Poetry, Dance, and the Patterend Glory of the Universe

by Sorina Higgins

On February 20th, 2012, something very exciting happened: My second child was born! Well, not a child, exactly: a book. My first full-length poetry collection, Caduceus, was published by Word Tech Communications / David Roberts Books, and on that day I received my copies via UPS. My mom, JoAnn Kulberg, was there to celebrate with me and my husband Gary. Then, a few weeks later, I came up to celebrate with Grace Church as part of a book-reading and book-signing tour.

Since February 20th, I have given eight readings of various kinds in many venues: just readings, lectures, discussions, workshops; in churches, schools, cafés, and artistic spaces. The event at Grace Church was my signature presentation: a combination of poetry reading, lecture, PowerPoint, music, and dance that I call “Poetry, Dance, & the Patterned Glory of the Universe.” And this evening was by far the most fun of all I’ve done yet! Thank you to all the wonderful people who came to see me, listen, read, talk, sing, dance, & eat! Some of you I hadn’t seen for twenty years or more. And you were all really fun audience members!

Seriously, this crowd (most from other churches in the area, or other connections I had made in the Berkshires) was the most in-tune with my reading: laughing, sighing, groaning, and exclaiming at all the right moments. I felt you were all on the edge of your seats, taking in every word, understanding, pondering, applying all I shared.

There were a couple of stellar moments I really need to share so that those who did not attend can experience this, and so that those who did can re-live the best times! The first was the fact that three young people volunteered, at the last minute, to join me in learning & performing a dance demonstration. Thank you to the lovely, intrepid, and talented Nadine Kulberg, Emily Graham, and Ian Bridgman. The next marvelous thing was that our own lovely violinist, Betty Barbour, offered to play prelude music to us. She even chose Bach and other Baroque pieces that fit my theme for the evening.

I. POETRY READING FROM CADUCEUS

After the musical prelude, I read from my book. I naturally chose the most obviously theological poems from my collection. Here is one sample poem for you, entitled “Communion.”

I lifted up one tiny plastic cup
out of its ruby fellowship: a drip
slipped through a crack, slid down my fingertips,
and dropped its scented moisture on my lap.
I held it motionless at outstretched armlength,
felt its stained-glass wine-and-water redness
dripping cool and bloody down my wrists,
and lifted to my lips, and sipped, Your death.
Those stains I wore were memories of Yours,
still soaked in drunk-on-Spirit scent; so full,
taste on the tongue grew heady in my soul:
the old, intoxicating, longing Joys.
I wish that I could always live as if
I tasted Your sweet dying sorrow on my lips.

II. DISCUSSION & DEMONSTRATION OF METER, MUSIC, & FORM/PATTERN

Then things got lively! I began talking about meter in poetry, & the whole audience clapped along with the meter of an old Scottish ballad, “Sir Patrick Spens.” I then spoke about how meter calmed down a bit by Shakespeare’s time (although actors probably accentuated the iambic pentameter in a way that would sound “artificial” to our 21st-century ears).

Then I talked about the musical pitch-scale of vowels, the psychological effects of various sounds, and the emotional content associated with poetic forms. And THEN, my wildly talented, hard-working, opera-singer, coloratura Mezzo-Soprano sister Nadine Kulberg performed a Rondo (Rondeau) to fit the theme about poetic forms. She sang “Che farò senza Euridice” by Gluck, explaining how the repetitive form expresses the character’s grief. Her explanation alone was enough to bring tears to my eyes, never mind once she began to sing!
It was glory personified.

Finally, as a visual demonstration of poetic form, Nadine and Betty volunteered to read my villanelle, “Wanderlüst,” with me, complete with a kind of choreography that visually reveals the repetitive structure of the poem.

III. A DANCE DEMONSTRATION

The three marvelous volunteers mentioned above (Nadine, Emily, & Ian) joined me, and we performed an English Country Dance (think Jane Austen’s time), “The Duke of Kent’s Waltz,” in order to demonstrate that the visual effect of the dance was the same as the visual effect of the poem: whoever started at the front ends back at the front; between sections, everybody circles around each other; the pattern is regular and repetitive and symmetrical; etc.

And then the best part! We finished dancing, and I said to the crowd: “Well, that’s it, we’re done…unless YOU ALL want to DANCE!” And they did! We did a fantastic, super fun circle dance to the song “Marie’s Wedding” by the High Kings. It’s super lively and basically teaches itself as people’s feet fall into the pattern.

For those of you who weren’t there, or who were there when my supply of books ran out, please consider purchasing Caduceus on amazon or Barnes & Noble’s website. If you want an autographed copy, please email me, admonit@gmail.com”iambic.admonit@gmail.com, to make arrangements.

Finally, I have written about this event on my blog: http://iambicadmonit.blogspot.com/2012/03/caduceus-book-tour-6.html

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