Today's short is The Saint of Dry Creek, a wonderful StoryCorps animation that received its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. The short's director is Julie Zammarchi. Listen to the StoryCorps interview that was the inspiration for the film.
✦ Yesterday my friend Ann Tracy published a post about CSA Art Maine in which she participates. The project offers three- and six-month subscriptions to affordable art by Portland-area artists. This is a wonderful concept. Check out Ann's post and then visit the CSA Art site.
✦ In The Siken Collaboration, 11 visual artists—Mary Coss, Nichole DeMent, David Francis, Tom Gehrig, Todd Horton, Richard Kehl, Judith Kindler, Wanda Pelayo, Cathy Sarkowsky, Leah Schrager, and Kate Vrijmoet—respond to the title poem in Richard Siken's second poetry collection War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press, April 2015). The art + poetry book, from Copper Canyon and Seattle's Center on Contemporary Art, features a foreword by CoCa's board president Miguel Edwards, curator Joseph C. Roberts's remarks, selected paintings and verse by Siken, the text of the poem "War of the Foxes", and images of work and comments by the participating artists. Preview the book at the title link above.
Cover of The Siken Collaboration
✦ Muralist Pablo S. Herrero's works are eye-catching indeed. (My thanks to Spencer Byles for the link.)
✦ Don't miss taking at least a virtual look at fiber artist Ellen Schiffman's "Box" project; it was featured in the quarterly print/digital magazine Fiber Art Now and online at the Textile Artist. Schiffman's online gallery includes images of her scarves, paper weavings, "Windows" series, wall reliefs and fiber paintings, and table sculptures.
✭ If you can't visit international landmarks in person, consider attending "Toothpick World: From Silver to Skyline" at Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts. On view through March 27, the exhibition features Stan Munro's reproductions, in toothpicks and glue, of world-renowned structures and architectural gems, including the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower and, closer to home, the Empire State Building and the White House. Munro's to-the-scale (1:164) reproductions are exquisite and every bit as masterful as their real-life counterparts.
✭ The human body is the subject of "Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art", continuing through Valentine's Day at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee. The third in a series of exhibitions about the body, this show takes as its themes trauma, loss, and transformation. Including paintings, photography, videos, sculpture, and installations, "Phantom Bodies" is organized in four sections: "Objects and Absences", "Violence, Empathy, and Erasure", "Sublimation", and "The Mind-Body Problem". Additional details, a list of artists, resources, and a selection of images, as well as information about the first two exhibitions, can be found at the exhibition link above. An audio tour is available, as is a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue. The show travels to John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in June.
✭ Today is the opening of "A Decade of Collecting Prints, Drawings, and Photographs" at Missouri's St. Louis Art Museum. SLAM has acquired more than 700 such works; for this show, it has mounted 62, which will remain on view through July 17. Dating from the 15th Century to today, the works include German prints and social documentary photographs by such artists as Martin Schongauer ("The Nativity", c. 1471) and Dorothea Lange ("Migrant Mother", 1936), respectively. Contemporary works on view include an Ann Hamilton assemblage ("carriage", 2009). Gallery talks are slated for March 3 and March 4 with curatorial staff. Read more about this exhibition in the illustrated press release.
✭ The Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, Washington, presents "Bling it On!", an exhibition of contemporary jewelry and wearable art, through February 20, at its Rubix space on Capitol Hill. Participating jewelry artists are Kyle Rees, Catherine Grisez, Pariscope Studios, Hardwearables, Dixie Darling, and Brandon Perhacs. The designers and makers of wearable art are Bo Choi, Rebecca Maxim, Bill Gaylord, and Liz Tran. A trunk show with live performance art is planned for February 11—just in time to find that something special for your Valentine's Day sweetheart. Click on the exhibition link, where you'll find additional links to participating artists' Websites.
Today's post features a trio of forthcoming books on my watch-for list.
✭ No literary library will be complete without a copy of The Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich 1950-2012 (W.W. Norton, April 12, 2016). The 960-page book, with an introduction by the poet Claudia Rankine, includes Diving Into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 and Atlas of the Difficult World: Poems 1988-1991.
✭ California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia will celebrate a 30-year career retrospective with 99 Poems: New and Selected (Graywolf Press, March 1, 2016). The 208-page book, arranged thematically (imagination, stories, songs, love, mystery, place, remembrance), includes at least a dozen new poems.
This year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. Observing the anniversary in a way accessible to all the world is Oxford University Press, which has created a marvelous new resource, Illuminating Shakespeare. It's likely to become a much-visited site throughout the year.
Last week, Leila Alaoui, aged 33, the internationally known French-Moroccan photographer and video artist, was shot and subsequently died of a heart attack January 18 in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso. On assignment for Amnesty International, she had been sitting with her driver in their car outside the Splendid hotel when terrorists launched a strike. At least 28 others also lost their lives, and many more were wounded.
In celebration of her work, The Guardian newspaper published a selection of images from The Moroccans, one of Alaoui's most beautiful and moving portfolios of work. I sat with those portraits a long while, trying to imagine the stories of the women and men, only a few giving the hint of a smile. What resulted was an ekphrastic poem, "Elegy: #LeilaAlaoui", which I submitted last Friday to Rattle magazine's "Poets Respond" column.
I express my appreciation to Rattle's editor Timothy Green for selecting my poem for the weekly feature. Read "Elegy: #LeilaAlaoui", which posted January 24.
Poetry matters . . . to everyone. . . [T]he inner life
that the arts and humanities can nurture is important
to living deliberately and introspectively. . . I am
interested in how poetry and all of the arts can
help us find our best selves.
~ Tod Marshall*
Tod Marshall has been appointed the fourth Poet Laureate of Washington. He takes over from Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016), who, in turn, succeeded Kathleen Flenniken (2012-2014). Marshall takes up his post on February 1 and will conclude his appointment on January 31, 2018. The first Poet Laureate was Samuel Green (2007-2009).
In addition to giving readings and workshops and attending literary events throughout Washington, Marshall plans to "reinforce a message that. . . [people's] voices, their words, their songs of the self, are important and need to be heard." In an interview at The Stranger, Marshall says in his first year his aim is to gather poems from "well-practiced writers" all over Washington and, in his second year, publish the work in an anthology.
* * * * *
. . . it's best not to know where a poem or essay might come from and, of course, not to anticipate the next sudden swerve of where it might go. Cultivate possibility through a willed variety of influences.**
Marshall also has published a collection of interviews with poets, Range of the Possible (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002), and edited an anthology of those same poets' work, Range of Voices (EWU Press, 2005); the former appeared on the New York City Public Library Poetry Book List for 2003.
Marshall's literary reviews have appeared at Boston Review and elsewhere.
[M]y understanding of art is that it should rouse us from complacency in the midst of ... duality; if we become accepting of the horror, then we are not feeling that horror. "Happy" poems give no solace, no shelter, nothing but fodder for greeting cards in a world where people prefer
various narcotic hazes to the brutalities around them. . . .***
Even a cursory look at Marshall's work tells the reader that the poet keeps his eyes wide open to the contradictory, to what lulls instead of awakens in us; that Marshall enjoys playing with myth and the concept of artifice; that he's a connector to and blender of the unlike, and that he is attracted to showing us, through often extraordinary images, our own brokenness and the dark places we dwell. His is a poetry from which we "learn to rip things tenderly apart".
Observing dualities, Marshall can be as searing as he is lyrical and tender, creating through the beauty of his words unforgettable descriptions of violence and suffering. The coherence of his collections, the formal and traditional poetic forms he chooses to use—"a way of constantly reinvigorating my interest in the art", Marshall says—his use, as well, of rhymes, off-rhymes, mixed meters, assonance and alliteration, metaphors, propulsive active verbs, enjambment and various other techniques, all serve to underscore what he wants his readers to see and hear and turn over in the mind to find his poems' meaning.
His subjects range from fatherhood and family (as in The Tangled Line), to the unleashing and spilling forth of violence and cruelty of all kinds (Bugle). His poems also address nature, sound (Bugle) and art (Dare Say), technology, appearance versus reality, what we make of what we destroy but also (again, as in Bugle) what we need to "excavate" from our lives to uncover the possibility of transcendence and transformation.
Marshall's opening and concluding lines are often striking, immediately call us to attention or leave us questioning or surprised, as in these examples.
Another jumper broken by the ground under the River Bridge. Before the fall did he consider water, [. . .]
~ from "Never One to Paint Space, I Paint Air" in The Tangled Line
100,000 drones above us, a headline said. Someone must love us, must be eager to know us, [. . .]
~ from "Bugle" in Bugle
[. . .] The bears, a mother with two cubs, eat toads on the beach and twitch their noses at boast and skiers woo-hooing a spray, rope tight. They crash badly, without foresight or luck.
~ from "Yeah, That's Us on the Speedboat" in Bugle
spiking from the muddy yard
like bloody broken bones,
like bad teeth. The leaves
grow wide and poisonous.
The sour stalks
burn calories to digest.
Eat only them, and you will starve.
~ "Extraction" in Bugle
In addition to the book awards and recognition mentioned above, Marshall is the recipient of the Humanities Washington Award for Scholarship and Service (2015) and a Washington Artists Trust Fellowship (2005).
Poems by Marshall can be found in scores of literary periodicals, journals, and magazines, including The American Poetry Review, Burnside Review, The Canary, The Colorado Review, The Columbia Poetry Review, Cutbank, The Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, New England Review, Poetry East, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Smartish Pace, Volt, Whitefish Review, and Willow Springs.
Eastern Washington University Press closed June 30, 2010. Part of the EWU Press catalogue resides at Carnegie Mellon University Press. See the archives. (Marshall's Range of the Possible is listed in Nonfiction Titles.)
✦ The Vassar Haiti Project is expanding its yearly art sales efforts and will be bringing its event to Washington, D.C., February 5-7. The sale will be at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, near Eastern Market in Southwest Washington. All purchases will be 50% tax-deductible. Receipts support five VHP initiatives in Chermaitre, Haiti: education, health care, reforestation, clean water access, and a women's cooperative. Visit the Website at the link above to learn more.
✦ Saatchi has launched a comprehensive online guide to more than 25,000 galleries around the world. Linking directly to galleries' Websites, the Global Gallery Guide allows viewers to see current, past, and future exhibitions and the galleries' artists and works, and to search by keyword, country, state, or city. Also available is contact information. Galleries receive a free one-month trial and thereafter pay an annual administrative fee of $100 to be included.
✦ Art historians, take note: Art History Teaching Resources, a "peer-populated platform" for art history teachers, recently launched a series to introduce and explore different pedagogical research methods used in art and museum education.
✦ Have you ever become emotional while viewing an artwork? If so, Leanne Ogasawara's article "Eyes Swimming in Tears (Stendhal Syndrome)" (3Quarks Daily) may interest you. (The references following the article are worth checking out, too.)
✦ Yesterday I introduced to Escape Into Life readers the artwork of Suzanne Stryk. See January's Artist Watch feature.
✦ Celebrated Spanish artist Francisco de Goya was the subject of an exhibition, "Goya: The Portraits", at London's National Gallery; curated by Xavier Bray, the show concluded January 10.
Forthcoming is a documentary, Goya: Visions of Flesh and Blood (Seventh Art Productions), that uses location footage, Goya's letters, and the artist's masterpieces to create a portrait of the painter and his world.
✭ Tomorrow, a series of winter exhibitions opens at American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. Two of particular note: "Renee Stout: Tales of the Conjure Woman" and "Impact! The Legacy of the Women's Caucus for Art". The former features local artist Stout's recent work exploring African cultural traditions, using as inspiration her fictitious alter ego "Fatima Mayfield", herbalist and fortune teller. (Stout gives a gallery talk on January 23, 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.) The latter celebrates the WCA's Lifetime Achievement Award winners, who include artists, art historians, and curators. (Exhibition curator Leslie King-Hammond and some of the awardees participate in a panel discussion about the WCA on February 6, 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.)
Following is a video for the Stout exhibition:
Both exhibitions continue through March 13.
✭ In Claremont, California, Pomona College Museum of Art continues its recently opened exhibition "Restoring the Spirit: Celebrating Haitian Art". On view through May 15, the survey, which originated at Figge Art Museum and covers from 1940 to the present, examines Haitian artists' creative efforts and flourishing cultural practices amid historical, political, and economic upheavals. Included are paintings, sequin-covered textiles, sculpture made with reclaimed oil drums, aluminum pans, and other found materials, and works related to Vodou practices and beliefs. Also on view: "The Shake of a Man in Fever: Haiti's February Revolution through the Lens of Danny Lyon", which draws from the museum's permanent collection. Lyon is an award-winning documentary photographer and socio-political activist.
✭ Continuing through May 8 at the Asia Society Museum, New York City, is "Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan". More than 30 masterpieces from 1185 to 1333, gathered from private and public collections in North America and Europe, are featured. The first major loan of Kamakura sculpture in the U.S. in more than 30 years, the exhibition explores "the spiritual connection between external form, interior contents, and devotional practice" during the Kamakura period. View a half-dozen images of sculptures in the show. An illustrated catalogue is available.
✭ Visual design and story development are explored in "About Pixar: The Design of Story" at Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York City. Continuing through August 7, the exhibition features original artwork (hand-drawn sketches, paintings, sculptures) from more than 25 years of Pixar Animation Studios' film-making and creative exercises. In addition, more than 650 Pixar artworks may be viewed on touch-screen tables in Cooper Hewitt's Process Lab and Great Hall; they are tagged to link to related objects in the museum's collections. View images of concept art and listen to a conversation with Pixar's John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, at the exhibition link above.
Exhibiting through January 31 in "Notes on the State of Virginia" at The Athenaeum, in Alexandria, Virginia, Suzanne draws on a deep affinity to nature to create mixed-media still lifes that are at once mysterious and the product of patient observation and masterful technique.
You'll find in today's Artist Watch column Suzanne's Artist Statement, a brief biography, and a selection of images from two of her series: Notes on the State of Virginia and Mirror. Also included are links to several galleries that represent Suzanne.
To see Suzanne's collaborations with her husband Dan Stryk, a poet, visit Red Eft Editions.
Medicine is my work, but I don't regard writing as work.
I regard it as play. It's how I relax and unwind.
~ Amit Majmudar*
Ohio named Amit Majmudar the state's first Poet Laureate; his term began January 1 of this year and concludes December 31, 2017. The governor announced his selection of Majmudar on December 17, 2015.
Legislation creating the Poet Laureate position (Amended Substitute Senate Bill 84) was signed into law December 19, 2014. The law specifies a two-year term of office; the incumbent may be reappointed at the governor's discretion. The state Arts Council is required to provide the governor with a list of at least three candidates from which to select the nominee. (See "Ohio Poet Laureate" (pdf), an overview with nomination requirements and "expectations", including participating in poetry readings and undertaking a "significant" project of cultural value.)
According to an Ohio Poetry Association news release, Majmudar intends to fulfill his mandate to promote poetry throughout the state by using an "interdisciplinary approach" fostering collaborations with artists in many disciplines, and to ensure Ohio poetry's future by reaching out to Ohio's high school students. He told Kabir Bhatia at WKSU that an initial project is to write "an extended poem that fuses Hindu mythology with stories of metamorphosis" and culminates in a "performance with his wife, a classically trained Indian dancer."
More expansively, Majmudar, quoted at Antioch Review Blog, said, ". . . I envision a Laureateship that will reintegrate poetry into the already thriving Ohio performing arts scene by organizing performances that hybridize poetry, music, and dance. Simultaneously, I intend to secure poetry's future in Ohio through the Ohio Future Laureates Program, in which ten established Ohio poets will each mentor standout student poets nominated by Ohio's ten most underprivileged school districts. More projects will develop over the next two years, establishing, I hope, a dynamic precedent for my successors in this post."
* * * * *
My credo [on writing practice] comes from Eliot quoting
his notes to "What the Thunder Said": Da, dayadhvam, damyata.
Give, sympathize, control. That is both the art of life
and the art of poetry. . . .**
A diagnostic nuclear radiologist in Columbus, Ohio, poet, essayist, and novelist Amit Majmudar, M.D., is the author of the forthcoming Dothead (Alfred A. Knopf, March 2016); Heaven and Earth (Story Line Press, 2011), winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Award (Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award, West Chester University Poetry Center); and 0", 0" (Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books, 2009), a finalist for a Norma Faber First Book Award (Poetry Society of America).
Majmudar, who was born in New York and grew up in Cleveland, also has published two acclaimed novels, Partitions (Metropolitan Books, 2009), his debut work, and The Abundance(2011; Macmillan/Picador, 2014), as well as a prose poem-novella, Azazil, serialized in The Kenyon Review (see an excerpt is at Best American Poetry blog).
Among broad themes characterizing Majmudar's writing are identity, spiritual faith and practice, history, love, and death. Often in tension are such subjects as family relationships, innocence and experience, truth and myth, and cultural conflict and violence. Also coming within Majmudar's purview are biblical figures, questions of morality, dislocation and displacement (the Indian diaspora), illness and medical practice, and current events (see, for example, "Vetting the Refugees").
Critics uniformly extoll Majmudar's lyricism, use of precise, often disparate, details that pile up in a series of end-stopped or enjambed lines; technical skill, especially in crafting ghazals and sonnets; and integrity in addressing cultural, familial, scientific, and religious influences that can foster a sense of alienation or apartness even as they can promote connection. Some of Majmudar's poems read as aphorisms ("...The sandals that remember where they stepped/Out of the world must be picked up off the floor [....]", from "Rites to Allay the Dead"); others are replete with alliteration or slant rhymes. Punctuation is not always used. Imagery is rich. The poems betray a curious and wide-ranging intellect. There is humor to be enjoyed but also a depth of emotion that, in the most expressive poems, can leave readers feeling shattered (see, for example, "Riches").
An arm is the spine of an angel wing, cracked at the elbow. [. . .]
~ from "Subtle Anatomy" in 0", 0"
Trees keep a log of the air they breathe like astronauts on a planet with a cyanide atmosphere, where giant four-pronged termites are on the loose with buzz saws. [. . . ]
~ from "Arboreal"
[. . .] My thoughts rise to the bewildered sparrows clapped in that cage of thunder — how they wheeled for hours, how they stilled their wings and fell.
~ from section 4, "Intelligent Deluge" of "Metaphysical Sonnets"
The severed parts of darkness grow and glow. An octopus's amputations show, Each tentacle a jiggling gigawatt. Guillotine one, and watch: Its inky thoughts Become a giant light bulb, humming, hot. [. . .]
~ from section 4, "From Darkness into Light" of "Seventeens"
[. . .] My mother painted us a still life and we peeled and ate the fruit for lunch my mother sculpted my sister earrings out of pebbles sculpted me out of abandonment and earth [. . . .]
~ from "Riches"
Poems by Majmuder have appeared in a vast array of literary magazines and periodicals in print and online, including 32 Poems, Able Muse Review, America(The National Catholic Review), The Antioch Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Cimarron Review, Counter Balance, Dark Horse, The New England Review, Epoch, Granta, Gulf Coast, Image, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Humanities), The New Review of Books, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry Daily, Poetry Magazine, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, The Raintown Review, Salt Hill Journal, Smartish Pace, and TriQuarterly.
Majmudar's literary essays and criticism have been printed in such publications as Granta, The Kenyon Review, Memorious, National Poetry Review, The New York Times, The Threepenny Review, and Poetry Daily.
** Quoted from "Amit Majmudar", Interview, The KR Conversations, The Kenyon Review (Asked about teachers who have been important to his writing, Majmudar notes that he has never been mentored, adding, ". . . My teachers have been dead poets, mostly, and no dead poet in particular."
Majmudar was a featured poet at Able Muse Review, Winter 2015, No. 20, where new poems — "No Future", "Intelligence Hearing" (Excerpt), "Chronic Pain", "Protest Poem", "The Strike-Anywhere Match", and a translation of Joachim du Bellay's "Roman Holiday" — are available to subscribers. Also featured is Daniel Brown's interview with Majmudar.
Amit Majmudar, "Hanged Man", Flash Fiction, Word Riot, December 2015
Sarah Arthur, "Epic Tales: An Interview with Amit Majmudar, Part 2", Good Letters Blog, November 13, 2014 (Majmudar says, ". . . For me, the most intelligent form of literary play is reading." He also tells Arthur that is working on a biography of his young son, who was born with a congenital heart defect.)
Nancy Mitchell, "Interview with Amit Majmudar", Plume Poetry, May 2014 (This is a conversation about Majmudar's featured poem "ABECEDARIAN", which follows the exchange.)