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A&E: Stanza by your men

June 18, 2007

This week: A trio of Indiana poets, a virtual artist at Big Car and the first edition of "Lou Empties the Notebook."

From June 24-27, the nation's Poets Laureate (now there's an awkward plural) will descend on Indy. And while this convention may not be as attention-getting as GenCon, it did inspire me to take a look at recent books by a trio of less-celebrated Indiana poets.

Purdue's Donald Platt calls one of his poems "Snapshot," but that title could apply to any of the sharply observed pieces in "My Father Says Grace" (University of Arkansas Press). "A spot on the lungs," begins one, "and a new country opens before you." I dare you to stop reading after that. Less effective is "A World Without End" (River City Publishing) from the University of Southern Indiana's Matthew G r a h a m , which too often traffics in overly familiar images (items found at a rummage sale, baseball cards "clothespinned to bicycle spokes," etc.). Not scheduled for release until August, "To Taste the Water"

(Mid-List Press) comes from the mind and heart of Norman Minnick, Butler University Visiting Writers Series Coordinator. While some of the poems seem like afterthoughts to such specific titles as "It Wasn't Until I Reached the Age My Father Was When He Took Me To See the Ocean That I Realized It Had Been His First Time Too " the volume beautiful- ly captures a special kind of stillness, whether the narrator is stacking dishes or trying to figure out what to do with his hands at a funeral. There's even a silence to his narrator's post-storm assessment in "The Great Wind" that "took the seasons, the war, yesterday and tomorrow." Powerful stuff, worth lingering over.

Prepare for your head to spin as I try to explain this: Massachusetts-based artist Jeffrey Lipsky created artist Filthy Fluno in the virtual universe of Second Life, an online world where people-you, me or, more likely, your IT guy-can live, work, and do whatever it is that people do, only on a computer screen. When Fountain Square's Big Car Gallery opened "The Adventures of Filthy Fluno," a show of Lipsky's real-life work, a simultaneous opening was happening at a virtual Big Car at Second Life.

I missed the opening (both in the real and pretend worlds). But I did stop by on a quiet afternoon and time alone with the charcoaland-pastel pieces showed an artist who, at his strongest, had a hint of art pioneer Wassily Kandinsky. "Abstract narratives," Lipsky calls them, and in one of his subtler pieces, "Landscape 1," he guides us toward an open, but hopeful, unknown. The effect is mitigated in other work by trite fear-and-loathing imagery (oooh, a scary wolfen beast!). Still, Lipsky proves himself a flesh-andblood artist-towatch. And credit belongs to Big Car for a show that raises art issues well worth discussing.

Finally, a quick look at some wish-youwere-there recent arts experiences:

Youthful dynamo D. Scott Robinson, who has made Buck Creek Players the local home for serious new musicals, ably tackled (through June 17th) "Parade," the Tony-winner about the Mary Phagan murder case. Claire Wilcher, as the accused's wife, should have her photo posted on community theater "most wanted" lists for her goosebumpinducing solo "You Don't Know This Man."

Joshua Bell and Mario Venzago brought such fiery physicality to the Brahms violin concerto on June 7th that bow and baton nearly turned into clashing swords. Exciting stuff-and a great intro to the ISO afternoon "coffee concerts," where you lose one piece from the evening show but gain complimentary coffee and pastries.

It's tough to applaud when carrying a plate of Persian lamb chops, so I'll clap now for Tim Brickley and his big band's June 8 Zoobilation set. Their takes on "Fly Me to the Moon" and other standards were as appetizing as the Jazz Kitchen's paella.
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