Ellyn Maybe’s Rodeo for the Sheepish

Ellyn Maybe’s Rodeo for the Sheepish is a CD collection of ten poems which includes favorites like “All My Life I’ve Wanted a Great Love,” “Picasso,” and “Being an Artist.” For those “not in the know” Ellyn Maybe is a very popular poet and spoken word artist based in Los Angeles. She has performed all over the country at venues such as the Bumbershoot and South by Southwest Festivals, Lollapalooza, MTV’s Spoken Wurd Tour in Los Angeles, The New School of New York, The Poetry Project, and on many college campuses. She has also read and slammed in Europe. She’s published a handful of books and chapbooks of poetry and some of her work is anthologized. “Rodeo for the Sheepish” is her first CD.

Each of Maybe’s poems is backed by a soundtrack of R&B laced with pop and jazz. A few tracks feature hot licks of saxophone and trombone. Backing vocalists sing a line from each poem as it plays, creating a chorus-like effect, which thankfully doesn’t get in the way of the poem or the poet’s voice, except on one track, “I Heard What Sounded Like a Song.” It can be a bit frustrating to parse out Maybe’s words from the overlaid song lyrics, but considering the poem’s title, maybe that’s just the right kind of flourish.

On CD Maybe’s voice is slightly lower than her characteristically high-pitched “little girl voice” heard at readings and her delivery is not at its usual quick clip, but these aren’t drawbacks, necessarily. Finding these small but enlightening differences in tone and pacing between her live readings and this recording adds another dimension to experiencing Ellyn Maybe and her poetry. Her trademark quixotic wit is still very much intact and her words, now alongside musical accompaniment, sound familiar and brand new all at once.

It’s worth noting that Maybe recently spent two years abroad in Prague while attending film school. Her poems are the richer for it. They’re accentuated by multiple histories–personal, literary, and filmic–and it’s as much an education to read up on her references to Oscar Levant and Harold Lloyd as it is to hear her describe what it’s like to listen to Sylvia Plath on LP.  Ellyn Maybe shows us that we never really outgrow a certain awkwardness associated with viewing the world from an outsider’s perspective. Charlie Chaplin couldn’t have said it better, even in the age of silent film.

CD: Rodeo for the Sheepish
copyright 2009 Ellyn Maybe
Hen House Studios
$15; available through Amazon.com