- Kind: Perfectbound
- Pages: 162
- Language: English
- Date Published: February, 2019
- ISBN: 978-1-948017-26-8
“The palpable commitment from its creators, composer Ellen Fishman Johnson and poet Michael Heller, suggests that not writing the opera would be criminal. . . . Fishman-Johnson has found an ideal musical language with a style of intellectually weighty, atonal modernism so prevalent in 1930s Europe, deftly mixed with Jewish ethnic overtones. Even with its occasional severity, the score is perfectly communicative.” —David Patrick Stearns, Music critic – Philadelphia Inquirer
“Heller’s reading redoubles the tragic dimension of Benjamin’s demise, the struggle against overpowering forces, and the despair of the witness to the failure of rationality. . . . [His] poem is constructed as the long monologue of the dead, forever the object of misunderstanding, and of the obstinate quest for sense and reason.” —Hélène Aji, Ezra Pound et William Carlos Williams: Pour une poétique américaine
“Michael Heller has enacted a powerful tribute to Walter Benjamin with Constellations of Waking. In performance, this libretto accompanies dense soundscapes and riveting verbal and visual narratives evoking Benjamin’s life and writings. The epic and personal converge amid the clamor and catastrophe of history, giving voice to Benjamin and his contemporaries, a chorus of thinkers and seekers, cast adrift upon dangerous modernity. Constellations of Waking is a work of historical and imaginative reclamation, reinvention, and reorientation of Benjamin and his legacy. It is also a work of dynamic preservation, propelling the man and his ideas into the future.” —Jon Curley, Poet and Co-Editor of The Poetry and Poetics of Michael Heller: A Nomad Memory
View an excerpt of the script and stage directions (pdf format).
Michael Heller’s poems first appeared in print in the nineteen-sixties while he was living in a small village on Spain’s Andalusian coast, a period he describes in his book, Earth and Cave (Dos Madres Press, 2006). In 1967, he returned to the U.S, taking a teaching position at New York University. Since then, he has published over twenty-five volumes of poetry, essays, memoir and fiction. Among his most recent works are Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen (2012), This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965-2010 (2012) and Dianoia (2016). A new collection, Telescope: Selected Poems, is forthcoming from New York Review Books in 2019. Since the nineteen-nineties, he has been collaborating with the composer Ellen Fishman Johnson on multimedia works including writing the libretto published here for the opera, Constellations of Waking, which premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2000. Among his many awards are grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America and The Fund for Poetry. A collection of critical essays on his work, The Poetry and Poetics of Michael Heller: A Nomad Memory was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press in 2015. A frequent traveler to Europe, he resides in New York City and spends his summers in the Colorado mountains. He is married to the poet and scholar Jane Augustine.