Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Back from LEAF

It's been a few years since I've gone to the Lake Eden Arts Festival, but this year I went and joined friends from Charlotte and Atlanta. So nice to camp with you guys and thanks for taking care of the cooking. LEAF ( can be quite pricey if you have to buy all your meals, so I was thankful for the good food and company. I go primarily for the dancing, but this year the dancing was a bit disappointing. The sound was not that great on Friday (but it became increasingly better). I enjoyed the zydeco even more than the contra, but the late night show was delayed by the Poetry Slam (sigh). I waited on the porch of Eden Hall for Dexter Adroin for fifty minutes while a slammer (I think it was Queen Sheba) screamed her lungs out and ended her gasping denouncement of just about everything in this country with a breathless string of profanity. I don't know if she won or was just a finalist, but her rendition which got the Bush-hating crowd going would have brought the men in white jackets in years past. Now it's called "slam poetry." I sat under the poetry tent earlier in the day, grateful to be out of the rain (somewhat) for the first round of theatrics, judged in part by teenagers who seem to have been schooled to confuse expressions (often feigned) of outrage with poetry. So we had a bunch of people shouting, singing, reciting about how terrible this country is. Of course, the blame was laid squarely on George W. Bush. Ironic thing is they either were able to pay the entry fee or pay the admission fee ($92.00/weekend for early bird special). One young woman in a fashionable tank top and jeans went on and on about materialism. Everyone performing, black and white, straight and gay, young and old, was angry about this culture. No one on the dance floor seemed to be angry. Maybe we could propose dance as therapy. Get all the slammers on the dance floor, then later let real poets get up there and read. And as Dana Gioia suggests, also have them read others' published poetry, some even by white men who have died.

The literary mood was so different from the Art and Soul Festival at Baylor University in April where I read a chapter from Dancing with Derrida, the working title of my novel. Kaye Gibbons and Leif Enger were delightful speakers. A truly inspiring festival with warm, funny, and intelligent speakers and helpful workshops. I didn't understand the selection of Christopher Ricks as a keynote speaker, though. He talked about Bob Dylan and his conversion (I could never see the appeal of Dylan's music), beautifully explicated the lyrics after they were played over the speakers in the auditorium but then at the end revealed he is an agnostic. I guess he appreciates Christianity aesthetically and intellectually--one of those.

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