MASS MoCA poets’ tour

As promised, the first video from the Boiler House Poets Collective for 2019. We each read a short passage from one of our poems with the artwork. Unfortunately, one of our poets had to leave a bit early, so there are only seven poets represented here. Enjoy!

Tour 2019 from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.

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the last day of residency

Tuesday was the final day of the Boiler House Poets’ reunion residency at MASS MoCA.

There for our fifth year, this was the first time that the museum has carried its summer hours into mid-October. This was great for us because the museum was open 10-6 every day, instead of the winter hours which are 11-5 every day of the week except Tuesday. We all appreciated having additional time with the art, while still having time to meet together to workshop.

We needed to be moved out of our apartments by 11:00 Tuesday morning. I got my things packed and in my van early and went to my studio to do a bit more editing. I followed up with quick trip to the gift store and couldn’t resist a couple of books for ABC. I went back to the apartment to help with the final clean-up. All the poets were meeting back at the studios at 11ish to make some plans for next year and are pleased to have booked dates for another reunion next fall.

Also, in the type of creativity burst that I so admire about the Boiler House Poets, we spontaneously embarked on a second group project for this residency. I described our first project in this post. For this second one, we each chose a line or short passage from a poem we had written about an artwork currently at the museum. Marilyn used her phone to record our voices reading our passage while filming the artwork. It was so much fun, traipsing through the buildings of the museum, reading sntaches of our work for each other and heading on to the next exhibit on our list. I will be sure to post both projects here at ToJCM when they become available.

We had one last lunch together before heading for home. We miss each other’s company immediately, but will be reminded of each other frequently as we work through editing the poems we workshopped together and as we write new poems enriched by the advice and artistic vision of the poets and the artwork on exhibit.

I admit that the re-entry to what passes as normal life here has been a bit rough. I’m still way behind on routine things I missed being away for a week and there are a number of unique events coming up this month. That’s why, despite being behind on things, I am making it a point to get this post about Tuesday written on Friday evening. I’ll attempt to post about events as I can, although, most likely, I’ll be late getting the news out.

And that’s just the personal stuff. News is happening so fast here in the US that it is nearly impossible to take it all in.

I hope you’ll stay tuned…

Update 10/14/19 – The first video is available through this post.

Birthday and more

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I celebrated my birthday at my Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA.

Actually, I started celebrating with my family before I left for North Adams with early birthday cards and gifts. ABC had chosen a card for me with a dinosaur (or maybe a dragon or alligator?) on it, so after I opened it, she, in her own cute way, took possession of it as a plaything. She and my daughters gave me a framed quilled floral piece from a local artists’ shop. My spouse B gave me a copy of Blowout by Rachel Maddow, which had just become available. It deals with the fossil fuel industry and its political ramifications, I’ve dealt with these issues frequently over these last years in the anti-fracking, climate action, and environmental justice movements and look forward to reading the book. Rachel Maddow does meticulous research, so I’m sure I will gain valuable insights.

I had planned to keep my birthday low-key this year, but was grateful for all the greetings on Facebook, text, in person, and by mail. I was especially grateful to have dinner with cousins that evening. They are the only family B and I have left living here and I always enjoy seeing them when I am back.

Saturday was a very busy day at MASS MoCA and with the Fall Foliage Festival in North Adams. The skies were very clear, which made the early morning very chilly, but I went to the farmer’s market as soon as it opened. I visited familiar vendors, buying maple syrup from B’s hometown and jams, relishes, and pickled beets from nearby Adams. I picked up an extra jar of cranberry-apple relish for E to take on her move to London. They plan to celebrate American Thanksgiving in November and cranberries, being a North American fruit, aren’t easy to come by in the UK – and who knows what the trade situation will be like in November?

I did a bit of writing in the very cold studio. Apparently, the building hasn’t swapped over to heating yet, but I called on my hearty New England roots to make it through! At noon, I visited the craft fair on Main Street, which had been blocked of from traffic. This year, there was also a dance party going on, but I don’t dance – except with ABC in my arms.

At our group lunch, we chose by random drawing the work we would each write about for this year’s Boiler House Poets’ project, Orange Country by ERRE. Marilyn McCabe, our recording and video guru, will put all of our poems together and I’ll post the link here at ToJCM when it becomes available. For a taste of Marilyn’s work, check out this amazing video chapbook. With eight poems to be included, each needs to be short, so I turned to tanka for my contribution. I find that only having 31 syllables to work with helps me distill my thoughts in what I hope will be a meaningful way. It also allows me to do multiple drafts in a relatively contained timeframe. I whittled away words from my original thoughts to create the tanka. The sixth draft will be the final one for the recording, I think.

As it happened, MoCA was having a day of special events to coincide with the city festival. I saw a performance piece by the artist MPA which took place in the midst of her art installation. There was an excellent talk by author Akiko Busch on the current exhibit of works by Rafa Esparza. These works are made of adobe, using water from the Hoosic River which runs through the museum complex and other local and natural materials, and much of Busch’s talk centered around our place in the world and our relationship to it, which is totally in my wheelhouse with my collection in progress. Later in the afternoon, I heard Jimena Canales, a science and technology historian, speak. Unfortunately, she only got through a fraction of her presentation, so we never really got to the intended conclusion on what makes us human and the relationship of humans to art. The bonus, though, was that a wonderful harpist played for us in that same gallery space immediately after. This hadn’t been on the schedule, so we would have missed it otherwise.

Because of all the special events, the poets had decided to do our workshopping after supper. I decided to strike out on my own to eat at Boston Seafoods. I still have trouble calling it that; it’s been around for a long time and I still think of it as what we grew up calling it, the Fish Market. I had fish and chips and then a mocha sundae! I had been upset that the place I used to get mochas had closed, so I was happy to see it on the menu. The mocha sauce is not a fluffy as what we used to get at Apothecary Hall when I was a kid – and they put whipped cream on it, which was not traditional – but it was still delicious and relieved my longing for a North Adams mocha. It occurs to me that people are likely to find this whole mocha business odd, but mocha sundaes were important here. There will probably be two mocha poems in my collection whenever I finish it…

We workshopped poems until after 11:00 PM. I’m hoping the other poets got more sleep than I did, although, with a bar that dates back to 1933 down on the first floor of our building on the Saturday of Fall Foliage Festival weekend, maybe not.

I’m sure we will power through our Sunday, though.

I wonder how many of us will attend the parade today?

Surprises at MASS MoCA

On Wednesday, after a morning filled with unexpected complications, I picked up a local poet-friend and we headed for North Adams for the annual reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The Boiler House Poets met and bonded five years ago; we were the first group of poets to be in residence through the Studios at MASS MoCA, through a collaboration of the Assets for Artists program and Tupelo Press. We arrived only a few weeks after the studio residencies program began. (Most of the MoCA artists in residence are visual artists, but we are pleased to bring a literary arts presence, too.) Only two of the poets knew each other before arriving, but we bonded so strongly that we wanted to be together again and were fortunate to be able to continue our relationship with The Studios at MASS MoCA and have returned each fall for a week together, visiting the museum, writing, workshopping, encouraging each other, and, sometimes, staying up in our apartments way too late talking.

I am one of the six original Boiler House Poets who is in residence this year, along with my Binghamton-area friend who joined us in our second year and a new addition this year, who is a friend of two of the original members. Whatever the particular configuration, we have such a strong core that our residencies are positive experiences. I must admit, though, that I sometimes get overwhelmed and exhausted, partly because of the intensity of the residency and partly because the rest of my life has been complicated enough that I can’t totally disconnect from my non-poetry life when I am here.

But on to the surprises…

The first was not a positive one, because one of our poets was ill and not able to join us on our arrival day Wednesday. It felt so odd to have any empty place at our welcome dinner where she would have been. Luckily, she recovered enough to join us on Thursday. We are so happy to have her here, even though she must be careful not to expend her usual amount of energy until she recovers a bit more.

On Thursday, I decided to go the museum to check out the exhibits, knowing that we planned to choose one about which to write a related poem as our group project this year. Artists-in-residence have a free pass to the museum, but check in at the desk to get a daily sticker. The woman behind the desk said, “Joanne?” and I was surprised to see a local poet who had led a print-making class for us in a prior year and had read with us at our first public reading. I hadn’t realized that she was now working for MASS MoCA.

By design, MASS MoCA doesn’t have a permanent collection, so there are always new things to experience when we come every year. One of the largest exhibit spaces has an extensive installation by Trenton Doyle Hancock. As I was about to wander into it, a young man said, “Joanne?” I was startled to see James, one of the original Boiler House Poets. While we differ in age, race, and gender, we had a special bond because we had both grown up in the North Adams area. I had lost track of him as he hadn’t been able to make our earlier reunion residencies – and now, here he was! He had moved to North Adams earlier in the year and was working part-time at MoCA while continuing his art practice and freelancing. He was also scheduled to leave for vacation the next day, but, happily, was available to join us for lunch.

As we were picking up our lunches at the cafe and settling down at our tables, I kept looking out for James. I hadn’t told anyone he was there because I wanted them to be as pleasantly surprised as I had been. It was so much fun that we wanted more time to visit and catch up, so we arranged another visit for later in the evening. We stayed up much too late, but we laughed a lot and had fascinating and wide-ranging conversations.

In fact, we were up so late that people were able to be the first to say “Happy Birthday!” to me. Perhaps, I’ll say a bit more about my birthday in the next post.

SoCS: Cookie Monster

When her daddy was here in August, ABC started doing crafts with him – or, at least, she was crafting-adjacent.

One of the things they made was Cookie Monster’s head, made from a white paper plate painted blue with big eyes and mouth made of construction paper and glued on.

It’s pretty adorable!

Before he went back to London, E, L, and ABC went on a trip to Sesame Place. There, ABC got to see the characters perform, as well as go on rides and to the water park. She loved it! It was nice for them to get to go on a little family vacation, something that will get much easier once E’s visa comes and they finally get together permanently in the UK.

We will have to figure out what to pack for ABC for London. I think one thing that will get to go with her will be the (incredibly soft) Cookie Monster that they brought home as a souvenir from Sesame Place. It is a special edition for the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street this year. Of course, there will be Sesame Street in the UK, too, but Cookie Monster will be a wonderful reminder of her US home where Sesame Street began.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to write about the first blue object we see when we sit down to write. Join us! You can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/09/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-14-19/

SoCS: Fitbit

In Slovenia, we did a lot of walking.

Really a lot of walking. Way more than I usually do.

My Fitbit tells me that I walked 94929 steps during our trip. This is more steps than I usually take in a month – give or take. Life has been busy enough these last years that most of my steps are the daily life type, not fitness type.

B’s totals put mine to shame, though. He often walked while I was in rehearsal. Our first two days he walked over 25,000 steps!

When I went to view my Fitbit stats to add up the Slovenia trip steps, I realized that the last entry for steps was 166 on Tuesday and none at all since. Oops! I don’t walk a lot but I know it was more than that! 😉

I have been using an old Fitbit Flex that I inherited from E when she got a new one. I think it may finally have given up the ghost. Fortunately, B’s job has a program for employees and spouse to get fitness trackers, so I think we will order a new one for me.

I don’t want a fancy one with tons of stats and heartbeat monitors and such. I prefer a simple one. I may get a cloth band for it that I can wear on my ankle, instead of my wrist. I can’t wear the rubber bands that come with Fitbits, so I have been using cloth bands from an Etsy shop. For my ankle, though, I will probably try a new shop that makes them with a Velcro closure instead of knots.

While I want to keep it simple, the new Fitbit will probably have the time on it. It would seem logical to wear it instead of a watch, but there is one problem. I love my watch! It is a solar-powered Citizen with a gold and silver bracelet-style band. Well, gold and silver colored, rather than actual gold and silver. I love not having to change batteries or charge it and I like that it just tells me the time.

Are you detecting a theme here?

I guess I am just simple-minded.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to begin the post with a preposition, which I did, with bonus points for ending with a preposition, which I did not. I was joking with her on her prompt post that my English teachers taught me never to end a sentence with a preposition, but she said that she is an editor and it is okay now. Still my stream-of-consciousness mind forgot about the ending with a preposition. I think my grammar school training is still in play…

At any rate, if you want to join in the fun, you can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/23/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-24-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

A Slovenian post for poets

One of the interesting things about Slovenia is that one of their national heroes is a poet. France Prešeren (1800-1849) was the first major poet to write in Slovene. His poetry influenced all Slovene literature and one of his poems is now the national anthem. The main square of Ljubljana was re-named for him with a monument erected in his memory over a century ago.
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The statue depicts the Muse holding a laurel branch of over Prešeren, but, given that the Muse is mostly unclothed, the monument was controversial, especially as the Square is bordered by the Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, also known as the “pink church.” I was able to attend Sunday Mass there on our last morning in Ljubljana. (This photo was taken from across the river; the square itself was partially closed off due to reconstruction of the pavers.)
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And because many of my poet friends write ekphrastic poetry, I will close with a photo that I took in the baggage claim area of Ljubljana’s airport. I think we would all be able to write many lovely poems if we were able to visit this installation…
in Ljubljana airport
…which is called “a temporary art intervention” on this banner.

I know I, for one, could use an “art intervention” about now.