A POEM IS A CITY
Mac's Backs and Visible Voice Books celebrate Bukowski Friday and SaturdayReeling with alcohol and details of the banal, Charles Bukowski's prose and poetry got plenty of readers' attention and inspired several movies. But almost 15 years after his death, academics still, for the most part, have left him alone. What do they know? To wit, "Fingernails, Nostrils, Shoelaces": "the gas line is leaking, the bird is gone from the / cage, the skyline is dotted with vultures; / Benny finally got off the stuff and Betty now has a job / as a waitress; and / the chimney sweep was quite delicate as he / giggled up through the / soot. / I walked miles through the city and recognized / nothing as a giant claw ate at my / stomach while the inside of my head felt / airy as if I was about to go / mad. / it's not so much that nothing means / anything but more that it keeps meaning / nothing, there's no release, just gurus and self- / appointed gods and hucksters. / the more people say, the less there is to say. even the best books are dry sawdust."
Mac's Backs and Visible Voice Books team up to celebrate the poet with A Poem Is a City, a mini-Bukowski festival headlined by a pair of readings this weekend: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at the Barking Spider Tavern, 11310 Juniper Rd. (sign up by calling Mac's Backs at 216.321.2665), and 7-9 p.m. Saturday in the outdoor courtyard and wine bar at Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Rd., 216.961.0084). A reception at Prosperity Social Club, 1109 Starkweather Ave., follows the second reading.
INTO THE WOODS
In 1987, when the Tonys were dominated by the blockbuster Phantom of the Opera, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods claimed a couple of noteworthy prizes - Best Score and Best Book - that would seem to promise life beyond Broadway. Indeed, it's been revived several times, including a 2007 production at the Royal Opera House in London and performances by opera companies and ambitious musical theater troupes from coast to coast. Great Lakes Theater Festival opens a production this week at its new home, the Hanna Theatre on PlayhouseSquare. With characters lifted from Grimm fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from Beanstalk fame), Rapunzel and Cinderella, the world of Once Upon a Time has never sounded so good - or so strange. Performances Wednesday through November 8. Tickets: $13-$67. Call 216.241.6000.
Lang Lang has had some plum gigs lately, playing the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games and classical/prog rocker Mike Oldfield's Music of the Spheres in 2007. This week, he's performing Chopin's piano concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. It's not just the Orchestra and Severance that make this a great opportunity. Chopin was, first and foremost, a pianist, and his concerto keeps the Orchestra in check, giving plenty of room for the soloist to show off. The entire program is made up of popular works that delight the ear without being too challenging. Also on the program are Ibert's Escales, an impressionistic portrait of three Mediterranean ports, and Beethoven's beloved-to-death Symphony No. 5. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A performance at 3 p.m. Sunday has no piano concerto, but instead Dvorak's Slavonic Dances. Tickets: $41-$87. Call 216.231.1111.
Melanie Fioritto has an eye for the city, so she's a great source for Pop Up City Director Terry Schwarz. Pop Up City creates temporary installations and performances that "shine a spotlight on some of Cleveland's spectacular but underutilized properties." Schwarz credits Fioritto for this weekend's Bridge Mix, a collection of musical performances and art installations on the West 11th Street pedestrian bridge. This chain-link cage unceremoniously spans I-490, a little connective sinew between Tremont's northern and southern neighborhoods, serving perhaps as ODOT's apology for cutting the neighborhood in two. Schwarz says her intent is to highlight the bridge as an amenity. The south end has electricity, so that's where Fioritto will perform, as Miss Melvis and the Buford Pusser Experience. The rest of the bridge will be filled with art installations by Patsy Kline, Alex Tapie, Wes Johansen, Gauri Torgalkar and David Jurca. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is providing telescopes on the bridge for stargazing. "Supposedly the sky will be clear," says Schwarz. "If it's cloudy, you can focus on Mittal Steel and see what they're doing." Bridge Mix is from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday on the West 11th Street pedestrian bridge, in conjunction with the Tremont Art Walk. Call 216.357.3426 or go to cudc.kent.edu/popup.
Asterisk gallerist Dana Depew and co-curator Debra Shepherd have a long list of complaints against the lame duck in the White House, and they are not alone. For their part in this month's Tremont Art Walk, they've put together 17 artists who have created work in response to his "legacy of death, debt and deceit." Counting Days: 17 Artists Respond to Eight Years of Destruction includes works by Scott Bailes, Craig Bungo, Jason Byers, Melissa Daubert, Joe Filak, George Kocar, Julius Lyles, D. Anthony Mahone, Sally Matia, Loren Naji, Ed Raffel, Thaddeus Root, Debra Shepherd, Sign Guy, Steven B. Smith, Daiv Wailey and Beth Wolfe. The show, 6-10 p.m. Friday, opens with a reception at Asterisk (2392 Professor Ave.). Call 216.640.3900 or go to asteriskgallery.com.
Communism has become a tourist attraction in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, enshrined in Memento Park, a museum of grand public sculptures removed from the city after the fall of the Soviet empire in the late '80s. Imposing bronze figures that once reminded the people of communist heroes - Lenin, Marx, Engels, Dimitrov, Bela Kun and more - now remind them of dictatorship and the power of democracy. Cleveland State University graduate student Virginia Konchan turned her camera's lens on the park and will show the result in Liquidation, which opens with a reception 6-10 p.m. Friday at Visible Voice books (1023 Kenilworth Ave), as part of the Tremont Art Walk. At the same time and in the same place, artist Derek Hess and writer Kent Smith will sign copies of their book, Please God, Save Us From Your Followers, which addresses the Republican Party, the Christian right, America's foreign policy, the environment, the Iraq war, stem-cell research, evolution and, of course, rock 'n' roll. Call 216.961.0084 or go to visiblevoicebooks.com.
LAKEWOOD ART WALK
The 30-some businesses participating in Lakewood's Madison Avenue Art Walk are spread across three miles and run the gamut from a bowling alley that regularly serves as a venue for original rock bands (Mahall's, 13200 Madison Ave., 216.521.3280, featuring Morticia's Chair) to Lakewood Hardware (16608 Madison Ave., 216.226.8822, featuring artists Jim Tigtu and Paul White). In between are restaurants, bars and art galleries that have banded together to give a boost to the streetcar-era commercial corridor. Be sure to check out Bela Dubby (13321 Madison Ave., 216.221.4479, featuring music by the Monarchs and the Quickening and art by Kristen Burns and Liz Adams); a student art show at Harding Middle School (16600 Hilliard Rd.); music by faculty and students of Vance Music Studios (16420 Madison Ave., 216.227.2886); and lobby tours and short films at the Hilliard Square Theater (16200 Hilliard Rd.). And if you've got any ideas about how to use that old theater and pay for its renovation, don't be shy. The group hosting the lobby tour, the Friends of the Hilliard Square Theater, hopes the peek inside will inspire some visionary to figure out a way to use the stately but decaying landmark. Art Walk hours are 4-9 p.m. Free. Get a list of participating locations at myspace.com/lakewoodisart.
The Pop Shop's graphic sensibility is best experienced during its annual October exhibit, Sugar Coated, which proprietor Rich Cihlar describes as "the show that will rot your teeth and your mind." Besides Cihlar and colleague Jeff Hulligan, there will be work by Keith Corcoran, Ryan Kacsandy, Andrew R. Shondrick, Jules Demmitt, John Carlson, Juliet Abram, Douglas Manry and Velma O'Neill. The Pop Shop is at 17020 Madison Ave., Lakewood. Call 216.227.8440 or go to popshopgallery.com.