Rising Russian Poets with Key American Poets

Rising Russian Poets with Key American Poets



From left – Tina Chang, Heather Christle, David Lehman, Matthew Yeager, Alla Gorbunova, Dina Gatina, Lev Oborin


Causia Artium and The Debut Prize Foundation sponsored a lively and energetic poetry reading last night at the Mid-Manhattan Branch of The New York Public Library. The event was engagingly moderated by David Lehman, a poet himself, and one of the foremost editors, literary critics and anthologists of contemporary American literature.

Poets were presented individually, rising from the audience to take their place at the podium for 12 minute readings. The American poets included Tina Chang, Heather Christle, and Matthew Yaeger. The Russian poets were Dina Gatina, Alla Gorbunova, and Lev Oborin. They were assisted by translator John William Narins, co-founder of Causa Artium and a writer, poet,and literary scholar himself, who was both accurate and spoke the words as they were meant to be spoken.


Alla Gorbunova

Tina Chang, Poet Laureate of Brooklyn for 2010, wove her poems as beautifully as the golden threads fairy princesses have been weaving since time immemorial.  Dina Gatina, a Russian artist, illustrator, and poet, took the podium with a darker, more unsettling stream of words.  Heather Christle, the winner of the 2012 Believer Poetry Award presented sprightly, humorous creations which drew much warmth from the audience. Poet Lev Oborin,  a musician and an editor at the Russian Edition of Rolling Stone, painted the room with words both thoughtful and aware.  The evening ended with Matthew Yeager hijacking the stage with the poetic delivery equivalent of a Thompson Sub Machine gun, blasting the audience with words just as powerful.

The Debut Prize Foundation seeks to bring the newest generation in Russian to readers worldwide.  For more information, go to www.DebutPrize.com

Causa Artium is dedicated to expanding  awareness of literary, visual, performance, musical, and other art forms.  For more information on Causa Artium, go to http://www.causaartium.org/





The Vinyl Experience – A Review of Five Hundred 45s

The Vinyl Experience – A Review of Five Hundred 45s

Many mourn the day the compact disc was born.  Some because of the quality of the music as opposed to  it on vinyl (Neil Young, for one), some because of the shrinking of what used to be great cover art.

Bands had frequently spent much time seeking the best use of the visual arts to comment (or deliberately not comment) on their music.  The point of the their efforts was to evoke a response in their audience. Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz, visual artists themselves, released the book Five Hundred 45’s at The Morrison Hotel in New York to much acclaim.

A study, or happy flip through, of this book brought me back to various places and times, also stirring up remembrances of running out and buying a great many of the singles selected for this volume. It was so much fun to flip through the racks of Sam Goody or the like nabbing 45s that covers struck your eye like a shiny diamond, or evoked an emotion you couldn’t quite put your finger on from a band you had never even listened to previously. This book has it all – a shot of The Rolling Stones looking like Choir boys on the cover for We Were Falling In Love, to the debonair Frank Sinatra’s A Swingin’ Affair, to the stark plain-as-you see-’em stripped down Talking Heads’ Love – Building on Fire, to the haunting cover for Scarling’s Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole.

Five Hundred 45s is a wonderful time capsule of a book that I simply fell into, gazing at and reminiscing for hours.

Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz are Award-Winning Creative Directors,Designers,Authors,Curators,Media Writers,Art Reps and Packagers specializing in music design,branding and 21 pop-culture books.Mr. Drate was a 4 time grammy judge (1989-1992) on the music packaging committee , co-designed a Grammy Award nominated Album Package (1979) “Talking Heads-Fear of Music” and authored the first visual history book on the 7″ Record Sleeve “45 RPM” in 2002.They have music designed for 12 in The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and they both have combined to design for famous musicians such as U2,Lou Reed,The Velvet Underground,Leonard Cohen,John Lennon,The Beach Boys,Billy Squier,Big Daddy Kane,Paul McCartney,Anthrax,Ramones,Talking Heads,The Pretenders,Joan Jett and Bon Jovi.Some Some of Their recent popular pop-culture book titles of their 21 books are “SWAG-Rock Posters of the 90’s”,”Pure Animation”,”The Art of the Modern Movie Poster,” “VFX Artistry”,”Creating Comics”,”FIVE HUNDRED 45s” and they have been profiled and interviewed in major media and books.They have won many design awards.

Their famous music design work has been showcased in many venues such as at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC in the “Looking at Music-Side 2” Show-2009,The Brooklyn Museum in the “Who Shot Rock n’ Roll” Show-2010 ,The Cooper Hewitt Museum,  in the “Mixed Messages” Show-1996 and “Punk/Post Punk Graphics Show” at The Steve Kasher Gallery,NYCin 2011.

They are Artist Representatives for Joseph Arthur and Xany Rudoff.

Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young Interviewed by Patti Smith

Waging Heavy Peace – Neil Young Interviewed by Patti Smith

A great interview of a rock god by a rock goddess occurred on June 7, 2012 when Neil Young was interviewed yesterday by Patti Smith at BookExpo America (BEA) in the Special Events Hall at the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC.

Backed by two large screen monitors and fronted by a filled hall, Patti Smith conducted a truly knowledgeable, oh-wow interview of her friend Neil Young.  It was left unclear as to whether this interview was about his soon-to-be released book, as it was not available and rarely mentioned, but it was an engaging  and insightful interview of one friend by another, both of whom are widely known by the public separately, but not always together.

After unintentionally playing dueling microphones (when hers worked his didn’t and vice versa), Smith began to question him on his work process and his songs. “Sometimes my mind doesn’t just work chronologically, sometimes it just doesn’t work”. Young replied to one of her questions. Smith related a question her daughter Jesse had texted her from Detroit.  Jesse related that she feels very connected to her late father Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith when playing piano and wanted to know if as to whether Young , as a writer, also felt connected to his late father also a writer when he was writing.  Young responded that it was a beautiful question and that yes, he did.  His dad called him Windy, and when his father was writing no one was allowed to go to his room, so of course young Neil did and his dad would let him in and question him as to what was on his mind.  One of the things he learned from his dad was that “If you just get down and start writing, all sorts of things happen” and that you have to make time to do this or it may not come.  Smith and Young agreed that much of both their writings were the result of direct improvisation, that they did not edit in their heads, but afterwards.

Smith related how much, when she first heard it on the radio, Young’s song Ohio, meant to her and how she will forever associate it with the photography of the young girl at the dead student’s side, screaming at the National Guard who had shot the boy.Young said that the song came about after David Crosby took him up a long road to a run down cabin surrounded by redwood trees.  He

, Crosby and some others were “smoking weed and hanging out looking at the trees” thinking about what had happened at Kent State in Ohio. “So I picked up a guitar and the song took about a minute.” He had Crosby eventually left went back to Los Angeles  and got the band together, and recorded it   They pressed acetates so they could get 7 or 8 plays from them and sent out a few hundred.  Airplay was almost instantaneous and Young was conflicted by the thought of money coming in from the song and the notion that he “did not want to become the thing they were against”.  He was always grateful that he was never asked, “Who are you to do Ohio? You’re from CANADA!”

Smith and he shared remembrances of back when radio had such a pervasive influence and there was no programming, the D.J.s played what they want.  Without that, Ohio, and many other influential songs may not have received so much airplay.

Young expressed displeasure with the evolution of  recording technology and expressed his liking for the time when the stage used to be for corroborating and now it has been hijacked. Back then, he and his band mates would improvise and jam on stage, take back the recording, remove the audience sounds and press it. “Back then,  I hadn’t had so many hits so that people wou

ld stay relatively silent for a new song and there weren’t any yells for songs I did 30 or 40 years ago. If I did that now, everyone would be, oh, he can’t even remember his own lyrics anymore.” Young said to much laughter.

He went on to relate a story of when a fan, who “knew, or thought he knew a lot of my work” approached him and said that one of his songs had been under produced and just didn’t have the sound of his older works.  Young asked how the person had listedened to it.  On an MP3 off a MAC. Young liked it to listening to a blu ray or deep vinyl as compared with an MP# on an Equinox. “We used to struggle to make things sound great and now music is like reproducing  a Picasso to wall paper.  You look at the painting and say, wow, you look at the wall paper and say, so what?  Like man, that guy used to be good.”

Smith then switched the conversation to the joint love she and Young shared for trains.  Young was always fascinated with them and eventually became an owner of the Lionel Train company.  He would collect rare trains and Lionel would reprodu

ce them for train lovers.  Smith related how as a girl her family had a coal stove, and her mother would send her and her siblings down to the tracks with baskets to collect the coal that the passing train would kick up.  Her mother told her always to wave thanks to the man in the caboose.  Young replied, “There’s no more man in the caboose, it’s a blinking red light.”

Touching upon what it was like to have the late Rick James as a roommate, Young laughed and replied, “I was very young and so was he and we had a good time.  Let’s say he introduced me to a lot of pharmaceuticals”.

A humorous moment occurred when Smith inquired as to what Young was currently reading and he replied, “You, I’m reading you, just having a blast”. He had great praise for her Just Kids, stating that “the book is terrific, soulful. It makes me feel like I was there with you and Robert (Mapplethorpe) in that room, it’s a great book, just a  great book.” He compared their similarities and stated that they only differed as that he was of the highways and the lands and she was “of the city and bricks, painted bricks with thin

gs hanging on them.  I travel down prairies and you travel down streets and alleys. We are partners but in different geographical places.”

As contrasted with his writing process, which is to sit down and wait for words to come, Young described his song writing process as “. . .based on nothing really, based on feelings. . . . if something doesn’t come organically, you don’t want it.  You need to feel it.  When I try to write that is when I write some of my worst shit because of that process I’ve tried to be a good editor but sometimes I’m a good one and sometimes a bad one.  People know that about me, and have said, well, it’s not as bad as THAT one.”

Smith asked if he has a relationship with his guitar to which he replied, “Yeah, you want to ask for a song, ask your guitar.  Music lives in them.  They’re like old cars, peoples’ souls live in them” and went on to relate his love of old junk cars for th

e souls of those who had once occupied them and his love of junkyards for that reason.

Smith then asked if dreams ever form Young’s songs.  “Yes, they infiltrate them.  When you smoke a lot of grass, beer, tequila, you dream right there, if you stop, you dream more while you’re sleeping.” They agreed that dreams do work th

eir way into both of their music with Smith saying, “yeah, dreams keep on going, you can’t make a mistake in a dream.”

Young ended with a quote from the spiritual I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger,
“I know dark clouds will gather round me; I know my way is rough and steep. But golden fields lie out before me”

The Cutting Edge Of The Pen

The Cutting Edge Of The Pen

The gracious Leonard Lopate of WNYC Radio moderated a meeting of literary luminaries Martin Amis and Olga Slanikova in an entertaining event at The New York Public Library On Saturday June 2, 2012 as part of The Festival of Russian Arts, a celebration of literature, music, theater, and art.

Martin Amis, author of many books, including Money, London Fields, Night Train, and House of Meetings, presented a kind of West meets East viewpoint comparison with acclaimed Russian author Olga Slavnikova, winner of the Polonsky Prize and author of A Dragonfly Enlarged to the Size of a Dog, and the soon-to-be-released Light Head, which will be coming out in English translation in early 2013.

Mr. Amis read from his book House of Meetings, the title of which refers to the conjugal meeting place for incarcerated Soviet prisoners and their visiting spouses.  It is ‘a love story, gothic in timbre and triangular in shape.  In 1946, two brothers and a Jewish girl fall into alignment in pogram-poised Moscow.  The fraternal conflict then marinates in Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the coveted House of Meetings will haunt all three loves long after the brothers are released’ (from book jacket summary). Mr. Amis stated that he wrote the story after reading a history of the Gulag.

This is a somber book, as compared with the fantastical, yet no less powerful Light Head, written by Ms. Slavnikova.  Her story, from which she read a portion of, is of a man whose head is totally weightless.  He also appears to be mired in the world of comical yet frightening government bureaucracy, not unlike K in Kafka’s more frightening The Trial.

The authors also engaged in a brief discussion of the state of literature today, with Ms. Slavnikova stating rather surprisingly that the enemy of literature to a large extent is  the mid-level bookseller. Her reasoning was that the mid-level bookseller thinks he knows the reader through and through and that the reader is an idiot, so therefore he stocks books gearing to the supposed tastes of the reader, thereby creating that reader.

The event then took on a rather free-for-all question and answer session from the audience which was by turns thought provoking and comical.

Both authors were kind and spoke with audience members following the event. An eclectic assortment of refreshments were served.

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