Boomers — Timothy Mason, Performance Poet
Timothy Mason, performance poet
The poet of the 'road less traveled'...
By Bruce Bressack  bbressack@hippopress.com

Timothy Mason @ The Tupelo Music Hall (March 31, 2005)     Photo: Bruce Bressack

If you take the road less traveled, you get to meet some interesting people (and poets) along the way. You might even meet them in places you don’t expect to hear spoken-word-performance-artists, like the Tupelo Music Hall.

On March 31, I came to listen to the monthly open-mike singer/songwriters and bands. But, for those familiar with the format, Tupelo always showcases a performer about mid-way through the night. So, at the preordained time, featured artist Timothy Mason walked onto the stage.

Timothy has that “wandering minstrel” look and appeal. You knew, within seconds, that this was someone who has been both witness and participant to many things earthly, spiritual and cosmic. And, having survived the ride, he was dropping by to tell us all about it.

The introduction from the host, Robert Haigh, was thoughtful and interesting, but his words could not foretell what was about to unfold.

It’s hard to do real justice to what I saw and heard that night, but let me give you some adjectives to describe Mason’s performance — riveting, provoking, illuminating, funny, worldly, heavenly, hunger-creating.

Hunger-creating? Well, that’s because Mason started his set out with, as he put it, dessert in the form of ”The Heart of Chocolate."  The poem paints a picture of chocolate that, as the ad says, “is indescribably delicious.” Chocolaholics beware! The snack bar is closed during the performance so you better BYOC.

Mason then went into his second poem ...though, at the time, I did not realize it.

Honestly, when Timothy began speaking, I thought he was introducing the poem to the audience. But then I realized that he was performing the poem. It was seamless.

Now, this may be out of sequence, but I think the second poem he did was “Baseball Cards” [do they even have such a thing these days?]

If you’re a fan [or remember Whitey Ford] you will love this poem. It brings back all the childhood memories of collecting, trading, and proudly displaying your cards (especially the doubles and triples of Mickey Mantle, who Timothy describes as having a headshot with a “face looking stupid”).

If you were born in the ’50s, you'll really be able to relate to the poem “Class of 1975.” Even if you’re “younger than that,” read this poem ... it’s a history lesson you won’t forget.

So, for you students out there, here’s your assignment — first, listen to Billy Joel's song “We Didn't Start The Fire',” and then read the poem “Class of '75.” If you do, you’ll know about all the important, life-altering events of (most of) the 20th century.

Then there are poems that say much with few words.

Mason’s poem “Gently Like Water" starts with a quote from Robert Kennedy at the University of Capetown, South Africa in 1966. This is a poem you have to hear in order to get its full impact. It’s Mason’s heartfelt performance that is worth the price of admission. The poem is on the CD Bloodlines (which you can purchase from Mason’s website, along with other CDs and books).

Mason’s half-hour Tupelo set flew by. The audience really listened; they were quiet and respectful. They laughed at the funny lines. They applauded during and after the performance, and we all knew we had just experienced something unique and meaningful.

There’s a difference between writing poetry and being a poet. Lots of people write poetry, but there are only a handful of real poets.

Mason is a real poet who performs in a conversational, touching and engaging manner. His poetry has the cadence and timing of a song ... and, if you close your eyes, you can truly hear the music.

- Bruce Bressack        *wandering minstrels, bruce bressack (c)1969

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Timothy Mason has been actively promoting poetry and folk music in greater Boston since the mid 1980s. He supports himself by booking folk music into Club Passim, the legendary Harvard Square coffeehouse, and recently at Capo’s in Lowell, Mass. Prior to programming Club Passim, he brought The Old Vienna Kaffeehaus in Westboro, Mass. to national prominence.

His first book Gently, Like Water, Cracking Stone was released in April 1997. The 50-page bound volume includes a CD of live performances. Recent festival and club appearances have enabled Mason to reach a wider audience and solidified his place among contemporary New England artists. With his release of the full length CD Bloodlines which features music by award winning musician Geoff Bartley and follow up collaboration Bones and Breath where they continue to break new and dynamic ground using a format that combines song and poem into a seamless new creation. The fully produced album plays with a complete musical background.

Visit Mason’s website for more information, to sample his poetry, or to purchase his books and CDs - www.timothydmason.com

 
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