In·ter·punct shares book reviews, art news, lit theory and daily musings from the intimate lives of writers. It seeks to highlight, in an edgy and sprightly fashion, the poetic moments that punctuate our lives.
The art and the people viewing the art were brilliantly matched. The diversity was overwhelmingly intriguing. The fashions, the ages, the cultures and the nationalities of all the people was beyond any conference I have ever been to. There were men and women dressed to the nines or even seven-elevens (that’s something I just made up for all the kooky styles I saw this week), and then there were adolescents in soccer gear, or a guy in a t-shirt and shorts.
I would antiquate this piece with the shorts and t-shirt.
But really, most of the art was beyond anything I even conceived of art as well. Artists used rugs as a way to tell a story: These rugs spell “OPEN.”
There were pieces where motherhood was abound —such as the car seat painting and the seahorse in the womb— and much mixed media, sculptures, and performances.
The chair pieces were astounding, they had succulents and other moss-like plants coming out of them, and conches under the legs of the victorian-style chair. It was like Mother Earth was coming back to reclaim her territory, what is rightfully hers.
There was a mixed media piece with striking colors and push pins sticking out of the frame and shot glasses pushed into the frame.
The painting is like life, cluttered, chaotic, but somehow paints a very beautiful picture all at once. And obviously the thing that stuck out to me the most were the miniscule word bubbles. They captivated me and led me to ponder what parts of life are actually worthless.
So many pieces just spoke to me, even if I didn’t always know what they were saying.
There was a piece called “Phantom Limb,” which was a breath-taking painting of glaciers, made on sponges and with a plunger sticking out of it. I do not claim to know everything about the art world, but I especially did not understand the plunger. And it did not matter. Because the art still reached me with the title. The Earth will still feel the glaciers even when they are gone, because it is all one energy that we and everything else is made up of.
There was an incredible piece that mimicked the children’s art example of putting paint on one side of the paper then folding it over to create the reverse image, only this one was nearly 10 feet tall and had televisions behind it to create a 3D effect with eyeballs moving, watching.
And because we are the intersection of imagery and text, I captured so many pieces that used words in a way to provoke the audience. Here are a few.
Used words to provoke the audience.
You might think that this swirl of rainbow colors is the piece, but that is only one section of it. The entire piece, below, is called “Are You Lonely Too?”
Needling Whisper, Needle Country / SMS Series in Camouflage /Are you lonely, too? 02-004, 2016
North Korean hand embroidery, silk threads on cotton, middle man, anxiety, censorship, ideology, wooden frame, approx. 2500hrs/1 person
79 1/2 × 78 3/10 in
202 × 199 cm
These irresistible pieces were actually hanging in the convention center’s break room, but I had to grab a peak because the words captured me. I especially love the levity of it all. Art can be moving and society-changing, but sometimes, in order to keep the sanity, we need a few laughs.
The trance music takes you away from life. Looking up at the stars and the clear, blue night sky of Miami, problems are not problems.
You don't even notice that the pink tulle on the screen is moving until the second time around the loop of hypnotizing music. There are city sounds, cars honking, lights flashing, and it is coming from both the speakers and the city of heat.
This was simply laid out for experiencers.
A public park outside of a New World Symphony center. Giant, brightly colored bean bags for laying.
People came, people went, people talked, people were quiet. People were people, but this space was anything but ordinary. And this is what made it special. You knew you were in a public space and there would be distractions, so it did not at all take away from the sound vibrating in your ears. It actually added to it, because here, in such a busy hustle and bustle place, you had an oasis of meditative bliss.
Never have I felt so blessed as to be a part of an art experience.
"Until the second time around the loop of hypnotizing music"
I have no criticisms.
Maybe because after traveling all day, my coworker Jess and I were quite exhausted, and sitting here in the musical silence was a way to rejuvenate us in ways we could not have planned. Either way, art has a way of touching your spirit that you cannot buy, nor can you create in isolation.
We were all strangers in a park.
But we were all experiencing this man's effort through sound, and that is something worth stopping life for.
Molly Ringwald dancing in Pretty in Pink starts with electronic dance music made by the artist playing over it. She is whipping her hair back and forth and really giving it her all. It remixes and her dancing overlaps her dancing in a contorted way. It keeps going and going, for ten minutes. And it was mesmerizing. Our eyes just couldn’t wait to see how she would dance next. At certain points, her face overlapped her other face and it was almost as if she was becoming herself. Here, in all its glory, Molly Ringwald dancing, continuously by Jibade-Khalil Huffman.
The next segment was even more random than this, but with less power behind it. There was something about seeing Molly giving her all that enriched you with the spirit of the human will.
This next film, done by the same artist, was trying too hard to be “good art.” There were images of NYPD, and of young black men revolting. There were firefighters and cars being rammed in to. There were automatic weapons being discharged. But there was also layerings of bad graphics and unicorns, Mariah Carey, bats and SpongeBob.
This was attempting to be a statement about the race issues in America, but it fell flat by the randomness of it. There were supposedly six short films, and for whatever reason, they had no cues, or even a second between them, to let us know it was different from the last. These two artists’ work, Jen DeNike’s and Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s, blended together to become a composition of confusing.
I did appreciate the pieces of real young women drill stepping, and the more human aspects of this piece; this gave it more credibility, but the entirety severely lacked the high caliber work I would expect from Art Basel.
The sounds in this video, of people clapping, came from the video itself, not from the audience watching. We, quite honestly, didn’t know what to think.
There were words flashing, too quickly, on the screen, over backgrounds that made it difficult to read, but a powerful quote I noticed was, “Freedom as a condition of slavery.” Black people in America are still gripped and strangled with the power of the white majority that is opposing them. They are still seen as a lesser race by many in this country, and Huffman was trying to show this disparity, which is always needed and appreciated. But somehow, all the mess took away from the issue at hand, and that is unfortunate.
Then there was commentary of young man taking medicine then eating unconsciously at the fridge with horrifying music.
There were little policemen running amuck.
People were jumping up into pink clouds while Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo” was playing.
It just continued to get more random.
DeNike tried to show pictures of women from the 50s and connect it to the struggle of being brainwashed into this race war we are in, or at least that is how I took it, as I didn’t even know there were two separate artists until researching Basel’s site afterwards. At moments, it hit that target, but for the most part, it was nonsense behind classical music for an hour. I wish there was more of a takeaway from this piece, as this is a very important issue in our time, but frankly, I didn’t even know if I was watching one film or six. Disappointing, but slightly made up for by the ambience and atmosphere that is Art Basel Miami.
Humor, spirituality, and a clear-eyed retelling of life experiences. Just a few of the things that make for great writing. Dr. Scott Williams skillfully combines these in his poetry. Whether they are his haikus or ghazals, he can have you in tears, either through laughter or sorrowful introspection. Here Scott talks a bit about his life, his art, and his decision to stay in Buffalo.
Fred Whitehead - I know you mainly as a poet; you are also a blacksmith. When did you start getting into this art form?
Scott Williams - My first experience with 3D Art was in State College, Pennsylvania where I sculptured in lucite. In 1971 I won the Central Pennsylvania Art and Crafts Festival New Artist Award for those sculptures.
In 1972, a few months after moving to Buffalo, I joined a spiritual organization following the teachings of the deceased G. I. Gurdjieff, that used Crafts as part of its spiritual work. I didn’t feel right with working with wood so my spiritual teacher, a Louise Goepfert March, suggested blacksmithing and it took. Though I ceased Blacksmithing in 1983, I am still a member of the group and I have had the opportunity to taste glass blowing, pottery, fabrics, paper and painting.
F.W. - Did you make utilitarian objects or did you lean more towards art?
S.W. - My goal was to make utilitarian objects that were artistic, hence I called myself an Artist Blacksmith. So there were fireplace tools, kitchen pot racks, chandeliers, etc. Some of the big projects I worked on with others were a gate at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital and a sculpture of steel and glass of a waterfall in a Seneca Falls Bank. That was in 1981 and it was still there thirty years later.
F.W. - Were you a member of a guild?
S.W. - The Rochester Folk Art Guild is the name of the spiritual organization I mentioned above.
F.W. - Aside from poetry, what do you like to read the most?
S.W. - For years my primary reading outside my career was science fiction and fantasy 50%, spiritual materials 20%, the remaining 30% between art, history, mystery and poetry. But since I retired in 2013, it has been poetry 50%, spiritual materials 20%, the remaining 30% between art, history, mystery, mathematics and science fiction. My eyes seem to be weakening, so outside of poetry and spiritual materials, almost everything I tackle is an audio book.
F.W. - Does this influence your poetry at all?
S.W. - Since 2006, nearly half of my writing has a spiritual connection. A lot of my non-spiritual recent writing has been in science and mathematics and a form of fantasy and science fiction that borders between poetry and Flash Fiction.
F.W. - When did you start writing poetry?
S.W. - Much of my early artistic life was in music (cornet, alto and baritone sax, and piano), I don’t recall when I started writing poetry but it was probably after entering college in 1960 when I essentially stopped playing all music except on the piano.
F.W. - What is your favorite form of poetry to work in?
S.W. - My favorite form is an American version of an ancient Urduform called ghazal. Recently I have been calling them anti-ghazals but my poetry teacher suggests eight-ball ghazals.
F.W. - Who is your favorite poet working in that form?
S.W. - My favorite writer of ghazals is Galway Kinnel, but I like Robert Bly because he wrote the first ghazals I ever read other than Rumi. Additional ghazal writers I enjoy are Jim Harrison and Adrienne Rich. Ghalib is an ancient ghazal writer closest to the modern ghazals I write.
F.W. - Who are some of your influences, in mathematics, poetry and blacksmithing ?
S.W. - Mathematics: There are many, though if I restrict myself to two they are the great Mary Ellen Rudin, and my close friend and UB colleague Stephen Schanuel.
Poetry: The first poetry I ever read outside of school was the Harlem Renaissance poet Jean Toomer. My parents had his books at home. In 1997 I did a web site on him that Encyclopedia Britannica called the most informative source in the world: http://www.math.buffalo.edu/%7esww/toomer/jean-toomer.html
Much of my writing in the late 60s and early 70s was influenced by The Last Poets and by Haki R. Madhubuti (Don L. Lee). Since I moved next door to him in 1977, Gary Earl Ross, though not a poet, has been my best friend and model as a writer. Blacksmithing: There is no specific person, though I learned much from my fellow Blacksmiths at The Rochester Folk Art Guild. Naming two, Kevin Brine who I started with and James Garvey who has now been a New York City Artist Blacksmith for 35 years.
F.W. – Were your folks artists or writers?
S.W. - My father earned money for college by playing jazz piano. But since his PhD is in Psychology, he only played at home. His favorite pianists were Teddy Wilson and Duke Ellington.
My mother earned money for college by teaching piano, but her primary instrument was the cello. She was the first woman to play in Baltimore’s black symphony. My mother’s minor in college was English and when, as a woman, she was prevented from advancing through teaching college mathematics, she earned a second master’s degree in English and taught that in college.
F.W. - When was the first time you read in public?
S.W - I know the first time I ever read poetry in public was in 1963 when I was 20. The place was an open mic at a one-time famous place in Baltimore called the Peabody Bookstore and Beerstube.
F.W. - Do you submit to many journals?
S.W. - The journals in which I have published poems are The Sunday Review, Night and Day, Peach Mag, Ground and Sky, The Buffalo News, and anthologized in Coffeehouse Writings From The Web.
Other than these, I have recently submitted poems to three new, for me, places, Steel Bellow, JuniperPoetry.com and The National Association of Mathematics Newsletter and have been told that all three are accepting some.
F.W. - What are your thoughts on the Buffalo poetry scene?
S.W. - I am envious of both Erie and Toronto because they both have poetry series that meet weekly at the same place. The large one in Toronto has a board running it. Outside the universities, venues in Buffalo appear to have mostly one person curating. Because of this, it feels like too many of the same poets are reading. So at the more than 160 events I have attended these two years, I would guess I have only heard 75 different poets. Yet I believe there are perhaps 150 poets. So, to me, it seems to break down into a few insular groups.
F.W. - You started a reading series recently, can you say a bit about it?
S.W. - I started it with Max Stephen and Mark Lloyd, but Mark didn’t have the time so it’s just Max and I. This year, I have greedily done all the curating. I wanted the features at each event to have a woman, a minority, a poet under 40, a poet over 40, and this goal will be met at each event this year. I have also invited poets from outside Buffalo. Finally, I have invited several who read from their books or manuscripts, giving credibility to our title “Second Stage Writers” instead of Second Stage Poets. Though I have already made a list of who I wish to read and when next year, I must give time to Max Stephen to curate next year. Thus, the 2018 list is not yet settled.
F.W. – What inspired you to start the series?
S.W. - I have just a little over two years of observation patronizing poetry venues. Attending between five and eight events monthly. I noticed that where I saw younger poets featured, I always saw mostly younger poets at that venue —often the same ones and even the same poems. Where I saw older poets, I only saw the older poets; I mostly saw older poets featured. At many readings, I am the only African American present. On the other hand, Wordism is perhaps the largest Open Mic in Buffalo, but when it appears at the Em Tea Coffee Cup Cafe, the audience is rarely more than 10% non-African American. Poetry did not seem a diverse crowd to me. I wanted to have a weekly venue, but knew I did not have the energy or the place to hold it by myself.
F.W. - How do you decide who to feature?
S.W. - One day, using Pat Tansey’s Anthology and the list of every feature I had heard since 2014, I made in February of 2017 year a list of all poets I could think of in Western New York, and kind of randomly put them together for the entire year to fit my criteria:
Each event is to have a woman, a minority, a poet under 40, a poet over 40. Four times, a speaker outside Buffalo would be invited. Although there is no fee and I generally pay features no money, I have only been turned down once, when I refused a local poet’s statement: “Poetry is my livelihood and you must pay me $100.”
F.W. - What books do you have out and where can people find them?
S.W. - When I am featured I will always have my latest two books; however, “Bonvibre Haiku” (2017) can be purchased at https://www.cwp-press.com/bookstore.
The ebook version of “I Am Many Am I?” (2017) can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075CS587T/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1504543397&sr=8-3&keywords=scott+williams+kindle.
My first chapbook was published when I was at Penn State in 1969 or 1970, I have no copies and now only several handwritten poems that appeared in Bonvibre Rides His Magic Horse Pillow. I have two more ebooks at amazon.com “Snallygaster’s Need” (2016). I feel I rushed the chapbook “A Tooting of Horns” (2014) and no longer recommend it.
F.W. - Any future plans in poetry?
S.W. - For nearly a year, I have postponed publishing a poetry book connected to my spiritual experiences. I am also considering a book of ghazals.
F.W. - Do you have any links to your work?
S.W. - I have a poetry page https://m.facebook.com/BonvibrePoetry/.
F.W. - What got you interested in mathematics?
S.W. - My Uncle Scott was a painter, but he played math games with me from when I was three until I was ten [years old]. These were big influences. My mother, had a bachelor’s and a master’s in mathematics; when I was 12 she took me to see the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during a family trip to Boston. After her description of the Institute as a great place of mathematics learning, I said, "Mom, I will get a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach there.”
I always said, “I am not a scientist, I am an artist doing science.”
F.W. - Did you specialize in a particular field?
S.W. - In Mathematics, my specialty was Topology (a kind of abstract geometry) with secondary publications in both Logic (the foundation of all mathematics) and Dynamics (the mathematics of moving things).
F.W. - Where did you earn your degrees?
S.W. - Undergraduate degree from Morgan State University, major Mathematics, minor Humanities. Master’s degree Lehigh University, Ph.D Lehigh University major Topology, minor Modern Algebra.
F.W. - Where did you teach?
S.W. - Difficult question and my answer will likely contain more data than you will want: I should make it clear as is the case for each Professor at UB who wants extend beyond the maximum seven years employment and beyond the entry rank of Assistant Professor, I taught at most 6 hours a week, but often spent 40-60 hours a week on research. So I considered myself more a researcher than a teacher, often leaving and taking from three months to a year at research institutions around the world.
My primary positions were as a Post-doc at Penn State University-College Park (1969-71) and through the ranks of Assistant, Associate and Full Professor at the University of Buffalo, (1971-2012) where I was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching —highest teaching award in the entire SUNY system. I also taught on my research one year at Charles University in Prague, (then) Czechoslovakia (1986-87), a semester at each of The Ohio Universitys (1979), Beijing Teachers University in China (1988) and The University of the Virgin Islands-St. Thomas (2001).
F.W. - Where did you exhibit your research?
S.W. - I published over 50 papers. And lectured on my research at over 100 institutions. For example, inside America at Princeton University and University of California at Berkeley, Auburn University, the Universities of Wisconsin, Washington, Toronto and Saskatchewan. Outside the U.S.A., Oxford University in England, Warsaw University in Poland, University of Amsterdam in Netherlands, Auckland University in New Zealand, and Sichuan University in China. Also at Research Institutions in Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Russia, Switzerland and the U.S.A.
F.W. - How long?
S.W. - I started teaching in 1964 in Grad School, and stopped teaching mathematics upon retirement from UB in 2013. So that’s 49 years, 41 of those were at UB.
F.W. - When did you make your way to Buffalo?
S.W. - My Post-doc at Penn State-University Park ended in 1971, so I applied for positions. I was short listed at several universities, and I even turned down an offer in Baltimore. UB was the best place to make an offer, besides I already had good friends in the Mathematics Department here. Eventually, they left but I remained.
F.W. - Why Buffalo?
S.W. - From the age of 5, I was raised in Baltimore, but after college, I no longer felt allegiance to the city. I have lived here now 46 years. I have found the city a remarkable place for culture, far more than cities three times its size. Finally, all my children and grandchildren are here, so I have resisted the temptation to move elsewhere in retirement.
Here is some of Scott’s work.
Front porch haiku
Young man riding bike.
Pants half down underwear shows.
I don't yell brown streak.
before bariatric operation
Sleeveless he freely
Ate summer sausage daily
His stomach needs sleeves.
I Did Not Do YOUR Homework
Examples from 48 years of university teaching
The dog ate it and I tried it again
On that one, my roommate spilled beer again
The wind blew away the third try again.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
I was diving home when I freaked to a
Parade of police cars passing me by
To converge billy clubs on a poor soul.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
Oh and the marijuana was a good
high sir, but laced with horse tranquilizer.
I slept through two alarms, a sixteen hours
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
My boyfriend… the man I was to marry,
Oh that jerk spent the night with my best friend
You bet I camped the night by the bitch’s door.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
Grandma’s famous potato salad is rich
With bacon, avocado, and lutefisk.
The warm mayonnaise made everyone ill.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
No, I wasn’t at the Ebony Fashion Fair
I was the driver for Miss Bermuda
And Miss Ohio who asked me inside.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
And after the funeral my brother
drove our father and mom’s father home.
I drove mom while brother dozed at his wheel.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
I consult for the CIA. I spent
Last evening in preparation for
A trip to Buenos Aires this afternoon.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
Made a beer run to 7-11.
Three guys tried to mug me, a Special Forces
Vet. Two I hurt real bad and killed the third.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
Sir! Where did you find that problem? Not in
the book. I googled anything similar. Answers
I found were to a different problem.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
For how many years have you given this routine,
emotionless, boring assignment. I see
no reason to waste a very fine day.
And so I did not do YOUR homework.
So I ask the rest of you why
You didn’t complete the assignment.
corner of titillation and terror
We all know mens' room media, right? Crudely penned coupling nudes, stupid rhymes, and ignorant slander. But today this one got me, "One out of every three Americans is psychologically unbalanced. Think of your two closest friends. If they are okay, then YOU ARE THE ONE."
I meditated on this while walking from work to lunch and I thought of them - my closest friends. I must be the one, yet I feel I should have known. After all, there was last week.
I had answered Meri Ogun’s (Meri’s) Newspaper personal:
DF artistic educator seeks financially secure, gentle, honest, intelligent, professional man of character, 35-50, who enjoys nature, dancing, quiet times, and the unconventional. Smokers tolerated, alcoholics not.
A noontime coffee and extensive life story exchange initiated dinner. Meri and I took a summer after dark riverwalk, and made an astonishing, to me, visit to my flat. After some sherry, we had a hesitant but long kiss. Was it cotton candy I smelled?
Breaking the kiss, Meri rose. Lighting one of my cigarettes, she walked slowly towards the mirrored bathroom door. Opening the door, turning on the light, she stepped inside. Slowly easing her stockings and skirt down, she removed her blouse and hands moved behind her back to unhook the bra hung on the doorknob.
I must have gawked minutes, before realizing there was nothing between her legs. I don't just mean her panties were off. I don't mean she shaved. I mean that nothing was there, just smooth skin, and definitely no genitals.
As Meri’s tongue glistened her lips, my need intensified. Without a word she walked to me, raised my hands to full breasts, before I saw the moles underneath each breast were more nipples. Resisting this experience at the corner of titillation and terror, I slipped my left hand between her legs and felt what I had seen, nothing there and … no butt hole.
Now, a 46 year old novice I am not, yet this nova-like moment was as a vacuum, demanding I continue the adventure. However, a condom impediment caused me to notice the absence of anything between my own legs.
Clueless, is my understanding of how we nothings-there two shared an excruciatingly soft exchange that replaced ordinary carnal intimacy. However, in the morning, Meri was gone, and the bed sheets were soiled. Today, I decided, if all this implies “unbalanced”, then bring it on.
I love art, except when it sucks.
I recently went to an “Art Show” in Buffalo, NY. Stronger Together WNY's 1st Anniversary - Rebellious Art + Craft Show.
It is a “non-partisan action group dedicated to building stronger communities.” They were inspired by the women's march, they were inspired by the movement.
To continue the momentum of voices, they gathered up their signs. One woman especially couldn't part with the physical embodiment of their outrage, so they decided to display them outside their home in a living, breathing remembrance of our modern age female movement. She posted them on trees and all around her neighborhood, people brought their own signs and started adding to her collection.
It really started with one woman that was just mad. And it became something bigger.
It sounds really cool and edgy, right? It could have been, but it wasn’t. The most artistic part about the whole event was the art already there as the installment of the gallery ArtSpace; a new, hip art venue in the heart of downtown located on Main Street.
They had ceramic sculptures varying from abstract wall ribbons to little clay pots filled with flowers that were also made out of clay.
The displays that they had were a Native American quiltmaker who had non-conforming shaped pieces to make this collection.
They had Post-it notes on a wall, which was supposed to be an interactive experience so attendees could ban together and express the community’s needs. Majority of responses referred to low voting involvement in WNY and messages of solidarity and hope. This actually turned out to be better than the signs about areolas and such.
There was no cohesive message from the artists that were displayed there. The brash contrast between low-brow and high-brow work created a muddied conversation that was so loud it over spoke the political purposes of the organization.
The best, and worst, part about this art and craft show was the crafts.
While they had talented artists, there was nothing really mind-blowing or hugely eye-catching. There were the usual soap makers, and a really cool kid who at thirteen has started making Buffalo notecards for sale. There were a few jewelry artisans, but none had me rolling on the floor from laughter more than this beauty.
Just kidding. There were artistic pieces of the Trumpster. Showing that Frankenstein-esque art can be done right.
But the very best part about this awful attempt at an art show was finding out about this young man from the No Labels Clothing Cooperative. This store is a gender neutral place where you can find clothes with no size tags and everything you need when you are transitioning and may not have a ton of cash. It is a thrift store/consignment shop/safe space for LGBTQ+ and everyone should check it out and donate!
We had a ball of a time because we were together. And we swiftly left to go out to CoCo. Another place in Buffalo that will not get my sassy snub.
I am deep
I am coursing
I am buried
Like public property
They fill my belly
And their clear spirits
Bent to feel embodied.
But these spirits
Don't sit as well
As they used to
To find footing
In the mouths
Of the thirsty.
In art galleries, I experience art--unlike when I go to poetry readings and workshops. It could be related to somehow along the way being taught that the aim when reading or hearing a poem is to understand it. Yet, sometimes I feel disconnected to a poem, thinking it must be because I need to do more to decipher what it is about--all at the expense of experience, experiencing it like art.
Observing my belief that at poetry readings and workshops it is about understanding the poem and not experiencing the poem, I was able to turn that notion on its head. Inversion: now I believe the poem calls one to experience it. What I don’t get about the poem is not relevant. What I experience is relevant as a reader. Even as I reverse my role from reader to poet, I bring a separate self to the work of poetry. Much like the process a child experiences from 6 months to 3 years. The child separates from their mother figure to self-discover and becomes separate, autonomous; adding value to the relationship.
This same autonomy between reader and poet gives the reader a chance to experience a word, thought, feeling, or narrative in an autonomous way— experience the poem and explore it in ways that lead them through self-discovery— adding value to the reader and poetry.
Art is valuable. Artists can use words in their work, giving it another layer of value. At the Albright Knox Art Gallery, I had a recent experience listening to the British artist Shantell Martin speak about her process and watched her create art in public using a black pen, birthing her own landscape called Someday Oneday Today We Can. I watched her draw the lips, smoothly moving in an awareness and meditation. Focusing on the line. I saw her adding value to the relationship between the line and artist. The line and my view. A smooth meditative movement into a world where trees look like power lines. Teaching me. Speaking to the audience as what looks like power lines for me are trees for her. For me, power lines. Lining the mountain. Reminding me of Kaneohe’s power lines lining the mountains. My mother smiling in front of my camera, my mother in front of the mountains.
Another British artist, Debra Eck uses black pen to create “page meditations”. She is a mother who teaches book art workshops. Her process to create art involves page meditation; it separates her mind from her everyday practical household duties so she can create art. She takes a page from a book and circles some words then doodles on the rest of the words.
The photos are of one of her page meditations that look like a poem. I read one above as: problem might teach training finance, book workshops, life book. followed.
Below is our interview:
R.J. - You are far from England. What part of England are you from? What do you miss about it?
D.E. - I'm originally from a town called Braintree in Essex. Mostly I miss my family--everyone but me, including my 4 sisters and their families, still lives there.
R.J. - Growing up, did your mom tell you not to do something?
D.E. - Nothing that really stands out, but I was a tomboy and a daredevil. She often said not to fight with boys in the playground and to try and stay clean. I had an amazing childhood. I’m very lucky. I always had my sisters to play with, and we all still get along really well. Both my parents really encouraged us to follow our dreams. They always made us believe we could do anything. My mum was really clever and thrifty and practical. I learned a lot about how to do something with nothing from her, and everything about being a great mum.
R.J. - Raising your children, was there something you had to keep telling your kids not to do?
D.E. - I don't know about telling them not to do things. I was a pretty relaxed mum. As long as no one was going to get seriously hurt, I didn't mind so much what they were up to; but I did get cross when they wouldn't put their things away! I always joke about this because now as adults they all have pretty tidy houses! And, of course I always wanted them to stay in bed at bedtime, usually so I could read quietly for a bit at the end of the day!!
R.J. - Interesting that you teach art history. I enjoyed taking your bookbinding class; are there any struggles about teaching you would like to share?
D.E. - The struggle I am really wrestling with right now is how you can be the expert at the front of the room, and still be the artist who goes home and struggles with your own work in the studio. It has been helpful to me to hold the idea of being both the mapmaker and a discoverer on the path. I wish I could remember where I heard the idea originally, but of late it has become really important to me. I never really feel like an expert; more like someone who is just further down the path, maybe?
Debra Eck’s blog: https://dryadart.wordpress.com/
Through a narrow scope.
Gems dissected from so far
Gravity at some distance
As time grows longer,
Converges on the horizon,
A gaping mouth descends
Crashing to a kiss
Turned to glass and sand.
Is this what you wanted
From the red giant?
Or did you expect to
Lay it to rest
In the palm of your hand?
What's a screen
To a window?
A window to a door?
Observation is a talent.
A world idealized
In muted tones and
Is never read
Quite as legibly.
To sets of wheels
Blurring over miles,
I can't seem to recall
In the backseat at night or
Through dirty windshields
in a rear-view mirror.
Is that grass greener?
Or are the staggered smears
Staining a believing
In·ter·punct shares interviews, expositions, poems and daily musings from the intimate lives of writers. Like the interpunct, which is a middot used to separate syllables, this blog seeks to highlight, in an edgy and sprightly fashion, the poetic moments that punctuate our lives.