Advertisement

STAGE REVIEWS : Words Aren't the Whole Story to Poet Bly

December 11, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

One way to get more poetry into the theater is to have more poets read in the theater. The Los Angeles Theatre Center's Alan Mandell brings a new poet to town every couple of months. Monday night it was Minnesota's Robert Bly.

He is not one of those head-in-the-book readers. He sits down, takes off his shoes, tunes up his bouzouki and goes to work. If a line needs explication, he'll throw in a side comment, incorporating it into the rhythm of the piece. If the audience seems to need another crack at the poem, he'll repeat it.

His poems treat time and timelessness, neither vaguely. The image is always sharp, even when the tangent it takes him on wouldn't occur to everybody. He shows you a real potato, eyes and all, before doing a number on it.

Bly's poems don't waste words. On the page, in fact, they sometimes seem to hoard their meanings. The reader has to dig, as after an evasive potato.

In person, Bly fills out his words. The listener sees how they are meant to go musically and also gets a sense of Bly's personal journey as a man, a journey for which the words are merely markers--significant ones, but not the whole story.

That was the first job of the poet in the old days, to sing of journeys and wars. Bly's bouzouki connects somewhere with Homer's lyre. The crowd listened hard, laughed a good bit (Bly has that gift too) and took the song home.

Next on the LATC's poetry series: Adrienne Rich, on Jan. 25. Tickets: $7.50. (213) 627-5999.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|