This one barely qualifies as a Spirit in the House showcase — more as a showcase with a Houser in it. This is a pre-existing, monthly poetry series/open mike that takes place at the Open Book Center. As I understand it, there were intended to be more performers, but the event was bedeviled with last-minute cancellations. As it stands, I was treated to a solid half-hour performance from one of my fellow Festival artists.
Presente! produced by Prairie Records
This was largely a reading by Leigh Herrick, a multi-disciplinary poet.
She wasn’t helped by the fact that she was immediately following a half-hour performance by another poet with a very similar vocal quality. (CAVEAT: I did have to get up to go plug my meter part way through her set, so I missed about five minutes of her material.) Her voice is pleasant, but soft, and I often found my attention drifting — I have difficulty visualizing her sustaining an hour’s worth of reading. The success of a show of this nature seems dependent on rhythm changes to me — otherwise her carefully crafted text blends together into a monotone. She mentions the use of “varying background harmonies”, and I’m curious to see how that affects her overall performance. I generally dislike background music in spoken-word — I find it almost invariably distracting — and I suspect that, since I so easily lose the text in the musicality of her delivery, that this wouldn’t help. Much of her material is political, and there’s a fire in her words that never seems to make it into her voice.
As for the content — hmm. I suppose another caveat — that my politics are in nearly diametric opposition to hers — is merited. That said, it seems to me that one of the chief virtues of poetry is its ability to give us new ways to look at words, ideas, or objects, by startling us with an inventive turn of phrase. I wasn’t able to find many here, and her material was littered with jarring cliches — I’m a Gen-X-er, and therefore struggle listening to phrases like “disestablishment” uttered without irony.
She has her strengths as a writer and as a performer — unfortunately, I have difficulty seeing her sustaining a full-length show, at least based on the material that she brought forth at this particular event.