Monday, February 14, 2011

Detroit comes to Cheyenne Feb. 26

M.L. Liebler and Peter Lewis 
Super Bowl XLV viewers were entranced by the Chrysler commercial featuring Eminem's music along with words and photos portraying Detroit's gritty nature. Detroiters have had to eat the shit sandwich the past couple decades. The results aren't so pretty. Empty factories, abandoned buildings, rampant crime, population decline, and so on. But the Chrysler ad portrayed the tough Detroit. Instead of downplaying the urban decline, it flaunted it. Deserted factories were juxtaposed with Diego Rivera's murals in the Detroit Art Museum. Snowy street scenes gave way to Eminem walking into the restored Fox Theatre to attend the performance of a gospel choir.

Detroit is a symbol of Americans at work. When all the auto companies were going full bore after World War II, Detroit was king. And then came the rise of Japanese automakers and knuckleheaded decisions by The Big Three and gubment. Plants were closed, jobs were sent overseas and Michigan kids had to forget about following in Dad's footsteps as a well-paid union worker with a future.

We loved that Detroit. It was the city that made the muscle cars of the sixties -- and provided all the hot machines that I watched racing around Daytona International Speedway. We loved those cars.

Detroit has a lively literary scene. One of its leaders is performance poet M.L. Liebler. He edited a recent book, "Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams," The "kicking out the jams" reference in the subtitle pays homage to the classic rock song by Detroit's MC5, "Kick Out the Jams." The book includes poetry and prose about the lives of working people, particularly those who labored in the Industrial Belt's factories. One of my rural West stories made the cut, "The Problem with Mrs. P." I had the pleasure of reading that piece in Detroit a few years ago. The story is set in Cheyenne but focuses on the plight of working people. By the way, one of Eminem's creations is also in the book. You may remember "Lose Yourself" from the movie "8 Mile." It's not about a Chrysler.
Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted -- one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? 
Other contributors to the anthology, winner of a 2010 Michigan Book Award, include Phil Levine, who writes poetry about his own years on the assembly line; Ed Sanders, one-time member of the Fugs and author of the best book about the Manson Family murders; L.A. poet and performer Wanda Coleman; Appalachian-born writer and nurse Jeanne Bryner of Ohio; and Detroit writer Lolita Hernandez, who worked for 21 years at the Cadillac plant.

Anthology editor M.L. Liebler, a Detroit author and performance poet, will join L.A. musician Peter Lewis one of the founding members of Moby Grape, for a performance at the Historic Atlas Theatre in downtown Cheyenne on Saturday, Feb. 26. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $5, $3 for students, military and seniors (including over-the-hill hippies).

On Sunday, Feb. 27, Peter and M.L. will conduct a free public workshop at the Laramie County Public Library from 2-4 p.m.

On Monday, Feb. 28, M.L. will serve as one of three judges for the 2011 Wyoming Poetry Out Loud competition. The competition begins at 7 p.m. at the Atlas Theatre. Peter will perform a short performance during intermission. This event is free and open to the public.

These events are all sponsored by the Wyoming Arts Council, the Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Here is some bio info on M.L. and Peter:

One of our judges for the Poetry Out Loud event will be M.L. Liebler, a mover and shaker in the Detroit poetry scene. He has written several books of poetry including the 2001 Finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize and was winner of The 2001 Wayne State University Board of Governors’ Award. He has read and worked with Ed Sanders, Diane di Prima, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary & William Burroughs.

In addition, Liebler has recorded his poetry with such musical legends as Al Kooper, Country Joe McDonald, Jorma Kaukonen, Mike Watt, The Magic Poetry Band and many others. Liebler also edited the recently released anthology, "Working Words," from Coffee House Press.

M.L. has been to Wyoming before, serving as one of the judges for the Wyoming Arts Council's FY 2002 creative writing fellowships and as a presenter at one of the last ARTSPEAK conferences, held in Jackson in the fall of 2001. As director of the Detroit YMCA Writer's Voice, he came to Cheyenne in 2002-2003 at the request of the YMCA to conduct poetry and music presentations and workshops with Woodstock legend Country Joe MacDonald.

Peter Lewis is a founding member of the 1960s band Moby Grape. Their debut album was released in 1967, and it is still to this day one of the most revered rock albums of all times according to Rolling Stone magazine and other cultural critics. The band's energetic and hyper-exciting combination of folk, blues, and country was a unique sound to rock & roll. It was a new kind of American roots music but the band's career never took off the way it should have, due to personal tragedies. It took Peter Lewis a long time to shake off the troubled legacy of his band and begin to make his mark again with a stellar singer/songwriting recording career. Don’t miss out on the chance to see this living legend perform.

M.L. and Peter perform together. These two artists take their audience on a historical, cultural & literary journey from poetry to blues, folk and rock up to original contemporary compositions of both poetry and music. Together they blend words & music with beautiful harmonies, memories and the art of spoken word.

FMI and tix at Wyoming Arts Council and 307-777-7742.

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