from: "Local, Late-Breaking" (4/2/05)

Notes for the work, Portrait of Detention on a poem by E. J. Campbell, by Rusty Banks
(comments by Rusty Banks)

Eric Jason Campbell (J.) and I became friends in high school.  He is one of the few friends from high school that even try to keep up with.  He is a brilliant writer now living in Nashville.  His current project is a blog about Alabama football (    I am serious when I say it is one of the most elegantly written things you will read on the internet.  I will say, however, that in spite of being fairly well-read, and I can barely hang with all the literary references.   How one can allude to Rilke's object-poem in a post-season review is beyond me, but J. defies.

Portrait of Detention is from a collection of poems that make up Campbell's Master's Thesis.  The poems are so beautiful, honest and touching, while being formally perfect.  The craftsmanship is amazing considering how naturally these poems flow off the page and into your mind.  I have wanted to set them for some time now, but have not because I lack experience in setting text, and have never felt terribly gifted at that sort of composition.  Also, J.'s poetry defies being set to music in that it is very prose-like.  Though most of J.'s poetry is metered, the meter is not forcefully conspicuous.  One reason for choosing this poem, is its greater presence of meter.  Also, it is very entertaining. 

Since the poem is reflective, yet not in first person, it is difficult to present from the voice of a  "character."  So I thought it best to present the images of the poem in the way they might flow through the mind.  If we think of different parts of an auditorium being different parts of the mind, or ways that the mind processes information, it would make sense to have an idea enter at the front of the room, then drift to other parts of the room where it becomes a different kind of information.  This is why there are recordings in different parts of the room, and why it is crucial that the performer provide the source sounds for those recordings.