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Troupe Maneuvers

[whitespace] Intersections
Norma I. Quintana, Christopher Drukker

Triple Play: This week's edition of 'Intersections' features novelist Cristina García (left), poet Gary Soto (center) and musician Oliver Lake (right).

Writer Quincy Troupe makes literary and musical intersections in a new series at the SJ Museum of Art

By Ann Elliott Sherman

QUINCY TROUPE is a heavy hitter with a sweet touch, just about any way you want to take it. A jazzy, rhythmic writer skillfully working the skinheads of language and form who has turned out 10 books, half of which are poetry, Troupe has twice been crowned the Heavyweight Champion of Poetry.

Friend and biographer of iconoclast genius-of-the-horn Miles Davis, the UC-San Diego professor of creative writing and American and Caribbean literature has turned his connoisseurship and considerable connections to the great advantage of the successful performance series he founded seven years ago in La Jolla, Artists on the Cutting Edge.

"The concept was that you put a poet, novelist and musician together, and then you have this kind of mixture of people--women, men, races, ethnicities, styles. Then you bring people in to hear that, and they hear things maybe they normally wouldn't," Troupe explains.

When publicist Diane Maxwell moved from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to her current post at the San Jose Museum of Art, she asked Troupe to bring his impresario's touch northward. "We'll do it a couple of years and see how it works there," Troupe says.

The Wednesday-night performance series Intersections started this week (Jan. 13) at the museum with bestselling novelist Terry McMillan, poet Marilyn Chin (Dwarf Bamboo) and a Knitting Factory regular, guitarist Kelvyn Bell.

"While the idea is to bring different kinds of writers and a musician together, at the same time they should be able to blend. I thought that Marilyn Chin and Terry McMillan deal with different kinds of concepts, yet they're kind of similar in a certain way, even though one is Chinese and one African American. ... I hear the evening in my own head. I'm thinking, OK, they would work well together, and then that musician would work well with them," Troupe says.

This coming week (on Jan. 20), novelist Cristina Garcia (The Agüero Sisters), poet/children's author Gary Soto and avant-garde saxophonist Oliver Lake will perform. The final evening (Jan. 27) in this year's series will feature MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" recipient and all-around literary provocateur Ishmael Reed, performance artist/poet Anne Waldman and a jazz/rock session by Greg Mathieson and Abraham Laboriel.

"Literature should be something that people enjoy, as well as get something out of--you can learn something, and it can be wonderful and be deep and all that," Troupe says.

HOW DOES he land such big names? It doesn't hurt that Troupe's address book boasts more celebrities than Heidi Fleiss'. "The budget determines who you can get. You talk to some people, like Toni Morrison, and she's out of the question now. She does it because she's my friend. She was my editor at Random House. ... If she's doing it, it's because she's doing me a favor, not because I can pay her. When she came down here [to La Jolla], she said, 'I'm doing this because of the fact you gave me a cab once.' She wrote Tar Baby in my apartment. So ...

"Same thing with Terry McMillan. Terry's a good friend. I mean, I was the first one to publish her, and her son grew up with my son, you know. We go back before she wrote any of them books. I call her and she goes, 'OK, what do you want?' Somebody else calls 'em, they would say no," Troupe says frankly.

But it isn't all homecomings and fond farewells. "Sometimes, I might even dislike the person, but I like their work. I've had people come down here, I was glad to see them go," Troupe laughs.

Troupe and the San Jose Museum of Art plan to expand the performance series to five nights next year. "Then I want to give it over to someone locally who has a great feel for it," he says. "It's not about being a kingmaker, it's about being a collaborator, being able to work with people. You want it to be something that's part of a community effort."

Asked whether that wouldn't be a bit of a comedown after having an artistic director whose Rolodex could be nominated for a Pulitzer, Troupe allowed, "I might work with them. Let them organize it, and I'll make a couple of phone calls for them."

Intersections: Three Nights of Literature and Music continues Wednesdays (Jan. 20 and 27) at 7pm at the San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S. Market St. Admission is $7 members/$10 nonmembers. (408/271-6840)

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From the January 14-20, 1999 issue of Metro.

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