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Speak Peace: American Voices Respond to Vietnamese Children is an international, collaborative traveling art exhibit out of Kent State featuring paintings by Vietnamese children and American responses in the form of poetry. The Poetry Center invites you to visit this exhibit from now through September 23, 2011. On Saturday, September 17, from 11:30 - 12:30 participants in the Hopi Foundation's Owl & Panther Project will give a reading of their responses to the paintings in this exhibit. Join us.
I have no specific qualifications to address authenticity in writing as it relates to war, so let's get that out of the way. Assisting with Marge Pellegrino in the Speak Peace project has been my first experience of the kind. My students in the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui communities live with hardship, pain, and grief to a degree I scarcely can imagine, and produce writing of a rare eloquence and authenticity from that background, but I realize it isn't the same.
I even find it hard to define the slippery "authentic." We can't even say that "we know it when we see it." We may not agree upon what strikes that note in us when we read, view, or hear what we believe to be authentic. Sincerity seems a necessary component but not a sufficient one. Rarely do we hear the response, "I admire the authenticity of the piece, but unfortunately it's terrible." The authentic must capture a truth, as well, and probably artfully.
In Desire, Reclining, Cully weaves philosophy, mythology, history, memory, loss, and the self into poems that flow and beckon like water. These elegaic prose poems create the effect of ocean upon the mind--they are meditative, expansive, uncontainable even as they are formally contained.
The book is organized into sections that count off their poems in numbers, like the passage of time, like breathing. We are lulled by the counting, and could easily get lost in the vastness of the ebbing words that follow. The section titles help us keep our bearing, guide us along a life, toward the inevitable coming to rest.
by Elizabeth Falcón
As we were planning out our week-long middle school summer camp, "What's in the Box: Creative Writing in 3D", at the Poetry Center, my co-teacher Erin and I were trying to anticipate what we would do during the first half hour of every morning. We didn't want to start a lesson while waiting for the campers who might be straggling in late, but we didn't want our campers just sitting around waiting to start.
I remembered reading somewhere (I think it might have been in David Morice's The Adventures of Dr. Alphabet) about some kind of collaborative furniture project, where students were allowed to write poems on a chair. And it gave me an idea. What if we had a week-long collaborative project we were working on every morning before camp?
We looked for a piece of furniture and, as luck would have it, a friend was giving away a nice old cabinet with drawers and doors and nice little nooks and crannies. We decided that during a lesson on character creation the first day, the class, as an example, would create a collaborative character first, who would become the basis for the collaborative cabinet project during the week. (Erin and I prematurely called the cabinet "Sam.")
We planned out short activities day by day that the students could do to elaborate on Sam, such as cover a drawer with the place(s) Sam lives, fill a drawer with objects from Sam's pockets, write a secret Sam has and fold it so no one can see it. We even had an exquisite corpse activity where students would take turns writing on the cabinet one line at a time to create a story about Sam.
While perusing the Poetry Center's Audio Visual Library featuring poets who have read at the Center, I came across one poem titled "Litany" by Billy Collins. On the archives I was able to view this as a video and see him present the poem and how the audience reacted. Fortunately enough, Billy Collins has read at the Poetry Center a few times and I was able to see the reactions of two different audiences to this poem. In one of the videos, the audience was bawling in laughter after every line; however, in the other video you could hear a pin drop in the audience. So I guess this poem can be taken multiple ways depending on how you look at it.
Personally, if I had to choose I would have fit in with the laughing crowd. The poem "Litany" is a love poem, I guess. It starts out with a bunch of metaphors addressed to an other such as, "you are the bread and the knife, the crystal goblet and the wine." The metaphors are somewhat strange, which I guess is where the audience can perceive them as funny or not.
Wordplay blogger, Adam DeLuca, observed an afternoon of "Creative Writing in 3-D" for middle school students earlier in June and shares these thoughts.
Today was my first day observing creative writing in 3D Summer Camp for middle school students here at the Poetry Center. I'll start off by saying that even though I have only seen a portion of the camp, it is easy to see what a great time the kids are having. The camp is run in a way so that the counselor's get the campers to be active and involved no matter what the activity is, if it is discussion, presentation or an art project. Collaboration between the campers is also a key part of the camp. Not only do the exciting projects get the kids working, but they get them working together. In the camp today they were discussing symbols in our world, such as symbols in books they have read or even pictures of graffiti in our cities. They considered how these symbols can be used as metaphors or be seen in many different ways. They discussed a picture of a peace sign spray painted over a one way road sign and threw out ideas about what it might stand for. Some said that it may mean that peace shouldn't be a one way street, where as others took it as peace is the only way to go. Later one camper drew a symbol on a white board and then everyone else came and added something to the symbol. The symbol grew and grew with each addition and ended up being a hilarious picture of some creature with pony tails. They then were able to talk about how the drawing was affected by new additions. The constant interaction between the kids and the counselors kept the brainstorming going and really sparked the creativity in the kids. At one point the kids were given envelopes with symbols in them and the object was to write down as many things in one minute that were the opposite of what that symbol may stand for. These types of activities cause the campers to think out of the box and spark creativity with their work while still being able to have a good time.
A fourteen-year-old boy posts videos of himself crooning tunes on YouTube. The same boy later becomes one of the biggest pop sensations of 2010; his success all due to the largest video sharing website there is, YouTube. Forty-six years worth of videos are watched every day; and 24 hrs worth of footage are uploaded every minute. I am part of a generation that the majority believes YouTube to be a staple of every day life. Its presence is almost as unnoticed as breathing though it is a vital player to our daily tasks and the music industry.
When Barack Obama ran in the most recent presidential election he used the Internet to create a grassroots movement and the same thing happens on YouTube. Local artists start up YouTube channels that allow direct interaction between the artist and the viewer, meaning an artist has a lot more exposure. By subscribing to an artist on YouTube you allow a more personal and effective way of building up a fanbase. The Internet allows voices to be heard across the masses while allowing personal interactions.
When reading poetry nothing is without meaning and the same could be said about social interactions; our words often only telling half the story and our punctuation, tone, and body language finish our tales. But what exactly is the protocol of nonverbal communication? Should we take the abbreviation of words to simply mean laziness or could they mean more? In a text from my mother she wrote, "i luv u," and I couldn't help but wonder if she really felt it. I know she loves me but one cannot help but think if she does why hadn't she taken the time to write it out? Don't words have meaning? Every time I browse through Facebook and see declarations of love, hate, and happiness (misspelled of course) I can't help doubt whether they mean it. If you aren't going to spell correctly what importance does it have? Why does the internet lessen the expectations for spelling? I don't understand the difference between when writing to friends by hand and texting. When writing poetry someone can use spelling as a tool, bending words to fit their needs, in a way much like people do on the internet today. I guess the only difference is thought. Which brings me back to the most important question: does misspelling mean anything? Poets use the tool with care, a sign of thought, and we use it without thought. When people post on Facebook pages "ily" (I love you) I think they mean it but it seems as though they don't feel it. That's what the internet does-it takes the feeling out of interactions. We don't have to take the time to write out I love you on the internet because we can mean it but we can never feel it.
My 3 favorite audio clips from the Audio Video Library are:
You can check out all these clips by clicking here: voca.arizona.edu
Last week here at the Poetry Center, we hosted a camp called "Creative Writing in 3-D." One project campers did was make their own 3-D world out of a shoe box they had brought from home. Some of the materials they used were markers, paint, glitter pens, pictures from a geographic magazines, newspapers, love boxes, and construction paper. They put in their boxes secret codes, web chains, and newspaper found poems. Also, they created a story revolving around their world. They used clothespins to represent the characters in their story. They dressed the clothespins however they wanted them to look. The campers also drew their hands without looking at the paper and after they were done, they made maps out of their hands. They had a little chalk fun while they were outside. They drew an evil looking eel with sharp teeth.
To the right is an example of a camper's 3-D world made out of a shoe box. As you can see, the camper got really creative and did a very good job.
The Poetry Center will run two more camps this summer, taught by Erin Armstrong and Elizabeth Falcón, The Invention of Hugo Cabret for ages 9-12 (June 20 - 24) and Introduction to Myth-making for high school students (July 11 - 15). Visit the Poetry Center website for more details.