MADISON, N.J. — If you are one of the fortunate few who score a ticket to WAMFEST 2010, then you better wear your shades.
That’s because the stars will be shining brightly at the four-day event, which kicks off Monday, May 3 — stars like The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, and John Doe and Exene Cervenka, cofounders of the legendary Los Angeles punk band, X.
WAMFEST is the brainchild of poet David Daniel, who is Director of Creative Writing BA at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, and in only its second year, Daniel has assembled a line-up for the festival that will be hard to top.
Doe and Cervenka will kick off the event on May 3, and Springsteen, along with poet Robert Pinsky, will cap the starry festivities on Thursday, May 6. Sandwiched in between the rock legends are Eugene Mirman and His Pretty Good Friends (Who Are Also Comedians) on Tuesday, May 4, and John Wesley Harding and poet Paul Muldoon on Wednesday, May 5.
Here is an overview of the festivities:
Doe and Cervenka first met in a poetry workshop in California, and the rest is rock history. “Their work, individually and collaboratively, has a fire, a wit, and a social consciousness that makes their work not only great, but important as well,” WAMFEST founder/director Daniel said of the pair. “Their first album, Los Angeles, is essential listening for anyone interested in rock music — it changed everything. … When I first created WAMFEST, I had these two in mind.” They will perform five or six songs before transitioning to the conversation portion of the opening session.
Hosted by WAMFEST artist-in-residence Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), the second day’s festivities feature a notable collection of literary-minded comedians performing together for the first time. Mirman is best-known for his work on HBO’s Flight of the Conchords and the Adult Swim series Delocated, in which he portrays a Russian hit man who is also a stand-up comedian. Showalter was a cast member of MTV’s The State, and currently co-stars in Comedy Central’s Michael and Michael Have Issues. Allen is a stand-up comedian and a former writer for Saturday Night Live. Nanjiani appears on the Colbert Report and Michael and Michael Have Issues. This session will feature individual sets by each comic, followed by discussion and questions.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon was the first major poet to cross genres when he collaborated with rock icon Warren Zevon on his hit, “Werewolves of London.” Last December, Daniel asked Muldoon, as an experiment, to write some songs with Harding for WAMFEST, then perform and discuss them at the event. In Wednesday’s session conceived and produced by WAMFEST founder/director Daniel, they will perform the songs they cowrote and discuss the process.
Born in the same New Jersey hospital, former American poet laureate Pinsky and rock hall of famer Springsteen have risen to the pinnacle of their respective fields. “Robert’s classic book of poems, Jersey Rain, was said to remind the world that “poetry is a tool for living”, and his astonishing career as a poet and essayist has done more than any other poet I know to promote and exemplify how poetry is and can be made relevant in all our lives,” Daniel said. “Likewise, Bruce’s astonishing lyrics reveal the “poetry” that may be discovered at the heart of American life, the stories that bind us all together — and both of these great artists have shown us the art and beauty and dignity and truth that may be mined from those stories, those ordinary lives led in sunlight or in Jersey rain.
Continuing, he said, “Without the slightest doubt, I believe this is the most significant event in the literary history of my lifetime. There’s simply never been a meeting like this. Even if they spend the entire time telling jokes, the symbolic aspect of this discussion may well lead to the ultimate achievement of WAMFEST’s primary goal: To break down barriers between “high” and “low” art that have led to the marginalization of poetry (and literature generally) in society and to the marginalization of popular arts in education.
“This is the best imaginable start toward that end.”
Stace/Harding will lead the discussion between the legendary Jersey natives in this session also conceived and produced by Daniel.