- Inspired by “Today’s News,” by David Tucker, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50878/todays-news, what is the news on a “slow news day?”
- Speaking of titles, take a look at “Famous Book Titles That Took Their Titles From Poetry:” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/03/famous-book-titles-took-their-famous-book-titles-from-poetry
- Receive the mosquito, the misunderstanding, the irritated skin, as you would a gift. See how Rodney Jones does this in his “The Mosquito.” The end follows here:
I watch her strut like an udder with my blood,Imagining the luminous pick descending into Trotsky’s skull and the eleven daysI waited for the cold chill, nightmare, and nightsweat of malaria;Imagining the mating call in the vibrations of her wings,And imagining, in the simple knot of her ganglia,How she thrills to my life, how she sings for the harvest.Read the rest at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/51742/the-mosquito-56d22faf940de
In the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, has a Touch Tour, for the visually impaired. In addition to sculptures that can be touched, there are three-dimensional representations of some of the pieces, including Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
Standing in front of the majestic piece, we could simultaneously feel the winds showering her with roses and see them in full color. Her coy attempt to cover herself seemed every more futile under our curious fingers.
Of course, we recognize writing and painting as art; most of us can literally and metaphorically see the similarities. However, touch yields similarities in line and form.
Consider the following vivid visual descriptions of “The Blind Woman” by Ted Kooser:
- Read the start of the poem at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42645; you can also listen to the piece at the same site. Describe your favorite color or time of day as if you are delivering it to a person who cannot perceive it with her eyes.
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?”
Please consider joining us. Registration information and a history of the conference is available at: ourlifestories.org/.
My father was a woodworker. He could make cabinets, furniture, and fine designs with his hands. He would sand and stain and sand some more long into midnight.
He would deliberately discover a piece of art in the trunk of a tamarisk tree or a common two-by-four.
On a side street in Florence, M and I watch a craftswoman producing a violin. Peering through her workshop window. Though I often joke that my hands are made only for typing and should not be counted on to sew, to whittle, or even to cook, I can’t help thinking about how her work is similar to drafting a piece of creative writing, how the end product requires the effort to shape a piece into a beautiful sound as well as story.
Speaking of beautiful sounds and stories, spring semester means students are collaborating on blogs again:
Daily Bread 400: https://dailybread400.wordpress.com/
Blissful Binge: https://blissfulbinge.wordpress.com/
Passions of 8: https://passionsof8.wordpress.com/
World of Actions & Reactions: https://creativeblogforclass.wordpress.com/
All Things Dreamy: https://allthingsdreamyblog.wordpress.com/
Please follow them, like them, and tell your friends about these diligent and creative writers.