Poetry reminds us to live intensely

Anthony Zerbe, through his performance of “It’s All Done with Mirrors,” encouraged his audience last Friday to “live deeply.” “It’s All Done with Mirrors” is a performance of a portion of poet E. E. Cummings’ work—both poetry and prose. This year it was part of the theatre department’s Performing Arts Series. In the talkback after the show, Zerbe said he strung the different poems and prose together to inundate his audience with Cummings’ imagery, without a clear narrative. Having read a lot of E. E. Cummings’ poetry, I appreciated Zerbe’s attempt to recreate the specific and unique feeling of Cummings’ poetry. Zerbe, in pointing out one of Cummings’ lines, “Damn everything but the circus,” demonstrated a main theme of his show. With a set of balloons and an occasional circus music track, he highlighted some of the more nonsensical elements of Cummings’ work. In focusing on an inundation of images and feelings, Zerbe sometimes lost his audience. Switching between poems as different as “may i feel said he” and “Humanity i love you,” Zerbe achieved two different effects from performing such varying work without much transition: he gave a large sampling of Cummings’ work, but the poems and prose sections lost a lot of their individual impact. Despite some of the more confusing aspects of Zerbe’s performance, he was able to play the varying characters of Cummings’ poetry with ease and good humor. He performed “may i feel said he” particularly well, establishing two distinct characters and capturing the audience in that moment. It was refreshing to hear from someone established in the world of acting. Zerbe told the audience how he loved his life because he lived in the moment. Bringing this aspect of Cummings’ life to the stage was a great reminder for me to enjoy the present.

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