Poetry Reading and Singing Performed at the Ruskin

Isiah Reyes

Poetry readings and poetry singing were enjoyed by a full house at the Ruskin Art Club, uniting an unprecedented alliance between music and literature in the Red Hen Press reading series.

The reading featured Bart Edelman, professor of English at GCC and editor of the literary journal Eclipse, and Brandon Schrand, coordinator of the MFA Program in creative writing at the University of Idaho.

In addition to poetry readings, Kate Gale, managing editor of Red Hen Press and editor of the Los Angeles Review, invited a soprano and pianist to sing selected readings by American composers.

Lori Ann Fuller, soprano, and Victoria Kirsch, pianist, performed poems by Valerie Saalbach, Christina Whitten Thomas and Lori Laitman.

Fuller is not a newcomer when it comes to delivering vocals to her selected poems. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Stetson University (DeLand, Fla.) and a master’s degree in music from DePaul University (Chicago, Ill.).

“I’ve been singing since I was a kid,” Fuller said. “Like performing in musical theaters and in shows . I’ve been singing at the Los Angeles Opera professionally for about 10 years. I play characters on a stage in full costume.”

Fuller has won awards in the Bel Canto Competition in Chicago and was the recipient of the 2000 Lynne Harvey Award through the Chicago Musicians Club for Women.

Edelman, who read poetry for the second time at the Ruskin, mentioned his appreciation for the music at the poetry reading.

“I like the idea of joining music and poetry,” Edelman said. “I thought that was an intriguing part of the program.”

Kirsch, an L.A. native, said she has been playing piano since she was young but that it took her awhile to discover working with singers. She spoke of how the idea of uniting music with poetry to the Red Hen Press series began.

“She [Gale] and I both sit on the American Composers Forum Los Angeles Board,” Kirsch said. “She’s a librettist, she writes scripts for operas as well as a poet and a writer.

“She asked me at some point, even though I’m not a composer, to join the board . and we started talking about the idea of doing this kind of event,” Kirsch said. “And because the Ruskin has this piano, we don’t have to bring one in or rent it, and they keep it in pretty good shape.”

Kirsch serves as music director-pianist of both the Los Angeles-based Operetta Foundation, which presents staged concerts of rare operetta, and Opera Arts, which presents opera-related events in the Palm Springs region.

She has also served as an official pianist for the Operalia Competition in 2000 and 2004 and the Metropolitan Opera’s National Council Auditions in Los Angeles from 1999 to 2003.

“I love poetry so much and the spoken word, that the idea of the poetry reading being able to be with music is really interesting to me,” Kirsch said. “This is the first time we’ve done something like this.”

As for poetry readings, Schrand began by reading an excerpt from his book entitled Works Cited. It was published in the journal. He described the concept behind .

“It occurred to me one day as I was walking to class getting ready to teach, what if we wrote an essay using the works cited format?” Schrand said.

He did in fact do that and is currently working on a book using the works cited format throughout its entirety.

Schrand is the author of “The Enders Hotel: A Memoir,” which was the 2007 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize winner and a 2008 Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

He has won the Pushcart Prize, two Pushcart Prize mentions and the title piece from his memoir was a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2007.

Edelman, who followed afterwards, read his poems which consisted of “Passages,” “Courtship,” “The Girl You Love to Hate,” “Day of the Locus,” “Breakdown,” “The Happiest Man Alive,” “Fang and Sons,” “The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” and “The Last Mojito.”
Edelman has been editor of the literary journal Eclipse since its commencement in 1990. After 10 years of publication, it had grown considerably.

“In 2000, we became a national journal,” Edelman said. “Now we have a combination of student writers and writers from all over the world. It’s great to have students published side by side with writers who have won prestigious awards.

“I’m glad that in a literary way, we certainly put Glendale College on the map,” Edelman said.

He is currently working on a new manuscript which is focused on geography.

“Hopefully, I’m starting to work on this sixth book and I know that it’s going to deal with the geography of place in the physical sense and in the spiritual sense,” Edelman said.

“Where we are, where we’ve been, and where we think we’re going. It has an east, west, north and south aspect. Where we locate ourselves in our lives.”

Edelman said it will probably take another two years for it to be completed. His previous works include “Crossing the Hackensack” (1993), “Under Damaris’ Dress” (1996), “The Alphabet of Love” (1999), “The Gentle Man” (2001) and “The Last Mojito” (2005).

Edelman has had three of his five poetry collections published by Red Hen Press. He has seen the small publication grow since it began in 1994.

“When I started with them, I imagine they had less than 10 books,” Edelman said. “They have published my last three books and they will probably do the next book as well.”

Red Hen has now published over 190 books in its 15 years.

Gale described how the Red Hen first began and discussed its current state.

“Red Hen Press has gone from a two person operation to a staff of six, and is a national presence and reputation,” Gale said. “We have a publication list of 22 titles a year, and four reading series in Los Angeles, with three in New York.”

Edelman said, “They are one of the most prestigious independent publishers of fiction and poetry in the United States.”

Gale, who taught at GCC from 1990 to 1993, has written the libretto (the text to a song or opera) for Rio de Sangre, which is in Spanish and composed by Don Davis, who wrote the music for the Matrix movies.

She has also written three other librettos which include: Paradise Lost, with Ursula LeGuin and composed by Stephen Andrew Taylor; Kindred, adapted from the novel by Octavia Butler composed by Billy Childs and Inner Circle, adapted from the novel by T. C. Boyle composed by Daniel Felsenfeld.
The Ruskin Art Club, founded in 1888, is Los Angeles’ oldest cultural association. Its 1922 clubhouse was declared a Los Angeles Historical Monument in 1997.

Red Hen and the Ruskin have been working together for five years.

The next Red Hen Press reading at the Ruskin will be held on June 14 at 2 p.m. It will feature Douglas Kearney, who had his first full-length collection “Fear, Some” (2006) published by Red Hen Press, and Summer Wood, who will be reading from the resulting novel-in-progress.
The Ruskin Art Club is located on 800 S. Plymouth Blvd., Los Angeles.

For more information, call (310) 669-2369 or (818) 831-0649. General admission is $10 and $5 for student and seniors. Seating is limited and on a first-come basis.