Tag Archives: Literary Arts

Poetry in Motion: Cast your ballot and get on board

“We have some exciting poetry news!”

T.S. Eliot, painted by Wyndham Lewis, 1938. Wikimedia CommonsPress releases starting like that don’t hit the central clearing desk at Art Scatter World Headquarters very often, so of course we dropped everything else and immediately investigated. We’ve been waiting for some exciting poetry news ever since the cat lost his hat.

What is this big news? Poetry in Motion is back on track. Regular readers may recall Mrs. Scatter’s lamentation last June over its disappearance, and her call for commuters to take matters poetical into their own hands. The program behind those printed poems posted above the seats on Tri-Met buses and trains, which is administered by Literary Arts, has been on hiatus for financial reasons. Now it’s recruited new sponsors and is ready to rhyme (or not) again. What’s more, you can vote on which poems out of thousands of possibilities you’d like to share your ride with: Vote here.

Perhaps you’d like to celebrate by writing your own poem about reading poetry on the bus. Here are a few key words:

Bus. Muss. Truss. Fuss. Cuss. Deciduous.

Now all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Happy versing!


Pictured: T.S. Eliot, painted by his friend Wyndham Lewis in 1938. Lighten up, Tom! You could be rolling on the bus! Wikimedia Commons.

Sondheim speaks, we gladly listen

51cy5ayyqql_aa240_.jpgThe Stephen Sondheim-Frank Rich question and answer session, staged by Literary Arts at the Schnitz Tuesday, was about as delightful as it possibly could have been. Rich was a terrific interrogator: smart, prepared, completely aware that his role was to spark Sondheim into memorable bits of reflection, story-telling, even emotion. He succeeded brilliantly at all three, succeeded to such an extent that the nearly full house (which would be 2700 or so) sang “Happy Birthday” to Sondheim at the end, in anticipation of his birthday on March 22 (when he turns 78, by my count). Sondheim had won us over completely, as though we needed winning over to begin with.

What did they talk about? Musical theater, of course, from Sondheim’s particular, insider perspective. So there were anecdotes about Oscar Hammerstein II (Sondheim’s mentor and father-figure) and a couple of great Cole Porter anecdotes (more about these a little lower), recollections of putting West Side Story together, Gypsy, Company, Sunday in the Park With George and of course Sweeney Todd, which led to observations about the difference between film and theater (film is more propulsive; theater allows more imagination from the audience), and much more. Marty Hughley gives an account of it all on Oregonlive. With actual quotes!

Many of the anecdotes were familiar ones, especially to those who’ve read Meryle Secrest’s biography of Sondheim. But what a difference hearing the stories from Sondheim’s lips. So, he describes walking over to play his songs for Cole Porter in Williamstown, Mass., (where he went to Williams College) and we can feel the trepidation he must have felt, the awkwardness, the Porter-esque parody he played and his relief that Porter not only enjoyed it but helped him make the ending even better. Sondheim helped us understand the meaning of the encounter for a young artist, the joy it gave him, the inspiration. All of which is missing from Secrest’s book, which deals with the incident quickly. Ditto, the last time Sondheim played for Porter, when he was seriously ill, both legs amputated, and managed to elicit a gasp of recognition from the dying man, a smart turn and unlikely rhyme. And this is in microcosm the power of theater itself — to attach feeling and meaning to words that might slip by unattended by either.
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