This past weekend was action-packed with VMF-related events that were both a success! On Saturday, February 20th 2016, Sherri Machlin, of The Mulberry Street branch of the New York Public Library, hosted a screening of two movies riveting Italian American classics:
1pm: It’s One Family – Knock on Wood (1982) – Orlando Furioso is a five foot tall performer living in Brooklyn, and is made of wood. Fifty years ago he was carved from oak and given a suit of armor by Papa Manteo and his children, Orlando’s sword still flashes on a stage. In It’s One Family: Knock On Wood, we meet puppeteers Mike and Aida Manteo, their children and grandchildren, a family bound together by a Sicilian folk tradition that dates back to the 16th Century. Mike still builds marionettes; Aida sews capes and gowns; on stage, Orlando woos Angelica in the court of Charlemagne, as the entire family works together to entertain audiences across America. Directed by Tony DeNonno. Runtime – 24 minutes.
Ralph Fasanella painting one of his great masterpieces.
1:30pm Ralph Fasanella: Song of the City (1981) – A film documenting the life and art of Ralph Fasanella, a self-taught painter born in Greenwich Village in 1914. Raised in a struggling immigrant Italian-American family, Fasanella grew up to become a school truant, laborer and union organizer before discovering his true vocation as a painter. Working within the broad tradition of “social primitivism”, the artist, through his detailed canvases, interweaves scenes of his troubled youth, urban landscapes, labor history and social-political causes. Runtime – 25 minutes. VMF Vice President, Maria Lisella will give a short introduction before the film is shown.
Gil Fagiani (right) during the Q&A with a longtime friend of Ralph Fasanella
Following the screening, Gil Fagiani, longtime member of the VMF said, “I’ve been asked to say a few words about Fasanella, who I gave a lifetime achievement award to at an event back in 1992… Still, I didn’t really know him personally like two of the people we are fortunate enough to have here today.” Two longtime friends of Fasanella recounted delightful memories of the life and times of Ralph Fasanella.
The second event that took place was on Sunday February 21st 2016 at the Gallery Gaiga on 79 Hudson Avenue at Front Street in Brooklyn for the launching of Gil Fagiani’s latest book, Logos. The Resistance Reeding Series sponsored an Evening of poetry and prose hosted by Tsaurah Litsky.
Gil Fagiani’s book recently got an excellent review by Mark Fogarty:
The great jazz-rock-folk singer Tim Buckley once told his friend and lead guitarist Lee Underwood that taking heroin made him feel as if he was walking in the clouds. That’s a modest example of what I call junkie porn, the romanticizing of something not really romantic (heroin gave Buckley an exit into the clouds for good when he was just 28). Gil Fagiani’s visceral book of poems Logos is all about junkiedom and recovery, but there’s little junkie porn in it.
No, the poems in Logos tend toward the bleak and harrowing side of addiction (perhaps there is porn to be had there too, but at least it’s in aid of a useful end) and the bleak but hopeful process of recovery. Alluded to in Fagiani’s previous book of poems, Stone Walls, here his addiction is in full and ugly bloom. Fagiani missed Woodstock, for instance, when a last-minute urge to cop left him overdosed and cut by broken glass and robbed by the junkie rescuers who took him to the hospital. The active-junkie part of the book (called “Shooting Dope with Trotsky”) is full of puke and rot and weasel-like junkie business like stealing from and betraying those closest to you. It is ugly and depressing.
But if you are looking for a reprieve when Fagiani checks into rehab at a place called Logos, you won’t find it. To say Logos facilitates recovery through tough love would be a total understatement. Their treatments are violent and vicious, to the point where reading about them is as depressing as reading about active junkie business. However, Logos seems to have set Fagiani on the path to decades of recovery so there is that for a good result.
The poems of Logos are prosy, anecdotal, differentiated from actual prose only by artful line breaks and well-organized stanzas. They read easily and are powerful and gripping, though often stomach-turning at the same time. The individual stories of many people who fail the program (and sometimes are physically tossed out into the street) and their invariably bad outcomes are nothing but distressing.
There’s an entertaining revolt against the Logos universe (the founder is called “The Great Him”) that results in an alt-Logos amid a Sixties-Seventies mise-en-scene of revolutionary fervor that includes the rhetoric of another Great Him, Mao Tse Tung. There is also a helpful glossary of junkie and recovery terms for those who don’t know the lingo, and, as in his earlier book, a discography of songs that form the soundtrack to a landscape that resembles hell a lot more than heaven.
The above review originally appeared on attheinkwell.com