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New Orleans Poet Brings Performance to Lamb Abbey 

State of the Arts

Published July 29, 2009 at 11:06 a.m.

Nearly four years after Hurricane Katrina, the effects — and the memories — haven’t gone away. That’s the message of New Orleans poet Ray “Moose” Jackson, who’s currently crafting a piece about the city called “Danger Angels” during his residency at Montpelier’s nonprofit performance space Lamb Abbey. Jackson came north to launch a comic called Bitter Ink that he coauthored with his cousin, artist Brian Zeigler of Montpelier. He’ll perform “Danger Angels” in Lamb Abbey’s lofty space — a former granite shed — this Friday.

And “perform” is the word. Jackson accompanies his spoken words with solo bass and tense, volatile movement; an online video shows him stalking the pine boards bare-chested as he speaks what Lamb Abbey director Duffy Gardner calls “a strange, postapocalyptic hip-hop.”

“Danger Angels” envisions seven supernatural beings, “too kind for hell, too dirty for heaven,” who guide the more desperate denizens of New Orleans away from damnation. In a press release, Jackson calls it “a love letter to the city.” He writes, “New Orleans is home to a lot of darkness… Since Katrina, we have had a very thorough exploration of the darker sides of humanity. But we have also been witness to incredible resilience, loyalty and generosity of the human spirit.”


Launch party for Bitter Ink, a comic by Brian Zeigler and Ray “Moose” Jackson: Wednesday, July 29, 7 p.m. at Fort Can Gallery & Studios, Montpelier. Bring a dark T-shirt to get it silkscreened with a free graphic from the comic. Free. Info, 279-0988.

Ray “Moose” Jackson presents “Danger Angels,” a work in progress: Friday, July 31, 8 p.m. at Lamb Abbey, 65 Pioneer Center, Montpelier. $10. Info, 229-2200.

All Lit Up

The Burlington Book Festival was a victim of bad timing last week when best-selling memoirist Frank McCourt, who’d just been announced as headliner, turned out to be seriously ailing. (He died on July 19.)

On Friday, Festival Director Rick Kisonak told the press that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove will headline the fest’s opening ceremonies. Born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952, Dove served as U.S. poet laureate during the Clinton years (1993-95), the first African American and the youngest person to hold the position. Besides poetry, she’s authored fiction, drama and a song cycle. When Dove isn’t turning phrases, she can sometimes be found twirling on the floor as a competitive ballroom dancer. Her 2004 collection American Smooth explores the cultural power of fleet feet in expressive, sometimes colloquial language. Emily Nussbaum wrote in the New York Times that Dove “pulls the ultimate dance trick: She makes it look easy.”


A less formal, but perhaps more contagious, spoken-word event happens at the Phantom Theater in Warren on Saturday, August 1. The first installment of “A Moth in the Barn” is Phantom’s effort to recreate a Manhattan-based live storytelling craze called The Moth in the Green Mountains.

Started in 1997 by George Dawes Green, the monthly New York performance events called “Stories at the Moth” feature cocktails and artfully crafted personal confessions from notable writers, actors and artists — ranging from Ethan Hawke to Neil Gaiman to Moby. There are national Moth tours, Moth merchandise and even an Annual Moth Ball. Why the Moth? Green developed his love of storytelling on a Southern porch where light-seeking moths beat against the screens.

All this is incidentally related to “A Moth in the Barn,” which Tracy Martin of Phantom Theater calls “inspired by the Moth.” It may not have Manhattan glamor, but the Mad River Valley event does have a juicy theme: failure. Audience members are invited to come and listen or, if they dare, to prepare a story that can be told in five minutes. Ten names will be picked from a hat for this all-grown-up version of Show and Tell. (Well, mostly “Tell.”) And, rain or shine, the barn should be a good venue to watch moths and human egos flittering toward the light.

Want to read up?

Burlington Book Festival

September 25-27, in various Burlington venues. Check for updates.

‘A Moth in the Barn’

Saturday, August 1, 8 p.m. at Phantom Theater, The Edgcomb Barn in Warren. $15; come early to throw your name in the hat. Info, 802-496-5997.

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About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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