Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Muse: Louisiana's Poet Laureate

. . . I speak best in my poems. I'm trying to get 
at what we respond to, in a simple way, a true way,
and you get closer and closer to that the more you make art.
~ Darrell Bourque*

Darrell Bourque is Louisiana's tenth Poet Laureate.

Bourque began his term officially in May 2009. Originally, he was appointed in November 2007, but eight months later, in July 2008, he was told that because of an oversight his name had not been submitted as required for state senate confirmation; the error, as this article explains, meant the position was declared vacant. Matters eventually were rectified by Governor Bobby Jindal, who reappointed Bourque to serve until May 2011.

Bourque succeeded Brenda Marie Osbey (2005-2007), the first state poet selected by a committee of peers; she came after twice-appointed Jean McGivney Boese (1996-2004 and 1980-1988). The others who held the position are Sylvia Davidson Lott Buckley, who wrote an official state judicial poem (1992-1996), Pinkie Gordon Lane (1988-1992), Henry Thomas Voltz (1976-1980), George William Noel Cooper (1973-1976), Ethel Green Russell (1970-1973), and Emma Wilson Emery (1942-1970).

The Poet Laureate position, established in 1942 and codified in state law (Louisiana Revised Statutes 49:171, 173), originally carried a term concurrent with that of the governor. Currently, the term is two years. The law is specific about process, requiring that a choice be made by the governor from a list of candidates prepared by a selection committee. The governor has to make the appointment by January 15 of the year following receipt of a list of prospective nominees. An incumbent may be reappointed to the position so long as the term is not consecutive. The nominee must have been born in or live in Louisiana at time of nomination and must have published work in books, literary periodicals, anthologies, or the like.

The only legal requirement of the honorary job is to deliver an annual public reading at a location designated by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. To date, taking advantage of LEH grants for the position, Bourque has worked with students and teachers in classrooms, libraries, and community centers and cultural institutions throughout Louisiana, serving as a "poetry ambassador" to foster appreciation of and create audiences for poetry. He gives many readings and leads many workshops and retreats within and outside the state and has judged poetry contests.

The nominating process for the next Poet Laureate began in late 2010. Three writers were nominated: Ava Leavell Haymon, Jack Bedell, and Julie Kane

* * * * *
I cannot write convincingly about anything
 that I am not passionate about.
~ Bourque in Interview with Roses & Thorns

A native of Louisiana, Darrell Bourque, Ph.D., is the author, most recently, of Call and Response: Conversations in Verse (Texas Review Press, 2010), a collaboration with Jack B. Bedell, and In Ordinary Light: New and Selected Poems (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2010), which includes selections from Bourque's earlier volumes, including all of his poems from The Blue Boat (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, Writers Series, 2004) and all of those in Call and Response. A new chapbook, Holding the Notes, is forthcoming from Chicory Bloom Press

Bourque's other books are Burnt Water Suite (Wings Press, 1999) and Plainsongs (Cross-Cultural Communications/Merrick, 1994), poems from which appear in Where Land Meets Sky, a catalogue of the works of the late landscape artist Elemore Morgan Jr. The latter comprised Issue 1 in the publisher's Cajun Writers Series. His other chapbook, The Doors Between Us (1997), was the first in the Louisiana Writers Chapbook Series of Louisiana Literature Press. 

I think the poet has at least as one of his jobs to remind us
that there is something miraculous in the everyday.**

The poet, who began writing poetry while working on his doctorate at Florida State University in the mid-1970s, takes as his themes nature, culture (music, art, artists, architecture, history, philosophy, language, food, etc.), and, in particular, human relationships. He also explores in his poetry his conversations with artists (he's especially interested, he notes in interviews, in collaborations that acknowledge connections among people, what he describes as "articulating our humanness, wherever we find it"), the use of autobiographical details or personal stories that inform universal themes such as love and loss, and the spiritual in the ordinary. Place — not only his southernness and Louisiana Cajun ancestry but also his growing-up years on a farm — are reflected in poems such as "Cane Field Haiku" and "The Arum Lilies in My Mother's Dream". Giving careful attention to poetry's rhetoric (diction, line, sound, trope, etc.), he experiments with forms, which include free verse, ekphrastic poems, sonnets, sestinas, and narrative or prose pieces.

These excerpts exemplify both attention to expressive imagery and Bourque's declared intention to take a poem "into the deeply personal":

He loves this place he's fallen into:
his skies of smeared lilac, his clouds spun by muscled ether, congealed air so newly blue
it's hard to tell it from the sky we knew once and loved so [. . . .]
~ From "Where Land Meets Sky" in The Blue Boat

What he thinks of when he goes to the river
is not always what to take from it. Sometimes
it is what to put back that brings him there.
One day it will be the memory of all the lines

making catenaries on the surface of the water,
sometimes it will be the fish those lines brought in,
sometimes it will be the memory of all the quarter

residents and how they still live in him, [. . . .]
~ From "Of Men and Rivers (for Ernest J. Gaines)"

We string out trees
       with lights
                in wintertime.

We want
      to see ourselves
                in the dark.
~ From Lumina" in In Ordinary Light

Poems by Bourque have appeared in Louisiana Literature, Mid-American Review, Deep South Magazine, and Passages North, and are forthcoming in Pacha Mama : Earth Realm, a collaborative project with artist Lynda Frese and others that is slated for publication this fall.

Professor emeritus in English at the University of Louisiana, Bourque is a poetry workshop leader and consultant, primarily for Louisiana Affiliates of the National Writing Project. He features poets on "From the Poet Laureate's Bookshelf" on KRVS Public Radio (88.7 FM, Lafayette/Lake Charles);  he's broadcast work found at the online Poets for Living Waters. He was named Artist of the Year 2001 by the Acadiana Arts Council and has been president of the National Association for Humanities Education and editor-in-chief of the association's journal. In addition, Bourque was director for the project Significant Voices, a series that featured young African-American writers from Louisiana.

An annual cash prize, the Darrell Bourque Award, is made in his name by the Louisiana Conference on Literature, Language & Culture.


All Poetry Excerpts © Darrell Bourque

* Quoted in Susan Larson, "Louisiana Poet Laureate Darrell Bourque Turns Out Culture Into Poetry", The Times-Picayune, January 16, 2008

Susan Larson, "Governor Bobby Jindal Announces the Reappointment of Darrell Bourque as Louisiana's Poet Laureate", The Times-Picayune, May 21, 2009 (In this article, Bourque describes his plans for his tenure.)

Angie Ledbetter, "Interview with Darrell Bourque", Parts 1, July 20, 2010; and 2, July 28, 2010, Roses & Thorns

** Quoted in Mary Tutwiler, "Crowning Achievement", The Independent Weekly, November 27, 2007 (This article provides significant background information about Bourque, including his teaching career, and includes an interview in which he articulates what he wants to achieve as writer, teacher, and Poet Laureate and why he thinks poetry is important. His views about taking a poem "[f]rom the merely personal to the deeply personal" is critical to his philosophy about poetry's value: "When you write a piece of art, when you make a piece of art, it's not yours when you're finished. Its intent has to be directed toward an audience. And so you have to find a way that you can shore up those personal experiences, those personal feelings that go beyond simply your personal feelings.")

Rosalyn Spencer, "Bourque: Pied Piper of Poetry", Acadiana Gazette

Darrell Bourque's Poetry Online: "Light Theology and the Persimmon Tree" and "Lumina" at Poetry Daily; "My Father at Grand Isle" at Poetry 365; "Scratch" at Deep South Magazine (scroll to bottom); "Of Men and Rivers", a commemorative poem, at A Word's Worth; "To Be of Use" from The Blue Boat at On the Bayou; "Bone Fire"; and "Where Land Meets Sky (for Elemore Morgan Jr.)" 

Review of In Ordinary Light at A Word's Worth

Lannan Foundation Podcast of Bourque's Conversation with Luis Alberto Urrea, October 13, 2004 (A recorded reading also is available here.)

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

Louisiana Poets (List)

Louisiana Poetry Project (Bourque directed The Louisiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Poetry Project.)

Louisiana State University Writing Project (Authors Index)

Louisiana State Poems and Symbols (See this article on Governor Kathleen Blanco's veto of a bill to create a state poem (not one by Bourque).)

Louisiana Writer Award Page for Louisiana

Texas A&M University Press Page for Call and Response

ULPress Page for In Ordinary Light

Voices on the Gulf Page for Darrell Bourque

Darrell Bourque on FaceBook and LinkedIn

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Relief Prints (Poem)

Iquanyin Moon, Footprints
© Iquanyin Moon Used With Permission

Relief Prints

Cut away what you will.
The parts that fail to make the impression

won't catch the light below the surface
inked and imprinted and equally dark.

Press all you want. The areas unprepared
for that first dry run can be wiped

and rewiped clean. Material supple enough
takes all kinds of lines.

Push where you want, taking care
to check how deeply you incise what you want

to be remembered. Think of each gouge
you make like you would the heart:

recessing before lifting up from the shadows.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by today's One Shoot Sunday Picture Prompt Challenge at One Stop Poetry. Featured there is an interview with photographer Iquanyin Moon and the picture prompt that you see above.

Anyone may participate in the challenge. Go here to read the interview conducted by Chris Galford and then scroll down for instructions for the challenge. Be sure to add your link to share your poem or prose piece with the other contributors.

Thought for the Day

Act so there is no use in a center.
~ Gertrude Stein, "Rooms" in Tender Buttons (1914)

Gertrude Stein, 1874-1946

Gertrude Stein Online Works (Sound Files, Essays and Other Writings, and Commentary)

New York Times Compilation of Articles on Gertrude Stein

Tender Buttons on GoogleBooks and Project Gutenberg 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

Today's edition is for the curious who also happen to enjoy the eclectic. . . and don't mind burning a few hours in the interest of mind-expansion.

✭ The great literary periodical The Missouri Review has launched textBOX, a free online anthology of fiction, essays, and poetry published since the review's founding. Editors plan to add author interviews, audio files, and other materials about the writers who have made the magazine so famous. This is wonderful news! 

The Missouri Review on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ The Rylands Centre for Heritage Imaging & Collection Care, Manchester, United Kingdom, is digitizing the rarely seen, approximately 500-year-old Qur'an of Kansuh al-Ghuri. This is no easy feat: The delicate document's pages are the size of large plasma television screens. Scroll through the posts about the effort here. Once the project is completed, the online version of the text will be available to scholars worldwide.

University of Manchester Image Collections (These are extraordinary resources.)

✭ The body as subject as explored by women who are artists is the exclusive focus of the blog The Body-Nothing Else. There is some extraordinary work on view here, created with oil paints and acrylics, pastels, charcoal, mixed media, video, photography, texts, body tattoos, pencil, and other media.

The Body-Nothing Else on FaceBook

✭ My friend Deborah Barlow at Slow Muse piqued my interest with her post on the World Question for 2011 presented by The Edge. Naturally, I clicked over. Who can resist spending some time on a site that takes as its mission "[t]o arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves"?  Start anywhere, perhaps with the alphabetical listing of contributors working in the sciences, academia, business, and the arts, and then lose yourself in the rich offerings. And don't forget to check out the video section.

The Edge on Twitter

✭ The international organization IMAN — International Muslimah Artists Network — promotes the artistic achievements of established and emerging Muslim women artists. Take a few minutes to browse the members' gallery, where you'll find images of the work of Salma Arastu (see next item), Uzma Mirza,  Hayat Gul (calligraphy in glass), and more than two dozen other exceptional artists.

✭ Peggy Rosenthal at Image Journal wrote recently about India-born artist Salma Arastu and her transcendent work. Impelled by Peggy's post to learn more, I visited Arastu's Website and blog. I was struck by the eloquence of and joy in Arastu's paintings, sculptures, and beautiful Arabic calligraphy and especially by her deeply intuitive and spiritual approach to her art, which she discusses in the 24-minute video below. The film takes its name from Arastu's book, The Lyrical Line, a collection of poetry and art, which California-based Half Full Press published in 2008. (The book is available on Amazon.)

Arastu, who lives in California, is enjoying some well-deserved recognition, including the installation last fall of one of her sculptures ("Dancing With the Stars") at San Diego Port and receipt of  a proclamation of "Salma Arastu Day" in Berkeley, California, last year. 

Arastu founded in 1989 Your True Greetings, which uses the artist's paintings and calligraphy in the design of greeting cards and other products for Muslim communities. YTG has evolved from a small home-based business to a global company that fulfills orders from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Watch The Lyrical Line - Salma Arastu in People & Blogs  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Friday, January 28, 2011

Publication Announcement

It's here. . . and available now at Amazon!

My thanks especially to T.S. Poetry Press, L.L. Barkat, and Marcus Goodyear, and to Randall David Tipton whose beautiful painting graces the cover.

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

New Website

A new Website, CreateMixedMedia, has debuted. It promises to be a great one-stop source for all things mixed media. (Be patient. Content is still being added and much more is forthcoming.) Begin your tour of the site here, then check out the videos on techniques, listen to some podcasts, or download free wallpapers; spend a few minutes scanning the blogs, reviewing the artist and editor profiles, and peeking in My Craftivity Store. Don't forget to register an account of your own or enter you e-mail address to download the free "Stitched Up" e-book. My thanks go to mixed media artist Seth Apter at The Altered Page for alerting his readers to this great new site.

Call for Submissions for Art Advisory Service

The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Farm Center, in Washington, D.C., has issued a call for art submissions for a new Art Advisory service it is establishing to help private collectors, corporations, and healthcare facilities select artwork to enhance creativity and integrate art into work and living environments. Painters, photographers, sculptors, printmakers, muralists, and installation and media artists are invited to read, complete, and submit a Call for Art Submission form to be considered for the service and for future gallery projects. Materials must be postmarked by April 6, 2011. Complete details on this promising initiative are here.

Exhibitions Here and There

Tamarind Institute, a division of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico, is showing the work of Anna Hepler, Fay Ku, Mark Licari, and Ethan Murrow in the Tamarind Gallery through March 4. In "Fast Forward : Four for the Future", the Tarmarind lithographs are mounted with the artists' work in other media. Portland, Maine's Hepler offers the first public viewing of her latest lithographs with 3D plastic pieces from her "Inflatables" series. From Brooklyn, New York, Ku pairs two Tamarind lithographs with examples of her watercolors with graphite. Licari,  who hails from Los Angeles and produced three lithographs at Tamarind, contributes a complementary site-specific wall drawing. Boston, Massachusetts, artist Murrow includes with his three Tamarind lithographs his short film Dust.

New Tamarind Institute Releases (View three of the artists' lithographs here; names are alphabetical.)

Tamarind Institute on FaceBook

Robert Irwin's Gypsy Switch, an installation that addresses color, light, and space, is on view at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., through March 6.

Robert Irwin: Light and Space, 2008, at White Cube

Lawrence Weschler, "Embeddedness: Robert Irwin in His Seventies" in The Virginia Quarterly, Spring 2008

Robert Irwin in Stuart Collection, University of California/San Diego (Excerpts from Irwin's 2008 Russell Lecture are here.)

✭ A drawing installation by John M. Adams is on view 24/7 until February 14 at the U Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., Joan Hisoaka Healing Arts Gallery. Adams' solo installation, Efflux, was selected to inaugurate the gallery's "In-Flux" site-specific installation series while construction to expand the gallery's spaces is underway. Work by screenprint artist Kristina Bilonick will be installed after Efflux comes down. (See related item at the start of this post.)

✭ Last week, The Jerusalem Fund Gallery, also in Washington, D.C., near the Kennedy Center, opened "Woven with Her Brush", paintings by Tunisian artist Zohra Ben Hamida. Ben Hamida describes her color-infused paintings, which are on view through March 4, as "memories" of garments her Berber grandmother wore, of domes of mosques, of colors of "bougainvillea and jasmine indiscriminately lending their beauty and fragrance", of "the blazing sun straddling the cool shades over the desert in Saudi Arabia". 

The Jerusalem Fund Gallery is part of The Palestine Center (FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube). 

Robin Kahn's Dining in Refugee Camps

Following up on her experience living with families in refugee camps in Algeria and the Sahara Desert, conceptual artist Robin Kahn has issued Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking (Autonomedia, 2010). The full-color, bilingual book, available via Amazon, comprises collages Kahn created from local materials and combined with photos, recipes, drawings, and histories. Sample pages from the journal may be seen on Kahn's blog.

Kahn also is the author of Robin Kahn: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Art (Mis Dias Press, 2006). 

Project Tindaya

A controversial project of the late sculptor Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002), involving the creation of an artificial cave on Mount Tindaya on Fuerteventura in the Spanish Canary Islands, is going forward. The Guardian offers a short interactive guide to Chillida's "monument to tolerance" and information about the decision to move the project ahead, despite environmentalists' concerns and the mountain's history as a sacred place. 

A history of Fuerteventura is here. ARUP, the lead technical designer, offers an overview, details, and "fast facts" about the project. Also see this article about the project. (A more detailed Website on the project, in Spanish, is here.) 

Mount Tindaya

The Chillida-Leku Museum closed January 1, 2011, citing a recurring deficit and a general economic crisis that left the museum "unsustainable".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Art on the Cover

Randall David Tipton, The Assumption of the Virgin
Watermedia on Paper
© Randall David Tipton Used With Permission

I am delighted to announce the imminent publication of my debut collection of poetry, Neruda's Memoirs and Other Poems, by T.S. Poetry Press.

In addition, I'm honored to announce that the artwork for the collection's cover, The Assumption of the Virgin,  is by Oregon painter Randall David Tipton. He is one of the most accomplished artists I know.

To celebrate the book and the cover art, Randall is making available a special limited edition of 50 signed prints of his painting. Each print, which will measure approximately 14" x 9.25", will be published on archival paper with permanent inks. The cost, which includes shipping within the United States, is $110. A purchase may be made directly from Randall's Daily Paintings Store.

Do join us for the celebration!


Painter's Process, Randall David Tipton's Blog

Interview with Randall David Tipton: Part 1 and Part 2

Neruda's Memoirs and Other Poems on FaceBook 

Sneak Preview of Neruda's Memoirs

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Li, Li, Li!

It's been more than a year since the January 12, 2010, earthquake that devastated Haiti. Unfortunately, conditions on the ground remain awful. I've made it an objective to keep attention turned where it's needed, on this island that still needs our help, whenever I become aware of efforts that we in the United States can support.

* * * * *

We read to these children for the same reason
people read to all other children. We read to them
to help them grow their imaginations, to teach them
about the world around them. And beyond them.
We also read to them to learn from them.
Edwidge Danticat,* Huffington Post, 9/15/10

We take for granted our privilege to pick up a book and read whenever and wherever we want. In Haiti, where so many schools (at least 80 percent) were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, many thousands of children, homeless and still living in tent and tarp camps, not only have no schools to go to; they may no longer have parents who can console them with a story or family who can spare change to purchase children's books or reading materials of any kind.

One group that's seeking to alleviate the trauma and anxiety of Haiti's children is Li, Li, Li!, a small nonprofit registered in New York and based in Haiti, and a member of the Haiti Response Coalition. "Li, Li, Li!" is Haitian Creole for "Read, Read, Read!" The organization was founded a month after the quake.

Each week, Li, Li, Li! sends two-person teams to conduct interactive story-telling hours in more than two dozen tent-settlement or other transitional camps in Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, Cite Soleil, and other hard-hit areas. (There are an estimated 13,000 "spontaneous" tent camps in Haiti, less than 20 percent of which provide any recreational or educational services for children.) The teams, which use storybooks translated into Haitian Creole and puppets and dolls to animate their narratives, reach more than 3,000 children monthly with their Monday-through-Friday reading sessions. (A slide-show of the teams at work is here.) They also provide reading supplies in Creole and train staff to read aloud. Their efforts give Haitian children respite, easing their difficult living conditions, help to promote literacy, and provide jobs. 

In addition, the organization partners with other aid groups to assist in the provision of necessary medical care services and information. For example, at the end of a reading hour, the teams instruct children in the prevention and treatment of cholera.

Children in schools in the United States have collected children's books, arts, poems, puppets, and money to support Li, Li, Li! initiatives. Grateful for this help, the organization has prepared and posted online a range of materials that can be used in our schools to teach our own children about Haiti, and representatives of Li, Li, Li! have visited partner schools. 

Donations of money and children's books as well as reading accessories such as masks, dolls, and stuffed animals will help to ensure that children in the camps will continue to benefit from Li, Li, Li's reading-out-loud program, that funds are available for transportation to the camps, that readers and coordinators are paid, and that child-appropriate flyers on cholera or other medical issues are printed and distributed.

Volunteer translators also are needed.

* Novelist Edwidge Danticat is a member of the Li, Li, Li! Advisory Board. She is also an editor of Haiti Noir (Akashic Books, December 2010), a collection of stories by 18 authors who live in Hait or are connected to the country.

A New York Times article about the anthology is here.

A portion of sales proceeds benefit the Lambi Fund of Haiti.

See Danticat's interview, "We Are All Going to Die", at Guernica, January 2011. Also see Ann Armstrong Scarboro's "Edwidge Danticat Visits Her Haitian Roots", described here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fierceness (Poem)


is Tom Cat marking
his bounds with a hiss,

spreading his conqueror's
goods in a streak, his silent

treatment a would-be lover's
menace. On the prowl,

he shoulders the night
for favors, high-pitching

his few simple requests for
the scruff of a neck, kneading

paws, a soft purr to conserve
his heat for the inevitable

rendezvous when claws loose
to make him settle down.

He won't raise the moon
to shine. He's got no need

to look beyond the surface
of attention with his own slit

pupils, his loyalty to each
and not one unquestioned,

the prey always a matter
of private dispute.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

I wrote this poem for Abbey of the Arts Poetry Party #49, "Invitation to Poetry: Fierceness and Courage". 

Anyone may share his or her inspiration at Abbey of the Arts by contributing a poem about fierceness. Be sure to provide in the comments section here the text of your poem and, if you wish, a link to your blog or the site where your poem appears.

On Friday, January 28, a name from among those participating will be drawn at random. The winner will receive a free registration for Christine Valters Paintner's Lenten Online Retreat: Journey with the Desert Mothers & Fathers, scheduled March 9 - April 23.

* * * * *

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

In Winter, You Said (Poem)

In winter, you said

ice sweats
the length of the gutter.

I imagine:
dog's fangs, elephant tusks.

You point out
starlings, plump bits of morse code,

pinging for positions on power lines.
I mime the moon

tugging tides.
The frost I skim from your arms

around me chaps. You don't mind
saying how you fell

into dreaming of mosaics of skin
in French-cut bikinis

dazzling in the glow of watercolor
sunsets. I decide

it's enough to know
it snows

and footprints appear ahead
of me.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

I wrote this poem for today's One-Word Blog Carnival, sponsored by Peter Pollock.

The Blog Carnival is a biweekly online event open to anyone. Participants write either original poetry or prose reflecting their consideration of or response to the one-word prompt or topic. The prompt for January 25 is "winter".

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

The Blog Carnival's FaceBook page is here.

The prompt for the next Blog Carnival is "renewal". The complete list is here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Muse: Virginia's Poet Laureate

. . . Freedom for a writer is being able to access
whatever is needed for a particular piece of work.
~ Kelly Cherry*

Kelly Cherry has succeeded Claudia Emerson as Virginia's Poet Laureate.

I wrote about Emerson and the uncompensated Poet Laureate position here. Be sure to check that post also for its Resources section.

Cherry, appointed in 2010 (Governor Robert McDonnell made an announcement on January 14, 2011), will serve through 2012.

* * * * *
. . . all I know is that I have to write.*

Virginia's 15th Poet Laureate, Kelly Cherry is a poet, novelist, award-winning short story writer, memoirist, essayist, translator, playwright, and literary critic. Her most recent poetry collections are a book-length sonnet sequence, The Retreats of Thought: Poems (LSU Press, 2009), and Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems (LSU Press, 2007). Among her other volumes of poetry are Rising Venus: Poems (LSU Press, 2002), Death and Transfiguration: Poems (LSU Press, 1997), and Relativity: A Point of View (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2000). Her first published poetry collection was Lovers and Agnostics (Carnegie-Mellon University Press; paperback edition, 1995). Cherry's collection of short reviews about contemporary poets, History, Passion, Freedom, Death, and Hope: Prose About Poetry (University of Tampa Press), was published in 2005.

Cherry's poems take as their subjects love, marriage and divorce, death and loss, sex, nature, science, truth, beauty, artists and writers, money, music, history, and femaleness and femininity, to name just a few. The breadth of her intellectual curiosity is enormous. Her poems may be just several lines or long narratives. They may or may not rhyme, be in metered or free verse, lyrical or meditative, witty or philosophical (especially so in The Retreats of Thought, where she ranges over questions about luck, time, relativity, space, string theory, writing, the self, and scores of other topics).

Note in the following examples not only the diversity of subject but also the tone of voice, the restrained yet evident emotion, the poet's use of enjambment, the skillful way she changes and adapts her structures to what she needs to say.

You're meat and salt,
nine-tenths water; you live on a  rock,
craning your neck

to see; you have always felt
something was watching you. [. . .]
~ From "Paranoia" in Hazard and Prospect

The paintings were of what wasn't there,
as if of the shadow of air.

It smothered you like a pillow, or plastic,
that air you painted, dark and drastic

as all absence, all loss. [. . .]
~ From "Rothko" in Rising Venus

Unconscious, says the doctor, speaking of
his patient who has slipped into a coma,
your dying mother, whom you surely love
despite your scars, your open wounds, the trauma
of never being who she wished that she
had been [. . . .]
~ From "My Mother, Dying" in The Retreats of Thought

And if—and if—? Would that have been enough
for you? I think you always looked for more—
more anything. More everything. [. . .]
~ From "As If a Star" in Death and Transfiguration

God is dead, having been stuffed into an oven
like meat. God is dead, having been eaten.
Blood is what we batten on. Therefore, love is lying,
light is scattered like bread crumbs at the creek's edge,
and free will is the reflection of time's wings in water.
My heart is shattered in the pebbled shallows and lost in the sedge.
People are dying.
~ "Themes" in  God's Loud Hand: Poems

The first recipient of the Hanes Award for Poetry (1989), Cherry also has been honored with a Dictionary of Literary Biography Award (2000), several PEN/Syndicated Fiction Awards, a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship (2009), and Bread Loaf, du Pont, and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. (For a more complete list of Cherry's many awards, go here.)

Cherry's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published widely, both in anthologies, including An Endless Skyway: Anthology, forthcoming in March from Ice Cube Books,  and numerous literary magazines and periodicals, including Cortland Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, AgniPoetryPer ContraPrairie SchoonerAtlantic Monthly, Cave Wall, Southern Poetry Review, Sow's EarGeorgia Review, and Esquire.

Professor Emerita at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cherry has been a writer-in-residence at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and a Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In addition to her appointment as Eudora Welty Professor of English and Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities at UW-Madison, Cherry holds distinguished writer positions at a number of other colleges and universities, including Colgate University and Hollins University. 


Photo Credit: © 2009 by Burke Davis III (Davis, a fiction writer, is Cherry's husband.)

All Poetry Excerpts © Kelly Cherry

* Quoted in Interview with Kelly Cherry at Iambic Admonit, August 16, 2010 (This is particularly informative in its discussion of vision, craft, and subjects, and it shows Cherry to be a writer of fierce independence. As she says, "Taking cues from others, whether they are writers or not, limits one's work." She scoffs at any notion that a writer would want her work to be considered "typical". I especially appreciated her statement, "I like art that is unafraid of human feeling.")

"Halifax County Produces Newest Poet Laureate", in SoVaNow, January 17, 2011 (In this article, Cherry notes that while Poet Laureate she'd like to focus on senior citizens.)

Annotated List of Poetry Collections by Kelly Cherry

Kelly Cherry Profile at University of Wisconsin-Madison (Also see Experts Guide listing.)

Kelly Cherry Profile at The Poetry Society of Virginia

Kelly Cherry Profile at Poets & Writers

Kelly Cherry Profile at Appalachian State University News (Cherry participated in the Visiting Writers Series.)

Kelly Cherry Poetry and Audio-Recorded Poetry Online: Benjamin John Poems at March Street Press, 1993; "She Doesn't Care What You Say About Her, Just So Long as You Spell Her Name Right", "Miscarriage", "The Visitor", and Hansel and Gretel: The Abstract", All in Cortland Review, Issue 4, August 1998 (audio included); "Sappho in Her Study" at Poem Hunter; "Alzheimer's" at  Alzheimer's Poetry; "Gethsemane" at articulation; "The Loveknot" and "Lovelilly" at Connotation Press; "The Fight" at Beth at Home and Abroad; "The House at the End of the Road", "Woman Living Alone", "Alzheimer's", "First Marriage", "Lines Written on the Eve of a Birthday", and "Song of the Wonderful Surprise", All at The Writer's Almanac (audio included); "Gethsemane" at The Atlantic Online, April 1988 (audio available); "Field Notes" at The Atlantic Online (audio available); "Against Aphasia" and Wintering at poemeleon: a journal of poetry; "Taormina" at mediterranean, November 2009; "In Memory of Elaine Shaffner", at Expansive Poetry and Music Online (Selections of poems from Cherry's various collections also can be found on her publishers' sites and, as referenced below, at GoogleBooks.)

Derek Alger Interview with Kelly Cherry at PIF Magazine, October 1, 2010 (In this interview, Cherry talks about her literary influences, her teaching career, her college years, her many published works, her current writing projects, and her beliefs about beauty, art, and place.)

Pam Kingsbury Interview with Kelly Cherry, "Words Will Take You Anywhere" at Southern Scribe (In this interview, Cherry addresses her sense of being southern, her cultural influences, and the "nuts and bolts" of writing.)

Belinda Subraman Interview with Kelly Cherry, "Kelly Cherry: Poet and Author" at Pod-o-Matic, 2008 (Podcast)

Fred Chappel, "Kelly Cherry in Her Poetry: The Subject as Object" in The Mississippi Quarterly, Winter 2004

Review of Kelly Cherry's Death and Transfiguration

Review of Kelly Cherry's Rising Venus

Review of Kelly Cherry's The Retreats of Thought

Kelly Cherry's Death and Transfiguration: Poems on GoogleBooks

Kelly Cherry's God's Loud Hand: Poems on GoogleBooks

Kelly Cherry's Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems at GoogleBooks

Kelly Cherry's Rising Venus: Poems on GoogleBooks

Kelly Cherry's The Retreats of Thought: Poems on GoogleBooks

The Fellowship of Southern Writers

Ice Cube Books Blog

Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Blog)

Virginia Festival of the Book

Kelly Cherry on FaceBook

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thought for the Day

There is a secret bond between slowness and memory,
between speed and forgetting.
~ Milan Kundera, Slowness


Milan Kundera Website (This site, in English, in not an official site of the writer. It also is available in German. The latter version is more complete, according to its creator.)

Biography by Jan Culik, University of Glasgow

Guardian Page on Milan Kundera (This page includes links to extracts from several of his books and other information.)

The Book of Laugher and Forgetting on GoogleBooks

Immortality on GoogleBooks

The Unbearable Lightness of Being on GoogleBooks

Links to Other Resources

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Sharing

Today's edition of Saturday Sharing is mostly arts- and science-and-arts-oriented. Given the breadth and depth of several of the offerings, you'll want or need to return to make the full round.

✭ Those who claim to not understand modern art no longer have an excuse to avoid it, thanks to the nonprofit The Art Story, which aims to introduce, educate, and inform people through online educational resources, educational workshops, and a speaker series. The interactive, dynamic site covers art movements (see, for example, its current feature on Abstract Expressionism), artists, and art critics and theories, and its Current Events section highlights exhibitions, primarily in New York, and important art-related happenings worldwide. All the information on the site is organized in quick and detailed views, all easily accessible and explained in lay terms. It's a terrific resource.

The Art Story on FaceBook and Twitter

The Art Story Foundation

✭ If you're a parent, chances are that you've read Eric Carle's marvelous picture books. I still have the books my only and I read together more than 20 years ago (we delighted in meeting Carle once at the Smithsonian), and sometimes I get a hankering to pull Pancakes, Pancakes or The Very Hungry Caterpillar off the shelf or hang out virtually at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Take an online tour of the museum here. And be sure to check out the Shop, which offers a selection of lithographs by Carle and other picture book artists, prints and posters, and sculpture, books and DVDs, fabric, and library and classroom materials.

✭ We're hearing a lot these days about efforts to foster civility and acceptance. One organization that is working hard to promote dialogue, reduce prejudice, and encourage understanding is the Human Library, which I first learned about from On Being. Through its Human Library Organization in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Human Library focuses on the creation of forums and activities to encourage respect for diversity and human rights around the world. Since its first anti-violence initiative in 2000, scores of events have been held in Asia, Europe, and the United States and Canada, not only on university and college campuses but also in public libraries and at music fests and other performing arts festivals and venues. Recently, more than 200 residents of Toronto inaugurated a series that included checking out a "human book" from the Toronto Public Library. (Read about that here.) The Website has received more than 100,000 hits from visitors all over the world; be sure to browse its sections for readers and "living books". 

✭ A related initiative I stumbled across is The Dialogue: Iconostasis for World Peace. The "Dialogue" is a project involving the creation of an art installation for world peace; it comprises a "portrait of past civilizations, their ethnicity, and culture, presented as witness" to our problems. (Selections for the installation are detailed here.) The Website presents the teachings of 10 "masters" — Moses, Plato, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Mother Teresa, Christ, Confucius, Atisha, Buddha, and Copernicus — as well as a photo gallery of the masters, gods and goddesses, and prayer wheels and symbols, daily meditation, and a richly informative blog by the site's founders, Mary Jane Miller (her co-founder is Valentin Gomez). 

The video below shows Miller at work on "The Dialogue" and discussing the initiative's aims:


✭ One of my favorite new finds is London's Wellcome Collection, billed as "a free destination for the incurably curious". It's a venue that relates science to everything else. Its bricks-and-mortar library has more than 750,000 books and journals, manuscripts, archives, and film (access the library online). A major collection of images ranging over medicine, social history, contemporary healthcare, and more makes up the extraordinary Wellcome Images. Believe me, the Wellcome Collection lives up to its motto, and then some, and it's fun to explore its offerings online (beware, you can get hooked on some of the science games). Just take a look around!

Wellcome Collection on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Cultivation of photographic arts and enrichment of the Atlanta, Georgia, art community are the aims of the nonprofit Atlanta Celebrates Photography. Every October ACP hosts some of the more than 150 photo-related events and exhibitions throughout the city, and during the year it sponsors many community programs and opportunities specifically for photographers' professional development. Photographers new to Atlanta should check out ACP's photo resources.

ACP Blog

ACP on FaceBook and Twitter

Friday, January 21, 2011

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ New York City's Gerald Peters Gallery is presenting "J Henry Fair: Abstraction of Destruction" through February 11. The photographic exhibition ranges from Fair's astonishingly beautiful pictures of the 2010 BP oil spill and waste created at electricity generation stations to compelling and thought-provoking images of chemical plant run-off, fertilizer waste, coal washing, the insides of holding tanks, and the cooling towers of an abandoned nuclear power plant. Fair took his photographs not only in the United States but also in Canada, Spain, and Germany. A gallery of three pages of Fair's photographs begins here.

J Henry Fair, Nightmare, Carville, Louisiana, 2010
Waste from Refrigerant Manufacture
50" x 70"
© J Henry Fair

J Henry Fair's Environmental Artwork, Industrial Scars

J Henry Fair's The Day After Tomorrow: Images of Our Earth in Crisis (Powerhouse Books, 2011) Additional information from the publisher is here; the book is available as a pre-order at Powerhouse and Amazon. Also see the day after tomorrow blog.

✭ If you think blue jeans are an invention from the last century, you might want to take in "The Master of the Blue Jeans" at Didier Aaron Gallery in New York. On view until February 4, the exhibition introduces a 17th Century painter, neither name nor nationality known, who depicts poor people dressed in denim (see image above left, "Woman Sewing With Two Children").

✭ At Target Gallery, in the Alexandria, Virginia, Torpedo Factory Art Center, immigration and diversity are the subjects of "Mixing Bowl: Immigration & Diversity in America". On view through February 27, the curated show includes large-scale video installations, drawings, collage, photography, and assemblage by 16 artists: So Yoon Lym, Claire Feng, Kitty Sweet Winslow, Stephanie Williams, Jennifer Nuttal, B.B. McIntyre, Joseph Ostraff, Nathan Bond, Carolina Rubio MacWright, Hugh Jones, Mara Zaslov, Indrani Nayar-Gall, Corey Excoto, Anne Dushanko, and Amy Williams & Chris Dutch.

A screening of the documentary film Beyond Borders, which includes a panel discussion with executive producer Simon Burrow, is scheduled for February 4, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; and an exhibition-inspired spoken-word event, "SPARK", is planed for February 10, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Images of artwork in the show may be viewed here

Target Gallery on FaceBook and Twitter

Radical Immigration

✭ In Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts is presenting "Fresh Ink: Ten Takes on Chinese Tradition", through February 13. The exhibition presents newly created work by 10 contemporary artists from China who were invited to respond to the MFA's permanent collection of Chinese art. 

A catalogue accompanies the show and is available to purchase online.

The Exhibition Behind-the-Scenes (Article in Orientations Magazine)

MFA on FaceBook

A related show, "Brush and Ink Reconsidered: Contemporary Chinese Landscapes", at Harvard Art Museums, highlights selections from a collection of Chinese ink paintings that draw on Western and Chinese sources. The exhibition remains on view until May 14.

Screening of Joan Mitchell Film

Next Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., January 27, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is screening the  58-minute documentary Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Painter, directed by the late Marion Cajori. (Go here  for ticket information.) The film includes interviews with the painter herself, art critics, and artists such as Brice Marden and Elizabeth Murray, and prominently features her artwork.

Mitchell, who was born in 1926 and died in 1992 of cancer, age 66, moved in the same New York City circle of Abstract Expressionists as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline before moving in 1968 to Paris, where she became friends with Pierre Matisse, Alberto Giacometti, and many other visual artists and poets. Never so fully acknowledged in her lifetime as her male peers nor as the great artist she was, Mitchell left behind decades of work — huge, exuberant canvases with an arresting sense of color,  as well as etchings and other works on paper. Last fall, Gagosian Gallery in New York City mounted a 14-painting show, "Joan Mitchell: The Last Decade" (go here to view the images, and here for an installation video), for which a catalogue is available.

Oral History Interview with Mitchell (April 16, 1986) at Archives of American Art

Dave Hickey, Joan Mitchell: Sunflowers (Steidl & Partners, 2009; available through resellers)

Klaus Kertess, Joan Mitchell (Harry N. Abrams, 1997; available through resellers)

Jane Livingston, Linda Nochlin, and Yvette Lee, The Paintings of Joan Mitchell (University of California Press, 2002) (Go here to read a seven-page excerpt from the book, which draws on Mitchell's personal papers and includes an exhibition history, artist bibliography, reviews, and color plates.)

Enjoy this brief Philip Hartigan video about a single Mitchell painting, "Salut Tom":

'Salut Tom' by Joan Mitchell from Philip Hartigan on Vimeo.

This seven-minute video shows installation shots of Mitchell's paintings in the exhibition "La pittura dei Due Mondi" at Palazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 2009 (the presentation is in Italian but if you do not know Italian, turn off the sound and simply enjoy the marvelous paintings):

Interview with Artist Deborah Barlow

Just a moment. . . for a shout-out: My friend, painter Deborah Barlow, is the subject of an interview here. It's a quick but informative read and the images of some of her paintings look terrific there. If you haven't visited Deborah's blog, Slow Muse, take a moment to check it out. Deborah's musings on art and artists, theatre, poetry, and the stuff of life are always engaging reads.

Polish Sound Postcards

Last week, PBS Newshour Art Beat included in one of its daily compilations of arts-related links a brief feature about sound "postcards" that were created specifically to enable residents of Communist Poland to hear otherwise banned American pop music of the 1960s and 1970s. The video below, narrated by sound postcard collector Mat Schulz, gives a brief introduction to what these postcards looked and sounded like. 

NewsHour ArtBeat on FaceBook

Schulz's collection was on view last year at New York City's Devotion Gallery. (Go here and scroll down to "Unsound Festival Presents Sound Postcards".)