REVIEW of SHORE: STORY (A Curated Reading) Oct 14, 2015
by Natasha Marin
SHORE: A Curated Reading
Catalyst Artistic Director: Emily Johnson
Emily begins with gratitude to the Duwamish, Muckleshoot, and Hugo House for co-creating the event with her. Then she mentions how nice it is to be back in Seattle after 10 years away and introduces the first reader.
Next up—the pure antithesis of apology—Quenton Baker, begins in the space that the black body occupies in this country. His poem, Dialectic, opens with a quote by Aime Cesaire and spirals out into a Banyan tree of sonic branches knotted with leafy lines like:
“knuckles plucked and set on display in department stores”
“the more you cut the less human I must be”
“we are human only if I see myself in you”
“the sun warms like whiskey and freedom in the mouth”
“I, black expectation de-niggerized, banished”
“I, criminal, locked in place”
“I, hyphenated American, locked in place”
“I, Godzilla, to white women”
“I, biological, locked in place”
“I deserve the shackles, the whip … solitary”
In fine form, Baker’s voice eradicates doubt and replaces it with a definitive presence.
Emily introduces Roger Fernandes with a series of shared memories—the last of him teaching her how to make paint from salmon eggs. Roger introduces himself as one of “the strong people” who live along the Elwha River. He explains that although he isn’t from a local tribe, he “wanted to learn from the people who were here before,” preparing the crowd for his stories by reminding the audience that it is his job to tell the story, but not to derive meaning from the story. In the first story, How Nettle Saved the People, Fernandes recalls the fears of the first people who were subject to attack by rival Northern clans without warning. In the story, the Stinging Nettle speaks through vivid dreams to the messenger, who in turn relays the plant’s messages to the people.
The Stinging Nettle’s first instruction is to make tea and recite the following: “I will be strong for my people, my ancestors, and those to come.” The story ends with the people in one line, shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the water and those who might attack them, without fear and singing in one voice.
Juliet Waller Pruzan
“Lessons in Forgiveness” is a prose piece which is exquisitely read as though autobiographical. Pruzan’s story leaves the audience awash in smiles with lines like, “We cry together until we are each the most ugly.”
Hugo House Scribes
(Sophia, Asher, Izzy, and Ayesha)
A woman with a headscarf begins to read from the audience: “I remember why right angles are special,” and a choral poem in 4 voices begins to unfold.
“I had forgotten to water the plants so many times but they still have green leaves.”
I have forgotten my middle school Goth phase.”
“I have forgotten the language I spoke first.”
Brianna’s offering, takes the form of a song with a poem embedded inside of it called “I’m Missing You.” Her voice is so vulnerable—it is in itself a poem as she begins—her entire being a brave, raw, elbowed moment. She interrupts her own gravitas with a smile as she breaks into her poem, employing a more commanding voice. Once offstage, she is hugged immediately by Seattle’s beloved Fern Renville.
SHORE Catalyst, and Artistic Director, Emily Johnson follows without introduction with a piece that begins, “Because my grandma was crying the story was done.” The retelling is proud, earned somehow, and made up of moments that taste like candy and dried fish. Her mastery of storytelling is exemplary, and not outdone. “I come from a family of criers,” she says. Her story ends with the word, “begin.”
Margot Kahn shares “A Not Forgotten Country”—a piece full of nostalgia, warm towels, Cleveland, Poland, grandmothers, and meals that steam windows. Then Hitler interrupts the reminiscence and Cuba takes the stowaways.
“They had enough with them to live comfortably,” she says, and the story becomes one of privilege, but not just privilege because people are being shot in the street. Blonde and blue-eyed, cousin Paul’s daughter is still shot in the back, a tragedy made moreso by this rendering. Others walk barefoot from Siberia to Poland. Further descriptions of food, although mouth-watering, invoke privilege again. The audience pivots between guttural Gs of privilege and tragedy as the piece closes with the rough mercy of a senile grandmother trapped in younger, happier days: “If there is any grace in this maddening sadness of neurological demise …”
Keith Wolftail Foot
Foot begins his reading out of breath, but seems calm for someone clearly nervous in front of an audience. He reads a poem he wrote about a cupcake in high school, it begins, “Dear Cupcake, I’m sorry for what I’ve done to you,” and the crowd blossoms with laughter.
“I am just not tasting what everyone else tastes,” leads to analysis of what is true and what is false. The philosophical war waged between all that is sugar and real and all that is chemical and false, and the speaker’s positionality between both. It ends, like an arrow into the beyond with the line: “Isn’t heaven where all the dead go?”
NATASHA MARIN is a local writer, artist, and community organizer. By day she is the Community Outreach Coordinator for Resource Media, a non-profit PR Firm, and after work she tears holes in the space-time continuum to run an international experiment called Miko Kuro’s Midnight Tea while single-mothering two awesome kiddos. Follow her on Twitter @mikokuro.