to live and write. The
author of several books of poetry,
children's books, and a biography of
the British sculptor Henry Moore,
Hall is acutely sensitive to the
generational and ephemeral qualities
of life.
He relishes his retreat to the farm,
the place of his father, grandfather,
and great-grandfather, and says in
"Stone Walls" from his book, Kicking
the Leaves, "I grow old in the house I
waited to grow old in". There is a
sonorous sort of satisfaction in the
pushing-past-middle-age poet's voice
here, but it is clear that Hall is other-
wise occupied, even anxious it seems,
in several of his poems.
In celebrating the cycles of lives
and seasons, Hall offers us leaves,
those brilliant hued but brittle "flags"

of a doomed race" as the illuminating
motif. With that penchant for
paradox, Hall reminds us that leaves
are not only fall's soft stuff of tumble
and laughter, but the harbingers of
hushed warnings, hinting at human
mortality. He describes an autumn
afternoon's hike home from Michigan
stadium with his family: "I go first/
into the leaves/ taking/ the step they
will follow, Octobers and years from
Tonight's reading begins at 8
p.m. Tickets are available at
Ticketworld or in the Union for

ann arbor civic theatre main street production
" - -""-------- - ---"""" ""
X I'vwW~Uwvw
* 2one-act plays by James McClure
* - -- """"""" -""""'"" "''-"" "
* January 23, 24, 25, 30, 31
* 8:00 ...February 1 $5 donation
* 338 S. Main St. for further information call 662-7282
*************************************** *********r

The mystery continues...

By Richard Williams
T HE RESIDENTS are coming to
town. To play. You might. say
so what?" And you have every right
to. But a lot of people think The
Residents are a big deal. And have
been waiting 13 years to see them.
This is their 13th anniversary tour.
The total numbers of times they have
performed in their history can be
tounted on two sets of hands. Big
Nobody knows who The Residents
Are. You see, in public they only ap-
pear in disguise. Usually wearing big
eyeballs on top of their heads. One
was stolen, so now one wears a skull
mask. And they put a curse on the
stolen eyeball. Serious stuff.
The Residents are on Ralph Recor-
d$ in San Francisco. They are
,originally from Louisiana. Why are
they called The Residents? They sent
a demo to a record company. They
sent it back. Addressed to "The
What are The Residents like? Jeez,
kinda hard to explain. They are dif-
ferent then the rest. Contrary to
rumors, they do not hang out with

The Residents have released a
whole lotta albums and stuff. The fir-
st LP was called Meet The Residents
and got lots of people mad. Why?
'Cause they took the Meet The Beatles
cover and did things to it.
Mischievous boys they are.
The Third Reich 'N' Roll was a
collection of warped versions of
famous 60s songs. They do a great "96
Tears." Speaking of doing covers,
they beautifully destroyed "Satisfac-
tion" and "It's a Man's Man's Man's
World," as later singles.
Side two of Fingerprince was a con-
ceptual ballet that's hard to explain.
Eskimo was a complete work of
traditional Eskimo music with a load
of neat stories to read along with the
music. They spent time in far reaches
of the north before recording it. The
Commercial Album featured 40 one-
minute songs, all highly catchy and
The latest work of The Residents is
the Mole Trilogy. It is a mammoth
concept that needs lots of explaining.
The basic conflict in this story is bet-
ween two races, after the above
ground tribe has to move un-
derground. The Residents make
strange and great videos. Their
videos are in the permanent collection
of the Guggenheim Museum of

Modern Art. The museum folks said
they were awfully good.
The Residents have been in People
magazine. That's 'cause they are
people just like you and me. Though
that doesn't make them easier to ex-
So we get a chance to see The
Residents. That's good. It will be a
performance like no other, that is
assured. Burn the music book.
The Residents will appear Sunday
night at the Michigan Theater at
8:00 p.m., for the deserving price
of $12.50. Tix available just
about everywhere, including
Schoolkid's and Ticketwolrd of-
fices, (statewide, no less).




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