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

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.

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January 6, 2010

McCormick, Hartvigsen, Buckner, Dickey — the art of the spoken word at FOM

I’m pretty excited about the presentation of spoken word art this Thursday night at Frame of Mind.  In addition to Cassie Premo Steele’s readings, which I recently told you about, three exceptional poets in their own rights will be sharing their work — and each has an impressive background in poetry with unique experiences to offer the listening audience.

In all likelihood, those of you who are into Columbia poetry will have already heard Christopher McCormick read.  Chris created the Art Bar’s VerseWorks poetry series back in September 2007 and, still today, Tuesday nights find Chris and his family of brethren and sister poets offering up the spoken word to the drunk and sober alike.    A self-professed combo meal of science nerd, IT geek, and  juggling poet, Chris is also a single father who still finds time to lead zombie parades about the city when the need arises.  Like many good poets, he has written all his life and even studied poetry under the late, great, and oh-so-straight James Dickey who, despite his bad comb over,  (I’m sorry — there’s a good comb over?), was the recipient of a number of honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Book Award, and an invitation to read his poem, The Strength of Fields, at the inauguration of my favorite president, Jimmy Carter.

According to Chris, who visits the Lord every Tuesday night during VerseWorks at Columbia’s Church of Free Speech, “I used to write to get the attention of girls.  Now I write because spoken word poetry is my favorite form of honesty — because I have found a true diversity and acceptance in this community that doesn’t exist anywhere else.  Oh, and also to get the attention of girls.”

What say Ladies?  Let’s give the boy what he’s looking for on  Thursday night at FOM.

~~~~~

Kristine Hartvigsen came to poetry later in life, having her first poem published in Brett Bursey and Becci Robbins’ The Point, in 1993.  Like Chris, Kristine also developed a relationship with the Art Bar and took over hosting their Open Mic poetry nights from 1997 – 1999, during which time she also published a monthly newsletter for poetry called Aurora Borealis. Since then, Kristine has built a career in prose, serving as editor of South Carolina Business Magazine and Lake Murray – Columbia Magazine, in addition to single parenting her exceedingly creative son, Colin.  A regular by night at local readings, Kristine spends her days fighting the good fight for the environment as marketing communications manager for the South Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.  I can’t wait to hear what she brings to the event on Thursday.

~~~~~

The final poet offering up her wares of words is Zen massage therapist, Melissa Buckner.  Poetry has been a part of Melissa’s life as long as she can remember, her first poetry seeing print in the USC -Sumter literary magazine, Sandhill. Hiker, songstress, Usui Reiki healer, Melissa describes herself as a Bohemian hippie living the life she wants to live.  She spent five years living in Prague, learning the Czech language while teaching English as a second language to impressionable Czech youth.  It was during her ex-pat days that Melissa published her first book of poetry, Little Bruises and Bits of Jade.

Here is one of my favorite poems from that collection —

~~

Yes, It’s Me

by Melissa Buckner

~

yes, it’s me

whispering poetry

slipping lines fluidly

one by one

counting lips

strands of silken

sleepy halo

speaking to each

curling sigh

~

calming skin

wishing words

spread willing

beneath

~

forefinger crisp and pink

smile closing upon the spine

knuckles kneading a song

~

one in two part harmony

swoon

I pretend to rest

~~~~~

Looking forward to seeing your smiling faces on Thursday night for Susan Lenz, Cassie Premo Steele, Chris, Kristine, & Melissa, and Heidi Carey playing the cello.

~

Until then — here is James Dickey’s poem delivered in honor of President Carter.

~

The Strength of Fields

by James L. Dickey

… a separation from the world, a penetration to some source of power and a life-enhancing return …

Van Gennep: Rites de Passage
Moth-force a small town always has,
Given the night.
What field-forms can be,
Outlying the small civic light-decisions over
A man walking near home?
Men are not where he is
Exactly now, but they are around him    around him like the strength
Of fields.    The solar system floats on
Above him in town-moths.
Tell me, train-sound,
With all your long-lost grief,
what I can give.
Dear Lord of all the fields
what am I going to do?
Street-lights, blue-force and frail
As the homes of men, tell me how to do it    how
To withdraw    how to penetrate and find the source
Of the power you always had
light as a moth, and rising
With the level and moonlit expansion
Of the fields around, and the sleep of hoping men.
You?    I?    What difference is there?    We can all be saved
By a secret blooming. Now as I walk
The night    and you walk with me    we know simplicity
Is close to the source that sleeping men
Search for in their home-deep beds.
We know that the sun is away    we know that the sun can be conquered
By moths, in blue home-town air.
The stars splinter, pointed and wild. The dead lie under
The pastures.    They look on and help.    Tell me, freight-train,
When there is no one else
To hear. Tell me in a voice the sea
Would have, if it had not a better one: as it lifts,
Hundreds of miles away, its fumbling, deep-structured roar
Like the profound, unstoppable craving
Of nations for their wish.
Hunger, time and the moon:
The moon lying on the brain
as on the excited sea    as on
The strength of fields. Lord, let me shake
With purpose.    Wild hope can always spring
From tended strength.    Everything is in that.
That and nothing but kindness.    More kindness, dear Lord
Of the renewing green.    That is where it all has to start:
With the simplest things. More kindness will do nothing less
Than save every sleeping one
And night-walking one
Of us.

My life belongs to the world. I will do what I can.


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


December 30, 2009

I get to be Susan Lenz for the night — at the FOM First Thursday opening January 7th

As most of you know, one of the first big arts events of the new year will take place on Thursday night, January 7th at Frame of Mind on Main Street, just across from the Art Museum and in between The White Mule and Gotham Bagel.  Mark Plessinger’s FOM series is presenting Reflections with Columbia’s own world renowned fiber artist Susan Lenz, featuring her Decision Portrait Series, as well as a few of Susan’s smaller pieces for those of you who can’t resist taking home some of Susan’s art and letting it become a part of your lives.  There are big things in store for the Decision Portrait Series, which is to say, it has future engagements scheduled, and the items are therefore not available for purchase at this time.

It seems, in fact, that Susan’s dance card is quite full these days.  Her glorious installation, Blues Chapel, which honors amazing blues divas like Billie Holiday and Ma Rainey and the glorious Bessie Smith, has been showing at The Gough Gallery in Denton, Texas for more than a month now.

Along with one of Susan latest projects, Last Words, an exhibition based on epitaphs and gravestone rubbings the artist has gathered, honored, and embellished throughout her travels, Blues Chapel will open here in Columbia at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios on February 4th and run through the 16th.  (More to come on this in a later post — suffice it to say, however, that Susan’s opening on Friday, February 5th, in combination with the Blue Martini’s tribute to her work on the self same night, which includes Eboniramm’s vocal tribute to the subject matter, has got your first Friday night in February covered.  Really — don’t make plans to do anything else.)

Unfortunately for Columbia though, Susan will be in Texas during the FOM opening night festivities on the 7th, closing down the Blues Chapel’s run in Denton.

But Columbia’s misfortune is my gift because I get to be Susan Lenz for opening night!  No, I will not sign autographs, however I will have on hand a list of FAQs about the artist’s work as well as a cell phone in hand with the artist’s number on speed dial.  (Susan and husband Steve will actually be en route to Texas during the gallery opening — fingers crossed for good cellular reception as they traverse the deep South.)

Some of you have had the pleasure of seeing a few of the pieces in the Decision Portrait series already, as Susan has exhibited some of them in her gallery space as they were completed.  You folks already know how moving the faces and phrases on these pieces are; you know how the xylene transfers on the muslin fabric seem to both personalize and distance the subject and patron; how the sparsity of the words favors the intent of the message.  You are the ones who know not to miss this exhibit.  Those of you who have yet to have the pleasure — take my advice, pay a visit to Frame of Mind during the month of January — better yet, be there on January 7th – opening night, when I get to be the amazing Susan Lenz.

For more on Susan’s work and the Decision Portrait Series visit her website at www.artbysusanlenz.blogspot.com

December 22, 2009

Reflections brought to you by Susan Lenz and FOM, with Cassie Premo Steele, Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, & Chris McCormick plus Treadmill Trackstar’s Heidi Carey

If you’re like me, it’s hard to think about anything but Christmas these days — wrapping, eating, unwrapping, eating some more.  But the calendar does go on after Christmas Eve, and just two weeks beyond today, there’s an arts event you want to go ahead and mark on your calendars.  I’m particularly partial to this event because I got to help put it together and, consequently, I get to show off some of my favorite people whose works help make your city such a great place to live.

I’m talking about the January edition of Mark Plessinger’s FOM series — titled for this month only, Reflections.

(I know it’s a little trite and constructed to always make January the month for contemplation, assessment, and resolutions.  But given that our culture is, in so many ways, devoid of these very necessary components to a healthy and happy life, I say, take it where and when you can find it.)

Frame of Mind’s  featured artist for the month of January is Columbia’s own internationally renowned fiber artist, Susan Lenz.  Susan, who references herself as a contemporary embroiderer (a term which seems too limiting for the magic this woman comes up with to me), brings us creations like art quilts, amazingly symmetrical bowls made from acorn caps and moss, embellished images of graves she has hand rubbed onto silken cloths, beautiful found objects captured onto unique canvasses — the kind of thing that puts the art into artifact.

In the days to come, I’ll be writing more about this upcoming event — telling you more about what to expect from Susan’s show, and offering a bit of information about the performance art scheduled for that evening.  But here’s a preview — Cassie Premo Steele reading her poetry and signing and selling books, with additional poetry readings by Melissa Buckner, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Christopher McCormick.  And when these guys aren’t enlightening you, Treadmill Trackstar’s own Heidi Carey will be serenading us with her sweet cello sounds, persuading us all to look inward a little — to reflect.

Sounds like a lovely night — and a wonderful way to start the new year in Columbia arts.

November 6, 2009

Feedback on Frame of Mind

You guys know I don’t usually do reviews, but I do want to give a little report, if you will, on the Frame of Mind series tonight on  Main Street.  There was a wonderful turn out, and with a free showing from Miriam Barbosa and Serguei Chtyrkov from the SC Contemporary Dance Company, Erin Jaffe Bolshakov from Vista Ballroom, Mimi Worrell and John Whitehead’s Carolina Ballet, Dale Lam’s Columbia City Jazz Company, and the beautiful Ashley Bennett and Sherry Warren — not to mention Evelyn Wong’s visual arts — why wouldn’t it have been?

Sure, there were a few glitches and things started a little later than expected.  But you know what?  They started, and that is the only thing that matters. Thanks to the artists who put themselves out there and performed under significantly less than ideal circumstances.  Their muscles were cold, the stage was raked — they were dancing in the street, for god’s sake.  But the gift that each of the performers gave us cannot be underestimated — they let us get a glimpse of what it looks like when someone fulfills their heart’s desire.  I often find the intimacy of this exchange overwhelming in the best of circumstances — but to see people who love their work so much that they will take the risk of letting complete strangers witness them perform it under less than ideal circumstances — in the freaking street, for example — it just blows me away.  I don’t care what anybody says — that is art.

Big fat kudos to Mark Plessinger for taking a chance and putting this stuff out there.  Thanks to the industrious and kind hearted Robert Michalski for helping Mark make it happen, as well as to the tech guy from White Mule, whose name I admit I just don’t know, for doing his quite significant part, too.  And thanks to all of you who came out to support local art — in the community and on the street.

November 5, 2009

addendum to FOM post — Bill Guess — aka Billy G

Filed under: Bill Guess,Frame of Mind — cynthiaboiter @ 13:54
Tags: ,

Just found out that horticulturist extraordinaire Bill Guess, (Billy G to some), will also be providing some of his on-site works of flora-rific art.  Look for them — they’ll be hiding in plain sight where you least expect them– and they’ll be ingenious, innovative, and glorious.  Love this stuff!

Main Street has taken over my brain — FOM, Anastasia, CCJC, Miriam, Good Time Chuck, Ashley, Vista Ballroom — plus more

It’s the first Thursday of the month and that can only mean one thing — Main Street will be rockin’ the arts tonight.  Big time.

Big goings on this month, too, because the happening trifecta traditionally provided by Mark, Chuck and Travis — aka Frame of Mind, Gotham Nights and White Mule –– is getting a major boost just a bit down the street at the Sheraton where Anastasia Chernoff is opening her show cleverly titled ex true sions.  Given that I will fight you for the title of Anastasia’s biggest fan, I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Anastasia has subtitled her show as — deep emotions squeezed or forced out and reformed through a medium — because she created these works while under hypnosis.  See?  Hypnosis doesn’t necessarily make one bark like a dog or speak like Rush Limbaugh when she goes under.  (Although I’d much prefer the first to the latter.)  Even if you aren’t an arts geek like me, do let your curiosity get the best of you and stop by Posh at the Sheraton at 1400 Main Street between 5 and 10 tonight to have a drink at the bar and check this show out.

And the big news up the street (or is it down?  I admit that sometimes I am directionally challenged — but I always know where the wine is, which is a life saver) is that Mark Plessinger has put together way more performing artists than any one Main Street deserves to complement his FOM (Frame of Mind) Series, which this month features the local artist Evelyn Wong.  Evelyn is both a performer and a mixed media artist so you never know what she will come up with, and I’m excited to see what she has going on with this showing.  Her work will continue to be on display at FOM throughout the month of November.  Performance-wise though, Mark has seriously got you covered, with short features presented by Miriam Barbosa of the SC Contemporary Dance Company, solos by the lovlies Sherry Warren and Ashley Bennett, and ensemble presentations by Columbia City Jazz Company, Vista Ballroom, and Carolina Ballet.  Whew!   We’ll be kicking off this delicious dose of arts immersion at 5 and running it until 9 at Frame of Mind — 1520 Main Street, directly across the street from the art museum.

At the risk of completely overwhelming you I also have to share that both of Mark ‘s neighbors — The White Mule and Gotham Nights — have stuff going on that you are absolutely going to have to stop into as well.  White Mule has a free wine tasting and a happy bar that is always ready to pour/mix/splash you a cold one, plus some of the coolest, edgiest art in town hanging on its walls — though I hear someone has her eye on one of Mike Krajewski’s pieces, but I’ll not divulge which one lest she get beaten to the punch and I have to suffer the consequences of my big mouth.  And Good time Chuck over at Gotham Nights (Gotham Bagel, by day) will be partying down with Tim McLendon, schwing dancing, plus a fridge full of fine beer and wine by the glass.

But please be forewarned — do not stay out too late tonight as Friday and Saturday nights have a glorious show in store for you at the Koger Center.  The USC Dance Company is on the stage again, so not only will my baby girl be dancing, but Thaddeus Davis has choreographed a new piece on former Boston Ballet principal/now USC instructor, Kyra Strasburg, to the music of Andre Previn.  That plus Balanchine plus more new choreography —  more info to come tomorrow, but rest assured, you dance & music lovers don’t want to miss this show.

See you tonight on Main!

 

 

 

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