Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

PUP Barks at the Botanical Gardens by Elana Bell

Poetry in the Botanical Garden, popping up like the first buds of spring, and that's what we were on this balmy Saturday afternoon, as we joined Bob Holman and Marilyn Nelson in presenting the poetry of Emily Dickinson, along with original work. Bob had invited us to share his time and add a little something unexpected to the mix.

We got there just as the reading was starting, and planted ourselves at various spots throughout the courtyard. The crowd was intimate, and the smell of too many sweet flowers to name drifted in on the breeze. But looking around at the subdued crowd, I knew they were not ready for what was about to come their way.

Marilyn Nelson started the reading, presenting a group of Dickinson's poems, along with several of her own which referred to Dickinson or touched on her themes. As the gentle applause died down, I looked over at Samantha with a twinkle in my eye. Who knew what was about to happen? We had a few things planned, but as with any PUP event, we knew the magic would unfold in the improvisation of the moment.

Bob took the stage and read the first few lines of Dickinson's "I reckon." Suddenly, Samantha and I popped up to join him, creating a chorus of voices. The audience gasped. Who were these women, not on the program? As we finished the first poem, Bob made the announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to the pop-up poets, PUP, Poetry in Unexpected Places! Careful. You might be sitting next to one of them right now!"

The crowd giggled nervously, and everyone gave a curious glance to their neighbor. The reading continued. Bob read several of his own poems. Then, another surprise. John Murillo took the mic and began to beat box. Ed stepped to the stage and brought his b-boy stance, and Samantha Bob, and I traded lines on Emily's poem "Answer July," where the poet interrogates the month of July, which in turn interrogates, May, which interrogates the Bluejay...
Answer July-
Where is the Bee-
Where is the Blush-
Where is the Hay?

Go ahead. Read it to yourself. It's almost impossible to avoid the rhythm. Who knew? The crowd was stunned. This was not what they were expecting at a tea-time Emily Dickinson reading!

We continued, and although the audience knew to some extent what to expect, we kept surprising them, like when Ed came out with his cult favorite "Alien Registration Number."
And Bob read from his new chapbook Box, of which he explained when he was finished reading, "The book is in the shape of a box. That's the point!"

The last poem was Dickinson's "Wild Nights," which we performed as a group piece, circling the audience repeating the phrase "wild nights" as Bob and Samantha recited the verses. We ended by getting the audience to join in, shouting "wild nights" into the early evening spring air.
Sweet, sweet. The Botanical Gardens will never be quite the same. Thanks Bob! Thank you Emily! Here's to more wild, poetic nights...

Elana, blogging for PUP

PS- After the reading we fielded questions from audience members wanting to know when they could catch the next PUP/Pop up poet event...

Coming soon to a _________near you!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Poems and a Metrocard by Marcy Alexis

Photo by Syreeta McFadden

“What’s your Alien Registration number?” – Ed

Assaulted with poetry! Yes, that’s exactly how I’d like to spend my Sunday afternoon on such a breathtaking day in mid-May.

The weather was a consistent warm hug. As a New Yorker, all you can do is talk about the weather on a day like yesterday.. all day! People were just happy to re-introduce their faces and toes to the sun.

What a day indeed first ride-along with PUP (Poets in Unexpected Places/Pop Up Poets). I was initially hesitant to join this band of poetic misfits, but knew I’d eventually be one of the pack. Especially after hearing the tales of train and supermarket mayhem from their first two adventures. My passion for poetry gets me in all sorts of predicaments!

Samantha, Jon-Ivan, Adam, Ed, Jared, Darian, and Jeanann were my fellow Pop Ups we did just that.

Who will be next? What will they say? Which passenger is really a Poet? Why are they doing this? We made ourselves known randomly by one, as commuters on the Q-train soon realized we were indeed armed with poetry.

PUP popped like kettle corn in five trains yesterday. Most passengers weren’t only receptive, but they were vocal about how much they appreciated the art accompaniment on their commute. Some took pictures, others sat at attention with their children, and still others almost jumped in! Even funnier were the expressions on the faces of those who were about to board our impromptu train takeover! Classic!

Samantha Thornhill set it off with a Lucille Clifton poem, as we later laughed out loud at Jon’s antics about the MTA and “he don’t do nothing but smoke.” Adam eased the tension with a song and a stanza, while Ed hung on arm bars and later introduced us to his not-so-subtle inner stalker.

Jared’s stories of comic books and awkward adolescent glances made us reminisce and smile. Likewise, Darian and his Mom appreciation was felt across the board. A tattooed Jeanann told tales of ripping tin cans with her bare hands ..and yes, we sure did believe her! And ya’ll know me.. well, I’m bad.. "I am a lioness, I’d walk through hell wearing a gasoline soaked dress!" LOL I started a women’s empowerment movement with that poem. The women on the train were more than ready to stand up and douse their dresses with gasoline ..flick, flick .. I’m bad!

Though the day was enjoyable, I’d have to say that the most memorable moments were the ones involving children. We received support from several parents who were overjoyed by our presence. Some children didn’t quite understand all that was being said, or why their Mom/Dad was listening so intently. Yet, they stopped to take note and open their eyes to this world of word and expression.

The Poets all had different accounts of what went down on their end of the train. My personal favorite was one that I didn’t even witness. Jared shared a story about a mother and her two boys. These boys clearly acknowledged their stop on the train and starting to get up. As they were preparing to exit, their Mother firmly took them by the shoulders and sat them back down. That family of three stayed with us for the remainder of the ride. Now that’s love New York!!

Most people take the train to their destination.. well yesterday, the train was our destination ..Pop Up Poets. Where to next?

- Marcy Alexis, Poet with a Metrocard
(Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm the bald chick wearing the shades ...and my gasoline soaked dress!)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Outside Hollywood Does Poetry

PUP and violinist Janelle X., standing outside after their pop up performance at the annual Hollywood Does Poetry benefit for Bowery Arts & Sciences, our umbrella organization.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Dream Fulfilled--by Samantha Thornhill

Ever since my talk with Khadijah, where she mentioned doing poems in a grocery store, the dream has been relentless. It is a waking dream. It involves me performing my ode to picking blackberries in the produce section.

Today the dream came true, and Elana and Akua showed up to star in it, outside of Whole Foods, our next target. Moses, our filmographer was also there, ready to capture these moments, as he did on the trains with us almost a week ago.

How were we to do it? And how many poems could we get in before security arrived?

We plotted. Weighed the unknowns. But in the end, we headed downstairs not knowing what to expect, much like our unsuspecting audience. And so, as shoppers buzzed past me with their carts and their lists, I pulled out my carton of blackberries and began to recite my poem while eating them--more challenging than I thought. But it felt something like flying, as I approached customers with my discovery, these wondrous blackberries that I came across one day in the woods off the coast of Seattle.

My legs took me all over the produce section as I said my poem to whoever would listen. Some people stopped to behold the activity with clear appreciation, while others scattered like roaches in sudden light at the sight of me--particularly the couple fondling the lemons, the ones I approached to tell them about this marvelous gift.

When I ended, Elana, in the fish section, tapped a stranger on the back and began reciting her poem about eel--the first line mentions her walking to the refrigerator naked. The worker weighing tilapia raised his eyebrows at the sudden intimacy, and as the customer recieved his fish and scurried away, Elana began to continue her poem to the worker, who listened with clear amusement. The moment was beyond priceless, as customers bumped into one another in trying to flee or to catch a listen.

A few people who stopped to listen to me tuned into Elana, who was speaking to the whole store now. Workers scurried around us, not wanting to interrupt or get in the way of the camera, not quite knowing what to do. We simply took over. When Elana was finished, a small applause.

But it wasn't over. Because Akua emerged with a love poem in the flower section, nearby. The repeat customers stood and obeyed the moment, arrested by her words. By then, our number was up. A worker was on his way with a walkie talkie. We found that Whole Foods was less concerned about the fact that we broke out in poems in their store and more concerned with the fact that we were taping, and so Moses was asked to turn off his camera, as Akua finished up her poem and we dipped.

Outside, on the pavement, we rejoiced, eating the rest of my blackberries. A couple from inside, our captive audience, stopped to speak congratulate us and find out more. In true guerilla fashion, no business cards as yet, Elana tore off a piece of her eel poem and I used it to write down the information to this blog.

So nice couple with the cute baby, if you are reading this, thanks for letting us know how much you enjoyed our performances. Your encouragement meant so much. Go tell your friends that today, you got PUPPED!