Lehman and Cirelli (Sophie)


            Another Page vs. Stage performance at the Bowery Poetry Clubs proves to be a success. David Lehman and Michael Cirelli established a dynamic duo with a stage presence radiating poetics and eloquence. The fact of Cirelli being a former student of Lehman provoked a very personal atmosphere and it was entertaining to watch these two poets reminisce on their past through the form of their art. Anecdotes were exchanged and the audience was able to view the intimate relationship between poets with a profound respect for each other. Although these two’s poetics are drastically different, it is apparent that Cirelli has modeled his work after his professor and was inspiring to see their energies collaborate.

            David Lehman’s comically nerdy persona seeped through not only his words, but also his entire being as well with intermittent comedic side notes and the dismissal of seriousness. The poems he read were mostly translations or poetry written in the form of another writer. A piece in the manner of Charles Bukowski exhibited quintessential phrases and ideas Bukowski traditionally did such as drinking, pornography, and womanizing. Lehman hit the nail on the head and satirically ended this piece with, “I hate poets who beg you to like them by feeling sorry for them, but don’t feel sorry for me.” I felt that in glorifying Bukowski’s misogynistic ideals in a comical manner and concluding with satire, he exemplified himself as a writer and impressively translated the individuality that is Bukowski into his own rendition.

            One of the most controversial poems Lehman read that night was entitled “Sexism”. He disclaimed it by explaining that he does not necessarily believe the things he says in this poem, a statement made clear after the conclusion of the piece. This piece sarcastically embodied the dynamics of an emotionally and physically abusive relationship and the games a couple might play in order to stay together, or intentionally made the other miserable. He delicately placed his words and arranged them bluntly and simply, but illusively enough for me to keep asking if there was more.


“The happiest moment in a woman’s life is when she hears the key turn in the front door.”


The piece continued to demonstrate the need a woman might have for her husband even when he dismisses her. This poem was not politically correct and had the potential to offend many feminists, but it represented truth. In outlining a life where a woman’s husband is the only thing keeping her going, and with this Lehman asked women to strive for their independence and strength.

            This poem was later complemented by the piece “Who She Was”, with the first line being, “She started liking sex soon after he husband left her.” This poem told the story of a woman triumphantly overcoming a suffocating relationship through the ability of never losing sight of herself as an individual. Lehman glorified her and her capacity to focus on simplicity and individuality, in addition to her ability to dismiss her significant other’s nonsensical actions. It was obvious that this poem was telling an earnest anecdote, but Lehman shed light and humor through the strength of his character. He ended this piece with, “The only ting she wrote was dialogue for a man and a woman while one is packing,” leaving the audience to question who stayed, and who was banished. Regardless of the relationship’s outcome, the message of triumph was blatantly obvious and I was left inspired and strengthened.

            It seems as though Lehman doesn’t take anything seriously. His poetry is beautifully written but obviously in the pursuit of art and entertainment, and this is an ability I admire. Too often I come across established poets whose pretentious manners and persona are screaming for attention, but Lehman brings joy to tragedy and sheds beauty and humor on damnation. When he was asked a fairly complex question regarding his views on the relationship between page and stage poetry, he simply answered, “I like poetry.” Leaving it at that, and a smirk.

            Michael Cirelli took the stage, altering with Lehman and bringing a new age hip-hop feel to his poetry. His poetry style seems to be a hybrid of old school hip-hop, classical poetry, and pop culture. Cirelli fuses the complexities of his predecessors with the soulful vibe of hip-hop culture in addition to incorporating topics like classic video games and old school hip-hop icons.

            Cirelli took us back to our childhood innocence with his poem “Troubadour”. He began by illusively referring to a triumphant mustached man and slowly introduced more and more characteristics. By the second or third stanza he was speaking of mushrooms that increase size and little green hats. After being pleasantly held in suspense the setting was finally revealed. We had entered the world of Mario and Luigi and Cirelli was the ringleader through the levels and attempts at triumph. He used his words elegantly to lay a foundation of childhood memories and commemorate the loss of simplicity, comparing it to the chaos that is our modern virtual lives, and reality. He made it clear that he was out to prove that the old, the classics, are better than the new.

            “The Congo” was the piece that I enjoyed the most. Cirelli brought the ravenous nature of the jungle and its intensity to the streets: the modern jungle where the dollar is king. He spoke of faux hip-hop culture dictating the lives of the youth, through material objects and senseless behavior. He reflects back to when hip-hop was a culture and a way of life, as opposed to a fashion statement. When the MC glorified the DJ and B-Boys were breaking in the alleyways, when it was about the passion, not the fashion.


“In America, the DJ has no hands because the dollar runs this dance floor. The gun shot gets played like buck, buck, buck.”


Cirelli furiously expressed about the decline of hip-hop culture as being a positive force of revolution and change, and the deteriorating artistic quality. This piece expressed where hip-hop has come from, and what it has come to and his almost desperate attempt the express his disappointment and confusion was heard loud and clear.

            Aside from the pleasure of seeing these two talented poets accentuating each other on stage, the most entertaining part of the night was a little anecdote Cirelli shared with us. He told us about a time when he was sitting in Lehman’s class, discussing poetry, and another student referenced an unrelated piece. Lehman then proceeded to recite the referenced piece from memory and further discuss it afterwards. Cirelli expressed that he thought that was the, “coolest things ever,” and hoped to one day be able to do the same. Well sure enough a few years later Cirelli was teaching a Hip-Hop Poetry class, and a student raised his hand and made a referenced to a song. Cirelli then proceeded to say, “Oh yeah the one that goes like this….” Relaying the lyrics, and following in his mentor's steps.

            The performance that night was amazing, but couldn’t hold a flame to Lehman and Cirelli’s poetic chemistry. It truly was a pleasure to see a student, turn poet, turn teacher on stage with a poet he learned from and admires, and watch them reflect on their pasts and share their present. 

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