Portrait of the state focus of upcoming poetry event
Published 12:34 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024
Mississippi may bear the scars of a history of poverty and racial oppression but it is rich with the natural beauty of its landscape and the voices that have risen out of that landscape. Those voices created stories and music that entranced the world.
Award-winning poet Ann Fisher-Wirth, who lives in Oxford, has always had a keen ear for those voices and particularly in the images of Mississippi’s haunting landscape seen in Mississippian Maude Schuyler-Clay’s photography.
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The poetry Fisher-Wirth created out of Schuyler-Clay’s images is the centerpiece of Theatre Oxford’s production of Mississippi: Poetry in Photography at the Powerhouse Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 7:30 p.m. The production is based on Fisher-Wirth and Schuyler-Clay’s book of poetry and photography, simply titled Mississippi. Books will be available both before and after the production, and Fisher-Wirth and Schuyler-Clay will be signing copies after the show.
“I love the rich orality of Mississippi culture, and I have tried to express it,” Fisher-Wirth writes in the foreword of her and Schuyler-Clay’s compelling book. “To write these poems, I listen to the voices and I listen to Maude’s photography. Out of silence, the poems emerge.”
Directed by René Pulliam, Mississippi: Poetry in Photography will feature cast members performing the poetry that Schuyler-Clay’s photography inspired in Fisher-Wirth. Her words and Schuyler-Clay’s images create a complex tapestry from both historical and modern voices.
The poems and photographs create mini-stories that range from moments in history such as Emmett Till’s fateful encounter with Carolyn Bryant in Money, Miss., in 1955 to moments of legend such as bluesman Robert Johnson’s encounter with the devil on the crossroads of Highways 61 and 49.
Some of the poems speak to ageless stories such as a teenager’s crush on a visitor from another country, the tragic death in childbirth of a young mother and her child and the memories embedded in a decaying shack slowing sinking into floodwaters.
Theatre Oxford’s production of Mississippi: Poetry in Photography is made possible in part by the support of the Mississippi Arts Commission and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
Tickets are free to Theatre Oxford members and $12 for non-members. Tickets will be available at the door and seats can be reserved at https://oxfordarts.com/theatreoxford.
The Powerhouse is located at 413 South 14th St. in Oxford (on the corner of University Avenue). Parking is in back near the water tower. To learn more about Theatre Oxford, visit our website (theatreoxford.org) or follow us on social media (@theatreoxford).