Mark Fischer Poetry Award in Telluride
It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there.
--William Carlos Williams
The winner of the 15th annual Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, named for Telluride’s much-missed poet and raconteur, will be chosen this Friday, June 14. For the first time, the announcement will be in public. The ceremony takes place from 6-8 p.m. at Arroyo Wine Bar, where the top four finalists – Deb Barr, Kyle Harvey, Tony Saab and Watch reporter Samantha Wright – will all read from their work.
Fischer had a quirky sense of humor and a love of obtuse words, and in that spirit, a description of the contest reads, prizes will be “awarded to entries that best exhibit the qualities of originality, novelty, complex meaning, linguistic skill and wit.”
In the Fischer Award tradition, the winner of last year’s prize – in this case, Santa Fe poet Wayne Lee, who won for ‘Psalm 656’ – is the judge of this year’s honor.
“It was hard,” Lee said of the judging. “I’ve judged other contests before, and there’s usually a clear-cut winner. But these four poems were really close.”
Lee was particularly impressed by two things. One, how “meticulously researched” the works were. “I admire factual correctness,” he said. “That turned me on.” He also admired the “emotional risks” a few poems took. “Some were almost bleeding on the page,” he said. “That showed a lot of courage.”
Lee will stick around to teach a writing workshop entitled The Music of Poetry this Saturday morning from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., also at Arroyo. It’s a subject close to his heart; Lee played violin for 22 years in a Seattle string quartet, and worked as a music critic for the Washington (D.C.) Times, The Seattle Times and other publications. The workshop will explore repetition, syncopation, pace, accent, pauses, dynamics, and other basic building blocks of music to enhance the written and spoken word.
“Music and poetry are essentially intertwined,” Lee pointed out, “and if you look back, the great poets, almost without exception – Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Frost, all the Romantics” featured musicality in their work. “In this day and age, most poetry is free verse,” he added. But in order to write great free verse, “you must be even more conscious” than you would if you were rhyming of the way every single word, each syllable, affects the perception of a poem. Williams’ classic ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ is a perfect example of a work in which every word counts. “He has levered that red wheelbarrow into a special tone of attention by sheer torque of insistence,” critic Hugh Kenner wrote of the poem. Lee put it more simply: “He uses every beat to inform the meaning.”
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
--William Carlos Williams
For more information about The Music of Poetry workshop, contact Telluride Arts at 970/728-3930 or email Wayne Lee at email@example.com.
Trio Solisti in Ridgway
The chamber music trio The New York Times has called “consistently brilliant” returns to this region for its annual summer performances over the next couple of weeks.
Violinist Maria Bachmann, cellist Alexis Pia Gerlach, and pianist Jon Klibinoff will perform as Trio Solisti at the 4-H Events Center in Ridgway on June 23, and as Trio-Solisti-Plus-Special-Musical-Guests in a private home for four performances, beginning June 26, for Telluride MusicFest.
In Ridgway, their concert, sponsored as always by the Ouray County Performing Arts Guild, will include trios by Beethoven, Saint-Saens, and the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. Beethoven’s Trio No. 4 in B Flat Major (Op. 11) is about as close to pop music as the great composer ever got; also known as the Gassenhauer trio, it was apparently composed at the suggestion of a local clarinetist, who asked Beethoven to employ the aria from a very popular opera by Joseph Weigl which had debuted the year before. The piece by Saint-Saens was written when the composer was just 28 years old, and is full of joy, humor and adventure – all the feelings you might expect a young talent to pore into his music. Following the Saint-Saens trio, Trio Solisti will take a break for intermission. Then the emotional heavy lifting of the program begins, when the musicians perform Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor.
Bedrich Smetana is best known inside his homeland as the father of Czech music. Outside of it, he’s best remembered for his opera, The Bartered Bride, and his cycle of tone poems, Ma Vlast (My Fatherland). By 1849, Smetana was 25 years old. He had been awarded the title of Court Pianist in King Ferdinand’s Prague Castle. His finances were relatively stable, and he was newly married.
Then it all went to hell.
Over the next few years, the second daughter from his marriage, Gabriela, would die of tuberculosis. His eldest daughter, Bedriska, who had been showing signs of remarkable musical talent, would pass away of scarlet fever. Another daughter, born shortly after the death of daughter no. 2, would soon succumb, as well, and his wife would be diagnosed with tuberculosis.
It sounds like something out of a bad soap opera, but these were the days before antibiotics, and for Smetana it was all agonizingly real. Maybe the work helped see him through. In the middle of it all, within just two months of the precocious Bedriska’s passing, he had completed his first chamber music composition, the Piano Trio in G Minor. Chamber music played a very small part in Smetana’s overall work, and the intimacy of this particular musical form – a piece for just three instruments – was perhaps an unusual outlet for the composer to turn to in his grief. Yet it served him well, and the Trio in G Minor, turbulent, lovely, and passionate, endures. The work debuted on December 3, 1855 in Prague, with Smetana at the piano. He dedicated it to his musical daughter’s memory.
Trio Solisti plays the 4-H Event Center Sunday, June 23 at 7 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit ocpag.org.