Pisa and the Fallen Angel

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We spent the first afternoon of the new year in Pisa.

The leaning tower with a fallen angel on the lawn near it made us feel as if we’d walked into someplace dangerous.

What could have taken down such a ginormous messenger? And why?

And, had the same force tried to take out the tower, leaving it with its magnetic slant that draws thousands of pilgrims and onlookers as we on this cold winter afternoon? For a geo-technical engineer, as M is, the building is more than messenger, it is a harbinger and admonition for what could go wrong.

The rest of the spectators seemed oblivious to how these monuments were blaring warnings. Perhaps they were in denial or still hung over from new years reveling. It was hard to tell.

This scene seems like something people see and say: “You should write a poem about this…” And, it reminds me of Amanda Earl’s “Ars Poetica 3”:

A poem, not all poems, but some poems, or maybe just this

poem is uncertain, it falters. A poem crawls on its belly out

of shadow, but avoids full-on sunshine. A poem is made

from ashes, nightmare, solitude, erasure, the unknown. It

names itself or it doesn’t. A poem cannot fully articulate or

understand the pattern of synapses made by the brain. A

poem is a long sentence or a line or a group of lines or a

school of images, a fish that swims through uncertain

Read the rest of this poem at the link below.

 

  • Celebrate National Poetry Month this April with Poem in Your Pocket Days: https://www.poets.org/sites/default/files/poeminpocketday_2017b_0.pdf

Ai Weiwei: Political Art

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According to Bertolt Brecht, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”

We could not know we were headed into Ai Weiwei’s brain from the lifeboats hanging from the Palazzo Strozzi. We knew, of course, the rubber boats represented the plight of refugees. We knew of Ai Weiwei’s reputation as a dissident, as a prisoner, as a spokesperson for justice and against corruption and censorship.

However, we were overcome with his grief, rage, and  agitation as we were delivered into his hippocampus. We recognized its horseshoe shape and how the monumental installations we encountered there helped him–and us–to process history and emotion.

In the second piece, Snake Bag, he sewed 360 backpacks to represent 360 children killed at a school when an earthquake in China’s Sichuan province killed approximately 90,000 people; as visible in the companion video that shows the recovery of the inadequate rebar, the massive destruction was due to the government cutting corners on construction.

In another series, we see Ai Weiwei’s left middle finger extended to the White House, the Eiffel Tower, Hong Kong, Tiananmen Square, and the Mona Lisa, among others; these pieces are title A Study in Perspective. His perspective is clear. He even has wallpaper that also has patterns of middle fingers.

An ivory porcelain plot of flowers is centered in the middle of one of the rooms. These flowers represent his rebellion against censorship, surveillance, and control. He further addresses restrictions he faced by recreating the surveillance cameras (in marble), handcuffs (in wood), and hangers (from his imprisonment, in wood).

Film, selfies, pamphlets, 32 Qing Dynasty stools assembled into a circle, 3200 porcelain crabs, Lego portraits of Dante Alighieri and Galileo Galilei and three self-portraits (also in Legos) further intensify the multimedia experience.

I am inspired by this tour of Ai Weiwei’s brain and heart. I am reminded that, especially in the face of oppression and restriction, we must use all of the resources we have at hand to fight for what is right. Art can be mirror, hammer, souvenir, warning, flare, lighthouse, tank, lifeboat…

 

The Mask of Evil

by Bertolt Brecht

On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,

The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe

The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating

What a strain it is to be evil.

  • Ai Weiwei’s installations and representations function as Brecht’s “mask of evil.” What does your character/speaker have or make to remind her of “what a strain it is to be evil?”

 

2016 Watershed Changes

Definition of watershed – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/watershed

1a:  divide

b:  a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

2:  a crucial dividing point, line, or factor: Turning Point

No matter where I travel, from the classroom to the Home Depot language exchange to family in Northern Ireland for Christmas, people ask what a Trump presidency will mean for our nation and the rest of the world. I have no answers, no hypotheses. I just know, as the rest of us, this feels like a watershed moment.

The following exquisite lines from Simon Armitage’s frightening 1963 poem “Gooseberry Season” capture an alarming sense of landmark change.

Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over that
razor’s edge
between something and nothing, between
one and the other.

(Read more of the poem at: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/gooseberry-season)

Speaking of watersheds, I have three poems appearing in the Fall 2016 issue of Watershed Review http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed: “Recipe for Peach Salsa,” Dancing a Little, and “Jesús Wants to learn to use the internet.” (http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-fall/poetry/hutcheson-heather.shtml)

Many thanks to the editors for including my work in this knockout publication.

  • Armitage’s poem is a mini horror story. Confide an equally sinister confession.

Art

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Though my first instinct is to label the artist in the park a con artist, I admit there are far worse ways to trick or swindle the public. And, I wonder, what’s the real harm?

I am not a naturally cynical creature, but I spied him affably permitting a young boy to add strokes to this same portrait.

Maybe I just don’t understand his art.  Maybe what he is doing is more like collage. Or sampling. Perhaps it is teaching. Or sales.

In the poem below, Elizabeth Bishop uses her art, poetry, to address the art of losing. Still trying to figure out what his art form is exactly, I try to imagine what he might be thinking: When they ask whether I painted her, if she’s my greatest muse, if I still love her, I whisper yes, yes. (This is largely true.) She is mine—for now, but she might be yours, could deliver you the radiant joy I discovered as I encountered her (at a yard sale).

When you first inquire how much I might want for her, I listen for how desperate your voice becomes as I confess fear of being without her, of giving her up—without a fight.

His art is embellishment.

One Art

–Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

  • Bishop’s poem is a villanelle. Whether you enjoy using form, the advantages to experimenting with form are worth the effort, particularly in the invention stages of the writing process. Form is not only for poets. You can set limits: word, syllable, etc. Make up some rules and make something from them. Here’s more about the villanelle: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/villanelle-poetic-form

Taco Friday

You finally resign yourself to the evidence that Fridays are irretrievably (and, don’t deny it, splendidly) dedicated to the ritual of eating carne asada tacos in the park, of huddling with the locals under crowded canopies at folding tables covered in bright stretches of oilcloth.

You now distinctly expect the aromatherapy of the meat barbecuing and the bustle of the surrounding market to ambush you into abandoning any other prospects for the rest of the day. You surrender and bask in the warmth of the grill and the showy noise of dilettante entertainers that busk and hustle around you.

You think about how the word busk is related to buscar (to look for), and you realize you, too, are searching for something to fill you. But what manifests as hunger is the urgency of a panacea for the loneliness broiling inside you.

from A Physics of Desire
–Annah Sobelman
at  first  she  thinks  the  attraction  does not
fill  her  with  enough  blood ,  but
with  a  thing  like  the  dove —    White and coloured
feathers   —   Bones  unlike  her  own
bones  that  gravity  can’t  pull  down  ,  a milky  thing
unlike   the  seas .           Fills
           her  with    a                      wind —    Starch  rustle  of the quick
passing  of    things  ,  then    silence   afterwards
  • Develop an extended metaphor of hunger. What is your or a character’s literal hunger a metaphor for? How can you/she be satisfied?

 

 

Four calling birds, three French hens, a clutch of fairies, a swarm of mimes, a wreck of penguins, and one lost deer

It is not Halloween. No, Llano Park has not been overrun by fairies and deer. Mini Marcel Marceau here would speak Spanish should he need to speak.

Every stretch of the park is brimming with fantastic Lilliputian beasts. Perhaps it is the season, but I am certain I have interacted with the majority of the cast of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but the pear tree is more mango.

I cannot help singing the whole inventory of presents for the five circles I complete. It is as if I am stuck on repeat. My whole life I have unabashedly belted out Christmas songs from my seat in the back of the pickup truck, to the horses as I waited for their troughs to fill, to an audience of cats and chickens, in my own little car, in the grocery store for an entire season. I would only karaoke Christmas tunes or Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer.” I do a mean “Private Dancer.”

Twelve Days of Christmas

–Frederic Austen

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me three French hens,
Two turtle doves, and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing,
Eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings,
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me ten lords a leaping,
Nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying,
Five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping,
Ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking, seven swans a swimming,
Six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens,
Two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping nine ladies dancing, eight maids a milking,
Seven swans a swimming, six geese a laying, five golden rings, four calling birds,
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a Partridge in a pear tree.

https://play.google.com/music/preview/T4xcsoiy7wqyrlvghtebxleixq4?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics

See the Muppets and John Denver sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDBMzGq1vhs

  • What “Private Dancer” (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tinaturner/privatedancer.html) and “Twelve Days of Christmas” have in common is of course the dancing )as the children were preparing to do); they also have fantastic lists. Consider the various “forms” of the list: the listicle; the list or sequential poem; the shopping, to-do, check, and wish lists; there are opportunities for (another list): brainstorming as well as character, conflict, and point of view development.