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Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion

For me, abstract art strikes at the core. Poetry, for many, does the same. It certainly does for my friend and mentor, Patrick Watson. Patrick loves poetry. This is one of his favourites:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Ezra Pound wrote the poem in 1913. Considered an “imagist” poem, it was inspired by, among other things, Japanese Haiku. Patrick recited that poem to me over twenty years ago. It has stayed with me every since. 

Thirty-five years ago, another mentor, Ross Bertram, performed for me one of the most beautiful pieces of magic that I had—or have ever—seen. It is known as The Butterfly and the Fan. Ross saw it first performed by a Japanese performer in an old vaudeville theatre in Toronto while he, Ross, was sitting in the orchestra pit, playing saxophone. 

Well, for the past thirty-five years I have experimented with this piece. It dates back, of course, centuries, and when performed by a Japanese master magician, it plays like no other. SEE a traditional performance.

For Hocus Pocus, I have taken a minimalist approach, one inspired (at least for now) by the Pound poem. Although I am seriously considering another poem, one by Arakida Moritake (1473-1549) that Marina Abramović recently stated in the New York Times was one of her favourites, as the lead-in:

An orphaned blossom returning to its bough,
Somehow? No, a solitary butterfly.

At first glance, The Butterfly and the Fan will appear to be juggling of a high order. And then, for a brief moment—a grace note, really—it becomes alive and the butterfly perches on a bough, before being torn apart to take flight like cherry blossoms circling in the wind.



Hocus Post

David Ben is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Magicana. Join his discussion as he shares his catalogue of commentary on the creative process of staging a new theatrical magic show.

Tickets are now available for Hocus Pocus, produced in association with Soulpepper, December 10 - 31, 2016 in Toronto. 

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