Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poet of Few Lines, Fewer Words

The struggle is against too many words!
~ Samuel Menashe, New York Poet

Samuel Menashe is a poet of as few words as possible. Some of his work is no more than two lines long and six or seven words total, and even then, to listen to Menashe, something probably could be cut.

What's astounding, when you read or hear the poetry, is how well it works, how sonorous it can be, and how intimate, how the few lines can mean more than a surface read might prompt, if you're willing to settle in with the images and consider how the words follow each other and what's named and what's not.

Look at some of the arresting imagery he crafts in a line or two: "armed trees frisk a windfall" (from "Autumn"), "Ribs ripple skin/ Up to the nipples...." (from "Mirror Image"), "Your eyes are spikes" (from "At Cross Purposes"), "... I sit/... Wintering with snow...." (from "The Dead of Winter").

There's humor in some of Menashe's poems, plays on words (see, for example, "Salt and Pepper"), a sense of delight, and plenty of allusions and metaphors. Poet and critic Dana Gioia describes Menashe as "essentially a religious poet, though one without an orthodox creed." Take as my examples of this description the poems "oracle", "transfusion", and "the offering", included with three others here, or any one in this series of poems collectively titled "Eyes Open to Praise". 

Menashe, who published his first book, The Many Named Beloved in 1961, received in 2004 the Poetry Foundation's first Neglected Masters Award. He is the first living poet to have a collection of his work, Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems (2005), published by The Library of America. (The collection was cited by Contemporary Poetry Review as Best Book of Contemporary Poetry in 2005.) Menashe's The Niche Narrows: New and Selected Poems (Talisman House Publishers) was published in 2000.

If you know little about Menashe or his poetry, the following video, made for WNCY's "Know Your Neighbor: Samuel, The Concise Poet", is a charming introduction. It shows the poet, completely at home in the New York City apartment he's occupied for decades, as a great memorizer of his own words and as a "reader" who knows just how to deliver a line. 

Here's the brief backstory on the Know Your Neighbor feature:

Know Your Neighbor: When David Met Samuel from wnyc culture on Vimeo.

The following video is an excerpt from Life is Immense: Visiting Samuel Menashe, a documentary produced by Pamela Robertson-Pearce. The film is available on DVD only with a purchase of the 2009 Bloodaxe Books UK edition of Samuel Menashe: New & Selected Poems.

Samuel Menashe (from Life is IMMENSE) from Neil Astley on Vimeo.


Article: "Poet Samuel Menashe Turns 85 Today: 'Every word has to count'", Reader's Almanac (The Library of America), September 16, 2010

Article: "The Amazing Samuel Menashe", April 3, 2010

Article: "A 'Neglected' Master", The New York Times, March 19, 2006

Article: "Poetry and Synthesis: The Art of Samuel Menashe", Twentieth Century Literature 42:2, 1996

Article: "The Shrine Whose Shape I Am: The Poetry of Samuel Menashe", The Jewish Daily Forward, September 25, 2009 (The author, Jake Marmer, says of reading Menashe's poems, "... my pangs of hunger transformed into hunger of a more fitting transcendental kind. The poetry becomes an appetizer, nourishing the mind little, yet teasing and drawing me further into the internal recesses of the unhinged mythical imagination.")

Essay and Review: "No Small Feat", Poetry Daily, 2008

"A Portrait of the Poet Samuel Menashe", Podcast at Poetry Foundation

"Interview: Samuel Menashe", February 2005, Poetry Foundation (This is a wonderful interview.)

Interview: "Samuel Menashe: A Poet Gets His Due", NPR, November 5, 2006

"Poem of the Week: Twilight by Samuel Menashe", Guardian, February 15, 2010

Review of Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems, The Cinch Review, February 25, 2009

Review of Samuel Menashe's The Niche Narrows, "I Did Not Advance, I Cannot Retreat", Poetry Foundation

Samuel Menashe Reading at the New York Public Library, April 10, 2010 (Video)

Samuel Menashe Reading His Poetry, Poetry Archive Recordings 

Samuel Menashe Poems at Poetry Foundation (This list is substantial enough to provide a good sense of the range and depth and subjects of Menashe's poems. There are many others accessible online.)

The Samuel Menashe Society on FaceBook

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Meet Cyborg Kevin Warwick

Human enhancement is going to change life completely....
~ Kevin Warwick

Twelve years ago, Kevin Warwick, renowned Reading University professor of cybernetics, had a radio frequency identification device implanted in his arm. More recently, in a highly dangerous experiment, he's had 100 electrodes implanted in a nerve, enabling him to connect his nervous system to his computer. (Yes, it's true.) Warwick's wife also is "cybernetic", and the two of them have linked their nervous systems together electrically, allowing them to communicate telegraphically, nervous system to nervous system. Warwick believes that similarly linking the brain is a logical, "tremendously exciting" next step.

This is not the stuff of science fiction.

At Reading University, in England, the perfectly serious, highly educated, and esteemed Warwick conducts ground-breaking research in artificial intelligence, control, robotics, and biomedical engineering. He is one of only seven scientists to have been selected by the Institute of Physics for detailed case studies demonstrating the ethical issues the scientists have addressed in their work, the others being Galileo Galilei, Alfred Nobel, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and Joseph Rotblat. Warwick's series of five lectures, "The Rise of the Robots", given in 2000 at the invitation of the Royal Institution, are famous. Currently, he is collaborating on a project with an Oxford neurosurgeon to research the use of intelligent computer methods to predict the onset of tremors associated with Parkinson's disease and stop them via a deep-brain implant. He also leads a project seeking to "train" a cultured neural network using biological neurons to control a mobile robot platform. (See "Robot With a Rat Brain" and "The Thinking Man's Robot".)

Warwick is the author of I, Cyborg (University of Illinois Press, 2004), QI: The Quest for Intelligence (Piatkus Books, 2001), and March of the Machines: The Breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

In this brief overview, Warwick talks about his studies and their implications:

Here, Warwick speaks more specifically about his experiments on himself and how he "became one with" his cyber technology. Brilliant scientist? Unquestionably. Fascinating work? Absolutely. Chilling? No doubt, especially given Warwick's belief in the possibility that our human-created technology could render us a "sub-species" in the future, dominated by machines.

Warwick works closely with a colleague, Daniela Cerqui, a social and cultural anthropologist, to investigate the social, ethical, and philosophical implications of his work. Cerqui's principal interests are the future of humankind as it relates to cybernetic technology, issues of computer-based "therapy" versus "enhancement", converging technologies, and other disciplines.


Kevin Warwick YouTube Videos

Kevin Warick on Vimeo: "The Cyborg Experiments" and "Becoming Cyborgs"(Interview)

I Robot? Case Study at Physics & Ethics Education Project (PEEP)

"I, Robot" at Flyp Magazine (Text)


BioEthics Education Project (BEEP)

"Building Gods" (Documentary)



Instinctive Computing Lab (Warwick is a member of ICL's advisory board.)

Singularity Weblog (Warwick is named one of the "Top 10 Singularitarians of All Time".)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Feeling Grew Into a Hope (Poem)

A Feeling Grew Into a Hope

Worry it
started out

a feeling
then grew

into a hope

like the needle
of a compass

not north not south

direction less
the point

than finding
one's own way

amid the churning.


A feeling grew
into a hope.

It started out
a worry whorled

the way a conch
flips and turns

until out
goes inside

and deep

feeling become invisible.

Out of warm waters
ocean's pink-lipped horn

trumpeted the sound
of tears evaporating

in motions chiming
to the heart's recovery.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas

I wrote these poems for Carry on Tuesday, which each week provides a prompt that participants are to use wholly or partly in an original poem or prose piece.

The prompt for Tuesday, September 28, consists of the first two lines of Regina Spektor's song "The Call": It started out as a feeling / which then grew into a hope. (Go here for the lyrics to the song and a playlist.)

To read other Carry on Tuesday contributors' poems or prose for Prompt #72, go here.

* * * * * 

I also offer these poems for One Stop Poetry's weekly "One Shot Poetry" event. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.

Facts, New or Not

This is the third in a series of increasingly regular posts featuring interesting facts, new or not, brief items aimed at helping you increase your knowledge of the esoteric.

♦ Analysis of mortar samples from ancient Chinese buildings points to a most unlikely substance holding everything together: sticky rice. ("Staying Power of Sticky Rice" in International News in Brief, The Art Newspaper, August 25, 2010)

♦ Do you know which literary journal was the first to publish Frida Kahlo's artwork in color in the United States? The answer is here.

♦ Be sure to hold onto your print edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. A third edition in print, according to the publishers, is questionable at best. ("Third Edition of OED Unlikely to Appear in Print Format", Guardian, August 29, 2010) Some Web alternatives remain. Everyone on both sides of the Atlantic has had something to say about this, from The New York Times, to NPR, to Google News. In fact, as of 3:05 p.m, August 31, there were more than 700 news articles about this story. Go ahead, weigh in yourself. 

♦ The Happy Planet Index, version 2.0, represents 99 percent of the world's population. The HPI is described as "the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which, country by country, people live long and happy lives". 

♦ Not so very long ago,  Los Angeles was "bombed" — with some 400 poems. ("S.A. Griffin, Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Poetry Bomb",, Vol. 19, No. 17) More recently, Berlin was the scene of a similar "crime" when 100,000 bookmarks printed with poems were dropped from a  helicopter. ("Berlin 'Bombed' with Poetry", Guardian, August 31, 2010, and "Poetry Bombs, in Berlin and L.A.", Los Angeles Times, August 31, 2010) 

♦ Nebraska's Sheldon Museum of Art may be going where few museums have dared go before. It is giving 85 percent of its exhibit space to artists who are women, after having discovered that among the artists represented in the museum's 12,000-piece permanent collection, men outnumber women nearly 12 to 1. Kudos to the Sheldon! May this be the beginning of a new trend. ("Female Artists Become Museum's Primary Focus", Omaha World-Herald, August 15, 2010; also see "Seductive Subversion Exhibit Focuses on Female Pop Art", Daily Nebraskan, August 1, 2010) The Sheldon's exhibits showcasing artists who are women are "Better Half, Better Twelfth: Women Artists in the Collection" (running through April 1, 2011) and "Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968" (the show ended September 24).

♦ Wearable art takes on new meaning when it costs US $100,000, as this Chennai silk saree did. Hand-woven, using more than 7,400 jaquard hooks as well as 12 precious stones and metals, the saree depicts a selection of Raja Ravi Varma's paintings, including, most prominently, "Lady Musicians". It took 4,680 hours to create and has been awarded a certificate from Guinness World Records. View a series of images of this stunning work here. A Chennai Silks video promo showing the saree worn is here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Muse: Kansas' Poet Laureate

The Poet Laureate of Kansas is Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, appointed in July 2009.

The position of Poet Laureate, established in 2004, has been held for two-year terms by just two other poets: Jonathan Holden, who served from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2007; and Denise Low, who was the incumbent from July 1, 2007, until June 30, 2009. 

Guidelines for the position, which is not compensated, are the responsibility of the state arts commission. The appointee must be of "exceptional talent and accomplishment", be willing and able to promote and encourage "a broad appreciation of poetry" through personal "educational outreach", and participate in the Kansas Arts on Tour initiative. 

As Poet Laureate, Mirriam-Goldberg not only appears at official state functions and gives readings, talks, and workshops; she also participates in the project Poetry Across Kansas: Reading and Writing Our Way Home (described here), appears on a monthly radio show, "Write for Your Life", on High Plains Public Radio, and writes a monthly column on writing, "Writing Across Kansas". She also posts a weekly column at ideas; the magazine of yoga. In April of this year, she launched the Poetry Pen Pal Project. which runs until the end of her appointment on June 30, 2011.

* * * * *
I write in the field . . . it is always the field
that surrounds me, that I remember when I'm apart
from it, the field that teaches me most about how to write.
In the field . . . I have the sense that everything
I need to know about poetry is right here.
Just listen. Just stop.
~ Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on "Writing From the Earth"

A poet for more than three decades, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D., who founded and is the coordinator of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, also is a fiction and non-fiction writer. Her collections of poetry include Landed: New Poetry (Mammoth Publications, 2009), Animals in the House (Woodley Press, 2004), Reading the Body (Mammoth Press), and Lot's Wife (Woodley Press, 2000); poetry anthologies she has edited include A Circle of Women, A Circle of Words (Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority/Mammoth Press). Among her other published writings are a memoir, The Sky Begins at Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Press, 2009); a writing guide for young adults, Write Where You Are: How to Use Writing to Make Sense of Your Life (Free Spirit, 1999); and a critical biography, Sandra Cisneros: Latina Writer and Activist (Enslow Press). 

Mirriam-Goldberg no longer looks out the windows of apartment buildings in New York  or central New Jersey, two places where, according to her biographical notes, she spent time as a child. She lives now amidst green-punctuated fields and wind-swept grasses, in an area of Kansas that has nurtured generations of her husband's family and provided her with plenty of space to do the stopping and listening that finds its way into her poetry. In describing her writing, Mirriam-Goldberg references "this humming, this vibration, this frequency of sound that draws me to the page. The words drop in to hold up the rhythm, and the rhythm carries forth the voice of the poem, the essay, the story." The humming, she writes, "is everywhere" and  the rhythms of place "give us a deeper sense of where we truly are and who we truly are." People, too, are part of her landscape, reflected influences of her work with the Kansas City Latino community, poetry classes for Native American students, and writing workshops with at-risk teenage girls, low-income mothers, women in recovery from addiction and abuse,  and the elderly. (See the essay "From Poetry to Poetry Therapy: Swimming in a Pool of Words".) 

The land — both what harbors and gives up to one willing to receive — and a deep sense of place and belonging are evident in a poem such as "Door of the Grass":

. . . Just walk.
Just stop in this surprise of clearing
where some other has stopped before you.
Listen to the careful tremble, the heavier rushing
tumbling upward and out from the tops of
bordering cottonwoods. Let it sweep back
over you. . . .

And also here, in "Self-Portrait as Wind":

. . . give me a palette
of grass, or the shimmering coiled tops 
of trees. Give me rain or heat,
the slice of space between skyscrapers,
the way wings make me, and I make wings,
weather too. Give me nothing
and I'll use it. . . .
. . . I make 
the opposite of time. . . .

Here's another example of how exquisitely attuned Mirriam-Goldberg is to nature and place:

. . . 
This land dreams sky, a shifting infusion
of shadow on cloud, despite the unreliability
of rain or clarity. . . .
. . . The horizon never stops dreaming,
its sleep a progression of filtering color through space.

The dream always dreams possibility
juxtaposed against decay. . . .

The sky dreams light rolling away from dark. . . .
~ From "Dreaming Land"

If you have only a few minutes to read some of Mirriam-Goldberg's poems, don't miss these, which I found to be especially beautiful for their imagery and depth of feeling: "Self-Portrait as Woman Who Loves Her Body for a Moment", "Life You Could Be Living (If You Weren't Living This One)", "Landed", and "Advice for the Material World". 

Mirriam-Goldberg teaches in the MA in Individualized Studies Program at Goddard College and also operates, with blues singer-songwriter Kelly Hunt, a business called Brave Voice; through Brave Voice she and Hunt conduct collaborative writing and singing workshops, retreats, consultations, and performances.

Among other honors, Mirriam-Goldberg has received a Kansas Arts Fellowship in Poetry and the City of Lawrence Phoenix Award; she also has been Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park.


All Poetry Excerpts © Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's Blog

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's Poetry on PoetrySpeaks (Both words and audio are here.)

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's Website

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's Write From Your Life Columns, Podcasts, and Broadcasts

Interview: "Memoir Author Speaks of Spirituality, Religion, and  Cancer", Part 1 (October 7, 2009) and Part 2 (October 14, 2009), Memory Writers Network

Article: "Jewish Woman Becomes Kansas Poet Laureate", Kansas City Jewish Chronicle,  July 3, 2009

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on Twitter

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on LinkedIn

Kansas Arts Commission

Kansas Arts Commission Poet Laureate Page

Kansas Arts on Tour Program

Kansas Poet Laureate FAQs (This is a compilation of questions to which Mirriam-Goldberg has responded.)

Kansas Poets Page for Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg  (with Poems)

Mammoth Publications Page for Kansas

Survivor's Review Page, "Write Now!", for Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Transformative Language Arts Network

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thought for the Day

. . . The cruciform life—a life that seeks to follow
the Christ whose path intersected so completely
 with our own—is not one that can be imposed upon us. 
It is a mystery that we can enter into only by choice, 
and that we must navigate with a spirit of discernment. 
Carrying the cross is  not about casting about for a
 heavy burden to pick up; neither does it require us
 to seek out situations of pain and danger that will
 cause damage to the person God calls us to be. 
It's about seeking the pattern of life 
that will open us the most fully to the God 
who created us in our particularity....


To read in full Jan's wonderful post, "The Shape He Makes", go here.

I've featured Jan's words, videos, or books several times on Writing Without Paper. I continue to draw inspiration from her. She can be found at Jan Richardson Images, The Painted Prayer Book, and The Advent Door.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

Today's edition of Saturday Sharing takes you all over the map of the Web. It begins in Yorkshire, England, where poet Simon Armitage has been trail-blazing, and ends at a Moscow Olympiad that will really get you thinking. In between are pit stops in Gainesville, Florida, Toronto, Canada, and Waterville, Maine, plus at least one virtual hot spot at a place called Mental Floss.

✭ I love the idea of incising poetry in stone to mark a hiking trail. 

✭ In Gainesville, Florida, the Next Chapter Book Store gives young people with disabilities a place to work and socialize and creates a home for hundreds of donated books. The book store is a member of the Our Neighbor outreach program, which provides housing and opportunities for men and women with physical disabilities, and collaborates with Interactive Neighborhood for Kids.

✭ If you've always wanted a poster of your favorite book, visit Postertext, a company that says its book posters allow you to "literally hang your favorite book on the wall with the complete text arranged to depict a memorable scene". New posters are added weekly. Among current offerings are book posters for Peter Pan, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, The Bible (New Testament), and the Constitution of the United States (I'd never thought of that as a book but no matter). Included among works-in-progress are posters for Ulysses, Dracula, and War of the Worlds. The company's blog ensures you keep up to date with new arrivals.

✭ Like facts? Like 'em better when they're amazing? Check out The Amazing Fact Genenerator.

✭ The Special Collections of Colby College, in Waterville, Maine, include "Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems", a wonderful selection of poetry arranged in clusters, with manuscript samples and transcript overlays that allow one to view versions before and after publication. Audio recordings are provided, as well as a guide for viewing the manuscript samples. The papers of poet Wesley McNair are housed at Colby, too. Find time to see McNair's "My Life as a Poet: A Multimedia Memoir" on video (be patient, it takes time to load); a text version with linked images is here.

✭ Looking for a linguistic challenge? These puzzles from the University of Oregon Department of Linguistics offer innumerable opportunities to apply your common sense and logic, and also require no little patience. The puzzles are color-coded to distinguish level of difficulty. For added pleasure, check out the First International Olympiad in Linguistics, where you may download individual and team linguistic problems and their solutions. (No cheating!)

Today marks the start of Banned Books Week. Celebrate by reading something that's been taken off the shelves at your local schools or libraries!

Friday, September 24, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Museum Day

Tomorrow, September 25, is Museum Day in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere throughout the United States. To find out if museums in your area are participating, go here, select your state, and then go see some art. Admissions are free with a Museum Day ticket.

Artist Kaziah Hancock and Her Project Compassion

The founding artist and president of the nonprofit organization Project Compassion, Kaziah Hancock raises goats and sheep on her Utah ranch. When she's not busy with her animals, she brings out her paint brushes, intent to "bring mood and feeling to the canvas."

What Hancock creates on her canvases are expressive, deeply moving portraits of American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She paints them for and at no cost to the soldiers' immediate families — her way, Hancock explains, of saying thank you to those who have "paid the ultimate high price." In an introductory letter about the project, Hancock says that when she began the project, "it was just a simple act of kindness from one human to another." As word spread, as more soldiers died, as requests for portraits increased, she added other artists and administrative volunteers to keep the project going. 

Hancock has painted hundreds of portraits since launching her initiative in 2003. (See images of some of  Hancock's portraits in the Gallery section here and in the Project Compassion galleries for military personnel and law enforcement officers.) She and other volunteer artists — Clancy DeVries of Newport Beach, California, JoAnn Musser of Taylorsville, Utah, Ann Marie Oboron of Bountiful, Utah, and Alexander Selytin of Pleasent Grove, Utah — have more than 3,000 more portraits still to paint. To paint these portraits, Hancock says, "is not a labor but a privilege."

Initial project donations have been exhausted. Currently, Hancock is trying to raise at least $750,000 to continue Project Compassion for another 10 years. She's donated dozens of her own paintings worth many thousands of dollars, proceeds from sales of which go directly to the project. Donations, which are tax-deductible, may be sent to Project Compassion/Soldier Fun, P.O. Box 153, Manti, UT 84642. They also may be made online. E-mail:

Hancock's non-project Website features oil paintings in such categories as "Street People", "Legends" such as James Dean, "Unsung Workers", and several series, including "Signature Strokes", "Raw Expressions", "Masters", and "Spirit of the West". 

The video below provides an introduction to Hancock and her Project Compassion:

FAQs about Project Compassion can be found here.

A documentary about Kaziah Hancock, screened at this month's DocUtah Film Festival, has been produced by Kathleen Dolan; its director is Amy Duzinski Janes

Hancock also has been the subject of many articles, including this one by the United States Department of Defense.

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ The Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame is presenting through November 14 "Parallel Currents", an exhibition of contemporary Latin American art owned by Ricardo Pau-Llosa, a Cuban-American poet, art critic, curator, and professor. Pau-Llosa's collection is stunning, as can be seen in this photo-essay produced for PBS Newshour. He says of his collecting, "I can't conceive of my life without the art no more than not being a writer and a poet. I find walls have a destiny, and the destiny of a wall is to have art on it."

A profile of Pau-Llosa, in which he discusses the influences on his writing and his discovery and collection of art is here. Also visit Pau-Llosa's Website.

On October 15, Pau-Llosa will be giving a talk in connection with "Parallel Currents" at the Art Museum of the Americas/Organization of American States, in Washington, D.C.

✭ Opening on October 23 at the Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is "For my best beloved Sister Mia: An Album of Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron" (image at right). The exhibition, which runs through January 2, 2011, includes more than 70 photographs.

✭ In San Diego, "New Realities: Jerry Uelsman + Maggie Taylor" opens October 2 at the Museum of Photographic Arts. The exhibit of 60 photomontages by Uelsman and Taylor will be on view until January 30, 2011. Taylor, who is married to Uelsman, began using in 1996 a computer and a scanner to create her fascinating color images. In contrast, Uelsman creates extraordinary black-and-white images. A documentary interview with Uelsman is here. (Scroll through images in third row to locate video.)

✭ The New Orleans Museum of Art is exhibiting through October 24 "Ancestors and Descendants: Ancient Southwestern America at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century", 73 photographs and 84 Native American artifacts (Navaho and Pueblo textiles, pottery, jewelry) from the little-known and rarely seen George Hubbard Pepper Native American Archive at the Middle American Research Institute, Tulane University. Pepper collected the images and artifacts between 1985 and 1905. 

A New York Times review of the exhibition is here. Information about Pepper's photograph collection in the Smithsonian Institution's Research Information System is here.

William Stafford Documentary

The widely admired poet William Stafford, who was a conscientious objector in World War II and believes that war is a human choice, is the subject of a documentary, Every War Has Two Losers, by Haydn Reiss. The film is described as a "poet's meditations on peace" and "based on the [poet's] journals". PBS broadcast the documentary beginning last month; a complete, national broadcast schedule is here. The film is available now on DVD. (My thanks to Edward Byrne of Valparaiso Poetry Review for bringing this feature to readers' attention.)

The trailer for the film is below.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Haiti Inspirations

One of the lessons we learned after the earthquake 
is that reconstruction is necessary, but it's not in buildings.
It's not in facilities. The most important aspect 
of reconstruction is in humans. . . .
~ Jacky Lumarque, Rector, Quisqueya University, Haiti 

Our morning newspapers no longer feature daily front-page news of Haiti, devastated in the January 12, 2010, earthquake. Behind the scenes, however, Haitians continue to write their stories of recovery and healing and others still travel to the island to document their narratives. Below are a few of the good deeds in and for Haiti that I've learned about and want to share.

* * * * *

In July, the PBS NewsHour reporter Ray Suarez filed a story about the estimated 4,000 Haitians who  underwent emergency amputations to free them from rubble or otherwise save their lives. His special report, "In Haiti, Amputees Face Different Kind of Healing", included interviews with representatives of aid organizations providing prosthetics and, movingly, a brief profile of a professional competitive dancer, George Exantus, who lost one of his legs. 

Exantus is a Haiti success story, as the video in this September follow-up story, "Update: Haitian Amputee Gets New Leg, New Reason  to Dance", details. Exantus dances once more, and with every turn on his new prosthesis shows the result of generosity and determination and hope.

* * * * *

The earthquake exacted an enormous toll in lives lost, infrastructure wrecked, homes lost, and art and other cultural artifacts destroyed. Art- and craft-making continue as rebuilding gets underway.

After the quake, the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, based in Miami, Florida, created the Haitian Art Relief Fund to support Haitian artists and assist in the recovery and restoration of Haitian art. Through the non-profit's efforts, many gifted artists have been able to continue making art. And now, with the assistance of the Alliance, an exhibit of more than 60 major works is on view, through March 2011, at Miami International Airport. Included in the show, titled "Hands of Haiti",  are cut-metal work, woven sequined flags, beaded leather, sculptures, carnival masks, pottery, and photography. Below is one of the featured artworks.

Woven Sequined Flag in Hands of Haiti Exhibit
© Hands of Haiti

The airport's fine arts and cultural affairs director, Yolanda Sanchez, points out that the exhibition not only promotes continued interest in Haitian art but is "a testament to the Haitian spirit, [Haitians'] optimism and their love of life."

Also featured in the show, thanks to the Green Family Foundation, are musical recordings and archival video produced by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax during his travels to Haiti in the 1930s.

The foundation recently collaborated with PBS to offer as part of the latter's Need to Know news magazine a program titled "Haiti's Lost Music", which features remasterings of the Lomax recordings. The efforts of Lomax's daughter, Anna Lomax Wood, to bring the Lomax recordings to attention are featured in the informative video below.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

Information about the Alan Lomax archive can be found at the Association of Cultural Equity. In addition, an Alan Lomax Archive channel is on YouTube.

An MP3 download of Musical Selections from Alan Lomax in Haiti is available through Amazon; 100 percent of proceeds from sales of the album go to The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Doctors Without Borders, and Partners in Health.

See Jacky Lumarque's essay "For Haiti to Move Forward, We Must Return to Our Culture".

* * * * *
Other Haiti inspirations:

    ✭ Groundbreaking on September 10 for the Mireblais Hospital, an hour-and-a-half from Port-au-Prince. Construction, expected to take 18 months, is overseen by Partners in Health. See "Rising Haiti Hospital a Symbol of Future".

    ✭ Kylti, a nonprofit Haitian arts and culture organization, sponsored on August 29, 2010, Fly a Haitian Kite Day to "celebrate a new Haiti rising".  For information on how to support Kylti's initiatives in Haiti, go here.

    ✭ Women in Travel, a membership organization that recognizes the contributions of women to the travel retail industry, is supporting during its  October annual meeting a fundraiser for Hand in Hand for Haiti.

    ✭ The Haitian Cultural Foundation is planning a traveling exhibition of Haitian art for 2012. A curator for the exhibition, Carine Fabius, discusses it in her post  "Art That's as Hot as Haiti".

    ✭ A sale of Haitian art was part of a fundraiser, "H'Art and Soul of Haiti", held in Pittsburgh in mid-September. The social event benefited Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer Haiti. The Friends of HAS also receives donations through online sales of Haitian paintings, metal work, and craft; go here to see the artwork and consider a purchase.

    ✭ Haitian paintings, sculpture, and works on paper will be exhibited at Affirmation Arts in New York City from October 1 to November 24. Artists whose work will be featured in the exhibition, "Saving Grace: A Celebration of Haitian Art", include Hector Hyppolite, Celestin Faustin, Wilson Bigaud, Prefete Duffaut, and Salnave Philippe-Auguste. Affirmation Arts describes the show as "one of the first historical exhibitions of its kind in the United States" and notes that many pieces have not been seen outside Haiti. The curator is art historian, critic, and author Gerald Alexis. (For a full list of the artists who will be represented, go to the gallery's site and click on Exhibitions. Alexis is the author of Peintres haitiens, published by Cercle d'Art, Paris.)

    ✭ One hundred percent of proceeds from sales of donated paintings in this Haitian Earthquake Relief Art Sale go to Fokal and Art Creation Foundation for Children.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The MOMIX Dance Company is appearing locally, on the evening of October 2 and in late afternoon on October 3, at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, Fairfax, Virginia. 

For both performances, the company is presenting Botanica, a work by MOMIX founder and artistic director Moses Pendleton, that is described as tracing "the rhythms of New England's seasons, the evolution of the world, and the passing of a day." 

Below is a promotional video for Botanica

If you have not seen Momix perform live and are open to a theatrical, multimedia experience, check the touring schedule and make a point of catching the next show in your area. 

Gallery of Five Still Photographs from Botanica

MOMIX on FaceBook

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breaking It Off (Poem)

Breaking It Off 
Letter from Anne Sexton

It is not enough
I have waited, a woman
with her knees bent to the dawn?

I slept with your promises, too,
welcomed them like I did
the slit of your eye on my back.

I celebrated with an empty nightgown
in a bed too big for two,
seclusion the gift of Lucky Strikes,
my vodka my booze.

Like a madman afflutter I nursed
nightmares in my arms,
rocked them to sleep, baby,
picked at their meaning
till my knuckles bled.

Your name hoarse in my throat,
I swallowed whole days
woven of hunches, hard-guessed
the rumors delivered in pieces.

God, you can be so cold.

When you needed oxygen,
I buried my lips
in your good right hand,
our habit of words never easy.

You covered my eyes
with your insistent kiss
and still I could see
I was losing you.

Tonight I get to watch
the pall of roses
failing at my window.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas

More years ago than I care to recall, I, along with many others, mostly women, were reading lots of Sylvia Plath (one of my college instructors was a poet deep into Plath), Anne Sexton, and Robert Lowell, plus John Berryman and, oddly, considering this group, e.e. cummings. Some of us even were required to try out these poets' voices as our own. There was a lot of bad poetry then, too. 

The version of a poem I wrote at the time, I abandoned to a box of college papers, which I indulge in re-reading every so often, trying to measure from where I've come. Last fall, I redrafted the poem and put it away again.

When my friend Glynn at Faith, Fiction, Friends recently posted "I Hear America Singing, Still",  I decided to pull the poem out again and revise it once more for this week's "Random Acts of Poetry: What Poem Do You Come From?" at High Calling Blogs. I don't know that this new version satisfies Marcus' definition of ekphrasis (see the comments section of the RAP post); it is less a comment about any particular poem of Sexton's than an effort to reflect something of her so-called confessional style (she could write some terrific poetry, by the way). Nor would I go so far as to admit that reading Sexton had any unforgettable or singular effect on me, although one of my books of her poetry contains a now-yellowed New York Times obituary for her, which I cut out and put in the book in 1974.

It occurs to me that a poem I wrote last year, "Hazardous Duty: Ode to My Kitchen", might work as a response to Sexton's "The Fury of Cooks" in The Death Notebooks. I did not have Sexton in mind at the time I wrote it, however.

On the Scene (Poem)

On the Scene

Rubble-roughed hands reach
into what's left: the muddle of wires and masonry,
chipped, the pink paint flaking; a broken sink
a bin for books with broken spines, just so many
words caught in a dust up of bad Voudou.

    No one would have believed
    how the ridge line would peel away,
    the lush green hills cleave, how the rains
    would come to flash-flood the ravines
    of life once got by.

From what's junk the stick at the end
of the hands catches what at first gives not,
glints, then rattles and comes clean:
the eight-year-old's jawbone, the mother's skull
stripped of flesh by dogs on the scene; hungry, too.

    No one would have believed
    how the earth would give and take,
    leaving the husband but pictures wrapped
    so carefully now in plastic, preserving in color
    what lost becomes black and white, and lies stilled.

The hands motion against the eyes
recalling the place the husband last marked
his story retold, where mangoes, bananas, and yams
ripened to sweeten a patch of land called country,
his own reduced to a tarp on a sunken football field.

    No one would have believed
    how ordinary death would smell,
    how it would rise from collapse and float
    and six months later have gone,
    the shift in the air no longer
    the excitement of one more body found.

The hands make a move for sleeping,
rest to be broken on a bed of scavenged wood,
listening to kompa, perhaps some Haitian hip-hop,
growing courage with a thimble of rum, setting
the dominoes right, praying fate in spray-painted graffiti
in the pause before moving on again.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas

I based imagery in this poem on on-scene interviews and reporting from Haiti, post-earthquake, at the six-month mark and more recently. I have been impressed, in particular, with the moving, if often disturbingly graphic, video, print, and online coverage from the Guardian, available here.

The state of this tiny island nation that now only infrequently commands our front pages strikes me as representative of the meaning of brokenness, the one-word prompt for the September 21 Blog Carnival sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time.

The Blog Carnival is a biweekly online event open to anyone. Participants write either original poetry or prose reflecting their consideration of the one-word prompt or topic.

At Bridget's place you'll find a list of links to all of the Blog Carnival contributions, which are posted throughout Tuesday and often through to the end of the week.

The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here.

The prompt for the next Blog Carnival, scheduled for Tuesday, October 5, is "healing". The complete schedule of prompts through the end of the year also is available at Bridget's.

* * * * *

I also wrote this poem for Carry on Tuesday, which each week provides a prompt that participants are to use wholly or partly in an original poem or prose piece.

The prompt for Tuesday, September 21, consists of the first words of Chapter One of Book One of H.G. Wells 1989 novel War of the Worlds: "No one would have believed . . . . "

To read other Carry on Tuesday contributors' poems or prose for Prompt #71, go here.

* * * * *

I also offer this poem for One Stop Poetry's weekly "One Shot Poetry" event. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Muse: Nebraska's Poet Laureate

Note: William Kloefkorn died in May 2011. See "Nebraska Loses State Poet Bill Kloefkorn in The Lincoln Journal Star, May 19, 2011. The position currently is for five years and is renewable. Nominations may be made until July 26, 2013.

William Kloefkorn assumed a lifetime appointment as Nebraska's State Poet in September 1982. 

Only one other poet, John G. Neihardt (1921-1973), has held the position since its establishment in 1921. Until Kloefkorn's appointment, the job's title was Poet Laureate. 

Unencumbered by a job description, Kloefkorn travels the state, discussing poetry with everyone from elementary students to elder citizens. 

* * * * *
Poems should not be simplistic, nor should they
be sermons. Poetry is for those who want to use 
their own minds to find answers. It can challenge
without being elitist or obscure.
~ William C. Kloefkorn*

Poet, fiction writer, and memorist  William Kloefkorn is a prolific writer. He has published several dozen volumes of poetry, two collections of short fiction, and three memoirs. Among his recent poetry collections are Breathing in the Fullness of Time (University of Nebraska Press, 2009), a book that also includes essays, Out of Attica (The Backwaters Press, 2008), Sunrise, Dayglow, Sunset, Moon (Talking River Publications, 2004), and Walking the Campus (Lone Willow Press, 2003). His newest book is Swallowing the Soap: New and Selected Poems** (Bison Books), edited and with an introduction by VQR editor Ted Genoways; it brings together work from limited editions and out-of-print or hard-to-find work, in addition to Kloefkorn's many anthologized poems.

Kloefkorn's individual poems have appeared in scores of prestigious literary magazines and periodicals, including Beloit Poetry Review, Harper'sIndiana Review, Ironwood, The Laurel Review, New Orleans Review, Prairie Schooner, Spoon River QuarterlyVerseDaily, and Virginia Quarterly Review.

I enjoyed reading Kloefkorn's wonderfully accessible poems. Reading his work is like listening to a very good storyteller; you come away with a sense of distinct time, place, and voice; a sense of life recognizable, details recalled vividly and with purpose; you've heard something that matters. The subjects range over years of memories rooted and made in the Midwest, wonder at nature, recognition and understanding of loss, and delight in the people who populate the rural areas of America. You find history and humor and wisdom, references that betray a well-educated and inquisitive mind, and a lot of depth in what initially seems arrestingly simple (note, for example, what's contained in the seven-line "I stand alone at the foot", below).

Here are several excerpts that I think give a good impression of how straightforward, honest, and unfancy Kloefkorn's poems are:

Whoever it was that painted graffiti
on the silver belly of the water tower
it wasn't me,
though I wish it had been. I had
two of the three essential ingredients,
something to say and plenty of blood-red

paint. But I lacked whatever it takes
to keep the legs walking skyward. . . .
~ From "After the Senior Prom"
(Scroll down the page to the poem's title to read the poem in full.)

I'll not arise and go now
to the Lake Isle of Somewhere Else
because I'm perfectly happy just where I am. . . .
~ From "Not Long Before Sunset"

The cats too congregate
At milking time,
Discovering their own
Firm ritual in mine. Together we make a church of it:
I and the cows and the cats,
And the flies that swarm like music
At the worshippers' backs. . . .
~ From "At Milking Time"
(Scroll down the page to the poem's title.)

I stand alone at the foot
Of my father's grave,
Trembling to tell:
The door to the granary is open,
And someone lost the bucket
To the well.
~ "I stand alone at the foot"

Kloefkorn was awarded in 2004 the Nebraska Book Award for Non-Fiction, for Restoring the Burnt Child (University of Nebraska Press, 2003; the link provided here is for the 2008 Bison Books paperback version); it is the second of a four-part memoir (the others are listed here). (A Nebraska Library Commission post about the memoir includes links to discussion questions, a book club kit, and other pertinent information.)

Kloefkorn is professor emeritus of English at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Nebraska.


* Quoted in Alumni Online, Nebraska Wesleyan University

**A digital page view of Kloefkorn's Swallow the Soap can be seen here. Go here for GoogleBooks.

Bibliography for William Kloefkorn

Excerpt from Breathing in the Fullness of Time

Some of Kloefkorn's Poems Online: "Achilles' Heel"; "I stand alone at the foot" (also found at American Life in Poetry: Column 147); "Opus 21"; "Some Directions for the December Touring of Westcentral Nebraska" and "Ludi Jr Sits Quietly Through the Passing Along of His Father's Advice", both of which are here; "My Love for All Things Warm and Breathing"; "August"; "The Night Joe Louis Went 21-0 By Dropping Tam Mauriello"; "Stopping the Tractor" and "Legend" are here; "Bushes Burning" and "Old Man, Early Autumn" are published here; "Sergeant Patrick Gass, Chief Carpenter: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark". Previews of four of Kloefkorn's poems in the summer 2010 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review are available here.

Kloefkorn on FaceBook

Profile: Leo Adam Biga, "A Man of His Words, Nebraska State Poet William Kloefkorn", July 7, 2010

Nebraska Page

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Two 5-Line Poems


un tournesol: turn with
the sun, and see no shadow
on a day's path traced
flowering head the whirling
worshipper of unbent light

Not Getting Along

so smooth does it go
splinter into skin softly
breaking   the heart pierced
worries the least but sharpest
words into drops of blood lost

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas

Several friends have asked if I might try my hand at a form of poetry called Gogyohka (go-gee-yoh-kuh), which, at its simplest, is verse in five short lines. The two poems above are my contributions. 

In French, the word for sunflower is un tournesol, which, literally, means "turn with the sun". The name Helianthus comes from the Greek: helios meaning "sun" and anthos meaning "flower".

Thought for the Day

. . . there is more to writing than just saying how you feel
and what you think; for to know what you think and feel,
it's often necessary to see what you see and to let the seeing
and how you describe it show you what you think and
what you feel. In the process your own spiritual autobiography
emerges and reveals itself in the images that move you,
the specific details that you see within and without.
~ Murray Bodo, O.F.M.


This quote is from the section "Summer" in Song of the Sparrow: New Poems and Meditations (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1989).

I have quoted from Song of the Sparrow previously. Go here for links relevant to Bodo.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

With today's edition of Saturday Sharing, you can learn about the practice of forgiveness, and why forgiveness is good for your health; delight in reading Lewis Carroll's original Alice's Adventures Under Ground; learn how to have A Word A Day dropped in your in-box; attend a spectacular Northern Lights show; troll through the Museum of Bad Art (one of my favorite finds); and read the moving stories and poems of survivors whose collage portraits are the work of Jane Smith Bernhardt for the Hibakusha Peace Project.

✭ People who like words and the magic they can bring into life will like A.Word.A.Day, or AWAD, created 16 years ago by Anu Garg. Join this community of more than 900,000 linguaphiles in 200 countries and share your enjoyment of words, wordplay, language, and literature. This electronic publication provides daily a vocabulary word, the word's definition and pronunciation, information with audio clip, etymology, usage example, quotation, and more. The New York Times has described AWAD as "the most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace." A premium, ad-free e-mail subscription is $45; a free edition, with sponsor ads, also is available. Go here to sign up.

✭ The practice of forgiveness is good for your health, according to this Mayo Clinic article. When you embrace forgiveness, the article indicates, "you embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy", which, in turn, improve spiritual and psychological well-being, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure and risk for alcohol and substance abuse. The site Forgive for Good lists nine steps you can take to make forgiveness a way of being.

✭ Now here's a museum that's proud of its collection: The Museum of Bad Art, in Dedham, Massachusetts, which bills its holdings as "Art Too Bad To Be Ignored". Begun in the basement of a private home in Boston, MoBA is a community-based institution "dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and celebration of bad art." The collection ranges over portraiture, landscapes, "unseen forces", "noodity", "blue people", "poor traits" of the human or canine condition, the obscure, and the accidental. Believe me, I've seen worse. MoBA on FaceBook will keep you connected.

✭ Recently, I learned (and now you know, too) that the British Library provides one of its literary treasures online: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The original version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the electronically displayed illuminated manuscript includes both text and audio. It's a delight to "page" through the e-book, enlarge the 37 images, and remark upon the story's hold on our imaginations.

✭ August's Northern Lights show truly was spectacular. Go here and be amazed.

✭ The 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima was commemorated August 6. Seven years ago, artist  Jane Smith Bernhardt went to Hiroshima to interview survivors and sketch their likenesses on paper. Her multimedia Hibakusha Peace Project, which she describes as "an opportunity to reflect on the memory of Hiroshima with the hope of transformation" through art, is her deeply moving tribute: a series of collage portraits, accompanied by survivors' stories and poems. (Large files may be downloaded from the site.)

Jane Bernhardt, Hiromu Morishita

Related resources: Hibakusha Stories; Jane Bernhardt's "The Great Awakening" (Good Morning America, August 4, 2010) and "65th Anniversary of Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Spiritual Reflection", On Faith at The Washington Post; and Kenji Tamaki's "Hibakusha: The Story of Akira Nagagsaka" (August 9, 2010)

Jane Smith Bernhardt's We Are Here: Love Never Dies (Burnham Press, January 2010)