Mirene Ghossein, Adonis’s friend and translator, and from whose apartment on W 86th St Adonis first explored the streets of Manhattan, arrived in the afternoon and discussed ‘A Grave for New York’ with us. Mirene encouraged us to forget rational readings, to break barriers, to see the productive spaces in fragmentation. She asked us: What imprint does the poem leave?
On Tuesday we welcomed two new participants, poet Hala Alyan and musician George Ziadeh, and the group began to explore possible directions and ways of working together. Alexandra wrote some reflections on the day:
One of the ideas I pull from the poem is the poet’s (artist’s) power to re-order the world. Adonis can take New York and make of it the symbol he wants; he can redefine it in the way he sees it, and that truth, his truth, is what is on the page. With the smallest mark of his pen, a dot, he can transform the Arabic word for love into a cistern: love as the vessel for the most important element for sustaining life—water.
In the improvisation that started yesterday, the musicians (among whom I include Kevork) were able to fall into an easy communion and create together. They were able to redefine the space by displacing the other sounds of the city (the noisy generator, the traffic) to make space for their notes, their tonalities, their “accents” as Tarek said on the first day. Carrie’s body redefined the space by shifting the air to fit her form into it. When Hala read the poem she’d written, inspired by the music, she re-defined the space by attributing new meanings and images to the action.
I think in images and in metaphors to be used in theater, and the poem and the music inspired in me the image of a Statue of Liberty exhausted from being used so much as a symbol. She’s stepped off her pedestal and gone and started a family, and let the world call her a technicality: “The difference between a breast and a tomb is a mere technicality.” The way the hegemonic power, symbolized by New York, considers life a technicality, dispensable, has exhausted her and caused her to retire. That is her response to Adonis.
This project is a huge challenge. We need to figure out how to work as a group. It would be easy if there were a director, but that defeats the purpose, which is to explore the possibility of bringing so many artists of different disciplines together to create a common piece. Somehow we need to find a way for the non-musicians to work with the musicians in a way where everyone is feeding off of each other. Also, and this has to do with the always-challenging dynamics of group work, we need to remember that in improv “yes” is the magical word. We were pretty good yesterday at listening to and accepting suggestions, but it’s useful to remember that “no” is never a constructive word in improvisation.
Anais Alexandra Tekerian