Thursday, March 31, 2011

Facts, New or Not

Facts need never be dry and dull, especially when they involve food fights with whoopie pies, the exhumation of the Leather Man, and art criticism from the beaks of pigeons and Java sparrows. Enjoy!

✦ Washington, D.C., claims L'Enfant. Can you name New York City's own? Last week (March 22) was the 200th birthday of the certification by the Big Apple's street commissioners of "the grid" on which were mapped 11 major avenues and 155 cross-town streets, thereafter spurring development of the City That Never Sleeps. Engineer and surveyor John Randel Jr. drafted the street plan. A wonderful article in The New York Times tells the story of the map. (The print version also features a graphic replete with interesting facts. For example, Greenwich Village was already developed by 1811 and so found itself generally exempt from official efforts to impose orderliness on the island's real estate.) 

"How Manhattan's Grid Grew" (Interactive)

✦ An honest-to-goodness food fight — over whoopie pies, no less — has broken out between the state of Maine and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Maine lawmakers were to have debated legislation March 16 that would make whoopie pies the "state treat" (originally, their HP 59/LD 71 was "An Act to Designate the Whoopie Pie as the State Dessert") but they set aside the matter, presumably for, ahem, more important issues, like stirring up support for a movement to amend the bill to designate blueberry pie the state dessert. Subsequently, after two readings, legislators in the House approved the measure, 107 to 34, and sent the matter of the state's treat to the Senate. To celebrate, a whoopie pie maker whipped up a confection weighing 1,067 pounds, putting Pennsylvania's 250-pound treat to shame.  ("Maine Outdoes Pa. With Massive Whoopie Pie") Meanwhile, in Lancaster, the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau calls Maine's action "confectionary larceny". This video from Amish Country tells you something, if not everything, you might need to know. 


Whoopie Pie Recipe

Maine Whoopie Pie on FaceBook (More than 11,700 souls "like"  this.)

Maine Whoopie Pie Festival 2011 on FaceBook

Now, before you go hard on Maine, consider: Massachusetts has both an official donut and a state dessert, the Boston Cream; Florida cites key lime as its official state pie; and South Carolina has an official snack food, boiled peanuts, as does Illinois, which claims popcorn. For more "official state foods", go here. This is serious business!

✦ Sparta Cemetery, just a few feet off well-traveled Route 9 in Ossining, New York, is soon to be the site of an exhumation of the mysterious "Leather Man", a vagabond who, according to lore, lived in caves and between 1883 and 1889 regularly walked a 365-mile route through 41 towns in Westchester County, New York, and western Connecticut. (He's also the subject of Eddie Vedder's song "Leatherman".) His body was found in March 1889 in a cave near Ossining and subsquently buried in a pauper's grave at Sparta Cemetery. According to genealogist Dan W. DeLuca, who wrote The Old Leather Man (2008), the headstone attributing the remains to Jules Bourglay of Lyons, France, is wrong; so now, 122 years later, the Leather Man will be exhumed and subject to DNA testing sometime this spring to try to resolve the issue of his identity. Outraged by the turn of events, history teacher Don Johnson has launched the site Leave the Leatherman Alone.

Sparta Cemetery Headstone of the Leather Man

Nick Keppler, "Digging Up  the Leatherman", Fairfield Weekly, January 11, 2011

Jaime Ferris, "Historian Revisits the Old Leatherman's Stomping Grounds", Housatonic Times, April 15, 2010

✦ Until last week, when this Off the Wall post showed up in my blog roll, I did not know that a series of photographs of Vassar College by Alfred Eisenstaedt, published in 1937 in Life Magazine, was the first feature to be called a "photographic essay". The article is a fascinating look back at my alma mater. (Times do change.) It includes a link to this 132-page thesis, "Life and the Photo Essay", which makes for very interesting reading (the Vassar photo essay is highlighted and the magazine feature included in Appendix A).

✦ I learn many new things in the course of a week browsing the Web, such as this fact for Women's History Month: Janet Harmon Bragg was the first black woman in America to receive a commercial pilot's license. She did so in the face of pervasive race and sex discrimination. Read this excellent post about Bragg at The Bigger Picture, where you'll also find a brief videotaped interview with Bragg that is now part of Smithsonian Institution Archives. What an inspiration this accomplished woman was!

✦ A Japanese psychologist at Keio University, Shigeru Watanabe, has taken to heart the notion of leaving things up to the birds. He set up an experiment during which he trained pigeons to discriminate between "good" works of art and "bad". And for every peck or two that were correct, Mr. Watanable rewarded his newly minted critics with seed. Read the enlightening and funny post "Bird Brain" that puts human art critics (and one in particular) to shame.  

Watanabe has since undertaken another study relating to animal cognition of art, this one seeking to ascertain Java sparrows' preferences for art styles, in this case cubism and impressionism. This brief press release gives you the lowdown on results.

✦ Frank Neuhauser, who won the first national spelling bee, in 1925, died March 11. The Washington Post published this feature on Neuhauser, who also appeared in the 2002 documentary Spellbound.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Poet Chris Abani Muses on Humanity

. . . [A]rt is still the primary focus of looking for ways 
to deal with the questions of being human. . . .
~ Chris Abani*

Nigerian Chris Abani (b. 1966), Ph.D., is an award-winning poet, novelist, and activist. He also is a former political prisoner, jailed and tortured the first of three times two years after publishing, at age 16, his first book Masters of the Board (Delta, 1985), a political thriller that, government authorities charged, was incitement for a real-life coup. That fact is not listed in the bio on his Website. That, he has said, "It's not all that I am."*

Currently a professor of creative writing at the University of California/Riverside, Abani published most recently a poetry collection Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), and a novella, Song for Night (Akashic Books, 2007). One of Abani's most well-known and popular novels is Graceland (Picador, 2005). Abani also is the creator of the independent poetry series Black Goat, an imprint of Akashic Books. For other of Abani's highly praised poetry collections, go here; for prose, go here. The following is an excerpt from one of his remarkable poems:

The way desire is a body eroding
into a pile of salt marked by a crown of birds:
and black. This fall is not rain, grain too subtle
for that dissolution. A constellation wrapped
in a stitch spreading like sand charting
thread across time a tender weave
and hope. This is resurrection.

Abani travels all over the United States and abroad, participating in poetry readings and writing festivals and speaking at colleges and universities and before other forums. Below is a 2008 TED talk in which Abani muses on humanity. In addition to being a marvelous and eloquent story-teller, Abani is witty and compassionate and forgiving. One of the most memorable statements he makes in the video, a statement that is particularly apt during this Lenten season when the world is full of terror and destruction, is this:

. . . I've come to learn. . . that the world is never saved in grand
messianic gestures, but in the simple accumulation of gentle, soft,
almost invisible acts of compassion, everyday acts of compassion.
In South Africa they have a phrase called ubuntu. Ubuntu comes out
of a philosophy that says, the only way for me to be human is for you 
to reflect my humanity back at me. But if you're like me, my
humanity is more like a window. I don't really see it, I don't pay 
attention to it until there's a, you know, like a bug that's dead on 
the window. Then suddenly I see it, and usually, it's never good. . . 
So what ubuntu really says is that there is no way for us to be
 human without other people. It's really very simple, 
but really very complicated. . . .

Another TED talk, "Learning the Stories of Africa", can be found here.

Chris Abani Reading at 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival (YouTube Video)

* Quoted in Carlye Archibeque, "An Interview with Chris Abani", Poetix

Chris Abani Profile at UC/Riverside

Chris Abani Profile and Poems at Poetry Foundation

Chris Abani, Becoming Abigail (Akashic Books, 2006), on GoogleBooks

Chris Abani, Song for Night, on GoogleBooks

Marie Elizabeth Mali, "encounters: Chris Abani" (Interview), union station, 2010 (In this interview, Abani discusses how he came to write Sanctificum, which he wrote as a musical score and organized as if parts of a mass; the craft of writing; story-telling, and the "intimacy that is listening"; his book as "an indictment of my own humanity"; and why he writes. Included are several excerpts from the superb poetry collection.) 

Darla Himeles, Review of Sanctificum at Rattle, November 20, 2010

Chris Abani on FaceBook

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dreaming in the Field of Tohoku (Poem)

Dreaming in the Field of Tohoku

Her dream
was in the field

of water
it, too, bleached

an off-shore snow

of pearls
like beads

through sea grit

scrubbed smooth

as ice sheets
not yet

the spoils
of Tohoku


pulling up
raising a wall

of silence
glacial in attitude

its jet-speed blast

meant to blind
the count

leave numbers
of bodies

a question mark.

and elsewhere

clouds mass
into a white-out condition

as birds touching

or tears

masking the dazzle
of breath

giving as it's given.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem is inspired by a dream in the field of white wonder, an artwork by Susan Cornelis in acrylic and collage on glass beads gel surface. Read Susan's own comments on her inspiration for the piece here.

Imagine With Art is Susan's Website.

Share your own thoughts about Japan at When I think of Japan....

* * * * *

I offer this poem for the One Shot Wednesday event at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share, read, and comment on each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Muse: Reading 'Applies to Oranges'

Recently I opened a subscription with the nonprofit  Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn, New York, a publisher known for its beautifully designed books. In the first package of new releases that filled my mailbox was  Applies to Oranges, the wonderful debut collection of  Maureen Thorson.

Within this physically small — 5" x 7" — book are 59 untitled, single-stanza poems, each between 12 lines and 15 lines long, and in each one of which the word "orange" appears. From the start, we're in for something out of the ordinary, as the narrator matter-of-factly informs us that:

I'd rather tell you a better story, but
disease and boredom and a bad connection
brought that plan to night. You took off
with the oranges and spiders,
the ending and the plot, and left me
with the Zenith's chrome housing,
the cruise ships in their moorings. . . .
. . . Once you were gone,
there were only these few things left.

Reading the collection straight-through, as I did the first time, underscores how thematically coherent the book is, although each poem holds up well as a stand-alone vignette of an experience of loss, "where indigo / is the color of shadow" and in "the basic plot— / boy meets girl, . . . / something happens. . . ." to make the days "fall apart like tiles".

What is at the heart of this loss is a relationship that seems successful enough — "Brides / came for miles to cut crowns of blossoms / from my orchard's boughs" — until it's not: "now not enough spiders mate here". Communication misfires over and over again, paths diverge, "storms" leave the narrator "pricked" with holes and ready to "put the finishing touches on my handbook / on the mechanics of gloom".  We learn of "pretend servility",  "an infestation no one bothers to name", "promises / that only one of us believed", sorrow that "can harden / into a surface more starched than any collar, / more formal than the pleats of a skirt".

The clues to miscommunication pile up over the course of the poems: in the "music of spirals" of birds that show up often; a voice that stutters; "machines / sending sounds to other machines";  the static that occurs because "the cord's been cut from the phone"; the noise "[w]here the radio plays / different stations, and you have no radio"; the "many scripts / for screaming"; all those words "shaped by blows"; the narrator's pronouncement of having "tried, at least, to resonate" but who finally "shivered until I made you break".

There are a number of recurring motifs or symbols that reinforce the narrative arc: water, which to me functions as means of escaping and of being carried away, also the ebb and flow of relationship, and, perhaps, the purification from purging after crazed emotions have run their course; spiders, which seem to represent the sticky web of relationship, and its dangers; and the ever-present oranges, which Thorson "applies" creatively, in 59 different ways, in each poem. Some others are: ghosts, which carry the weight of absence, memory, the fading away of relationship, and clues that not all has ever been well; light, often tinged blue, sometimes nothing more than an "agonizing flicker", necessary to make the picture that exposes the scene played out on every page. The moon makes a frequent appearance, shedding light on the subject of the poems and also marking the phases of relationship; and a menagerie of other animals appears — bats, frogs, mosquitoes, snakes, and more — all hooks for some aspect of the story, the elements of which the narrator freely rearranges to craft "what sounds convincing".

There are some wonderful moments that arise while reading Applies to Oranges but maybe none is more memorable than the opening of a poem toward the end of the book: "Reader, I married him." I laughed out loud. This is a delightful collection of beautifully written, highly imaginative poems.

The author of several chapbooks, including Twenty Questions for the Druken Sailor (2009), Thorson is also the publisher and editor of the independent poetry press Big Game Books and a book designer. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Here's a short video that Thorson made to promote her book:

Special Limited Edition of Applies to Oranges 

Maureen Thorson's Website and Blog

Maureen Thorson on Twitter

NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), Founded by Thorson in 2003

Ugly Duck Presse Subscription Information

Go here to read Thorson's excellent interview with Kate Greenstreet.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

In a Grey Space (Poem)

Roger Allen Baut, Time Wave Zero
© Roger Allen Baut Used With Permission

In a Grey Space

We build the undoing
a layer at a time,

creating the predictable cycle
always begun with the word

first missed before misheard.
The fissure, so tiny, unnoticed

for being so deep below
the unrevealing surface, records

itself in the body's own register,
that adjustable timepiece

pulsing among the hidden
geographies. Like others you mine

the striations of freezing
and thawing, looking for clues,

how the patterns will open
out of winter's shimmery light.

The peaks come in waves
you can count on flat-lining.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

I wrote this poem for the One Shoot Sunday event at One Stop Poetry, where you'll find instructions for today's Picture Prompt Challenge using Roger Allen Baut's image above.

Go here to add your poem or flash fiction responding to the picture or to access the pieces from the many other contributors.

Thought for the Day

We do not know what we see,
but we see what we know.
~ H.R. Rookmaaker


Biographical Profile of Henderik Roelf "Hans" Rookmaaker (1922-1977) at Dictionary of Art Historians

H.R. Rookmaaker, Art Needs No Justification (Regent College Publishing, 2010)

H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture (Crossway Books, 1994), on GoogleBooks

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker (editor), The Complete Works of H.R. Rookmaaker (6 Vols), Piquant Editions, 2002/3 (This set is also available on CD.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Sharing (My Finds Are Yours)

Eclectic is the word for this week's edition of Saturday Sharing, which features links to the Alexander Graham Bell papers at the Library of Congress, a vast collection of poetry holdings at the University of Buffalo, a place online to make anonymous apologies, and the trailer to a wonderful documentary about Russian avant-garde art secreted from the KGB.

✦ Contemporary poetry of the American South is the focus of The Southern Poetry Anthology, a multi-volume print series of the work of emerging and established poets, published by Texas Review Press. The project, which may comprise as many as 16 volumes by the time it's completed, will feature work by poets in all the southern states, plus the "border" states of Texas, Florida, Kentucky, and Arkansas and the "sub-regions" of the Appalachian South and the Gulf Coast. Volumes already have been issued for South Carolina, Mississippi, and Contemporary Appalachia. Forthcoming are volumes for Louisiana (2011), Georgia (2012), and Tennessee (2012). An interview with series editor William Wright is here. (My thanks to NewPages for the heads up.)

✦ The Library of Congress has digitized the notebooks of Alexander Graham Bell. Part of the LOC's "American Treasures" collections, the notebooks are among approximately 130,000 items and documents donated by Bell's heirs in 1975. Included are his lab notebooks documenting his experiments in text and sketches. The online version of the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers, 1862-1939 offers a selection of more than 4,600 items, from correspondence, blueprints, scientific notebooks, and articles to photographs. Included are pages describing Bell's first successful experiment with the telephone and a design sketch and model of Bell's telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell, Design Sketch of Telephone, ca. 1876

For more information about the image, go here.

Library of Congress on FaceBook

✦ Ondrea and Stephen Levine have created on their Website a public but anonymous "Apology Page" to which anyone may contribute a reflection that anyone may read. The page is intended to be a way to allow people to "let go" of their pain and to ask forgiveness of others and themselves. A video on the page explains more fully the concept and intention of apology.  The Levines are the authors of Breaking the Drought: Visions of GraceWho Dies: An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening,  A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last, A Gradual Awakening, and numerous other books. Stephen Levine is a poet, counselor for the terminally ill, and meditation teacher. 

✦ An extraordinary collection of more than 140,000 titles of 20th and 21st Century poetry in English and English translation is housed in The Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo. Some 6,600 broadsides, as well as a selection of first editions, literary magazines, anthologies, audio recordings, and visual art are included. Founded by Charles Abbott in 1937, the  holdings comprise working papers, correspondence, publishing records, manuscripts, and ephemera of such poets as James Joyce, William Carlos Williams,  and Robert Graves. Of special interest is Mail Art, a large selection of which is online (at the link, see the section titled Pathfinders for libraries and archives, artists' pages, publishers' sites, online magazines, and general mail art Web pages). 

✦ We all know this is the Year of the Rabbit, and a few of us also know it's the International Year of Chemistry, but how many claim to know that 2011 is the Year of the Short Story (YOSS)? Go here to read the YOSS Manifesto and here to learn how you, too, can help promote the short story form. Fans may download the YOSS logo to post on their personal blogs or Websites.

✦ The fascinating story of how the Savitsky Collection, some 40,000 works of banned 20th Century Russian avant-garde art, came to be rescued and stored in a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan is the subject of the documentary The Desert of Forbidden Art, the trailer for which is below, written, directed, and produced by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev. An initiative is under way to raise $100,000 to create and distribute a book about the collection. 

The Desert of Forbidden Art on FaceBook and Twitter

Nukus Museum of Art (The Savitsky Karalkapakstan Art Museum), Nukus, Uzbekistan

Friday, March 25, 2011

All Art Friday

All Art Friday

Exhibitions Here and There

✭ New York City's Morgan Library is showing through May 22 "The Diary: Three Centuries of Private Lives". More than 70 items are included in the exhibition, including the diaries or working journals of Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charlotte Bronte, Kingsley Amis, John Steinbeck, and Anais Nin. 

For those unable to travel to see the exhibit, the Morgan offers an online exhibit that includes selections from the diaries of John Newton, John Ruskin, Sir Walter Scott, Tennessee Williams, and others. 

Also of note is the series of podcasts of readings from selected journals and diaries, a downloadable audio guide to the exhibition, and a curator's blog that features posts on the practices of diary-keeping throughout history. 

Morgan Library on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Works by German contemporary artist Franz Erhard Walther, including a selection of the artist's muslin pieces Handlungsstucke (Action Pieces) from the 1960s, are on display at Dia: Beacon, Beacon, New York. On view until February 13, 2012, "Franz Erhard Walther: Work as Action" is the artist's first solo museum show in the United States since 1990. It features 26 artworks, one of which, the complete 1. Werksatz (First Work Set), comprises 58 fabric elements. The show, according to curator Yasmil Raymond, is intended to provoke viewers' consideration of Walther's "meditations on art as temporal, subjective, and self-guided acts of doing", of delineating action through form to challenge the perceptions and experience of both artist and viewer. 

Dia Art Foundation on FaceBook and Twitter

Franz Erhard Walther Website (Under Construction Currently)

Joshua Mack, "Franz Erhard Walther: Work as Action", Art Review, October 22, 2010

✭ Also in New York City is Tibor de Nagy Gallery's exhibition "Jane Freilicher: Recent Paintings and Prints", through April 16.

Jane Freilicher, Window, 2011
Oil on Linen, 32" x 32"
© Jane Freilicher

Ten images — evocative cityscapes and still lifes, including the one above, some no larger than 8" x 10"   — may be viewed online. 

Freilicher (b. 1924), who generally is credited with developing the style known as "painterly realism" and has been described as "a poet of the intimate", had her first solo show at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, in 1952, and has exhibited there many times since. She studied with Hans Hofmann and while at Columbia University with art critic and historian Meyer Schapiro. Her work is in many publication collections, including those of The Brooklyn Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum of Art. In 2005, Freilicher received a Gold Medal in Painting from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

The gallery offers for sale a number of recent publications on Freilicher's work, including Changing Scenes (2009), Recent Paintings (2008), and Near the Sea: Paintings 1958-1964 (2006). 

Klaus Kertess, Jane Freilicher, Harry N. Abrams, 2004

Tibor de Nagy on FaceBook and Twitter

✭ Washington, D.C's Smithsonian American Art Museum recently opened "To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America". Curated by Alexander Nemerov of Yale University, the exhibit, on view through September 5, includes paintings by Ault, all made between 1943 and 1948, and work by 22 other artists, including Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth

George Ault, Bright Light at Russell's Corners, 1946
Oil on Canvas
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Lawrence

A George Ault Film Series, including Gaslight (April 7), It's a Wonderful Life (April 14), and The Seventh Victim (May 5), complements the exhibition.

Review, Philip Kennicott, "To Make a World, as Glimpsed by Painter George Ault", The Washington Post, March 15, 2011 (Images accompany the article.)

✭ Sixty prints spanning the period 1900-1950 are on view until April 27 at Louisiana Art & Science Museum, in Baton Rouge. The show, "Recording America: Printmaking 1900-1950 from the Herbert D. Halpern Collection", brings together lithographs, aquatints, etchings, drypoints, and silkscreens by such artists are George Bellows, John Sloan, John McCrady, Claire Leighton, Ruth Staff Rose, and Caroline Durieux. 

A separate show of prints by Durieux is on view through April 23.

From October 2, 2010, through January 2, 2011, LASM featured sculptor Keith Sonnier in his first major museum show in Louisiana, "Keith Sonnier: Fort Crevecoeur". The exhibit included a dozen large works that Sonnier created between 1981 and 2000 in response to his Louisiana origins. The pieces were made of neon, metals, plastic, bamboo, wood, and various found objects. An informative article about Sonnier and the LASM show is here.

✭ Work of the marvelous visual storyteller Jerry Pinkney, a five-time Caldecott Honor Medal recipient, is on view at the Norman Rockwell Museum through May 30. "Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney" features the artist's wonderful watercolor paintings and highly detailed drawings. Included are original illustrations for The Lion and The Mouse, The Little Match Girl, Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales, and John Henry, among other beloved books, as well as illustrations for site-specific historical commissions, including those for African Burial Ground Interpretive Center in New York City, National Parks Service Carver National Monument in Missouri, and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Ohio.

Below is a video in which Pinkney shares his life in art. It's well worth the 12 minutes you'll spend watching it.

Norman Rockwell Museum on FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Calling All Voices!

The British Library wants your voice. . . the sound of your voice.

And you've only got 11 more days, including today, to open your mouth and let the syllables flow.

As part of its exhibition "Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices", on view until April 3, the library is collecting recordings of the sounds of English as it is spoken in the United Kingdom and around the world. All recordings made will go into the library's collections and be accessible to the researchers, who will map and study the recordings to try to ascertain how the English language works.

Anyone anywhere in the world who is able to read and speak English may participate in the project. The linguists request the reading of a children's story, "Mr. Tickle" by Roger Hargreaves (1935-1988), because when read aloud it produces a range of English sounds. (A more in-depth explanation is found here.) For those not so inclined to take up the story, the project allows a participant to read out loud a list of six words. Not wanting anyone to feel constrained by having to choose one or the other option, however, the project also allows the participant to both read the story and recite the list aloud.

Instructions for recording your voice are here; registration is required, and is especially easy for those with a Twitter account. Recordings may be made with a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a computer with a microphone and Internet connection. Visitors to the exhibition may take advantage of VoiceBank booths in the gallery and at participating regional libraries. (More than 10,000 people have recorded their voices.)

You may listen to others' voices mapped here (color-coded dots distinguish short-story readers from list readers). Contributions already have come in from Britain, Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, Philippines, Venezuela, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Japan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, Finland, China, South Africa, Namibia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and New Zealand.

The exhibit includes more than 130 items, including medieval illuminated manuscripts, literary manuscripts, texts of Anglo-Saxon tales, letters, advertisements, slang dictionaries, newspapers, campaign leaflets, and other documents that capture social, cultural, political, and historical influences on the English language.

Three-Level Beat-the-Clock Quiz on Origins, Evolution, and Oddities of the English Language (No Cheating!)

Evolving English Curators' Blog (There are some very interesting posts here.)

Evolving English on Twitter: Use the hashtag #evolvingenglish

Voices of the UK: Accents and Dialects of English

Resources for Schools and Colleges

"No Reason To Be Mardy About Americanisms", Guardian

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Wonder: The Art of Shooting Ice

I approach the images of icebergs as portraits of individuals,
much like family photos of my ancestors. I seek a moment
in their life in which they convey their unique personality,
some connection to our own experience and a glimpse 
of their soul, which endures.
~ Camille Seaman

A 2011 TED Fellow and award-winning fine art/documentary photographer, Camille Seaman shoots the most breath-taking photographs I've ever seen of icebergs in the Arctic and Antarctica. Seaman, who has studied with such masters as Sebastiao Salgado and has published in National Geographic, The New York Times Sunday magazine, American Photo, Camera Arts, and many other periodicals, was honored with a solo exhibition in 2008, "The Last Iceberg", at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. She lives in Berkeley, California, and travels the world. Since 2003, she's focused her lens on the Polar Regions. Currently, she is showing through April 2 at Corden|Potts Gallery in San Francisco.

Take a look at the video and slideshow below and I think you'll understand immediately why I'm featuring Seaman as today's "Wednesday Wonder".

My main goal is to allow a viewer to feel or see something
[he or she] may not ever had considered in regards to our
amazing life and our amazing home on this planet. 
You will not save something you feel no connection to.
~ Camille Seaman, Dodge & Burn Interview*

The following brief promotional video gives some sense of the fascinating photography of Camille Seaman:

Dark Ice from Camille Seaman on Vimeo.

This slideshow offers Seaman's gorgeous photographs of Arctic regions and Antarctica.

The Last Iceberg from Camille Seaman on Vimeo.

Be sure to visit Seaman's site to view portfolios of her other work, including "This Other World", "The Big Cloud" for which she "chased storms" in the Dakotas,  and "A Penguin's Life".

Signed copies of Seaman's book The Last Iceberg (photolucida, 2008) are available to order here.

Prints of Seaman's work are available for purchase through gallery representatives: Susan Spiritus Gallery in Newport Beach, Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, CordenPotts Gallery in San Francisco; Soulcatcher Studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico (see the exhibition gallery images here; prints begin at approximately $800); Charles Guice Contemporary in Katonah, New York; and Hoopers Gallery in London, United Kingdom.

* This interview also is found here: "Photographer Interview: Camille Seaman", Resource Magazine Blog, February 22, 2011.

Camille Seaman on Natural Lighting Techniques, YouTube Video

Camille Seaman on FaceBook

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Roster (Poem)

Katsushika Hokusai, The Breaking Wave Off Kanagawa (The Great Wave)
Color Woodblock Print from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, ca. 1829-32

The Roster

Two hundred sixteen sheets
        of plain printer paper plaster

the public gymnasium's walls.
        Some number command many

other eyes elsewhere in the shelter,
        every scrap a make-shift of details

of what you cannot hold:
        height weight gender hair length

last place seen last time seen
        blurring in the blanks

of the roster checked
        and checked and checked again.

Not to find a name is not to find nothing.

In the golden tallgrass on a hillock
        outside town, soldiers prod and poke

with long, thin diviners' rods
        as snow freshens pines capped off

with fishers' nets. They gather
        and tag the morning's remains

of the last day: a lone business card;
        the Nikkon, its memory card intact;

a beautiful young bride's picture,
        its glass holding reflection. They whisper

of the white lace
        slip dangling from the rail

of the nearby bridge: not a sign
        of surrender; shards of a teapot;

the Mickey Mouse futon
        snagged just as a kitchen sink floats

by. A mile beyond, the concrete
        foundation's spotless now that the home

with a rice paddy in its front yard
        has traveled the distance to the lake

that used to be a plain, and fertile.
        The air-filled down jacket

that saved Mrs. Sato's life
        as she rode the wave, spending

her prayers between breaths, is news.
        You hear them say the search will go on

for days. The dogs will bark,
        you know, and the teams dig and dig

till the moon sheds no more light
        on the stories left unfinished

and the all-clear sounds, even
        as the gaps in the list fail to fill.

© 2011 Maureen E. Doallas

This poem conflates some of the details found in news accounts following the devastation in Japan on March 11, 2011.

 * * * * *

I offer this poem for the One Shot Wednesday event at One Stop Poetry, which each week invites poets to share, read, and comment on each other's work. Be sure to visit the site late Tuesday afternoon and every Wednesday for links to the many contributors' poems.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Muse: Maine's Poet Laureate

Ultimately, every poem is a love poem.
Write out of humor, sorrow, or rage,
but write out of love.
~ Wesley McNair, "Advice for Beginning Poets"

Wesley McNair, appointed March 11 to a five-year term, is Maine's new Poet Laureate. Commenting on his intentions during service, McNair said, "My goal is to continue making poets in Maine more visible to their communities and to their regions."

Background on the position of state Poet Laureate and related resources are found in my earlier post on Betsy Sholl, McNair's immediate predecessor.

* * * * *
. . . Poetry connects us to our intuitive selves,
the deepest selves we have. For that reason, poetry
can be a little threatening. . . It insists that not only
we tell the truth but that we live real lives. . . .*

Described by Philip Levine as "one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry", Wesley McNair, fourth Poet Laureate of Maine, is the author most recently of Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 2010), The Ghosts of You and Me (David R. Godine, 2006), and Fire (David R. Godine, 2002). His earlier poetry collections include Talking in the Dark (David R. Godine, 1998), The Dissonant Heart (Coyote Love Press, 1995), and The Faces of Americans in 1853: Poems (University of Missouri Press, 1983). The latter is McNair's first collection, published when he was 42.

McNair's highly regarded critical and personal essays on the craft of poetry include A Place on Water: Essays, with Bill Roobach and Robert Kimber (Tilbury House, 2004) and Mapping the Heart: Reflections on Place and Poetry (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002). Among anthologies McNair has edited are Maine in Four Seasons: 20 Poets Celebrate the Turning Year (Down East Books, 2010) and The Maine Poets (Down East Books, 2006). (For a complete bibliography, go here.)

Poets are menders of broken things, and for me those things
have included my family, my region and my nation. Looking
back, I see that the loneliness and pain I experienced
growing up were essential to becoming a poet.**

As the above quote suggests, McNair's subjects run to his impoverished childhood (in New Hampshire and Vermont), family conflict and relationships (his father abandoned his family; see, for example, "How I Became a Poet"), and a strong identification with place, in particular small-town rural life in New England. He also writes about larger themes of which he has said, "When my subject is, say, the American Dream, I deal with the people who have been failed by it, or when I'm moved to write about some spiritual truth, it often comes from the grit of experience and conflict, right on the ground."**

McNair writes skillfully and elegantly in free verse as well as traditional forms. His style ranges over the narrative and lyric to the meditative. He's known for being highly accessible without being facile, writing out of his own experience not only with great feeling but also, when appropriate, with good-natured humor. His poems showcase both an observant eye and a gift for finding the meaning in what he calls "smallness". They also reflect his "good ear", that is, knowing where to break a line, how to write words meant to be spoken.

Here is an excellent example of a poem of visual portraits. Note McNair's effective use of enjambment, the conversational tone that allows space to take breaths, and his line endings, which typically are verbs or nouns.

Oh where is the oval mirror that held
each face above the washbasin
in the great kitchen, and where are the faces 

of Rick, the hired man with no teeth
who drew the long, black comb
out of his overalls, proud of his hair,
and Andrew, the big, gentle son, who stooped
at the mirror and all the doorways

of that house, and his father, old Kuhre,
leaning on one crutch to watch himself
pass the washcloth slowly across the eyeless
right side of his face?. . . 
~ From "Kuhre's Farm" in The Ghosts of You and Me

This next excerpt speaks to the past in short lines and highly economical language that's devoid of descriptors:

Who recalls the darkness
of your other life,
sewn shut

around feed grain,
or remembers your release
to join your sisters,

the dishcloths, now
ampleness and holes?
Not the absent hands

which tied you
behind the back,
already forgetting. . . .
~ From "Remembering Aprons" in The Town of No

McNair has published work in Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, Gettysburg Review, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, PloughsharesPoetry Northwest, and many other literary magazines and periodicals. His poems have appeared in more than 50 anthologies.

Among McNair's many awards are Fulbright Foundation and Guggenheim Foundation grants, Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship in literature, National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and, in 2006, a United States Artists Fellowship. In addition, McNair has received the Devins Award for Poetry (University of Missouri Press), Jane Kenyon Award, Robert Frost Award, Theodore Roethke Prize, Eunice Tietjens Prize (Poetry magazine), the Sarah Josepha Hale Award Medal, and an Emmy (for the scripts for a PBS series on Robert Frost). McNair also has enjoyed residencies at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy. In addition, he has been a guest editor in poetry for the Pushcart Prize anthology and on nominating juries for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

Professor Emeritus and Writer-in-Residence at the University of Maine/Farmington, McNair directed the creative writing program there and received both the Libra Professorship and a Distinguished Faculty Award. In addition, he was a visiting professor in creative writing at Maine's Colby College, which owns his personal and working papers.


Photo Credit: University of Maine/Farmington, Inside UMF

* Quoted in "The Humanities Interview, Birdsong Rising: A Visit With Wesley McNair", The Maine Humanities Council Newsletter, Fall 2001, pp. 4-5

** Quoted in Mike Pride, "Meet Wesley McNair", Concord Monitor, April 9, 2009 (This article also includes McNair's poem "The Life" from The Ghosts of You and Me.)

All Poetry Excerpts © Wesley McNair

Wesley McNair, "My Life as a Poet", Multi-Media Presentation, Colby College Special Collections

Wesley McNair on Craft (You'll find here McNair's "Advice for Beginning Poets" and "Living Twice: Thoughts About Poetry", among several other wonderful essays replete with highly quotable statements.)

Wesley McNair Interviews (Included here are three recent (2010) interviews, a video interview for Colby College, a Maine Humanities Council interview from 2001, and a public television interview.)

Wesley McNair Papers at Colby College (Here, you'll find links to the presentation "My Life as a Poet: A Multimedia Memoir", which McNair made in celebration of Colby College's acquisition in 2006 of his personal papers. Among the papers are scrapbooks, photographs, family letters, and clippings; early writings; notebooks with graduate school writings; teaching noes; poem drafts; manuscript drafts; audiovisual recordings, and correspondence with literary peers, including poet Donald Hall. The Colby site is used as an interactive teaching tool.)

Wesley McNair Poems Online: 14 Poems at The Writer's Almanac (with audio); 5 Poems at Poetry Foundation; 5 Poems with Eastern Illinois University Profile; 6 Poems in Boston Review's "Poet's Sampler: Wesley McNair"; "Losing My Hair", "Speech", "Questions at One O'Clock", "As If the Voices in the Background When My Mother Calls", and "My Father Going Away" (Audio and Text), All at Slate; "Her Secret" at How a Poem Happens; "The 1950s", "As Long as We Remember Him, He Will Never Die", "The End", "First Snowfall", "If You Had Come", and "Some of the Unknown Dead", All at Agni online; "The One I Think of Now", "Hymn to the Comb-Over", and "For My Wife", All at American Life in Poetry; "Goodbye to the Old Life" at PoemHunter; "The Life" in "Meet Wesley McNair" at Concord Monitor; "Mistakes About Heaven", "Sleep", and "Charles by Accident", All at Versedaily; "Waving Goodbye" at review (Barnes & Noble); "Losing My Hair" at Poetry Daily; "Charles by Accident" at Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, NPR Weekend Edition; "As I Am" at Poetry Daily; "Waving Goodbye" at Reclusive Bibliophile; 5 Audio Recordings by McNair at USA (click on book cover); "The Future" in Good Poems for Hard Times by Garrison Keillor; "Disavowal" at Blue Moon Review; "The Puppy" at The Monserrat Review. Also see: Manuscript Samples and Audio Recordings, Online in Colby College Special Collections; this is a wonderful resource, offering excerpts from seven of McNair's collections.

Wesley McNair Reading with Maxine Kumin at the Library of Congress (Transcript may be downloaded.)

Wesley McNair on FaceBook

Wesley McNair (Ed.), Contemporary Maine Fiction: An Anthology of Short Stories at GoogleBooks

Wesley McNair, The Ghosts of You and Me: Poems at GoogleBooks

Wesley McNair, The Maine Poets: An Anthology of Verse at GoogleBooks

Wesley McNair, The Quotable Moose: A Contemporary Maine Reader at GoogleBooks

Wesley McNair, Talking in the Dark at GoogleBooks

Wesley McNair, The Town of No & My Brother Running at GoogleBooks

Lynn Ascrizzi, "Poetry in Emotion", Bangor Daily News, March 17, 2011

Alex Hanson, "Wesley McNair: A Life in Poetry", Valley News, April 2, 2010

Bob Keyes, "Mercer's Wesley McNair Named Maine Poet Laureate", Kennebec Journal, March 14, 2010

Mark LaFlamme, "New Poet Laureate Crowned", Sun Journal, March 11, 2011 (This includes video of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. It was during the 2011 contest that McNair's appointment was announced.)

"LePage Appoints New State Poet Laureate", Morning Sentinel, March 14, 2011

Carnegie Mellon University Press

CMU Press on FaceBook and Twitter

David R. Godine, Publisher

David R. Godine on FaceBook and Twitter; Godine/Black Sparrow Books Blog

David R. Godine Page for Wesley McNair

Down East Books

Maine Humanities Council

Tilbury House Publishers

Below is the New Hampshire Public Television Authors Series interview with Wesley McNair (it's just under 29 minutes). McNair reads a number of his poems (including his moving pantoum about John F. Kennedy's assassination), noting his fondness for "one-sentence poems"  (see, for example, "Happiness" and "First Snowfall"), and also talks about the craft of poetry. Of the latter, he says, "My poems come out of failures all the time" and "are always about the feeling life." His wit and comic sense come through in this interview, too, especially in his poem "Hymn to the Comb-Over".

Watch the full episode. See more NH Authors.

New Hampshire Authors Website