Sunday 1 October 2006
A fairy alighted from the woods today to tell me about the art in a nearby forest. Woodland art in Woodland Park, faerie houses with knothole altars, twigs and leaves, she says. Arian happened upon some of these while walking home one day and started making her own. "How can I find this art, this place?" I asked. She drew me a map with a rose garden, a hill with birds, a tunnel, three pine trees, rabbits, a path and tennis courts. At the end of a dashed line, an egg full of arrows where she says there are faerie forts, high and low. Look here, here.
Tom says something similar evolved on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts not long ago. Art in an urban wood. But there, it drew in tourists who trampled the woods. The locals were called out with their big black boots to crush the faerie art. A bit severe, a double destruction it seems, but perhaps justice was served? After all, art needs to be born and reborn.
The same boots that crushed the woodland art, crushed McDonald's when it tried to root. And Subway. And a host of others. Martha's Vineyard is still largely franchise-free. The same boots that hover over woodsy art, lift to the corporate mart. Those boots keep appearing and appearing, swaying over heedless ventures whose business would destroy the long-held mystique of the island, the lore, the natural beauty and community of the place. Perhaps they are a mechanical defence, a battery-run wheel of boots, tripped by the sound of a cash register... off they roll, pound pounding down whatever made the sound.
And they have been largely successful over all but one single Dairy Queen near Edgartown. Is it so strange? I mean, wouldn't a dairy queen, and who's to say there isn't one, inhabit a woods, in a house made of twigs?
And now considering Andy Goldsworthy and his forest art? Why is no one hunting his sculptures down? Crushing his river rock eggs? Trampling the meadow to get to his serpentine walls? Andy Goldsworthy is not making guerilla art in a tourist town. Andy Goldsworthy is a part of the geography he alters. Andy Goldsworthy attended art school. Andy was, in many instances, commissioned. Andy makes art out of icicles and sand, art that destroys itself. Andy collects his work into coffee table books. Andy is better at keeping secrets. Andy prefers to be alone.
Why does Edgartown not approach their forest artists and offer them an urban space? Bring them to the tourists, so the tourists won't have to go to them? And then educate the artists and tourists together about environmental concerns? Seems a small triumph waiting to happen, with the community at stake, with art and progress at stake.
Art, I feel certain, does not need crushing.
It is 11:03. No bells again this week. Cracked. Shattered. Swept away. Rusted, frozen. Clangers glued to their hoods Chewing at the insides of their mouths. Domes packed with clay and clumps of wool.
11:08am. I spoke too soon. The after-mass chimes are playing now. A bit awkwardly, perhaps the pastor himself at the bench, but chimes none-the-less. A string of notes like a daisy chain. The air is holding them, ringing them out in dog tags, chains around necks, in clink clanks, scripscrapes underfoot.
But the flower strand was not followed at noon or anytime after with the usual longer hymns. No, we are down to a trickle. I barely remember my red roofed village.
RIDING INTO NIGHT
I was reminded by a visitor, this afternoon, about a poem by Ted Kooser. A poem in which the speaker sits lingering by his window with a book in his lap, waiting for day to grow into night. Unable to see the print any more, he prefers to ride into night. The poem is "A Happy Birthday" from Kooser's Delights and Shadows. The last line of the poem, "with the pale gray ghost of my hand," suggests the disappearance of the reader, a foreshadowing of his death, brought upon yearly by a celebration of birthdays. In contrast to our celebration of birth is a progress toward death.
Is this what we are doing? Fading? Riding into night? Are we content to ride off? Is this what seems beautiful, to watch day destructing?
A few weeks ago, the Fremont Arts Council sponsored their annual festival, Luminata, at the lake. Paper lanterns in the shapes of fish, seahorses, moons and such, illuminated with candles and LEDs, carried around the lake, just as the darkness set in. Not everyone sits idly by watching night descend. Some blaze. Carry a light. Some build a fire. Fall through the heavens.
An attorney stopped by to mention the Theatre of the Trial, designed by Paul N. Luvera, a well-known Washington trial lawyer. A lawyer offering seminars on law and the theater. Some fall through heaven.
And Russ, who with his chromatic harmonica, warming the air with "I'm Dangerous" from Midnight Cowboy, for which he was applauded and photographed in a small act of audienceship. Some through heavens blaze.
On local living poets. If I fail to emphasize the local poet, if I do not sing her worth, how will my community learn her songs? I suppose I had wanted to enchant my visitors with those poems that inspired me long ago. Their distant voices, the ones that sprouted in a prison cell, behind an artillary line, in an assylum.
But what of our voice? The present voice? What of our own local prisons and wards? What of our depressions and joys? We must access these if we are to connect to the land.
I have brought some of our poets here to my desk. I have brought Rebecca Loudon and Carlos Martinez. From the library, I have borrowed Linda Bierds and Sherman Alexie. Already, a visitor has asked to borrow one of the living. Already someone has taken Carlos home. And off they go!
I make certain not to fail them now, not to let them leave without poetry. I take every opportunity to make poetry live. It is not enough to talk about it. I must offer and share it, read and listen. There is nothing more exciting than a visitor reading to me. Some take my papers hungrily and, with honor, recite. Some are too shy to read. Some read before a crowd. Some form circles. Some read to themselves. Be it is a line or a stanza, from memory or the page, we must practice it. Regain the vocabulary. I have a 4-page printout of poems at the ready for those without waders. The water is not so very deep.
Reading and listening. Signaling. Handling, back and forth, our poetry. This is our exchange. Today really isn't too soon.
I realized I hadn't anything specific to children. My task this week is to collect and print a sampling of children's verse. I've wasted too many opportunities. Too many small ears have gone unplanted.
Bruce brought his son Erin today, walking around the lake with one of his teachers. I suggested, to this teacher, that poetry, as a language and subject, is dropped too early from our schools. As we go about our lives, as we grow, we find that soon we've lost the language for poetry, the room and keys for it. Erin, not yet in high school, was certainly still knee-deep in poetry. Surely, he would disagree. He's too young. But when his teacher questioned, "What do you think about this?" he responded, to my amazement, "I think it's true. We studied poetry in the second grade, but we don't study it anymore."
And on and on, they visited, the young poets of Seattle.
A couple of Lakeside students stopped by. One had published a poem on a King County Bus in 2003. Morgan was able to remember and recite every word of her four-year old poem, "Lost Tranquility," about the war in Afghanistan. Lines like "I remember peace–" and "I remember when I lived in a house" attest to the fact that nostalgia is rooted in the next generation. In those fleeing poverty, war, religion, country, state, suburb, in the lowly "starter home" whose inhabitants were always destined for a long arc out of a cannon's mouth.
There are many ways to lose a home.
Lose a country. Lose a peace.
Lose love. Time. Wonder. Hope.
Day into night.
"The signifier must be detached from the signified. The new real is produced and marketed." (Marc W. Herold, "In Afghanistan, Selling War as Peace" Cursor). Poets are born to attach the signifier to the signified. Some are born to re-attach the severed signifier to the free floating signified. All are born to unearth the real. Past reals and future reals. Born to expose the present real.
River of Words
Each year, in affiliation with The Library of Congress Center for the Book, River of Words conducts a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of watersheds. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover. The contest is open to any child in the world, from 5-19 years of age. The deadline is in February.
If you are an educator, consider a lesson on poetry and prepare your students to submit. If you are a parent, talk to your son or daughter. If you are a child who fits the guidelines, why not submit?
And then Jane, a Lakeside librarian, on Joel's arm, came wandering along. Joel, the messenger of many, hinge to the lake. Jane was married for 47 years to a scholar at the University of Washington. When asked how she survived 47 years in a relationship, what was her secret, she responded, "respect and communication." Ah, what the poet offers. Oh, what a poet demands.
A child on a tricycle, with an awkward helmet on his forehead, stopped his wheels and looked at my desk. "Dad, what does pee-oh-eee-tee mean?"