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Get ready for 'Infringement'


Reverlers enjoy the 2007 Infringement Festival on College Street in Allentown. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News).

Attention, ye underexposed legions of Buffalo actors, musicians, writers and artists of every stripe and denomination: the Buffalo Infringement Festival is seeking submissions for its 2009 incarnation. The festival, which features a massive variety of performances centered in and around Allentown, runs from July 23 to Aug. 2.

Check out our coverage of last year's fest.

--Colin Dabkowski

Robert Coover on narrative art (at AKAG tonight)

Long before anyone coined the phrase "flash fiction," a generation of American fiction writers had essentially revolutionized the short story form, foreshortening its narrative arc and introducing elements previously associated with lyric poetry, film, and the visual and conceptual arts.
Beginning in the late 1950's and 1960's, writers like John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Robert CooverGuy Davenport and Grace Paley made the story form "self-reflexive"--i.e., conspicuously aware of its own art of telling and capable of shifting from (in linguistic terms) from the "object language" to a "meta-language" for the purposes of self-commentary.  These writers did not invent self-reflexiveness--you can find traces of it in myth, folk narratives, parable and even the origins of the short story in Boccaccio and Chaucer--but they displaced it from a narrative "frame" to the essence of what storytelling (or "fabulation")  was all about.

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Who is Sylvia?

SylviaI cannot remember the soprano Sylvia McNair ever paying a visit to Buffalo. That is one reason why this Saturday's Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert, devoted to the music of Harold Arlen, is something to anticipate.

If you like, listen to the soul McNair puts into Harold Arlen's "The Morning After," accompanied by Andre Previn in jazz pianist mode. What an adult song this is, for the era. "If I didn't have to face the morning after/If I could only but erase the day in store..." McNair sounds so blue, so desolate.

"How could you love me and leave me to get through/The morning after the night with you." I wonder if she will sing this song at Kleinhans Music Hall on Saturday. We can hope!

Joining McNair on this interesting concert is the ball of energy that is pianist Kevin Cole, whom we have heard twice at Artpark -- once last summer, once the summer of 2007.

Here is Kevin Cole in an unusual setting. The piano is really funky, but you can catch his influences, including stride pianists like James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith.

Saturday should be an intriguing evening. For info, call 885-5000.

--Mary Kunz Goldman

Poet Tracy K. Smith on the duende at Medaille

"We read poems because they change us, and our reasons for writing them hover around that same fact," writes poet and Princeton University based scholar Tracy K. Smith in her essay "Survival in Two Worlds at Once: Federico Garcia Lorca and Duende."  Smith, one of the leading voices in a new generation of African-American women poets, won the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize for her book, The Body's Question (Graywolf Press 2003).  Her second collection of poems, Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007) won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets.  This Thursday, March 26th at 7 p.m., she visits Buffalo's Medaille College to appear in The Write Thing Reading Series in The Library at Huber Hall.
The Spanish poet Lorca occupies a special place in Smith's pantheon for naming his creative spirit the duende—daemon, hobgoblin, mischief maker, guardian of "the mystery, the roots fastened in the mire that we all know and all ignore."   In contrast to transcendent notions of inspiration, the duende "sleeps deep within the poet, and asks to be awakened and wrestled, often at great cost," she writes. 

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'Little Red Riding Hood' goes CGI

People have been twit-blogging this all over the interscape (to borrow a phrase from "The Daily Show") for a while now, so I figured I'd throw ArtsBeat's hat into the ring too. It's an exceedingly clever computer animation and reinterpetation of the Brothers Grimm classic "Little Red Riding Hood" produced by Tomas Nilssons:

--Colin Dabkowski

Albright-Knox acquisition draws attention


Tyler Green writes about the above painting, a piece by Frederick Hammersley recently acquired by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, on his blog Modern Art Notes. Check it out.

--Colin Dabkowski

(Photo from

'West Side Story' reception lukewarm

Theater West Side Story 

The show's up, the reviews are out and the reaction is, well, tepid. Not that any of this will prevent Arthur Laurents' revival of the classic "West Side Story," for which he wrote the original book, from being the hot ticket on Broadway for the foreseeable future. Laurents, who is as feisty as ever at 91, has as promised amped up the violence and (with the help of "In the Heights" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda) translated some of the Puerto Rican characters' lyrics into Spanish. But his approach doesn't work for many of the critics.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times appreciates the fresh look but bemoans what he sees as a too-light treatment of the musical's implicitly dark nature:

...the show seems haloed in a softening mist of compassion, turning its sidewalk Romeo and Juliet — and most of its young characters — into imperiled babes in the woods. And as designed by James Youmans, the mean streets of Manhattan exude a rainbow lyricism, even in inky darkness. David C. Woolard’s costumes, as Peter Marks previously observed in The Washington Post, bring to mind the color-coordinated peppiness of Gap ads. Mr. Laurents has exchanged insolence for innocence and, as with most such bargains, there are dividends and losses.

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Britney's 'If You Seek Amy' has a long lineage

I ran across this fascinating story on Slate today by Jesse Sheidlower, an editor-at-large of the "Oxford English Dictionary," about the dirty-minded literary and dramatic predecessors to Britney Spears. This will probably be the only time you'll read the singer's name in the same headline as Shakespeare and James Joyce.

Spears' latest music video, for a song called "If You Seek Amy," is a blatant attempt to squeeze a suggestive four-letter word into crassness-averse mainstream media outlets. Though some of them, apparently, have reservations about playing it.

Spears, Sheidlower tells us, is hardly the first to have thought of such a play on words. James Joyce, he writes, used the same device in "Ulysses" to embed the four-letter word in question and an even more offensive word, to boot. And even before Joyce, Shakespeare used a bit of dialog in "Twelfth Night" to suggest some similarly undignified language. Kudos to Sheidlower for his thorough research on the topic.

Just to get a sense of what Britney's talking about, take a glimpse at the video in question:

What's your take?

--Colin Dabkowski

Berrigan to read at Small Press Poetry Fest & Book Fair

Let's say your alma mater didn't qualify for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, and the team you drew in your office pool has already gone down to ignominious defeat.  What chance have you to participate in this "March Madness" the rest of the country seems overtaken by?
If you're book lover in Buffalo this week-end, you may not even miss the bracket-busting going on elsewhere. At the third annual Buffalo Small Press Poetry Fest & Book Fair you can revel instead in the heady mix of art and commerce the Buffalo area literary scene has long been known for. 
The two day event kicks off  Friday night at 7 Sugar City on 19 Wadsworth Street in Allentown with an evening long marathon reading (with frequent breaks for refreshments and audience rotation) featuring poets representing 10 prominent small presses from communities as far away as Detroit (Lil' Norton) and Chicago (House Press) to the west, Albany (Flim Forum Press), Hartford and New York City to the east, and Toronto (Bookthug) to the north.  Representing Buffalo area small presses will be authors from Little Scratch Pad Press, a particularly strong contingent from BlazeVox Books, Punch Press, and Broke Magazine.  

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Over the top


Violinist William Hagen, one of the young musicians who performed Sunday at Kleinhans Music Hall on the national radio show "From the Top," took his musical message to the schools on Monday. Here is a picture of Hagen at Union East Elementary in Cheektowaga.

Hagen hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. He has participated in master classes led by Pinchas Zukerman and Joseph Silverstein.  His Web site reports that Will, as he is called, plays on a 1665 Amati violin on loan from the Mandell Collection of Southern California.

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