Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Piece of Cake: Nick Ripatrazone's Standing Oblations

By Phedra Deonarine

The Cake Shop in New York sells cake, but it’s also a bar, a record store, and a live music venue. In short, it seems an unlikely place for a reading. A deep stairwell leads down to a long room with a low ceiling and a stage decorated with yellow Christmas lights and red and gold tinsel. None of this, though, distracted from Paul Lisicky's and Nick Ripatrazone’s reading on Sunday for the release of Ripatrazone’s Oblations.

Author Nick Ripatrazone at the Cake Shop
Paul Lisicky is the author of Lawnboy and Famous Builder. He teaches at NYU. The work he read from was a primer on the value of travel for writers. He read first from work inspired by his stay in North Carolina while teaching at UNC Wilmington. Usually a first person stylist, Lisicky ventured into the third person for his new work. Highlights included a story about a boy who finds that he no longer loves the ocean as he once did and an unusual piece about an alligator who lived in a containment pond behind a Walmart. As always, Lisicky balanced an economy of language against the urge to lyricism in his work. He concluded with a pair of stories written in recent months.

Ripatrazone teaches AP classes in public school, recently completed his Masters of Fine Arts at Rutgers University-Newark, and works as an adjunct there. Yet despite all that, he still managed to put together Oblations, a collection of prose poetry published by Gold Wake Press.

The collection itself is broken into five parts: barns, baseball, miscellanea, work, and parishes. He spoke to this design during his reading. His move to rural New Jersey helped renew his interest in the tension between traditional rural living and the new energy which infuses such places with the arrival of transplants from the city.

Ripatrazone’s pieces unfold through a series of short utterances. His writing is pared down and gives an impressionistic sense of people, places, and language that few writers are patient enough to record. He finished with a reading from his new work, more conventional poetry than Oblations.