Crossings: Words and Music — Who’s Who

Rika Lesser, poet, translator, essayist, and educator, is the author most recently of Questions of Love: New & Selected Poems and a revised edition of Etruscan Things. She has translated fifteen collections of poetry or fiction for readers of all ages, primarily from Swedish and German, including works by Göran Sonnevi, Gunnar Ekelöf, and Claes Andersson from Swedish, and Rafik Schami, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Hermann Hesse from German as well as Kiki Dimoula from Greek, her first translation in that language. Her honors include the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, an Ingram- Merrill Foundation Award in Poetry, The Landon Poetry Translation Prize, a Fulbright Commission fellowship, two NEA Translation Grants (2001 and 2013), and two Translation Prizes from the Swedish Academy.

Kiki Dimoula is a member of the Academy of Athens. She has been awarded the Greek State Prize twice, the Grand State Prize, the Ouranis Prize, and the Aristeion of Letters (given by the Academy of Athens), as well as the European Prize for Literature. Her poetry has been translated into English, French, Danish, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and many other languages. Rika Lesser’s translation with Cecile Inglessis Margellos of The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems comes out as a Margellos World Republic of Letters Book from Yale University Press on November 13, 2012.


Aaron Jay Kernis, winner of the coveted 2002 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and one of the youngest composers ever awarded the Pulitzer Prize, has taught composition at the Yale School of Music since 2003. Among the most esteemed musical figures of his generation, his music is featured prominently on orchestral, chamber, and recital programs worldwide and he has been commissioned by many of America‘s foremost performing artists. He was invited to join the American Academy of Arts and Letters as a member in 2011 and is the most recent winner of the Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University.

Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti (1876-1944) was an Italian poet and the founder of the Futurist movement.  He is best known as the author of the Futurist Manifesto (1909), which was published in French on the front page of the most prestigious French daily newspaper, Le Figaro. Marinetti believed that violence was a means of producing an aesthetic effect, as well as inherent to life itself. Consequently, Futurism had both anarchist and Fascist elements.First published in 1932, The Futurist Cookbook is a collection of essays, exhortations, scenarios, and recipes for food of the future which related the artistic movement of Futurism to food and challenged the conventions of nineteenth-century Italian fare.

Asta Hansen has worked in film, television and theatre on both coasts and abroad. Recent highlights are the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, John Jesurun’s Stopped Bridge of Dreams at La Mama and in his webisode Shadowland, and lead role in Spotless which was selected for the Poppy Jasper Film Festival in Northern California.

Violinist Nurit Pacht has enjoyed a career as a chamber musician performing in festivals worldwide. As a recitalist and in concerto appearances, she has performed in venues such as London’s Wigmore Hall, Vienna’s Musikverein, Moscow’s Great Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Carnegie’s Weill Hall, The People’s Hall of China in Beijing and, at the invitation of Christoph Eschenbach, at Ravinia’s Rising Stars Series. Chosen by director Robert Wilson to be the featured musician in his multi-media piece “Relative Light” featuring solo violin works by John Cage and J.S. Bach, Ms. Pacht is equally at home in both standard and contemporary repertoire. Her passion for new music has culminated in world premiers and commissions from composers including Michael Hersch, Noam Sheriff and Annie Gosfield. She has performed in duo recitals with Philip Glass playing the composer’s works for violin and piano.

Cellist David Bakamjian performs regularly as a recitalist, chamber player, and recording artist. He  has soloed with numerous orchestras on both baroque and modern cello, and has served as principal cellist for many others. With the Casa Verde Trio, Mr. Bakamjian completed six critically acclaimed national tours as well as a month-long tour of China. On baroque cello, he performs with Brooklyn Baroque, the American Classical Orchestra, Early Music New York, Concert Royal, and the Long Island Baroque Ensemble. He co-wrote and is featured in “Evocations of Armenia,” a program for solo cello and spoken word that was specially conceived for the MET museum. His CD of Boismortier cello sonatas was released last year.

Pianist Evelyne Luest is an accomplished soloist and chamber musician and has performed and toured in Europe, South America, Asia and the USA. She has won several competitions including the Artists International Competition in New York as soloist as well as many awards with her ensemble, Contrasts Quartet. Ms. Luest has performed as soloist at Carnegie Hall, the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds in Italy and on the St. Paul Sunday National Radio Show. Her many collaborations include such noted musicians as cellist Truls Mork and flutist Emmanuel Pahud. Recent performances include festivals and concert venues in Norway, France, Japan, Spain, Albuquerque, and Detroit. Her long list of premieres includes compositions by Ned Rorem, Joan Tower and Aaron Jay Kernis. Ms. Luest studied with Gilbert Kalish at SUNY/Stony Brook, where she received an M.M. and D.M.A. in piano performance.


Event Announcement: Crossings–Words and Music, Friday, November 2nd at 7:30 pm

Sunday Best Reading Series in partnership with Sunday Concerts in the Lounge present Crossings: an Evening of Words and Music. On November 2nd at 7:30 in The Lounge @ HVG, Rika Lesser, poet, will read from her translation of The Brazen Plagiarist by Kiki Dimoula. Composer Aaron Jay Kernis‘s “The Four Seasons of Futurist Cuisine,” based on Marinetti’s Futurist Cookbook, will be performed by Asta Hansen Nelson, narration; Evelyne Luest, piano; Nurit Pacht, violin; and David Bekamjian, cello.  The suggestion donation of $10 includes a reception with free snacks and a cash bar.

The Lounge is at Pinehurst Avenue and 183rd St., in Northern Manhattan. Take the A train to 181st Street.

Event Recap: Remembering Vladimir Mayakovsky With the Poet’s Daughter

On April 11, 2010, Sunday Best devotees and  fans of Vladimir Mayakovsky gathered to celebrate the poet’s life and work.   A leading Futurist, Mayakovsky became known as the poet of the Russian Revolution, and his life and work are distinguished by their political engagement.  However, he became increasingly disenchanted and critical of the Soviet government.  When the poet died in 1930, three months shy of what would have been his 37th birthday, the official verdict was that he had committed suicide.  Nonetheless, questions remain about possible state involvement in his death, and some believe that he was assassinated on the orders of Stalin.  Whatever the truth about Mayakovsky’s death, his stature as a lion of Russian–and indeed world–literature cannot be denied.

Those attending the reading experienced the spine-tingling treat of hearing a recording from close to a century ago of Mayakovsky reading his own poetry in Russian.   The multi-talented poet and physician Andrey Gritsman read his translations of some of Mayakovsky’s most beautiful and affecting poems including “A Cloud in Trousers,” “The Backbone Flute,” and “Brooklyn Bridge.”

The most moving presentation of the afternoon’s celebration was that of Mayakovsky’s own daughter, Professor Patricia J. Thompson (Yelena V. Mayakovskya), who read several selections from Mayakovsky in Manhattan: A Love Story, which is based on Thompson’s conversations with her late mother as well as excerpts from her mother’s own unpublished memoirs.  The story of the romance between Mayakovsky and Thompson’s mother was poignant, and the insights Thompson shared about her father’s life and work were revelatory.  Thompson’s reading was a stirring tribute, not only to Mayakovsky the poet, but to Mayakovsky the man and father.

Event Anouncement: A Celebration of Vladimir Mayakovsky, April 11th at 4PM



A Celebration of Poet Vladimir Mayakovsky

The Lounge at Hudson View Gardens

Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 4PM

The Russian poet and dramatist Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1893-1930) is known for his colorful, declamatory style; his pioneering use of demotic language; his mastery of rhythm, rhyme and imagery; and his innovations in graphic design. A leading Futurist, he became the chief poet of the Russian Revolution and the early Soviet period.  Disappointed in love, increasingly alienated from Soviet reality, and denied a visa to travel abroad, Mayakovsky committed suicide at age 36. His Complete Plays were published in English in 1971.

The Sunday Best Reading Series will celebrated the life and work of Vladimir Mayakovsky on Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 4PM   Readers and presenters will include Patricia Thompson (aka Yelena V. Mayakovskya), the poet’s daughter, reading from a family memoir of Mayakovsky, and Andrey Gritsman, reading his own and others’ translations of Mayakovsky’s work.  We will also hear an audio presentation of Mayakovsky himself reading in his native Russian.

Reader Bios:

Andrey Gritsman is a bilingual poet, essayist, and literary editor who immigrated to the U.S. in 1981 from Moscow. His most recent book is Pisces (Numina Press). He has published four volumes of poetry in Russian. His first bilingual collection of poems and essays, View From the Bridge, was published in 1999 (WORD, New York), and a second, Long Fall, was published in 2004 (Spuyten Duyvil Press, New York). He runs the Intercultural Poetry Series at the Cornelia Street Café and is founding editor of Interpoezia, a bilingual poetry journal.

Patricia J. Thompson (Yelena V. Mayakovskya) is an author, feminist theorist, and professor of women’s studies at Lehman College (CUNY). The daughter of Vladimir Mayakovsky and Elly Jones, Dr. Thompson has published numerous books and articles exploring her theory of Hestian feminism. This conceptual framework reinterprets the influence of the home–as symbolized by Hestia, the Greek protector of domestic life, who contrasts domestic life with civic life.

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