House of Words

By Ann Barsness
05/26/05 - Leader Telegram 

A poet who re-examined his religion is among four self-published writers ready to read in a tavern once known for its hair bands.

Four self-published authors seeking to shatter the cozy coffeehouse image that readings sometimes conjure have tapped into the House of Rock’s louder-than-anybody reputation to present “Tales From the Graveyard Shift.” 

Turns out the multimedia reading — featuring poetry and prose from Chad Lewis, Andy Patrie, Jason Splichal and Ken Szymanski — might polish the bar’s image, too.

“There was a stigma about the House of Rock, that this was a loud, dumb metal bar,” said Joey Gunderson, who handles the venue’s booking and promotions. 

Gunderson said the establishment earned its unofficial title as the loudest tavern on Water Street in the ’80s when it booked a steady slate of hair bands. Now, Gunderson said he is working to offer “every aspect of music and culture.” 

In April, the first such experiment featured Beat the Donkey. The 10-piece percussion ensemble led by Cyro Baptista mixes Brazilian, African and Indonesian influences. 

While the Monday-night (June 6) reading promises to be relatively low key (it is Monday night, after all), Patrie — the most recently published of the four — and his fellow performers aim to boost the energy level and attract a different set of listeners. 

“When we read at ECRAC (The State: Regional Arts Center), it’s older people, patrons of the arts,” Patrie said. 

Readings at Destini Artworks and the Acoustic Cafe have attracted school-age audiences. On June 6, Patrie said, they’ll target the 20-something and 30-something crowd with a program propelled by Lewis’ slide show and a keyboardist’s accompaniment. 

Lewis, contacted separately by e-mail, said the event could change how people view book readings. 

“This event will be cutting-edge, so I thought we should push our own comfort zone while simultaneously re-formatting what a book reading should be — entertaining, exciting and fun,” Lewis wrote. 

The venue has prompted Patrie to rethink his approach. 

“In the past, I’d just have a rough idea of what I’m going to read,” Patrie said. “This is going to be a little more dynamic.” 

To tie in with the event’s title, all four authors are exploring some of their darker work. Patrie’s 21-poem, 51-page collection — he printed 200 copies this spring for about $600 — offers plenty of choices. 

Patrie said the title of his poetry collection, “A Beautiful Accident,” refers partly to happy accidents — such as his being adopted by a loving family and his meeting his wife, Adrienne. 

The sparse and touching “Courtship,” for example, describes his wedding proposal. 

Patrie, 30, who grew up in Eau Claire and graduated from North High School in 1993, exhibits a knack for writing about emotional moments without becoming sappy. But “A Beautiful Accident,” as Patrie wrote in the book’s forward, also summarizes his view of the universe. 

Seated in a booth at Mogie’s late Tuesday afternoon, Patrie explained how, as an atheist, he now sees life itself as a happy accident — an offshoot rather than an end result of evolution. 

“Where I want to put my energy is into what can be explained,” Patrie said. 

“I could not conceptualize how (there was) an all-powerful and all-knowing being out there and then this is allowed to happen,” Patrie said. He referred to the Catholic church’s refusal to accept issues such as homosexuality, and to the idea that Christianity is the only way to heaven. 

While the book’s introduction is upfront — “I would like you to know that this book is about letting go of a fear of dying and the superstitious notion of punishments and rewards in some kind of afterlife,” he wrote — Patrie said he avoids pushing his views in the classroom. 

Nor do the poems loudly proclaim the message. Without the explanation, the theme might be lost on the casual reader. 

The collection ends with “About Living,” a reflection of Patrie’s revised, more positive state of mind regarding the end life. The poem ends: 

No demons 

no angels 

but those we create 

Only wide-sky blue 

shrinking the dark to atoms 

and scattering it 

like dandelion seed 

across fields of cosmos 

Barsness can be reached at 833-9214, (800) 236-7077 or ann.barsness@ecpc.com.

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