Monday, May 13, 2013

Night Train / Red Dust @ The Underground

The Mission of The Underground is to serve as a community meeting place for culture and conversation, for arts and education, offering diverse programming to foster the artistic and intellectual life of Northern Minnesota.

This past fall the Twin Ports Arts Align held its monthly meeting in the space that formerly housed the Children's Museum at the Depot here in Duluth. The aim was more than to simply be a social hour. The organizers asked us to help name the new space. In the course of the evening we were to place a vote for one of several proposed names, or invent a name of our own which could be added to the list for consideration. When the dust cleared, the space had a new name: The Underground. As a multi-purpose event center, the space is well suited for a vibrant future.

The Underground is just one of many venues for theater, music, dance and poetry that is being shared during this month of highlighting the arts in our community. We have the Minnesota Ballet, Rubber Chicken Theater, Renegade Theater Company, Lyric Opera of the North, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Wise Fool Shakespeare, the MN School of Fine Arts and the Zeitgeist Arts all eager to entertain, while exploring the heights and depths of human experience.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., The Underground is presenting Night Train/Red Dust, a multi-media experience featuring new poetry by Sheila Packa accompanied by film and cello by Kathy McTavish.

The careful reader will discover that Packa's writing contains many rich veins of ore, accompanied by miscellaneous precious stones and shimmering flakes of gold.

"I claim my words from the broken
English, damaged roots
Finnish syntax, mineral rights lost

Eminent Domains
from small print, unreadable clauses
labor contracts and mine dumps
old factories and invisible contamination

my words, in the run off,
in open streams – oxidize
form like tree rings in industrial circles

heat in the smelters, pour like lava into steel
form these rails that carry the trains
these trains that carry this freight"

For myself, this theme is inextricably linked to Dylan's North Country Blues, another lament about this complicated part of our Northland.

"Come gather 'round friends and I'll tell you a tale
Of when the red iron pits ran empty
But the cardboard filled windows and old men on the benches
Tell you now that the whole town is empty."
~Bob Dylan, North Country Blues

During the past year I've been amazed by the degree to which musical accompaniment can bring poetry to a new level, though it shouldn't surprise any of us as this is what Dylan's lyricism has always produced. McTavish's more abstract accompaniments produce an almost unearthly exquisiteness that can transform the words and images and give them wings, as I attempted to express in my review of the Packa/McTavish performance of Holy Fool. Attend if you are able.

Funded by the Jerome Foundation & the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council.

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