By Alyssa Seidman
On Oct. 23, during Common Hour, the second poetry reading of the semester featured married poets Steve Dalachinsky and Yuko Otomo. The poets presented their work to many students of the LIU Post community in the Steinberg Museum of Art in Hillwood Commons. The event was open to the public and was sponsored by the English Department. The pair took turns sharing some of their pieces that expressed their emotions when viewing artwork or listening to music.
Yuko Otomo, a native of Japan, is known for her bilingual poetry as well as her haikus. At the reading, she shared four haikus that reflected the four seasons of the year. Otomo mentioned before reading that the series was being translated into a dance piece to be performed in front of audiences. “From a Firefly’s Eye,” choreographed by Nancy Zendora and performed by the Zendora Dance Company, embodied Otomo’s haikus and captured the changing moods of the seasons. The haikus were first read in Japanese, and then in their English translation.
Otomo’s knack for visual artistry is seen through her poems on art. In her art concentration, she had focused on the study of abstraction and created a body of work spanning over three decades. Several of her poems are published in the anthology “A Convergence of Birds: Original Fiction and Poetry Inspired by Joseph Cornell.” Otomo’s work was recently picked up by Ugly Duckling Presse, which The Village Voice voted the Best Small Press of 2013. Otomo conducted her reading with a calm, soothing nature, which was the perfect accompaniment for the deep lines of poem she is known to create.
Steve Dalachinsky, also a visual and verbal artist like his counter part, is a native New Yorker from Brooklyn. Dalachinsky is one of the last surviving poets of the Beat Generation, and was influenced at age 14 by famous poet Allen Ginsberg. He told the audience that his first poem came from his work, which was written entirely while listening to live music. The piece was inspired by musician Cecil Taylor and artist Jackson Pollock, who Dalachinsky labeled as “wild” in their craft.
He read poems of great length with some confusing terms scattered throughout, which he then clarified as his stylistic use of nonsensical and made-up words. He presented two poems about the homeless of New York that were based on true stories from his time in the city, and read a piece from a collection of poems he had written while listening to jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle. The jazz piece, he said, was intended to be “a ha-ha to those who assumed [he] was a jazz poet.”
While spending time in France with Otomo and fellow poet Ted Joans, Dalachinsky wrote a poem while viewing the show “The Origin of Abstraction” in Paris, and shared it at the reading as his final piece. Dalachinsky was alive and animated during his time at the podium, and was an all-around inspiring figure, sharing personal anecdotes along with his poetry.
The Poetry Center at LIU Post, which was started by the English Department in the 1960s, will be hosting other events later in the semester. A one-woman show, featuring Prudence Wright Holmes, comes to Hillwood Tuesday, Nov. 12. Artist Belinda Kremer showcases her work in the Steinberg Art Museum on Wednesday, Dec. 4. These events will also be hosted during common hour, and will be free for students to enjoy.