Baltimore is a wondrous place whose praises I have sung, literally ("In Praise of the City of Baltimore"). It is the home of the American Visionary Art Museum, my favorite place for outsider art. But in Baltimore, everything seems like outsider art. David Franks, who practically invented performance art, is still active there as a poet and performer. Michael Ball runs the excellent i.e. reading series, bringing the work of a wide range of avant-garde poets to an intimate and homey space. The indefatigable Stephen Reichert edits the impressive literary journal Smartish Pace. Everything is cheap, the drinks are all doubles, the waitresses all tough, everyone still smokes.
chris mason picking out a tune
And Chris Mason, cofounder of The Tinklers and the driving
force behind Old Songs, is among its citizens. I met Chris in the mid 1970s in D.C. and was
immediately impressed with his friendly unpretentiousness as a person and poet.
He settled permanently in Baltimore
charles brohawn & chris mason
I hadn’t seen much of Chris since he left D.C. But four years ago, Mark Wallace invited him
to bring his new music/poetry project, called Old Songs, to an art gallery in Dupont Circle
The group has already recorded six home-made CDs of ancient Greek poems, four of which are available at Penn Sound. And Chris has just published an essay in the Antioch Review beautifully describing the group’s compositional process. “Sappho,” Chris writes, “shines her poetic light on us, as she has on so many others, across a distance of twenty-six centuries, but ‘It’s the same moonlight.’”