When the Coffee House invited eco-poet Jeff Poniewaz to perform there in April 1988, Jeff expanded the invitation. He brought along approximately nine more environmental activist poets, and called our group The Earth Poets.
Oops, today is Thursday, time's running ahead of me,
And I can't seem to pull up even,
My toes walk into a room
While my hair's already leavin'
The weeping willow dances in the breeze, and so do I.
But the willow has a different choreographer, though sometimes I give it a try, try to choreograph the trees with my brush or pen,
and they dance according to my whim.
And sometimes the trees choreograph me,
not from just their outside appearance, from their in.
For when I paint on wood, I let the grain below
my brush tell it where to go.
The play‘s the thing. We see where life leads and run with it, see where our onion lands and play along. As in PLEASE PLAY. That’s a short short, filmed and edited by Kathy Fischer, which features 7 or 8 Rosenblatts (Adolph has genie rather than genius status), Genevieve Leplae, John Gourdoux, Artasia, Rosenblatt Gallery, sculptures, buddhas, Japanese bath tubs, and a red onion.
Black suits, black portfolios in hand (how much is your portfolio worth, sir?), neatly knotted ties, they walk (very erect) into a black building forty or fifty stories tall (how do you count stories when you’re at the bottom?).
In 1977, with no prior warning, I began to write short stories. And once I started, I had too much fun ever to stop, although it did feel lonely. I knew a lot of visual artists, only two or three writers. I felt as if I was writing in a vacuum.
When we moved to a dot on the map in 1966, what was I hoping to find? Probably a city of artists and activists. And more and more over the years, that’s what Milwaukee has become.
I'm always aware of impermanence, never expect good things to last. I'm sure it didn't occur to me at the first Earth Poets performance in 1988 that we'd still be performing together in 2011. Every year I look backwards in amazement. I'm so delighted to be a member of the troupe that no matter what's happening in my life, I've never missed a performance.
Crumple the calendar, toss it into recycle, it no longer suffices. Earth Day, Poetry Month, Gallery Night. Emails, iPhones. iPads, iPods. Texts, tweets. Forest fires, oil spills, mine collapses. Quakes, tsunamis, tornados. Rallies, revolutions. A moment of silence for the dead, a century of noise for the living. Noise. No-ise. No-ease. Everyone on the move. What's the next event?
The halls will be alive with the sound of music and soothsayers and art seekers and food eaters and the footsteps of dancers on bamboo floors. The Artasia building, 181 N Broadway, will host a benefit on Saturday April 16, 7 PM to 2 AM, to aid relief efforts in Japan.
Four Earth Poets & Musicians & An Open Mic
Monday, March 21, POETS' MONDAY
7:30 PM: OPEN MIC
Spring starts midnight Sunday, we'll celebrate on Monday
Bring an Earth poem, muddy or clear,
A love poem, a ditty, something that's witty you'd like us to hear
Come to listen, come to read, it's nearing time to plant those seeds!
9 PM: Four of the EARTH POETS & MUSICIANS
Jahmes Finlayson, Suzanne Rosenblatt, Holly Haebig, & Harvey Taylor
Linneman's, 1001 E. Locust St,
In our artwork we look at ourselves, laugh at ourselves, consciously or unconsciously paint ourselves. Or we gaze into others' eyes and try to turn our paint into their emotions. We may lose the human figure in its surroundings, or let it overpower the space. Or perhaps we abstract it so much no one else knows it's human. There are as many ways to look at humanity as there are people looking. And the latest show at the Rosenblatt Gallery features four very different artists, Davey Noble, Eriks Johnson, Virgi Driscoll, and Nancy Lamers, painting their fellow earthlings.
Each motion of the dancer flowed flawlessly into the next, like waves advancing or grasses in wind, and I sat entranced. Then it was over. The applause was enthusiastic, but not enthusiastic enough for the friend seated next to me. “What’s the matter with Milwaukee? In New York a performance like that would have brought down the house!” he exclaimed.
When I was Adolph's first and only student fifty years ago, I thought it was a shame. He was such a great teacher, and I was the only one who got to study with him. I guess I can now say, "I told me so!" since he ended up teaching at UWM for 33 years and helped untold numbers of students learn to do their art from the inside outward.
Few professors get to see, years later, how their students turned out. Adolph Rosenblatt is fortunate: in a few days two different exhibitions of work by his former students will be up at the same time. In fact one is already up, at UWM's Inova Arts Center Gallery: Adolph Rosenblatt and three of his students.
Lives may change in dribs and drabs, in falls, in sudden soars, with trauma, loss, raves and praise, with the people we happen to meet, a dream that awakens us in the night, chance remarks, sudden insights, and we may be aware, or unaware, that something’s different.
The Milwaukee area is filled with my husband Adolph’s former students. He taught art at UWM for 33 years, and now, eleven years since he retired, they often stop him in the street or at an event to say they studied with him in the ‘60s, or ‘70s, or ‘80s, or ‘90s and loved his classes. They describe his impact on them and the work they’re doing now.
In the late 50's and early '60's in New York City, my husband Adolph's work was 2-dimensional. Well, not completely. He was applying oil paints to giant canvasses with a palette knife, thick dollops of bright color that captured the energy and excitement of big city life. Finally he gave up the canvas and the oils for wax, then bronze, and then settled on clay.
One June night in 1977 I awakened in the middle of an intense dream and wrote it down. That's how I started writing short stories, a sudden, unexpected step into my future. My short stories became longer ones, then I began to write travel journals after trips, then memoirs in the third person and personal journals in the first person.
"I'm not getting older, I'm getting busier." That should be the twenty-first century mantra.
Does busier make us age faster?
Maybe that's why so many people dye their hair;
they want to hide the gray, as if gray matters.
It's gray matter that matters, the substance of our overworked brains.
The more matter the better, as the gray blur of whirring remains.
Does busyness kill us or help us survive? make us dumber or smarter?
And where do we place the blame For all this Busyness?
In 2008 Louisa Loveridge-Gallas, Bill Murtaugh, & I sat stymied. Nothing sounded right. Finally the title for our performance at Schwartz Bookshop popped into our minds: MUD, SWEAT, AND TEARS. Mud is Earth, sweat is work, tears are emotions, and then there's the wordplay. The title described what we're all about!
Adolph loves to turn the life around him into more permanent forms. In New York City he watched pedestrians on rainy city streets, eaters at Horn and Hardart’s Automat, the chaos of Herald Square, and created works of art.
Not long after I started writing short stories in 1977, I realized our teenage daughter, Sarah, was a natural poet. Almost 33 years later, we're both still writing.
I gaze at the lawns as I walk along Jarvis and, hey, the grass isn’t supposed to be this green, this is December 5! It’s time for holiday parties, not garden parties. Holiday parties, that’s what I’m supposed to be contemplating, not blades of grass.
Should I feel guilty about my delight as I survey my garden? My arugula, collards, lettuce, onion greens, hyacinth greens, all are still alive. My puny broccoli plants have fresh florets. And it’s November 23rd! Ironic. I fight for years to increase awareness of global warming’s dangers, then I revel in the extended growing season.
It’s fascinating to grow old in the early 21st century. When I was young, we didn’t have a refrigerator, we had an icebox, cooled by a chunk of ice delivered to our kitchen. When I picked up the phone receiver, the operator said, “Number please.” We had to wind up our Victrola in order to listen to records (78s). A Model T Ford was stored in our back yard by a friend fighting in World War II. I was 11 when I first saw a television set.
Dancing’s in my genes. On my mother’s side. Even at age 85 she wildly improvised to Paul Cebar at Bastille Days. She loved the human body in action, loved the movement and the freedom of dance. And so do I.
“What did you do this summer?” someone asked me last week.
“Why, uh, every day I wrote a things-to-do list, and spent the rest of the day crossing off as much as possible!”
It did rain on August 8, soaked the All-City Parade before it even had a chance to float its floats. Luckily the Labor Day Parade was coming up, and now All-City will be in Labor! So come on Monday, Sept. 7th. Dozens of community groups collaborated to create the All-City Parade, to make masks and giant puppets, to meld ideas into an organic concept that will dance and toot and weave through the downtown streets starting at 11 AM.
Schwartz flew the coop, now the Coop has to fly: the Open Book Co-op. The time to join is NOW!! Shorewood’s population is educated, most residents still read actual books, many are members of book clubs, yet we no longer have a bookstore in the village, nor a gathering place of readers.
The circus parade flowed past. How did it feel to be one of those animals, a natural part of the jungle, yet instead pulled in a cage or clomping on cement down Wisconsin Avenue with hordes of two-legged creatures staring and pointing?
Part of being human is our ability to imagine ourselves in others’ shoes, or others’ hoofs! And another major parade taking place in Milwaukee this summer, on August 8th, will do just that. It’s a parade that will, in a sense, be the opposite of the circus parade: the animals that clomp or dance or trumpet past will be created by, not captured by, humans. You could say it’s the humans who will be caged in their self-made costumes. Aren’t we all?
Artists and non-artists of all ages, races, religions, and ethnicities are working together to create THE ALL-CITY PARADE AND PAGEANT, produced by Milwaukee Public Theatre and Milwaukee Mask and Puppet Theatre . The structure is based loosely on Minneapolis’s annual HEART OF THE BEAST parade; the content was developed through brainstorming sessions that began last April in the Milwaukee area.
I went to one. We sat in a circle and threw around our problems and pleasures, our nightmares and dreams, and the visual images these evoked. The sessions eventually provided the material for the parade’s themes: a close look at greed and all its implications, a look at where we’re heading and why, at problems and solutions. Participants will express all this through the senses, through the arts, visually, musically, in dance, in words.
I went to one of the workshops last month and saw the beginnings of the masks and puppets volunteers are creating.
Summer seems fleeting and finite, and the list of things to do while our heavy coats hang in the closet seems infinite: parks, parades, fairs, gardening, house repairs, weather-proofing, painting, pruning, exhibits, concerts, chores and culture all in one giant grab-bag.
On Gallery Night, Friday, July 24, there’s a reception at Rosenblatt Gallery for our guest artist, Deidre Prosen (please see Sarah’s lively description of the exhibit at the end of this blog). Adolph’s and my works are also in the gallery, and Eli’s work is on the first floor (Artasia) and on the third floor (Cuvee).
Adolph and I will once again have a tent at Artist Marketplace on Saturday, July 25, 10-5, in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Every year we say we’re too old, this is the last time, and then we do it anyway, because we do enjoy talking to friends, passers-by, and Adolph’s ex-students and seeing the local art scene. Here’s our tent from last year.
There are also two projects in the works this summer that I’ll write more about in my next blog. One is the All-City People’s Parade and Pageant on August 8 here in Milwaukee, modeled after the Minneapolis “Heart of the Beast” annual May Day Parade. There are lots of opportunities for your creative participation!
The second project is Keith Schmitz’s plan to start a coop bookstore café, Open Book, in Shorewood now that we no longer have Schwartz Bookshop. It will only succeed with everyone’s support.
Our family has two events this weekend, and in a funny way they're related. They're both rooted in the basic human instinct of creative play. The event on May 8th, which I wrote about in my last blog (and which I'll update here) is a display of creativity in several of its many forms, dance, music, acrobatics, and visual art. The second event, on May 10th, is a discussion of the process of creating by Adolph and me at the Urban Ecology Center. The title is "Does my left brain know what my right brain's doing?" And a follow-up question might be: Do I WANT it to know?
Adolph and I have different approaches to talking about creativity, though basically our process is the same. I can't merely say to my left brain, "Stop monitoring, let the dream side take over." It might not cooperate! So I'll discuss how I go about getting into the creative flow. And how that flow has gone about changing me.
Adolph, on the other hand, who's always right-brained, in fact was born that way, will talk about what his thoughts are when he works. He's focused on what is happening, about his relationship to his subject. Whether it's a person, a house, a tree, or a cow, he wants to capture its spirit.
We're all left holding the bag, the fascinating, scary grab bag called life. Step by step we can't predict where each foot will land, whom we'll see, what we’ll say, whether we’ll fall flat. Today’s a surprise, tomorrow's one too.
If I can't project myself into tomorrow, I certainly can't project myself into the mind of the endangered Chinese alligator! There are less than one hundred left worldwide, and at least one of them lives in the United States. Does he harbor in some nonverbal form such concepts as surprise? today? tomorrow? alligator? extinction? Does he differentiate himself from the surrounding humans?
Moo-Shu the Chinese alligator and some rare Tibetan Temple Dogs will be among the honored guests at the Dragonwood Benefit on Friday, May 8th, 6 PM to 1 AM, at 181 North Broadway. The entire building, Artasia Gallery, Rosenblatt Gallery, Exclusiva, and Cuvee, will come alive with surprises: Chinese Acrobatic Dancers, Tibetan Dancers, the endangered alligator, the rare Temple Dogs, various musicians, a fashion show, fortune tellers, food, and who knows what else. The tax-deductible $10 donations at the door will all go to conservationist Terry Cullen’s Wildlife Conservancy which works to save these alligators from extinction. And what will Moo-Shu be thinking?
At 4:30 this morning it struck me that TEMPUS breaks down into TEMP, short for temporary, and US. Temporary us. Temp us.
I'd awakened about an hour earlier with the phrase TEMPUS FUGIT bouncing around in my mind as I contemplated the speed of time: the twenty-second annual performances of the Earth Poets and Musicians will take place on April 24th & 25th. Twenty-second annual! It makes me, temporarily, feel not quite so temporary. In fact I feel con-temporary, as concern for Earth becomes more and more mainstream (we can’t twice step into the same mainstream!).
I’ve participated in every Earth Poet performance, once even skipped a New York bat mitzvah and another time left my own art opening to do the gig. After all, being an Earth Poet changed my life. It made me more environmentally aware, forced me to write eco-poems every year, gave me innumerable opportunities to perform, and provided me with a special community of friends, critics, and collaborators.
Another April, another spring, another Gallery Night, Earth Day, Poetry Month...Adolph paints his sculptures, plays chess. I draw dancers, wake at 3 AM with a poem written in my head. Guests come and go, time to start planting again, the usual green onions have sprouted in my garden. Life continues, repeats itself, yet is never boring.
Nothing’s the same the second time round, nor the 70th. No face is perfectly symmetrical. No actor plays his part identically each night. And I imagine my hair’s a bit greyer each day. I appreciate the unpredictable: what thoughts I’ll wake up to, what news on NPR, what weather out the window, the quality of sunrise and sunset, the people I’ll run into around town.
This Friday, April 17, once again is Gallery Night, and the surprise is who will stop by and what amusing or interesting conversations we’ll have. Adolph repainted his WE ARE ALL MAKING ART sculpture. The pieces haven’t changed shape, just color. Are they still the same sculptures? And even if the color hadn’t changed, do we ever see things the same way twice? As always I have the walls in Rosenblatt Gallery, Adolph has the floor, Eli has added new work to his show in the back of Artasia, and photographer Aliza Ksobiech has a show in the revolving gallery.
Details: RECEPTION: Friday, April 17, 5-11 PM at ROSENBLATT GALLERY, 181 N. Broadway: Art by Adolph and Suzanne & guest artist, Aliza Ksobiech.
Dean's lists, green lists, we also need a greed list, of those who gobble up resources while the rest of the world struggles. So while the gobblers gobble, next Friday we'll use poetry to collect money and cans of food for Central City Church's Food Pantry. Come hear Jim Hazard, Eric Jefferson, Tim Kloss, and me perform:
FRI, FEB 6, 2009, 8 PM, requested donation: $4 and two cans of food.
THE COFFEE HOUSE, 631 N 19 St
19th St just south of Wisconsin Ave
Here’s a poem I wrote several years ago. In view of the eighteen and a half billion dollars in bonuses for Wall Street execs, of the usual trickle-down arguments in Washington, of the rich insisting they need tax cuts, I see it's not yet obsolete.
They've power, they've money, yet hunger for more
Piggy-backing on those who are poor
Why do they want what they don't even need
In a world of hungry mouths to feed?
Schools, housing, health care, head starts for the young
All need more funding, what's being done?
Cutting back, cutting back,
Those who are down get pushed through the cracks
Cutting back, cutting back, piggy-backers' income tax
They've power, they've money, yet hunger for more
So much so that they'll go to war
It's the poor who will fight
The poor will be killed
The rich get the spoils
The poor will be billed.
Earth was here before humanity
The forests the beaches the fish the sea
The diamonds the gold the soil
The oil the oil the oil
Why in the world should a privileged few
Think all these resources are their due?
Cutting back, cutting back,
Those who are down get pushed through the cracks
Cutting back, cutting back piggy-backers' income tax
Their rule is not golden, they'll torture, they'll kill
They'll imprison those who won't bow to their will
They can't seem to feel, never learned how
They're stealing our future, their time's only NOW
Power on the outside, inside a gaping hole
they can't ever fill, for what's missing is the soul.
Gallery Night and Day comes round once each season, and the years go by. And the Milwaukee art scene spreads its venues over time and place, further into the heart of the city, reaching into the outskirts. On Friday, January 16, Gallery Night comes galloping in once again. Crowds will tramp the cold sidewalks, seeking the warmth of art.
We’ll have a Gallery Night Reception at 181 N Broadway. In Rosenblatt Gallery Adolph has added several small sculptures to his mix of Lunch Counter, Balcony, Benjy’s, Pools, Highway, Herald Square.
As a painter, poet, performer, dancer, my creativity usually begins with getting into the flow. My hands become my eyes and put down the image, my feet listen to the music and decide the moves, the dream part of my brain tells me what to write. It’s basically losing the self to find the self. I have decades of flow behind me; I don’t know what I’ve got ahead!
I’ll have the opportunity to discuss my thoughts on creativity in a presentation at Danceworks, 1661 N Water Street, on Friday, October 17, at 7:30 PM. I’ll also have some of my latest artwork, and some of my oldest artwork, on exhibit there from October 10 to January 8, opening reception October 17, 6:00 to 8:30 PM. Below are a few of the recent drawings I'll include in the show, and some comments about them.
Why do I draw dancers? I'm not a dancer, I just love to dance, even if I make an absolute fool of myself, love to move to music, letting my feet guide me, love feeling energized and free. So when I draw dancers, I'm feeling the movement and energy. And freedom.
On Sunday I glanced at the lake from Atwater Bluff, expecting nothing special. Yet it was spectacular! What made the lake look that way? There were dark streaks, turquoise streaks, and a startling band of white in the distance, probably a mix of mists and cloud reflections.
That's what's so fascinating about life: I never know what I'll find somewhere until I get there, what friends, what strangers, what mists.
I of course have no idea who will show up at Friday night's reception in our gallery. I do know what work is there! Adolph recently moved his BALCONY from the Regent's Board Room at UWM's Chapman Hall to the gallery, and his Oriental Pharmacy Lunch Counter is still there. I just set up a show of dancer drawings that I did last year when Margot Sappington was setting Common People for the Milwaukee Ballet. These drawings aren't yet on our web site, but some earlier dancers are. Our guest artist is Joe Boblick. You can see his work in the MIAD Online Gallery.
As for the Artist Marketplace on Saturday, I'm not yet sure what sculptures, what paintings, what drawings we'll use, don't know if our tent will consent to another fair, don't know if the weather will be fair. What I do know are the details of both events, if all pans out as planned:
FRIDAY, July 25, 7 to 10 PM, reception at Rosenblatt Gallery, work by Adolph & Suzanne Rosenblatt & Joe Boblick, 181 N Broadway, in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward
SATURDAY, July 26, 10 AM to 5 PM, Fourth Annual Artist Marketplace, in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 North Art Museum Drive, Milwaukee
Our brother-in-law, Marshall Goldman, may be known as a scholar, but we always think first of his humor! This Friday, May 16, 7 PM, you'll have a chance to hear him in person at Schwartz Bookshops, 4093 N Oakland Avenue in Shorewood.
Here's an excerpt from Marvin Kalb's review of Marshall's latest book, “Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia”: "This may be Goldman's best book, and that's saying a lot. Focusing on Putin's Russia with a scholar's commitment to deep and meaningful research and a reporter's eye for detail and color, Goldman has explained why and how Russia has again emerged as a global power.." --Marvin Kalb, former Moscow bureau chief for CBS News.
I asked Marshall to send me something about his book to forward to our list, and here it is: Less than a decade ago, Russia was effectively bankrupt. Its banks were closed and its debt worthless. Then in August 1999 Putin was appointed prime minister. Now Russia has the world's third largest holding of reserves, its banks are profitable and its GDP has doubled. No wonder the Russian people credit Putin with this turnaround. Would Russia be any different today if someone else had been appointed instead? The answer is yes and no. Because Russia today is the world's largest producer of petroleum, no matter who would have been appointed prime minister, Russia today would be prosperous. But Putin did make a difference. In what way? What are the implications of all this for the European Union and the US and what difference will it make now that Medvedev is the new president?
Hope to see you Friday!