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April 09, 2003 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-04-09

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April 9, 2003



Tillinghast to perform
his 'perceptual' poetry

By Steve Cotner
For the Daily


Poet and prof. Richard Tillinghast
teaches class like he is performing. He
walks on top of the tables, silhouetted
against pictures of Allen Ginsberg or
Jack Kerouac, and spouts poetry
against jazz rhythms.
This Thursday he will give a true
performance, reading poetry from his
earliest writings in 1969 through to his
most recent collection, "Six Mile
Mountain." The anthology approach
will introduce guests to his life's work,
a diverse body of poetry that rues and
remembers with unforgettable images.
He is a poet who loves life but chal-
lenges how we live it. He was one of
many poets who presented works for a
White House reading with Laura Bush
in January. Tillinghast guesses that the
first lady expected "pleasant, harmless,
decorative" poems, but renowned poet
Sam Hamill challenged writers to
"speak up for the conscience of our
country" instead and collected over
13,000 poems of dissent at www poet-
sagainstthewar org. When First Lady
Bush caught wind of this, she shut
down the event.
Tillinghast is among a growing
number of writers today who dare to
be part of a seri- _
ous debate. Since R
Sept. 11, poetry
has become Tillinghast
prominent as a Tomorrow at 5 p.m.
form of consola- D1276 Davidson Hall
tion and comfort.
Traditionally, however, poets have been
free to criticize the government, and
poems like Ginsberg's "America"
showed the power of dissent in the
Vietnam era. The recent political cli-
mate has provoked many to take up the
laurel tree cudgel once again, and Till-
inghast is encouraged to see that some-
thing similar to the previous movement
is "just starting to happen."
Politics aside, Tillinghast will be a
forceful presence on Thursday the
strength of his writing alone. Critics
praise it as being very "perceptual" -
he plants readers firmly in the
moments that he records, so that, in
his own words, they "feel as if they are
right there on the spot." He takes us
from a pastoral youth in Tennessee
through a life that has seen many
worlds and more than one time. Sense
and perception drive the poems for-
ward, not logic or intellection. The

By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Editor

result is a powerful experience that
carries the weight of history and the
immediacy of the present.
At times, the subtle images can
even feel transcendental, as in the
ending of his poem "The Knife":
"Now I call to him / and now I see /
David burst into the upper air / gasp-
ing as he brings to the surface our
grandfather's knife / shaped now, for
as long as these words last, / like all
things saved from time. / I see in its
steel / the worn gold on my father's
hand / the light in those trees / the
look on my son's face/a moment old /
like the river old like rain/older than
anything that dies can be."
Tillinghast is a poet eager to share
his love with the world. He teaches
two multimedia classes, one on the
Beat Generation and one on Irish lit-
erature and culture. A faculty member
of Michigan's MFA program since its
start in 1983, he now heads the Bear
River Writer's Conference which
draws the best talent from around the
Great Lakes (www.lsa.umich.
edu/bearriver). Perhaps he is like the
singer in his poem "Savanna, Sleep-
less," who "doesn't want/to set the
world on fire, / she just wants to start
a flame in the heart / of some unspec-
ified 'you."' He gives his time
unselfishly to working with young
writers and inspiring them to create.
Those who know Richard Tilling-
hast from his classes know to expect
something extraordinary on Thursday.
When asked if his classroom perform-
ances might be a predictor of things
to come, he said he could not guaran-
tee any table-dancing, but he promis-
es to not hold anything back.

TO: Jack White
The White Stripes
Southwest Detroit, MI
Dear Jack, The White
We need to talk. t ie
Somewhere Stripes
between those Elephant
first dirty little V2 Records
underground sin-
gles, each a tiny explosion of garage
blues-punk positively drooling with
raw potential, and the recent out-
burst of overblown industry hype
that engulfed you and your
sister/ex-wife/drummer, well things
got confusing. Listening to the new
album, Elephant isn't necessarily
helping either.
The buzz built slowly around your
first three albums, then it erupted in
Britain roughly two years ago. Their
rapid music press fawned over you
until their stateside counterparts
caught up and joined in the love fest.
Respectable and crappy bands alike
have profited from clinging to your
red-and-white coattails. While it's safe
to say we all pretty much like pepper-
mints, if they're continually shoved
down our throats, we're gonna gag on
them soon or later.
Still, we put up with the candy-
striped motifs, tirades against modern-
ization, idealized-childlike posingand
cryptic fairy tales about your past, all
which suspiciously reeked of gim-
micks and put-ons. We've been look-
ing past the eccentricities and
contradictions so far because A) these
are desperate times, we'll take whatev-
er meaningful music we can, no mat-

ter what muddled post-modern pack-
aging it comes wrapped in, B) despite
your rudimentary approach, your
songs display a flat-out stunning range
of reference, including the best parts
of delta blues, Tin Pan Alley, country,
the British Invasion and the Detroit
garage antics of the Stooges and MC5,
C) behind the hipster/art pretense,
there was an honest-to-god Rock and
Roll band that cut straight to the core
of what still made picking up a guitar
Doubtfully, not many self-professed
minimalists would have endured the
spotlight scrutiny like you and Meg
have been, carefully teetering between
the mainstream and indie scenes while
taking cyclical praise and backlash
from both fronts. Correct me if I'm
wrong Mr. White, but Elephant is the
climax of that ambiguity, surprisingly
both an engaging and frustrating cop-
out of a record.
The lead single "Seven Army
Nation" is knowingly a war cry of
determination, an anthem about stick-
ing to your guns under fire and that
seems what you want the Stripes to
do. Yet your fans are getting pretty
wise to the patterns of your songwrit-
ing, as much of Elephant follows
along the now-predictable melodies
and bipolar dynamics that are being
ripped off right and left by any num-
ber of shagged haired knock-offs.
Frankly you're still one up-ing the
posers, but if things stay at status quo
much longer, you'll be hard-pressed to
pull off self-parody again. Just
becauseyour passionate songwriting
and guitar fireworks have carried you
this far, don't assume you can keep
resting on your laurels.
Oddly you record probably your
most progressive and consciously pro-
duced album in England, reportedly in
an ancient 8-track studio with ridicu-

lously outdated equipment. You keep
celebrating simplicity and honesty,
even as the world seems ever-increas-
ingly complex and twisted. Elephant
bubbles over with indulgent Jimmy
Page manic soloing, yet, at the same
time, you give Meg more focus then
she's ever had before (as her drum-
ming notably grows steadier and'she
takes over vocals on the haunting "In
the Cold, Cold Night").
You sound caught between self-
imposed innocence and reluctant
world-weariness. You're cynical and
grouchy enough to rant against
videogames and "opportunistic, lot-
tery ticket holders" in the album's

liner notes, but able to sing painfully
earnest lines like "I want be the boy to
warm your mother's heart" and "be
like the squirrels" with a straight face.
By the way, still no idea why you
decided to sample former WDIVTV
anchor Mort Crim talking about salva-
tion through squirrels on his radio
show for "Little Acorn."
Jack this is your last chance to be
both boyish (like on the mama's boy
ballad "The Air Near My Fingers")
and manly (the aggressive "Ball and
Biscuit" and seductive "Hypnotize").
You got away with having it both ways
on Elephant, but make the choice and
just grow up already.

'Oklahoma' cheers up 'U'

Vonnegut's play imagines
new 'Odyssey' conclusion

By Courtney Taymour
Daily Arts Writer

Finally, there is an escape for
students suffering from the capri-
cious spring weather and the stress
of upcoming finals. The time has
come to indulge yourself with two
hours of colorful cornfields and
sunny days in UPROD's produc-
tion of "Oklahoma!".
With the current war and other
maladies evident in this troubled
world, a pleasant family show is
exactly what many may need:
Flowery and familiar songs such
as "Oh what a Beautiful Morn-
ing!" and "Oklahoma!" promise to

distract audiences from current
issues and present them with an
array of vivid dance numbers and
magical scenes from times long
Though the show is peppered
with fun and
u p 1 i f t i n g
moments, it still Oklahoma!
manages to Thursday - Saturday
relate to today's Sunday at 2 pm.
issues and offer $8gStudents
advice. The $15-20OAdults
show's main At the Power Center
character, Curly,
explains in a
monologue that, "The world is
changing and we've got to change
along with it."
Director Linda Goodrich-Weng

By Marie Bernard
Daily Arts Writer

Courtesy of UPROD

The corn isn't the only thing that's as high as an elephant's eye.

q ____. __ _ ... i

agrees that "Oklahoma!" has a pro-
found message for audiences. She
explains, "In these times of pes-
simism, we focus on troubles in life."
She then added that rather than por-
traying the world tragically," "Okla-
homa!" is a celebration of the human
Goodrich-Weng and her actors
have prepared extensively for the
upcoming production. They have
taken no shortcuts and their
rehearsals have included a dialect
coach to perfect the Oklahoma
accent. Every cast member has devel-
oped an intricate character in the

show. Everyone, from the ensemble
to the leads, has their place in the
Special features of the show
include the Dream Ballet choreo-
graphed by Mark Esposito and the
song "Kansas City."
A devoted cast ensures that this
show will be special. Cast member
Alex Michaels says, "I can't think of
a more beautiful or exciting way to do
my first production at U of M."
Thomas Berklund, who plays Slim,
adds, "I've never felt more prepared
for a show ... I think it's going to be
quite impressive."

Although Kurt Vonnegut is well
known for his fantastic and socially rele-
vant novels like "Slaughterhouse Five"
and "Breakfast of Champions," he did
briefly venture into playwriting during a
declared anti-novel period. The result
was "Happy Birth-
day Wanda June,"
Vonnegut's only Happy
play. The show, Birthday
which ran Off- Wanda June
Broadway in the Thursday-"Saturday
early '70s, was at7 p.m.and
lauded for its Friday at 11 p.m.
comic sensibility Admission Free
and eloquent dia- At the Arena Theater
logue. LSA senior
Josh Izenberg, a longtime Vonnegut fan,
discovered the work last year and want-
ed to bring it to the Basement Arts stage.
"Being a Vonnegut fan has made the
experience of directing this play all the
better," Izenberg told TheMichigan
Daily. "I feel like I have some sort of
insight into some of his themes, since

they come up over and over again in his
work, but mostly, I think I just bring a
great appreciation of his style to the
The play came to fruition through
Vonnegut's interest in Penelope, a char-
acter from "The Odyssey," and his per-
sonal distaste for Hemingway-esque
heroes who prove their manhood
through the killing of other people and
animals. The play explores what would
have happened if Odysseus had
returned home to a world that had gone
on and changed without him, but the
scenario and the time are wholly
"June" takes place in Manhattan,
with two war heroes and sportsmen
returning home from seven years in the
jungle. Harold Ryan finds that, rather
than pining away for his legacy, his wife
is entertaining two suitors - a hippie
and a vacuum cleaner salesman. Harold
and his sidekick (a man who took part
in the Nagasaki bombing) are forced to
reckon with a world that will not cele-
brate their homecoming.
"It's an over the top kind of show,"
Izenberg said. "It's upbeat, although it
has its share of very serious moments
... but, it's a realistic show. Something
like the events of 'Wanda June' could
have occurred - perhaps they did one
time (aside from the ridiculous image of
heaven that presents itself more than
once). At first, I feel like the play is
similar to a sitcom or spoof, but it soon
careens in a completely different direc-
tion. It's out there."
Like all of Vonnegut's work, there is
an implicit social message to be gar-
nered. Izenberg said, "I hope the audi-
ence can understand the call for
pacifism, or at the very least, humanity
that this play puts forth - and at least
consider the argument."
Aside from bringing these larger-

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