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September 06, 2012 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily com

Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 3B

A comlete Shakespearean immersion

English Prof. Linda
Gregerson finds
inspiration in past
By SEAN CZARNECKI
Daily Arts Writer
At the Michigan Renaissance
Festival, you can time-travel.
You can watch jousts, drink ale
from a wooden mug and don
your very best jester apparel, all
while speaking in a fake British
accent. Call it nostalgic; call it
escapist; call it just plain weird.
Whatever you call it, the Renais-
sance's influence has endured, if
you know where to look.
But to renowned poet and
Shakespearean professor Linda
Gregerson, you don't need to
look far.
"What was remarkable about
Shakespeare (was his) real genius
for the small moment, for the
eccentric detail, that told you a
world of things that summoned
up a very rich background, what
we call depths," she said.
These small details have had
"an incalculable influence on
every medium, every sort of sto-
rytelling and representational
medium."
Gregerson has felt the influ-
ence of the Bard and his contem-
poraries in her own writing.
"(There are) some things
(that) I consider breakthroughs
in mode. It's about syntax; it's
about the way they wrote poetic
line," she said. "Those are broad-
er lessons, or in some instances,
technical lessons that I feel have
influenced my own writing."
As a poet, what Gregerson
values most from Shakespeare's
era is "open voicing," her own
term. It's a technique used often
in Shakespeare's sonnets that

Gregerson's 2007 book of poems "Magnetic North" was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry.

began with the poems of Sir
Thomas Wyatt, she said. Open
voicing cultivates a "quasi-dra-
matic voice in the lyric poem"
with a persona entirely its own.
The key characteristic includes a
colloquial tone, "subject to lapses
and interruption."
This is perhaps what made
Gregerson's collection of poems,
"Magnetic North," a 2007 final-
ist for the National Book Award
for Poetry. Kathryn Crim of the
Boston Review praised it as "an
effort to achieve an even greater
intellectual and spiritual depth,
to refresh us to the poet's vision
of a difficult world."
"Gregerson's meticulous atten-
tion to syntax and rhythm and
shape expose her anxieties and
attend to them, straining the lines
to chart the way she has been lis-
tening, watching, pondering,"
Crim wrote.
While Gregerson said she's
been influenced by the Renais-

sance writers, her poems often
thrive off of her own inspiration.
Take "Make-Falcon" - writ-
ten entirely in free-verse; not a
style for which Shakespeare'was
known.
Yet even after numerous
awards and accolades including
a Guggenheim Fellowship, Gre-
gerson still finds joy in teaching
what she calls "the most inter-
esting literary and cultural peri-
od." As a Renaissance scholar,
she expects her students to not
only read the texts of this period,
but also to understand the con-
text from when the works were
written.
"I want it to be palpable and
real and exciting and vivid for my
students," she said.
Citing the epic poem "The
Faerie Queene," Gregerson
explained that, while jousting is
a central theme to the poem, this
Renaissance phenomenon was
actually a medieval practice.

"That was a fashion in the
Renaissance," she said. "They
were reaching back into the past
partly out of nostalgia. It was a
form of nationalist celebration
and forms of self-promotion."
So after teaching Renaissance
literature at the University since
1987, is she ever surprised by any
student's interpretations of the
"Soul of the Age?"
"Always. Always," she insisted.
"And that's why it's enormous
fun to teach Shakespeare. They
are such bountiful texts and I'm
always surprised by something. I
always learn somethingnew from
my students."
But not everyone feels the
same way. For some, Shake-
speare is the ultimate test of lit-
eracy and humanity; for others
- patience. Leo Tolstoy famously
said after reading Shakespeare,
"Not only did I feel no delight,
but I felt an irresistible repulsion
and tedium." ,Resistant to nay-

sayers, Gregerson is encourag-
ing of skeptic, new and well-read
students alike.
"I hope they find things that
delight them and enlarge their
world," she said. "What I hope is
that the college classroom would
be a site for discovering again
the pleasures of this literature,
the pleasures of thinking about
something that is not right in
front of you on the page."
Whenever possible, she push-
es her students to "try their hand
at performance." And if a Shake-
speare company is in the area,
she takes classes to performanc-
es, and even invites members
from the company to visit class.
"One of the best presentations
in class was done by a stage man-
ager who showed others what
stage managers do and how they
approach the script... It was won-
derful," she said.
Though it's doubtful that most
who attend an event like the

Renaissance Festival are think-
ing of Shakespearean syntax
while watching jousts, Greger-
son still believes festival-goers
are "very much in the spirit of
popular entertainment in Shake-
speare's own period."
"There simply were not the
hard lines drawn between 'audi-
ence' and 'performers' that we
have seen so often in more formal
entertainments of subsequent
eras," she said.
She considers the participatory
quality of the Renaissance the-
ater to be its great genius. Their
stage - whether it was the Globe
Theater or the streets of London
- extended performers' "festive
hospitality" to the audience, she
said.
Maybe this is what festival-
goers seek and what Gregerson
hopes her students to attain: a
kind of time travel, total immer-
sion in another period - if only
until the final blue-book exam.

juggler, Flec spits fire, walks on
RENAISSANCE tight-ropes and balances crystal
From Page 1 B balls on his body and the tips of
his fingers.
together at RenFest, and people "Not unlike that thing David
take notice. Bowie did in the movie 'Laby-
"Well, you're obviously still rinth,'" Flec said.
in America, and everyone has a After the display of crystal
stroller and a Diet Pepsi in hand, ball prowess, Flec starts to eat
but come on, look at that guy and spit fire to the astonishment
selling pickles," said Kevin Palki, of his crowd.
a long-time RenFest enthusiast "There's a lot of fire entertain-
and visitor. "Why would you ever ment that I do, do," Flec said. "I
need someone selling pickles said do-do, but there's no crap
to you out there? You don't, but involved here, just a good show."
here it makes sense, and you buy Flec has frequented the festi-
a pickle." val for over a decade. He said he
Kevin's son, Jeremy, pickle-in- started out as an avid festival-
mouth, nodded enthusiastically. goer and transformed into a per-
Mary Palki, wiping her own former over the years.
pickle-stained chin, clarified her "When I was 13 or 14 I start-
husband's words: ed working at the Crystal Stix
"It's just really interesting booth, but not really working,
to be immersed in all of this, I'd just hang out there all day
while still having a cell phone and show people how to use
and credit cards and what not," (the Crystal Stix);" Flec said.
Mary Palki said. "The difference "One day they gave me a free set
is very entertaining, and that's of sticks and were like 'you've
really why we come back: to be earned these' so I kept coming
entertained!" back and one day they started
giving me money, they'd say
"Stay in school" 'Well, you helped sell like 12 sets-
so ...'. " .
The Palkis were not the only After joining the ranks of
family to seek amusement. As a shopkeepers and merchants, Flec
crowd formed around a small, began working on his own craft,
wagon-like booth in the middle opening his wagon-inspired
of the road, a mystical voice sang booth some years later.
from the heart of the gathering: "I thought, it'd be great if I
"Come and watch me play dressed up like gypsy boy, and I,
with balls!" had a crystal ball, and a turban
Douglas Michael Shell, or with a feather in it and I tried to
"Flec" to the RenFest guests, was look fortune teller-esque," Flec
beginning his show. As a, contact said.

Flec's favorite aspect of the
festival is the fluidity that kept
things interesting.
"Every year things get a bit
different, change a bit and get
better. I mean, I juggle balls for
a living!" Flec said. "What I'm
trying to tell you to do is, stay in
school."
Sit back, relax and
enjoy the kilts
Outside of the main-street
vendors and side-alley enter-
tainers, bands and singers con-
gregate on set-up stages and
begin their acts for the crowd.
Whether it's singing and drum-
ming earthy tunes like the Sirena
Sirens, a mystical music group,
or the tribal style dance of Zinga-
ra Music and Dance, visitors can
sitin and experience a RenFest
show.
"The acts are phenomenal,"
Mary Palki said. "We just got
back from seeing the Merbella
Mermaids, and they have it set up
so well, and the mermaids look
so real! I had to keep reminding
myself, 'They don't exist Mary!
They're not real!'"
Despite the lack of real-life
mermaids, patrons don't let these
details stop them from enjoying
both the show and the costumes.
Walking through Hollygrove
is reminiscent of a. costume
party, only less child-oriented
and more truly medieval. Women
dressed as pirates, pirates
dressed as women, men dressed
as trees and men dressed in kilts

TERRA MOLENGRAFF/Daily
Hollygrove comes alive during the annual Renaissance Festival with a multitude of options for medieval entertainment.

all attend the RenFest. Fashion
takes on a new meaning.
"I dressed up as a fox because
I felt like it would make sense
when I got here," said Kendra

Fletcher, one of the costumed at RenFest, as everyone from
individuals attending the fes- toddlers to grandparents enjoys
tival. "And it does! Everyone is walking through Hollygrove,
dressed up and having fun." expecting the unexpected. Oh,
Fun seems to be the key word and kilts. Expect a lot of kilts.

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