Posts Tagged ‘review’

Asheville Poetry Review of Rodeo for the Sheepish

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

asheville_poetry_ellyn_review_hen_house_studiosEllyn Maybe. Rodeo for the Sheepish. Hen House Studios, 2010. $15. By J. W. Bonner

Rodeo for the Sheepish takes this listener back to the heady delights of the caffeinated conversations of grad school, referencing midnight movies and sharing passages from dog-eared paperbacks. The woman declaiming these poems with a defiant and radiant lilt takes all of life’s insults and disappointments and transforms them into songs which turn life on its head, creating a world that allows for possibilities belied by facts.

The music on the cd has a lite hip hop, r&b, jazzy beat. The background singers and music (keyboards, percussion, saxophone, trombone) weave in and around Maybe’s spoken words/lyrics. The voice and chorus and music sound fully integrated. Maybe’s lyrics are filled with longings for connections: with art, books, movies, people. Sexual yearning lies underneath many of the pieces, but above the body and sexual persona exists the artistic persona. One song/poem, “Being an Artist,” has one of the most emphatic rhythmic percussive breaks in any of the songs, something along the lines of African drumming, and the lines near the end of the poem suggest that the artist is inhabited by the Muse, her soul thieved as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers: “Being an artist / is an active verb / a noun / a consonant / an adjective in a world full of chaotic life sentences.” The pun of the last line makes clear that only the artist is truly free in this world; the rest are incarcerated in the routines of mass life.

Wry, emotional honesty underlies these poems. Whether spoofing with female sexual identity as defined by women (as opposed to definitions imposed by society) or playing with the dualities of mind and body, Maybe does not hold back on truths. One song acknowledges that “it’s not easy being a woman who knows the difference between / Gene Kelly and Gene Krupa. Miles Davis and Miles Traveled. / I know how men make women wear armor of all kinds.” Here’s the cat-call from the city street, a man yelling (still) at the 40-year-old, “Hey Mars Girl, get off the Earth.” There’s humor in the phrase, but there’s a sting in the phrasing.

Ellyn Maybe gives any number of shout-outs to influences and pleasures. She’s a fan of the Go-Go’s, Peggy Lee, the Supremes, B-52s, Henry Miller, Kubrick, Truffaut, Leonard Cohen, and others. How many times does one find Truffaut rhymed with 400 Blows? Leonard Cohen, in fact, is mentioned in two of the poem/songs. One poem is titled “Sylvia Plath”; another, “Picasso.” These references populate each song, serving as check points for the audience—a hipster gauge. Music, film, books evoke personal identity, as when Annie Ernaux writes in Simple Passion, “the cultural standards governing emotion which have influenced me since childhood (Gone with the Wind, Phedre or the songs of Edith Piaf) are just as decisive as the Oedipus complex.

“ Music’s got the power, in Maybe’s pantheon, and reverting to the origins of poem and music potentially doubles the poetic weight with the listener. (Others are pushing into these waters: Jeffery Beam and Asheville Poetry Review’s own Keith Flynn, among many.) Maybe corrals those made sheepish by the masses of society, lassoes the insults, and rides the herd, unable to be bucked by life, “as if she had a fly paper ass.”

J. W. Bonner reviews regularly for Asheville Poetry Review. He is working on a manuscript about the Sixties, examining more specifically the #1 AM radio hits of 1969. He teaches in the Humanities Department at Asheville School.

Examiner LA Article on Ellyn Maybe’s Residency

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The LA Poetry and Music Scene at Pier 212 with the sacred Ellyn Maybe

April 24, 2:04 PMLA Poetry ExaminerYvonne de la Vega

Ellyn Tommy 1

“…whenever possible, always have someone sacred, like Ellyn Maybe open your show.” -S.A. Griffin, “Rules of The Road”

LA Poet Ellyn Maybe is probably one of the most loved poets in Los Angeles. She is humble and witty, knows music and records and has the laugh that sounds like a school girl blushes. She’s also pretty darn funny and will charmingly laugh along with her listeners during a reading of one of her own poems. All humble charm and wit aside,

As a poet, Ellyn masterfully delivers a poets convictions with a blend of sweetness and sarcasm, poetry with stories of hopes shattered by the callousness of a rude world, Often, she is reciting forgiveness while standing alone in her charming solution of “Understanding is the key to happiness.

Her current album of poetry and music, Rodeo for The Sheepish is a perfect embodiment of Ellyn Maybe on vinyl, The music is a mirror of her very being – especially the music composed for “Two Girls…” (video, below), a beautifully written piece about the expectations of a girl and love and the realities of those expectations.

The music seems to be a direct interpretation of Ellyn’s unique voice and rare persona. A banjo over beats is of course, the natural backdrop beneath Ellyn’s poetry, the rhythm laid back and unpretentious. (more…)

Pedestal Reviews Rodeo for the Sheepish

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The Pedestal Magazine Reviews Ellyn Maybe’s Rodeo for the Sheepish

ellyn_maybe_cover_small_hen_house_studiosReviewer: JoSelle Vanderhooft

Of all the things I review for Pedestal, spoken word CDs are my favorite, both because of their rarity (few poets, after all, have the resources to put one together) and the ingenuity with which they blend visual art, music, and, of course, poetry read aloud. The best of these CDs blend all of these disparate elements to make something that is neither music nor poetry but which uses the common roots of each to create something bold, new, and frequently difficult to categorize, save for the term “performance.” Indeed, the successful spoken word poet is one who does not just read his or her work, but performs it as if it were a stand-up routine, a monologue, part of a “Happening,” or simply as something meant to live beyond the confines of the page.

Ellyn Maybe is a poet who knows how to do just that. Not only a strong poet on paper, she is also a consummate performer with a warm, full voice that is as friendly and inviting as it is delightfully quirky. Few poets—indeed, few performers of any stripe—have the personality, honesty and, yes, unabashed geekiness which Maybe displays in her readings of the ten poems on Rodeo for the Sheepish. Her voice is not only entrancing but unforgettable; indeed, I would very much like to hear her perform live someday.
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