REVIEW: Poetry Reading by Hannah Ensor + Suzi Garcia

This was the first poetry reading I attended this year. I have not been to Crazy Wisdom in a long time, and I forgot how unique the space is. They sell books, art, jewelry, incense, tarot cards, fair trade products, etc. The tea room is upstairs, just like at Literati.

I did not realize that both Hannah Ensor and Suzi Garcia were reading at the event. Since I gave some background information on Hannah Ensor in my preview, here is some information on Suzi Garcia: she has an MFA in Creative Writing with minors in Screen Cultures and Gender Studies, and she has presented and taught poetry at multiple national conferences. She is a valuable mentor and editor to Ensor and was instrumental to the publication of Ensor’s first book of poetry.

I enjoyed hearing Ensor and Garcia’s unique styles. Ensor made a lot of pop culture references, as the description of the event promised. Her pieces were mostly conversational and captured the mundane to transform into literary pieces. Garcia, on the other hand, utilized a lot of metaphor and analogy. Her poems were emotional, raw, and often explored the theme of earthliness.

During the event, the poets also talked about their sources of inspiration, which were thought-provoking. Ensor talked about writing in a parking lot of Planet Fitness and how a poem was partially inspired by a screening of Jurassic Park. Garcia talked about how one of her poems emerged from three factors: the desire to find a home for a couplet she had written, being inspired by an old song she knew, and a mentor encouraging her to write about her childhood. All these motivations mashed together into one finished product. Another one of her poems came from listening to Carly Rae Jepsen’s song, “Run Away With Me.”

While it may be humorous to hear where both poets found their sources of inspiration, it is also sensible. I often hear people describe inspiration as rare and profound—as if artists are zapped by lightning from Zeus or launched into manic creativity by the use of psychedelics, and then go on to create great literary pieces or famous works of art like “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke or Autumn Rhythm by Jackson Pollock. As an aspiring poet, I know daily enlightenment is unsustainable. Practically, inspiration mostly comes from the mundane. Everything (objects, constraints, concepts) is worthy of a poem or artistic piece upon closer examination. But execution is difficult. I was given the prompt by my 400 level poetry writing class: “write a poem where the movement from one scene to another affects the structure and/or mood of the poem,” and I am currently scuffling with a blank page.

Aside from inspiration, this poetry event also made me consider the difference between hearing and reading poetry. Ensor and Garcia are clearly both written poets first and spoken poets second. It is quite obvious actually. When you read silently, the body of a poem is its layout on a page: the amount of white space, line breaks, enjambment, punctuation, etc. When you listen, the body of a poem is the voice (of the poet, yourself, another reader speaking out loud), rhythm, posture, gestures, etc. In poetry that is spoken, rhyming and rhythm becomes more evident and (arguably) increases in importance. Take Benjamin Zephaniah, a British poet and activist, for example. He is a spoken poet first, a written poet second. Hear his voice and the joy with which he performs “Dis Poetry.” Another example is Sarah Kay, an American poet dedicated to using spoken word as an educational and inspirational tool. See how facial expressions and gestures are essential to her piece “Point B.”

During Ensor and Garcia’s reading, they relied on minimal gestures, rhythm, and word-play to convey their pieces. This does not make them good or bad poets. Rather, it reveals their niche study (and perhaps interest) in written poetry. The event was not a spoken word poetry event; it was a poetry reading event. And a good one at that. I appreciated the casual atmosphere, both physically and intellectually. It was a great place for written poets and enthusiasts to come and celebrate the beauty of language.

PREVIEW: VSA’s Annual Đêm Việt Nam Culture Show 2019

On Saturday, the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) is hosting their annual Vietnamese Culture Show. The event is called Đêm Việt Nam (A Night in Vietnam) and is entirely student run. The show features guest performances, as well as 120 students performing eight different dances. This year’s theme is “Write Your Story.” The show will tell a story about an aspiring, young Vietnamese-American writer as Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, approaches. Along the way, he learns that a person’s story is alive in their culture, themselves, and those who are willing to listen.

All the proceeds from the show will be donated to Children of Vietnam, an organization that assists children, families, and communities in breaking the cycle of poverty, disease, and homelessness. The organization also provides immediate aid to children and families in crisis.

Tickets are selling out fast. Come support VSA!

Location: Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

Date, Time: Saturday, 7-9pm

Tickets: $5 presale, $8 at the door for UM students, and $10 for general admission. Tickets will be on sale at the Posting Wall in Mason Hall from Tuesday, January 22nd to Friday, January 25th from 10AM – 4PM.

Facebook Event:

PREVIEW: Transformation, Aesthetics, & Beauty: Translating Chinese Poetry

Did you know that Literati has “Local Learning” workshops? I did not. Last week they had a drawing workshop on the human form. This week they have one on Nonviolent-Compassionate-Communication skill building.

Next week, on the 28th, they have one on translating Chinese Poetry. I am curious how the instructors plan to demonstrate the art of translation, as well as teach non-Mandarin speakers to translate a complex poem. I take Chinese, so I understand the succinct nature of Chinese characters and how each of them are saturated with history and meaning…

There will be two instructors at the event: Sarah Messer and Kidder Smith. Sarah Messer is the author of four books. She teaches Creative Writing at UM. Plus, (fun fact) she is a cheesemaker at White Lotus Farms; so you can expect to enjoy some cheese tasting at the translation event. Kidder Smith, on the other hand, taught Chinese history at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he also chaired the Asian Studies Program. He is currently leading translations on many Chinese texts, such as Sun Tzu—the Art of War, and Having Once Paused: Poems of Zen Master Ikkyu.

At the event, Messer and Smith will introduce Zen Master Ikkyu, an unconventional 14th century enlightened Zen Master who wrote poems in Classical Chinese, upended gender roles, and transformed the aesthetics of medieval Japan. They will also discuss how writing poetry and translating involves transformation, aesthetics, mindfulness, and beauty.

Event date: Monday, 1/28/19, 7pm

Location: Literati, 124 E. Washington St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Register Ahead of Time:

Cost: $25

PREVIEW: Poetry Reading by Hannah Ensor

Hey poetry enthusiasts, Crazy Wisdom is putting on a poetry reading event tomorrow evening featuring Hannah Ensor. A little about Ensor: she’s a poet living in Ypsilanti, a UM Residential College alum, and the assistant director of the Hopwood Program (which hosts a variety of highly competitive contests and prizes for students at UM). She has a lot of experience with publishing, especially on topics such as pop culture, sports, and mass media. She co-wrote the chapbook, at the intersection of 3, and was associate editor of Bodies Built for Game, an anthology of contemporary sports literature. Love Dream With Television is her first book of poems.

This event is part of Crazy Wisdom’s poetry series. The second Wednesday of the month are poetry workshop nights. On the fourth Wednesday there is a featured reader for 50 minutes and then open mic for an hour. The events are free and open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the open mic.

Come out and support one of our alums!


Location: Crazy Wisdom Tea Room

Date, Time: 1/23/19, 7-9pm

Price: Free

Crazy Wisdom Events:

REVIEW: 12th Night

This was my first time seeing Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, 12th Night. For those of you who may not be familiar with the plot, the story follows separated twins, Sebastian and Viola. Following a shipwreck, Viola thinks Sebastian is dead, so she disguises herself as a man to serve the duke of Illyria, named Orsino. Duke Orsino is in love with Olivia, but Olivia falls for Viola, who is in disguise. Then Sebastian arrives in Illyria. Viola and Sebastian look identical, so the people in Illyria get massively confused. Some of the major themes of the play include the re-thinking of sexuality, nature of relationships, desire, revenge, and the fickleness of love. The play disrupts the boundaries of compulsory heterosexuality and flips societal norms upside down.

This is a play that has been produced thousands of times. I realized after seeing the play that the movie, She’s the Man, released in 2006, is a version of 12th Night. The characters are actually named Viola, Sebastian, Duke, etc. A girl disguises as her brother at a boarding school and love triangles form.

In the version of the play I saw, the director put a 1930s twist on the props, costumes, stage, choreography, and music. I loved the elegant pattern painted on the back wall and floor of the stage, as well as the gorgeous mural of mountains, forest, and the ocean. The costumes, down to the patterned socks and elaborate wigs were charming and drew me into the story.  

The choreography and blocking added a layer of humor. When Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek first saw each other after a long time, they had an elaborate handshake-dance-greeting that lasted almost five minutes. It was awkward and hilarious. Their characters added a lot of comedic relief to the play.

One of the most fascinating characters in the play to me was the fool, Feste. He pretended to be stupid but in reality, he was the only person who knew that Viola was a woman. His persona of being foolish allowed him to make comments that others could not get away with. The character made me think about the psychology of humor. In reality, it takes a lot of intelligence and skill to land a joke and entertain others. People also often laugh at things that pains or scares them. Therefore the nature of telling a joke is delicate. There is also a lot of power in making people laugh. When a person laughs, they let down their guard and are quite vulnerable. Thus, a level of trust is inevitably built between the joker and their audience.

Overall, I really enjoyed the play. I would encourage everyone to checkout the plays and musicals put on by U of M’s Department of Theater & Drama.

REVIEW: Dance 100 Showcase for Non-Majors

I loved the supportive environment and the intimate studio space of the showcase. It was so much fun to feed off of the dancers’ and audiences’ energy and be able to see classes show off what they have been working on throughout the semester. I also liked watching different dance genres being represented: ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, etc. The fact that a class would break up into smaller groups to perform and then come together as a whole in the end made their performances more dynamic and compelling.

One class (possibly modern or jazz) had everyone laying on the floor and they coordinated their movements to look like a ticking clock. Moments where dancers’ bodies pulsed in rhythm to other dancers’ hand movements were particularly captivating to watch. I thought the choreography was ingenious.

A different modern dance performance reminded me of Martha Graham’s dance style. She was an American modern dancer and choreographer known to pioneer the technique “contraction and release,” which is a stylized conception of breathing. A lot of her pieces remind me of someone who is held captive; the dancer usually appears constricted, like they are trying to escape from something. Their limbs may be twisted and they may jerk eerily in a certain direction. It is particularly emotional for me as an audience member to watch.

An observation I made between the dance genres is that because hip hop is naturally more upbeat, lively, and “energetic,” it actively engages the audience more so than say, ballet. During a hip hop dance performance, audience members as well as other dancers cheered and hollered to support the performers. Whereas when a ballet performance was happening, people were respectfully quiet. Perhaps this is because ballet is more “aloof” and austere, which requires a more passive involvement from the audience. Thus, the quality of the performance (in terms of the entertainment factor) relied more heavily on skillfully executed technique. That’s not to say that hip hop does not require technique; breaking and popping (as two examples of hip hop) require a tremendous amount of strength, control, and awareness of the body. But because hip hop originally took place on the streets and in interactive dance offs and breaking battles, dancers could also rely on other factors than technique to engage the audience.

The showcase overall reminded me of how much I love the fact that dance roots a person in their body. Whenever I dance, hearing the sound of my skin making contact with the floor, imagining the space around me and my body filling it—all these things connect me to the world in ways that other art forms cannot. Dance often reminds me that my posture and movements consciously and unconsciously convey my emotions, confidence, and thoughts. When I watched other people dance during the showcase, I could tell whether they trusted their partners just by the way they moved their shoulders when they fell.

I think for these reasons, dance is especially important for trauma survivors. When trauma occurs, dissociation happens between the person’s body and mind. Dance teaches people to be in their bodies again: to love their body, to own their movements, and to trust in themselves again as well as their dance partners.