Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday Night Light

I'm not an especially literary person. My favorite books tend to be nonfiction, and I'm having a helluva time slogging through Murakami's 1Q84. The fault might be mine--I tend not to like overly "literary" literature, preferring books that just tell a story and tell it well (Justin Cronin's The Passage is a great one). I am therefore, despite my prolific blogging habits, less than inclined to try my hand at poetry.

Doesn't mean I don't enjoy poetry, though. The rhythm and flow of words lulls you into a trance and you connect with the material on an emotional level that poets spend years trying to capture, and English teachers spend years trying to teach. So when our dichter friend invited us to come see him perform his poetry at Nijmegen's Dichternacht, I couldn't wait to go. Plus, my Dutch has finally gotten to the point where I could probably understand most of the poets, provided that nobody mumbled. And as a bonus, I could try my hand at shooting people. With my camera, that is.

It was an interesting night, full of explosive, amusing, interesting readings. I did not understand most of it--too full of Dutch-isms, I guess--but you could get the gist of the poems from the tone: meditations on the seasons, life, love, and medications, and wordplay. Something I never could understand about poetry readings, though, is the need to perform the piece. There were a few poems that needed it, but by and large I've always felt that a poem should speak for itself--if you need to gussy it up with shouting or whispers, to sing a part of it, or to read it the way Kenneth Brannagh reads Shakespeare, in order to get your point across, mayhaps you ought to choose better words, or use better punctuation. That being said, there were a few poems that were improved by foot-stomping and added rhythms, but it should be noted that the guy was a musician before he became a poet, and therefore knew what he was doing.

The Dutch are keen to preserve their language and enjoy being artsy, so the Cafe Otis was packed with people. True to the Dutch fashion, there weren't enough seats for everyone--oh hell, there were pratcially no seats for anyone--and the bar consisted of a single long shelf of multi-colored bottles. Never mind that the Dutch language isn't really suited for poetry--the hard "g" breaks up the ebbs that the rest of the words have lulled you into. It's like having a random cymbal crashes during Smetana's Die Moldau. Working that particular phoneme into a poem so that it sounds organic is, I would imagine, the challenge of Dutch poetry.

The other aspect about poetry nights that I find particularly irksome, as a photographer, is the god-awful lighting. I knew, going in, that it would be low lighting--these sorts of things always take place in the gloom of semi-darkness. I hadn't expected it to take place with red lights, though (reddish, not pure red, but still annoying as bugger-all). Which is why today's posts are black-and-white--I didn't think human-shaped tomatoes would be much appreciated.

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