The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

May 25, 2011

Steven, Terrence, Caroline, Dale and Columbia’s amazing dancers

Filed under: writing — cynthiaboiter @ 12:24

This is the first blog post I’ve written since late last winter when I started working on undefined Magazine with Mark and Jeffrey. I thought I would leave blogging behind, but I’ve had the urge to do those things that bloggers do – pontificate and such – so much lately that I’m revisiting the idea of becoming a regular blogger again. This is a test.
An event I attended last night has me feeling rather full of thoughts and theories and observations about Columbia’s dance scene – a subject I hold dear to my heart, as many of you know. I am frequently befuddled by the fact that Columbia produces so many amazing young dancers – many of elite quality – who never stay in town, but rather move on to what is perceived to be greener pastures across state lines. Sometimes these pastures are significantly greener – sometimes they’re just a different shade of the same colors we find at home.
I find it frustrating that we can’t seem to keep these talented young dancers here, performing for us at home. Yes, I’m talking about my child, but I’m also talking about a lot of other people’s kids, as well. The things that are lacking in Columbia’s two professional ballet companies aren’t a mystery – they are money, repertoire, and to some degree, working conditions. Money is a problem everywhere, but especially in South Carolina where our state government considers the arts to be the work of the devil, or worse, the Democrats. Repertoire can be fixed – stop doing the same damn ballets year after year and challenge our dance audiences to learn about the classics – old and new – rather than children’s fairytales; and take a chance on the kind of new choreography that companies are doing pretty much everywhere else in the world. As for working conditions, most of these problems have to do with the eccentricities of artistic directors. We may like to pretend that some other AD at some other company in some other city is more sane than the ones we have here, but that’s a pipe dream and nothing more. Ballet people are crazy everywhere.
But last night, I attended an event put on by Columbia’s dance artists (minus the two big companies) to help raise funds for one of their own, Steven Ferguson. Steven is a local dancer and musician and all around fantastic human who was involved in a terrible accident in March in which both his legs were severely injured. He has had more surgeries than you would believe and is still recuperating in the hospital. The companies and artists who came together to put on the performance did it out of the goodness of their hearts and nothing more. It was an amazing evening filled with joy and emotion. But, more than that, it was an evening filled with some of the best dancing I have seen anywhere – New York, Boston, London, and Paris included.
We have some excellent companies of dancers in Columbia and it is time they get the attention and appreciation they are due. I could care less about the old saw that they’re all competing for the same funding. Dancers dance for money, yes – they have to eat. But for the most part, dancers dance because they can’t help themselves. Most would dance on a dumpster if you asked them to.
What really made the event last night so entertaining was the choreography – I’m talking about choreographers Terrence Henderson of Vibrations Dance Company, Dale Lam of Columbia City Jazz, and Caroline Lewis Jones of Unbound Dance, here. Flipping outstanding and innovative choreography that touched the core of the audience, and was executed with pristine technique and professionalism. The dancers were clearly thrilled to be performing their parts – they were challenged and invigorated.
It’s time to face the facts – Columbia, South Carolina actually is a fabulous dance town without even including the two big companies. The questions now are: Can those two keep up with the smaller companies who have moved on to the 21st century? Sure, the two big companies are mostly ballet-centric where the performances last night were not (although every form of dance starts from a ballet core). And, if not, is it time for yet even another ballet company in Columbia? One that can keep our excellent dancers home dancing for their families, friends, and neighbors where they belong?

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February 21, 2010

New York City — for the weekend, a summer, for life

Coming to New York is, in so many ways, like coming home.

Years ago, when Bonnie and Annie were mere babes and their arts studies took them to NYU for Annie to study viola and to the American Ballet Theatre for Bonnie to study ballet, the Beer Doc and I decided that, if we were going to pay for anyone to spend the summer in Manhattan, then we might as well pay for everyone to spend the summer there.  So, for four summers in a row the Boiter-Jolley clan hunkered down in Greenwich Village for 6 to 8 weeks.  For the first two summers we resided in two bedroom apartments on 5th Avenue between 8th and 9th streets — just a block and a half up from Washington Park.  The next summer we opted for a two bedroom in the meatpacking district at the edge of the west village.  Then the next year we scored a three bedroom townhouse owned by the dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service which was also on 5th Avenue and Washington Mews, a half block off of Washington Square.  We were in heaven.

The results of out extended time in the city, in addition to an elevated credit card balance and the reality that the Beer Doc would be retiring a few years later than planned, were a comfort and familiarity with the city as well as the sensation that in some small way, the city is ours, just as it belongs to the millions of people who either live here or have lived here in the past.

Spending so much time in New York taught us that while the arts and adventures in the city are certainly spectacular, the real wonders are found wherever the sidewalk leads you.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Christopher Walken and Liev Schriber and Kristen Chenoweth are all performing on any given night within a few blocks of one another; just walking past Lincoln Center gives me chills — not to mention climbing to the upper realms of the New York State Theatre.  But the best things about the city are the conversations you overhear at crowded bars in Chelsea late at night; the best sites the ones you happen upon rounding the corner of Bleeker and McDougal or near the smoking area at Lips in the Village.

So when Bonnie decided to venture up for a weekend of auditions in the city, once again I figured, we’re going to be paying for a hotel room anyway — I’ll just go along, too.

Being a Southern girl by nurture and nature, New York winters offer me less opportunity for freelance adventures — the streets get pretty cold uptown — and spending only 48 hours anywhere puts a damper on too much wondering aimlessly around.  But we did take advantage of a couple of arts opportunities I’ll share.

Friday night found us at the Joyce Theatre in Chelsea — one of my favorite theatres in one of my favorite parts of town.  We were there to see Parsons Dance — we had no idea what we were going to see, we just knew we wanted to go.  To our thrilled surprise we got to see one of David Parsons’ most famous pieces of choreography, entitled Caught.  First performed in 1982 by David Parsons himself, Caught depicts a single dancer who dances to the music of Robert Fripp’s, “Let the Power Fall,” while incorporating the use of strobe lighting.  This may sound like something from a 1970s disco, but it is not.  The lighting is specifically timed as if the performer is dancing with the light itself — at times the light captures (i.e., “caught”) the dancer in a variety of series of midair jumps and leaps so that she or he appears to be completely suspended and flying through the air in circles and across the stage.  Verbal description fails this piece of choreography.  We got to see Zac Hammer perform this number — it was spectacular.

We also saw a rock-dance opera called Remember Me, performed by Parsons Dance and members of the East Village Opera CompanyJulie Blume danced the lead, and she was absolutely glorious.

Another highlight of the trip was seeing David Mamet’s new play, Race, starring Alan Shore — I mean, James Spader — with David Allen Grier, Richard Thomas (aka John Boy Walton), and Kerry Washington.  The cast was excellent and Mamet’s dialogue shot through the stage like an automatic weapon.  The plot deals with a law firm’s (unfortunately not Crane, Poole, and Schmidt’s) preparation to defend a white man who is accused of raping a black woman.  Of import is the way that we as white people and Black people speak of race — when we have the audacity to even do so.  Interestingly enough, the only time the play addresses the issue of gender is in the last line of the first act.  Alan, I mean James, states that race and sex are the same thing, then the scene goes black.  “Yes!” I thought — finally we were going to be talking about the woman (and women) at the heart of the issue, but disappointingly, we did not.  Someone needs to have a sit down with David Mamet and introduce to him the concept of intersectionality — the sociological theory that socially contructed categories of discrimination interact on multiple levels contributing to a variety of arenas for social inequality.  The absence of consideration for sex and gender in the play Race detracts from its efficacy — however, I am not oblivious to the title of the play — Race; not Race and Gender.  That said, writing a play about any form of rape without considering sexual politics is like writing a play about bread making without considering the role of yeast.  Given this caveat, the play is excellent and it raises questions that must be raised by someone, at sometime,  in some forum, if we are going to intellectually and spiritually progress as a human race.

On a far more frivolous note, Bonnie and I got our Boston Legal on after the play when we stage-door stalked James Spader, got his autograph and our photos taken with him.  Drat my daughter for taking my photo with her broken camera — yes, she has broken yet another camera — so I may never have evidence of my conquest.

Still, I do so love new York.

February 4, 2010

Susan Lenz & Blues Chapel, women’s work, working women, women who WORK & Eboniramm

I’ve written about my friend, local fiber artist Susan Lenz, before — that’s because in many ways she is one of my she-roes.  The work that Susan does resonates with me on so many different levels — much of it going back to the core of who I am.  Many of you lovely readers may know that, in addition to writing about beer and arts and travel, I am also an adjunct lecturer on women’s and gender studies at the University of South Carolina.  I came to this academic place in my life after spending many years studying sociology, focusing on gender roles and women’s experiences.  When I was in grad school in DC, I read Alice Walker’s book — still one of the most important books in my life — In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.  In this book, Walker talks about how poor, unschooled, and under-valued women have not always had the luxury of canvases on which to express their creativity, and therefore, they captured canvases wherever they could find them.  In the way they planted their gardens, for example, with the deep green of sweet peppers juxtaposed against shiny red tomatoes — in the arrangements of carefully canned produce on their pantry shelves — in the quilts and hooked rugs they made for their homes.  Thus, in so many ways, the work that women traditionally did became, for many women, an expression of the creativity residing in their souls fighting its way out.  This is yet another reason why no one has the right to say what is art or not.  Art is gut and soul — the quilter and embroiderer feel this no less than the ceramicist or sculptor.

Susan Lenz’s primary medium of choice is embroidery.  She calls herself a contemporary embroiderer — I call her a genius.  Susan has taken this traditionally female art medium from the quiet laps of working women (all women are working women — whether they get paid for it or not; and by the way, most don’t) and placed it on the walls of galleries and art exhibits where it rightly belongs.  But don’t expect samplers and doilies when you see Susan Lenz’s work — expect to be moved, shocked, overwhelmed, elated, and devastated.  It can be intense.

Susan’s upcoming exhibit at Gallery 80808 on Lady Street is called Blues Chapel and Last Words.  In it she has taken the images of 24 blues divas and adorned them with the gilded glory anyone who made the contributions they did, deserve.  People like Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Nina Simone.  Susan has literally coronated these women with golden halos endowing them with dignity, engendering reverence.

I’m lifting the following quote from Susan’s blog —

“Early female blues singers lived in a male dominated society, in a segregated country, and worked in an industry that took advantage of their lack of education and opportunity,” Lenz said. “Physical abuse, drug and alcohol dependence, and poverty plagued most. They struggled, made sacrifices, and sang of their woes. They helped change the world for today’s young, black, female vocalists.”

Last Words, the accompanying exhibit which has been integrated very well into this show, represents the miles and hours Susan spent visiting cemetaries, literally across continents, collecting silken grave rubbings from headstones and monuments then bringing them home and transforming them into 30 art quilts.  The arrangement of the exhibit is such that if Blues Chapel represents the Church, then Last Words serves as the church yard.

The opening of the show is Friday night, February 5th from 6 to 8 pm, with a performance by local blues artist Eboniramm beginning at 7 Pm in conjunction with The Blue Martini, which shares a hall with Vista Studio’s gallery.  Eboniramm will be the lady singing the blues in tribute to the artists we will all be honoring on Friday night.  My friend, the artist Susan Lenz, included.  The reception will end at 8, but the gallery will be open until midnight, and the exhibit will also remain open for viewing as well.  Then at 9, Eboniramm will reprise and expand her tribute at the Blue Martini for a $5 cover charge.

It’s going to be a beautiful night — I hope I get to see you there.

For more info visit Susan’s blog at http://artbysusanlenz.blogspot.com

January 30, 2010

Think about W. Heyward Sims & Cage Match: Clarity vs. Chaos

It may just be me, but I think the local visual artist/musician W. Heyward Sims is a bit of a character.  He’s pretty young now, but he already has this quirky, alt-hipster thing going on and, being a woman of a certain age, I can almost see the old coot he is one day going to be.  I like it that the boy has this uncultivated scruffiness about him — affectedness in an artist (in anybody, really) drives me crazy — people need to just be, dammit, and see what happens.  And I like it that he can hold up his end of a conversation.  Hell, I’m thrilled when I can talk to anyone who came out of  the South Carolina public education system and they voluntarily introduce subjects like Mark Rothko and Marcel DuChamp into the conversation.  So, I’m feeling a bit intrigued by Sims’  upcoming show at Frame of Mind.  He’s calling it Cage Match:  Clarity vs. Chaos.  I’m thinking we might just have some thought-provoking art coming our way.

Sims works in mixed media and, from the handful of pieces I’ve seen and heard will be in this show, it looks and sounds like that’s what we’ll get a lot of — think the addition of paper, glass, or even appliance for that matter, to oil, acrylic, or another medium.  I also know for a fact that he is introducing one or more pieces that by their very nature will be controversial.  Hmmm …, art that makes you think, and possibly banter and debate.  I’m down.  One of the pieces already has my feminist ire on end, as much as I appreciate the potential race-relation subtext — without even seeing the piece, it contextually makes me want to laugh at the silly little white  boys I grew up with and the men I fear too many of them became.  But hey, that’s just me — it’ll be interesting to see what other people think.

Thinking is the thing.  The whole premise of Sims’ show demands the viewers to think or walk away confused.  This is good.  I mean, flowers and landscapes are nice but we can all pretty much agree on that.  There’s certainly a place in the art world for pretty.  But what I really like is art that I’m not sure that I like or not.  That sounds antithetical, I know, but think about it.  Isn’t it more challenging to you as a viewer — and more rewarding — if you have to spend some time with a piece of work before you feel like you know it — and possibly love it?

I’m not pretending that the world isn’t full of too many people who feel way too comfortable in their little black and white realms.  It’s easy when you only have two choices to make:  chocolate or vanilla, good or bad, hate or love, right or wrong.  But that kind of artificial reality, and the reticence to recognize that life takes place in the gray areas, is nothing more than a sham existence for lazy people, fearful people, and wimps. As much as those of you who  know what I’m talking about should come out and see Heyward Sims’ show, those of you who don’t, should come and see it even more.

Thinking.  It’s a good thing.

Cage Match:  Clarity vs. Chaos, the February installation in the FOM series, opens on February 4th at 7:05 at Frame of Mind — 1520 Main Street.  See you there.

January 24, 2010

Looking at LifeChance

It was so nice to see such a great crowd at LifeChance Saturday night — and not just folks who got trucked in, but just a whole lot of people from the community. Here are a few observations:

  • The show was great — I love it that the show even exists and that Radenko Pavlovich brings in such fine talent from the far corners for us to see.  The talent and choreography should help to inspire local companies and dancers, especially the contemporary pieces performed by Lia Cirio, her brother Jeffrey Cirio, and Sabi Varga and James Whiteside.  Lia, who literally just got word that she was promoted to Principal dancer at Boston Ballet, is a force to be reckoned with.  Her exhibition of controlled energy is a tutorial for aspiring dancers — every inch of her body  was expressive and beautiful — not a wasted second or movement in her performance.  Total commitment to the dance — amazing.
  • Brooklyn Mack rocked.  I am completely biased because I love the boy so, but he was totally on — ON, and it was glorious to watch him take in all the love from the audience.  You have to know how humble he is to understand this.  He continues to see himself as a student, as a struggler, as someone who is working so hard to get where he wants to be — no fears about resting on one’s laurels here.  Not all the stars and wannabes from Columbia are this way, so it’s very refreshing to see.
  • That said, who was the chick he was dancing with and where did she come from?  This is a rhetorical question because I know the answer to both of them.  But what I want to know is why she was dancing with Brooklyn.  I’m not going to criticize her and say that she had a bad show — I’m not even going to say the child’s name — I think she just wasn’t up to the part.  Le Corsaire, the pas that she and Brooklyn danced, is all about lightness — we expect our dancers to skitter across the stage — to take flight.  That just wasn’t happening with her last night.
  • OK, and while I’m pretending not to be critical, (should I add a “bless her heart” here?), here’s my take on classical variations.  I ONLY want to see them if they are excellent — not just good.  Because any student of ballet who has been at it a while and has some hope of ever having a career even at a fourth or fifth tier company knows how to execute these classical variations.  They may not be excellent or even very good — but they can get ’em done.  If I want to see a future star of tomorrow, I’ll go watch a class or sit in on a YAGP competition.  For $30 — I want to see a pro.  Like  Meaghan Hinkis out of ABT II who we only got to see dance Don Q. This chick took a part that I’ve seen done way too many times and added her own energy to it to such a degree that I actually liked it.  So many dancers, when they do these tried and true (read dull and boring, imho) classical variations, work so hard to be precise that they suck the very soul from the dance.  This is why I shudder a little bit every time I hear music by Minkus, Asafiev, or Adolphe Adam.  Here’s to being so good that you add your own interpretation to ancient choreography. Go Meaghan Hinkis.
  • I’ve never seen the Trey McIntyre Project perform before, but after watching two of their dancers last night — I’m going to put it on my to-do list effective immediately.  Dylan G-Bowley and Chanel DaSilva brought synergy to the stage last night in a way you don’t always see in modern dance.  Loved it.
  • Can we talk height for a minute?  Little DeeDee Weatherly-Rosner, who went to NCSA with Annie and Bonnie, is s0 short — she’s like a tyke, right?  Well looking at Radenko’s corps last night, DeeDee was, well, she was mid-sized.  For some reason the Columbia Classical Ballet company this year appears to be made up of very talented kinder-gardeners.  This isn’t a criticism — it’s just an observation.  Wee dancers.  Tiny.
  • And speaking of DeeDee — good show, Child.  You stood out on the stage and, as an NCSA mom, I was proud of you.
  • OK, another observation — are we dressing up again?  I say this because, back in the day, LifeChance was the night that we put on the ritz — tuxes and sequins and faux fur (yeah, I know this is magical thinking on my part — I have to pretend that all fur is fake to suppress my compelling desire to drench it in a gooey red substance).  I’m thinking that we started dressing down after 9/11 — is that right?  At the risk of sounding like my friend The Shop Tart, who is clearly the authority on finery, I couldn’t help but notice a bit more bling last night.  And black velvet — which I was even wearing myself — and I loved it –ain’t nothing that feels any better on the bod that black velvet.  I’m OK if we are dressing up again — I was telling Jeffrey that since we don’t go to the Phil anymore that I rarely get to do it up.  To which he replied, Come to the Phil, then.  Probably not.  I’m betting that next year we’ll see more tuxes — which is good for me.   The Beer Doc looks especially fine in his tux.
  • Finally, I just want to give a shout out to Lee Lumpkin — who may be the most generous woman in town.  Her devotion to Radenko and Columbia Classical Ballet is the sole reason that company is alive, especially in the recent economic malaise.  I’m sure Radenko knows this.  Her support has allowed him to realize his dream — and it has allowed us to attend some quite excellent after-parties year after year.  Thanks to Lee and Mike for their hospitality and generosity.  You both rock.

January 21, 2010

Our buddy Brooklyn Mack, Radenko Pavlovich, Simone Cuttino, & LifeChance Ballet this Saturday

If you like dance the way dance is supposed to be, there are two yearly Columbia events you should never miss — when USC hosts the stars of the New York City Ballet, this year on Saturday, March 20th, and when Radenko Pavlovich hosts stars from all over the world at his annual LifeChance Ballet — which is happening this Saturday night, January 23rd.

Radenko, who is known for his European take on classical ballet, has been putting on his annual LifeChance Ballet for many years now, each year with the proceeds from the show benefiting a local charity.  I remember when Bonnie and Annie were young and danced in Radenko’s second company and how exciting it would be for the likes of Pollyana Ribiero and Simon and April Ball to come to town, take class with the kids, and then perform the caliber of dance my kids only got to see when we traveled to New York or abroad.  It was thrilling.

Now, one of their own best friends and former classmates is dancing among those stars himself, and it is even more thrilling to see our buddy Brooklyn Mack take the stage.  Brooklyn started out late as a dancer — he was young and goofy and full of enough ambition to make up for the awkwardness of adolescence.  Radenko would yell at Brooklyn to “point his biscuits!” — referring to his feet that flopped at the end of his long legs.  Brooklyn persevered — never got mad, seldom seemed discouraged, and eventually he improved.  But the thing was, he didn’t stop — he just kept getting better and better and better.  After a few years he followed his friend Mathias Dingman — who we all knew as Matthew back then, a beautiful boy who took to the stage like he was born on it — to the Kirov School for Ballet in Washington, DC.  After he graduated from the Kirov he moved on to the likes of the Joffrey, the ABT Studio Company, Orlando Ballet, and eventually to Washington Ballet, as well as dancing literally all over the world.   But he always comes back — sometimes just to say hello, sometimes to take a class, and sometimes, like this Saturday, to perform.  And Lord have mercy — does this boy PERFORM.

In addition to Brooklyn, Radenko has brought in Grace-Anne Powers out of Montreal, with whom Brooklyn will partner; Jeffrey and Lia Cirio, James Whiteside, Whitney Jensen, Sabi Varga, all from Boston Ballet; Japan’s Aleksandr Buber and Kayo Sasabe; as well as Meaghan Hinkis and Alberto Velazquez, both from ABT II.

Another treat to look forward to is Simone Cuttino’s Tango choreography with ten couples on stage and three women dancing lead.  Simone is Columbia Classical Ballet’s Ballet Mistress and quite a gift to the dance arts herself.  (For a story I wrote on Simone and her husband Walter last year, check out Zen and the Art of Relationship Maintenance at right.)

~~~~~

For information on Columbia Classical Ballet’s LifeChance this Saturday night, call 251-2222 or visit the ballet website at http://www.columbiaclassicalballet.org.

January 16, 2010

Poetry from my 30s

Filed under: Cynthia Boiter,poetry,writer's life,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 01:02
Tags: ,

A little something today because I’m feeling brave.

~~~~~

Home No. 5

~

I know the harnessed poet in the

wild-eyed boy, Southern man.

The lips of his woman taste of

honeysuckle and late-August muscadines.

Her back sways like the loblolly,

quivers like cane,

arches like that old barn cat.

~

His woman’s arms wrap as warm as Granny’s

line-aired crazy quilt, stitched from

Momma’s white baptismal gown,

Aunt Ellen’s faded calico-peach apron,

Great-granddaddy’s worn broadcloth shirt.

~

I know the Southern poet man — the way

he eats his supper like a sacrament.

Sopping up pot-liquor with powdery flat biscuits

until his tin plate shines.

Holding blackberry seeds on the

tip of his tongue until the bitter cuts

through the sweet and he has to swallow,

but he knows he has eaten it,

good.

~

He breathes in heady chow-chow, pickled preserves, cayenne

and smiles as the blazes rush through his chest

and lap at his nostrils and toes.

He wants to turn to the river and dance in the

must of the leaves and the left-fruit

beneath the coppice of trees.

He wants to

dance.

~

The wide-eyed Southern man-poet

loves his children

like good dogs.

His momma

like Jesus.

His home

like a well-shifted shed.

~

I know the southern boy-poet and his stars.

How, each evening, he takes them

from an icy Mason jar,

buried by the chimney at the old home place —

bricks asunder, foundation nearly gone —

and places them,

just so,

in the pitch-black Southern sky,

where he commands them to

shine.

~

And for years, they would.

~

I know the Southern poet-man,

whose travels have led him into and out of the woods,

long past pondering the mystery,

to the place where old boys

die.

January 14, 2010

Be true to your school, I do, they dance, no day but today, & Beer! Beer! Beer! — + strings & jeans

It seems that life is getting back to normal these days — the parties are over, the garland is down (most of it, anyway), and the routine is starting to set in — if you believe in routines, that is.  I’ve never been one to dig into the rut — too claustrophobic for me.  I can see why some folks find the rut functional –it’s safe and can be comforting, I guess.  But if the rut gets too deep, it becomes harder and harder to see out of it and the next thing you know, it becomes a maze — and then — you’re trapped.

I’ve always been a fan of second and third careers, changing majors mid-stream, and letting the flow take you where it may.  Life never gets dull — it’s a sin to be boring.  That said, this is what we’re doing this weekend, starting tonight.

On Thursday at 7, my eldest and her beloved are going with me to see the Women Gamecocks play some mighty bball at the Colonial Center.  The Beer Doc drags me to as many of his little sporty events as he can, but never seems to be going in the direction of the arena when the Big Girls play.  Yesterday, after mentioning that the guys were playing LSU last night and that we should all Go Cocks and the like, one of my new students, the amazing Ms. Ebony Wilson who happens to play guard for the Women Gamecocks — and no, don’t give me any of that “lady” Gamecock crap until you’re ready to call the boys the “Gentlemen” Gamecocks when they play ball — asked me if I was going to their game tonight.  Zap!  What kind of Women’s Studies instructor am I if I don’t go out and support some of the toughest and most talented women of the university?  So, I’ll be there waving the garnet foam finger that Annie gave me for Christmas — Gamecock women are #1, in my book now, and Ms. Ebony Wilson happens to wear a #1 on her jersey.  Tonight’s game will be preceded by the best chee-boogie & brew in town at my beloved Hunter Gatherer.

And then there’s Friday night.  If you read my last blog & review of the film, you know that I’ll be attending the 5:30 showing of La Danse at the Nick, which will be preceded by some used-to-be surprise nuptials of two dear friends.  For all intents and purposes, the I dos are still a surprise if you haven’t been formally invited to the wedding or if you aren’t friends with the folks — of friends with their friends — on Facebook.  So, everything that I wrote yesterday still stands if you find yourself still in the dark — and I hope to see you there. In the light, before the film starts.

But for me and the Beer Doc, we’ll be darting out the back door of the theatre about half way through so we can grab some snacks and libation before we head down to TRUSTUS to see Rent.  This will only be like my umpteenth time of seeing this play, all other times on Broadway, but I am just so excited about seeing Kevin Bush play Mark — a role that both he and Doogie Howser were made for.  It only runs through next weekend and tickets are slim pickin’s, so if you have your heart set on going, as well you should, call the theatre at 254-9732, and beg Joe for a ticket.

After Rent we hope to make it down to CMFA at 914 Pulaski Street to take part in my friend Aaron Pelzek et. al.’s artist-driven extravaganza, Playing After Dark #4 — Free Form.  Aaron and buddies have brought together an awesome group of artists who will bring you everything from art-in-the-making via my friend Karen Storay, to Sherry Warren’s choreography (also my bud), a local band called The Noise, puppetry, poetry by Charlene Spearen (yes, a bud), scenes from Jaques Brel is Alive and Well — a play I was just writing about in the Beer Book, oddly enough, and, hell, I don’t remember — a bunch of stuff.  My friend Jeffrey wrote a nice little ditty on this event on his blog at http://carolinaculturebyjeffreyday.blogspot.com/.  The shenanigans start at 7:30 — which is why we’ll be coming in at the tail end, but never fail — the whole shebang is going to crank itself back up again Saturday night at the same time, same station.  Tickets are like $5, so seriously, head out to this event and show some love to local artist driven arts.  It’s the way it should be.

Which brings me to Saturday — the day of the second annual Columbia hosting of the World Beer Festival at the Columbia Convention Center.  There are two sessions, afternoon and evening.  Having made the mistake of attending as many sessions of beer events as offered before (read about this in Bob, Beer, and Me, coming out this spring/summer, by god!), we will only be attending the afternoon session — after which we will promptly crawl to our hotel room in the Vista and snooze until the evening festivities commence with yet another freaking basketball game — the Gentlemen Cocks, this time.  Is it possible to OD on sports?  Is that something that happens to the hard-core — read Beer Doc — or has he developed an immunity or a tolerance — built it up in his system, as it were, leaving him protected while his neophyte woman remains susceptible to sports poisoning and may just have to sneak out at half time, already clad in her blue jeans, to the Koger Center for some strings?  It is time for the Philharmonic’s Beethoven and Blue Jeans, after all.

After running in and dropping off a coat closet of old coats at the Art Bar last night — thanks to Chris Bickel for his generous offer of collecting a scad or two of coats for the cold during karaoke — I felt the yearning for the good Art Bar people in my soul, so the night should finish us up, just a few blocks from our hotel, at the best place to be in the city after 1 am.  We are so lucky to have that place.  Really, take a minute and thank your maker for the Art Bar.

Whatever your drug of choice, get drunk on the goodies going on in our beloved city this weekend.  I’ll see you around town.

Cheers, Y’all.

January 10, 2010

On the new USC semester, hibernating adjuncts, Pliny the Elder, and Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemurs

Filed under: Holidays,USC,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 14:40
Tags: , ,

It hasn’t even been four weeks, really, since I turned in my final grades, stacked my notes and books in the least dusty of the corners in my office, and changed the time on my alarm clock to “whenever.”  And even though it wasn’t long ago enough, it still feels like longer than it was.  That’s because Christmas break for college students, professors, and instructors isn’t like Christmas break for American children.  For kids, it’s two weeks solid — unless your break starts on a Saturday — and really, why don’t all Christmas holidays always start on a Saturday, affording kids at least the illusion of an extra weekend without classes?  Otherwise, you just get two of everything — two Saturdays, two Sundays, two Thursdays.  And those days go by fast!  You’ve just finished making out your Christmas list when, suddenly, you’re opening presents, wadding up the ripped up remains of meticulously creased and taped packages, making room in your toy box for new junk, and just about the time the wheels on your Tonka truck start to spin with ease, you find yourself sitting dope-eyed at the kitchen table eating oatmeal and heading out into the cold January morning to go back to the same old unfulfilling drag that is elementary education.

Ick.

For college kids and the kids who teach them though, Christmas break goes on just long enough to start feeling routine, then, whack, it’s time to start getting up early again, packing up all your little ditties in a satchel, and hauling your sore head back into the lab rat race.  But there is this time of fantasy that sneaks in sometime after Christmas is over and just before you absolutely have to have your syllabus completed.  Yeah, you have things you should be doing — things that need doing, but not so much that absolutely has to be done.  Right. This. Minute.  That’s when you pick up that novel you’ve been wanting to read, try to catch up on your tivo’d sit-coms, think about exercise.  But mostly, that’s when you hibernate.

As with pretty much everything out there in the world of culturally interpreted science, there’s a lot of mythology about hibernation; do bears actually hibernate and the like.  Pliny the Elder wrote about the hibernating nature of swallows — they don’t, of course — and that’s another good reason to question thousand-plus-year-old history, as if the Apologists weren’t enough.  And for years, there was the question of whether primates hibernate.  Turns out the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur of Madagascar is all about hiding in a tree trunk for a good seven months out of the year and snoozing, so yeah, primates do.  But here’s the thing — so do academics, especially the adjunct kind, and I’m betting there are plenty of other primates who do so when the chance arises, as well.  A lot of what Christmas and Thanksgiving is about is eating large amounts of food and storing energy in fat deposits during a period of pseudo-dormancy.  Throw in some bedroom slippers, left overs, and boxed editions of series like the Office or Ally McBeal, and neither woman, monkey, nor man find it easy to move very much.

So, just as it ultimately does for the Fat-Tailed Dwarf lemur, the sun rises significantly for me and thousands of other USC kids and the kids who teach them tomorrow morning.  Like most of us, I love/hate the beginnings and endings of semesters.  A case of vertigo has kept me even more cave-bound than usual the past few days — and made me miss too many fine things going on in town, so I’m wondering whether Wee Blue Bug II will even run tomorrow morning, or if either of us will be able to find our way back to campus.  But, like the salmon, the sea turtle, and yes, even the sparrow, we’ll find our way along migratory paths determined long before us.

So, for those of us who must crawl out of our hibernation caves and back to the Ivory Tower tomorrow morning, I wish us well.  Happy Semester, USC Students, Faculty, and Staff.  Let’s be careful out there.

January 1, 2010

The New Year, Cassie Premo Steele, The Poemgranate, & my favorite poem from Ruin

Educator, author, creativity coach, and poet, Cassie Premo Steele has a multitude of gifts that she generously shares with her community, near and far.  Next Thursday night, January 7th, Cassie will be the featured poet reading a selection of her poetry as part of the entertainment component of the FOM series on Main Street.  Her work will focus on relationships and intimate issues — such as parenthood, marriage, and family & work struggles — and she’ll be reading and signing her books at 7:30 pm.  Poets Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Chris McCormick will be reading at 6:30 and 8:30 pm, as well.

Cassie’s poem, The Poemgranate, was recently nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. The first time I heard this poem, the author was standing on the front porch at Muddy Ford on a cold and drizzly autumn day, speaking the words intimately to our group of 8 women who were participants in the first Women Writing Naturally Workshop.  The day was all crisp and spicy and promising despite the gray dormancy of the woods around us.  After the reading, Cassie broke apart a pomegranate and shared seeds with all of us, then invited us each to commit our seeds to the ground with our own personal wishes and blessings.  If you can imagine how special that moment in time was for our small group, you’ll know how important it is that you come and hear Cassie read next week.  Here is the poem below.

~~~

The Poemgranate
By Cassie Premo Steele

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I am in a hotel room, far from home.
Next door a baby cries. The mama
Coos her sweet southern comfort.

I did this with you, when you were young.
I ran like Persephone, but with a baby,
Smoky Mountains, New Mexico plains,

Boston, and beaches—we’ve seen the insides
Of hotel rooms turned tombs as I tried
To get what all mothers want, peace

And quiet. I would put you on the floor,
My lily, my orchid, my crocus, let you
Play with plastic cups, suck from multiple

Bottles, anything for one moment
When I could look away without fear
Of falling or choking or hurt.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

You are no baby anymore, at eight
You have fallen from grace
Many times—not from your mother

But from yourself, which is worse.
I mourn like Demeter, even though
You are still here. You inherited

More than my eyes: my vision,
My moods, my hungers, my cycles
And sins. They live in your skin.

You told me last week you had waited
For thousands of years in the sky
For a mother who would take you in.

Me, I said, smiling, I was the best one.
And then you stuck in the pin: No,
You were the only one to be so dumb.

It is fall, the time after the beginning.
Not spring, not one thing in its infancy.
No fantasy of pregnancy or baby again.

I have no flowers to welcome you back,
No seeds to plant, no chants to make
You whole again. I am human.

Not a goddess with magic or power
To create seasons that mirror
My immense sorrow, your great need.

All I can do is to feed my desire
For solitude, find a way back
To myself through these words

That I harvest like fruits, plucked
From my head, cut open in bed,
And eaten, forbidden or not.

Seeds and core, peel and stem, entire.
It is with this poemgranate that I might
Make myself, mother, whole again.

~~~

Cassie is also the author of five books, one if which is Ruin. Here is my favorite poem from that collection.

~

What Woods

by Cassie Premo Steele

~

What woods are these, that would begin

with this bitchy little seed, so ferocious?

What good is this mean tree that tries

to cut my fingers until they bleed?

Podlike I crawl back into the earth’s

prehistoric sandied shore, and let her take these

teeth from me, let her keep me

from biting back, or biting more.

There I listen, earlike, for the crowned

dawn so I can emerge from this

horrible beginning, so I can split

from my nightmare heritage

and learn to stand where I belong.

~~~

For more information on Cassie, to follow her blog, listen to her radio show, or order books that you may have signed at the FOM event, visit the following link:  http://www.cassiepremosteele.com


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