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McNiece and Yevtushenko Tour
Russia a poet is more than a poet.”
- - YevgenyYevtushenko
"As an American poet accustomed to meager readership and small audiences for public readings, I traveled to Russia with Yevgeny Yevtushenko in July of 2001 anticipating, if not the legendary soccer-stadium size crowds of the “thaw,” at least a deeper and more widespread appreciation for poetry by everyday people. Though the flame of poetry has been somewhat dampened by the advent of consumer/pop culture, the average Russian still has a connection to poetry that can only be called soulful. The tour proved to be an arduous – the Russian infrastructure is slowly crumbling – but wondrous journey that revealed how pervasively poetry imbues the national character. After all, for nearly a century the poets were, in the face of the official social realist truth, speaking the simple human truths – the truth between the lines. For the people that truth was as sustaining as good brown bread. One can live by it. They have not forgotten that.
occasion of our tour was Yevtushenko’s annual birthday performance at
the Moscow Polytech and the opening of the Poet’s House, a museum in
his childhood home at the Siberian crossroads of Zima Junction.
Our cast included a international line-up of poets, critics, and
Yevtushenkologists representing Poland, France, Nicaragua, the United
States and the whole of Russia from St. Petersburg to Kamchatka.
Over the course of two weeks I participated in a dozen readings, four tv/radio
interviews and a panel discussion, “Poetry in the 21st Century.”
The one constant on the trip can be summed up by Gogol’s quote from
the last century, ‘the two problems with Russia are the roads and the
food.” That being said, the
hospitality and poetic intelligence
of the people more than made up for any inconvenience."
Siberia: Yevtushenko with his hard hat, Ray on guitar, both performing "The Workers' Song" ("I ain't got no work.."), a protest song on the LTV steel plant closing.
Ray's "RESIDENCY" at the Jack Kerouac House, Florida
(ray's poem below)
"I like too many things and
get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another
till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to
offer anybody except my own confusion."
Jack Kerouac: Jack Kerouac died in Florida in 1969 at the age of 47. He came to represent to the world "the Beat Generation", a mantle he loathed, writing in the late 40's, the 50's, and 60's. A poet, a writer, a wanderer, a traveler, he crossed the country and he crossed the world. Friend and compatriot of Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs, he is most famous for the gem of "On the Road", written in only 3 weeks, coming to fame and attention in 1957. Other works of note include: The Dharma Bums (praised by Henry Miller), The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Big Sur. From his modest beginnings in Lowell, Massachusetts, he has risen to the level of legend.
Ray in the living room, by a poster of Jack...
Letter Left on the Porch of the Kerouac House
So as I sit still on the
one word as small as the
I was poor when I came here
But there is no end, only the
what would Walt Whitman say,
The same meat wheel spun
What good that teletype
with Lawrence Ferlinghetti
in Italy and with Italian Poets, and the Tour
Ray McNiece with Robert Bly
Featured speakers Ray McNiece and
poet extraordinaire Robert Bly
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