What happens when playwrights
and poets alike draw inspiration from William Shakespeare? Magic, perhaps. Over
the last five months as a curator for Saint Flashlight, I invited over a dozen
writers to mine Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and the like to create fresh
verse reflecting a contemporary POV. The resultant poems – many of them sonnets,
all of them thought-provoking, repeatedly delightful – have been on display in
the windows of Theatre for a New Audience since the Autumn of 2021. The overall
series, entitled The Will of the City, may no longer be surprising
passersby at the Brooklyn performance space but you can read most of them here
now below. The order reflects their sequential roll-out on the theater’s
street-side, big-screen monitors. Special thanks to TFANA's Jeffrey Horowitz,
Jennifer Lam, Torrence Browne, and Steven Gaultney (a staff member who’s also a
playwright and now a poet) for helping to make this project not just possible
but immensely enjoyable, too.
Drew Pisarra Saint Flashlight Co-Founder
Kent after Lear by Steven Gaultney
Is this the promised end, or just an end, All promise long forgot? How many lives Can one surrender, lives on end, yet spend More life? His spirit breaks, yet he survives. Vex not his ghost. But I remember days When he, behind the wheel of that Corvette He used to pray to, howl-howled down highways, Eyes arched to heaven’s vault, its stars no threat. Break, heart, to see him roaming vast expanses, Soul still unbound now bounding every mountain, Up peaks where thunder stomps and lightning dances, Voice raised to god still sure the sky must bargain. If this same
man is now but earth on earth Why should
his slave tread dust of so much worth?
by Anya Banerjee
My mother never called me Changeling Boy.
Her name for me remains unheard, unknown.
And yet, somewhere within, it brings me joy;
That safely secret name shall not be owned.
Sometimes whispers call out a lover’s name
And sail through the forest like merchant ships.
My chance to steal some merchandise! I claim
Their treasured whispers, sealed between my lips.
But this Midsummer Night my lips do part;
Out flies a voice, familiar yet strange.
And here my broken and twice-stolen heart
Begins to ask “For what was I exchanged?”
No fairy dust, no spicèd Indian air.
Just little old me and my self laid bare.
The Mother of Othello Comes Before Us
by Malcolm Tariq
Men raced into darkness look for light.
They return black as my face. My name
that is as flesh made him all the more
an example he could not return.
Had he devoured my discourse, observed
my title, I would not be the monster
in his thoughts. My mystery is the cause.
And when I turn the business of my soul,
it was I who killed her. Had I taught him
to tell my story, would it repair him?
Certain, men should be what they seem,
but doubt was my first gift. Then, fate.
I must confess the vices of my blood—
I love my son. I hate the Moor.
Hamlet By Diane Mehta
Cowards, all: to be the end of this design, ice-fields swimming slowly out to sea, razing our ecologies, our needs unquenchable, peat-bogs we make calamities of; so long life— these clouds are white, my ravishments are dreams irredeemable. Outrageous fortune! I weep. A thousand loves are stolen from the years, hectares would be mine, undiscovered country my largesse, purple-puzzle sky and green auroras, foamflowers in blue shade below knobcone trees, world so near and long alive; wrecked, all wrecked. I see my father’s pale ghost wandering and wonder who is murdering our eternities. Cowards, all. Art of trouble, sea of love, questions inside questions. I won’t grow old; don’t lose count of me.
Winter’s Tale for a Warming World by Will Eno Would that this most unworldly world would stop, Say I over bread crusts and water. Jailed by the mad king and torturous thoughts Of my wasted dead son and lost daughter, I strain to remember happier days. A stone castle of trust, not suspicion. Years of good queenly grace and marmalade, Not this moth-bitten rank isolation. Then statuesquely I come to pained life, And my play ends with a comical turn. While on unstaged Earth we waste sacred time, Our treetops and weak lungs crackle and burn. Enough rhyming, cruelty, paranoia, meter, poison-- it’s
near hopeless. Near hopeless is where the best hope is born.
The Block Talk by Modesto Flako Jimenez
& Choos Chorus)
1 - Two Factions both turning up in the streets (a) 2 - In Flatbush Brooklyn, New York, Peep the scene, (b) 3 - The Choos and Woos mix-in Bloods and Crips (a) 4 - Bringing bloody blocks when forty Glocks gleam (b)
1 - From these rivals emerges Brooklyn Drill (c) 2 - That Brings capital gains with each POW sound
(d) 3 - And street kill all wanting to claim the bill (c) 4 - Bodies dying, broken limbs force sit down (d)
1 - The nightly tales of black souls dropping (e) 2 - The Angered in despair infested streets (f) 3 - and killing of Pop Smoke got us talking (e) 4 - putting the guns down we begin to see (f)
1 - If you listen to the neighborhood talk (g) 2 - You will understand this tale in a walk (g)
Choos Chorus Exit)
Taming Of The Shrew
by Regie Cabico
In the bronze of my Filipino,
fallow face, my ocean face,
my Scruff suitor phantoms
fossilizing my face, my jowls,
my howling jowls at a moon
face, moonbeams reflecting
the gilded sea, to the suitor
gushing the savagery of the sea
in me, lost in thistles,
my orchestral conductor,
my mirror of exclamations,
my cliff, my whistle, my peacock
feather in leather, my silver whip,
my pain, my hand is ready…
by Twinkle Burke Regnant queen providing a radiant light Her power emerging from deep within. Does her ebony frighten or delight? Can it save you from the wages of sin?
Vivid melanin infatuation Revered by her fierce and bronzy skin Behold from the gods wondrous creation The power that helps us start, to begin Catalyzing our own beauty and worth. A worldwide reckoning seen ‘round the globe. Shattering the myths, buoys spirits on Earth Splendid rebirth glorious to behold. We are mesmerizing and audacious Sovereigns, liberated, and vivacious.
Yours, Lady Macbeth by Mónica de la Torre
Spirits, I write, once topfull of cruelty and now
hollowed out but of blame, barely lifting my arm, so heavy it is with exhaust and disgust at the filth still clung to my
hands. Sleepless I remain, except when roaming about rooms, half-dead, apparition-like, possessed by remorse, as now. I’d implored you to block its access. You granted me a half-wish—only partially unsexed, the idea of patricide deterred me. Who speaks through me
now? A man wrote my evil persuasion; my breakdown upon the
bloodbath; my fate, awayward, for I die offstage each time. My leaving, the occasion for my husband’s most quoted of
soliloquies. Out of time, I scribble these words furiously. Trust they are not nonsense.
Henry IV by Jeffrey Sweet
“Shape up,” he says. And sometimes he talks about how he wishes someone else
were his son. Yeah, and get this, that someone else is a traitor who is
trying to overthrow him. Swell.
“Take the stick out of your butt and enjoy yourself,”
says the other. He jokes and drinks and tries to boff anything that
moves. And he lies and he steals and exploits our friendship
whenever he can. Swell again. I’m a figure who died in the early fifteenth century, But, using the gift of foresight granted by the author of
this, I think of Freud (why not?). You know, super-ego and id. Guess who is which? It’s not easy having two daddies. When they're dead, I'll be free of them -- right?
TITUS POEM by Carol Triffle
Oh sacrifice be thine Oh boo hoo you’re no fun Get in the mood Just a son divine He’s gotta die Blood galore And he will be no more Breathe no more Just sleep, sleep, sleep Deep, deep, deep I’ll be emperor soon Lop a leg you creep It’s a barbecue on you Come my new queen Vengeance you lusty love Soon you will be seen You’re in the mood You are my dove Kill the brood Revenge awaits At the pearly gates Cut off a hand, cut off a head Kill the girl, kill the guy Kill a fly Serve a feast Kill some more End with more and more bloody gore.
The Tower (XVI) by Emmy Potter You who ignore the signs Nature does give of rising tides and forests set aflame, yet play God with how common folks must live, so confident our Fates are not the same: The Fool heading sure-footed off the cliff, with eyes, like Icarus, turned toward the sun, sees not their downfall will be ever swift. (Weighty the crown you wear yet never won.) In solemn silence, Justice sits and weighs the measure of men’s actions on this Earth; though she sees not, still none escape her gaze. Her sword will surely parse out your true worth. For oft when men fail to do the right thing Justice and Mother Nature intervene.
Twelfth Night by Kate Lutzner
Seven years to mourn, Olivia. I will not hook up with another man until you have left me, oh brother, oh dear. I will lament you singly, with my hands in my pockets. Let me be free to love later, despite rejection, despite complication. Self-love is an aspiration, one I aspire to. I have borne jealousy but not a child, will die alone I think. Please, intervene in my horrid thought, this tired combat with words and emotions. I am finished before I began, so many plans taken up by my mouth.
Regarding the poems above, Steven
Gaultney took his inspiration from King Lear; Anya Banerjee, from A
Midsummer Night’s Dream; Malcolm Tariq, from Othello; Diane Mehta,
from Hamlet;Will Eno, from The Winter’s Tale; Modesto Flako
Jimenez, from Romeo and Juliet; Regie Cabico,from The Taming of the
Shrew; Twinkle Burke, from Antony and Cleopatra; Mónica de la Torre, from
Macbeth; Jeffrey Sweet, from Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; Carol Triffle, from Titus
Andronicus; Emmy Potter, from Julius Caesar; and Kate Lutzner,
from Twelfth Night. Additional heartfelt thanks to Grand Little Things and Sacred
Chickens who published “Kent After Lear” and “The Exchange” respectively, in
support of this project last year, as well as poets Urayoán Noel and Ricardo
Alberto Maldonado who also contributed to this project.