The Oberlin Review

Singer-songwriter Anna Burch sings onstage at the Cat in the Cream on Tuesday.

Indie Singer-Songwriter Anna Burch Gives Poignant, Intimate Performance

May 10, 2019

Detroit-based singer-songwriter Anna Burch gave an intimate performance at the Cat in the Cream Tuesday night as a stop before her show at the TREEVERB Music Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on June 1.  Burch has been a part of a few folk-rock bands in the past, one of which is Frontier Ruckus. Her stab at the indie-rock genre is a stark contrast from Frontier Ruckus’ banjo-twanging songs, more personal and ambitious territory for Burch. Her song demos — which she wrote after finishing gradua...

Singer-songwriter Safia Nolin sings songs from her debut album Limoilou with guitarist Joseph Marchand at the Cat in the Cream Monday. Her songs, written in French, focus on themes of depression and growing up in a working-
Matías Berretta
Staff Writer
Chair of the Creative Writing Program Kazim Ali began a poetry reading by Margaret Ross and Robin Beth Schaer on March 10 by asking those in attendance if they recognized the metrical pattern of the radiator’s rhythmic banging — a tro- chaic beat. This was a fitting observation, as both Ross and Schaer’s work draws on the rhythm of their experiences.
Shane McCrae, assistant professor of Creative Writing, giddily introduced Margaret Ross. McCrae confessed that when he met Ross at a workshop with Jorie Graham at Harvard University, he experienced the kind of jealousy a poet feels when they meet a 19-year-old who’s better than they were at the same age. McCrae lauded Ross as a genius, insist- ing that hers was the poetry of the future — unsurprising for those who’d received an email from McCrae a week earlier, titled “Genius is Coming,” in which the poet referred to Ross as the Sex Pistols before they became the Sex Pistols.
Staring straight ahead under the harsh white stage lights, Ross recited her poems from memory. Her performance was bone chilling, bordering on creepy, cold yet exhilarating. Ross’s facial ex- pressions showed her consideration for each word; her affectation was very much a part of her recitation.
Ross’s work rewards repeated engage- ment. On first read, its density may cause
one to gloss over moments of beauty, like in “A Timeshare”: “Yes though / if there’s such a thing as time at all I never saw it / move and if that’s so then what am I / So afraid of?” Although she may seem unfamiliar with the constructs of Earth, many of Ross’s poems are precise, fairly literal observations of the world through her eyes. For example, in “The Line,” she describes the play of light and shadow at dawn: “...Dawn / cuts out the trunk and drains its shadow.” Ross’s style is clear and severe. From the rich sensory details she provides, it’s clear that she is consistently observing the world around her with great detail. Her eye is a laser; even shifting shadows don’t escape its purview.
The delivery of Ross’s poems did not match how they looked on the page.
Her performance was bone chilling, bordering on creepy, cold yet exhilerating.
While her lines cut a harsher look on the paper, Ross followed the rhythm of the syntax, stringing her words together delicately.
Ross explained that she’s a slow writ- er. The subjects she writes about tend to marinate in her head for a long time before she puts them down on the page. The world she weaves in her poems,
which may be quite ordinary to her, re- mains a wonder for those who listen.
Ali introduced Robin Schaer by read- ing from Cesare Cassarino’s theory book Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis, from which he drew the concep- tual framework of the “ship as society,” a hermetic space that serves as a micro- cosm for society at large. Ali explained that like Herman Melville, Schaer is not so much concerned with the epic or narrative as she is with the quotid- ian moments that make up our lives. Ali finished his introduction by pointing out that although the visiting poet’s sur- name could be taken to mean either “li- oness” or “poetry,” in Farsi, he felt a more accurate title for Schaer would be “Lion- ess of Poetry.”
Schaer’s performance was a smooth, lyrical story of exploration and its perils. Take “Middle Flight”: “In Brazil, a priest / hitched himself to a thousand balloons / and was gone. He must have whispered céu / as he climbed aloft (only in English are heaven / and sky different words).” Schaer’s use of language — deceptively simple and accessible — allows for the emergence of deeply engaging and com- plex narratives.
History also informs Schaer’s piec- es. In “Natural History,” written for the poet’s son, she writes, “There are seven white rhinos when you are born / A year later, six. I try to tally the animals van- ished in my lifetime / and lose count.”
Schaer is interested in exploring de-
struction not for the sake of spectacle, but in order to better understand and learn how to survive disaster. Schaer herself is no stranger to environmen- tal crisis. The poet was working as a
While her lines cut a harsher look on the paper, Ross fol- lowed the rhythm of the syntax, stringing her words together delicately.
deckhand aboard The Bounty, a 180- foot, fully-rigged ship, when it was lost at sea during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The captain and a fellow crewmember went down with the ship. Much of her acclaimed book, Shipbreaking, draws on this experience. For instance, her use of ‘we’ exclusively refers to the ship’s crew. She writes, “She was safer at sea / we were not safer at sea ... we were alive / we drowned ... we were never found.”
During the brief question and answer session, Schaer explained that when constructing her poems, the constraints of a metrical pattern offer a helpful frame- work because she only needs to focus on filling in the spaces. After writing her lines in meter, she breaks up the metrical pattern as she sees fit. The final result is a poem that flows from line to line, the ghost of meter ever-present in her work.
class neighborhood in Quebec City.

Canadian Singer Serenades Cat

April 1, 2016

Singer-songwriter Safia Nolin opened her performance at the Cat in the Cream on Monday with “La Laideur,” from her debut album Limoilou. The song’s calming but somber chords resonated with Nolin’s lyrics well: “Toute seule, je m’en vais toute seule / Sans peur, j’avance sans peur / Mais j’ai menti parce qu’au fond / j’ai peur,” (All alone, I go alone / Without fear, I advance without fear / But I lied because in my heart / I’m scared), she sang. Such sentiments are charact...

Singer-songwriter Nakaya strums her guitar as she serenades an audience at the Cat in the Cream. Her music flaunts a mixture of folk, R&B and electronic influences, and
explores themes of girlhood and self-love.

Folk Musician Sings of Childhood, Self-Love

March 4, 2016

The lulling drone of pre-show chatter immediately ceased as Nakaya, cast in blue light, took the stage at the Cat in the Cream on Saturday night. She began her set with “Dear Skin,” a hauntingly mesmerizing track from her newest EP, Out of Breath. Airy acoustic guitar riffs paired with Nakaya’s echoing vocals, sending a message of self-love as she addressed her skin in a rhyming, ode-like form. “Dear skin, you are so lived in / Dear skin, forgive my flaws / I’m sorry for the pain I’ve c...

Singer-songwriter Francesca Blanchard, who played at the Cat in the Cream last Sunday

On the Record with Francesca Blanchard, Singer-Songwriter

February 12, 2016

French singer-songwriter Francesca Blanchard has received praise from a number of publications, including Seven Days, for her signature brand of acoustic folk music, which incorporates influences of jazz and rock ’n’ roll. Fresh off her most recent LP, deux visions, released last October, Blanchard came to the Cat in the Cream for an intimate show backed by her current band. The Review sat down with Blanchard for a chat about writing lyrics in multiple languages, life as a touring musician and...

Singer-songwriter Kyle James Hauser, who performed in Fairchild Chapel Thursday, Nov. 12.

On the Record with Kyle James Hauser, Singer-Songwriter

November 20, 2015

Kyle James Hauser is a singer-songwriter, banjoist and guitarist currently based in Louisville, KY. Hauser studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music and has performed at such notable events as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, CMJ Festival in New York and the Toronto International Film Festival. Hauser’s recently-composed ballet, A Well Worn Path, follows up his two solo albums, 2012’s Oh Oh and 2014’s You a Thousand Times. Hauser visited Oberlin last Thursday to lead a songwriting workshop...

Roots Residency Brings Punch Brothers Back to Campus

Sam Rueckert, Staff Writer

October 9, 2015

In a Bibbins Hall classroom, Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny and singer-songwriter Aoife O’Donovan sat amid the muffled sounds of various instruments and voices echoing through the hallway. “[There’s] something very inspiring about being in the confines of a building like this [and] seeing everybody working with such focus on furthering themselves as artists and as people,” Pikelny said. “I have this real sense of jeal ousy that that wasn’t what my college experience was like.” Given that Pikelny completed his sixth visit to campus in the last three years with the band last week, it seems like he may be getting a taste of that experience anyway. Punch Brothers and O’Donovan began their residency...

Ambient Musician Brings Showgoers to Tears

Owen Harrington

April 10, 2015

Last Saturday evening at about 8 p.m. I entered Fairchild Chapel, beginning the arduous wait until ambient singer-songwriter Liz Harris, also known as Grouper, arrived onstage. The opening act, cave weta, didn’t come until 8:45 p.m. His performance began with a quiet, high-pitched hum, which served as the basis for the rest of the song, as the manipulation of some pedals and hearty doses of feedback kept the once-feeble sound going for the next 15 minutes. At times, the performance, characterized by deep drones with peculiar textures, was lovely. cave weta shone especially towards the end when vocal loops were incorporated into the mix, adding a more human and melodic element to the formidable wall of sound. At some...

Musical Studies major, singer-songwriter and College senior Autumn Burnett strums her mother’s guitar. Aside from technical issues, Burnett’s Saturday performance at the Slow Train Café delighted a welcoming crowd.

Despite Technical Difficulties, Burnett’s Set Proves Successful

February 13, 2015

Slow Train’s live sound is not equal in quality to its coffee, but College senior Autumn Burnett’s song-writing talent shone through at her Saturday night performance despite technical issues. Minutes before performing, Burnett sat at a table with a couple of friends, calmly sipping a glass of red wine. Unlike other artists who snag a last minute tuneup or run through chords in some inconspicuous pocket of the venue, Burnett appeared nonchalant before taking the stage. With a visibly r...

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