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Poetry With Panache

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Courtney Czar has a desire to change the landscape of poetry. Instead of producing a poetry reading highlighting only the spoken word, she has set out to create a multimedia event with music, movement, sound and video: It is her effort to "let people into poetry."

"I think what's a little disappointing with poetry is that it has become an academic, elitist thing. People in the general population aren't interested in it. ... We are so bombarded with instant entertainment. People's attention spans are short. We have a loss of interest in the written word and hearing a poet."

Czar also dances and writes music; she says people have a better understanding of those mediums. With that acknowledgement, she "talked to musicians, dancers and other artists to see what we could put together to combine different art forms under the guise of poetry."

The result is Woven Tongue: Experiments in Poetry, to be held at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 19, at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave. A $5 donation will be collected at the door, and the event is open to all ages. For more information, visit solarculture.org.

Czar says her event is experimental. "At a typical reading, it's usually full lights featuring a couple of poets with a lot of lengthy introductions and critical academic analysis. While I don't want to be condescending of that, I wanted to strip out some of that and get right to the reading. This is a theater piece with readings back to back. ... I'm trying to energize the way in which someone comes to hear poetry."

And that means poetry in unison with other art forms. "People can have access into poetry through watching movement, hearing music, seeing visual imagery and having these things combined."

The evening will be held in a "very intimate space" with dimmed lights, and people will walk in during a slide show of projected poetry and photographs by T.C. Tolbert. Carl Hanni (a Weekly contributor) will be spinning records to accompany the slide show.

To open the show, Czar will read from her manuscript Burn. She will "perform original poetry with a naked stage and mic. Burn is a collection of poetry that deals with the side (of ourselves) we don't want to expose in relationships with other people."

Czar's poetry explores the inner dynamic of associations with others and ourselves, resulting in thought-provoking pieces such as "Sheryl":

Sheryl called to say the sky fell
like a sticky sack all over her
all day she's been separating
sky from skin from dress
pulling it from her fingers
and stepping out into the field
to leap into the air
and throw off what remains

Maria Villa will continue the show by incorporating dance while reading a piece about her father. Wendy Burk and Eric Magrane will mix performance art and a PowerPoint presentation as they recite poetry. Jefferson Carter will read without accompaniment. Melissa Buckhiet will perform a modern-dance piece with video installation and recorded text. Andre Gavino, aka the FunKtional Adix, will combine technology and musical spoken word in his reading.

With such a diverse mixture of poets and performance art, the Woven Tongue title seems appropriate. "It took a long time to think of that," admits Czar. "I wanted something catchy, not cheesy. (We are) combining tongue with voice. ... As an artist, we are constantly using all of the things around us--our experiences and what we perceive. It goes into what makes art at the end."

Woven can also relate to the varying voices and types of poetry. "There are so many poets in this event. Each person has a different style, and they are woven all together to ... hopefully provide an expression for people that is engaging on an emotional level."

The second half of the show brings more music into the mix. Poet Ruby Jets collaborates with the band Golden Boots, including musicians Ryen Eggleston and Dimitri Manos. Hanni will read from his book Night Shift and will also back poet Julianna Spallholz with sound. The evening ends with poet Marianne Dissard accompanied by guitarist Naim Amor.

Czar says there isn't a particular theme in the poetry "other than the spirit of being heard," but says the evening will not include political or religious pieces. Czar wants to spread the message that "poetry can be cool, too."

Local artists have been responsive and eager to participate.

"That's what is neat about Tucson. So many artists are really willing to support one another. People have lent art and photography to the project. It reminds me why I love Tucson. It's a great place to be an artist."

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