Cover Story: Writing Round-up

More local literary endeavors of note

Oct 5, 2005 at 2:06 pm
David Sorcher

Poetic Insurgency
Imagine a weekly poetry open mic as a marketplace, a center where instead of trading on goods and services poets — comrades, really — build on concepts of community and exchange CDs, wordplay and encouragement. The Lyrical Insurrection, a nearly year-old Wednesday night prayer meeting of poets, rappers and singers at The Greenwich in Walnut Hills, is this market. The night and tangential events springing from it are commandeered by Queen Olufemi, Hakiym, Matt Alvis and Black Budda'fly, refugees from other open mics who've to set up camp at The Greenwich.

"It was birthed out of a need for poets and artists to start networking themselves," says Olufemi, pictured with Hakiym. "A lot of us had been pimped by people claiming to be managers. With The Lyrical Insurrection, we really wanted to build up a formula for spoken word that's going against love poetry. The Lyrical Insurrection really melded people's mission into one without stepping on people's toes."

This extends to community-related artistic events. Beginning Oct. 4, Black Budda'fly hosts "Slammin' on Main," a three-hour alternating slam and open mic with a weekly featured poet at 'Catskeller in UC's Tangeman Center. From 2-5 p.m.

Oct. 9, Alvis and Black Budda'fly co-curate the first-ever "Poetry Museum Without Walls" at Eden Park's Mirror Lake. Alvis says it will bring people outside of poetry outside to poetry.

"I think it's great to have a 'scene,' but the 'scene' just brings people who already have a mind to see it," he says.

The Lyrical Insurrection will celebrate its one-year anniversary 8 p.m. Oct. 12 at The Greenwich with performances by Watusi Tribe, Jameze, Lexington's Nam, Poetress, Society's Tongue and a growing list of poets. The celebration will be recorded live, though the organizing poets throw down each week regardless of the size of the crowd and when no one's pressing "record."

To register for "Poetry Museum Without Walls" or to submit to Insurrection Magazine, go to (Kathy Y. Wilson)

Grouper Shows off Multi-Taskers
In a literary parallel to "Let's Put on a Show," the energetic artists at Over-the-Rhine's Publico Gallery are putting out a magazine. But Grouper is more than Andy and Judy singing up a storm. The idea is to publish writing about art as it's seen, produced and thought about right here in the Queen City.

On the evidence of two issues, Grouper accomplishes its goal without soaring off into the oxygen-deprived heights of academic art writing. A rotating editorship and a flexible editorial policy keep things moving. The second issue (Summer 2005) of this semi-annual publication followed swiftly on the first (Spring 2005) as a result of collaborating with the Contemporary Arts Center for its long running Multiple Strategies exhibition. Conceived as something of a catalogue for the show, the actual publication includes critical comment that encourages further thinking about one of the most populist elements of art today.

Editing is mostly good, although one wonders if the writer of "hollowed art museums" really meant that. But, hey, is there a big difference between "hollowed" and "hallowed?" The talent at hand at Publico nimbly solves the problem of putting out an art mag without glossy full-color illustrations, as witty line drawings and page borders lend an old-timey, easy access look to the magazine. (Jane Durrell)

Anniversary of a Dangerous Poem
On Oct. 7, 1955, Jack Kerouac was drunk in the audience and "shouting encouragement" to the six poets reading new work at the Six Gallery, a converted car garage, on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. Allen Ginsberg, a heartbeat from becoming Kerouac's accomplice in the Beat Generation, was there to let loose "Howl," his three-part incantatory, vomitory rant conjuring the "best minds of his generation." Modern poetry, postmodern performance and the canon of the English language were since and forever subverted and shifted.

A year later, City Lights Books' publisher and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti got hit with federal obscenity charges for publishing Ginsberg's masterpiece. A San Francisco judge ruled in 1957 that Howl and Other Poems had "redeeming social value."

Fifty years later, "Howl" is still taught, deconstructed, performed and sold in a Pocket Poetry Series replica of Ferlinghetti's original City Lights Books edition around the world. In Utah, San Francisco, England and now Cincinnati, groups will convene Oct. 7 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first public reading of "Howl."

At 9:25 p.m. on Friday at InkTank World Headquarters, (1311 Main St., Over-the-Rhine), poets Olufemi (The Lyrical Insurrection), Aralee Strange (Dr. Pain on Main) and Matt Hart (Forklift, Ohio) will read "Howl" in toto, passing the mic across race, gender and generations. $5 cover. (Kathy Y. Wilson)

Robert K. Wallace Is History
You might think a book comparing literary luminaries from the 19th century would be a tad dry and academic, but not in the hands of Robert K. Wallace, who teaches at Northern Kentucky University. His 132-page study, Douglass and Melville: Anchored Together in Neighborly Style, is readable and engaging, with lots of photographs and information enabling readers to understand the parallel existences and possible mutual influences of the men. (Frederick Douglass' life spanned 1818-1895, while Herman Melville's was 1819-1891.)

Wallace focuses on the decade when they were each at the peak of notoriety, 1845-1855; The Narrative of Frederick Douglass was published in 1845, Melville's Moby Dick in 1851. Wallace divides his commentary into two large sections: "Did Douglass and Melville Meet in Person?" (there were several opportunities) and "Did Douglass and Melville Know Each Other's Work?"(it seems likely).

A Melville scholar for three decades, Wallace became fascinated with Douglass' vivid personality while curating an exhibition, Our Bondage/Our Freedom: Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville, marking the 150th anniversary of the 1855 publications of Douglass' My Bondage and My Freedom and Melville's Benito Cereno. Both men wrote passionately about slavery, freedom and racism, and Wallace's book sheds light on their era by examining them as contemporaries. (Rick Pender)

Punk Zine Keeps on Rockin'
Just shy of a decade ago, local musician Shawn Abnoxious launched The Neus Subjex, a zine that documented, critiqued and celebrated the local Punk Rock scene (with the occasional nod to national underground acts). That's not so unusual — in 1996, you could walk into any record store in Clifton and find a table stacked to your chin with stapled and photocopied D.I.Y. publications focusing on different forms of music and culture.

But what sets Neus apart is its longevity. While zines come and go (usually due to the dwindling interest of the publishers or public), Abnoxious and his staff of volunteer scribes have helped Neus endure well past the usual fanzine shelf life. With the rise of Internet mags, blogs and message boards (the companion Web site has that side covered), the hard-copy Punk Rock zine is something of an endangered species.

Besides Abnoxious' dedication, the content of Neus is also a big reason it's stuck around. While written in the funny, conversational, pull-no-punches style expected of such a zine, in the interviews, news items and reviews Abnoxious (who moonlights as bassist for the excellent Punk band The Socials) and his writers show a certain level of respect and knowledge that supercedes their desire to pen dismissive, shock-value pieces that essentially just show what a dick the writer can be and don't really give much useful information. The Neus Subjex is available for free at Shake It Records in Northside; info about subscriptions can be found at (Mike Breen)