Friday, April 30, 2010

Poetry Book Give-Away Challenge


As part of my celebration of National Poetry Month, I noted in my post of April 1 that I am giving away two books of poetry. One, Best New Poets: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers, is going to a person whose name will be drawn randomly from all the names left in the comments section for that April 1 post.  (Today's the deadline for leaving a comment there.) The other collection, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, is to be awarded to the first person who posts the correct answers to either the first 10 questions (1-10) or the last 10 questions (11-20) below. All of the questions are based on my poetry-related posts here at Writing Without Paper.

To participate in the challenge, you must leave your answers in the comments section for today's post by 5:00 p.m. EST. I will not select a winner until the deadline passes.

Please number your answers in the same order as the questions appear, check that you've answered all parts of each question, and be sure that your answers correspond to the set of questions you've chosen to answer (1-10 or 11-20). The answers are found easily in the posts I've written on poets and poetry beginning April 1.

I'll announce the winners of both books on May 3. Note: If you do not have a blog, please be sure to include with your responses an e-mail address where I can reach you. No anonymous responses will be considered.

Poetry Book Give-Away Challenge

1. This poet wrote the collection Sakura Park. Who is she?

2. What poet said, "The poet looks at the world as a woman looks at a man"?

3. What is the name of the poet who edited Best New Poets, one of the two books I'm giving away?

4. What are the names of the two poets I selected to highlight in a preview of one of the give-away books?

5. One state Poet Laureate I featured has yet to publish a book of poetry. Who is that poet and what is the state of residence?

6. For which state was Linda Pastan once Poet Laureate?

7. Every state gives its Poet Laureate an annual living and expenses stipend. Is this statement true or false?

8. The position of Poet Laureate or State Poet is usually a life-time appointment. True or false?

9. What is the amount of money attached to the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize?

10. What is the name of the poetry collection from which I include excerpts in my post on Liz Waldner?

11. Who wrote the collection of poems that I will give to the person correctly answering today's Challenge?

12. Of which state is David Romtvedt Poet Laureate?

13. The state legislatures appoint Poets Laureate. True or false?

14. This poet also is a musician who performs creole dance music. Who is he?

15. What poet wrote the nonfiction book Dawn Light?

16. What is the name of the biologist who writes poetry and what is the name of the collection I wrote about?

17. What are the names of any two of the poets featured in my post "The Poetry of Illness"?

18. Who is singing the words to 19th and 20th Century poems in a video I featured?

19. Who wrote the poem "Bearing Much Fruit"?

20. What husband-and-wife poets did I name in my post on "The Poetry of Illness"?

Have fun! I look forward to announcing both winners.

My regular feature "All Art Friday" will return next week.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Natalie Merchant Sings Poems

TED is celebrating National Poetry Month, too, with this video of Natalie Merchant singing lyrics from oft-forgotten 19th Century and 20th Century American and British poems—all from Merchant's two-CD album Leave Your Sleep, released by Nonesuch Records April 13. 

Merchant's Website is here. Her April 26, 2010, interview with Jeffrey Brown at PBS News Hour's Art Beat is here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hollis Sigler: Painting Hope On Canvas

On the wall of deadly silence about the disease,
I aimed to hang my Breast Cancer Journal.
This work was an outcry.
~ Hollis Sigler

In 1985, Hollis Sigler, an artist in Chicago, learned she had breast cancer. Her cancer, it seems, was passed on to her through the mysteries of genetics—from her mother, who died of the disease in 1995, through her grandmother and great grandmother. After experiencing a second recurrence but before the disease claimed her life in March 2001, Sigler created a series of more than 100 artworks titled "Breast Cancer Journal: Walking with the Ghost of My Grandmothers". The series was reproduced in a book, Hollis Sigler's Breast Cancer Journal (Hudson Hills Press, 1999), the image for which is shown above. The book includes a biographical essay by art critic James Yood, as well as a few words by Sigler about the history of her artwork. Noted breast cancer specialist Dr. Susan M. Love contributed the foreword.

The artwork — oils on canvas or board, oil pastels on paper, cut paper collages, cut paper drawings, watercolor monotypes, lithographs — bear expressive titles that clue you in to the stories Sigler tells and the emotions she's setting loose, if not entirely freeing:  "Taking Stock of Her Situation", "Feeling Robbed", "My Body Is No Longer a Temple", "Seeking Out an Island of Peace", "I'd Make a Deal with the Devil", "I'm Holding Out for Victory, Winning Is My Greatest Desire", "The Beginning of the End", "In Spite of All She Rises in the Morning With Joy in Her Heart". 

It's critical to remember, when looking at the art, that Sigler, as Yood says in the book's introduction, "is not an artist because she has breast cancer; she is an artist with breast cancer."

Sigler's entire career has been a testament 
to the communicative graces of art, 
and in the Breast Cancer Journal she reminds us that art 
can accomplish this in a way that nothing else can, 
and that sometimes, preciously and rarely, 
it will do very much more. 
Sometimes art can be a matter of life and death.
~ James Yood

If you have any experience of cancer at all — and you would be the rare person who does not — you understand, without explanation, the imagery of Sigler's paintings and drawings: the absence of human figures or figures floating above ground like those in a Chagall painting; the single empty chair, or a row of empty chairs; trees without limbs or leaves; wildly out-of-control vines overtaking a decrepit house; a vanity table with its accoutrements of personal grooming; a reflection in a mirror of the person you no longer are, yet you are; a dual landscape, internal and external, of apocalypse, personal effects scattered to the winds: the places where nobody's home. 

Image above left: "I Find Hope on the Horizon of My Tomorrows", original color lithograph, 570mm x 760mm, with text running around central image; 1997; Spaightwood Galleries.

Along the painted frames and on the mats of paintings is text: statistics you can find on your own all too easily, historical information, Sigler's own journal entries, quotes from people who inspired her (Audre Lorde, for example, who also had cancer and wrote The Cancer Journals), words written out, perhaps, to stall if not defeat the enemy residing within.

We are a society that is geared towards words. . . 
My objective is to inform. And I think it counterpoints the visual, 
because the visual always has to do with emotions. It is a way 
 of putting the cause in the work, and making it
 very specific, which makes people notice it.
~ Hollis Sigler

The style, you might notice, is simple but vigorous, somewhat folk art-ish, maybe faux naive. It has the intensity of Frida Kahlo's work. It's the visual rendering of the confessional poet.

What might surprise you is the brightness of the paints, the warmth of the strong colors, what, to me, represents the flip side of the cancer coin, the one you always want to land up: hope.

There's grace in the artwork, and frustration, a sense of rebellion, confrontation, the trauma from disfigurement, the symbols of loss, sorrow, and the knowing that there's no cure. The narrative, though Sigler's, could just as easily be my own, or yours, and so becomes everyone's.

Image: "Walking With the Ghosts of My Grandmothers", 
oil on canvas, 66"x54", with painted frame; 1992


Image at left: Hollis Sigler.

An exhibit of 60+ works appeared recently at the Chicago Cultural Center; the show, which closed April 4, was titled "Expect the Unexpected". A review of the show in Art & Design, illustrated with a dozen images, is here. Another feature, in Medill Reports, is here. A Shore magazine feature on the exhibit is here. Earlier (October 9, 2009 - January 10, 2010), "Expect the Unexpected" was at Rockford Art Museum, in Rockford, Illinois.

Sigler's art is in many private collections, as well as public collections, including those of the Chicago Art Institute, Smithsonian American Art MuseumNational Museum of Women in the Arts, and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. On the latter site is a video.

The New York Times obituary for Sigler is here.

Dr. Susan M. Love, a preeminent breast cancer specialist, has written, among other books, Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won't Break Your Health and Dr. Susan's Love's Breast Book

The Society for the Arts in Healthcare, with the co-sponsorship of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, undertook a four-year (1994 - 1997) tour of replicas of a dozen or so of Sigler's drawings and paintings to 24 hospitals. All of those images are in the Journal. The exhibit was "retired" in 1999 to the Lombardi Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. The paintings and drawings are on permanent exhibition there, in Research Building corridors, levels 3-5.

The Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago carries some of Sigler's work, including works from the Journal, as does Steven Scott Gallery. Many images are on the site of Chicago's Printworks Gallery.

Images of a number of Sigler's works are posted at Breast Cancer Answers Art Gallery.

Sigler was featured in Dr. David Kaminisky's Paint Me a Future, a documentary film about art therapy made in 1999. (I found numerous references to the film but could not locate a trailer for it.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creative Rituals for the Writing Life

Earlier today, I came across a great selection of articles at Psychology Today that I think are pertinent to our ongoing discussions at High Calling of Julia Cameron's The Right to Write. Enjoy!

So You Want To Be a Writer? (March 16, 2010)

How Creative Flow Is Like Sex (March 8, 2010)

Five Ways Not to Write a Novel (February 27, 2010)

Trust Craft More Than Inspiration (September 20, 2009)

Five Keys to Unlock Your Creative Motivation (July 19, 2009)
11 Types of Bad Writing Advice (June 27, 2009)

Thirteen Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Done (May 29, 2009)

This Writer's Tricks Are Not for You (April 11, 2009)

How to Stop Fighting That Deadline (March 26, 2009)

Writers Do It Often (Amid Chaos): Part 2 (February 27, 2009)

Writers Do It Often: Here's How: Part 1 (February 14, 2009)

You might want to follow Susan K. Perry's blog Creating in Flow.

A Mother's Day (Poem)

A Mother's Day


Bones-pained,  she cushions herself
in a fifties-old high-backed chintz chair
rescued from some other parlor
earlier emptied of over visitations.

Before her a sleek slash of gleaming black
stainless steel, its adjustable catafalque hip-high,
enwraps in white satin the third of nine
she bore as the good wife she augured to be.

He made it to 59 (barely),
she long past that depression generation so used
to tall-telling days when bread and stamps cost pennies
and she walked a mile, maybe two, to school.

From where she receives hands and tears
up on her seat of caned memories
— some hers, some not —
this is Mother's Day.


We stand and sit and re-rise, all mothers
in this tight-aired room this 90-degree day,
matriarch and daughters
still five in number, still keening

The difference calculated in a hymn of names
for a mother, a father, a son for six months,
an infant — female, delivered still —
also a husband, also, after, a significant other

And now before her riot-red eyes,
his working-man's hands tied up
in rosary beads, this son
for whom her puzzled loss cannot stand
in metered rhythms of good-bye.

Crumbles of hankies pile up
discarded witness to the usual way
we work our unanswerable whys:

Him, not her.

She saved and time-consumed
(as if her heart could take it)

He taken up with cancer
quietly giving us the slip.


No clock attends the hours she sits
remarking to every other guest as any woman might
how she couldn't imagine spending Mother's Day
in a Florida funeral home

A video tribute raising tunes he liked,
pictures tracing through a brain-feed
the places he'd come and left, people who'd done the same,
life's reel turned back and looping.


We imprint what the mind can reduce to hold:
the baby
the boy
the young adult
the middle-aged man

Married no children


Her mother's heart
sadly, not without affection, recapitulates
the stories of others' stories others tell

Filling that cramped space of hush
rushed in between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m.,
picked up again after 8:00

Last chances over

All the sisters who are mothers
spelling that room
rising to kneel,
finally understanding.

© 2009 - 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I have written and re-written this poem since pulling it out a few days ago. I will leave it be now.

In 2009, Mother's Day fell on May 10. That morning in Venice, Florida, before we left for the funeral home, where we would spend the entire day receiving visitors who came to say goodbye to my brother Patrick, I gave Mom a gift. She remarked then, and time and again thereafter, that what she had to do this day was not how she imagined her Mother's Day might be. How do you find joy on the day your son lies in a cramped space of hush before you? And yet, amid all that sadness, she did. We all did. We had his stories, and ours that linked to his, and they raised laughter. And we shared our love for him with those who love him. It was not a day like any other. And no Mother's Day ever after will be the same. Not for her. And not for the mother who I am. ~ MED

At High Calling Blogs, go here to find the post for this week's Mother's Day project, or here to drop in a comment box a link to your own poem or prose piece. 

Monday Muse: Wyoming's Poet Laureate

Wyoming's official poet is David Romtvedt. The state's fourth Poet Laureate, Romtvedt started his term August 15, 2004.

Established by Executive Order 1981-1, the position is filled by the governor, who selects an appointee from a list of recommendations submitted by a nominating committee formed by the state arts council. The incumbent serves a term concurrent with that of the governor.

The position is honorary and without compensation, and "invites" the appointee to "submit writings for selected historic occasions" of choice.

Romtvedt succeeded Robert Roripaugh (1995-2002), who followed Charles L. Levendosky (1988-1995), and Peggy Simpson Curry (January 14, 1981 - January 20, 1987).  

* * * * *
The thing is that poetry must not only help us feel good
 but make us squirm.*
~ David Romtvedt 

Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt has published Powder River Breaks: A Cowboy's Introduction to American Poetry and the collection Some Church (Milkweed Editions, 2005), Certainty (White Pine Press, 1996), A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know (National Poetry Series; Copper Canyon Press, 1992 ), How Many Horses (Ion Books, 1988 ), and  Moon (Bieler Press, 1984). The latter, Romtvedt's first book-length collection is illustrated with three scratch board drawings by R.W. Scholes.

Romvedt's poems — many of which I came to like very much after rounds of  readings and listenings — use stripped down, unadorned language to create wonderfully realized and perhaps even familiar narratives of relationships, as here in this excerpt from "Arrested", where the narrator recounts his decision to go to college:

. . . I picked this place in Oregon
called Reed, applied, was admitted but didn't tell
my father because he would say I couldn't
He thought college was a waste of time. . . .
. . . On the day before I left home
I told him about college. He said, "No. You can't go."
I said, "Yes, I can." And drove three days to Portland.
My father called the Arizona state police
and reported me as a runaway. . . .

With help, the father eventually is persuaded to allow his "working class kid" to stay in college. Years later, confident that "college was the most powerful thing / that happened to me, that it changed my life," the son comes to another realization of just what his going away meant to his father, of how deep the loss and of the understanding of loss of protection were:

. . . But now my father is dead
and it occurs to me, after so long, and you'd think a smart boy
like me could have figured this out way quicker, that my father
knew this and feared that my change meant I would be lost forever
to the world that gave me birth, his world. And so, with no other tools
that would do the job, he gave up and tried to have me arrested.

In its seeming simplicity, Romtvedt's poetry sets a powerful scene in just a few lines:

It was the dry season and the hills burned.
In the night, the fires flowed up the slopes
like rivers of gold flowing against gravity.
Some things refused to panic. . .
. . . Good, I thought, we're still following the laws
of the physical universe. . . .
~ From "Fire by the Lake" in Some Church

Electricity—even in a cafe alone I can feel it,
the blood of the city coursing after the power goes out.
~From "Ultimate Nightingale" in Certainty

The country's full of flies. I hang a bag of pesticide
from a tree so that the cow can walk back and forth and rub. . . .
~ From "Science" in Some Church

Romtvedt has a particularly wonderful ability to go to the essence of a thing or person he's describing in his poems; his narratives can be intimate and all of the world at the same time, reflecting the familiar and the unknown, the ways our cultural, political, social, and spiritual selves influence each other and also sometimes collide, dreams lost in a moment's act.

And sheep are led to the shearing shed.
They tumble out, shivering, bleeding. What good to tell them,
"look toward the blades, not away."
~ "Spring in the Country" in Rattle, No. 30, Winter 2008

Strangers do not wish to hear of a stranger's life.
Houses have walls to keep them apart. . . .
~ From "Welcome" in Certainty

When I was a boy the neighbor 
across the street built a bomb shelter
for three thousand dollars. . . 
He said in a nuclear war all of us
would come running to him, begging
to be let into his shelter. But he'd be firm.
There was room for only his family. If others
tried to force their way in, he'd shoot them. . . .

. . . I listened. My father said nothing.
Like others, he wanted to protect his family.
But who could tell if a hole in the ground would?
. . . .

. . . Time passed and we forgot our precautions. One day
the water and canned soups were gone. But even now
when I sit on the toilet I see that stuff. And when I hear
a sharp noise, it's the neighbor shooting the stars.
~ From "Shelter" in A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know

Those of us who grew up in the 1950s immediately recall our memory of air raid drills, in school and out, during the Cold War period, the stocking of the pantry, the pervading sense of fear that accompanied talk of missile strikes and communist bogeymen we couldn't see. Yet those last lines, with their "neighbor shooting the stars", speak equally well of how we live today, when suicide bombers, instead of a neighbor firing his rifle "at the stars", are the ones to take away our dreams. 

There's humor, too, in Romtvedt's poems, though that humor is juxtaposed with the serious, setting us up to be jerked backed to attention to the lives we lead, as here:

I'm waiting for the phone to ring.
It's not a cell phone but advanced
technology all the same. When I answer,
I'll be on a conference call, business
as usual. . .
It's like death, which we'd rather avoid
but can't. . . 
. . . The phone rings and the noise startles
me. I jerk in my chair and bang my elbow
on the corner of the desk. I don't know why
it's called the funny bone. On the wires
nothing moves. It may be there is a balance
in nature, but the same cannot be said
of human life. There's the phone ringing
again. I grab the receiver and shout hello,
hoping that nothing bad will happen.
~ From "Business as Usual" in Some Church

Poetry by Romtvedt has been published in numerous literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, The Drunken Boat, The Sun, and Paris Review

Romtvedt also writes essays, fiction, histories, and nonfiction. Among Romtvedt's other books are the anthology he edited, Wyoming Fence Lines (Wyoming Humanities Council, 2007), Windmill: Essays from Four Mile Ranch (Red Crane Books, 1997), Crossing Wyoming (White Pine Press, 1992), and Free and Compulsory for All: Tales (Graywolf Press, 1984).

A member of the faculty of the University of Wyoming's M.F.A. creative writing program for writers, Romtvedt has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Wyomings Arts Council. He has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, a Wyoming Governor's Arts Award, and the Wyoming Music Educators Association Distinguished Service to Music Education Award.

Romtvedt is the founder and a board member of Worlds of Music, a foundation that provides opportunities to participate in music-making involving cultures all around the world. His series on traditional music of the American Southwest aired on Montana National Public Radio.


All excerpts © David Romtvedt.

* Quoted from "Speaking of Ancient China" in Some Church.

Excerpts from and reviews of a selection of Romtvedt's books are here. To hear Romtvedt read some of his poetry, go here. (He's a wonderful reader.) Romtvedt also reads a "Wyoming poem" and his poem "On Broadway" at the Wyoming Arts Summit (2007).

The poem "Still" is read aloud and its text made available here.

Romtvedt's University of Wyoming Web page is informative.

An e-interview with Romtvedt is here.

Go here for the Author's Preface to Powder River Breaks and here for some selections from the book.

A selection from an excellent essay by Romtvedt, "Red Politics and Blue in Wyoming", is here.

Romtvedt participates in "Blue Poets in Red States", a project in which poets write 10 lines each and link their verses together. pages for Wyoming.

Check Open Library for the availability of Romtvedt's books.

Romtvedt's Fireants, a creole dance music group, has performed in the Southwest and Mexico and has released a number of recordings, including Bury My Clothes. The Fireants My Space page, with audio sselections, is here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Monster's Love (Poem)

A Monster's Love

And the cathedral was not only company for him,
it was the universe; nay, more, it was Nature itself. . . .

Abandoned in a switch, you to gargoyles
come consigned the Sunday after Easter

a babe half-eyeing the world
from a foundlings' bed

tucked in before a Gothic arch of doors
on steps' foundation stone fixed cold.

Frollo taking you up in his arms bestows no kiss
of faith on your wart-fogged sight

your tetrahedron nose or horseshoe-shaped mouth
with its tooth like an elephant tusk

nor blessing on your spine so humped and hunched
your heart must hide forever in his Notre Dame.

You the archdeacon in his punning names Quasimodo
almost the standard measure

a man not in day or night entire.

Your hand Dom Frollo sets on bourdon bell, so strong
your strike chimeras wake but you hear not

the recall in your Paris lair, its naves embellished
playgrounds for the one reviled, the other murder-plotting.

Bare-footed Esmeralda, bewitched the dour Frollo craves,
and you his quiet bidding do. Criminal crowds denounce you,

Pope of Fools, and caught and whipped as ordered lie,
the heat and thirst conspiring. Yet you the gypsy beauty

saves yet eyes she makes to Phoebus go and Frollo
in his jealous rage tries murder for his story's end.

The gypsy framed and ordered hanged, the tables turn
and she in arms you carry high, no king's commands to reach.

But loyalty betrayed and sanctuary denied, you rush to ground
the priest too late. Her dancer's body from the gallows swings.

Atop Mount Faucon dumped, neck broken, she's found years after
in your locked embrace, her monster's humble pot of love reneged

no second time for a cracked crystal vase
of dry and withered flowers.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.


Illustrations: 1831, from First Edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre-Dame de Paris)

Epigraph: Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris, 1831

Want to try your hand at writing a poem about or from the viewpoint of some kind of monster? Anything goes. Go here for the challenge and then drop your link here by Thursday, April 29.

Thought for the Day

. . . poetry is what gives meaning to existence. 
Not fact and figures and charts, but poetry. Poetry is essentially
 a really sophisticated way of experiencing the world. 
And it is much more  than mere words and stories. 
Poetry is to the human condition 
what the telescope and the microscope are to the scientist.
~ Varadaraja V. Raman*


* Quoted in "The Heart's Reason" in Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit,  by Krista Tippett, p. 133.

Emeritus professor of physics and humanities at Rochester Institute of Technology, V.V. Raman is also a physicist, philosopher, writer, and author (his books include Truth and Tension in Science and Religion). His RIT Website is here. In 2006, he received from the Samvad India Foundation the Raja Rao Award for outstanding contributions to the literature of the South Asian Diaspora.

Raman's conversations with Tippett at Speaking of Faith are here. A video program in which Raman responds to the question "What Is God Like?" is here. A brief bio and a list of other topics on which Raman speaks are here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

A whirlwind of a spring week opens into bits of respite and satisfying explorations. Enjoy today's Saturday Sharing as you can. There's more than enough to keep you stimulated when the new week begins.

✭ Any of you who are Steinbeck fans will appreciate the results of this short-story competition. My friend Diane Walker, the Contemplative Photographer, ever so quietly posted a sidebar with a link to the stories. She came away with First Prize, the Steinbeckian Award. Read Diane's and others' entries — all from Bainbridge Island, Washington, writers — here.

✭ If you enjoy e-books, go here, where you may download at no cost some real finds.

✭ You'll find a number of arresting articles on forgiveness here.

✭ London-based artist Stefani Posavec is a find to remember. Go here and spend some time with her marvelous creations, including book covers, visualizations of song lyrics, visualizations of Darwin's Origin of the Species (these are fabulous), and visualizations of various authors' writing styles (also quite extraordinary).

Joanna Macy spent A Year With Rilke. You'll want to, too. You'll find some Rilke favorites here.

✭ Appreciation goes to my friend Deborah for directing my attention to Invisible Stories and Swoond. Anyone need smelling salts?

Friday, April 23, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Darren Waterston in Houston

I recently happened upon the phenomenal work of abstract painter Darren Waterston of San Francisco. Only in his forties, Waterston is exhibited internationally and his art is in the permanent holdings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Portland Art Museum, in Portland, Oregon, and other art institutions, as well as the private collections of Bank of America, Eli Broad Family Foundation, Hallmark Art Collection, University of Washington Medical Center, and Nordstrom, among many others. He's had solo exhibitions almost every year since 1990 and has participated in even more group exhibitions. He's also been the subject of a long list of art magazine articles, newspaper features, monographs, and catalogues.

Waterston's art  comprises paintings, watercolors, and murals. He works with oils on wood panels, oils on canvas mounted on wood panels, and oils on canvas panels (these can be huge), as well as watercolor and gouche on rag paper; he makes haunting original prints with hand-touched and letterpress elements, and luminous encaustics on wood panels that have a romantic and perhaps even "old master" feel about them. Waterston also creates extraordinary murals, such as the 150-foot site-specific mural "Was and Is Not and Is To Come" (2006) at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. The effects he achieves in his paintings — they've been called "mindscapes" — are otherworldly, deeply poetic, and often astonishingly beautiful (see, for example, the recent work comprising "Spendid Grief", "Aurora", and "Fugure").

Image at left: "Origins" (2002), encaustic on wood panel with oil varnish, 84"x60", Collection of Boise Art Museum. © Darren Waterston.

Waterston showed February 17 to April 10 in the group exhibition Calling Beauty at the Canzani Center Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio. From May 8 to June 30, he'll be exhibiting in Wunderkammer in the Inman Gallery, Houston, Texas. I'd love to see his work in a Washington, D.C., area gallery.

New works on paper available through Inman Gallery are here. These include watercolors and gouache on rag paper and Iris prints with egg tempera on rag paper. Also available through the gallery are some of Waterston's oils on wood panels.

Exhibitions Here and There

By A Thread remains on view at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art through May 15. Images of all the artwork on display are here.

✭ The Guggenheim in New York City is presenting through June 30 Malevich in Focus: 1912 - 1922. The exhibit is limited to six paintings Malevich made over the 10 years surveyed and marks the first time since 1927 that the artworks have been shown together.

Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change opened April 10 at Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and runs through July 18. Muybridge, a 19th Century photographer, is known for his studies of animals and "human   locomotion"; he's been called "The Father of the Motion Picture". This show is the first retrospective to examine all aspects of Muybridge's art; it includes vintage photographs, stereographs, proof prints, books, patent models, and, among other ephemera, the only surviving Zoopraxiscope (a device Muybridge designed in 1879 to project "motion sequence" images). The show travels to Tate Britain in September, where it will be on view until January 16, 2011; it then comes back to the States, where it will be presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from February 26, 2011, through June 7, 2011.

Go here for the National Museum of American History's virtual exhibition on Muybridge. There are a number of Muybridge videos on YouTube: go herehere, or here (a tribute/parody).

✭ Jeanne-Claude and Christo's 24.5-mile-long "Running Fence" in California is the subject of an insightful exhibition about the seminal work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. SAAM acquired the documentation of the work in 2008.

On view until September 26, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence includes various components from the project, including a scale model that's 58 feet long, hundreds of photographs documenting the process, creation, and installation of "Running Fence", original preparatory drawings and collages, and two films, one (by Albert and David Maysles) chronicling the project as it was underway and one, Revisiting the Fence, co-produced by SAAM. A book accompanies the exhibition.

A recent informative interview with Christo about the creation of "Running Fence" and the people involved in its production is here.

Image at left above: Running Fence (Project for Sonoma and Marin Counties, State of California), 1976; pencil, fabric, staples, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, technical data, black and white photograph on paperboard. © 1976 Christo, 22"x28", Smithsonian American Art Museum, purchased through Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment.

✭ Anatomical art is being shown at the 1820 Gallery of the Art Institute of Washington through May 7. On display are drawings and sculpture from a summer-long project in which students from a life drawing class were invited to join professional illustrators and artists in anatomy lab. Medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer dissected a cadaver acquired from Howard University Medical School while students "dead drew" anatomical illustrations. There is some beautiful work in "Anatomical Art: Dissection to Illustration". (The gallery is at 1820 N. Ft. Myer Drive in Arlington, Virginia. An interesting article on the study of human anatomy and art that includes a profile of Howard University professor Dr. Ashraf Aziz is here.)

Mosaic Workshop

The superb mosaic artist Kathy Thaden is offering June 2, 9, 16, and 23 in Westminster, Colorado (at the City Park Rec Center), a summer workshop for adults age 15 and older. Thaden will teach participants how to nip and cut glass, select materials, use substrates and adhesives, and grout and finish. The class will be conducted in the evening. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And no birds sing (Poem for Earth Day)

And no birds sing

discard makes a home
where no birds sing

force-halting spring

robins catbirds doves and jays
fey voices stuttered ends become

for hand unseen some starlings vie
but cardinals unfavored quiet-die

the blame their share for joys disposed

mountains we claimed, unearthed
stripped bare  the life once wild

now humbled harmed and broken

rivers plastic floes consumed
their mouths a gum of chemicals

run-off to brew the silence final-formed

no habitat unborn untouched
and no birds sing

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

Poet Linda Pastan

. . . there is no ease in writing. The job is to make it by the end feel
as if it flows easily. But each poem of mine goes through 
something like 100 revisions.
~ Linda Pastan*

One of my favorite poets is Linda Pastan, who was born in New York City and makes her home in Potomac, Maryland, not so far from my home in Arlington, Virginia. I had the great pleasure many years ago of attending one of Pastan's poetry readings.

Maryland's Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1995, Pastan has published 12 collections of poetry, among them Queen of a Rainy Country: Poems (Norton, 2008), Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968 - 1998 (Norton, 1999), Waiting for My Life (Norton, 1981), PM/AM: New and Selected Poems (Norton, 1982), The Last Uncle (Norton, 2003), and The Five Stages of Grief (Norton, 1978); her 13th, Traveling Light (Norton), is due out early in 2011. Carnival Evening and PM/AM were nominated for a National Book Award. Pastan has been the recipient of the prestigious Pushcart Prize and, in 2003, of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement.

What do I like about Pastan's work? Her clarity in brevity, the conciseness of her description that makes each word she uses necessary, her way of writing about what surrounds her with the understanding that surfaces mask tensions and the darker things below; her down-to-earth voice that makes her writing so accessible; the images that stick with you; the intimacy she has with her subjects: relationships, domestic tableau, aging, dying—the things we all struggle with, for, and against.

Here's one example of what I consider a marvelous poem:

Isn't the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn't the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

When God demanded light,
he didn't banish darkness.

Instead he invented
ebony and crows

and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.

Or did you mean to ask
"Why are you sad so often?"

Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.
~ "Why Are Your Poems So Dark?" in Poetry, August 2003

Here, Pastan reads aloud that same poem:


* Quoted from Interview with Jeffrey Brown of Online News Hour, July 7, 2003.

Other videos of Pastan reading her poetry are here.  A Webcast of Pastan at Bookfest 04 is available at the Library of Congress Webcast site.

Hear Pastan read her poem "A Rainy Country" here.

Heat Pastan's "Love Poem" on The Writer's Almanac. Other poems are here.

Pastan is widely published; many of her poems can be found online; for example, go here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Hissa Hilal

I want to say something to the world. . . give hope. . . 
if you dream in your heart, one day if you believe deeply
 in your heart, in God, it will happen.
~ Hissa Hilal*

Clad head-to-toe in a black abaya, in full niqab, Saudi Arabian Hissa Hilal, 43, poet and mother of four, found courage to "unveil" her truth about the "evil" of religious and social extremism. A finalist in the Abu Dhabi television show "Million's Poet", she recited her verse — "The Chaos of Fatwas" — March 31 before a packed audience of men and women, the one separated from the other. Not given to odes to the desert, she delivered a stinging rebuke to the powerful clerics who are "ready to attack anyone who wants peace".

Hilal took advantage of an opportunity few women in her society have. First, she chose to compete, an act itself considered a form of rebellion, her passion for poetry previously kept secret. Second, she chose to use her voice to show that even one person speaking out loud may be enough to help others understand that anything is possible. For Hilal, the others she hoped to reach are the "girls and ladies" who look like her. 

Following her stunning appearance on "Million's Poet", which has been shown around the world, including in the Middle East, Hilal has received death threats and been called "a low woman" and "a hooker", and worse. She understands the possible price she may pay for her brand of reality tv.

I send you meaning like rain to defeat fear. 
Do not fear his snake hiss. You have a waving wing
when you fly. No one can reach you in the sky.

Hilal was given third place in the competition (60 percent of judges' votes; 40 percent of audience votes). Her husband gets to decide how the prize money — approximately $817,000 — will be spent. 

* Quoted in "Person of the Week: Poet Hissa Hilal", April 9, 2010

Video of Hilal reciting her poem and being interviewed (I chose this video from the many on YouTube because it provides a translation in English and a more in-depth interview with Hilal.)

An interesting group of posts about Hilal is here.

ABC News video feature on Hissa Hilal

Diane Sawyer's feature and an interview

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sneak Peek at Give-away Book

In my post of April 1, when I announced my participation in a poetry book give-away to celebrate National Poetry Month, I mentioned that one title I'd be giving away is Best New Poets 2009: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers, edited by Kim Addonizio.

Today, I'm giving you a sneak peek into that anthology with these two selections from among the poets represented: "Death of the Hired Hand, Hiawatha, Kansas"by Kate Sweeney, and "Openings" by Amanda Chiado.

* * * * *
"Death of the Hired Hand, Hiawatha, Kansas" by Kate Sweeney

I loved his hands pulling that rattlesnake from the baler,
how the thing twitched slightly, as if shuddering in its sleep.

He fetched the shovel to grind off its head, that sick miracle
of jaw still opening and closing on the rusty spade.

I brought the body to grandmother who husked it and shaved off
the tender white kernels of tissue, curing enough meat

to feed one man. Its dried rattle is still a warning,
urging my memory to stay in the barn so I would not be the one

to find him writhing at the gate, gasping in a bloody-backed t-shirt,
while the bull in crimson-tipped horns looked on indifferently.

Kate Sweeney, M.F.A., won the 2009 YellowJacket Press Chapbook Contest for her Better Accidents.

* * * * *

"Openings" by Amanda Chiado

Don't think about the ship inside the bottle. It really makes tenderness difficult. I would if I had a mouth. I would if I was not a buried roll of quarters. I wish I could forget my hoax of parts, gem of mouth. So they said ruby. One called me Ruby. I should have saved the black pearl from the fire that I started. I should have saved the photos of the bread rising, my lineage of paper dolls. I flip pages to find burnt words that are shaped like me—curved on the outside, but sharp in the middle.

Amanda Chiado is a California Poet in the Schools. Her poem is from a working manuscript, Monsters, Heroes and Bimbos.

* * * * *

The collection contains the work of young poets with promising futures as writers. Its aim, as stated in the Introduction, is to "provide special encouragement and recognition to new poets, the many writing programs they attend, and the magazines that publish their work." The lists of writing programs and participating literary magazines are a valuable addition.

The book is printed in quality offset lithography, with care for how the poems look on the page. (If you're an annotator, you'll have plenty of space to mark up or comment on what you like in the poems.)  It has heft in the hand, too, without being a weighty tome literally or metaphorically. Most important, it represents belief in the power of the written word. It gives us universal themes and new ways to "see" how we live and love and die.

I'll probably be purchasing another copy for myself soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Losing Control (Poem)

Losing Control

I see
how rain gets out of control

how driving hard
it spark-mists hot black pavement

how pouring down
it pulls a vertical sheath

madly against the thing you need seen

how it pounds incensed
on a roof of tessellating tin

until it runs off
to bubble up at leaf-tips

clear-vision globes perfectly balanced
edge on ends

their future dried up in an instant's glare.


I understand
tears can be mistaken

for the sound of rain

how trying to control the self undone
unmakes the quilt of calm in a room

crazy with grief

how the surfeit of that first drop
becomes the next to follow

the heart pinging and pining.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this poem for the April 20 Blog Carnival, sponsored by Bridget Chumbley of One Word at a Time and Peter Pollock of Rediscovering the Church.

The Blog Carnival is a biweekly online event open to anyone. Participants write on a one-word prompt or topic. This week's is "self-control".

Go here for a list of links to all of the contributions, which are posted throughout Tuesday and often  through to the end of the week.

The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here.

Monday Muse: Arkansas' Poet Laureate

Peggy Vining is the sixth Poet Laureate of Arkansas. She started her term in 2003.

Arkansas created the position in 1923, following the passage of concurrent resolutions by both houses of the state legislature. Charles T. Davis was the first to be named to the post; he served from October 10, 1923, until December 21, 1945. After World War II, another resolution, in 1953, led to the appointment of Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni (March 28, 1953 - March 1970). Following Marinoni's death, Ercil Brown served as interim appointee and was succeeded by Lily Peter (1971 - 1991). Peter was the first to be designated Poet Laureate under state law (Act 90, 1971), which vested in the governor the power to make the appointment. Verna Lee Hinegardner (1991 - 2003) succeeded Peter.

Under state law (Ark. Code, Sec. 1-4-114), the position is honorary and intended to recognize "outstanding accomplishments and contributions in poetry" by an Arkansas resident. It has no specific duties. The governor selects the appointee from a list of recommendations submitted by a committee of the chairs of English departments of all state-supported universities and colleges. 

* * * * *

Tennessee-born, Peggy Vining moved to Arkansas in 1953 and a decade later joined the Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas, the state's poetry society. She published some her early poems in the Roundtable's anthology and in newspapers throughout central Arkansas. Between 1964 and 1993, Vining devoted herself to teaching at a private school of which she eventually became director. In retirement, she began once more to give time to her writing and directed for 12 years the Ozark Creative Writers Conference and for two years the Arkansas Writers Conference. She also served three terms as president of the Roundtable and a term as president of the Arkansas Pen Women and Arkansas Songwriters Association. She is a member of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas.

Vining, now 80, is working on what is to become her first book of poetry, Tethered to the Moment. Her poems have been published often in Poets' Roundtable anthologies and in anthologies of poetry organizations outside Arkansas. She credits the Roundtable's poets with mentoring her and inspiring her to write.

Vining has received a number of awards, including the Sybil Nash Abrams Award for "Arkansas, The Wonder State", a seven-sonnet sequence poem (she revised and renamed it "Arkansas, The Natural State"); the poem also was awarded a citation from the state legislature (HCR 1038). In 2008, Vining was cited for and received a lifetime achievement award from the Governor's Arts Awards Council. She also received a Point of Light Award from President Bush.

The Arkansas Poet Laureate Award and the  Caudle Memorial Award are given by Vining under the auspices of Ozark Creative Writers; the latter is in memory of Vining's parents and is awarded for a Shakespearean sonnet.

Also a freelancer, Vining has served on the Ozark Creative Writers board of directors for more than 25 years.


Excluding "Arkansas, The Natural State", I could find no examples of Vining's poems to comment on or share.

Arkansas Poet Laureate

Poets Laureate of Arkansas, from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

State Page at

Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Hand . . . Is (Poems)

A Hand a Thing of Beauty Is


A hand a thing of beauty
is that slipped across a cheek
might tender joy for ever


Divine the mapping
of a hand slipping tender
from sleep's deep hollow
across a cheek unblushing
joy for ever colored I

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.


I wrote these poems for Carry on Tuesday's prompt for April 20: to use the opening line of John Keats' "A Thing of Beauty" — "a thing of beauty is a joy for ever" — wholly or partly in an original poem or prose piece. Links to contributions for all of the participants in Carry on Tuesday #49 are here.

It has been many years since I have tried writing to any forms other than haiku. For this prompt, inspired by my friend Rob Kistner, who has been writing several poems a day for National Poetry Month, I decided to try my hand at writing a tanka, a five-line form that requires that lines 1 and 3 have five syllables each and that lines 2, 4, and 5 have seven syllables each. The result is my "II" above.

Thought for the Day

Healing is not a science
but the intuitive art of wooing nature.
~ W.H. Auden

English Poet W.H. Auden (1907 - 1973) published more than 25 collections of poetry. He was a noted playwright, a librettist, an essayist, and an editor. He is considered by many to be the greatest English poet of the 20th Century.

An excellent resource for all things Auden is the W.H. Auden Society.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Poetry by Prompt

That's what poetry is; it's your vision of life.
~ Kim Addonizio

Readers of this blog who participate in our poetry jams on Twitter know how much fun it can be to try to write lines of poetry in 140 characters or less. They also know that the tweets that become poems  — the "twoems" are edited by our colleague Glynn Young and posted to TweetSpeakPoetry — can be surprising and delightful. Some of us even use our individual sets of tweets to create original poems of our own. 

During our poetry jams, we dream up our lines out of thin air and always to a constantly changing prompt, which might have its origins in a cookbook, tabloid headlines, lines of others' poetry, or somebody's idea. We have no advance warning and play off each other's tweets for an hour.

What we do at TweetSpeak is mostly for fun; none of us, as Glynn says, is waiting for reprint royalties on our twoems. Writing poetry by prompt, however, is an excellent way to learn how to write poetry by drawing on what surrounds us, influences us, or inspires us.

Kim Addonizio, who most recently published her fifth poetry collection, Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems (W.W. Norton, 2009), has written two instructional books on poetry-writing. One, The Poet's Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (Norton, 1997 ), Addonizio co-wrote with Dorianne Laux. It contains many exercises, derived from writing workshops that Addonizio conducted with Laux, and addresses subjects for writing, the craft of writing poems (for example, use of metaphor, meter, and rhyme), and the "writing life" (for example, such topics as "writer's block"). The exercises help show how an embarrassing moment, the loss of a loved one, family life, a memory, a spiritual awakening, anything in fact can be embodied in a poem.

Addonizio's more recent book, Ordinary Genuis: A Guide for the Poet Within (Norton, 2009), expands on the content of the first, offering not only a wider range of writing exercises for getting started but also Addonizio's insights about poetic forms and structure, revising poems, exploring "creative vision", writing about love, loss, identity, and other life experiences, getting published, and dealing with rejection. In addition, Addonizio addresses use of the Internet and includes in the appendices online poetry resources, poems, and her recommendations for further reading.

Ordinary Genius "is a book about creativity. . . a book meant to inspire you, whoever you are, no matter your level of skill or ability", says Addonizio in the book's Introduction. Its ideas, she continues, "are meant to encourage you, challenge you, and lead you more deeply into your own life and poetic practice." 

I especially appreciate Addonizio's admission that "it is as difficult to make a great poem as it is to make a great painting or blast out a virtuoso electric guitar solo. To understand poetry as an art is to understand that it is the same as every art, every discipline. It is work. . . ."

Whether you are just beginning to learn why poetry matters, seeking to better understand the craft of writing poetry, or are an experienced poet, you will find in Ordinary Genius something that will lead you to set aside your excuses and get busy writing.

Below is a video of Addonizio talking about her book. Worth reading is this interview with Addonizio, "Kim Addonizio: The Poet by Starlite", published in fringe (Issue 22, March 29, 2010). (My thanks to poet Diane Lockward who included the link on her excellent blog).