By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday January 28, 2009
Two unusual events, a musical and poetic tribute to the memory of one
influential local poet, and the joint reading of two others, take
place in Berkeley this week.
The Pat Parker All-Star Memorial Tribute will be at La Peña Cultural
Center, at 7 p.m. Sunday, with poets, musicians and singers honoring
the memory of the activist poet and benefiting her daughter. Parker,
who was involved with black, women's and lesbian issues, died of
breast cancer 20 years ago.
The second event, Lebanese-American poet, essayist, visual artistand
UC Berkeley alumnaEtel Adnan, and poet and teacher Kathleen Fraser,
will be at Moe's Books at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Performing in the annual Pat Parker Tribute will be singer Linda
Tillery, pianist Mary Watkins and poet Judy Grahnall Parker
collaboratorsjoined by poets Ginny Lim and Leslie Simon,
singer-guitarist Blackberri, singer-songwriters Melanie DeMore and
Kayiah Marin (also a poet), pianist-vocalist Anna Maria Flechro,
Diosa Mamacoatl and members of Avotcja and Modupue, Avotcja (poet, percus-
sionist), Sandi Poindexter (violinist), Dee Spencer (pianist) and
Matu Feliciano (percussionist). Proceeds of the tribute will benefit
"If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere," Pat
Parker wrote in Movement in Black, "and not have to say to one of
them, 'No, you stay home tonight, you won't be welcome,' because I'm
going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I'm
going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are
anti-homosexual, or thousands of situations where something of what I
am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can
come along, we would have what I would call a revolution."
Born in Houston in 1944, Pat Parker came to Oakland in the 1970s.
From 1978-87, she was medical coordinator of the Oakland Feminist
Women's Health Center, which went from a single clinic to six
locations while she held that post. Parker was involved early on with
the Black Panther Party and the Black Women's Revolutionary Council
and participated in the formation of the Women's Press Collective.
She was an activist locally and nationally on Civil Rights, as an
Anti-Vietnam protester, on gay and lesbian issues, as well as for
women's health issues, especially those around domestic and sexual violence.
Parker's poetry has been described as narrative, often employing
call-and-response from "working class and black [oral] traditions,"
often using simple (and frank) language, and saturated with humor.
Her celebrated readings began in 1963, during her marriage to
playwright Ed Bullins. In 1968, she joined forces with poet Judy
Grahn, reading at women's bookstores and bars, coffeehouses and
festivals, as well as in recordings.
Parker produced five published collections of poetry, including
Womanslaughter (written after the poet's elder sister was killed by
her husband) and Jonestown and Other Madness, published before
Parker's death from breast cancer in 1989, ending with poems like
"Maybe I Should've Been a Teacher": "maybe/the next person/who
asks/'Have you/written anything new?'/just might get hit."
Etel Adnan, of Syrian Muslim and Christian Greek parents, came to UC
Berkeley from Beirut in 1955, later attending Harvard as a graduate
student, then taught philosophy at Dominican College in San Rafael
from 1958 to 1972. Her much-translated, widely taught novel, Sitt
Marie-Rose, takes place during the Lebanese Civil War.
Poems of hers have been set to music by Henry Threadgill, Annea
Lockwood, Gavin Bryars, Tania Leon and Zad Multaka. Currently, she
lives in Sausalito and in Paris.
At her Moe's reading, Adnan will read from her latest book, Seasons
(Post-Apollo, 2008). "It's a series of small paragraphs, between
prose and poetry, focused not only on seasons, but how they affect
our minds. I'm eager to find how the mind is in contact with the
outside world, through phenomena, events ... As water affects fish,
the seasons affect uswe swim in them. Seasons is a mixture of
description and philosophy, a blend of both."
Kathleen Fraser has 16 books of poetry, including Witness, with mixed
media drawings by Nancy Tokar Miller (Chax Press, 2007). She's also
collaborated on books with artists Sam Francis, Mary Ann Hayden and
David Marshall. Her collected essays, Translating the Unspeakable:
Poetry and the Innovative Necessity was published by the University
of Alabama in 2000.
Etel Adnan said of Fraser, "She is a poet who has done a lot for
poetry, both through her work when she was director of the Poetry
Center at San Francisco State, and as a teacher. Among her students
are many well-known poets today, who always refer to her as their
teacher. Her poetry's very personal, going off in tangents of her
own. It's very refreshing writing."
3105 Shattuck Ave. 849-2568. $10-20 sliding scale, tickets available
online at www.lapena.org, at the La Peña box office Wednesday through
Saturday from 1-6 p.m., or half an hour before showtime.
2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. moesbooks.com. Admission free.