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ISSUE 116 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/18/2002

Poet reads from book-length poem 'Symphony'

By Tiffany Ayres
Staff Writer

Friday, October 18, 2002

As part of the fall "Meet the Author" series organized by the St. Olaf and Carleton campus bookstores, and in promotion of his new work "Symphony", Sid Gershgoren gave a reading on Wednesday, Oct. 9, in Viking Theater.

"Symphony" is an image driven, book-length poem organized as a musical symphony in four movements, complete with Italian tempo markings. On most of the pages, the lines of verse are arranged to resemble the placement of the notes on the staff of a symphony. "‘Symphony’ is an attempt to create a feeling in words of a symphony as you hear it played," Gershgoren explained. At one point in the third movement, there is a section where the reader is given two columns of words from which they can fill in that section of the piece with their own feelings and emotions.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of "Symphony" is not so much the words or concept but how it was produced. Red Dragonfly Press, based out of the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Red Wing, Minn., printed "Symphony" the old-fashioned way. A letterpress printer that was manufactured in 1921 was used to print the pages. All of the letters were handset metal movable type produced in San Francisco, Calif. The books were bound by hand and the 200 copies of the work took all of July to print.

Gershgoren also read from several of his other works including "One," "Past Rentals," and several poems.

"Past Rentals" is a catalog from a fictional company. In the rare catalog, the customer can purchase a "trip," which is one of hundreds of identities ranging through all periods of history. The trip consists of spending several days, months, or years as someone in history who was not famous in order to create the intersection of the personal and historical. It gives the customer both the sense of observing and participating simultaneously. The 450-page book is still in its manuscript form, which Gershgoren hopes will soon be printed.

Along with the previously mentioned works, Gershgoren has many more manuscripts, books, and miscellaneous literary creations. He has written an imaginary dictionary devoid of known English terms, but complete with word origins and histories. Another of his unique projects is a calendar of holidays he created and the set of rules and guidelines necessary for each of their celebrations and observances.

Gershgoren has given full-length readings of "Anna Karenina" and "War and Peace." He currently lives in Berkely, Calif.

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