Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gulf Stories: Voices from the Spill

TakePart has posted a series of short videos titled "Gulf Stories: Voices from the Spill". They bear watching, for they put a human face on a catastrophe with profound implications for us all.

Part 1 ~ Marylee Orr of LEAN, part of Gulf Coast Fund's grantee network of respondents to the BP oil drilling disaster. Gulf Coast Fund is a special project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.

Gulf Stories - Part 1 - Marylee Orr from TakePart on Vimeo.

Part 2 ~ Wilma Subra, a member of the Gulf Coast Fund Advisory Group of community organizers along the Gulf Coast. She is working to address the current and prospective health effects of responders and others involved in the clean-up efforts.

Gulf Stories - Part 2 - Wilma Subra from TakePart on Vimeo.

Part 3 ~ Paul Templet, former professor in Department of Environmental Studies, Louisiana State University, retired

Gulf Stories - Part 3 - Paul Templet from TakePart on Vimeo.

Part 4 ~ Ivor van Heerden, geologist and marine scientist

Gulf Stories - Part 4 - Ivor van Heerden from TakePart on Vimeo.

Part 5 ~ Tracy Kuhns of Louisiana Bayoukeeper, also part of Gulf Coast Fund's grantee network 

Gulf Stories - Part 5 - Tracy Kuhns from TakePart on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Portrait of Milton Glaser

None of us, really, has the ability
to understand our path
until it's over.
~ Milton Glaser 

New York-based filmmaker, designer, and author Hillman Curtis has produced, as part of his Artist Series, a beautiful video on Milton Glaser. Glaser, co-founder with Clay Felk of New York magazine, is a renowned graphic designer and illustrator. His work, such as his poster of Bob Dylan for CBS Records and his I♥NY tourism campaign, is among the most famous and recognized in the world.

* * * * *

In Curtis' portrait of this remarkable artist, we learn what Glaser thinks about being an artist/graphic designer, a teacher, a life-long learner:

I've always believed that the life of a designer is a life that is very much between two sensibilities: that  of the businessman and that of the artist. And everybody kind of has a sense of where they fit within that spectrum....

Art performs this pacifying function in culture... in that its practitioners create commonalities, they create things to gather about... Artists provide that gift to the culture, so that people have something in common. And I think all of us who identify with the role of artists in history have that intuition about things, and want our work to serve that purpose, certainly as much as we want our work to sell product. Although not everybody feels the same way about it.

It doesn't matter so much whether graphic design is an effective vehicle... You want to be operating within the life of your time. I mean you want do things that have some relationship to your community, to your family, to your city, to your country, to the world.

Fundamentally, I teach because it makes me feel good; it's helped me certainly clarify my own objectives. There is nothing more exciting than seeing someone whose life has been affected by, in a positive way, by something you've said. There's nothing more exciting to see somebody change from a sort of condition of inertness or inattentiveness into a mind that begins to inquire about meaning....

I think the most interesting thing one can say about one's later life is that if you can sustain your interest in what you're doing, you're an extremely fortunate person. . . I think what I feel fortunate about is that I am still astonished, that things still amaze me. And I think that's a great benefit of being in the arts, where the possibility for learning never disappears....

* * * * *

Some other artists, designers, and filmmakers in the Artist Series are Lawrence Weiner, Mark Romanek, and Paula Scher

Short Films by Hillman Curtis

Commercials by Hillman Curtis

Hillman Curtis Books on Design and Film

Milton Glaser Works

Milton Glaser Books: Drawing Is Thinking (2008), Art Is Work (2008), The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics (2006), The Big Race (with Shirley Glaser), Milton Glaser: Graphic Design (1983)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Strong-Arming (Poem)


Take the day
before winter comes

to measure the distance
below heaven to earth.

Culture it in the dazzling flash
in New Mexico's desert.

Picture the forked tongue of a rattler
seeking in unforgiving ground,

tensile. Regard the stiff-eared rabbit
left red-eyed and twitching

in Alamogordo's dust. Pray what words
might be heard at the very moment

in that place on a continent far off
where the heat will be greatest.

Consider the imprecision of numbers.
Take the morning after the day of

to think through the clarity
of roughened right-angled elbows

as fingers fastened, stretched
and gripped again. Recall the parachute

billowing. Now compute the strength
to pull up to pull back to pull off

the end of this same story
in your own hometown

after you've paced
its quiet streets at dawn.

© 2010 Maureen E. Doallas. All Rights Reserved.

I wrote this poem for the Tuesday, June 29, Blog Carnival sponsored by Bridget Chumbley at One Word at a Time.

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

At Bridget's place you'll find 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.

The prompt for the next Blog Carnival, on July 13, is "summer".

Monday Muse: North Carolina's Poet Laureate

You do not have to be a prophet to write poems.
You do not have to have several degrees in literature. . .
You can enrich your life by writing poems.
~ Cathy Smith Bowers

Cathy Smith Bowers became North Carolina's Poet Laureate on February 10 of this year. She succeeded Kathryn Stripling Byer, who served two two-year terms, from 2005 to 2009.

The position of state poet was established by legislative resolution, without guidelines, in 1935. Originally, the office was a life-time appointment; later, it was reduced to five years and then reduced again, to two years. According to the North Carolina Arts Council (NCAC), changes in the position were never codified. Between 2002 and 2005, the Poet Laureate program was placed on hold, pending a review of its functions and needs, including administrative and financial support. Currently, the Poet Laureate is appointed by the governor on the advice of a committee representative of the state's geographic, racial, and literary diversity; reappointment is at the governor's discretion. Selection is based on the poet's "deep connections" to the state's cultural life; demonstrated "literary excellence"; willingness and ability to participate in public events; influence on other writers; demonstrated appreciation for the state's literature; and state, national, or international reputation.

The Poet Laureate, who receives an annual $10,000 stipend from the NCAC, is expected to travel the state advocating on behalf of writing and reading; communicate with schools, libraries, community groups, and the press; and write commemorative poems for historical or culturally important events or occasions. Kathryn Byer is credited as the first Poet Laureate to use the Internet to promote North Carolina writers; among her contributions are the Writers & Books section of the NCAC's Website and her own blog, My Laureate's Lasso, which covers the state's literary scene. Bowers currently broadcasts once a month on an Ashville, North Carolina, radio station. As the state's poetry "ambassador", she says she wants to "shine a light on the writers of  North Carolina" and be "a link between writers and communities."

Arthur Abernethy, appointed in 1948, was North Carolina's first Poet Laureate. He was followed by James Larkin Pearson (1953-1981), Sam Ragan (1982-1996), and Fred Chappell (1997-2002). 

* * * * *
I want to bring order out of chaos.
I feel the subjects I write about are very painful.
I work through that pain when I'm working on a poem.
It gives me power over it.*

South Carolina native Cathy Smith Bowers, age 60 at the time of her installation as Poet Laureate, is well-acquainted with emotional pain: Her father, from whom she was estranged for 20 years, was an alcoholic; a younger brother died of AIDS, an older brother of drug and alcohol abuse. Her second husband committed suicide. What Bowers has experienced, some might say, is too personal, too private, not the stuff of poetry. Bowers would disagree: she's crafted four poetry collections out of her autobiography of loss, and it is because she has experienced so much tragedy that Bowers understands that you can take away its power by writing yourself through it. She owns her loss and grief, which through her words become universal.

Poetry does something to the human body. 
It changes the body physically, it changes the brain.*

Bowers' collections are The Candle I Hold Up To See You (Iris Press, 2009), A Book of Minutes** (Iris Press, 2004), Traveling in Time of Danger (Iris Press, 2004), and The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas (Texas Tech University Press, 1992). The latter was the first to be awarded the TTUP First-Book Prize in Poetry (now known as the Walt McDonald Prize).

Family life, illness, deep personal loss, death and grief, the influences of the South, travel abroad, place, humor—all are found in Bowers' narrative poetry. She writes, she told an interviewer, "the poems that need to be written". Imagery — the inspiration of the Lascaux caves, for example, or parents arguing — is a hallmark of her writing, as is sound, whether it's in Bowers' rhymes or the way she repeats words or uses figures of speech or remembers a voice singing a ballad. Bowers has both a marvelous way with metaphor and simile, and a very good "ear". She can be in turns witty, vulnerable, lyrical.

Some excerpts:

You joked it was devil's shoestring
that you sowed,
not oats,
but poppy, larkspur, clover,
your pollen floating everywhere
to towns so far away they had no names,
to a war where you died
though they sent you back alive,
the brilliant map of your body
the work of skilled cartographers
whose faces you never even saw. . . .

It was the only act of intimacy
I ever witnessed between them—that joke
my father told her, his opening
line... I hope it snows so deep... and then
how, for the punch, he reached out
and pulled her to him, to whisper words
that sent her red and slapping 
at his khaki shirt and then her hand
lifting to his chin to remove
the little ghosts of cotton
that fluttered there. . . .
~ from "Snow" (Listen to this poem read in the video below.)

. . . She shakes her finger
in my face and scolds me good:
"Girl, don't you forget who it was
learned you to talk."
Amazing she would want
to lay claim to these syllables
piling up like railroad salvage
when I speak, to these words slow as hooves
dredging from the wet of just-plowed fields. . . .
~ from "A Southern Rhetoric"

When the heaviness of dog days
has had its way
with us, they bloom
to stay the doom

of summer's end. Such popsicles,
these crepe myrtles,
to cool the day's 
parched tongue!. . . 
~ from "Crepe Myrtle"

Each morning in my mailbox
or tucked into a quiet cove
of my front porch, another
burden of solace
reminding me again
my husband is dead.

Last week, an oval cardboard box
decoupaged in stars, inside, its nested
offering—a cache of still-warm eggs
gleaned from my neighbor's henhouse.

Yesterday, a Peruvian prayer shawl,
the warp and weft of its holy weave
climbing, like girders of a bridge,
its sturdy warmth.

And today this handmade flute
turned and hollowed and carved
by Laughing Crow, enigmatic
shaman of some distant plain.

See its little row of holes
lined up like perfect planets,
as if having not yet learned
the universe had collapsed.

See my lips pressed to the tiny
breathless gape of its own mouth.
As if my lungs could conjure anything.
As if it were the one needing to be saved.
~ "Solace" in The Candle I Hold Up To See You

Bowers has published poems in The Georgia Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The Southern Review, The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, The Main Street RagThe Southern Poetry Review, PloughsharesThe Gettysburg Review, and other national poetry and literary magazines and journals. She also has work in such anthologies as After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events and The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry. Among other honors, Bowers has received the J.B. Fuqua Distinguished Educator Award, the North Carolina Poetry Society's Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Award, a South Carolina Poetry Fellowship, and the General Electric Award for Younger Writers (1990).

Bowers teaches creative writing to MFA students at Queens University in Charlotte, where she is Poet-in-Residence, and is on the faculty of Wofford College, in Spartanburg, and the University of North Carolina at Asheville.


Poetry quotations © Cathy Smith Bowers. All Rights Reserved.

* Quoted in "Words Do Heal: A Profile of Cathy Smith Bowers", February 15, 2010, North Carolina Arts Council Press Release

** The poems in A Book of Minutes are variations on the poetic form of a "minute": 60 syllables in syllabic line counts of 8,4,4,4- 8,4,4,4,- 8,4,4,4, and rhyming couplets. According to the book's description, the structure "is a physical but secular metaphor of the Book of Hours, the medieval prayer book" arranged according to the eight canonical hours of the day.

Story South Interview with Cathy Smith Bowers [This very good interview gives many insights into how Bowers regards poetry, what she sees as poetry's function, and what some influences on her poetry are.]

"Getting to Know the New Poet Laureate, Cathy Smith Bowers", The Read on WNC

"Cathy Smith Bowers Offers Her Talents to the Community", Jazz and Poetry, December 19, 2008, and "Cathy Smith Bowers Discusses Publishing and Judging Poetry", December 24, 2008

Portfolio of Poems at Iris Books

Bowers' Poems in The Georgia Review

Six Bowers Poems at storySouth

Bowers' "A Little Herbal Primer" at The Atlantic online, July 2000 [Recordings of Bowers reading these wonderful poems also is available here.]

Bowers' "For My Dog, Who Listens to All My Poems", in The Atlantic, July/August 2002

Poem (with audio), "Groceries" at The Writer's Almanac, November 10, 2005

Jess McCuan, "Poetic Justice" in Verve, September 23, 2008

North Carolina Poetry Society

North Carolina Arts Council

North Carolina Poet Laureate Program

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thought for the Day

Live to the point of tears.
~ Albert Camus

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Biography

Albert Camus Books


Critical Interpretation

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

It's official: summer's here, would-be vacationers are compiling lists of beach-reads, and reservations desk are being inundated with calls for premiere cool spots. Whatever you plan to do today, wherever you plan to be, be sure you can plug in to take advantage of this edition of Saturday Sharing.

✭ If you like flowers — and, really, who doesn't? — you'll enjoy Flora! Illuminated, a charming and delightful photo blog featuring some of the rare and beautiful floral illustrations currently on display (through June 30) at The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois. Complementing the A-to-Z artwork are the just-right words of such writers as Longfellow, Shakespeare, Plath, de Maurier, Shelley, and Keats, as well as prose, song lyrics, and videos. The Library's FaceBook page is here.

✭ The Smithsonian American Art Museum has been working in Haiti to help the quake-devastated nation assess damage to and also recover and restore its cultural artifacts. SAAM's objects conservator Hugh Shockey is on the ground there and sends back periodic reports and images of the work he and his team are doing. Recently, SAAM posted on Flickr a series of photographs documenting some of the damage and some of the artworks waiting to be evaluated and restored.

Smarthistory is a free, collaborative, Web-based "textbook" that uses multimedia to present engaging art historical content for students, museum visitors, and anyone interested in learning informally about art. Created in 2005 by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, Smarthistory includes pod- and screen-casts described as "spontaneous conversations about works of arts", as well as audios and more than 200 videos about artists, styles, themes, specific artworks, and related art information. This fabulous resource welcomes contributions of photos, content (currently, Smarthistory is seeking canonical non-Western content), and ideas for teaching and learning about art using today's technologies. Smarthistory's Flickr group is here. There's also a section that provides technical and pedagogical information on how to create content, and a wonderful blog. Smarthistory is on Twitter, too.

✭ In late May, Jeffrey Brown interviewed best-selling writer Isabel Allende about Island Beneath the Sea (La Isla Bajo el Mar), her new novel set in early 18th Century Haiti and New Orleans. Allende tells Brown that her research took her four years and that her protagonist Zarite came to her "in a dream". Go here to watch the interview. An excerpt from the book, the English-language version of which was published this past April, is here.

✭ Looking for an interactive experience with Odilon Redon (1840-1916), considered one of the great figures of Symbolism? Go here and explore his themes and work, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art. Images of 322 Redon works are available here.

✭ London-based illustrator-designer Liam Stevens has created a stop-motion animation of pencil and cut paper. It's charming. (I thank Escape Into Life for sharing this find.)

Waiting (feat. Jay Kauffman) from MakeMakeStudio on Vime

Friday, June 25, 2010

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Focus on Virginia Artists: Kathie Ratcliffe

With today's edition, I begin a new feature — Focus on Virginia Artists — to bring attention periodically to one of my home state's many creators of fine art and craft. 

Kathie Ratcliffe hand-pieces miniature quilts at her Nine Patch Studio in Waterford, Virginia, a National Historic Landmark village that each October sponsors the three-day Waterford Homes Tour and Crafts Exhibit. For her 8"x8" signed quilts, Ratcliffe draws on her knowledge of 19th Century American pieced quilts and quilt patterns, as well as her research into trends in fabrics of the period and colors and designs typical of regional genres. Ratcliffe describes her artworks as "faithful interpretations" of the antique originals that are her inspiration. 

Ratcliffe's collectible miniature quilts are mounted on archival mat board and may be purchased framed or unframed. Prices generally are less than $500, excluding taxes and shipping and handling. Go here to see Ratcliffe's current collection.

Quality limited-edition, signed giclees (digitally printed reproductions of Ratcliffe's designs for her miniature quilts) also are available through the artist. 

A member of the Waterford Quilters' Guild, Ratcliffe participated in last weekend's Western Loudoun Artists Studio Tour and will be among the artisans showing at Art at the Coach Barn/Shelburne Farms (September 24 - October 24) and at this fall's Waterford Fair (October 1-3).

Guggenheim Calls for Video Submissions

New York City's Guggenheim Museum has issued a call for submissions of new or existing videos created over the last two years at The museum will accept any form of video — from animation and motion graphics, to documentary work, to music videos, or entirely new creative art forms — through July 31, 2010. At the end of the submission period, the museum will identify as many as 200 videos for online viewing at; out of that group, as many as 20 videos will be selected by a jury of visual artists, filmmakers, graphic designers, and musicians for presentation at a special event in New York in October that will include simultaneous presentations at Guggenheim locations in Berline, Bilbao, and Venice. Details are here.

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ A collaborative photography exhibition, "Exquisite Corpse", opened yesterday at Civilian Art Projects in Washington, D.C., and continues through July 3. The show is a 21st Century version of the Exquisite Corpse method invented by Surrealists in 1925. At CAP, three curators begin the project with a photograph, one of his or her own; each image is passed to another photographer who creates a new image in response the photo received; that new image then gets handed off to the next photographer, until all 28 photographers in the exhibition have had a turn. The result is three sets of images, none of which is known in advance. Those collaborating in this project include not only Washington, D.C., area photographers but also photographers in New York, California, China, and South Africa. 

Image: Takako Araski, Bible of the White Sand, 1989,
chamotte and sand
© Takashi Hatakeyama

✭ At the Katzen Arts Center at American University "Soaring Voices: Recent Ceramics by Women of Japan" is on view through August 15. The exhibit features 87 innovative works by 25 artists, including Takako Araki (see image above) and Kimiyo Mishima

Some other exhibitions at the Katzen are "Jacob Kainen: Geometric Abstractions" (through August 8) and "Norse Soul—The Legacy of Edvard Munch, Social Democracy, Old Myths, Anarchy, and Death Longings" (through October 17).

✭ At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, "Collecting the New (1960-2010)" is open through August 1. In the exhibition are contemporary paintings, sculptures, photography, graphic art, video, and examples of other "new media" selected from the MIA's own collection as well as holdings of collectors, galleries, and artists. Among the artists represented are Mona Hatoum, Ghada Amer, David Reed, Ross Bleckner, Richard Pousette-Dart, Gerhard Richter, Eric Fischl, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama (see image at right, Untitled, oil on canvas) Jasper Johns, Petah Coyne, Raymond Hains, Jim Dine, Zhang Huan, Robert Polidori, and Thomas Struth. Slideshows of selected images from the thematically arranged work: New Poetics, Reviving Realism, Poptical, Recuperation, and Passages.

✭ In London, Waddington Galleries' "William Turnbull: Beyond Time" continues until July 3. The exibition includes a first-showing of eight paintings dating from 1957 to 1960 and a number of  bronze sculptures representative of this important British artist's work. Go here to view images.

Image at left: William Turnbull, Horse, 1999, bronze, 71-1/2" x 29" x 80-3/4"; Waddington Galleries

✭ Opening July 2 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts," Women to Watch 2010: Body of Work: New Perspectives on Figure Painting", comprises 16 works by artists Mequitta Ahuja of Texas, Nikki Hemphill of Arkansas, Hannah Barrett of Massachusetts, Julie Farstad of Greater Kansas City, Jennifer Levonian of Pennsylvania, Kate Longmaid of Vermont, Ann-Marie Manker of Georgia, and Rose Wylie from the United Kingdom. The exhibition will be on view until September 12. 

Legal Issues and Artists

Founded by former corporate attorney Kianga Ellis, Avail Art is a membership site aimed at helping professional visual artists understand the legal issues associated with art-making. Artists who join have access to online live-streaming video conversations, question-and-answer sessions with legal experts, instructional guides on specific areas of the law and legal matters, and more. Avail Art also advocates on legislative and policy issues on behalf of artists.

Forthcoming in October

Writer and photographer Julianne Davidow is the author of the forthcoming Outer Beauty Inner Joy: Contemplating the Soul of the Renaissance, to be published this October by Bunker Hill Publishing. Thomas Moore, psychotherapist and author, most recently, of Care of the Soul in Medicine, contributes the Foreword.

The book is described as "a spiritual book about spiritual beauty. Using the wisdom and works of the poets and artists of the Renaissance, the author explores the knowledge that, as Thomas Moore points out in his Foreword, has been utterly lost to the modern mind; divinity and humanism go together. Soulful, timeless words are placed with evocative images to reveal the attitude and quality of mind of a period that remains fundamental to modern spiritual well-being."

The book may be pre-ordered through Amazon.

Next Year's New York Attraction

Unusual "plants" — clusters of fiberglass "roses" and "petals" on stainless steel stems — will be arriving in mid-town Manhattan in January 2011, just before the weather takes a serious turn for the worse and winter doldrums set in. "Grown" by artist William Ryman to heights of 3 feet to 25 feet, "The Roses" will be installed along a designated stretch of Park Avenue, where they'll remain for five months. Costing some $1 million, the art project commissioned by the Park Avenue Sculpture Committee required the approval of the City's Parks Department. 

Ryman, clearly, has a unique green thumb: Not only are his creations the tallest roses ever grown, they're also the heaviest, weighing in at 1,000 pounds to 2,500 pounds each. According to the company fabricating the sculptures, the roses also will be able to withstand winds of up to 120 miles per hour.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gaming to Solve World Problems

If we want to solve problems
 like hunger, poverty, climate change,
 global conflict, obesity, I believe that 
 we need to aspire to play games online
 for at least 21 billion hours every week
 for at least the next decade.

If you're laughing at McConigal's comment, you are not alone. Everyone in her audience laughed, too. 

Now shake your head, get serious, and listen closely to McConigal's explanation for why gaming isn't just a matter of having fun.

McGonigal's Website is AvantGame.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wednesday Wonder: Dancing Back Into Life

Nothing, nothing prepared me for what I heard. . .
the words cancer, stage, grade.
Cancer was the zodiak sign of my friend.
Stage was what I performed on
and grades were what I got in school.
. . . That day I learned what fear was.
~ Ananda Shankar Jayant

Choreographer and performer Ananda Shankar Jayant has danced for more than four decades, since she was four. She is trained in two forms of classical Indian dance, each of which requires years of training and learning and a gift for precise timing as well as expression.

When she sat in her doctor's office one day not long ago and heard the word "carcinoma", Jayant couldn't think about dancing. She says she felt she'd lost all control over her life. She shed copious tears, got angry at her new "unwelcome, uninvited life partner", and despaired. And then she made a vow to get "from where I was to where I wanted to be" by drawing on her art for the strength she needed to control the only three things she knew she could control: her thoughts, the images her thoughts created, and the actions derived from her thoughts.

Jayant resolved to dance through her cancer, to "tune out of cancer and tune into my dance."

A few weeks after her cancer surgery, Jayant went back to her studio. She went every day, relearning everything, she says, focusing on her mantras and the imagery of her dance, which she describes as her strength, her energy, her passion, her "very life breath". She is clear how deeply affected she was by the ravages of her cancer, to "go from beautiful to bald in three days", to be accustomed to dancing for three hours and feel now the "sheer torture" of climbing a flight of stairs.

Fear and tears were options I did not have.

She needed, she says, something more, something to lock onto, an anchor, a peg that would enable her to find her way back to healing, health, and happiness. Jayant, perhaps not unexpectedly, found what she needed through dance, through "the poetry and metaphor and philosophy" of dance. She recalled one particular image, that of the Mother Goddess Durga, the 18-armed "Fearless One", the "One Who Rules the Lion" and is ever ready for warfare. Assuming every attribute of this spirit, Jayant describes how she gave "laser-sharp focus" to her dancing, dancing between cycles of chemotherapy and radiation until finally she could say of herself not that she is a cancer survivor but a cancer conqueror.

The inspirational story of how Jayant danced away her cancer's hold on her, of how she used her art to  heal and overcome, is a wonder. Watch here as Jayant dances with intensity, with joy, with the strength that literally saved her life. 

My language called dance paints before you
a canvas of life and beyond—of our fallible self
groping in the darkness for that light of eternity.

Ananda Shankar Jayant's Website

Interview with Ananda Shankar Jayant at TED

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Haitian Artists' Visions of Home

How often now do you think about the January 12 earthquake that took a quarter of a million Haitian lives and left behind a physically ravaged nation? When was the last time you wondered what's happening in Haiti? What more you might do?

This island nation's story is far from over. It continues in the daily effort to avoid infection with disease, to find food, to deal with lawlessness, to cope with homelessness, to be a child who's lost a limb, to find enough hope in the face of so much destruction. 

What remains remarkable is the determined spirit with which the Haitians carry on. 

That spirit is captured in the photographs of award-winning National Geographic photographer Maggie Steber, who has been covering Haiti for more than 20 years, and in the artworks of more than 30 Haitian artists that will go on view this Friday, June 25, at The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Farm, in Washington, D.C.

In "Through Their Eyes: Haitian Artists' Visions of Home", we get a chance to see Haiti post-earthquake: in Steber's beautiful photojournalism, in traditional hand-sequined Vodou flags created by Haiti's artisans, in the more than 100 photographs and handcrafts produced by Haitian children seeking through art a path to healing.

All of the exhibition's artworks and handcrafts, provided by The American Visionary Art Museum, Zanmi Lakay, and Art Creation Foundation for Children, will be available for purchase, with 100 percent of the proceeds donated to Haiti relief.

The exhibition's opening reception on June 25 is from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The gallery is located at 1632 U Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.; telephone 202-483-8600. The show continues through August 7. Gallery hours are Wednesday - Friday, 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., and by appointment.

Image above at left: Man Doing a Handstand by the River, 2010, by Cheldine Bazile, age 15, Jacmel, Haiti

Photo essays and personal reflections by Steber:

✭ "Essay: No End of Trouble. Ever." in The New York Times, January 13, 2010

✭ "Essay: A Culture in Jeopardy, Too" in The New York Times, January 21, 2010

✭ "A Second Death in a Haitian Cemetery" in The New York Times, May 18, 2010


Roger Bergman, "Maggie Steber: Artist in Haiti Between Heaven and Hell", Center for the Study of Religion and Society (Fall 1994)

Do1Thing for Haiti: 

Photojournalist Maggie Steber speaks about the power of images from Chuck Fadely on Vimeo.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Muse: Texas' Poet Laureate

The Poet Laureate of Texas is native Texan Karla K. Morton—the first woman in at least 15 years to be appointed to the position. She succeeded Paul Ruffin, who served from May 2009 to May 2010. 

The position originally came about through the state legislature's passage in 1933 of Resolution No. 82, which authorized a committee jointly appointed by the lieutenant governor and house speaker to "designate an outstanding and recognized poet", a state resident, to be Texas' Poet Laureate. Years later, the legislature enacted a state law (Senate Bill 1043, effective September 1, 2001) making the position a one-year appointment.

The appointment is honorary and has no obligations or requirements; nor does it provide pay or any funding. Morton, however, continues her Little Town, Texas Tour, which she began before officially taking office, to read and advocate for poetry. She makes a point of involving teens wherever she stops and writes a poem about each place in Texas she visits.

Some 46 poets have occupied the position (a complete list is here), although none was named in 1981-1982, 1983-1987, 1989-1993, 1995-1999, and 2002.

* * * * *
My childhood dream was to someday become
a Texas State Poet Laureate. . . I'm so honored
. . . to serve as an ambassador of poetry. . . .
~ Karla K. Morton*

Karla K. Morton is the author of a book and CD titled Wee Cowrin' Timorous Beastie, described as a Scottish romantic epic (think poet Robert Burns) that mixes poetry, story, and original Celtic music by Canadian composer Howard Baer; and Redefining Beauty (Dos Gatos Press, September 2009), an accounting of Morton's cancer diagnosis in 2008 and her subsequent treatment and recovery. Of the latter, which includes black-and-white photography by Walter Eagleton, Morton avers that she stayed alive by writing her way through her diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, hair loss, and incredible pain; words, she's been quoted as saying, were the "grit" that kept her going. The book has been awarded a 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award from the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group.

Morton's other books include Stirring Goldfish (May 2010), described as an "original Sufi poetry collection"; Becoming Superman, and the forthcoming Names We've Never Known (Texas Review Press), as well as a collection, Karla K. Morton: New and Selected Poems, to be published in October by Texas Christian University Press as part of its Poet Laureate series.

Like many poets, Morton did not find publishing an easy go. She told interviewer Lindsay Kalter of The Dallas Morning News, "I have enough rejection letters to wallpaper my entire house. I'm either too stubborn or too stupid to take 'no' for an answer." It took 20 years, she said, before her poetry found its way into print.**

Texas as place and landscape figure in a number of Morton's poems, as in the following excerpt from "When Texas No Longer Fits in the Glove Box", which underscores how irresistible that state's pull is for her:

Once you unfold a road map of Texas, your world is changed.
Towns like Falfurrias, Cathage, and Madill suddenly become
part of your life and once you see them, you can't go back to
not knowing them. You have to go there, even if it's just
with your eyes—or your finger—tracing those
crow's feet county roads into unexplored territory. . . .

Once you discover Texas, Morton says, "There's no refolding the map." She continues:

It's like meeting an alarmingly charming man—
discovering his dangerous detours and thrilling new paths,
finding unforeseen forks and magnificent natural beauty. . . .

Read the rest of this memorable poem, included in Texas Poetry Calendar 2008, here.

Once you've overcome that fear, you're empowered.
 ~ Karla K. Morton

Morton ranges over many subjects, In Becoming Superman, for example, she writes about a son's first date, mother-daughter relationships, death, the sense of her own mortality. In Redefining Beauty, she explores the deep feelings caused by cancer's wounds and scars, and of fears of the disease's recurrence; she uses the image of the sun as a metaphor both for the burning experienced during radiation treatments and for healing; she employs humor, writes of hope; and she doesn't shy from including "some kickass", the kind of raging against the disease that is familiar to many who've suffered cancer or been part of the lives of those living with it. She's matter-of-fact:

You say your prayers
and shave your head.
You pull on your boots,
and you kick ass.
~ "No Postcards" in Redefining Beauty

But Morton isn't all Texas bravado; she also has a lyrical spiritual side that betrays a sense of what can be lost, as here:

I gathered the seeds of all things beautiful, and
cast them out into the universe, like dandelions.
A deep breath in. . . then blown out.

See how my womb waits for these seeds to
return, with a tiny bed of white down, and a red
lamp, to warm the darkness.

Let us never waste a wish. Let us lie, skin to
skin, beneath the jeweled stars, mouths open,
to swallow their falling magic. . .

The breath of our love never ceasing, my Beloved;
fists full of thin, headless stems, tossed down—
withering gently at our feet.
~ "Wishes"  in Stirring Goldfish

Morton's poems "Superman's Birthday", "Irish Royalty", "Angelic Fervor", and "Death on Dainty Pink Toes" can be found here.

Morton has published poems in numerous literary magazines, periodicals, and journals, including AmarilloBay, Concho River Review, Southwestern American Literature, Austin International Poetry AnthologyWichita Falls Literary and Art Review, Texas Poetry Calendar, right hand pointingThe Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas, descant, and ARDENT. Morton's poem "Charmer", published in descant, won the Betsy Colquitt Award.

A resident of Denton, Texas, Morton travels the state giving readings and promoting poetry at schools, universities, bookstores, VA centers, libraries, arts festivals, book stores, and other venues, including cancer-support and fundraising groups.


All poetry excerpts © Karla K. Morton

*Karla Morton, Quoted in Little Town, Texas Tour Kick-off Press Release

**Karla Morton, Quoted in "Denton Woman Selected as 2010 Texas Poet Laureate" (June 30, 2009)

Redefining Beauty on Amazon

Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Texas Commission on the Arts

Poetry Society of Texas

Writers' League of Texas

Morton on FaceBook

Morton on Twitter

Below, Angelyna Martinez, host of Momz in the Mix, talks with Morton, who also reads from her poetry, showing us what a born storyteller she is.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thought for the Day

[T]here is a special intimacy to poetry, because, 
in this idea of the art, the medium is not an expert's body,
as when one goes to the ballet: in poetry, the medium is
the audience's body. . . the artist's medium is my breath.
The reader's breath and hearing embody the poet's words.
This makes the art physical, intimate, vocal, and individual.
~ Robert Pinsky in The Sounds of Poetry

I found Robert Pinsky's The Sounds of Poetry: A Brief Guide (1998) at Strand Books on my last visit to New York City. The book was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

A tireless advocate for poetry, Pinsky is one of America's most well-known and admired poets. His collections include Gulf Music: Poems (2007), Jersey Rain (2000), and The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1966-1996 (1996), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won the 1997 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. 

In addition to his poetry, Pinsky has published prose, including an electronic novel, Mindwheel (1985); and award-winning translations, including the multi-lingual The Inferno of Dante (1994).

Pinsky was Poet Laureate of the United States from 1997 to 2000. 

Pinsky's poetry can be found easily on the Web. A number of online poems are here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

This Saturday's offerings include brief video treats, ranging from Joanna Macy's explanation of how gratitude brings freedom from want to Brad Kremer's time-lapse film on Japan. In between, you'll find links to an essay on sustainability, a collection of water blessings, an inspirational story about an artist who created 1,000 felted knit cranes, and a portfolio of bottle tree images. Enjoy!

✭ Gratitude, maintains famed Buddhist scholar and eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, is a "revolutionary act"—and a means to respond to our ecological crises. You can, she says, "turn to gratitude at any moment. . . All it takes is for you to think about it. . . It's not dependent on external circumstances. Things don't have to be hunky dory for you to feel grateful. . . ." Watch her video here and hear how gratefulness contradicts one of the "cruelest aspects of our society."

✭ Take inspiration from Seann McKeel's community-based art project to create 1,000 felted knit cranes. Begun in 2006 and completed with 1,000 contributors this June, McKeel's "knitnotwar1,000" project draws on the true and moving story of Sadako Sasaki who was exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and died in 1955 from leukemia. Sasaki deeply believed in the Japanese legend that one's wish would come true after folding 1,000 cranes. Sasaki completed 644 folded cranes; her friends finished the task. Sasaki was buried with all 1,000 cranes.

Go here for a special exhibit about Sasaki. In 1977, Eleanor Coerr and Ronald Himler wrote for children Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, available at GoogleBooks.

✭ Environmentalist David Orr, author of Down to the Wire, writes at environment360 on the difficulty of changing a "culture of consumption". Read his essay, "Eyeing the Difficult Path to a Sustainable Future".

✭ At you'll find a wonderful collection called "Water Blessings". As you read, listen to Annette Cantor's water blessing set to music (mp3; 8 MB).

✭ If you've ever thought of augmenting the reality of your chapbook, take a look at this video, which shows Amaranth Borsuk's poetry chapbook as programmed by Brad Bouse. It pushes the boundaries of what we call e-books. Go here to for additional information. Borsuk's poetry appears in many more traditional forms of literary magazines and periodicals, as here and here. She is editor of the anthology The Loudest Voice (Volume 1), published by Loudest VoiceBooks this past April.

Here's another video demonstrating multi-sequential poetry, poetry that's made navigable and interactive:

✭ I first saw "Bottle Tree Ranch", where the 60-something Elmer has created a sculpture park of reclaimed bottles, on the site of a friend, artist Judith Olivia HeartSong. Judith's posts are always first-rate, whether she's writing about her latest painting or taking us with her to the Delaware shore that's become a second-home for her and where she searches the beaches for lovely sea glass, helps right horseshoe crabs, and sits for inspiration. My friend nAncY beat me to posting this video, but, no matter; I'm sure some of you, my readers, might have missed it. Enjoy!

By the way, Bottle Tree Ranch is off Rt. 66, near Barstow, California.

To see more images of bottle trees, go here and here. Also see, "Tree bling, Southern Style".

✭ Take time to experience "Hayaku: A Time Lapse Journey Through Japan". This beautifully produced video by Brad Kremer, whose choice of sound score is perfect, demonstrates in imagery the poetry of stillness and motion. "Hayku" means "hurry up". Other work by Kremer can be found here. (I thank Escape Into Life, where I first saw the film.)

Hayaku: A Time Lapse Journey Through Japan from Brad Kremer on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hit List: Summer Reading

A number of us* are sharing online our summer reading lists. Below is mine, which, perhaps not so surprisingly this season, is heavy on poetry. I am reading in all of these books, rather than concentrating my attention on one at a time. In addition to what I list below, I'm reading Anne Lamott's novel Imperfect Birds, finishing Diane Ackerman's wonderfully lyrical Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways  to Start the Day, and anticipating starting the highly recommended Night Train to Lisbon, a novel by Pascal Mercier (translated by Barbara Harshav).


These are the newest volumes of poetry in my literal stacks now:

All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems, Linda Gregg ~ I was browsing in the poetry carts at New York City's Strand Bookstore last month when I happened upon this collection, which was published in 2008. The recipient of a S. Mariella Gable award, given by the College of St. Benedict for "an important work of literature published by Greywolf Press", this is a rich and rewarding read. It includes work from Gregg's debut collection in 1981, Too Bright to See, and from her work through 2006, plus selections of poems written after Gregg's In the Middle Distance. One poem I particularly like is "Winning", which begins, "There is having by having / and having by remembering. . . ."

The Wind Blows Through the Doors of My Heart, Deborah Digges ~ Deborah Digges took her life in 2009, age 59. This collection was published posthumously. It is one of the most moving books of poetry I've read.

Toxic Flora: Poems, Kimiko Hahn ~ Hahn has published seven other volumes of poetry, none of which I was familiar with until I began to search out her work. I've been dipping into and out of this collection inspired by The New York Times weekly "Science" section, and I marvel at the facility Hahn has to make out of subjects of scientific inquiry such elegant and lyrical poems that are about much more than the topics that prompted them.

The Alchemist's Kitchen, Susan Rich ~ I began reading Rich's blog of the same name a few months ago and ordered this collection when it became available. Rich collects her poems into aptly named sections — Incantation, Transformation, Song — and what she does in each shows how gifted a writer she is. Who would not want to read a poet who bids us, as Rich does in "Chanterelle" to "Perhaps consider poetry / a gourmet grocery shop"? Rich infuses her poems with the constants of loss and absence and yet leaves us with her deep awareness of "the notes we are meant to sing / the possibility in each slight thing." (Susan's Website)

Then, Something: Poems, Patricia Fargnoli ~ Having read her Necessary Light, I advance-ordered Fargnoli's much-praised Then, Something. All I will say is, get the book and delight in the reading. Fargnoli is an exceptionally fine poet.

Passion Maps: Poems, Adrianne Kalfopoulou ~ I don't remember where I first saw this poet's name or the work that sent me to look up her work but I found the title of this, Kalfopoulou's second collection, irresistible. There's deep intelligence at work in these poems, a deft handling of an enormous range of subject, and an abiding sense of journeying ("I set out without a map") into the "lyric ruins" of human — and passionate — experience that wants for clarity even as it impels "burying our past in excavated spaces."


Seven Nights, Jorge Luis Borges ~ After my friend Deborah Barlow at Slow Muse shared a few  quotes from this collection of lectures by the great Argentine writer, I included this title in my last book order. The essays are translated by Eliot Weinberger and include an introduction by Alastair Reid, who describes them as "separate literary journeys that we could not take by ourselves. Borges is our Virgil; only he knows the way. . . His work generates its own awe, but his presence [in the lectures] intensifies it. . . ." The lectures range over The Divine Comedy, nightmares, The Thousand and One Nights, Buddhism, poetry, the Kabbalah, and blindness.

* Among friends sharing their summer reading lists, which will keep you busy until long after the first snows fly, are: