Tag Archives: poetry

A trio of tributes

Detail of artwork by theater students at Arizona School for the Arts

Detail of artwork by theater students at Arizona School for the Arts

In Tempe Beach Park, a flag is flying for each person who perished in the attacks of September 11, 2001. So too in Battery Park, New York — where stripes on the flags have been replaced by the names of those killed, and people gathered Saturday morning to form a human chain of solidarity and remembrance.

Candlelight vigils in Scottsdale and countless cities throughout the world are honoring those lost, as well as those who remain. A beam from the World Trade Center is being installed at a Gilbert memorial, and a sculpture crafted of three sections of WTC buildings has been unveiled in London’s Battersea Park — a tribute to the 67 Britons lost that day.

Detail of Tiles for America exhibit in New York City

But it’s a trio of tributes, our country’s permanent memorials to 9/11, that most will visit in coming days, decades and beyond. One in Pennsylvania. One in New York. One in Washington, D.C.

I was particularly moved while watching a live C-SPAN broadcast of the dedication ceremony Saturday morning for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, where the heroism of everyday Americans was honored by dignitaries, artists, family members and others.

Poet Robert Pinsky read two works — “Souvenir of the Ancient World” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade and “Incantation” by Czeslaw Milosz. The second was interrupted at our house by a call from the National Republican Party. The timing made my stomach turn.

Art from one of two Tiles for America exhibits in NYC

I heard an interview with George Packer, who has a piece titled “Coming Apart” in the Sept 12, 2011 issue of New Yorker magazine, on NPR today. He noted that two things he’d hoped might change about America in the aftermath of 9/11 are much the same. Our partisan politics and the growing gap between America’s rich and poor.

I hope our national 9/11 memorials will help to change that. Reminding us of what we have in common. Reminding us that every person matters. Reminding us to volunteer in service to others. Reminding us to be grateful.

During the “New York Says Thank You” documentary broadcast on local FOX affiliates Saturday evening, several people involved with the “I Will” campaign shared ways they’ll be honoring those directly affected by 9/11.

More street art from Tiles for America

Actor Mariska Hargitay plans to volunteer at her local domestic violence shelter. A teen girl says she’ll “clean up my room.” A middle-aged man plans to plant a tree at the Flight 93 National Memorial. And a woman about my age says simply, “I will forgive.”

The Friends of Flight 93 and the National Parks Service (which operates the Flight 93 National Memorial) are partnering with the Fred M. Rogers Center at Saint Vincent’s College in Pennsylvania for an October event titled “9/11 Forum: Impact on Young Children.” And folks far and wide have started discussions about incorporating 9/11 into school curriculum materials.

My “I Will” is following the developments of the trio of tributes best known to Americans and sharing them with our readers, not just on 9/11 but throughout the year. But also the everyday stories of children, families, teachers, artists and others working to make September 12 and every day that follows a day of healing, humility and hope.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about the Flight 93 National Memorial at www.npca.org and www.honorflight93.org, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial at www.pentagonmemorial.org and the 9/11 Memorial in NYC at www.911memorial.org. All three appreciate gifts of time and money as they move forward honoring those affected by 9/11. Learn about “I Will” at www.911day.org.  Watch eight artists “talk about how that day and its aftermath have informed their work and lives” at www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/02/us/sept-11-reckoning/artists.html?ref=arts.

Coming up: A photo tour of memorials at Phoenix’s Wesley Bolin Plaza


Ready, set, write…

Both this metal quill and the black marble inkwell below, created in 1994 by artist Larry Kirkman, are visible as you enter the Scottsdale Civic Center library

There’s a lovely house in Tempe that’s home to the ASU Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Its Piper Writer Studio offers writing classes for adults of all ability levels, and registration for their fall offerings in underway.

All courses are led by an experienced writer and teacher. Some take place in the historic Piper Writers House on the ASU Tempe campus. Others are offered online. Your Fall 2011 choices include an eight week poetry session and two four week fiction sessions. Online poetry and fiction courses are also available.

Artworks offer plenty of writing inspiration

Several one day classes are scheduled for October. Topics include memory versus imagination, the art of the very short story, tools for writing dynamic characters and more. Costs are reasonable and discounts are given to “Piper Friends.”

The Arizona Authors Association keeps a calendar of writing-related events offered around the Valley and the state. Think book signings, writers club meetings, writing seminars  and more. Some are meant for writers of a particular genre like romance or mystery. There are groups for Christian writers, groups for women writers and plenty more.

I need a group for writers who write about other writers. Maybe I should head out to ASU’s Piper Center for the 2011-12 “Distinguished Visiting Writers Series” featuring free public lectures by writers here for residencies with ASU faculty and graduate students. The fall lineup includes poets Tony Barnstone and Bruce Weigl, plus novelist Aimee Bender.

Writers often tout the value of a rich reading life in honing the craft of writing, so your local bookstore is a good place to check for writing-related events and classes. Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, for example, has offerings that include a mystery bookgroup, a poetry roundtable and more.

I pause to admire this work (the quill and inkwell pictured above) every time I visit my local library

One of my favorite pairs of writers, Amy Silverman and Deborah Sussman Susser, lead “Mothers Who Write” workshops just a couple of times each year at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. These puppies fill quickly.

Keep an eye on local museums, libraries, theater companies and community colleges for additional writing workshops and opportunities to interact with other writers. We’re interesting folk and better than you might think at sharing.

— Lynn

Coming up: Celebrating International Peace Day

Hip hop with heart

Having a teenager is a humbling experience. Recently I learned of a combined hip hop/theater event being presented by ASU, and I eagerly shared my excitement with my 17-year-old daughter, a high school senior who’ll soon head to college to study theater.

After telling her about the hip hop/theater connection, I got “the look.” And then this quip: “That’s not new, mom.” She even had evidence to support her claim. A master class in Shakespeare and hip hop taken during last year’s thespian festival in Phoenix. The musical “In the Heights” performed at ASU Gammage.

She’s right, of course. And now I seem to find theater and hip hop, or something like it, around every corner. Even on that same day’s episode of “Charlie Rose” on PBS, which featured actor and comedian John Leguizamo talking about his latest one man show titled “Ghetto Klown.”

Were we not traveling to the East Coast for a final college trip this weekend, I might be able to redeem myself by taking Lizabeth to the latest “Performance in the Borderlands” — which merges hip hop, graffiti and theater arts. It features a new play by L.A. artist Rickerby Hinds: “Dreamscape.”

The “Performance in the Borderlands” initiative is “designed to bridge cultural boundaries by offering events featuring artists, critics and scholars who creatively explore the U.S./Mexico Border region.”

Hinds’ latest work “uses a hip-hop beat, dance, drama and poetry to explore the broken life and lost dreams of a young black woman who was shot to death by police while sleeping in her car in Riverside, California.” It’s based on a true story.

“Dreamscape” is suitable for ages 16 and up, according to Megan Todd (she and Mary Stephens put the event together for ASU). Recently I spoke to Todd, who notes that “Hinds is at the forefront of blending the language of hip hop with the theatrical form.”

Todd says Hinds’ work is important and relevant because it “deals with poignant social issues of our time” — including violence and racial injustice. She sees “Dreamscape” a profound way to contrast “youthful presence” with “some of the harsh things going on in the world.”

Having studied feminist theology as a doctoral student, I was eager to ask Todd’s take on the perception that hip hop music is misogynist — promoting hatred of women. Todd notes that there are many forms of hip hop, and that it’s the gangsta rap type of hip hop music that most often offends.

But Hinds’ hip hop, according to Todd, is “more soulful, roots hip hop” that takes the language of hip hop and “makes it grounds for the articulation of social issues.” For Todd, Hinds’ work is all about “finding places to connect and talk in a language that bridges our common humanity.”

ASU is offering several related events this weekend. “Dreamscape” will be performed Sat, April 23 at 7m — at “Phoenix Center for the Arts,” located at Third St. and Moreland Ave., in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $8 in advance, and $10 at the door.

Phoenix-based artists Tomas Sosa of “Soul Phenomenal” will open the evening performance, and local DJ Alchemy will spin outside of the theater before the event. ASU notes that graffiti artists and dancers will also perform outside, and that a “talkback” with the cast will take place following the play.

You can head to ASU Friday, April 22, from 6-10pm for a free arts experience titled “Civil Disobedience” — taking place at the Galvin Plaza. The featured performance begins at 6:30pm and includes “Third Eye View” from the ASU School of Dance, an excerpt from Hinds’ “Dreamscape” and the Dulce Dance Company.

The event also includes an MC exhibition, a DJ exhibition, a graffiti clinic, a DJ clinic and live graffiti artwork — with a panel discussion to follow. It’s all designed, says Todd, to continue a conversation started when Hinds performed another piece for ASU last year — a conversation that unites diverse people through the common language of hip hop.

If you’ve never considered the power of hip hop music to unite and inspire, this is your chance to see the heart of hip hop in action. “It all comes down to love,” reflects Todd.

Trip your teens out by alerting them to the event, or by going yourself. When they ask for a ride to the mall or the movie theater, just tell them you’ve already made “civil disobedience” plans.

Then pay special attention to those teaching or performing the fine art of graffiti. It’ll come in handy one day when your teens head off to school and you’re ready to reclaim, and redecorate, the nest that they’ve left empty.

— Lynn

Note: The ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts‘ School of Theatre and Film presents a free Rickerby Hinds Colloquium Fri, April 22 from 3-4pm at ASU in Tempe (Location: Music 130).

Coming up: A is for Alaska, B is for Billy Elliot

American fire

Detail of a 1938 Ernest Fiene mural: History of the Needlecraft Industry

Audition notices sped across the virtual byways recently as Arizona School for the Artstheatre department put out the call for their next student production — based on a play called “The Triangle Factory Fire Project.”

“Triangle” recounts historical events surrounding a 1911 fire at a Manhattan factory where most workers were young female immigrants — and explores the social upheaval that followed.

I got to thinking about the audition notice Saturday as I learned a little something I’d never known about folk singer, songwriter and visual artist Woody Guthrie (who lived from 1912 to 1967).

That he was plagued by devastating fires — both during childhood and beyond.

Americans who can afford safe places to sleep at night, to feed their families and to enjoy other comforts that are luxuries for the 1 in 5 children who live in poverty in this country sometimes engage in an odd ritual during the holiday season.

Guthrie sang around outdoor campfires rather than a televised yule log

They turn on their big screen televisions to enjoy a virtual fire — a sort of electric log that gives a small measure of emotional warmth but none of the real stuff. I wonder what Guthrie might have to say about that one.

Guthrie had much to say about many things. But he preferred to sing — sharing stories of those he’d met during his travels to more than 40 states — as a way to help folks remember the smaller experiences that make up our larger collective history.

We learn less about others from their words, according to Guthrie, than we do from the music they listen to. I imagine a modern-day Guthrie borrowing the iPods of friends old and new. In many ways, Guthrie strikes me as a sort of before-his-time blogger.

His “This Land is Your Land,” according to daughter Nora Guthrie, is a work of journalism rather than poetry. It’s certainly compelling evidence for the possibility of integrating the two.

Like the best writers, Guthrie was a keen observer — and he recorded what he saw. He fancied himself a “word singer” who simply helped folks remember what they pretty much knew already.

Guthrie died after living for many years with Huntington’s disease — and his cremated ashes were taken by his family to the sea off of Coney Island in New York.

I spent much of New Year’s Day enjoying the work of Woody Guthrie, preparing to attend opening night of the Arizona Theatre Company production “Woody Guthrie’s American Song” — being presented through Jan 16 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

Springsteen is one of many contemporary storytellers and musicians influenced by American folk music

Much of what I know of Guthrie comes from secondary sources, since my generation came well after the Depression and Dust Bowl era struggles of Guthrie’s America — but it’s clear that his music offers important insights for contemporary society.

Having heard that the show closes with cast and audience members joining together to sing “This Land is Your Land,” I decided to brush up on my lyrics a bit.

Not the ones we all learned in school or at camp, but the ones that were nixed as Americans worried about fueling the embers of Communism.

I went back and watched the Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen performance of “This Land is Your Land” at the inauguration of president Barack Obama.

And dug up info on artists who’ve covered Guthrie songs through the years. Think Ry Cooder, Willie Nelson, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, U2 and plenty more.

Woody Guthrie’s fire still burns bright in America — something I’m grateful for during what continue to be tough times for so many.

— Lynn

Note: Watch for a companion post hightlighting Guthrie’s work for parents and teachers, and sharing the reflections of folks who’ve seen the show. To learn more about Depression-era artwork like the mural featured above, visit the New Deal Network of the Roosevelt Institute.

Coming up: Social justice in all shapes and sizes

Museums and Mountain Dew?

Recently a cable television newscaster wielded his blackboard and chalk to chasten four American cities for their support of public arts such as museums and opera–likening public art projects to Mountain Dew and Cheetos.

So I got to wondering which Arizona museum he might classify as “junk food.”

Would it be the Arizona Capitol Museum, where my young children first learned how ideas evolve into legislation that becomes law?

Would it be the Heard Museum, where my children learned about cultures of the Southwest that thrived long before Arizona gained statehood?

Would it be the Musical Instrument Museum, where my grown children can now get a glimpse of how music shapes identity and builds bridges between people for whom it may be the only common language?

Would it be the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, with its many opportunities for youth to find and express their individuality outside of sex, drugs or violence?

What about our national museums?

Should we do away with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum so our country can invest the money in other causes?

What could possibly be more important than remembering the darkest days of our past in order to illuminate our mutual path to the future?

And what of other arts–such as opera, ballet, poetry, film or sculpture?

Should families who enjoy the arts together stay at home instead armed with remote control or joystick?

Would children whose love of art classes like theater or chorus keeps them in school be better off dropping out?

Should the theater and dance companies, the symphonies and the galleries, who employ all those artists, costumers, musicians, set builders and the like simply shut down, leaving artists unemployed and governments without the tax revenues and other benefits these organizations provide?

Today, in a television studio far removed from the arts and culture that has fueled so much of America’s progress, a man still toys with his blackboard and chalk.

I can only hope that elsewhere there are artists working their magic with soft drink containers and puffy cheese snacks…


Note: There’s another museum our country desperately needs–a museum dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of the world’s many religious and world views. For the wisdom of the ages is far too expansive to be contained on a single chalkboard.

Coming up: “Curious George” escapes Nazi Germany, More musings on art and civics