The poet sits at the edge of a precipice, the water licks away the words as she writes . She shouts but there is no echo. She has lost the catalogue of extinctions.
– Alexis Lathem, The Book of the Sixth
Poet Alexis Lathem, guitarist Art Herttua, and percussionist Ray Carroll will present The Book of the Sixth and other works on Sunday April 24, at 4 pm at the Peace and Justice Store in Burlington. This moving multimedia performance is part poetry reading, part jazz concert, part slideshow, and part requiem for species and cultures extinct and in danger of extinction.
The text for Book of the Sixth is selected poems from Lathem’s poetry collection, Alphabet of Bones (Wind Ridge 2015). The poems will be performed voice-over Art Herttua’s lyric guitar playing and Ray Carroll’s percussion with drum brushes, cymbals, chimes, bells, ringing bowls, and other instruments.
The title poem, Alphabet of Bones, a prolonged elegy for a landscape deranged by a massive hydroelectric project in Quebec, stems from the poet’s participation in the Peace and Justice Center’s Hydro Quebec campaigns of the 1990s.
Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea wrote of Alphabet of Bones: “Ever conscious of extinction and threats of extinction, Lathem nonetheless gives us hope by way of her lyric clarity, her stunning eye for detail, and her moral persuasiveness. Even in her quietly apocalyptic central poem, ‘Book of the Sixth,’ to my mind the volume’s tour de force– even – or perhaps or especially there, we think, ‘This is what human sensibility remains capable of at its finest!’”
Alexis Lathem is an environmental journalist and writing instructor at the Community College of Vermont, and is the author of two poetry chapbooks. Recipient of the Chelsea Award for Poetry, a Vermont Arts Council grant, and a Bread Loaf scholarship, her poems and essays have appeared in AWP chronicle, Beloit Poetry Journal, Chelsea Review, Saranac Review, Spoon River Review, and other journals. In her reporting on the struggles of indigenous peoples to defend their lands from development, she has paddled and trekked through taiga and rainforest.
The Herttua/Carroll jazz duo perform regularly at Radio Bean and Bagitos, and have performed at many other venues. A student of legendary jazz guitar teachers Harry Leahey and Bob Devoes, Herttua’s repertoire includes familiar jazz standards as well as original music, weaving melodies, rhythms and harmonies into an intimate lyrical voice. With Ray Carroll’s drum brush artistry, they present a colorful mosaic of sounds rooted in the classic jazz ballads and waltzes once perfected by past masters.