The Fourth Wall Arts Salon:
Confessions of a Cynic
Being of the grunge generation, under 30-somethings who, from behind a fray of overgrown hair and weathered flannel, lazily roll our bloodshot eyes at both positivity and activism, I must take my share of blame for the lack of communal action that came so naturally to other, more restless, generations.
In the spirit of confession I will add that I felt slightly punished when I had to cancel a Scrabble game with a friend to attend a Salon, of all things, to hear spoken word poetry.
However, as I walked away from the first salon in a nomadic arrangement called the Fourth Wall Arts Salon, in terms of my cynicism for spoken word poetry, I had been liberated.
The Fourth Wall Arts Salon is the spirited project of founders Elijah Dornstreich and Keir Johnston. They cleverly liken their vision to historical, “habitats of intellectual inquiry, consumed with conversations on the arts,” citing Toulouse-Lautrec in Montmartre, and Satchmo in the speakeasies of New Orleans and Chicago as inspirations for the salon.
Their mission “to create exposure for artists and to foster a community of intellectual and artistic activity” is noble, yet quoting from the Fourth Wall website does nothing to help explain the absolute, fundamentally human, pleasure I experienced from attending.
An inexpensive ticket gets you drinks at the bar and a spot in line at the home-cooked buffet, which features locally grown, organic foods. As guests congregated before the performances, the atmosphere was, in a word, happy. The real reward however, is not in the gathering of mixed and pleasant company, but in the art itself.
In a large room under the exposed, wooden ceiling of an old industrial building, guests took their seats, facing the stage in a semi-circle arrangement thrown together from many grandmothers’ old armchairs and loveseats, among featured artists’ paintings and vintage table lamps. From the sidelines, DJ Supreme operated his turn tables below a rusty, multi-paneled window.
A back-up band, Jimmy Crack Corn, outlined the night; and when given the chance, Anwar Marshall, their drummer, unleashed a complex and primal drum solo. Damn, I thought, as the crowd broke into cheers.
The night was full of movement, quick and energetic, but I must respectfully pause here and take a moment to return to the poetry I had so dreaded. The woman who performs this poetry is Nina Lyrispect. It’s not always easy to appreciate the art of crafting words. This is compounded when words fly at you in staccato bursts of meaning from which you barely have time to recover during the restless pauses Lyrispect takes in measure.
But Lyrispect is a master at her craft. Phrases like, I’m busy making friends with the multiple personalities of God, and, I am the stealth of the sin committed in the name of righteousness, fall on you like hallelujahs. At the end of her poems, the audience erupted and though I felt applause was obligatory, I wanted to take a moment of silence.
After the show, I walked among the crowd, enthusiastic and newly converted. I expressed how moving and exciting this endeavor of an arts salon is, and the older couple I was speaking to informed me that their generation used to hold events like Fourth Wall all the time.
I smiled and nodded, still high from the experience.
Part of the Fourth Wall Arts Salon’s mission is to inspire and engage the mind. I once interviewed a person who told me they didn’t want to have children because it wasn’t right to bring a living being into this tragic world. When I left the salon, a cynic converted, my simple thought was this: This is exactly the type of world into which I want to bring children.
Nina was gracious enough to give Wild River Review the transcripts from the poetry she performed at the first Fourth Wall Arts salon. An excerpt from her poem, Queens Summit can be read below.
Never pause to consider the re-percussions
So beat it again
And twirl to a rhythm determined by the wind
I am the stealth of the sin committed in the name of righteousness.
Lay these kisses on the wind
And when they descend upon you
Know that they were meant to mend you
Suture your soul and send you
Daily meditations to blend through
To… OMmmmmm… to
Cause today we’ve got no right to sorrow
So I address my pain to: morrow
And I take my chances
String them into the lines of your face and double cross them
Not like betrayal but seeing God in the faces of my people, Awesome
I want to be the next angel on the roster
Elizabeth Bako lives between Center City, Philadelphia and New Hope, Pennsylvania. She acts as contributing editor and writer for Wild River Review, published in fiction and non-fiction. She has just finished her first YA novel and is working on her second. She has a background in editing, writing and social media, and works as a private consultant and content editor for writers. Her most recent projects include Anatolian Days and Nights by Wild River Review editor-in-chief, Joy E. Stocke and, The Last Daughter of Prussia by Marina Gottlieb-Sarles.
In partnership with Wild River Review, Elizabeth and colleague, Fran Metzman, will be hosting Writing Beyond the Paradigm; a series of dynamic workshops providing a new approach to creative writing and memoir.