fire sound and the prologue to the inevitable | by Soham Patel

A reading with Stephanie Barber and Xav Leplae at Woodland Pattern, September 21, 2014

Franklin and I started volunteering at Woodland Pattern today. And this is Ngoho’s fourth day here. Mike showed us the ropes, as they say. We got a tour of the layout of the store, learned how to sell books, how to find them in the stock and we talked: about our projects, about performance, about football and babies. Then everyone started to enter for the event: A reading sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Film Department. I remember being impressed by everyone’s dress, hair, and shoes. This was a fashionable bunch. Well groomed and ready to hear Stephanie Barber and Xav Leplae who both, too, I thought had great shoes.

Last night, Barber and Leplae patroned a pub in Riverwest, the one across the street from the bubbler, you know it?, and they had planned to stay up all night collaborating work for today’s performance. They made it to 3 a.m. and fell asleep. There was a livelier buzz in the bookstore now that everyone else had arrived. Some were sleep deprived and holding a collaborative energy push, and all these people, so well groomed and with their nice shoes, they all seemed like old fans ready for the sharing to start. I had no idea what was about to happen. And now I, too am a fan.

Barber and Leplae read from their individual work and then moved to share the collaborative piece with their fans that included audience participation. At one point I noticed two men on different sides of the room, both of their whole bodies were shaking because they were laughing so hard while also trying hard to remain quiet. Leplae shared his notes/thoughts. Imagine hearing a more heady version of a Mitch Hedburg set. Spouting thought snippets like this in a conversational rhythm: “Revolution equals every benefits even the assholes.”  “Song Title: Brown Gravy. CD Title: Broken Hearted Feelings That Don’t Make Sense.” “Naomi said instead of being buried or cremated when I die I want to be fossilized” “Fate is the raw material from which we sculpt our lives.” Or at least that’s what I thought I heard him saying.

Barber read from a series of very tiny vignettes: so romantic, so muscled, and so tender and full of slithering bodies I wanted to be under. A vignette likening sex thrush to a whale’s blowhole with sweetly angled surprised. And the pieces brimmed with sound images like “Mr. Horton playing music at the beginning of English class.” which for me let these vignettes skirt nostalgia in a most important and necessary way. They reminded me somehow of Stephanie Hopkin’s sharp and full of care column “Love Notes” back east at the Hamlet Hub.

Then everyone got up to stretch while Barber and Leplae had their fans disperse ten pages of writing I stapled for them back when the buzz first flew in to Woodland Pattern. Barber and Leplae instructed the room to read together from the page. It began to sound like church in the room. Everyone was reading together after being told to do so at first in unison, but then by the 30th or so selection the sound a mumbled yet committed rendering of what they saw on the page. Remember those two gyrating men? Each of them, so into it, at different times tried to read on before their instructed time and this subtle sound leak speaks to the inevitable energy of that fandom and buzz I witnessed Barber and Leplae bring into the room. The collaborative poem ended in a high chant, Barber’s repetition of the word fire getting louder and louder while everyone else was reading something else. The whole reading lasted about 30 minutes. The last word instructed the crowd to laugh. And then everyone clapped.


Soham Patel‘s chapbook and nevermind the storm came out in 2013 from Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs.

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