In the mid-90s, I decided to get over my stage fright while living in the San Fernando Valley by attending poetry readings. I loved the camaraderie of the poetic gatherings because it was the only place in that area where we didn’t know what was in store for us – comedy, tragedy, or drama. I never met anyone quite as eccentric as the Dead Dog Puppet Lady.
The first time I saw her she walked in with crazy hair, dangly earrings and a squeaky black crate on wheels. It looked like the boxes used to transport musical equipment. She took out these incredibly realistic Rottweilers, stuck her hands up their backs and they performed her poetry for her.
She had conversations with the dogs like a ventriloquist but it wasn’t a ventriloquism act because her lips moved the entire time. So I wasn’t sure exactly what group to put her into: Poet? Puppeteer? Performance Artist? Possibly a Patient?
As I sat transfixed, a fellow poet leaned over and said, “Those are her real dogs.”
“What?” I said in a stage whisper.
“Yeah,” he stage-whispered back, “when her dogs died she took them to a taxidermist and had them stuffed.”
After that I couldn’t hear a poem she said. Or what her dogs barked. I mean, she had a litter, not just one.
She came to readings every weekend always late. We cringed when we heard those wheels scratching on the sidewalk; like nails on a chalkboard but not as soothing.
I thought that a gathering of kids might better suit her. But I feared children asking her where she got the puppets. Imagine her saying, “Well, these were all my dogs at one time. When they died and went to doggie heaven, I had them stuffed and made into puppets.”
- DVD Review: Charles Bukowski: One Tough Mother (blogcritics.org)
- Watch my lips: the art of ventriloquism deserves centre stage | David Strassman (guardian.co.uk)
- Google Translate Takes On Poetry (blogs.wsj.com)