Boiler House video/soundscape

From my birthday post at MASS MoCA in October:

I did a walking meditation in the John Cage/Merce Cunningham Bridge with its current sound installation, In Harmonicity, the Tonal Walkway, by Julianne Swartz. For the second time this week, the art has brought me back to my first semester of music theory at Smith, as the installation is a form of musique concrète. The 13:40 minute loop is composed entirely of recorded human voices. This work inspired Marilyn McCabe, the Boiler House poet who conceived and produced our collaborative videopoem last year, to envision a sound project this year. We each recorded a short segment based on a single word for her today. Stay tuned for the final product when it is available.

And now, introducing the completed video/soundscape!

Boiler House Voices: Truck Shadow Muscular Tunnel Window Hoosic Resurrection Flow from Mar McCabe on Vimeo.

Marilyn asked each of us to choose a single word that represented our reunion week. I chose the word “flow.” We each recorded our chosen word for Marilyn in several ways, including saying the word slowly, three times in quick succession, and sung. Marilyn then spent many hours with her computer, cutting up words, overlaying them, mixing sounds, and constructing the soundscape. I can’t pretend to know how she did it, but some of the techniques would have been similar to those used in the Julianne Swartz piece that inspired the endeavor.

Then, Marilyn assembled the video element. Most of the photos are from the Boiler House. I especially love the parts of the video that involve layering of the images, such as the dancing silhouette and the photo of the eight of us taken this year looking out from where some of the Boiler House windows used to be.

I love Marilyn’s creativity and inventiveness, which is always expanding my sense of what is possible. You should all do yourselves a favor and click on the links above the video to see more of Marilyn’s work with videopoems. You can also visit and follow Marilyn here on WordPress at O Write: Marilynonaroll’s blog.

Comments are welcome here or at the Vimeo link.

Shadow, shadow, shadow. Window.   Flow.


poems and prints

Our first full day of the Boiler House Poets second reunion residency began with each of us doing our own thing. I made an early trip to my studio and completed the first draft of a poem for my collection that I had begun to draft a year ago (yikes!) and then went off to enjoy the farmers’ market and Fall Foliage Festival craft fair. I also delivered a couple posters for the Boiler House Poets’ reading, which will be held on October 4 at 7 PM at Makers’ Mill on Main Street, North Adams. Any blog-readers nearby are cordially invited to attend!

After lunch, the lions’ share of our group participated in a printmaking workshop at Makers’ Mill. Kate and Jim demonstrated the process of preparing the materials and operating the press and then assisted us with our inaugural attempts. We were all novices and I admit that my work was very rudimentary, but I loved the work of the other poets. We needed to let our paper and ink dry, but we can pick them up later in the week or at our reading.

One of my favorite parts of the printmaking was operating the press. We turned a big wheel which was very much like the wheel of a ship. It also reminded me of a demonstration that I attended with my parents at their retirement village. Their friend Jim Mullen is an art professor emeritus who has his presses in a studio in his apartment. He is still very much an active artist; he lends his talents to the village community by designing and producing cards and by donating works to be raffled to raise money for the charitable foundation. He also offers art education experiences and did a very interesting demonstration of printmaking techniques. It was part of the reason that I decided to join in with today’s opportunity to try printmaking, even though I am not much of a visual artist.

Next, we started a poetry workshopping session. I always love to see what the other poets are working on and hear their insightful comments. I learn so much. I must admit, though, that I don’t feel very helpful to the group. So much of what they do is beyond what I could ever hope to achieve. Sometimes, I can make peace with that, rationalizing that I am a community poet and that it is okay for me to remain so. Other times, like today, not so much…

During dinner break, I decided to go back to the apartment to decompress a bit. I was able to talk to B and E at home and was glad to hear that everyone there is doing all right. I touched base with a local friend and made plans to meet tomorrow. I had a relatively long text conversation with daughter T who will soon be returning home from MO. And I went back to my studio and began to put the poems in my collection in order.

Today was chilly and drizzly. Maybe tomorrow will be a bit brighter…

Boiler House Poets’ second reunion begins

Whilst I have been busy with grandbaby ABC and my parents and the fall activity start-up schedule, I have also been preparing for the second reunion of the Boiler House Poets at the Assets for Artists residency program at MASS MoCA in North Adams MA. You can read about our first residency as the initial group of poets in the partnership between Tupelo Press and MASS MoCA in my archives for November 2015 and our first reunion in early October of 2016.

I should probably rephrase that. I should have been preparing, but I was too distracted with everything else going on, so I threw things together last night and this morning, complicated by my printer still thinking it is British rather than American and not being able to cope with printing on 8.5×11 inch paper.

Even though my older sister has arrived to help my parents and B is back from his business trip to help E care for ABC, it was very difficult to leave, but fortified by hugs and kisses from E and a last snuggle with ABC, I set off for the 200-mile drive back to North Adams.

I grew up near North Adams and went to high school there, so it does feel like coming home when I visit, yet, so much has changed that it feels like there are discoveries to be made, too. I am looking forward to visiting the expansion of MASS MoCA that has opened since our last reunion. And there is no shortage of work to be done.

Today, though, was about re-establishing bonds with the other poets and greeting a new member, as well as a visual artist who is also participating in a residency this week. We had a lovely welcome dinner together at Grazie, which is just below our apartments. We talked and talked and ate and talked and had gelato and talked some more, catching up on what has happened over the last year and laying the groundwork for our time together this year.

Stay tuned…

MASS MoCA, North Adams, and me

As we prepare for the second reunion of the Boiler House Poets later this month, our poet-organizer Kay sent this video from the PBS NewsHour about MASS MoCA and city of North Adams:  

Well, she sent it over a month ago, but I am just getting to it and this post…

Much of the piece concentrates on the intersection of MASS MoCA and North Adams history. The interview with Mr. Sprague especially struck me, as he wove together his family/business history with the larger story of the area.

When the Boiler House Poets re-convene, I am planning to spend at least some share of my studio time trying to assemble my first manuscript, a collection of poems tentatively entitled Monroe MoCA.  It weaves together my family history in North Adams and the surrounding small towns with the changes that have taken place over the decades and ends with a group of ekphrastic poems about pieces of MASS MoCA art.

For the first time, this year the Boiler House Poets will be giving a public reading, Wednesday, October 4, at 7 PM at the Makers’ Mill on Main Street. I will use my time to read a few poems from the collection.

I have been dreaming about this collection for almost two years and am excited/anxious/daunted by the prospect of actually piecing it together.

Wish me luck…

Making Art in the Age of Trump

This resonates with me. Thank you, Nancy, for your writing and your witness as we make our way in these troubled and troubling times.

Source: Making Art in the Age of Trump

Phoenix Project

I haven’t been using most of the available-but-not-mandatory prompt words for Just Jot It January, but I was struck by the word “detritus” which is today’s last-day prompt.

I used “detritus” in a poem that I read recently. The poem, which I can’t share because it is unpublished, is about the Phoenix Project by Chinese artist Xu Bing.  1186023_10200534417668419_1858818271_n
Two giant phoenix sculptures were created by Xu Bing, using the detritus from construction sites. Part of my Facebook comment on this photo, which is from September, 2013, reads, “They are also a political statement. When Xu Bing went to the Beijing construction site of the fabulously expensive buildings, he found workers being poorly paid and exploited, making shelters for themselves from the construction debris. He decided to make a pair of phoenixes, which in China denote power and wealth, from the debris, to call attention to the plight of the workers. At some point, the building owners decided they would not pay for the completion of the commission, but the artist was able to finish and Mass MoCA is their second venue for display. Next they will go to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in NYC.”

I had been planning to write on the latest news from the fallout of DT’s travel ban/refugee executive order, but I didn’t have the heart. Detritus may be all that is left of the US government soon, too.
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poetry reading tonight

One of the things that poets are expected to do is participate in readings.

As a – let’s call it – late-emerging poet, I have done relatively few readings, so I tend to get nervous when I need to do one.

Like this evening.

Sappho’s Circle, the women’s poetry group convened by Heather Dorn, is going on the road to read at an art gallery in Callicoon, NY, about seventy miles from our home base in Binghamton. The reading will last about an hour and include five members of the Circle.

Because we are reading in an art gallery, I am planning to read some of my ekphrastic poems that came out of my residencies at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. These are poems that I am planning to make part of my manuscript under development.  I have chosen some of the shorter poems from the MASS MoCA section of the collection, as I feel they will be more accessible when there is no visual component involved.

A bonus is that looking through my poems to choose which to read reminded me that I actually have quite a few poems that have been through revision and that I might be close to making a first draft of the manuscript.

Which is exciting!

And daunting.

Maybe next month, after T is settled in Missouri with her new job and E goes to London to visit L for ten days, I will attempt to print the poems and order them and write a forward and end notes. Then, I can look for holes that need to be filled.


First, I have to get through the reading tonight.
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