NaPoWriMo – Day Fourteen

Busy day doing not much of anything and I’m trying to work with the NaPoWriMo prompt and now I’ve forgotten what it was really all about…

You’ve taken that quiz: what x number of
people living or dead would you dine with,
if you could choose? Classic conundrum.
The answers are wide-ranging, the reasons
personal and predictable, but for
me — give me a table full of folks who
call New England home. Set a place for them:
Emily, Robert, Norman, HDT,
Mary O, Winslow, and John Sargent too.
Billy Collins, (New York, but close enough)
We’d gladly pass potatoes and the night.
What would we talk about? Weather, of course
and love, death and happiness and all things
under that changeable New England sky.

Why these people, you and others may ask?
I like them for their New England natures
They speak their truth and let it surprise you
without too much fanciness. No big fuss.
I like things conversational, and so
like our dinner, simple and to the point.
Twist optional but appreciated.
I tire of the endless highfaluting.
Speak to me simply – what you saw and why
Show me what it did to you that morning
or how the light passed while you watched it go
how birds flew rising and falling like waves
Tell me in plain language how it changed you
all that light, all that living, all those days.

And I’m pretty sure I could tell these folks all about my re-entry into the world of vermiculture and how today I prepared for that.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. — Winston Churchill

NaPoWriMo – Day Fourteen

Ah HA! The Job of the Artist

I started reading “No Time to Spare” by Ursula K. LeGuin and what a read it is. A blurb on the back by New York Times Book Reviewer Melissa Febos promised “The pages sparkle with lines that make a reader glance up, searching for an available ear with which to share them.”

And so dear reader, since the cats sprawled nearby look confused by my fist pump just now, this share is for you! (emphasis mine) Ursula writes about that question writers are asked: what does it mean? She encourages readers to seek out reviews and other analysts of writings if they can’t decide for themselves.

It’s a job I do as a reviewer, and I enjoy it. But my job as a fiction writer is to write fiction, not to review it. Art isn’t explanation. Art is what an artist does, not what an artist explains. (Or so it seems to me, which is why I have a problem with the kind of modern museum art that involves reading what the artist says about a work in order to find out why one should look at it or “how to experience” it.)

I’m on page 42 of this slender volume and this just stopped me in my tracks.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.

Meanwhile, today was a gray rainy day, not for painting, but I managed to buy some new socks. I also managed to go into an art supply store and leave without anything. I got an EZ-pass thing for my car after finding out from a co-worker that you can buy them at drug stores and grocery stores. Well, you buy it but they put all the money as a credit on the pass so it’s all good. Did some wash, did some reading, watched a favorite movie.

Yesterday I tried again on the scene I’d painted two days ago. Trying to figure out if it’s the change of paper (at least in part), paints getting rehydrated (they are now), me being rusty (yes and yes) but anyway here’s what happened. No explanations LOL per Ursula. Done from photos I’d taken of each scene.

Ah HA! The Job of the Artist

Keeping Pete’s Light Alive

Thanks to John McCutcheon and the fine folks at the Eighth Step for giving us all a welcome shot in the arm by remembering and letting us all sing along to some great songs of hope and resistance.

Well May the World Go
Pete Seeger
Well may the world go,
The world go, the world go,
Well may the world go,
When I’m far away.
Well may the skiers turn,
The swimmers churn, the lovers burn
Peace, may the generals learn
When I’m far away.
Sweet may the fiddle sound
The banjo play the old hoe down
Dancers swing round and round
When I’m far away.
Fresh may the breezes blow
Clear may the streams flow
Blue above, green below
When I’m far away.
Well may the world go,
The world go, the world go,
Well may the world go,
When I’m far away.
Songwriters: Peter Seeger
Well May the World Go lyrics © The Bicycle Music Company

Cold January Hath Arriveth

Last night the howling wind continued but it blew away all the Farenheits and this morning it was 15F.

I toodled off to Williamstown for an hour of drawing from selections in the Manton Collection at the Clark. An hour isn’t a long time to draw. I went in with the idea that I’d try to work faster – to put down the values. I worked a bit longer on the first one and then did a few more very quick ones, the final one done from a work by Francois Bonvin seeming so abstract that even I couldn’t tell what it was until I walked up to it and discovered it was a still life of inkstand and pens and desk paraphenalia LOL. Mine was definitely not that.

Came home and took a deep breath and finished this.

I’ve always said that if I become Queen, my first mission will be to bury all cables because, frankly, it’s all out of hand. I’d gotten it to the “oh it’s a pretty local scene” sort of thing last night but committed to at least one pole by putting it in in a faint blue. Sorry I didn’t scan it but at least I took a reasonable photo.

And here’s a sketch based on Melencolia I, Albrecht Dürer, 1514 and a still life by Francois Bonvin.

Sunday

I headed back to the Clark because it was my last chance to see the installation of Jennifer Steinkamp’s video works. I was sorry I hadn’t gone earlier but I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. It wasn’t what I was expecting for some reason and it was hard not to keep watching the wall-size works. Two really grabbed me – Diaspora which started as as interesting composition of branches and things and then they began to move through the virtual space, running into the boundaries of the walls and corners and breaking into lots of small parts (the description mentioned the dispersal of spores) and then reversing path and gathering up again into a composition. The other, Blind Eye, was a head-on view of birch tree trunks that light played over and then a rotation of seasons, dropping leaves, slowly then quickly, moving and swaying with wind, budding and forming catkins and leafing out and then yellowing and dropping the leaves again.

I had thought to do some painting but as I set out from the car it was very misting so I stopped at the closest picnic table ready to dash back to the car.

Then I tried one that showed the scene more accurately and the sun came out.

Then I thought about going up the hill, stopped at the bottom to do a really quick sketch and it began to rain. Went and had dinner with Mom instead.

August Postcard Poetry Festival 2018

Now that we’re safely within the borders of September, I can talk a little about this year’s August Postcard Poetry Festival. It was the twelfth year of the festival, spearheaded by Paul E. Nelson, and my fifth year of participating. This year, nine groups each with thirty-two plus participants from all over the world spent the month writing poems and sending them to others via a postcard. Some make a point of writing directly and spontaneously on the card, others select special cards to trigger their words or respond to poems sent to them, some spend time making cards to send out.

In the past I have chosen a theme or a poetic form for month-long projects like this. I often use my own photos or scanned images of my watercolors, but also use commercial cards, often funny, never related to the day’s poem. I do make a point of writing every day since to me this, along with the poetry itself, is the point of it – to write a poem every day and to send it out in the world to someone I probably don’t know and who will probably not comment past letting me know it arrived. I like this concept of putting a card/poem in my mailbox-outbox and finding the card/poem of others there. How brave it can seem to show someone a new poem, tempered only by the rough handling of the US Postal Service over a couple of days! This year I did have a theme of “ephemeral” in mind but it wasn’t always the topic. I often make a list of prompt words or ideas before the month begins to help me out on “stuck days”. At least once or twice in a month I have to write a second poem either because what comes out is totally non-postcard-sized or because it’s a little too raw or personal and I’d prefer to let it sit a day or two before sending it out. Sometimes those go out anyway.

My habit is to write the card itself at night and often the poem is written then too. This year I have taken to carry a tiny notebook in my pocket and jotting down the stray phrase which may become a later poem. I find if I don’t capture those either on my phone or in the notebook that they vanish as quickly as they arrive. In past years I’ve written the poem at lunchtime which gave me a sense of having done something productive that day but this year my lunchtimes were more about news and response. I did make a point of thinking about the poem-to-come on my ride home after work. Many nights I walk out to the mailbox very late at night and put in my card for pickup. It’s often a nice break to go out in the cooler night air and a chance to see the stars.

In the end, it’s the dailiness of the writing that is appealing and useful. The prospect of finding mail in my mailbox and being part of this circle of folks who are all doing the same thing is energizing and focusing. I love finding cards in my mail and like going back during the month to read them again.

When I sign up and get my group list, I convert it to a spreadsheet which lets me check off the ones I’ve sent. Being someone who would do that, I allow myself to check off the ones I’ve received too. Not because I worry about what I get or don’t – it’s just a Virgo bean-counter sort of thing. I used to scan my cards but now I take a photo front and back to document the final words and the card I used. If someone doesn’t get a card I send them the digital version. The cards I’m planning to send live in a little ziplock bag with stamps and gradually get replaced by cards that have landed in my mailbox.

In the past few years I’ve created a special August 31st card with its own poem. Last year I did a special eclipse edition instead. I share those with some who aren’t on the APPF list too, like my mail folks. I like the notion of this wave of cards going out in many directions all at once.

Yesterday I went through the two shoeboxes of cards and photos and saw I had more stamps stashed than I remembered. I have enough cards to hold me through a few more festivals! That didn’t stop me from placing an order for new postcard backs because I’d need them to use with the photos already printed and those to come. (it said I’d ordered 300 last year…). There’s another box that is just received cards. Future archivists, have a field day!

We The Peoples

From the Norman Rockwell Museum description of this piece, which was shown at the UN in 2015, part of the We the Peoples exhibit of his work. (Click image for larger view)

In 1952, at the height of the cold war and two years into the Korean War, Rockwell conceived an image of the United Nations as the world’s hope for the future. His appreciation for the organization and its mission inspired a complex work portraying members of the Security Council and 65 people representing the nations of the world—a study for an artwork that he originally intended to complete in painted form. Researched and developed to the final drawing stage, the artist’s United Nations never actually made it to canvas.

We saw it yesterday at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Mass and it grabbed me by the heart – all those hopeful faces behind the men in suits.