Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve 2009 (Poem)

New Year's Eve 2009

The tears fall back
Into place,
Stored and numbered
For some other day,
A different night,
When loss might swell
With the count-down.

Hours from now
Will be time enough
To look back
For answers
For tomorrow.

Here and now
Is place-sufficient:
Just look around.

Hold the stillness
Before the coda,
Offer the hand
Before the asking.

Take what you can
Here and now.

Copyright © 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Exploring Space With a Mandala

The Phillips Collection, one of the loveliest and most intimate museum spaces in Washington, D.C., has undertaken a renewed commitment to contemporary art since director Dorothy Kosinski came on board. The museum, which is renowned for its modern art collection but always has engaged with contemporary artists, is decidedly mixing things up with a new series of site-specific art projects that explore the connections between past and present.

Called Intersections, the series kicks off this coming New Year with an installation by local artist Linn Meyers. Around an archway in a space on the second floor of the museum's Goh Annex, Meyers will create a temporary geometric wall drawing — Mandala — consisting of two intersecting, mandala-like spirals of thin and quivering lines. The installation will be Meyer's response to two Vincent van Gogh paintings owned by the museum: Entrance to the Public Garden in Arles and The Road Menders.

The work will be open to public view beginning February 11 and run through May 2.  On February 25, Meyers will talk with Intersections' creator Vesela Stretenovic, curator of modern and contemporary art, about what inspired her to create Mandala and how it responds to the museum's holdings.

Meyers, who lives and works in Washington, D.C., has exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the United States and abroad. Her work is in a number of local public collections, including those of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She is a recipient of many awards, including a 2009 Artist Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, where she immersed herself in the study of time, and a 2008 D.C. Commission on the Arts Artists' Fellowship Grant.  Last winter, she was Artist in Residence at the University of Maryland and later, in the spring of 2009, was Artist in Residence at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art.

Below is a video showing Meyers at work at the San Jose Institute.

Current participants in Intersections are Jennifer Wen Ma (her video projection Brain Storm will be on view until January 3), Barbara Liotta (her sculpture Icarus can be seen until January 31), and Tayo Heuser (his glowing sculptures, Pulse, will remain through October 31, mounted in a stairwell near the Rothko Room).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Between the Folds

It's a piece of paper. . . of course, it can't look like an elephant.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fold paper for a living?

The award-winning documentary Between the Folds tells the stories of 10 artists and theoretical scientists who, casting aside advanced degrees and careers, live to fold paper. As the stories demonstrate, the medium common to them all — origami —  draws on a mix of artistic, creative, and expressive sensibilities that intersect both art and science, often giving new meaning to the phrase "form and function" and to the word "real".

Here is the official trailer for Between the Folds:

Between the Folds aired on PSB's Independent Lens in December 2009. (You can find uploads of IL clips on YouTube; click here.) The film, from Green Fuse Films of Brooklyn, New York, was also part of an acclaimed national film series Community Cinema, which toured cities throughout the United States this past November.

A film-related blog is here.

A wonderful new interactive Website is here. You'll find there a history of origami, a behind-the-scenes look at how the film was made, information about the paper-folders, current news about the film, local broadcast listings, and even a match-the-folds game. Have fun! I did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making New Year's Resolutions


Making New Year's Resolutions

What part of yesterday
do I discard
to begin again?

With another chance
to begin again,
I'd re-sort the pieces
of my story
otherwise than they fell.

Call them
what they were not

Turn them in my eye
to look out,
not in.

Hold them
to account for
reasons unexplained.

Feel them
as they held fast
let go.

What part of another year
do I need
to start anew?

To begin again

to take
another chance

Is chance enough
just to begin.

Copyright © 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.


I wrote this poem in response to L.L. Barkat's call to join the "Beginnings" writing project by crafting a vignette about "beginnings" or a poem that uses at its beginning, middle, or end some word associated with the New Year. That word could be "resolve", "resolution", "dream", or something entirely of one's choosing. Contributions to or links to others' posts for the project are here.

I also submitted this poem to Carry On Tuesday's prompt to use some or all of the following words from Joanna Fuch's "New Year's Reality Check": "Another year, another chance / To start our lives anew;. . ." The complete poem by Fuchs is here.

Love. . . for the Blog Carnival

This week's Blog Carnival, sponsored by Peter Pollock of "Rediscovering the Church", and Bridget Chumbley of "One Word at a Time", takes as its prompt the word "love". Below is my offering, a story of an early, once-was love. You will find others' contributions, which will be added throughout the day, here at Bridget's place.

Four Poems of Love

I came to you a woman
filled with love unfinished
on that cold night, our first March together.
The burdens in my eyes interrupted
a slowed and softer moment just beyond us.
You understood at once my own and deeper meaning.
Gently you held my tears
against the moonlight, dropping them later
in the darkness one by one over and over.
Trembling, I turned to you who then traced my lifeline
in your now familiar secret.
And this I became: A place to go
outside myself.


Lying at your side
I watch you sleep:
your generous mouth a happy conversation
your eyes an accident of pleasure.
Your ruffled hair is damp against my pillow
your breath, a motioned and satisfied intrusion.
In the half-light of morning
I look for the difference,
the trace of a story: beginning and end.
I find instead your touch warm
unaware searching me out.


I wake in this bed you
are absent from only minutes ago.
The sheets unsmoothed and quiet
remind me now of poems discarded in your favor.
I reach for them, turning them back to life
with a hand unavoidably violent.
Their silence I pull from the white and empty space
you left them in.
Even without you, I make them the key to my heart,
showing them off in my eyes
I opened to you.


Not somewhere else,
but here I would have you.
Where summer talks into fall
a same but colored truth
to play against my questions
you unbuild in a private place.
I tell you,
I'm no good at preventing this thing
that happens, that breaks this solitude
into still new days when you take my hand
and meet me halfway.

Copyright © 2009 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Passion and Dandelion Seed: A Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too, Interview (Part 2)

Last week, I published Part 1 of my interview with L.L. Barkat; you will find that post here. Today I publish Part 2, in which L.L. and I range across subjects, from her memoir Stone Crossings, to poetry-writing, to L.L.'s look ahead. The answer to what my interview title means can be gleaned below. There is also a very special surprise for those who stick with the interview; it's toward the end. (Don't cheat and go there first. You'll miss some wonderful responses, a few rather "saucy", to my questions.)

Passion and Dandelion Seed:
A Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too,
Interview With L.L. Barkat

Part 2 of 2

. . . it came to me somewhere between a leg lift and a push-up. . . .
~ L.L. Barkat

Maureen Doallas: How did you come to write Stone Crossings, you first book?

L.L. Barkat: I like to say that it came to me somewhere between a leg lift and a push-up. That was after my spouse said I HAD to bring a book proposal to a conference I was going to, which was after someone said I should go to the conference. But really, I think I'd spent my life writing [Stone Crossings] and this was just the formal moment when everything came together and I was asked to finally set it down.

MD: I've read many reviews of Stone Crossings, all highly laudatory. In some cases, your readers themselves seem to have come away changed by the experience of having read this book. What do you learn from your readers and how does that inform who you are?

LLB: Recently, on my blog, I said I used to think that Stone Crossings was a book about grace. (It's in the subtitle [Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places], after all.) But my readers taught me it's more particularly about the grace of forgiveness. People have come to me with stories of longstanding brokenness they couldn't forgive. . . and said that Stone Crossings became a threshold they could cross, a way to embrace what they could not embrace before.

Does this inform who I am? I don't know but it certainly calls me to enter into this mysterious forgiveness thing existing in the pages of a book that came from my own hands.

MD: Have family members read your book? Did its publication change anything about your family dynamics or relationships?

LLB: My father wept when he read the book and thanked me for grace. One of my stepmothers also responded very deeply, with apologies and a gift of a little bag of polished stones (if you've read the book, you get the import of that). But, mostly, I think the book changed me. I came away loving my parents and stepparents in new ways, because I'd delved into my own faults, and not simply theirs.

MD: How does grace manifest itself in your day-to-day life?

LLB: I walk in the woods; I turn a corner to find red berries sitting upon bright green moss, as if placed [there] by a generous hand. I look up and the sun is still peeking over the roof of the house, just as it did yesterday. I say to my littlest child, "You're in my way", but she says back, sing-song-like and hugging me, "Mommy, you're in my way, you're in my way, you're in my way." I open my e-mail today, and I find you.

These things are grace.

MD: What tests your faith, your sense of grace?

LLB: The other day I wrote a poem called "Number 100 Million and One" [, posted December 13, 2009]. It included two repeating lines: "I am the girl in the window" and "smiling so no one will know". It was in tribute to the 100 million "missing" women in the world and those who are oppressed.

The poem itself was based on a photo I once saw, of two young girls in a window, each with a number pinned to her clothing, [each one] for sale for sex. Do these things test my sense of grace? Yes, they do. And all I can do is think, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken them?"

Then, too, I see inside my own heart. Maybe I am also the "girl in the window" or maybe I am the "men low/ and high".

Despair picks at me.

I don't know what to think or say. For the sun is still peeking over the roof, and a mourning dove is just now lighting on the lawn. Someone is working to rescue the "girl in the window", and my own little daughter is saying something to rescue me.

I would like to think I am just a conscious poet.
~ L.L. Barkat

MD: Let's talk about your poems, poetry, and poetry-making. Who numbers among your favorite poets? Which, if any, would you say have influenced how you read and write poetry?

LLB: I love Walt Whitman, though he's a bit wordy at times! And some of my poems are direct "lifts" from his style, playing with and modifying his words and ideas. Wendell Berry makes me smile. George Seferis. . . oh, catch me. . . his words are about to lay me flat. [For an example of a Seferis poem, click here.]

MD: What surprises you about your poetry writing?

LLB: How naturally it comes. And from what depths it emerges.

MD: How much rewriting or revising do you undertake?

LLB: Um.

Which is to say:


I rarely rewrite or revise. [The poems] land fairly whole. Okay, but maybe that's because the room in my head has been cradling them and changing their diapers long before they wail onto the page. So, it's an illusion — this supposed lack of revision.

MD: How much time or care do you invest in how your poems look on the page, print or virtual?

LLB: I'm a very visual person. This [characteristic], too, comes naturally then, in the composition of a poem. In fact, I think it's something that assists me unawares. . . this internal visual sense.

MD: Do you actively seek venues in which to publish; for example, do you regularly submit work to magazines that publish poetry or to poetry competitions?

LLB: That is a naughty question. I think I will tell you, instead, how much I love Japanese green tea. Dark chocolate also is good, especially when I have had a stressful day.

[I am laughing. So wonderful an answer! ~ MD]

MD: What are your poems' sources of inspiration?

LLB: Emotions.

Always emotions. Then an emotion kisses an image, and . . . well, you know. . . .

MD: What, in your estimation, makes a poem "good"?

LLB: If a poem is just an intellectual exercise — lots of clever words and ideas and a fancy construction — I don't consider it to be a very good poem. It is a nice formula or a math problem or maybe a texbook. If, however, the poem makes me gasp or sigh, choke or weep, or even smile in delight, why, then I know I've been in the presence of "goodness".

Ironically, a "good" poem must use the intellect to produce emotional effects. Some of the worst poetry simply speaks about the feelings/responses I just discussed, rather than eliciting them through a careful choice of concrete details.

Never mind. Let's just say it this way: Does the poem bore me? It's probably not a very good poem. (Or maybe I have chosen to read the wrong poet.)

MD: Are you a "socially conscious" poet? Do you think a poem can bring about change in the way, say, a photograph can stir, incite, or effect a change?

LLB: I would like to think I am just a conscious poet. And, in this way, whatever I notice, I hope to set down, so it could turn someone's head, or flip her heart. Ultimately, that's social change: beginning with a single reader.

MD: Kim Rosen (who wrote Saved By a Poem) says that poetry's "first door" is the intimate and unobstructed voice. To my ear, your poems have a distinct voice. How would you describe that voice?

LLB: Cinnamon. Or maybe almonds. Okay, both.

MD: What do your poems reveal to you about yourself? [Note: What follows is L.L.'s second response to my question. Although I liked her original answer, which shall forever be known only to her and me, I like this one more. On receiving it, I thought, what a wonderful surprise!]

LLB: May I answer with a poem? It's not so much to say what my poems reveal as to say how they are willing to hold every part of me and, by extension, to also hold others.


What is poetry,
she asked, fetching
it to me with full
hands. How could I
answer the woman?
I do not know what
it is any more than
she. I guess it must
be marks on tender
skin, bearers of sin,
cool cups of rain
and bottles of tears
collected on midnight
trains from the eyes
of old men, old women
and infants traveling
to God knows where,
it hangs and is lifted
from our hair
goes onward and
onward speaking
itself, tripping us
as we debark
metal stairs.

[from L.L.'s newly published collection, InsideOut, page 30]

MD: What do you like best about your poems?

LLB: When I read them, I cry. Or sometimes I laugh. I like that. [It's] [a]s if someone outside of me is giving me a gift, and when I open it, I find that it was really my paper, my tape, my ribbon. What a nice surprise!

I don't know why I'm doing this; . . . it just feels completely right.
~ L.L. Barkat

MD: Stone Crossings follows your faith journey. As some readers may know, InsideOut, a collection of 139 of your poems (there are many more not in the book), is the result of a year you committed to spend outside, for some period of time each day, looking, observing, translating what you saw into words. Now, among other activities, you've undertaken an art pilgrimage. Tell us about that. Where do you "go", whose art are you divining, and what do you learn or hope to learn during this experience? Also, any chance of a book coming out of this?

LLB: One person asked me early on, "What's the point?" Last night, my dad said, "I don't know where you're going with these pastels but you sure know how to rip open a heart."

These baffled responses represent my own mystification. I don't know why I'm doing this [art pilgrimage]; as with the outdoor experience, it just feels completely right.

I don't have a compass for the pilgrimage, just an openness. It means that I stand still and look at buildings when everyone else is hurrying on. Or I spend time creating abstract art with my pastels (something I'd never done before this "pilgrimage" — neither the abstracts nor the pastels). I spend time with books about any artist who happens to capture my attention; this summer, it was [the renowned glass artist Dale] Chihuly.

Write a book about the pilgrimage? Too early to tell. But see how nicely it has attracted me to your work in the art world? Maybe it's just about this kind of thing. . . whom I pay attention to, whom I seek with no direction beforehand.

MD: Are you a target-setter? If yes, what do you want or hope to accomplish over the next one-to-two years, and then five years out?

LLB: I am a dandelion seed. Who knows where I'll drift? But the world never seems to rid itself of those sprightly yellow flowers.

MD: If you were never to write again, what would you like to be remembered for, and why?

LLB: Love. The way you can't forget purple lilacs in spring. And maybe for the same reason.

MD: Thank you, Laura, for this wonderful opportunity to talk with you. Though we chatted via e-mail, reading your answers in the white light of a computer screen, I do feel as though we were talking face to face, sitting on a big stuffy couch on a cold day, a pot of tea set out before us, poems in the air, seed falling, being scattered, planted. You did indeed answer to the meaning of my interview's title: Passion and Dandelion Seed.

Upcoming Activities

On January 29, 2010, L.L. will appear in New York City with singer Brook Campbell. L.L. will be reading her poetry; Brooke, singing. The venue is described here.

L.L. will be speaking at next year's Jubilee Conference, to be held February 19-21, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Of Interest

A podcast of L.L.'s conversation with Christy Tennant of International Arts Movement is here.

Glynn Young's review of InsideOut is here.

You can follow L.L. on Twitter at (She's also on FaceBook and LinkedIn and probably any other Social Media site worth using.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thought for the Day

If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough — sustain it, be true to it — we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality.
~ Marie-Louise von Franz, Jungian Psychologist

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Held inside by the still white-out, the rising snow-piles disturbed only by wind's strikes, I do something as natural to me as breathing: poet-listening.

Poet-listening: v., to listen to the words of other poets I may only dream to be.

And the poets? They are the graceful Marie Ponsot, the elegant W.S. Merwin, the natural world-exploring Jim Harrison, the compelling Li-Young Lee, the teller-of-the-ordinary Galway Kinnell, the New Formulist Mary Jo Salter, to name but a few.

These poets read out loud, and their words no longer sit black-typed on white ground-bound. They read, and their words become: the place, the look, the thing. The sight, the sound, the smell, the touch, and, yes, the taste.

Every sense becomes what it is not when we take our focus off the page, off the book opened, off the hand holding the book and the eyes looking down.

Lucky enough, we see how the poets read, notice how their eyes meet the camera and not their book, because the words, instilled, come from memory. And the memory creates the picture we're given. We hear how the words are meant to be read, where the voice falters or breaks, when it rises and falls before stopping altogether. We smell the moss, the lilac, the antelope on the butte, the water's scent. We touch the place inside where the words grab, clutch, hold on, give up, give out. We taste the burning-off of the high-rise falling and the fruit market exploding, and a seared edge of skin, the sending up of dust and ash, the bringing down of stars and dreams.

Join me in poet-listening. Hear, for example, the 88-year-old Marie Ponsot, whose most recent collection is Easy: Poems. She recites, one after the other, her poems "A Rune, Interminable", "Contracted", "TV, Evening News", and "Thank Gerard". Her voice is here.

Go here to do more poet-listening. Close your eyes as each video plays so that your senses do not depend on your watching.

A poem read aloud by its maker can transform.


The New York Times published an article on Ponsot, "The Wonder Years", on December 20, 2009. Read it here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Wishing my family and all of my friends, wherever you may be, a very Merry Christmas. May you carry the meaning and spirit of this Christmas Day in your heart.

In lieu of a post of my own, I offer this excerpt from Anne Porter's poem "Noel", which is from her last collection Living Things (Zoland Books, Steerforth Press, Hanover, New Hampshire, 2006. Copyright © Anne Porter. All Rights Reserved.) Anne Porter was a 1999 National Book Award finalist, for An Altogether Different Language, and was married to the representational painter Fairfield Porter.

. . . We hear and sing
The customary carols

. . .That are loved all the more
Because they are so common

But there are carols
That carry phrases
Of the haunting music
Of the other world
A music wild and dangerous
As a prophet's message

Or the fresh truth of children
Who though they come to us
From our own bodies
Are altogether new. . .

They look at us
With their clear eyes
And ask the piercing questions
God alone can answer.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jan Richardson's Christmas Card

I last wrote about Jan Richardson here.

Recently, Richardson produced another marvelous video, "An Illuminated Joy: A Christmas Book of Hours". Richardson created both the charming artwork and animation. Award-winning singer-songwriter Garrison Doles provides the delightful narration, which he also performs on his album of acoustic Christmas songs, The Night of Heaven and Earth. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cutting Up a Book

I doubt I will ever buy a Kindle, or whatever may be or become its equivalent. I love books — the physical objects — too much.

Ah, but you say, Kindle is a reader, just another way into books.

You may be right. Or not. I think, not, although I acknowledge, respectfully, that Jeff Bezos at Amazon thinks otherwise. (He gives us here a hint on Kindle taking a bath, so to speak.)

Kindle can't give you the feel of a book in the hands, the way a book accommodates itself to a lap or a table or a body curled up on a couch. It can't visually simulate how the book looks up close, in its entirety, resting open or closed or on a shelf, a title carved into its cover, its typeface a "printer's jewel" explained in an endnote, its gorgeous papers soaking up ink become words become book become story you remember.

Kindle can't give you the experience of an act of creation made palpable.

And Kindle doesn't lend itself to the touch of a scalpel, not in the way fiction writer Maurice Gee's Going West lends itself to a scalpel in this video from the New Zealand Book Council, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of books and all things related to books.

The video uses stop-motion paper-craft (cut paper) animation. It's "gone viral", inspiring several hundred thousand viewings, more than 1,000 tweets on Twitter, and more than 400 blogposts (and now mine), and it's among the top 10 videos in viral video charts. It took eight months to make and required who knows how many scapel blades and Band-aids.

Watch this. Be surprised and delighted and inspired. And go pick up a book. A real one this time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poetic Voices 2.0

Currently showing at The Phillips Collection is a marvelous exhibition, Man Ray, African Art and the Modernist Lens. I was privileged to attend the October opening and reception. The show continues through January 10, 2010.

A video introduction to the exhibition narrated by curator Elsa Smithgall is here.

For an audio tour of the exhibition, click here. Photo images are here and here. (Note: On Flickr, you may add to the group pool your own photos inspired by May Ray, African Art.)

The American Poetry Museum, in Washington, D.C., is collaborating with The Phillips Collection on a series of programs that explore the intersections of poetry and visual art. One such program undertaken in conjunction with Man Ray, African Art is Poetic Voices 2.0: What is HERITAGE to you?

As part of Poetic Voices 2.0, the public is invited to create an original poem responding to Countee Cullen's poem "Heritage" (1925). Here's an excerpt from that poem:

What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree,
What is Africa to me?

Writer and curator Hari Jones, of the African American Civil War Museum, reads Cullen's entire poem here. He also offers his own response, "Do You Remember Timbuktu?"

Members of the public who want to participate in the project should watch the Poetic Voices 2.0 playlist, here, create a poetic response expressing the idea of heritage, record a video no more than two minutes long, and upload the video to YouTube. They also should join the Poetic Voices 2.0 group and add their videos there.

Currently, featured group videos are here. Another respondent, Sam Mirandi, narrates his response, "When They Ask", here.

The public has until noon, January 8, 2010, to give a thumbs up to the most favored poetic response. The person whose video is voted "favorite" will receive a year-long individual membership to The Phillips Collection; a year-long individual membership to the American Poetry Museum; two tickets to Man Ray, African Art that may be used during the exhibition's final weekend (January 9-10, 2010); and the exhibition catalogue.

(Note: Only videos that were uploaded by the event's original December 21 deadline are eligible for these awards.)

Go take a look at the videos responding to Cullen's "Heritage" and then cast your vote. Or create and upload your own video, because every poetic voice counts and deserves to be heard.

10 Days To Touch 10 Million

A grass-roots initiative to combat depression and suicide during the holiday season, 10 Days to Touch 10 Million is a movement gone viral. It has been promoted on Twitter and FaceBook, featured on the Times Square megatron, shared via countless e-mails and newsletters, reported on by radio, television, and newspapers, downloaded and shown in shelters, before youth groups, in churches the world over.

Originally intended for sharing during the 10 days before Thanksgiving, the 10 Days to Touch 10 Million movement is continuing throughout the holiday season so that as many people as possible will hear and share the message, "Your life matters! You are loved! You are powerful beyond measure!"

Below is a short presentation, produced by Wisdom Films and narrated by Marianne Williamson, who reads "Our Deepest Fear", from her book Return to Love. Take a moment to view the video. And then help spread the message to family, friends, co-workers, anyone you know who needs to hear "We care."

For more about the movement, click here.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Passion and Dandelion Seed: A Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too, Interview (Part 1)

In November, I introduced the first in a new series called "Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too" — interviews with people who do not make their living as professional art-makers (for those features, please see my All Art Friday Special Editions) but who nonetheless may, and usually do, have one or more noteworthy artistic talents. Through my periodic "Monday Matters" posts, you get to meet online the people I think you should get to know. I make the selections, write the questions, and do the interviews. You get to read and comment.

For this, my second "Monday Matters" interview, I am delighted to present my chat with L.L. Barkat, which I conducted via e-mail and which I've divided into two parts, both to keep things interesting and to make sure you come back next week.

I've never met L.L., although we've exchanged a number of e-mails, some before the idea for "Monday Matters" got stuck in my head and some since. My first electronic communication with her was to find out how I could join a group of online poets who caught my fancy. To do that, I had to create a blog and . . . well, that blog led to other blogs and Twitter and twoems (poems written on Twitter) and now I'm part of a vast conspiracy of wonderful writers and poets who feel like they know one another but aren't averse to learning more.

L.L., as some of my readers already know, is the author of the well-received spiritual memoir Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places (IVP, 2008) and a poet whose beautiful collection InsideOut was released this month. She blogs at Seedlings in Stone, Love Notes to Yahweh, God in the Yard, and Green Inventions Central and helped found TweetSpeakPoetry, the Twitter poetry group I joined. A former magazine designer, art director, editorial consultant, and ad copywriter, she's currently managing editor at High Calling Blogs and a staff writer for Curator magazine, a Web publication of International Arts Movement (IAM). L.L. also is a popular speaker for WTW Ministry, a New York Bible teaching ministry, manages Social Issues Reading Clubs, and is an adept Social Media user. She lives in New York State and has two daughters whom she home-schools. She also likes to bring out her pastels. Those swirls she creates look like afternoon storms of autumn leaves that, like dancers at the barre or on stage, bend in deep plies, do a few fouettes rond de jambe en tournant, and then rise for the finale, a grand tour en l'air.

Those are the basics. If you poke around the Web long enough, you yourself could find out and piece together these facts, and even scare up a photo of L.L. What you won't find out, however, are her answers to my interview questions, which are published here for the first time. My intention is for you to learn something about L.L. that you don't already know, like, maybe, passion and dandelion seed.

Passion and Dandelion Seed:
A Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too,
Interview With L.L. Barkat

Part 1 of 2

I don't love to write so much as I write to love.
~ L.L. Barkat

Maureen Doallas: When I interviewed him for my first "Monday Matters" interview, I enjoyed asking our mutual friend Glynn Young what one word he thought best described him. Given all that you do, L.L. — and we'll be talking about some of it during this interview — what one word describes you? (And feel free to elaborate on your choice of word.)

L.L. Barkat: Passion. You might not guess it, if you met me. I'm sort of your average dark-haired, slight-of-build woman. But it's true.

MD: You list in your resume your talents as both "author" and "writer". What, for you, is the distinction between these terms?

LLB: Hmmm. . . well, I forgot to employ my editor on that one.

In a sense, all writers should be called authors, published or unpublished. Author, after all, is originator, creator, maker; writers specifically create with written words.

Still, when my kids verbally "play story" for two hours, I tell them they've been writing, because they've been composing. What is composing but originating, creating, making?

Maybe I should get back to you on this one (and go change my resume).

MD: You hold a master's degree in English and American literature from New York University. What was behind this choice for post-graduate study: love of literature, desire to teach?

LLB: I fancied I would get a Ph.D. some day. I pictured myself teaching. I'm perfectly happy that I never did that. I would much rather learn from sitting in my backyard and watching the mourning doves nest in the hemlocks. And because I spend my time doing such things, I write about them. And because I write about them, why, oddly enough, now I "teach" through my career online and in public speaking.

MD: At High Calling Blogs, where you have been managing editor since 2008, you help in setting editorial direction. What does that particular responsibility require of you?

LLB: High Calling Blogs has been a marvelous place. It doesn't require things of me, so much as let me experiment with what works in the online world, in accordance with its vision of nurturing people in their daily lives and work. The writing I initiate, the projects I organize, the networking I do for HCB: [all] feel like play and parties. [That] is the best sort of job, I think.

MD: You also recruit, manage, and mentor writers and editors. One, do writers seek you out or vice-versa? Two, what does it mean to you to "mentor" a writer? Three, in what ways does mentoring a writer differ from mentoring an editor? Four, what is required to produce a successful mentoring relationship?

LLB: I enjoy flexible relationships with our writers and editors, [each group of which] provides articles for us. Sometimes, they seek me out for feedback. I rarely edit a piece without being asked; more likely, I'll say, "Would you consider [whatever it is that might improve the piece]?" Really, we've brought on amazing people who can direct their own writing and be responsible for their own growth.

However, to assist their process, I make it a point to share, with both our writers and editors, very specifically when something shines and why. I guess I've always flourished best under managers who take such an approach, so that's my goal when I work with others.

My hope would be that our editors would take a similar approach when interacting with our writers. The editor's job is not to edit particular pieces (unless asked) but to make sure we have articles every day and to promote our writers' sense that they are part of a vital community (which, I sincerely hope, is true!).

To mentor, in my mind, is to model and point to the good stuff. That's all I try to do. And, truth be told, I am mentored by the High Calling Blogs community as well.

MD: Have you yourself had the privilege of being mentored? If yes, what was the experience like? What have you taken from that past experience that you apply in your own mentoring today, or as lessons for your own writing?

LLB: I can't say I've ever had what felt like a formal mentoring experience. I do know that the months I spent with my editor Cindy Bunch at InterVarsity Press, refining Stone Crossings, was very important for me. [Cindy] knew how to say, "This is working; do more of this." And I would go off and do it. That was formative.

MD: What advice do you give those who say, "I want to be a writer"?

LLB: Oh, the stand-by answer: read, read, read and write, write, write. Beyond that, if seeking publication, buy a sturdy umbrella. Rejection comes often, and it feels like a storm.

These days, though, the blog world provides some nice, tidy short-cuts. If you're good, you're likely to be "called out" by the communities you participate in. Well, so that's part of the advice. . . find communities. Join places like High Calling Blogs (and that's not just an advertising pitch; it works as a way to promote your writing).

. . . I definitely write for both sexes.
~ L.L. Barkat

MD: You write in the early hours of the morning and often in the dark. Indulge me. Do you have a room of your own where you write? If you don't but think you'd like one some day, what would that room look like, what would be in it?

LLB: I wish I could describe the room of my mind for you. It is where I write. Poems, articles, chapters . . . they take almost their full shape in the room in my head. The curtains are velvet, by the way, the color of wine.

MD: Do you need a certain kind of environment or conditions to write?

LLB: Nope! I'm pretty good about ignoring the world and going into my head.

MD: You're a culture columnist for High Calling Blogs and a staff writer for Curator magazine. You've written a spiritual memoir and reflection, Stone Crossings. You write poetry and have just published your first book of poems, InsideOut. You also have numerous blogs. All this writing, and yet you list writing on your resume as "interest" and you are quoted as saying, "I don't love to write so much as I write to love." I think this "writing to love" is something you feel deeply. What does it mean, to be able to "write to love"?

LLB: I kind of wish I could offer a complicated and profound answer. It's just that I'm motivated by people, by giving them something they can hold on to, fight with, or collapse into. It's why I couldn't sustain a career in business writing. I just didn't like writing that much, and because I wasn't writing about baby wipes (or air fresheners or film brands) for anyone in particular, I became intensely bored and gave up writing to become a teacher.

MD: What was your first professional experience as a writer?

LLB: I had my own business [in] graphic design and writing. I formed the business after my employer was bought out. To that point, I'd been the editorial assistant in a technical writing department. Needless to say, at that job, I'd mostly been charged with taking commas out until the writers decided to put them back in. So, I count my business as my first real professional writing experience.

MD: Your writing and books are signed "L.L. Barkat" rather than "Laura L. Barkat". Do you have any particular reason for using your initials and not your full name as your by-line?

LLB: Well, I do like how it looks. And, it's memorable. Those are my graphic design roots speaking.

I also like how it reads neither male nor female; after all, I definitely write for both sexes.

MD: Do you hold back in your writing? In other words, do you draw a zone of privacy around Barkat the writer and author and Barkat the wife, mother, home-schooler, friend, etc.? Do you use your writing in a private way, to better understand yourself or to find a way to bridge gaps in your understanding of yourself or others or what is happening to you?

LLB: I hold nothing back in my poems. Yet, the poems aren't simply about me. The beauty of poetry is that others can enter in and bring their own interpretations.

In Stone Crossings, I was pretty straightforward about my family life, my personal struggles and failures, but these aren't really the focus. It's hard to explain. I wrestle with life and I shape and turn it in my writing and it's, ultimately, . . . like you said before. . . about giving love to whomever would like to accept it. In that way, I suppose I'm kind of like Walt Whitman: ever speaking to the universal "you", the "reader", whoever he or she might be.

MD: Is writing a kind of witnessing?

LLB: Only in the sense that it bears witness to my particular life, as lived in this particular place, as guided by both friends and God. I don't try to be evangelistic in my writing, if that's what you mean.

Next Monday, December 28, I'll return with Part 2 of my Monday Matters . . . You Do, Too interview with L.L. Barkat. I'll have some questions about Stone Crossings, poetry-writing, and what's next for L.L. And if you've been wondering about that title for my interview, Passion and Dandelion Seed, be sure to stop by. It will all become clear, or a little clearer. I promise.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Advent

For this, the fourth Sunday in Advent, I find deep pleasure in the waiting, through these words.

I offer first this Annie Dillard quote from "God in the Doorway"*, her short and oft-quoted essay found in the superb Teaching a Stone to Talk. The quote (indeed the entire essay) seems especially appropriate as a meditation for the Advent season.

I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.

And, second, these few lines from poet Marge Piercy's "Shabbat moment" from The Art of Blessing the Day**:

. . . This is the time
for letting time go
like a released balloon
Tilt your neck and let
your face open to the sky
like a pond catching light
drinking the darkness.

And, not least, these lovely lines from "O Oriens"*** by Malcolm Guite, whose introduction to me I owe to my friend Diane:

. . . So every trace of light begins a grace

In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
"Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream

For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking."


** Knopf, 2005; Copyright © 1999.

*** The complete poem is here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Provocation of Goodbyes (Poem)

The Provocation of Goodbyes:
Homage to Isadora
(1878 - 1927)

Isadora Duncan came out of California,
child of poet and divorce,
a jigsaw of contradicting odes.

Barefoot, bare-legged,
she practiced Greek legends
in smoky Chicago beer halls

A fairy to Titania's Puck
on New York's grandest stage.

Staving off hunger in Newport,
she rose and stood to London's call.

Unfixed as the year of her birth,
this impostor done up
in sheer veils and thinner drapery

Cut so fine a figure
Paris fell
and Berlin followed.

Munich rained flowers
and Athens took to its hills

As choruses in once-ancient Byzantium
echoed Rome's commands.

Isadora mined a dreamed and inward country:
gardens of Whitman lilacs, unkept oaths
of gentlemen in black silk top hats,
young fools intent on revolution.

Vienna brought Gordon Craig,
two babes and Beethoven's Ninth,
a stillbirth and goodbyes.

     Isadora was always saying goodbyes.

Rhythms she cradled in unfettered feet.

In his March the length of her enormous scarf,
she wrapped her shivery heart
in a token pact with Chopin.

Men everywhere adored her.

Once a Russian poet
who married her
and later went away
took his own life in Leningrad.

Isadora invented a red
deeper than the caverns of tear-stained eyes.

She wrapped Essenine's absence
in a shawl of dust,
emptied heart's pockets of his poems,
her hands of his now-cold touch.

A piece of cloth wound round a wheel;
her hands rebelled a too-late gesture.

     Isadora was always saying goodbyes.

Copyright © Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 18, 2009

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Christmas Badge
I am dedicating this week's "All Art Friday" to my celebration of "12 Days of Community"* and thus highlighting a baker's dozen of artists I recommend you get to know. For today's post, I use "artist" expansively—to encompass visual artists, writers and poets, and performance artists.

☆ Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian ~ I learned about Farmanfarmaian just two days ago, via Mosaic Art Now. She's an Iranian artist of extraordinary talent. The write-up and images of her work at MAN tell and show you all you need to know for your initial introduction. If you are not dazzled sufficiently by MAN's images, take a look here as well. Read about her exhibition in London, A Geometry of Hope, and pick up her memoir A Mirror Garden, co-authored by Zara Housmand.

☆ L.L. Barkat ~ If you spend even a few minutes on one of Barkat's blogs — Seedlings in Stone, God in the Yard, Love Notes to Yahweh, or Green Inventions Central — you will come away wondering how this marvelous and seemingly indefatigable writer escaped your attention before now. Barkat is the author of the spiritual memoir Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places and the newly released collection of poems InsideOut. When she puts her hand to paper, she leaves behind words that imprint like an etching.

☆ Ellen Jantzen ~ Ellen Jantzen's digitally manipulated photography is the product of a boldly creative two-dimensional graphic sensibility and an even deeper need to create. Jantzen's sensitive "Patricia — Vanishing Mother Photo Essay" was published last month in The Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities (5th Vol., November 2009). Her essay shows the decline of Patricia Jantzen, Ellen's mother-in-law, as she slips more deeply into dementia (she has Alzheimer's) and out of this world as we know it. Jantzen currently is showing, through January 31, 2010, at the New York Hall of Science in Digital '09: Mysteries in Science, organized by Art and Science Collaborations Inc.

☆ Stephen Alvarez ~ An award-winning National Geographic Magazine photojournalist for 14 years, Alvarez is a visual story-teller of uncommon talent. His Picture Stories blog, where he posts studio work, individual photos from his travels around the world, and video essays, will leave you in awe. His subjects range from exploration to religion and culture to conflict and its aftermath. The latter are especially moving. Alvarez also has produced work for Time, Adventure, and Travel holiday, among other publications, and offers his work through Zeitgeist gallery. His Website is Alvarez Photography.

☆ Mila Kagan ~ A member of Flux Studios, in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, Kagan, according to her Artist Statement, examines in her "sculptural investigations. . . the juxtaposed relationships" among the mix of materials she uses in her art: soft black rubber, strands of white glass, transparent procelain, metal. Transparency, opacity, tensile strength, brittleness, gravity, flexibility: all are tested in Kagan's creation of a large body of thematic work addressing the "deconstruction" of the female body, the abstraction of "maternal space", the use of feminine adornment, and cell imagery and "the barely visible". Images of Kagan's remarkable work can be seen here.

☆ Wendy Maruyama ~ I was introduced to the work of California furniture-maker Maruyama through the artist's collaborative and powerful "Tag Project: In Search of Cultural Memory", profiled in an American Craft magazine blogpost on October 5, 2009. The daughter of second-generation Japanese-Americans, Maruyama increasingly focuses her work on issues of ethnicity, identity, and gender. Both the "Tag Project" — involving the replication of 120,000 tags representing World War II internees from San Diego and Chula Vista — and her video You're a Sap, Mr. Jap, are an effort to embrace and explore a history that until recently had been lost to her: the United States' internment in 1942 of Japanese-Americans on issuance of the war-time decree Executive Order 9066.  Maruyama's Website is here; click on Portfolio to view her various multi-part projects, such as the Kyoto series and Turning Japanese.

☆ Robert Ayers ~ The Manhattan-based Ayers writes A Sky Filled With Shooting Stars, an aptly titled blog about all things art: interviews with leading and up-and-coming contemporary artists, books, galleries, museums, art fairs, and performance art. Ayers himself is an artist and writer, a passionate advocate for contemporary arts, and a teacher, curator, producer, promoter. He contributes regularly to ARTnews and and is the New York correspondent for Total Theatre (London) and Eikon (Vienna). He has his fingers all over art, literally and otherwise.

☆ Geoff Wisner ~ A Brooklyn resident, Wisner blogs at A Natural Curiosity and Words Without Borders, where he writes about African literature in translation. Harvard-educated, Wisner is an essayist and book reviewer (The African, The Boston Globe, Wild Earth, Transition, among others) and the author of A Basket of Leaves: 99 Books That Capture the Spirit of Africa. He has worked for the legal defense of prisoners in South Africa and served as assistant director of the U.S. Office of the International Aid Fund for Southern Africa. Photos from his travels, posted here and on Flickr, take us to Paris, Manhattan, St. Lucia, Brazil, Haiti, Italy, Malawi, Nepal, and Zimbabwe. Take some time to explore his sites; they are worth your effort.

☆ Anne Marchand ~ Washington, D.C., artist Marchand blogs at Painterly Visions about artists, art, and art exhibitions throughout the metropolitan area and beyond. Born in New Orleans, educated at the University of Georgia, from which she received a Master's of Fine Art, and well-traveled (Europe, Central America, Asia), Marchand paints bold, evocative, color-saturated abstractions in oils and acrylics, as well as city-scapes that reveal her observer's eyes for architectural shapes and her sensibility of the play of light against dark. Her gorgeous paintings are in numerous corporate and private collections and she has exhibited widely throughout the United States and in Mexico. This year Marchand received an Artist Fellowship from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and has been awarded numerous other honors. Marchand also teaches private art classes. Click here to see Marchand's paintings and here to view her installations.

☆ F. Lennox Campello ~ Lenny, as he is known far and wide, lives and breathes art, and has a lot of fun doing it. He is an artist of enormous talent, an influential art critic and reviewer, a former gallery owner, a "good friend" to a huge number of people, and a blogger. His Daily Campello Art News is on everyone's morning reading list and ranges over everything from local gallery or museum "happenings" to international art exhibitions. He writes intelligently, provocatively, and sometimes irreverently about artists, art, and show openings and offers both insightful criticism and commentary about the global visual arts scene. His opinion counts; artists get excited when he writes about them. His Website is here.

☆ Jane Franklin ~ Franklin is artistic director of the widely recognized Jane Franklin Dance, a nonprofit organization supported by Arlington County, Virginia, through its Cultural Affairs Division, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among other groups and private sponsors. The group is known for its unique approach to performance art, collaborating with visual artists, musicians, media, and members of the community on projects presented on stage, outdoors, in neighborhood venues, and in classrooms where dance education performances and workshops are presented for Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools and Arlington County Schools' Humanities Project. Franklin's company draws into its partnerships people of all ages and talents but especially senior adults and youth. It debuted internationally in 2008 at Foro Performatica, a conference/festival at the Universidad Las Americas Puebla Mexico; was awarded in 2008 a Community Foundation for the National Capital Region Creative Communities Initiative Grant; and tours for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Paul Mellon Arts in Education Program and the Virginia Commission for the Arts Tour Directory. The group's 2010 schedule includes the premiere of "Of Bones and Bridges" for which local artist Novie Trump is creating a bridge that will be integrated in the performance.

And to make this a Baker's Dozen:

☆John Allsopp ~ British realist painter Allsopp is participating in the Help For Heroes project, which raises money to support members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other parts of the world. A percentage from the sale of giclees of his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, whom Allsopp painted to mark her diamond anniversary in 2007, goes to Help for Heroes. The giclees (high-resolution digitally scanned images printed on canvas or fine art papers) are produced by Abacus Fine Art printers in Cumbria, North West England, and are signed by Allsopp. They are available only through Allsopp via his Website. His blog is here.

* At High Calling Blogs, we're celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with 12 Days of Community by highlighting the blog(s) or Website(s) of people other than ourselves or people we think you should know about. As our friend Glynn says, this is something we should be doing anyway, all the other 353 days of the year.

This is the twelfth piece to appear under the 12 Days of Community badge. The others are:

Day 8: "Ann With No 'e'"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Poet Writes on Poets

Christmas Badge
When I received the phone call. . . letting me know that I'd won the prize, I was at work. I remember sweating through my socks and later . . . asking if I could leave early to go to the bar. . . .
~Winner, 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, Barn Owl Review*

I do not remember the first time I visited his blog, How a Poem Happens. I do remember thinking, what a wonderful group of poets he gets to interview! Poets I've been reading for years: Stephen Dunn, Marilyn Hacker, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Mark Jarman, Maxine Kumin, Philip Levine, Linda Pastan, and so many more greats, near-greats, soon-to-be-greats.

His blog profile indicates that he's been on Blogger since January 2009. I don't know where, if anywhere, on the Web he might have been before; I'm just glad I discovered his site, where he presents his interviews with the best crowd of contemporary poets. Those interviews are a kind of post-mortem for poetry-making. Each one offers up a particular poem of the interviewee and then takes us through the "received" inspiration or "sweat and tears" of poem-writing. We learn when the poem at issue was composed, how much it was revised, how much time elapsed between drafts, what inspired it, with whom drafts were shared, whether it reflects a conscious application of poetry-writing techniques, when it first appeared in print, and, interestingly, what makes it "American". The questions asked of each poet generally are the same but the responses are each poet's own, and so always informative, sometimes surprising, often humorous.

The interviewer for How a Poem Happens is a poet himself—an award-winning poet: Brian Brodeur.

Brodeur is young (he was born in 1978 in Worcester, Massachusetts); lives and works in Fairfax, Virginia (the county where I grew up); and holds a Master's of Fine Arts from George Mason University, where he now works. He has been awarded fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center. His M.F.A. thesis, a book-length manuscript, was a finalist for the 2006 New Issues Poetry Prize.

Success has come early to Brian Brodeur. His poems, which have been translated into Spanish and Bosnian, have appeared in such esteemed publications as Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, Verse Daily, Pleiades, New Orleans Review, Crab Orchard Review, River Styx, Meridian, Smartish Pace, Margie, and Story South, and the anthologies Best New Poets 2005 (University of Virginia Press/Samovar Press; Meridian) and We Are What We Watch: Poets Respond to Movies, TV, and Media (Syracuse University Press, 2006). New work is forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving.

Brodeur's first chapbook, So the Night Cannot Go On Without Us, was published by White Eagle Coffee Store Press and was that press's 2006 Poetry Chapbook Contest winner. His first full-length collection, Other Latitudes, published in 2008 by The University of Akron Press, was selected for the 2007 Akron Poetry Prize, from among 530 manuscripts, by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn, the final judge.

The contest judge for Brodeur's winning chapbook called Brodeur's poems "exquisite", born of "careful observation of the natural world" and "skillfully conveyed" emotional states; life "both the attractive and the repulsive, is considered with tenderness. . . ."

Of Other Latitudes, Dunn describes a "finely measured first collection" in which Brodeur reveals an "ability to yoke the beautiful and the dangerous, and offer them to us without prejudice; in fact, with an equilibrium that bespeaks an inclusive, clear-eyed engagement with the world."

Similarly, the poet Carolyn Forche calls the collection "impressive", of "intelligent emotional complexity" and "startling" language, "the work of an already mature and accomplished poet."

Here are the last two lines from Brodeur's "Holy Ghost",** which is included in Other Latitudes:

Light moves across the counter, almost touching her hand,
shattering over an open drawer of knives.

Visit Brodeur's blog, How a Poem Happens, and seek out and read Brodeur's poems. He is a talent worth watching.

* Frank DePoole's interview with Brian Brodeur for Barn Owl Review is titled "Persistence, Beer, and Beards: A Conversation with Brian Brodeur". (The title becomes clear in the interview.) It is engaging, funny, informative about Other Latitudes, generous in advice to aspiring poets, and forthcoming in its assessment of the selection of cover art and the "blind and bungling nature" of poetry-writing.

** The complete poem is published here also.

At High Calling Blogs, we're celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas with 12 Days of Community by highlighting the blog(s) or Website(s) of people other than ourselves or people we think you should know about. As our friend Glynn says, this is something we should be doing anyway, all the other 353 days of the year.

This is the eleventh piece to appear under the 12 Days of Community badge. The others are:

Day 1: "She Looks for Joy in Now"
Day 2: "Landscape Become Image"
Day 3: "She Listens Multidimensionally"
Day 4: "Four Women, No Calling Birds"
Day 5: "Virginia via Idaho via New York City"
Day 6: "nAncY, By Any Other Name"
Day 7: "Roses on Her Dresses"
Day 8: "Ann With No 'e'"
Day 9: "In a Single Field"
Day 10: "Meet Kayce a.k.a. Lucy Van Pelt"