Today we are pleased to feature artist Louise Fisher as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Louise discusses the creation of her video performance “A Letter I Long and Dread to Close,” as well as her own artistic journey.
Louise begins by describing her childhood in rural Iowa, where, as she states, “the tallgrass prairie was my first art teacher.” Eventually, she declares, “my curiosity and ambition drove me… to find a community who could relate to my strange creative impulse.” In search of this creative community, she is currently pursuing her MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University, where she says that “my work is very tied to the experience of ‘place.'” Speaking on the concept of “place,” she states that, “I knew a desert metropolis was the complete opposite of my upbringing, so I wanted to challenge myself and see how my work would change.”
“A Letter I Long and Dread to Close” is, in Louise’s words, “a perfect example of…this concern with the past and the process of deterioration.” Inspired by a poem titled “Toward the Solstice,” by Adrienne Rich, the video was “informed by an interest in domestic history, and how our lived spaces can hold impressions of inhabitants.” It was filmed in a house that Louise’s mother “grew up playing in, standing next to the house that I grew up in,” and was a “site-specific response” to how “aspects of the home are often ignored” in historical narratives. In filming the video, Louise states that her first impulse was to “peel the wallpaper away and investigate what was there; to see how deep the time went, like an archaeological dig.”
You can watch Louise’s video, “A Letter I Long and Dread to Close,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and Changing Hands proudly present a reading with essayist, poet, and author Dan Beachy-Quick on Friday, October 26, 2018 at Changing Hands Phoenix (300 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85013) at 7 p.m. This event is open to the public and free
About the Book:
Midway through the journey of his life, Dan Beachy-Quick found himself without a path, unsure how to live well. Of Silence and Song follows him through the forest of his experience, on a classical search for meaning in the world and in his particular, quiet life.
In essays, fragments, marginalia, images, travel writing, and poetry, Beachy-Quick traces relationships and the identities through which he sees the world. As father and husband. As teacher and student. As citizen and scholar. And as poet and reader, wondering at the potential and limits of literature, and guided by his studies in ancient Greek.
Of Silence and Song finds its inferno—and its paradise—in moments both historically vast and nakedly intimate. Our world’s disappearing bees, James Eagan Holmes, Columbine, and the persistent, unforgivable crime of slavery—these are the circles of hell Beachy-Quick wanders, but cannot escape. And yet he encounters redemption in the art of Marcel Duchamp, the pressed flowers in Emily Dickinson’s Bible, and long walks with his youngest daughter, Iris. “The litany in hell is weeping, weeping,” he writes, “but there are other litanies.”
Curious, earnest, and masterful, Of Silence and Song is an unforgettable exploration of the human soul.
About the Author:
Dan Beachy-Quick is the author, most recently, of a collection of essays, fragments, and poems, Of Silence & Song (Milkweed, 2017). He has written six books of poetry, gentlessness, Circle’s Apprentice, North True South Bright, Spell, Mulberry, and This Nest, Swift Passerine, six chapbooks, Shields & Shards & Stitches & Songs, Apology for the Book of Creatures, Overtakelesness, Heroisms, Canto and Mobius Crowns (the latter two both written in collaboration with the poet Srikanth Reddy), a book of interlinked essays on Moby-Dick, A Whaler’s Dictionary, as well as a collection of essays, meditations and tales, Wonderful Investigations. Reddy and Beachy-Quick’s collaboration has recently been released as a full-length collection, Conversities, and he has also collaborated with the essayist and performance artist Matthew Goulish on Work From Memory. In 2013, University of Iowa Press published a monograph on John Keats in their Muse Series (editor Robert D. Richardson) titled A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work, and Coffee House Press published his first novel, An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky. He is a contributing editor for the journals A Public Space and West Branch. After graduating from the University of Denver, he attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He has taught at Grinnell College, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently teaching in the MFA Writing Program at Colorado State University. His work has been a winner of the Colorado Book Award, and has been a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Prize, and the PEN/USA Literary Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of a Lannan Foundation residency, and taught as Visiting Faculty at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in spring 2010. He was one of two Monfort Professors at CSU for 2013-2015, and his work has been supported by the Guggenheim Fellow and by a Creative Fellow of the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University.
About the Class
Performance narrative is for every writer—those who may want to add new elements to one’s current writing style or those who are interested in writing performance pieces. Together, let us explore contemporary writers (Carla Harryman, Ron Allen, Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy and Nova Baize) who have moved descriptive narrative into experimental performance. As a class, we will consider a social problem, and then in groups create a narrative work and add performance elements. In brief and playful revisions, text arrangement will indicate sound and pace dynamics. Two to three members of each group will perform the pieces. We will conclude with a group discussion to share how performance narrative can enhance one’s style of writing or be used to inspire a new work. Please, feel free to bring your laptop or tablet to make fast revisions, and if you feel more comfortable writing by hand, notebooks and pens are also welcome.
About the Instructor
Proud to be a Phoenix resident for four years, Walonda Williams hails from Detroit, Michigan, where she graduated with a BFA in Theater from Wayne State University. Williams recently completed her MBA, specializing in project management, from Strayer University. By writing poetry, short stories and staged-plays, Williams aims to provide an otherworldly perspective and employ organic process to unleash the marginalized voice. She trusts that the written word can shift painful pasts into dynamic action.
The Tempe Public Library and Arizona State University are proud to present the 4th annual Tempe Community Writing and Cover Design Contest! Tempe community writers and graphic designers are invited to submit their creative work; both contests are open to Tempe residents, Tempe Public Library Cardholders, high school students and ASU students.
The contest will accept entries from January 8, 2018 to February 19, 2018. Writers may submit one original work in either poetry, short fiction or creative nonfiction (including essays and memoir). Entries are read anonymously by members of ASU’s creative writing community, and a winner is chosen in each genre for the three entry categories: high school student, college student (undergraduate or graduate), and community adult. Graphic artists (age 14 and above) are invited to prepare a color cover design for the 2018 issue ofTempe Writers Forum, the publication that shares the winning entries.
In addition to having their work published in volume 4 of theTempe Writers Forumand on the library’s website, contest winners will be celebrated at a reception at the Tempe Public Library in April. For more information (like the full contest submission guidelines, past issues of Tempe Writers Forum, and the works of writers receiving honorable mention), check out the contest’s webpage. If you’re a resident of Tempe, definitely look into this opportunity!
The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing is excited to announce “LEGACIES: A Conversation with Sandra Cisneros, Rita Dove, and Joy Harjo (Hosted by Natalie Diaz).” The event will take place Saturday, December 2 from 1:30pm to 3:00pm in the Great Hall, Beus Center for Law and Society, Rm. 141, Arizona State University, Downtown Phoenix (111 E Taylor St, Phoenix, AZ 85004).
Although the event itself is December 2, make sure to put this on your radar now! This is a ticketed event, and tickets will become available on Saturday, November 4, at 12pm with a limited waitlist. All tickets are free, and there will be no walk-ins for the event. You can see more details about ticketing on the Eventbrite page, and you can see more details on the event as a whole on the Piper website or the Facebook event page.
This event will be December 2, the day after the trio’s event at the Phoenix Art Museum, which is already sold out. So if you can’t make it to the Phoenix Art Museum event on Friday, December 1, the “Legacies” event is the perfect opportunity to see Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, and Sandra Cisneros in action – just make sure to get your tickets on November 4!
The Piper Center teases, “Three legends come together for the first time to discuss their paths through the American literary landscape.”
Sandra Cisneros is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist whose work explores the lives of the working-class. She has received many awards, including (most recently) Chicago’s Fifth Star Award, the PEN Center USA Literary Award and the National Medal of the Arts, awarded to her by President Obama in 2016. The House on Mango Street has sold over five million copies, been translated into over twenty languages, and is required reading in elementary, high school, and universities across the nation.
Rita Dove is a former U.S. poet laureate, and she received her MFA in 1977 from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, where she and her classmates Sandra Cisneros and Joy Harjo were the only non-white students at the time. From 1981 to 1989 she taught creative writing at Arizona State University – the final two years as the first and only African-American full professor in ASU’s English Department. Thomas and Beulah, a book she wrote while teaching at ASU, received the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She was also the sole editor of The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry (2011). Her most recent book, Collected Poems 1974-2004, received the 2017 NAACP Image Award and was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award. Among her many other honors are the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama, the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton (making her the only poet with both national medals), and 25 honorary degrees.
Joy Harjo’s eight books of poetry include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave won the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She is the recipient of the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning CDs of music, and won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009.
Legacies is presented by archiTEXTS and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing with support from the Labriola National American Indian Data Center and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.
ASU’s Creative Writing Program is so excited to present its brightest, most talented alumni writers in this new series, the Stellar Alumni Reading Series. In this installment, Irena Praitis (MFA 1999; PhD 2001) and Bojan Louis (MFA 2009) will read from their work.
The reading will take place Thursday, October 26 from 7pm to 8:30pm in the Cochise Room of the Memorial Union on the ASU Tempe campus. A book signing will follow the reading – Bojan Louis is the author of Currents, and Irena Praitis is the author of The Last Stone in the Circle.
In Currents, Louis discusses the kinetic dissonance of the contemporary struggle to coexist with self-inflicted eroding environments. In The Last Stone in the Circle, Praitis chronicles experiences of prisoners in a WWII German work re-education camp based on eye-witness accounts. The synopsis details, “Delving into the murkiness of human experience in the face of suffering, the poems consider the complicated choices people make in impossibly difficult circumstances and explore the sheer resilience of survival.”
This event is free and open to the public. We previously featured this event in our Contributor Updates because Irena Praitis was featured in our very first issue – read her poems in Issue 1 here.
Cardboard House Press, CALA Alliance, and ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures are hosting Casandra Hernandez and Giancarlo Huapaya in their lecture series. The pair will discuss literature, arts, and publishing in Phoenix during this bilingual event. The event will take place Thursday, October 19, from 1:30pm to 2:40pm at the Piper Writers House on the ASU Tempe Campus (450 E. Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281).
Casandra Hernandez is the Executive Director of the CALA Alliance, and Giancarlo Huapaya is the editor of Cardboard House Press. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page.
The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University is hosting a special 8-part reading series featuring brand new work from ASU graduate students! Each reading will host 3-4 students at The Watershed, a beautiful waterfront restaurant and bar.
The next installment of the series will take place on October 17 from 7:30pm to 8:30pm, though you can come earlier to mingle, drink, and eat. You can find The Watershed at 5350 S Lakeshore Dr, Tempe, Arizona 85283.
The featured readers for the October 17 event are:
Charlee Moseley, Fiction
Joel Salcido, Poetry
Edward Derbes, Fiction
We’re especially proud that this installment features Charlee Moseley, a former intern at Superstition Review. She served as our fiction editor in Fall 2016. Congratulations, Charlee!
Stay tuned for later installments of this reading series as well! You can find more information on the event’s Facebook page and on the Facebook page for the ASU MFA Program in Creative Writing.
Last week, I had a conversation with a visual artist about the challenges of making art as we age. I’ll turn forty-six in December, and my friend is near there. I’ve read the statistics: the average poet peaks in her twenties; artists tend to be more in line with novelists, creating their best work in their forties (lucky guy). Still, with modern life and its distractions (see Anthony Varallo’s good post on interruption), finding inspiration tends to become more problematic with age.
The artist and I briefly discussed strategies we’ve tried to keep the wheels turning. He’s a pro: a gifted painter who reinvented his artistic identity by trying—and mastering—a new genre (video). He’s secured artist residencies. He’s earned a sabbatical. Yet he juggles a full-time teaching gig with a brilliant, lively family, which is to say, he drinks a lot of coffee. He’s constantly weighing appropriate balance and space—responsibilities galore, but good ones, ones crackling with depth and possibility. I struggle to find space—and inspiration within that space—for art in similar ways. In recent years, it’s been in the playgrounds of other art mediums, which sometimes means excellent live music shows, but often means wherever fresh contemporary visual art can be found locally; when on the Flagler College campus, where I teach, I frequent CEAM (the Crisp Ellert Art Museum). This is nothing new: poets have written ekphrastic poems since the beginning, many of them great and lasting (ie. Auden’s “Musee Des Beaux Arts”). And this is perhaps because there’s a certain kind of attention required of visual art—how color works to convey mood, for instance, or how vital a fresh concept to the work’s success—that helps remind us of important elements in poem-making. Not every poet has the same hurdles when it comes to making poems, but one of mine tends to be getting hyper-focused on the linear argument—that which I find most interesting, chasing the a-ha! moment—and therefore getting lazy about filling in with lush details. Or filling in the details, but not presenting them in strange or original ways. Another challenge is finding new themes: my obsessions have gone through the wash twenty times; all that hot water has faded and shrunk them. Spending a few hours with a visual artist’s work tends to get fresh angles spinning. For instance, one of my more recent riffs came courtesy of Anna Von Mertens, a highly-accomplished multi-media artist, currently living in New Hampshire. In this series, she’s taking well-known portraits (often self-portraits by artists like Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo) and from them, creating auras, using cloth, stitching, and homemade dye. Gorgeous. Mind-blowing. When I saw some of these in a CEAM exhibit, I immediately wanted to talk back to them, create a kind of tribute to them in poems. The result was a series of “aura” poems, using largely the Confessional poets. Here’s one:
aura: james wright
the head and torso shape that of a supplicant,
a nonbeliever in prayer, the eyes closed below
their frames, hands clasped at the heart, but the heart’s
red is the opposite of the dominant pigment, green: sap green
that breaks into flowering, o, Monet’s fields and water lilies
seeding and bursting beneath surfaces, all grown-blessed
in permanent green light . . . . Jenny the muse in hooker’s green:
river-rising just enough to be seen, he will wade in over
his head into the snake’s viridian venom, in the background
Van Gogh’s mother portrait, where the world’s players
smash against each other, competing terribly–
who wouldn’t waste a life for the naive green just breaking
into gallop? the wild fields blossoming?
As you can see, I’ve selected a dominant color palette that represents the poet/his work (green, with nods to significant painters who worked famously in green) and made allusions to Wright’s most well-known poems. What I’m most interested in is the conversation, the stimulation that arose from it. A familiar paradox, but one that bears repeating: artists must carve out vacuums in order to make art, yet art is not inspired by such vacuums, but life itself. In support of the collaboration of visual art and poetic inspiration, I bring my students to CEAM every semester, to view what riches our director has procured and to respond in poems; part of my own making process comes in designing prompts unique to the artist’s work. This experience is for them, for me, the dominant lesson: that the art-making engine runs on nouvelles idées, that we must constantly see potential inspiration everywhere and seek it out. If we’re young, the challenge comes in developing the habit; if we’re older, it’s in sustaining it. The irony, of course, with this particular mode: that the new ideas come from ideas already examined, though differently, by other makers. Another paradox (the soul of poetry).
I confess that when I first wrote this poem, I was thinking about lovers. About the way those we love leave their marks on us — on our skin, our mouths, our hearts — and the way those marks fade but do not disappear as time passes and love fades and may or may not disappear.
The more I sat with the image, though, the more I realized my body is covered in the words of so many others — friends I’ve cared for, enemies I’ve cursed, strangers who loitered long enough to leave traces. Some were written in indelible ink, others with a lighter touch, but my hide has been dried under tension, and washing with milk and oat bran will never get this parchment completely clean.
In the right light, I can read it all.
On my feet I see action words, reminders that I can wait or run, stand or fall. My knees say please and up my thighs are lines of lyrics (or are they limericks?). Across my belly sits the word empty. No matter how hard I scrub it with pumice, the curves and tails of those letters remain. My chest bears remnants of an animal’s fear and a surgeon’s signature, and the writing on my breasts, well, that I choose not to share with you.
My back is covered with what looks like court stenographers’ notes — each scribble symbolizing my exact whereabouts on the dates in question and the precise lengths of each of my sentences. Over my shoulders are my first doctor’s orders: the pain will never go away. Twenty years later, a different doctor drew a line through his diagnosis, but she did not rewrite it. The pain is still there under the skin — all she did was take away its name. The marks on my throat are my music teacher’s words. They’re too blurry now to read, but I know they are the reason I only sing when I’m alone.
Every day my face reveals more lines. There are jokes around my mouth and riddles on my forehead. Farewells trail from the corners of my eyes. Along my limbal rings are the details of my birth, and deep in one pupil, there’s a no, in the other, a yes. My scalp says fuck you. I occasionally clip my hair to let those words get some air.
My hands are a bit different. They’re my manuscript. They are the one place on my person I’ve never let someone else’s pen tip touch. They are scarred by my words alone. My wrist says try.
In the mirror, I see my story. Like Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Sand, it is without beginning or end, impossible, and terribly infinite. Perhaps there is some beauty there, too.
I grew up believing that there was a distinct line separating the body and the mind. The body was the physical — the domain of science, a subject I was never very interested in. I had nothing against science; I trusted it and was frequently amazed by it. In terms of interest, though . . . no.
I was more into the mind: the mental, emotional, intellectual. The mind was my passion — I loved learning and teaching, discussing and arguing, reading and writing. I wrote about my thoughts and emotions and made up characters with their own thoughts and emotions. In this realm, there could be pleasure or pain, ecstasy or anguish. If a feeling was confusing or a thought distressing, with my pen in hand, I believed I could make it better. The consequences of this were both comfort and power. I wrote what I thought I could never say. I wrote what I thought no one would know until they’d read what I’d written.
As I’ve grown older, though, I realize the errors of my thinking. The body and the mind are not separate. What goes on in one goes on in the other. Every thought I’ve ever had lives in my bloodstream and my brain, my memories in my muscles and my mind.
This concept might be stupidly obvious to others, but to me, it was an epiphany. This body was not just a thing I lugged around each day; it had meaning. Or rather, meanings — different parts meant different things in different contexts, like page-long entries in a dictionary, like feelings that feel good and also bad. I thought I’d been writing my life on paper in poetry, but I’d also been doing it on my skin and in my bones.
Of course, this means sometimes that I am weary. Depression makes a mind muddled and a body heavy. I can no longer pretend that one’s all right when the other one is clearly not. However, it also means that my bibliography is longer and more varied than I’d previously thought. It appears I’m quite prolific.
Because my body is a palimpsest. It is tattooed with others’ words as well as my own, and the layers are deep and permanent. There are lines in my fingerprint, they are lines of poetry. All that writing will tell you who I am.