Downtown Arts Series events to feature musical styles, Korean poetry

A conversation at a barber shop and a limited South Texas tour led to the creation of the two events next week in the University of Houston-Victoria Downtown Arts Series.

Billy Moeller

Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence and co-curator of the series, was getting his hair cut at Hair It Is, when he and owner Billy Moeller started discussing the history of blues.

“He was describing legendary guitar players,” Alexander said. “He not only knows their work but has a sense of where the flow of the blues has gone, and what he wants to do with it.”

Moeller, lead guitarist and vocalist of The Hot Attacks, and Joseph Ledesma, a trumpet player for El Tule, will talk about music and perform a few selections during Meet the Musicians at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

Joseph Ledesma

“While we are probably always going to be literature heavy, we want to represent other arts,” Alexander said. “Cynthia Miller and I have wanted to reach out to local artists, and we love music. I have heard Billy play a few times and went to a class presentation led by Joseph. They are both interesting musicians, and that should make for an entertaining evening.”

A native Victorian, Ledesma taught music at Hopkins Elementary School in the Victoria Independent School District. He now lives, performs and teaches in San Antonio. He is adept at jazz and Tejano music, Alexander said.

Moeller started playing in bands when he was 14. He was part of the Austin music scene in the 1970s where he performed alongside many blues legends. In 1987, he co-founded The Hot Attacks, a blues and rock band.

While they play decidedly different music, Ledesma and Moeller will perform at least one song together.

Kim Kyung Ju

Alexander and Miller also has added a Downtown Arts Series event to take advantage of a tour by a Korean poet and his translator. Kim Kyung Ju and Jake Levine will give a reading at 7 p.m. Monday in the UHV Center for the Arts. A Q&A session will follow.

A Seoul-based poet and performance artist, Ju’s work has been translated into several languages and is widely anthologized in Korea. He has written and translated a dozen books of poetry, essays and plays.

Alexander describes Ju’s work as narrative experimental. He said Ju should provide some great stories and lively musical language.

“He takes some chances with his work, but he’s still putting stories across that people will relate to in one way or another,” Alexander said. “His language moves fast. He’s exciting. He’s a young poet who is making quite a name for himself in Asia.”

Jake Levine

Ju’s first book of poetry, “I Am a Season that Does Not Exist in This World,” sold more than 20,000 copies in Korea. Translations from the book have appeared in prominent American literary journals and magazines. Black Ocean Press just released the book in English translated by Levine.

While Ju’s work is considered to be part of the new wave of younger Korean poets, in an interview with the Boston Review, he said poetry in society today compared with the role it played in Korean history is not that different.

“Poetry’s role is to speak against the government, the acting regime and the popular culture,” he stated in the article. “Popular culture, kitsch culture, is the polar opposite of poetry. If you tried to map out how the culture of poetry works in Korea, we could discuss several things. First as counterculture, poets write about sensitive political issues in a direct way other mediums can’t address. As opposed to pop culture, poetry consciously addresses issues and global concerns in a direct way.”

Charles Alexander

Alexander said Ju is in tune with where his country’s culture, government and economy are right now and its impact on people.

“No matter the changes in poetic styles over decades and centuries, poets tend to find ways to address the ongoing concerns of living in the world with all its issues, positive and negative,” Alexander said.

Levine, a Tucson, Ariz., native, is an editor at Spork Press and writes a series of syndicated articles in the Korean literary magazine Munjang, translating and introducing younger contemporary American poets. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, “The Threshold of Erasure” and “Vilna Dybbuk.”

Alexander said Levine is a terrific poet in his own right.

“I would describe him as an inheritor of the poetics of the beat generation,” Alexander said. “He’s got a lot of energy.”

The Downtown Arts Series presents an array of groundbreaking arts practices to the Victoria community and stimulates dialogue about the arts as a presence in people’s lives. For more information about the series, contact Alexander or Miller at 361-703-5147.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro