I had ambitious plans for a next blog post for some time: a summary account of this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, “recollected in tranquility” because it took place in mid-September, and I had plenty of time to think over what I’d seen and heard (Gerald Edleman: “The ability to construct a conscious scene in a fraction of a second is the ability to construct a remembered present.”). The “ambition” element came about because I had–of necessity–approached this year’s Festival with a measure of “fear and trembling.” Some medical issues (which I wrote about in an informal essay posted on Bill’s Blog: “This Mild Yoke: A Writer’s Eyesight,” April 23, 2015) continue to compromise my vision and my vestibular system: issues that do not affect my hearing, fortunately (I would certainly require that for the music I hoped to describe). The “drama” was: how would all this play out at MJF58? I decided that, however it played out, I would write about it all, the complete experience, come what may.
I took copious notes at the Festival, and made stabs at the proposed (ambitious) project (a sketch for another informal essay—this one on how to fully enjoy and appreciate a special event–such as the Monterey Jazz Festival, which I did!–in spite of, or perhaps because of–compromised sight and inadequate balance). However, I am going to hold off for a bit longer to post it, because something else–very favorable!–has come up, out of the blue, and I’d like to post word of that under “Upcoming Events.” Also, because the holiday season now seems so close at hand (or so the onslaught of commercials in newspapers and on TV informs me, along with wreaths decorating city streets), I’d like to make a pitch for the new book I have out–Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems—because it would, I feel, make an ideal gift (ho ho ho) for everyone’s family and friends.
In a previous blog post (“Blog Baroque,” September 30, 2013), I wrote about my friend, the amazing Bob Danziger, a gifted musician, composer, sound sculptor, inventor, author, entrepreneur, and a key player in the alternative energy industry for over thirty years. I provided URLs for sites on which his many accomplishments are displayed (http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobdanziger; http://www.bobdanziger.com/ http://energylaughs.com/ –and described the remarkable series of CDs that make up his Brandenburg 300 Project: (http://www.brandenburg300.com.).
Last year, Bob Danziger undertook a fresh video project, and he asked me to participate because the piece would focus on a poem by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam I had translated: “No, never was I anyone’s contemporary.” Working with Bob on this project was fascinating and I gained invaluable insight into audio, film, and digital fineness. First he had me select a piece from his Brandenburg 300 project (I chose “Brandenburg 22 Rembrandt,” with its impressive improvisation by Albert Wing, Mike Miller, and Bob); then, in his studio, he asked that I read the poem over (and “within”) the music–to which he would add visual material (I gave him the names of Russian artists from Mandelstam’s era: Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall, Nathan Altman’s “Portrait of Anna Akhmatova,” Levitan, Vrubel; and also, at his request, some of my own art work, a series of drawings and woodcut prints I’d done of Mandelstam and other pieces, and some photos from my own life).
Here are three of my own Mandelstam pieces:
Bob located excellent photos of Mandelstam (and art work from his era)–his intent to make this video a genuine “Mandelstam and Minor” (the title of the piece) collaboration: to honor the poet and also, as he put it, the fact that I have “survived.” When the project was completed, I posted news of it on my Facebook page, and access by way of the video’s YouTube URL– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxliLhcnyAY –saying I was grateful for having survived in my own small life, compared to the large life of Osip Mandelstam (a description of which will follow, in an account of the fate of Bob’s film). I said I was grateful to Bob for the time, energy, and immense talent (which extends in many directions) he gave to the project—unaware that the best was yet to come.
Bob Danziger submitted “Mandelstam and Minor: I Am No One’s Contemporary” to the 2015 International Monarch Film Festival: films to be shown at an award ceremony at Lighthouse Cinema in Pacific Grove, CA, on December 10th and 11th. The film was accepted, in the “Short Narrative” category, and will be shown twice: on Thursday, December 10th, as part of the Local’s Corner block (which starts at 7:55PM–our “individual” film estimated start time: 8:20PM, with a Q & A period to follow after the block), and on Friday, December 11th, as part of the local “shorts” and documentaries block, which starts at 7:05PM–our estimated start time: 8:20PM.
Further information on the 2015 International Monarch Film Festival can be found on its Facebook site (https://www.facebook.com/MonarchFilmFestival/); its website (http://www.monarchfilmfestival.com/); and its Locals Corner page (http://www.monarchfilmfestival.com/locals-corner). Here’s some of the handsome logo and art work employed to promote the festival:
And here’s the way Bob Danziger’s entry is described:
Mandelstam and Minor: I Am No One’s Contemporary
by Robert Danziger
“I Am No One’s Contemporary,” a poem by Osip Mandelstam, translated and performed by Bill Minor, who also did most of the artwork and photographs. Additional artwork by Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall, Altman, Filonov, Levitan and Vrubel.
Osip Mandelstam is one of the great poets of the modern era: a poet admired, highly respected in Russia before and after the Revolution, but a poet not willing to compromise his principles during Stalin’s reign. Mandelstam was arrested after reciting a poem unfavorable to Stalin before close friends, and he died in 1938, at age 47, in a transit labor camp near Vladivostak.
William Minor is a poet/musician/visual artist who taught Soviet Russian Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Monterey Peninsula College. He has translated the work of both classical and Soviet Russian poets—with an emphasis on the work of Osip Mandelstam. The poem he recites—“No, never was I anyone’s contemporary”—best represents Mandelstam’s independence, integrity, and ultimate hope.
The poem is set to “Brandenburg 22 Rembrandt” by Bob Danziger and the Brandenburg 300 Project featuring Albert Wing, Mike Miller and Pat Woodland; Mixed by Chris Bolster at Abbey Road Studios, London. Video by Bob Danziger.
Bob was also asked to submit some stills—and here they are:
I’ve given plenty of poetry readings over the years, and even been filmed giving talks on The Monterey Jazz Festival: Forty Legendary Years and another book I wrote, The Inherited Heart: An American Memoir (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBuSNTPDJqQ — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuasLG8JU5U)- but I’d never done anything like what Bob had in mind for this film. I was puzzled when he asked me to sit in front of a yellow screen with my back to the camera (exposing the bald spot big as a softball that adorns that portion of my head), but when I saw the results, I was surprised and pleased to see myself reading the poem in front of the two photos of Osip Mandelstam (above)—and in another scene, gazing up in admiration at Marina Tsvetaeva (a fellow poet friend and love of Mandelstam’s). I was also puzzled by the ten (or more?) “takes” he put me through reading the poem. I thought I’d be totally burnt out by the third or fourth take—and was surprised, and delighted, when I discovered I’d entered a sort of “Zen” stage by the ninth or so take and was so relaxed (exhausted?) that the result, the final reading, seemed as fresh and spontaneous as any I could hope for. Bob Danziger is a PRO, and knows all the right “tricks” to get the best out of a novice “film star” (ho ho) like me.
Needless to say, we both are truly looking forward to December 10th and 11th, and being a part of the screening of “Mandelstam and Minor” at Lighthouse Cinema in Pacific Grove, California. And thanks again (“Spasibo bolshoy”) Bob!
To close this “film” portion of Bill’s Blog, I’d like to set down two stanzas from my translation of Osip Mandelstam’s “No, never was I anyone’s contemporary”:
“A hundred years ago, on a rough cot/with soft white pillows, this age of clay awoke,/sprawled in its own stench, attempting to recover/from its first hangover.
What a vulnerable bed that was, if you/contemplate the slow creaking trek of time./But what of it? We cannot invent a substitute era./We must age in this one as best we can.”
The translation is included in Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems—the book I would like to plug now as a possible gift for family and friends—and for yourself! We have had three musical performances in which vocalist Jaqui Hope sang poems from the book which I had set to original music—accompanied by Heath Proskin on bass and me on piano, and once by me alone. A sample of one poem/song from the book—“My Fingers Refuse to Sleep”—can be found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLqjmDeiz2s.
Here are some photos from those performances:
And I will close out this blog with another poem from Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems—the book available for purchase at: http://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Wisdom-New-Selected-Poems/dp/1935530976 –or here in Monterey, at Old Capitol Books (downtown) and the Museum of Monterey (on the wharf) gift shop.
Here’s the book, and the description of it that appears on its amazon.com site: “In Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems, William Minor transforms and transcends subject matter (homage to parents, marital love, the death of friends, self-fulfillment, failure and success, a critique of one’s era, conceptions of heaven, aging, last words—and even such humble items as Q-tips) into skillfully crafted poems that will stand the test of time. The book ends with a brilliant, grateful, laugh-provoking parody of and homage to Francois Villon’s ‘The Testament,’ in which William Minor contemplates the ‘gifts’ he would give back to the world—one of which is Gypsy Wisdom: New & Selected Poems.”
And here’s the poem, “December 2014,” a poem I hope may resonate with the forthcoming holiday season.
‘I gave up many things in life,/there is almost nothing that I need anymore.’ (Anna Akhmatova)
Settled, at last, into this nothing/that is everything, this small plot/in terms of overlarge wishes/(in an era of overwrought and overkill):
our own small home, ourselves, and those we love/(those who are still alive and those resident/ elsewhere as well), a life enriched/with a measure of grief, but not more
than we can handle—arriving only/as close to that state as we may deserve/to get. This season acknowledges a tree,/adorned with so much of our own
small history, ornaments of relevance (perhaps)/to this house alone, but artifacts found/ elsewhere as well, each with its own/weight for others. So much that is sacred
takes up only the space of a living room/carpet that we can walk across,/to embrace the light of that tree of life,/and thus embrace each other.”
May your holiday season be filled with well-being; and I hope, before that season is in “full swing,” to post an “essay” on this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival (and how I relished each and every sound and sight, operating on compromised vision and a precarious balance system). I was reminded of the last four lines of Richard Wilbur’s fine poem, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World:” “Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,/And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating/Of dark habits,/keeping their difficult balance.”—but if I was floating, it was fully within the solid joy of witnessing so much great music. More about that later!