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Posted by : cj on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 11:40 AM
Chicago Poetry Archives: Click Headlines THREEBIES AT TEEPEE NO TRAVESTY
THE THREE DANS, Reviewed By C. J. Laity

Effie Mihopoulos. On Saturday, February 9, long-time Chicago poetry pioneer Effie Mihopoulos presented a reading titled "The Three Dans" at a gallery called Karim Silva Studio, at 410 N. Oakley. The thing about this gallery is that if you didn't know it was there you wouldn't have had a hope in hell of stumbling onto it. In the middle of nowhere, there's an unmarked door which leads to a tall dark staircase which leads to a long empty hallway, at the end of which, if you happen to find the door to the left and open it--wow--an art gallery. For Effie's event the space was filled with teepees of all sizes, decorated with a variety of patterns in the grand tradition of the Chicago cows. It's in character for Effie to bring poetry to such a place, as she has made her mark opening the doors to strange and unique venues throughout Chicagoland. A group of usual suspects came out to enjoy her features: namely, Dan Godston (who couldn't remember the title of his own self-published chapbook and who, of course, had to leave early to make another gig in Pilsen), Dan Cleary (who, besides contributing his poetry, also painted a wonderful teepee for the show), and Dan Pearson (who went to college with Effie and who writes film revews), in that order.

Dan Godston. Even though Effie compared Dan Godston to Jack Kerouac when she introduced him, I was not as impressed with this feature's performance. Maybe it was the fact that he wasn't charging seven bucks at the door, but I've seen Godston with more energy schmoozing at a Poetry Center party (he even did his "Tongue" twister poem with his hand in his pocket). Plus, before he went on, a toffee-nosed Godston dropped the lining of his coat, waiting for me to pick it up for him (humph), and then he said "if" I ever publish anything, he'd like to see it. Well (clear throat), I'm publishing this. I'll tell you what really grated my cheese: Godston used the word "undulation" within the first twenty seconds of his set (ouch). Also, his work was sometimes so abstract (with lines such as "a pencil won't stop the downpour" or "if a shoe could cry it would be a train") that it once or twice reached the point of insignificance. But he's got a great voice and he can't wait to blow his horn; and in all honesty, when he does, his poetry comes alive. The beat of his voice then breathes life into his otherwise in-need-of-a-rewrite work. However, Godston also has the unfortunate habit of lowering his voice at the very end of his poems, making it hard to understand the final few words. Godston has some wonderful, young energy, as well as budding talent. He has a keen appreciation for the history of the craft, and shows it by once in a while reading the work of other poets. But he should remember he's Godston, not God's son. Arrogance has never helped any poet get anywhere except laughed at.

Dan Cleary. During his poetry set, Daniel Cleary shared his wisdom with poems which captured moments in time using clear, not too fancy language. His visions were very poignant, such as his attempt to save a "princess floating on the air of indecision." His art is one of subtlety delivered with a special grace. Within the subtleties are wonderful vantage points creating striking images in the mind's eye, such as how he turns "it upside down" in his poem about youth, "The Tree Climbers." Even though his Chicago jazz poem was accompanied by the fingersnapping of a white boy, the awesome language was filled with "rumbling traffic slow and fleet." Cleary is one of the few poets I know who can effectively pull off rhyme schemes without sounding stupid. He also is the master of the short, concise poem, as in the one about how a car alarm makes him feel like using a sledgehammer. It was a delight to hear some of the classics from his book, The Green Ribbon. But let's not just ignore the fact that Cleary stutters his esses and effs when he reads, leaving us in suspense before he shows us a "solitary streetlamp." Dan Cleary has the ability to turn his way of speaking into a feat of magic, as he stands poised, reading from the page; as if waiting for "one tiny bit of sense" we sit on the edge of our seat as he struggles through--then suddenly: "in the air we felt a stirring change of mood." And the hint of any stutter vanishes as his singing voice appears from his heart straight out of his wide open mouth.

Dan Pearson. Dan Pearson, getting off to an awkward start (as Effie interrupted him as her friends showed up), and reading from a manilla envelope, was as totally whacky as his eyebrows, like a "penguin of death." Pearson has a smell for humor. His witty lines were well timed and nonsensical, at times spawning laughter, also at times missing the mark, as in "Ten Rules For The Novice Writer" (most of them having to do with a duck). Just when I thought I knew what the hell he was talking about, he threw in a live grenade. His poetry even has its own imaginary venue, "The Borderline Psychotic Café," where the "prices on the menu change six times before desert." And despite Cleary yammering away in the background and Godston taking off before Pearson's set began (don't the three Dans like each other?) and a beeping cell phone, Pearson's epic poem, which included the titles of every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever made, was a true gem, prompting laughter from even those at a distance, and leaving us "in suspense" as he searched for the lost second page to it, allowing a chance for the audience to heckle in delight, making his set all the more intimate. Dan Pearson's poetry set was fun.

After that, well, the booze got cracked open and a giant crowd partied until who knows what time. And I found out what was behind that big, sliding iron door. You want to know what it was? I bet you do. I'll never tell. I'm no gossip you know.

--C. J. Laity

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