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On the Edge: Houston Fringe Festival features lesbian poetess

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Drumming up performance-art business: poetess Loueva Smith headlines the Weekend 2 installment (August 26–28) of the Houston Fringe Festival.

by Joyce Gabiola • Photo by Y.E. Torres

“Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?”—Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’

Before planting herself across the table and confessing, “I would make a fool of myself for Annise Parker,” the poet was half an hour late, showing up with grimy hands—evidence of a flat tire—and a handmade fuzzy book for me, evidence of her creativity and tendency to view flat tires as just one of those things in life. One of those things, indeed—like the concept of love and the notion that one’s heart breaks when love fades or ends abruptly.

We have our own ways of coping, as well as paths from which we learn lessons about ourselves. Loueva Smith, native Texan and lyrical wordsmith, ushered herself from an affair with a married, aqua-eyed woman to enlightenment by composing a collection of poetry bound by fuzziness. With the help of friends, she will have made at least 300 of these complimentary books by the time Frenetic Theater’s Houston Fringe Festival begins on August 19.

I was skeptical about the fuzzy paper gimmick, but I found myself instantly diggin’ (silently and devoid of emotion) the fluffy soft white, sheep-inspired cover of the Book of Wool and Fur. It’s ironic, though: a collection of poems rooted in the physical and poetic intimacy between two women—two artists, their passion still lingering aimlessly in the universe, waiting to evaporate, and the heart-wrenching truth that their separate realities will not allow them to be together—covered by fuzziness. “I would like people to sleep on [the books],” Smith says.

As much as she loves writing, Smith loves reading in front of an audience. She scooted herself next to me in our House of Pies booth and offered rhetorically, “Can I read to you?” Personal space, I thought to myself. She flipped a few pages and read the first title. “Breasts,” she said in her reading voice, leaning in closer. Personal space—awkwaaard, I thought, but as she continued I found myself instantly captured by the rhythm and tone of her recitation that seemed to quiet the restaurant’s bustle.

Smith explores unique insights into the delicate fibers of love and sexuality, expressing her findings in an everyday voice, such as in “Carnivore”:

You pick up the bottom of my heart

in the round of your hand, shining,

but thin as a Christmas ornament.

I do not tell you to be careful.

With regard to her creative process, Smith shares, “It took me a long time to realize that my writing didn’t matter to anyone else but me.” If someone is touched by her words and expressions, she considers it be a sort of bonus—just one of those things in life.

As a student in Edward Albee’s playwriting class at the University of Houston years ago, she wrote Wounded Women Fashion Show, which years later was performed at the Fringe Festival in 2008 and won the Audience Favorite award. Smith recalls, “Albee said, ‘It is fascinating . . . but difficult to understand.  It’s so personal as to be impenetrable.’ I’ll take it!”

As she continues to prepare for her reading at Fringe, she is also working on a non-fiction novel that will be intermixed with play excerpts and poetry. Its protagonist is the late Dominique de Menil, Houston’s legendary art collector, philanthropist, and co-founder of the Menil Collection. Smith explains that Dominique spent her life showing people things, so in the story she’s found her dream job as heaven’s art curator.

Smith encouraged me to offer my fuzzy book to a gal who has my attention these days, but I don’t know. It’s handmade and soft, and I’m feeling a little selfish.  “Well, just read them to her,” she advises.

Maybe—and then we can sleep on it.

Frenetic Theater’s Houston Fringe Festival opens August 19 and continues through September 11. Festival information can be found at houstonfringefestival.com.

Joyce Gabiola is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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