Keep Louisville Literary, ever diligent to spread the word, connected electronically with Joe Brashear before his set at Subterranean Phrases, on Wed. November 14th at 9pm.
From the event invite: “Joe Len Brashear has devoted much of his life to language, having studied Anglo-Saxon, French, Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. He received a bachelor’s in English from the University of Louisville and has completed the coursework for a bachelor’s in Classics from the University of Kentucky. He intends to become a Psychiatrist. Poetically he has sought to labor in as great a variety of forms as he could: from verse novella to verse drama to ordinary poems. He remains especially thankful for his friends who have supported his insanity, his high school French teacher Mrs. Bradley, and his first college Hebrew professor, Dr. “Ned” Rosenbaum, who died last December.
Russell Schartzer, on Tuba, will be playing atmospheric improv while Joe reads. He has a couple solo tuba pieces for us also and there will be limited open mic slots before and after the featured set. The cocktails are delicious, but there we will also have PBR [on special].”
Keep Louisville Literary: Your course of study has taken many turns during your college career. Please tell us a bit about your background and how your formal education influences your poetic.
Joe Brashear: My formal education, thus far, has actually followed my poetic interests. Robert Graves spoke of the Irish Ollaves who had to study (master, actually) all realms of knowledge, and I have purposely diversified [my own studies] to some extent.
KLL: In your manuscript “A Message to You, Rudy” you use many classical allusions, quotes from ancient philosophers, and also what appears (to my layman’s eyes) to be ancient Greek. Could you describe your intention with regards to this academic density?
JB: The first poem contained in the manuscript was the first written in the series, and at that time I was working on an essay about Aristophanes. The issue of Classical allusion is a fraught one. At one time, poets felt a necessity of quoting from the Classics or the Bible. It is not something I have done purposely, and I think it will be seen that there is some decrease in the course of the manuscript; after I had finished my course work. However, I do not shy from making these allusions when I feel like making them. Some poets today avoid allusions, and even things like metaphor and simile, preferring a very skeletal style. That obviously isn’t me.
KLL: How do you reconcile such difficultly in language with the problem of intended or at least expected audience?
JB: Firstly, I am not that good at these languages. I have a very good working knowledge of them, but I have to work very hard to use them; I am not one of those who can command them right out of their head. My muse, so to speak, talked about this, and there is a poem in the series with the obvious title “Audience” about the subject. [With] anything I read, I do not expect anyone to understand all I say, or know all my references. But with wikipedia, etc., I think [anyone] might easily get a lot of these references. Finally, there is a dichotomy between what is good on paper, and what is good read aloud, and I know that many of my poems simply wouldn’t work well read aloud, although I have had some surprises in that regard. Some of my most academic pieces provoke laughter.
KLL: You will graduate with a B.A. in classics from UK next years. Tell us about your experiences with the program there.
JB: The University of Kentucky actually has one of the most rigorous and excellent Classics programs in the country, including the only Latin-speaking program. Unfortunately we have no PhD. UK also is the only university in Kentucky that even has a BA in Classics. There are many excellent professors. I regard Dr. Milena Minkova virtually as a God. On the other hand, I have noticed a distressing amount of religious sectarianism among those professors who are not, as I would presume, humanists. Over the years, I decided that Classics was not an environment in which I would like to continue.
KLL: What can we expect to hear at Subterranean Phrases?
JB: I have come to consider formality as another way of being free. I would not describe myself as a formalist as opposed to a free verse poet, because while I have written in most metres and genres (such as tragedy and verse novella) in which poetry comes, I have also written much “free” verse (although I don’t think anything I’ve written qualifies as non-linear). Here, I am trying to use the forms that will come across the best, and so on the one hand I am using rhymed poetry, and on the other hand I have a few pieces that are more like short stories; which I hope the audience will get. They are generally long enough that there will only be about ten poems.