My first foray into bilingual poetry was a volume of odes by Pablo Neruda; on one page was the piece in Spanish, followed by its English translation. Even as I found myself wondering how the translator worked out an English rhyme scheme for a poem that was apparently free verse, having both versions was still pretty neat. The Other Words 4th San Francisco International Poetry Festival features 15 poets from 10 nations, and highlights the importance of both translation and original, no matter how inaccessible the latter may be. After the poets regale audiences with everything from political lyrics to canticles of romantic longing, the pieces are recited in English so you can appreciate them for more than mere performance quality. "The Knight's Refrain," by Swede Anna Jörgensdotter, goes, "Give me a reason to be a knight! Give me pills, a lot of pills, and a trip to an unknown town!" I'm assured it sounds like a drinking song in the original, which is appropriate since the festival is all about universalizing poetry from foreign lands. It starts Thursday (and continues through Sunday at various times and venues) at 7:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones), S.F. Admission is free; visit www.other-words.com.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Wayans returns to stand-up
Damon Wayans, the widely known comedian/producer/actor/writer, hardly needs an introduction. But just to jog your memory, who could forget his hilarious In Living Colorcharacters Homey D. Clown, Anton, and, of course, Handiman (TV's first handicapped superhero), as well as his more serious turn in Dennis Hopper's Colors? Wayans is also a successful author, with his 1999 book Bootleg -- a funny tome regarding family, children, marriage, and politics -- landing on the New York Times best-seller list. Dude, this guy is everywhere! After many years in film and TV, Wayans is hitting the stand-up circuit once again (I guess he missed the grueling schedule), and this is his only San Francisco appearance in 2005. The show starts at 8 nightly (there are also shows at 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday) at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $40; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.
-- Claudia Buchsbaum
On Your Casey
His guitar gently weeps
With a mix of raw, obsessive Daniel Johnston rock and stripped-down Leonard Cohen bummer-folk, local picker Casey made me laugh with a tune's opening line: "How many boys have written a song called 'Suicide Girl'?" It's a good question, and most of those songs are probably really bad. Casey's contribution to the SG genre, "Suicide Girl," is great -- achy, cowed, and full of tense, shimmering vocals -- making the question that much funnier. He calls his new record, Skypilot, "stoned-folk/ragtime/neo-gospel," because he's a poet and mustn't be labeled. Sort of Invisible and Sweet Trip share the stage at 9 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle Pub, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Call 885-4074 or visit www.castlenews.com for admission price.
-- Hiya SwanhuyserMass Motion
At "Bodies in Motion V: Five Years Running," modern dance company Mass Movement and some of its friends prove a lot of people wrong. Alexandra Beller, for example, is a professional dancer, but she's not starved thin. Or imagine this: megastar choreographer Ann Woodhead's work performed by people who eat. It's not supposed to be possible, but it starts at 8 p.m. at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $20-22; call 626-2060 or visit www.bigmoves.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser