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Verbal Abuse

Poet David Kopson headlines a night of edgy spoken word at The Brass Rail

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-10-21


Last winter, David Kopson — editor of local fiction magazine The Margin and a poet and writer in his own right — sequestered himself in his garage to get a grip on a literary project that he had been toying around with for several months. “It was basically me locked away in my garage, chain smoking, sitting in front of my laptop with whiskey at appropriate times, but mostly coffee,” he says. “(the project) had been there for a while. Little parts started coming up, and I made a conscious effort to keep with it.”

The result is “Girl Pieces,” a series of short pieces about, as Kopson puts it, “…various women in my life. It comes directly from the relationships I’ve either had or not had.”

“It’s not scorned lover type stuff,” Kopson continues. “It’s actually a little stranger and darker than that. Some of (the pieces) are addressed to the person, so it’s somewhat confessional in nature. The subject is often ‘you.’ So it might be about an observation or a situation I’ve been in with them, little snapshots that might have happened in five seconds or something, but the memory of it pushed the piece out.”

“Girl Pieces” serves as the centerpiece of a reading at the Brass Rail on October 25 called “Verbal Abuse,” a Jewlee production organized by local promoter Julie Morrison. Also on the bill are hip-hop artist Sankofa, a Metavari side project called Bookhaus Boys, and Brass Rail co-owner John Commorato Jr. “The Margin release party at The Brass Rail awhile back packed the bar, but there hasn't been a spoken word there since,” says Morrison. “I thought the time was right to showcase some of the pieces John and David have been working on.”

Over the past year, the Brass Rail has expanded its reputation as a rock n’ roll bar, serving as a showcase for original local and national acts, usually with a definite non-mainstream (or maybe mainstream in a different world) edge. As Commorato Jr. sees it, the two mediums — rock and spoken word — have a lot in common. “The energy that comes from good spoken word and poetry is the same kind of intensity that a good band brings to their performance,” he says. “It’s easier to get an audience’s attention with guitars and drums, but I think if you can do that with language, then you’re really on to something. And I think some of the acts we’ve had, regardless of the genre, bring an intensity and intelligence to the stage.”

But while the work can be angry or edgy, anyone expecting an evening of inchoate, rage-filled rants will probably be disappointed. It’s the focus of Kopson’s pieces that initially grabbed Commorato’s interest.

In fact, when talking to Kopson, the word that comes up most frequently is “meticulous.” The structure of the pieces themselves vary from poetic to epistolary, but Kopson says there’s a consistent tone overall. “It’s consistent in that it’s somewhat analytical, somewhat obsessive,” he says. “But there are some pretty common themes that run through there, certain psychical observations, and I don’t mean the obvious ones. Shoes tend to recur, collar bones tend to recur, so it’s stuff like that. It’s not a theme, but there are certain elements I can’t seem to get away from.”

“A split sort of grew between two groups of pieces, and one voice is a little more melancholy and a little more disappointed,” he adds. “The other voice is sharper, and has some humor, albeit very dark, and it is a little bit more… cutting.”

In case you’re getting the wrong idea about Kopson and his work, Commorato sets the record straight. “David is happily married to a wonderful woman,” he laughs. “The perspective is definitely stranger than David’s true self. That’s what I like about it.”

Kopson is also very conscious of the fact that he’s writing about real people; he doesn’t use names, but some of them might be in the audience. Will anyone recognize themselves? “That’s an interesting question, and possibly my biggest hurdle in the entire thing, just being respectful of everybody,” he says.

Commorato will also read some of his own non-fiction pieces, some of which will appear in a collection call The Maintenance Plan due out early next year on an independent press. Many of the pieces were written at and about The Brass Rail before he became part-owner of the bar. He says it’s been a long time since he’s done a formal reading, and while he’s not entirely comfortable with the idea of getting on stage, there’s a part of him that’s looking forward to it. “It’s been a blast to be back editing and practicing. This is what it was like when art was fun,” he says. “I don’t hold a candle to the people we’ve had up on this stage but… well, I’ve watched you all for the last two years and I’m more than happy to have you, but I can get a little strange, too.”

Commorato has no idea what Sankofa is going to do, and as of this writing, neither does Sankofa. “I've entertained various thoughts,” he says. “That's to say, I have enough respect for spoken word artists (not to be confused with people desperately seeking attention by whipping out their notebook for some conspicuous scribbling down of trite garbage) to not take a dump on their work. I imagine some sharp edge is going to make itself evident, but I couldn't really tell you (or myself) how.”

As for future readings at The Brass Rail… “It’s a matter of quality,” Commorato says. “I’m certainly not going to get on our stage consistently — I feel a little awkward about it — but if it’s well attended and well received, I’ll be glad to open it up.”

Jewell Productions presents “Verbal Abuse” featuring David Kopson; John Commorato Jr.; Sankofa; Bookhaus Boys
Saturday, October 25
The Brass Rail
1121 Broadway

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