Food for Thought

I will be serving up some “verbal appetizers” during the opening of The Dinner Parties: art & agriculture, Wednesday, April 10, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Porter-Sesnon Art Gallery at UCSC. If you are in the mood for fun and to see some unusual and moving art, and if you’d like to talk food and appetizers with me, please come by for the opening. If you can’t make the opening, try and get by and see the show: it is on until May 11.

For more information about the opening and the show please see http://art.ucsc.edu/galleries/sesnon/current.

Performance in Berkeley

I am excited to be able to present, “My Lunch with Sophia Loren,” as part of the Tell It On Tuesday, East Bay Solo Performance Series, to be held Tuesday night, September 25th @ 7 pm. (Ah, Sophia, Sophia!) This is one of my favorite series. There is music and four storytellers to make it a fun and worthy evening. Come on out and enjoy. Here’s the details:

Tell It On Tuesday
Marsh Arts Center
2120 Allston Way
Berkeley
www.tellitontuesday.org
Music @ 7pm, Stories start @ 7:30 pm
Tickets: $8 – $ 15 sliding scale.

Fringe Festival Santa Cruz

HI Everyone: If you were invited to a party with Sophia Loren, Irish faeries, and a reluctant young sci-fi writer, what would you bring? Well, come to the party and find out. I am performing, My Lunch with Sophia Loren & Other Stories in the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival, which begins July 13th 2012. Come on down for the fun.

Click here for PDF flyer.

Click image for JPG flyer:

 

Mucking About

Hello Everyone:

In my recent show, Starting from the Wrong Place, which I am happy to say, sold out and was a satisfying success, Neal Hellman and Adam Stanton were musicians who joined me in the second monologue. Their music brought a deepening and beauty to my words that enhanced and enriched the piece without overwhelming it.

But it didn’t start out easily for me: I usually work alone, so this was a new adventure. I remember one of the first rehearsals: Neal had worked hard and written a great deal of music, and I thought I had my piece memorized. But when I sat down next to Neal and he started playing, the dulcimer was loud and only about two feet away from my left ear and suddenly I couldn’t remember my lines, and the music seemed jarring and threw me off and I couldn’t see how it was going to work and, and, and . . . I started getting anxious and frustrated. Well, what to do. Well, of course, take it out on the dulcimer. Interior monologue: I hate the fucking dulcimer. Well, if you saw the show, you know it all works out fine in the end. And if you didn’t –– well it all worked out fine in the end. More than that. I came to love what Neal offered to my work. I/we just had to get past that first day, and I had to sit further away, and learn to interact with the music, not pretend it wasn’t there. The minute I understood that, everything started to work.

And then we added in the sax. And, damn if the same thing didn’t start up all over again. At first I couldn’t see how it was going to work and I was ready to pull the plug. But then, suddenly Adam’s music connected with Neal’s and then they both connected with my words and suddenly a little magic. And we were all surprised that a sax and a dulcimer could be so beautiful together. Who knew?

Point #2

Be patient with yourself. And, I was reminded over and over by my director Bill Peters, to enter into a relationship with the music. To turn to it and interact. How often in our creative work, do we just want it to work out without having to deeply engage somehow? It’s odd, because that deep engagement is what is so satisfying, but we live in an age and a time when we are constantly being pulled into  “continuous partial attention,”(http://lindastone.net/qa/continuous-partial-attention) and it is harder and harder to settle down and settle in. At least for me. But the moment we get quiet within, and ENGAGE, then the magic can happen. And that’s what worked here.

Which brings me to point #3

Sometimes it is important to get help, especially in the areas where you don’t shine. It’s ok not to know and understand everything. I can’t design flyers to save my life: I am a good artist, but have no design sense on the page. So, I hire someone who is good at that and let her take over and then I can go about doing what I do well.

I had a professor at UC Irvine (the late Robert Blanchon), who said to me once: Your job as the artist is the have the ideas–you don’t have to have the expertise in every technical part of executing the final product. This was a new concept for me and it has been so useful. If you bake terrific cakes, it doesn’t mean you also have to know how to grill well. Someone else might help you with that. Or, if you want to try it, be prepared to make messes, to throw some of it away ‘cuz it doesn’t always turn out well. But get in there and try things. Muck about. Be surprised. And let yourself have fun. By the way: I love the dulcimer now. And the dulcimer with a sax—oh yum.

Winter Light & Root Vegetables

Hello Everyone,

First the news:

For all of you who have asked where you can read some of my current work here you go: My personal essay, “On Reading Anne Carson’s, Nox,”  will be published in this month’s (December, 2011) issue of “Poetry Flash,” which will be available on-line and in print soon. And my performance story, “Way Out West,” was published in “Generations: a journal of images and ideas,” Vol 2, Spring, 2011. Also a reminder that a version of my performance story, “Dinosaurs & Haircuts,” appears in the excellent on-line journal,  “TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism,” Issue 11, October, 2010.

Now the meanderings:

Ah, the light, the light. Love the winter light. Get out the cameras and take portraits. It is the best light for portraits. Long and low and soft. Shadows short and sharp. Time to go deep inside and find out what’s wanting and needing your attention. Maybe more sleep, or perhaps just more “noodling” time. Chop wood and carry water time. Time for that pensive music: perhaps some Bach solo cello concertos, Russian choral music, or a quiet piece by Anoushka Shankar or . . . well, we all have our favorites.

Rest and quiet and dark nourish our creativity as much as sun and fire and rock n roll. Consider two kinds of creativity: active and receptive. In one, we go out seeking. We write our thirty drafts, work hard, do our research, make those phone calls, feel our energy directed outward –– active creativity. In another, we kick back, take a long hot bath, stare into space, “do nothing” –– receptive creativity. In one we work hard. In the other, we don’t work at all. When we are receptive we listen, we receive. It is in this doing nothing that our right brains can show up with their gifts. The poet, Jane Hirshfield once talked about intentionally going for long walks without pen and paper when she was stuck on a poem. One has to be committed to receptivity.

And the shorter days, longer nights, the darkening cave time is an invitation to receptivity. This does not mean you can’t be producing, (I am busy getting my new solo monologues ready to put up on stage which is a lot of work), but it does mean there is a turn of intention. Inward. I am sleeping more, lighting more candles, making all those wonderful cold weather foods, the soups, the stews, the root vegetables. I warm to the dark and the cold. It is a good time to listen: to your dreams, to stories. A good time to be close. Happy solstice to you all.

Events in our life happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to                             ourselves, they find their own order…the continuous thread of revelation.
–– Eudora Welty

On Banality

How are you doing with banality? What? You know, your daily encounter with your ordinary banal self. You want to write a truly good poem, bake a great red velvet cake, create a subtle layer on your encaustic painting and it just doesn’t work out: the poem is clunky, the cake falls, the wax cracks. And there you are, face to face with yourself and your ho hum-ness. Do you despair, give up, throw away your pens, your paints, turn on the tele? Or do you take it in stride, go for a walk and get on with getting on? I hope the latter.

I have been trying to finish a particular poem I wrote five years ago. At the time I was inspired and I see the inspiration of the poem and I see also, that it doesn’t quite work yet. I have tried forcing the ending out of impatience. I have tried chucking the entire poem into the “I am a lousy poet” file. But I keep returning to it because something in it is alive and I want to be true to that spirit. Today, looking at this poem, I feel what the poem is asking for and am “suddenly” able to write it and to give the poem the ending it needs. Another writer might not have taken five years to discover what their poem needed, but I did. That’s just how it works sometimes.

One of our greatest challenges as artists, as human beings, is always going to be facing our banality. (Jane Hirshfield has written about this concisely in her marvelous book, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, but I can’t find the reference right now.) Despite moments of startling clarity, insight and depth, I never get over the pain of encountering my limitations, my profound dullness. But I have learned to just keep plugging along. Sometimes I need to lower my standards (thank you, William Stafford for that one); sometimes I need to raise them. Most of the time I need to show up (Woody Allen–”80% of life is showing up.”) — showing up over and over again. And every now and again, I have to throw something new in the works and see what happens to lift myself out of the horizontal, out of flatness. I remember the writer, Grace Paley telling one of her workshop participants, that whenever she (Grace) got stuck in writing a story, she would just drop someone horrible in the story and see what happened (thank you, Grace Paley).

Well, that’s what was on my mind this morning. Time to run some errands, look at some art (it’s Open Studios here in Santa Cruz), and come home to try and finish that other poem I stalled out on.

Be brave and keep showing up. Bye for Now.

Speaking of Poetry — Coming Up

I will be reading, Nov. 17, as part of the “Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts” series the third Wednesday of every month held at the Santa Cruz Art League, 7-9 pm. For more info check out these two websites: http://www.sparringwithbeatnikghosts.com &   http://www.scal.org

 

The Art of Seeing

The photographer, Ansel Adams, used to have his workshop students set up their tripods and large format cameras, frame their image and just when they were ready to click the shutter, have them turn around and photograph what was behind them. What was he up to?

We all develop our habits, our tics, our frames of reference, and over time we tend to rely on these more and more. Last night a friend and I were telling a new acquaintance about the joys of eating popcorn with brewer’s yeast on it. The new guy in town, unfamiliar with some of Santa Cruzan’s culinary habits, said he was kind of a traditional guy––plain popcorn, same flavors of ice cream, and so forth. The idea of brewer’s yeast sprinkled on his popcorn was not at all appealing, although he did say, perhaps under duress, that he would give it a try.

It is important to know and honor our preferences; I return again and again to coffee almond ice dream, and to the landscape of the desert. But as an artist, I want to learn how to pay attention to everything and not let habit narrow my vision, or my possibilities of engaging with the world. Of course one can’t really pay attention to everything; we have to make choices, select out from massive amounts of sensory input, but we can cultivate our skills of perception and of receptivity. We can learn to be open to what is both in front of us and behind us, what is all around us. Ansel Adams was teaching this skill when he had his students turn around at the last moment and bring into focus what they had turned their backs on.

What are you not paying attention to? This might be a practice question for the next month in all of your affairs, be it art-making, writing, cooking, the art of friendship, the art of daily life. Whenever I am stuck now with my work, I ask myself, what am I not paying attention to? This simple question re-directs my intention and my focus, often with surprising results. I once spent over an hour looking for the Yellow Pages in a friend’s house I was vacationing in while she was away (there was no internet service, so I was not able to go on-line to find whatever it was I sought). Frustrated I gave up. The next day, feeling determined, knowing she must have such a thing, I went looking again, and much to my chagrin, found the book lying right where it ought to be, next to the phone––only the Yellow Pages were blue, not yellow––that’s why I had not found them. This is a bit embarrassing to share, but my guess is that you can relate.

So my friends, try it out. What are you not paying attention to? Just notice. You don’t have to change everything. You can still photograph what’s in front of you, but don’t be afraid to turn around and look at what else is there.

Good Art

The late and beloved art historian, Mary Holmes, defined art as “anything you make.” Then we are left with the question (and debate) what is good art? Skipping right over that issue, I saw some good art last night.

Brenda Wong Aoki and her husband Mark Izu, who perform stories and music of people living between worlds, gave a fine performance at Santa Cruz’s marvelous Kuumbwa jazz center. (http://www.kuumbwajazz.org) The avant-garde jazz was performed by consummate musicians and was transporting, smart, and moving music. When the first piece got-going with drums and bass in a grab-you-up-beat I was immediately tapping and moving along, but then the koto began its jazz riff and I was stunned. I only know koto as played in classical Japanese music. This was a use of the instrument in contemporary and brave ways, and it worked. Other pieces linked taiko drumming with saxaphone, bass, snare drums, flute . . .  — whew, what a treat. And Brenda Aoki’s storytelling was captivating. Her timing and use of gesture, motion, costume, humor and horror were stunning. I am a new fan and will be following their work. If you are interested: http://www.aokizu.com/first-voice. Good art, fine artistry.