Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Syntax of Distancing (Poem)

Syntax of Distancing

Your hand over my mouth
betrays that rush of I ams

irrupting deep within this red
sore throat. A vocal landscape,

littered with its consonants
and vowels you will not make

your own, collapses, high ridge
of old amalgam fillings once

more no bridge to borderlands
between teeth and tongue.

On the map of my sharp jaw
bone you sketch dropped Rs,

flat As, no me. I let you stutter,
the percussive hisses of air

beyond our lips, a shushing syntax
of distancing, not one word said.

2014 © Maureen E. Doallas

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Muse: North Carolina Poet Laureate

I prepared last week the post that follows. It was based on my research into appointee Valerie Macon's background. On July 18, this past Friday, I learned that Macon had resigned because of the considerable dissent — some quite mean-spirited (see articles cited below) — that arose earlier about her prospective incumbency. In a letter to Governor Pat McCrory, Macon emphasized that she did "not want the negative attention that this appointment has generated to discourage or distract attention from the Office of the Poet Laureate." In closing, she urged everyone "to read and write poetry", adding that only "the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression" were needed. If and when an announcement is made of a new appointee, I will contribute an update. It is unfortunate that politics mixed so combustively with poetry, especially in a state that has produced many wonderful poets.

Succeeding Joseph Bathanti as North Carolina's Poet Laureate is Valerie Macon, whose appointment was announced July 11. Macon's appointment as the eighth state poet is for two years. She is the third woman to hold the job.

Information about the position, which is renewable at the governor's discretion, is found in my Monday Muse post of June 28, 2010, which profiles Cathy Bowers, Bathanti's predecessor. To read my profile of Bathanti, whose term concluded June 30, 2014, see my Monday Muse post of October 15, 2012.

The incumbent of the position, who normally undertakes a long-term project of value to the public, is described as the "ambassador of North Carolina literature." 

* * * * *

A  resident of North Carolina for more than three decades, Valerie Macon, a state disabilities examiner with the Department of Health and Human Services, is the author of two chapbooks of poetry: Sleeping Rough (Old Mountain Press, 2014) and Shelf Life (Old Mountain Press, 2011). According to the books'  sales pages at Old Mountain, the former is about homelessness and  the latter about life's joys and sorrows.

Valerie Macon received in 2014, 2013, and 2011 honorable mentions for her poems "Offering", "Detour", and "Soul Food", respectively, in North Carolina Poetry Society competitions for adults. (A link to "Detour" is included below.)


"Governor McCrory Appoints State Poet Laureate", Office of the Governor, July 11, 2014

Department of Cultural Resources, "Governor McCrory Appoints Valerie Macon Poet Laureate", July 14, 2014

Georgia Parke, "McCrory Taps Fuquay-Varina's Valerie Macon to Be NC's Next Poet Laureate", Charlotte Observer, July 13, 2014 (This and other early news articles about Macon's appointment read as virtually identical.)

Below is a wide sampling of the many news articles (more than 150), opinion pieces, and blog posts, in and outside North Carolina, that have addressed and fueled the controversy over Macon's appointment:

Alexandra Alter, "North Carolina's New Poet Laureate Bows Out", ArtsBeat Blog, The New York Times, July 18, 2014

Duncan McFadyen, "N.C. Gobernor Causes Controversy With Poet Laureate Appointment", NPR, July 17, 2014

"Uproar: Self-Published Poet Laureate in NC Resigns", WRAL, July 17, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Poets Laureate Hope to Meet With Governor", WNCN, July 17, 2014 (Also see Waggoner's July 17 article at Minneapolis StarTribune.)

Katy Waldman, "People in North Carolina Are Really Upset About Their New Poet Laureate", Slate, July 17, 2014 (Update, July 18, 2014)

Collin Kelley, "Notes on a Scandal: North Carolina Poet Laureate Valerie Macon", Modern Confessional, July 17, 2014; Update

Ed Southern, "Valerie Macon Is North Carolina's New Poet Laureate", White Cross School: The Online Journal of the North Carolina Writers' Network, July 16, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Gov Defends His Self-Published Poet Laureate", AP Big Story, July 16, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Gov. Says He Will Review Poet Laureate Process", News Observer, July 16, 2014

Dane Huffman, "McCrory's Choice for NC Poet Laureate Irks Writers", NBC 26, July 16, 2014

Chris Vitiello, "Opinion: McCrory's Mean Joke, a Poet Laureate Who's Barely a Poet", Arts, Indy Week, July 16, 2014

Weston Williams, "A Self-Published Poet Laureate? North Carolina Pick Draws Controversy", The Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 2014

"Our View : No Need to Name an Official Poet", Your Daily Journal, July 14, 2014

David Menconi, "NC Poet Laureate Criteria Have 'Changed'", News Observer, July 15, 2014

David Menconi, "McCrory Picks Poet Laureate Without Input, Rankles Poetry Community", News Observer, July 14, 2014

Dannye Romine Powell, "McCrory Bypasses N.C. Poet Laureate Selection System", Reading Matters (Blog), July 13, 2014 (Also see: "Former Poets Laureate Take High Road on McCrory's Appointment", July 14, 2014; and "Poets Piqued Over Way Gov. McCrory Chose NC Laureate", Charlotte Observer, July 14, 2014. Powell also published an article in The Charlotte Observer on July 15.)

Valerie Macon Poetry Online: "Vegetarian Meat Lover" (Shelf Life) at Old Mountain Press; "Detour" (Sleeping Rough) at Old Mountain Press 

Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series (FaceBook) This series falls under the aegis of the North Carolina Poetry Society. The program is named for poet Marie Gilbert and former state poet Fred Chappell (1972-2002).

North Carolina Arts Council and NCAC Poet Laureate Page (Information on the latter page has been revised since Macon's appointment.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thought for the Day

. . . To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, . . .
~  Wendell Berry

Quoted from Wendell Berry's Poem "To Know the Dark" in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1999) The poem was published in 1970 in Berry's Farming: A Handbook.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Short

Today's short is the trailer for The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, a documentary by filmmaker Hannah Jayanti about the creation and creators of the much-loved book by author Norton Juster and artist-illustrator Jules Feiffer. The documentary, which incorporates interviews, animation, and archival materials, premiered in New York City on October 6, 2013.

The Phantom Tollbooth Documentary on FaceBook and Tumblr

Adam Gopnik talks with Juster and Feiffer at The New Yorker Festival (video).

Friday, July 18, 2014

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

All Art Friday Spotlights

Pilar Acevedo, a painter and collage artist, creates surreal narratives that she says are inspired by her memories, vintage photographs, dolls, poetry, and "unsettling human interactions".  Born in Mexico City, she was raised and currently lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. Images of Acevedo's art may be viewed at her Website and blog. Acevedo's solo exhibition "Fragmentos" at the National Museum of Mexican Art concluded July 13.

✦ The watercolors, drawings, and paintings of Santa Fe's Mary Bonkemeyer are exquisite. Bonkemeyer's exhibition "Decades of Paint" concludes July 27 at North Dakota Museum of Art.

✦ Check out the Street Art Project by Google Cultural Institute. The project includes videos of artists sharing their stories ("Listen to the Street"), high-def imagery ("Get Closer"), mapped locations of street art, likely-to-disappear spaces, and digital exhibits of street art found around the world ("Frame the Walls").

✦ The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., has created Total Art Videos to complement its current exhibition "Total Art: Contemporary Video", on view through October 12. The site features mini biographies and works from the 10 innovative artists in the exhibition (Dara Birnbaum, Kimsooja, Mariko Mori, Mwangi Hutter, Alex Prager, Pipilotti Rist, Michal Rovner, Margaret Salmon, Eve Sussman/Rufus Corp., and Janaina Tschape), interviews, and video clips and mini documentaries. The site is a wonderful introduction to the exhibition and an excellent resource. My hope is the museum will maintain it after the exhibition concludes.

✦ The extraordinary monumental sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz is the third artist chosen for the New York Avenue Sculpture Project, which is under the auspices of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Downtown DC Business Improvement District, the DC Office of Planning, and various other local agencies. Abakanowicz's installation will be on view from September 27, 2014, through September 27, 2015. According to a press release, a range of the artist's figurative works is expected to be included and will be dedicated at Community Day, Tuesday, September 30.

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ Rhode Island's Newport Art Museum has mounted a show of paintings by Elizabeth Congdon. "Elizabeth Congdon: Heaven and Earth" is on view through August 12. Also at NAM are the marine botanicals of Mary Chatowsky Jameson, who describes her work as an examination of marine algae as a contemporary art form. "Mary Chatowsky Jameson: Marine Botanicals", which includes almost 30 originals and Giclee prints, continues through September 1.

Newport Art Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, is presenting the visual poetry of Susan Paulsen in "Susan Paulsen: Wilmot". Paulsen's exhibition, on view through September 28 (previously, it was on view in Paris, France), includes 71 photographs and two wall-size collections of photographic prints made in all seasons of the year in Wilmot, Arkansas, between 1995 and 2012. Wilmot, in southeast Arkansas, is home for part of Paulsen's family. George M. Shackelford, author of the essay for the catalogue Susan Paulsen: Wilmot (Steidl, 2012), writes that "Paulsen has created photographs that have resonance for anyone who looks at them. . . That resonance comes not in spite of her involvement with the subject but because of it."

Susan Paulsen: Wilmot (Catalogue Cover)

Susan Paulsen lives and works in New York. Her other books with Steidel include Sarah Rhymes with Clara (2011).

Arkansas Arts Center on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ "Finland: Designed Environments", a look at creative Finnish design over the past 15 years, continues at Minnesota's Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It coincides with FinnFest USA, a celebration of 150 years of Finnish presence in Minnesota. Including furnishings, fashion, craft, and objects and projects by Finnish architects, the exhibition addresses the themes of architecture, urban design, sustainability, and new areas of design. An exhibition preview is available, as is an illustrated e-book, Finland: Designed Environments (MIA, 2014). (The book also is available in print and via iTunes.) A number of exhibition-related videos also are online. 

Finland: Designed Environments (Book Cover)

Minneapolis Institute of Arts on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ On view through August 31 at Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, is "Jennifer Steinkamp: Orbit 12", an immersive  digitally animated projection installation in which the artist explores ideas about nature, architecture, motion, and perception. Projected on gallery walls, Orbit 12 is described as "constellations of bramble, branches, and leaves [that] swirl and meander like celestial nebulae in constant flux, immersing the viewer. Winter's bare limbs burst forth with colorful blossoms and lush summer canopies give way to autumn's warm brilliance in a never-ending cycle of seasonal dean and rebirth."

To sense what Steinkamp's projection installations are like, watch this video of Dervish, 2004, 2005

Orbit at Steinkamp Website (Also see Orbit, 2.) (Documentation Stills)

Jennifer Steinkamp at Lehmann Maupin

Mint Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Fork, will open "Fractured: North Dakota's Oil Boom" August 3. The exhibition, which will continue through October 12, will feature the photographic work of Terry Evans and the writings of journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth, who have been exploring and documenting the effects and implications of the oil drilling in North Dakota's Williston Basin region. The collaborative exhibition appeared earlier at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

Center for Art + Environment Blog (Evans and Farnsworth)

NDMA on FaceBook

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Artist Watch Feature at Escape Into Life

Robbie Porter, Teatime, Illustration

Please join me today at Escape Into Life, where I have posted a new Artist Watch feature.

I'm delighted to present the witty, charming, and award-winning illustrations of Edinburgh-born Robbie Porter, who claims he's almost as good now as his primary school friends were way back when. Currently working as a freelancer with an international clientele, Porter also is the author of a children's book, The Librarian's List. Porter, by the way, is just 29 years old. He promises to have a long and lucrative career.

At EIL, you'll find eight images of Porter's work, an Artist Statement, a brief and funny biographical statement, and links.

Robbie Porter on Twitter and Tumblr

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Introduction to Sound Artist Bora Yoon

Meet Korean-American composer, vocalist, and sound architect Bora Yoon. Classically trained on piano and violin, she is known for her innovative and experimental approach to music-making.

In the second video, below, watch Bora Yoon's performance at TED2014 (she is a TED Fellow this year). She uses, in addition to her own vocals, soundscapes created with found objects. 

Read an interview with Yoon at Tedblog.

Bora Yoon Website

Bora Yoon on FaceBookTwitter, and YouTube

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Magnolia (Poem)


Curve of sweet-cream skin
Milk-white of clouds unfolding
Southern summer shade

2014 © Maureen E. Doallas

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Muse: Virginia's New Poet Laureate

. . . Virginia is rich in poets, poets who deserve much
more recognition and more readers than they currently have.*
~ Ron Smith

The seventeenth Poet Laureate of Virginia is Ron Smith, who succeeds Sofia M. Starnes. Appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, Smith will serve two years (through June 30, 2016) in the honorary post. His term began officially July 1.

In an interview with Richmond periodical Style Weekly, Smith identifies his duties as "encouraging and representing poetry." While expressing relief that a he "won't be called upon to write "The Charge of the Light Brigade", Smith nevertheless adds, "I wish my duties required me to write the 21st century equivalent of Tennyson's "Ulysses" or "The Lady of Shalott"." 

Information about the legislatively created position is included in my Monday Muse profile of Claudia Emerson (March 1, 2010). Kelly Cherry succeeded her. For my profile of Sofia M. Starnes, see the Monday Muse post of October 1, 2012. 

* * * * *
. . . I think . . . what poetry does relentlessly,
line after line, good poetry and great poetry—
it breaks down the barrier between the inner and the outer.
~ from 2003 Blackbird Interview

A Virginia resident since 1967, Ron Smith, who also is an essayist and critic, has published three poetry collections: Its Ghostly Workshop (Louisiana State University Press, 2013), Moon Road: Poems 1986-2005 (LSU Press, 2007), and Running Again in Hollywood Cemetery (University Presses of Florida, 1988). The latter, available through resellers, was runner-up for the National Poetry Series Open Competition and Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize.

Named in 2011 one of "Best Local Poets", Richmond's Style Weekly describes Smith as "a writer's writer with a keen intelligence and a former college athlete's innate understanding of physicality and the flesh."

Subjects addressed in Smith's poems include marriage and family, teaching, sports, travel and place (in particular, Italy, Greece, Israel), memory, cultural history, separation and alienation, pilgrimage and witness, doubt and wonder. The philosophical and the metaphysical are found alongside deeply honed personal observations and experiences. The ruminative and celebratory mix with the humorous. Literary and historical persons and events figure in Smith's work, especially in his most recent collection Its Ghostly Workshop, where his references — to Odysseus, Edgar Allen Poe, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Edward Teller, T.S. Eliot, Leni Riefenstahl, New York Yankees, and others — reflect Smith's erudition without pretentiousness. (Some of his work is parody.)

Clarity is a hallmark of Smith's poetry but note in the example following how Smith also gets us thinking on more than one level, leaves us with more than one meaning in a single line ("This is where we first learned to let go. // And our son is taking us again...."; it's not just about the son learning to drive).

We sit in back
where we can't be caught
in the nervous eye corner.
Four hands in her lap,
one knotting ball. My fingers 
have been numb for miles.

This is where we first learned to let go.

And our son is taking us again
along the spine of the Blue Ridge.
The Olds drifts to the solid line
white as a cloud, [. . . ]
~ from "Learner's Permit on Skyline Drive" in Moon Road

Poems by Smith have appeared nationally and internationally in such periodicals as AscentBlackbird, Georgia ReviewKansas Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, The Nation, New England Review, Plume, Poetry DailyPuerto del Sol, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, The Tampa Review, Verse, and Virginia Quarterly Review

Anthologies in which Smith's work appears include The Plume Anthology of Poetry 2013 (MadHat Press), Kentucky: Poets of Place (2012), Poets for Pound at Sala Capizucchi (University of New Orleans Press, 2011), Helen Vendler's Poems, Poets & Poetry: An Introduction & Anthology (3rd Ed., Bedford Books, 2010), Don't Leave Hungry: Fifty Years of Southern Poetry Review (University of Arkansas Press, 2009), Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets of Virginia (University of Virginia Press, 2003), and Georgia Voices (University of Georgia Press, 2000).

Among various awards Smith has received are the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest (1989), the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize (2005), and the Guy Owen Award from Southern Poetry Review.  Smith's poem "The Teachers Pass the Popcorn" (in Moon Road; also anthologized in Helen Vendler's Poems, Poets, Poetry) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2000.

Smith also has been a Bread Loaf Scholar in Poetry, a Modern Poetry Association (now, The Poetry Foundation) Poets-in-Person Scholar, and a Roper Graduate Fellow. In addition, he is the recipient of a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Holder of degrees in English, philosophy, general humanities, and creative writing, Smith is writer-in-residence and George O. Squires Chair of Distinguished Teaching at St. Christopher's School, Richmond, where he has been a faculty member for more than 40 years. He is on boards of advisors for James River Writers and Poetry Society of Virginia.

An offensive guard while attending the University of Richmond on a football scholarship, Smith has been the poetry editor for Aethlon: The Journal of Sports Literature since 2009. (In his interview with Style Weekly about his appointment, Smith talks about the influence of sports on his work, noting, "I've never really separated sports from poetry. . . Sports can teach you precision. And perseverance. And how to turn pain into something useful, maybe even glorious. Most of the poetry I love is intensely physical. It makes you as aware of the body as of the mind.")


Photo Courtesy St. Christopher's School, Richmond, Virginia

All Poetry Quotations © Ron Smith

* Quoted from LSU Media, "LSU Press Author Ron Smith Named Virginia Poet Laureate", Press Release, July 2, 2014

St. Christopher's School, "Ron Smith Appointed Poet Laureate of Virginia", July 7, 2014

Brian McNeill, "Smith, Graduate of VCU Creative Writing MFA Program, Named Poet Laureate of Virginia", Virginia Commonwealth University Public Affairs Office, June 30, 20134

Ron Smith Poetry Online: "Come on In, Come On Along" at Ascent; "Campidoglio", "The Tomb of the Scipios", "Flashes", "Greece", and "Edward Teller's Leg", All at Blackbird; "Via Appia" at Poetry Daily; "Striking Out My Son in the Father-Son Game", "Leaving Forever", "Objectivity", and "In the Old City", All at Poet's Spotlight, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda Website; "κάθαρσης" ("Catharsis") at Plume; "A Wizard in the Forum" and "Piazza G.G. Belli", Both at Connotations Press; "Brampton Road" and "Bronze Boxer", Both in Poetry Society of Virginia Newsletter (pdf, p. 3); "Poe's Last Words" from Its Ghostly Workshop on GoogleBooks; "Early Christianity: A Poem" and "Rome", Both at Plume; "Henry James and the Future of Photography" at VQR Online; "The Caravaggio Room" at Plume; "Brampton Road" at Southern Poetry Review (p. 53)

Brent Baldwin, "The Poet's Poet", Interview, Style Weekly (Richmond), July 8, 2014

Mary Finn, "An Interview with Ron Smith", Blackbird, January 15, 2003 (Parts I and II in Audio; Transcript) (This interview addresses in particular Smith's wide-ranging travels and the role of travel in his poetry and in literature generally.)

Ross Losapio, "Review: Its Ghostly Workshop, by Ron Smith", Blackbird, Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 2014

Jessica Ronky Haddad, "Creation Story: Ron Smith, Poet", Style Weekly, June 26, 2002

Its Ghostly Workshop on GoogleBooks

Moon Road on GoogleBooks

Poetry Society of Virginia

Bedford Books

MadHat Press

LSU Press Its Ghostly Workshop Page

University of Arkansas Press

University of Georgia Press

University of New Orleans Press (Web Catalogue)

University of Virginia Press

Ron Smith on FaceBook

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thought for the Day

Arts education, in our public schools — I wish I could foster
that. In my judgment, poetry and music are not ornamental
activities on the outskirts of human intelligence: 
They are at its core.
~ Poet Robert Pinsky

Quoted from "Robert Pinsky", Interview with Heidi Legg, The Editorial.com, March 18, 2014