I take an issue that matters to me, and I run with it, pun with it, play around with sounds and meanings, let my mind dance to the rhythm, until I've got a poem. I have no idea ahead of time what I'll come up with!! And then I keep modifying it. Here's the YouTube of a possible final version of GOVT OF THE CORPS, BY THE CORPS, FOR THE CORPS, an issue that matters to everyone, even to those who don't yet know it!
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'
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.
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?
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,
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.
"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!
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.
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.
Today is February 27th, and Schwartz on Oakland is about to enter its last month of existence. Books read, readings heard, French Tables, coffee klatches, ideas hatched, friends seen, friends made, chess games played, gifts bought, the presence of Schwartz so close to us has had an inestimable impact on Adolph and me.
As a writer I’ve had an additional relationship with the store: it has been one of my favorite places to perform. Last April Louisa Loveridge-Gallas, Bill Murtaugh, and I gave a reading there, MUD, SWEAT, AND TEARS, a title arrived at by a three-mind brainstorm.
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.
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.
Blog titles or poem titles pop into my mind as I write; exhibit or performance titles are more of a challenge. Last Tuesday, Louisa Loveridge-Gallas, Bill Murtaugh, and I brainstormed, trying to find a title for our reading at Schwartz on Oakland on Wednesday, April 30th, at 7 PM.
We looked for the threads connecting our varied poems: emotions, family, the earth. We eliminated titles like Blood Relations, Father Time and Mother Earth, and then Louisa muttered MUD. Great, I thought, that’s a good blood substitute, though I didn’t want Mud Relations, ah, Mud, Sweat, and Tears. That covers it all, nature, emotions, life. Flowers and frogs peep up from the mud, life creeps out of the mud, life is sweat, life is tears. Mud, Sweat, and Tears, an Evening With Three Poets, hah, then who’s who? Whose name is Mud? Perhaps we’re each all three, for we each wanted to write a book with that title. We’ll have to write it together.
In the meantime we’re reading together on Wednesday, April 30, 7 PM, Schwartz Book Store, 4093 N. Oakland Avenue.
Since I'm one of the original members of the Earth Poets, and our twentieth anniversary performances take place this Friday and Saturday, I thought I'd post our press release, and a poem.
The older I get, the smaller my artwork. Some reasons: I can carry a tiny drawing pad without needing a big purse. I can capture fleeting passers-by more quickly and unobtrusively. Anyway, less is often more. Here's another advantage: In the Roberta Avonn Fiskum Art Gallery at UW-Whitewater I can fit several small works into my quarter of the "Phenomenal Women" show. The opening reception is Wednesday, February 27, 4:30-6:00. Marie Mellott and I will perform at 5:00, "Three Ladies in Their Eighties" plus some of our poems. Marie will become her 101-year-old grandmother, I'll do my global warming poem, which you can see on YouTube if you won't be in the Whitewater area.
The Oakland Café, my hangout for writing and drawing in the early 90’s, affected my life in many ways. I’ll mention just one at this moment: THREE LADIES IN THEIR EIGHTIES, a series of more than one hundred drawings I did there. I have a few of the drawings on our web site, and I look back at those ladies with affection. They were not living in the same world they grew up in, just as I, now seventy, am living in a totally changed world.