Just Wednesday night an instructor friend and I attend a reading at Zeitgeist on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. Vievee Francis, Tommy Blount, and Matthew Olzmaan were featured. I might have spelled some of the poets’ names wrong. I can produce my poetic license to escape the punctuation police.
The reading blew me away. As usual, Vievee’s poetry was fantastic. The most memorable was her first piece centered around two people, one being Idi Amin, the brutal dictator of Uganda. I recall that there is a movie out right now, starring Forrest Whittaker, The Last King of Scotland, that tells more about the man. He was, as Vievee’s poetry imaged, known to be a cannibal, and known also, to many, as a madman.
The references she included in her first poem to these acts, and Greek Mythology are stunning. In the story of Tantalus, an ancestor of Agamemnon, served humans to the gods at a great banquet. He and his family were then, understandably, tainted and cursed with the sins of the father. Agamemnon was, after his arduous return home from the Trojan War, slaughtered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover.
The sun imagery in her work was startling also. I had a “thing” for sun images for a long time, and would draw them everywhere – in journals, on register receipts, napkins, and flyers posted about town. I hope that she recalls this.
I suppose that I felt most moved by this piece, and her overall presence because she touched on so many layers between her and I, the literary community in the city, namely, Rayfield Waller, who has always reminded me of Forrest Whittaker, the actor that play Amin in the movie, and Amin’s portrayal, in her poetry, as a sun figure.
Both bright and blazing. Both life giving and all-consuming, and the influence the sun has on our psyche. The darker the skin the hotter it heats up.
And, too, Forrest Whittaker and Rayfield are both big men. Forrest Whittaker, a fine actor though, has always seemed to carry an intriguing sense of vulnerability and mild monsterness in his bulky frame. An intriguing casting choice for the film, then. Have you seen the Crying Game?
It was nice to meet Vie’s husband, Matthew Olzmaan, who is enrolling in the MFA program at Warren Wilson. He’s a talented poet, commands the stage, and projects his voice and word pictures strongly.
He’s Filipino-American, and wearing a tight soft gray MICHIGAN t-shirt, and sometimes collapsing his shoulder a bit in humility, he drew us in and sustained the audience at the makeshift art bar. What struck me most was his piece entitled something like 196 pictures of me looking at me.
It made it seem more essential than ever now, to continue writing, and performing, and to stay connected with the literary and greater arts community for healing and growth. To let my own sun shine, to follow my curiosities, and inspirations, and even identify my won cultural origins even more in relation to my authorship. It was meaningful to get into the city 2. Now I have to enter tax receipts for awhile.