Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Muse on 'A Poet's Sourcebook'

Cover of A Poet's Sourcebook

Ask a poet for advice to learn how to write poetry and she is most apt to respond, "Read, read, and read." In her very personal anthology A Poet's Sourcebook: Writings about Poetry from the Ancient World to the Present (Autumn House Press, 2013), Dawn Potter reveals just how deep and how wide-ranging she herself goes while exploring and thinking about the literature on her shelves—work, Potter says, that reveals a kinship that, quite possibly, only one poet can have for another: ". . . The native land we share is poetry, and the very act of choosing these particular voices from among all the other voices of history was like embarking alongside them on a voyage to our collective home. . . ."  

In her Introduction, Potter describes the anthology as "[n]either a craft handbook nor a theory manual," stressing that it is "merely one reader's record of the long human need to make poetry. For no matter how distant in time those individuals have become, reading about that need, in both their own words and the words of others, keeps our relationship with them intimate and immediate."

Representing 91 authors as diverse as Homer and Sappho, Phillis Wheatley and Brenda Shaughnessy, A Poet's Sourcebook is not a volume to read cover to cover; rather, it impels dipping into its pages to uncover the kinds of serendipitous discoveries that accompany re-familiarizing oneself with the texts of Plato, Aristotle, and Ovid; re-engaging with the likes of Shakespeare, Bradstreet, Milton, and Blake; re-considering Shelley and Keats, Bronte and Whitman, Dickinson and Rilke, Woolf and Pound; and recalling the depth of inspiration and breadth of influence of Rich and Levertov, Snyder and Milosz. Moreover, A Poet's Sourcebook introduces names that may or may not be known to general reader, student, or teacher: Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, Lynda Hull, Autumn McClintock, Garth Greenwell, Mike Walker. I especially appreciate Potter's attention to balance, which gives us the unmistakable voices of such poets as Audre Lorde ("Uses of the erotic: The Erotic As Power") and Naomi Shihab Nye ("Poetry"). Some of Potter's selections are inspired: the late Jack Wiler's over-the-top rant, "Things I Can't Say at East Brunswick High School", and his friend Teresa Carson's elegy, "The Temple of Delight: John Keats and Jack Wiler". 

The contents of A Poet's Sourcebook, wholly selected by Potter, are organized by chronology (by writer's date of birth) and, helpfully, broadly by theme (e.g., "The Art of Poetry", "Poetry and Death", "Poetry and Identity", "The Task of Poetry") and author. Potter provides concise, useful, often insightful headnotes for each selection that give inclusion of the particular selections historical, cultural, and literary context and relationship—with the writers to others of the past and present, to Potter herself, and to the anthology's readers. In addition to essays, the anthology includes correspondence, journal entries, interviews, scripts, translations, and poems, which, taken in their entirety, make A Poet's Sourcebook a rich reference that rewards with every reading. 

A Poet's Sourcebook is, in a word, indispensable.

Dawn Potter is a poet, the 2015 director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, Franconia, New Hampshire; a visiting writer in schools, and a freelance editor for academic and literary presses. She also is on the editorial board of Beloit Poetry Journal. The author of the memoir Tracing Paradise: Two Years in Harmony with John Milton (University of Massachusetts Press, 2009),  Potter also has published three poetry collections: Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014), How the Crimes Happened (CavanKerry, 2010), and Boy Land & Other Poems (Deerbrook Editions, 2004). Forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions is Potter's The Conversation: Learning to Be a Poet. Potter, whose excellent poems and essays appear in numerous literary periodicals and journals, writes daily at her blog, where readers will find her musings about life in Harmony, Maine, cooking, playing with her band, current events, and rich literary conversation.

Dawn Potter on FaceBook and Twitter

CavanKerry Press Pages for Same Old Story and How the Crimes Happened


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thought for the Day

To me, vulnerability is courage. It's about the willingness to show
 up and be seen in our lives. And in those moments when we show
 up, I think those are the most powerful, meaning-making 
moments of our lives, even if they don't go well. 
I think they define who we are.
~ Brene Brown

Quoted from Brene Brown's Interview, "The Courage to Be Vulnerable", with Krista Tippett at OnBeing, January 29, 2015 (This is an excellent podcast. It is available in both edited and unedited versions.)

Brene Brown Website

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Short

Today's short is the trailer for a recently recommended film, Decoding Annie Parker, directed by cinematographer Steven Bernstein (Gathr Films). The film relates the true story of Annie Parker, a three-time cancer survivor who lost her sister and mother to the disease, and the research scientist Dr. Mary-Claire King, who discovered the BRCA-1 breast cancer gene, thereby validating breast cancer's genetic link. (Additional information about Dr. King is here, here, and here. She was the subject also of this June 2, 2014, Time article by Alice Park.) That discovery is considered one of the most important of the last century. Parker, author of Annie Parker Decoded: Surviving Hereditary Cancer, was one of the first women in Canada to be tested for the gene.

You will find additional videos related to the film at the film's Website.

Decoding Annie Parker on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Annie Parker Website

BRCA Gene Awareness Website

Friday, February 27, 2015

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

✦Mississippi-born, now Memphis, Tennessee-based, Carl E. Moore is both artist and designer whose works in acrylics, latex, charcoal, and graphite addresses current social and economic conditions by creating narratives from simple forms and figures. He claims as his influences artists Jacob Lawrence, Stuart Davis, Salvador Dali, Michelangelo, Charles White, and John Biggers.

Carl E. Moore at L|Ross Gallery, Memphis

✦ If you teach art in grades K-12, take note of Getty Books in the Classroom, a new, free online resource that includes educational activities related to Getty publications, including Art & Science, The Brilliant History of Color in Art, The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation, The Incredible Voyage of Ulysses, and Marguerite Makes a Book. Read "Inspiration for the Next Generation" at The Getty Iris blog.

✦ Applications are being accepted for the British Ceramics Biennial, comprising the Award and Fresh exhibitions, at Stoke-on-Trent from September 26 to November 8. The deadline is March 30, 2015. Read the details and access the applications.

British Ceramics Biennial on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✦ Avant-garde Swiss painter, photographer, sculptor, designer, and dancer Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) is the subject of Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Today is Tomorrow (Scheidegger & Spiess, 2014), a 288-page monograph with 432 color and 5 black and white images; in English, the catalogue accompanied a retrospective at Aargauer Kunsthaus, Switzerland, and Kunsthalle Bielefeld (on view through March 15), Germany. Work by Taeuber-Arp is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Catalogue Cover

Additional Information

✦ Take a moment to view Maysey Craddock's 2013-2014 works comprising gouache and thread on found paper. (Craddock, who is also a sculptor, uses paper bags laid flat and stitched together; the "canvases" provide an interesting texture.) Evocative and lovely, the work conveys Craddock's trademark imagery: water, trees, topological landmarks. Craddock's most recent exhibition was "Strand" at David Lusk Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee, where additional images of her work may be viewed.

✦ Artist Christine Sun Kim, a sound artist who has been deaf since birth, is the subject of this PBS NewsHour Art Beat feature. The short was made at Artisphere, one of our local art centers here in Arlington, Virginia.

Artisphere on FaceBook

(My thanks to Art Beat for feature and the link.)

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ In Jacksonville, Florida, the Museum of Contemporary Art is presenting through April 26 "White", which takes as its subject artworks in which white is inspiration, color, material, and conceptual premise. On view are paintings, photographs, sculptures, and installations by such artists as Tara Dovovan, Ann Hamilton, Vik Muniz, James Nares, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Robert Rauschenberg, and Rachel Whiteread. Following is a preview:

MOCA Jacksonville on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has mounted the first major exhibition of the work of photographer Anne Collier. Continuing through March 8, the show presents some 40 images Colleier has made since 2002. An illustrated catalogue is available. 

Catalogue Cover

The museum also is presenting the first retrospective of sculptor Doris Salcedo, on view through May 24.

MCA Chicago on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook is exhibiting at the nonprofit Sculpture Center, Long Island City, New York, through March 30. The artist's first retrospective in the United States, the exhibition comprises more than 20 artworks, including video, sculpture, and photographs. On view are a number of new works: sculptures portraying stray dogs in the artist's care. In addition to animals, Rasdjarmrearnsook's subjects include women, the deceased, the insane, and others existing on society's margins. Read an Artspace interview with the artist.

Sculpture Center on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

✭ Forty-four paintings by Italian Renaissance master Piero di Cosimo (1462-1522) are being shown at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., through May 3. Included in this retrospective, "Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence", is the work Madonna and Child with Saints Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, and John the Evangelist with Angels (Museo deli Innocenti, Florence). A catalogue is available (see image to right).

A different version of the exhibition, including works by Piero's contemporaries, will be on view at Galleria deli Uffizi in Florence, Italy, from June 23 through September 27.  

"Piero di Cosimo: A Closer Look"

NGA on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Examples of the American folk art known as fraktur, comprising hand-drawn or printed works on paper in ink or watercolor and having a broken ("fractured') lettering style as well as embellishments such as flowers, birds, and angels, have gone on view at Philadelphia Museum of Art. Continuing through April 26, the exhibition, "Drawn with Spirit: Pennsylvania German Fraktur  from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection", covering the period 1750-1850, features birth and baptismal certificates, sheet music, a watercolor of Adam and Eve, illustrated religious text, bookplates, writing samples, cutworks, broadsides, and a wide range of drawings; it also showcases Pennsylvania German decorative arts, such as painted furniture, redware pottery, and metalwork. (Additional information is found in this press release.) The collection is one of the most important in the United States; more than 230 of its works have been promised to the museum. An illustrated catalogue (Yale University Press, February 2015) is available (see image below).

Catalogue Cover

Philadelphia Museum of Art on FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday's Three on Art

So many thoughtful and interesting posts have appeared since the start of this new year. Here are three from last month that you might have missed—all a good read.

✭ Sarah Cowan, "All in One: An Interview with Tomi Ungerer", The Paris Review, January 30, 2015 ~ Subject of a Drawing Center exhibition "All in One", on view through March 22, illustrator and author Tomi Ungerer, now 83, talks with Cowan about the clarity of cartoons ("The drawing has to be able to speak without any balloon or anything. . . ."), the presence of politics in his work ("In a way, my whole life has been working and fighting for causes. . . ."), his erotic works, opportunities for illustrators today, making children's books "a challenge", his early childhood drawings, and his sense of the absurd. The article is generously illustrated with Ungerer's wonderful drawings.

✭ Sonya Chung, "Agnes Martin's Perfection: Now and Not Yet", Bloom, January 12, 2015 ~ This is personal and thoughtful look at Martin's art and writings and others' perspectives on the painter. (My thanks to Deborah Barlow for the link.)

✭ In "The Forgotten Side of Henry Moore", posted January 26 at the Christies Website, Florence Waters talks with Peter Murray, a friend of the late artist (1898-1986) and director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, United Kingdom. Murray speaks about his friendship with Moore and the influence of his work. The exhibition "Henry Moore: Back to a Land", which Murray says brings "fresh perspective", opens March 7 at YSP and continues through September 6. Murray reveals that the exhibition will include Moore's drawings of Stonehenge, photographs of Moore as he drew coal miners at Wheldale Colliery (one example), and Moore's drawings in the London Underground during World War II. Moore's daughter Mary Moore helped curate the exhibition, which also features personal artifacts, notes, and sketches.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

'Dogs in Art'

Taking her inspiration from the video Women in Art by Philip Scott Johnson, artist Moira McLaughlin created her own mashup: Dogs in Art.

If you wonder what all those breeds in the video are, visit Dog Art Today (go to the section Video in the menu). McLaughlin founded Dog Art Today in 2007 to "celebrate dog art as fine art. Seriously." The categories on the site range from 5th Century (or earlier) dog art to dog art in the 21st Century. In between, you'll find jewelry, fashions, art books, posters, tattoos, even a dog bar. It's great fun!

My thanks to Dog Art Today for the link.

Dog Art Today on FaceBookTwitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tomorrow Is Another Day (Poem)

Tomorrow Is Another Day

A metaphor could save your life,
so let your imagination wander

next time you have the opportunity.
Affirm it, visualize it, believe it

when I tell you everything now
will come your way—

darkness when there is no light
at the end of the tunnel

a moment of awkwardness
in a Chinese bakery

an unexpected relationship
with an alien of some sort

whose fortune is as sweet
as a cookie you never tried before.

There are no shortcuts to any place
worth going. No matter what

your past has been, face facts
with dignity. Smile,

and order takeout. Otherwise,
nothing will change and you will

be hungry soon. Until you stop trying,
you can't naturally feel upbeat.

If you want the rainbow,
go confidently in the direction

of rain. The last thing you want
is to upset the penguin today

if the love of your life is sitting
across from you. Be prepared.

The only true adventure,
the important thing, is working out

the kinks. Better to be the head
of a chicken than the tail of an ox.

But word to the wise:
It never pays to kick a skunk

even if life is a dance floor.

© 2015 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem, including its title, is made up primarily of fortune cookie sayings (I did have to add a couple of bridge words here and there) that I've combined or recombined in various ways. I thank the Fortune Cookie Database for its still-growing number of pages of fortunes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Muse: Kelly Cherry's 'Twelve Women'

Cover Image

Kelly Cherry is one of our most talented, inventive, and prolific writers — in multiple genres. In addition to being an award-winning poet (she served two years as Poet Laureate of Virginia), Cherry writes essays, memoir, novels, and short stories; she also has published translations. She has received numerous honors for her fiction writing. I last reviewed Cherry after reading her  book A Kind of Dream: Stories (see link below). More recently, I had the opportunity to read in advance* her tenth book of fiction, Twelve Women in a Country Called America, which will be published May 1 by Press 53.

Cherry's Twelve Women is a marvelous collection, beginning with its title and a wonderful Norman Mailer quote Cherry uses as epigraph: "This country is so complicated that when I start to think about it I begin talking in a Southern accent." The former hints at something of the rich range of protagonists and experiences Cherry is alert to and mines; the latter suggests Cherry's own firm grasp and understanding of the influence of place and how she makes it serve her again and again in these dozen tales.

Set in America's Deep South — you'll hear, among others, the accents of Civil War-era Richmond, Virginia; Bon Secour, Alabama; Tallahassee, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana — the stories in Twelve Women bring alive indelible portraits of wonderfully named women (Georgianna, Ramona, Philomena, Carolina, Sheba, Lorna Jo, Sassy, Calista, Lizbet), young and old, alone and not, sometimes down on their luck, often struggling to make ends meet, having affairs, bumping up against long-held stereotypes, and driven to define their ambitions and, most of all, themselves. As a collection, these stories, while unlinked, cohere beautifully, and yet Cherry manages to show each character as the complex individual she is. It's heartening to read fiction like Cherry's in which women are given such distinct and distinctive voices, have pronounced interior lives, and occupy so central a position in the making of their own narratives. 

Notably, Cherry makes an art of opening paragraphs that draw us in and keep us reading. Consider  just two excerpts:

She is seventeen, a freshwoman, as she calls herself. She is African-Italian-Cuban-Native American; the native part is Ojibway. She wears an earring in her eyebrow. ~ "Her Life to Come"

Georgianna Starlington had won Miss Fried Okra, Miss Yoknapatawpha County, Best Sandra Dee Lookalike, and Miss Delta Deltoids before she was out of her teens. She would never be Miss America, but she had been Miss American Pie. ~ "Famousness"

Cherry also is masterful in crafting sharp, unforgettable characterizations:

Lorna Jo had big hair, makeup you could skate on, and high heels. Her perfume was like an advance team: it tacked posters to pillars, beat the drums, got out memos, rallied the crowds. It let people know she was coming. ~ "Serious Love"

Henrietta was sixty-six; she had retired last year, a single woman in Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of  the Confederacy, staid and conservative, belated in so many ways, now a place where you could actually buy a drink. Or go to dinner with a black man. ~ "False Gods"

Cherry's stories, some of which ("Will Fitts Finds Out", "The Piano Lesson", "Famousness") first appeared in such prestigious periodicals as CommentaryThe Literary ReviewThe Kenyon Review, and The Idaho Review, are deftly paced and balanced. The author knows when to allow her characters to speak for themselves and when to propel their stories forward through use of an omniscient narrator. The dialogue, often witty, reads true-to-life, as do many of the situations in which Cherry places the women, especially in relationship to men. But Cherry also scores relief in humor, as in a wonderful description of a character's visit to Frederick's of Hollywood ("Famousness") or a son's introduction to his mother of a painter with whom she's having an affair ("Mother's Day"). And though Cherry may drop clues to meaning and action and outcome (one reason to pay attention to the stories' titles), she is game for surprises, sometimes rendering unexpected conclusions that send one back for a second reading, if only to better appreciate the skillfulness of the story-telling.

There are haunting stories in Twelve Women, too. One is "Au Secours" (keep the meaning of that title in mind), where the reader first meets "a woman named Jeanne[, who] is getting ready to cook dinner for herself and, she hopes, her husband. She wheels her chair to the refrigerator, removes a rubber-banded bunch of collard greens and a small brick of fatback, and then wheels to the counter, which is lower than most counters because the trailer's interior has been rebuilt to meet her needs." (Notice that Cherry doesn't define Jeanne as "disabled".) As "Au Secours" progresses and the reader learns Jeanne's compelling and sad backstory, Cherry introduces husband Lucas, as only Jeanne could have known and remembers him. Cherry takes the reader deeply into Jeanne's mind and physical and emotional states. The ending, which I will not give away, is tragic, in the way the best southern gothic tales can be—and altogether believable and understandable.

Another of Cherry's stories deserving mention is "The Piano Lesson", a dark and disturbing tale of a lonely widow and piano teacher, Mrs. Edith Womack, who gives her student Jessie a surprising, never-to-be-forgotten lesson on Thanksgiving Day. (The irony of setting the story on this particular holiday resonates.) As is the case in a number of stories in this collection, Cherry shows us women who bear not only deep emotional pain but who also must contend with wrecked bodies: ". . . Jesse caught herself gaping and shut her mouth. She had seen her mother get dressed for gala evenings but her mother did not look the way Mrs. Womack did. Her mother's chest was not crisscrossed with stark, savage lines that looked like somebody had carved a map into it. . . Edith's chest was not only flat and scarred, it was dented, like a fender. Like two fenders. . . ." The accumulation of such details produces a vivid portrait of Mrs. Womack that is horrifying though not necessarily unsympathetic; at the same time, that portrait is drawn with sufficient appreciation for Jessie's and the reader's intelligence that Cherry has no need to explain what has happened to Mrs. Womack or the value of the lesson Jessie will receive.

Put Cherry's Twelve Women in a Country Called America on your to-buy and must-read list, or pre-order now from the publisher to receive a signed copy. This is a collection that is worthy of and rewards multiple readings. 

* I received the advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review.

My other reviews of Kelly Cherry's work:

Other Posts:

Monday Muse Profile of Kelly Cherry Appointed Virginia's Poet Laureate (January 24, 2011)

Interview with Kelly Cherry at Writing Without Paper and TweetSpeak Poetry (May 16, 2012)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Thought for the Day

All that is empty is space
like a broken mouth.
~ Jake Adam York

Quoted from Jake Adam York, "At Sun Ra's Grave" in A Murmuration of Starlings: Poems (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)

Jake Adam York, 1972-2012, American Poet

Read everything of York's. He was a superb poet.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Short

Today's short is the trailer for the documentary August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand. The film is the first about Wilson, winner of Tony and Pulitzer prizes. It draws from the playwright's theatrical archives and includes interviews and readings by Viola Davis, James Earl Jones, and other film and theatre actors.

The documentary was broadcast on PBS's American Masters program on February 20. It was co-producced by WQED. A DVD of the documentary is available as of February 24 via PBS Distribution.

August Wilson, 1945-2005, American Playwright