Friday, May 8, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 36 (Brenda Coultas)

Early Films
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Coultas, Brenda
Early Films

This is was given to me by the author in 2000 when we read together at the Steel Bar series in Buffalo. Steel Bar was run by Jonathan Skinner for several years when he was in Buffalo. It took place in the studio of artist Isabelle Pellissier, Jonathan's wife, which was housed in the same building that at the time housed Just Buffalo Literary Center and Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center.

The building itself is a large, former factory complex on the east side of Main St. Originally a Ford Model "T" and then Model "A" factory (from 1915-31), it became an aircraft manufacturing plant that built the first twin engine jet warplane. It was then used to build diesel engines for the navy up until the fifties, when it was purchased and expanded by the Trico windshield wiper company, which occupied it until 1987. In the 90's it became a mixed used building housing artist studios, offices, arts organizations and so forth.

Isabelle's studio was a great place for readings. It was large and open, with high ceilings and a wall of windows at the back. Her two primary media were painting and metal sculpture, so we were always surrounded by all sorts of steel sculptures twisted and welded into organic forms, or into playful pieces of furniture on which to sit and listen to the readings.

Isabelle introduced Brenda at this particular reading with one of the cleverest and most insightful introductions I've ever seen. As I recall, she handmade between five and ten small sculptures the morning of the event and then did a sort of show and tell of each one, explaining how they were related to her reading of Brenda's work. I think that was the only introduction I ever saw her give, despite the fact there must have been 20 readings in her studio over the years.

Here's the first prose poem from Brenda's book:

how i became a man

I learned to lean into them and open their legs and part their lips with the weight of my new body. I held their tiny palms inside the cups of my hands. I did not know their skin would be so soft.

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