Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Last month Gilgamesh, this month Inanna

As I've written, last month at the Going Deep Long Traditional Story Retreat, I heard David Novak tell his version of Gilgamesh. Wonderful stuff. This month, I heard Diane Wolkstein tell her version of Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, accompanied by Geoffrey Gordon. Also wonderful, told in a very different way. Both were powerful, both were well-told, both took me deep into the world of ancient Sumeria.

Diane was one of the first storytellers I heard, back in the mid-80s. I hadn't heard her since, and somehow without realizing it, I'd made a less than favorable judgment about her telling. I take it all back! I thoroughly enjoyed the performance last Friday.

She began with a very short introduction, explaining a couple of unfamiliar terms we would hear. She gave us the excellent advice to put our programs down and let the story wash over us, not worrying about understanding everything.  

Diane's telling was simple and compelling, with surprising bits of comic relief. She used a piece of gold fabric as a prop--it became a bed, a shawl, even a corpse. 

This epic reminds me that stories remain the same throughout the millennia. In this 4000-year-old story we heard the same elements of trickery, faithfulness, loyalty, love, lust, death and grief that are present in books, movies and television today. Geoffrey Gordon accompanied Diane on a range of instruments--flute, harp, drums--as he sat quietly on a small platform next to her. They've been performing this story together for many years and have a clear rapport.

If you get a chance to hear either of these stories by these tellers, don't pass it up! 

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