Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Read of Rob Plath’s ‘We’re No Butchers’

We’re No Butchers: A Play by Rob Plath (40 pages, Epic Rites Press)

Part Seinfeld, part Hubert Selby Jr., and part Quentin Tarrantino, Rob Plath’s We’re No Butchers is a work of black entertainment that showcases the poet’s characteristically dark-edged voice and fairly sophisticated – if also outrageous – satire.

The play is set in what appears to be the fairly standard suburban familial dwelling of retirees Mia and Otto, who live with  their 43 year-old son and the boy’s Uncle Dante (who seems to have arrived for an extended, partly unwelcome stay)  This dysfunctional group cycles through endless arguments that become ever-more ludicrous and violent over the play’s ten scenes.

Reading a play can be a limiting, two-dimensional experience for the reader, but flipping through Epic Rites’ publication of Plath’s play is actually a rather rich one. The lively but natural dialogue and extensive scene-sketching and stage directions makes it read like a novel – a slightly experimental, yet still narrative-driven one. 

We’re No Butchers should also make for an engaging, in-your-face live experience – although don’t be expecting a high school troupe or suburban community theatre group to put this one on. Much of the text is meant to be bellowed – at least from the gobs of Patriarch Otto and hack-off-the-old-block Butch – with a generous amount of obscenities. The constant conflict is either a result of the passive-aggressive baiting by Dante or the simple red meat aggressive-aggressive behavior of Butch (and seconded by Otto, while Mia endlessly prepares meals in the kitchen in the background, apparently serene in her labours).

The thematic core is also much edgier than, say, Kiss Me, Kate. It’s a hyper-parody of a dysfunctional family, with left/right straight/gay religious/atheist hawk/dove dichotomies mixed up in an array of stereotypes all twisted around like a double-helix. With the right cast, it would play like a sitcom set in a nightmare.

“WE’RE NO BUTCHERS! IF WE WERE BUTCHERS YOU’D BE DEAD!” Butch yells at Dante during one of their altercations. And there is the rub – despite their bluster the characters aren’t anything quite so productive. They are certainly consumers, though. Of constant food, booze, sex, TV and emotion. As a familial unit they hang together through enabling behavior that allows them to satisfy their various appetites while making the reader (and/or audience) alternatively laugh, gape and cringe.

The last scene ends on a bit of a whimper rather than the bang that characterizes most of the play. But that ending is entirely appropriate for a play that satirizes contemporary ‘average’ life as full of sound and fury, signifying –well–  sound and fury.

 

Consume it from http://www.epicrites.org

 

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Into the Anacreontea

For Anacreon by Terence Kuch (30 poems, Silkworms Ink)

Resuscitating the Greeks and/or Romans is a proven method for poets wanting to give their Muse a workout (or some time off). The exercise works best when the poet tries to popularize a translation or reworking – that is, when the poet mines the inherently poetic rather than the stodgily academic. Ted Hughes’ work on Tales From Ovid is a good example of how to bring the classics, if not exactly into the street, at least into the living room.

Such is it with Terence Kuch and his take on Anacreon, the Greek poet famous for a Muse more interested in celebrating lust and drink than soldierly heroics and empire-expansion. Kuch doesn’t translate the work of the Greek so much as reimagine the ancient oeuvre in a modern context. For Anacreon, he indicates, is to be part of the “long tradition, known as the ‘Anacreontea,’ of poem-making in imitation of Anacreon, or expanding on some fragments of his life and work”. And since Anacreon’s work focused on baser things, Kuch doesn’t have much inherent classical pretension to shave off.

The 30 brief poems that make up this chapbook  (or, more accurately, a dedicated online page from the Silkworms Ink site rather than a chapbook proper) are mostly concerned with sex, love, drink and song. While his own ‘versions’ are not particularly musical, Kuch achieves a (mostly) celebratory emphasis by presenting very loose verse – almost haiku or tanka-like lines that give the work a very spontaneous feel.

Kuch’s subject matter spans the ages. He writes deft classical allusions (“No one has sung/to Eros/(Plato said so himself)/till I did”), employs decidedly modern scenarios (“Your wife thinks/you’re at the office”) and a few timeless reflections on art itself, such as his study of a painter whose work concentrates on


“…one moment only,

a time so

short

it never was.”

 

For Anacreon may be a brief “essay”, but it is one that successfully translates the poetic spirit of its inspiration into something much more than simple literary exhumation. 

Have a read at: http://www.silkwormsink.com

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