Saturday, September 13, 2008

Celebrated Poet: Constance Griesmer

On August 3, 2008 we honored Constance Griesmer, her poetry and accomplishments with a "Celebrated Poet's Tea" at our home in Pasadena. By interspersing elements of art and biography Constance described in a fascinating program called Light and Shadow Variations how she, as a legally-blind person is able to transcend limitations through creative experience. Constance read her poems and described her visual thinking orientation, as it naturally and strongly influences her poetry. See a short video of her improvised poem on Martian Snow for the Caltech Poetry Club, October, 2008.

On September 6, 2008, Constance was a part of the group Poets on Site, when we presented a performance of poetry, music and art at artist Ron Libbrecht's APC Fine Arts and Graphics's Gallery in Torrance. This event celebrated the work of artists participating with Henry Fukuhara, in the 11th Annual Workshop on Manzanar, the former Japanese Internment Camp during WWII as well as the surrounding Alabama Hills, Lone Pine and Keeler.

Henry Fukuhara, "Symbols of Manzanar, 2008" This is Constance's poem, inspired by his painting.

Dry Gold

It was a while before the shock wore off,
replaced by attempts at living
behind barbed wire.
One day, I wandered into the hills,
looking for new patterns of light
dancing off the rocks,
or for unnoticed flowers—
anything to vary the subject
of my paintings,
the activity of solace
in the drab housing.
Dry wind, sand and brush
flung monotony at my face—
then I saw the road.
I meandered along the unthought path
up and down the hills,
that day and many times afterward,
each time going farther.
At night I dreamed it would lead
to an exotic location
where I would not be called
an enemy, an alien.
I dreamed of the clouds that tended to change
from gold to blue
as I walked higher.

One day, the visit to the path
ended among more hills—
a vista of sameness.
What was the use of a trail
that started nowhere
and ended nowhere,
yielding but few inspirations
from either horizon
or rock formations?

Sometimes I fancied painting
at the high end under the blue starkness.
My mind balked, until I decided
to stay at the bottom,
near the outbuildings,
below the golden tinge.

Perhaps there was more gold in camp
than I had found before.
Reassured, I painted, listening
more closely to the heritage tales
of the camp elders,
walking with them on our balance beam
of injustice
until we were declared free.

Henry Fukuhara at age 93, in the last few years has lost his sight, and paints with assistance. Constance wrote the above poem inspired by Henry Fukuhara's painting after we discussed it. We also etched the abstract shapes on a postcard print of the painting to emphasize the spatial relationships.

Constance reading "Dry Gold" at our Poets on Site performance in Torrance Sept. 6, 2008, at APC Fine Arts and Graphics Gallery

Ada Passaro's,"The Sentinel" — Constance wrote this poem after we discussed the painting.

Redefining Alabama

Purple-gray mountains,
foreboding, majestic
grow ever taller.

Boulder-strewn landscape,
draped with rainbows
fixed, never quite still.

Grasp at fortitude
noble oak tree stands,
proclaiming green


Numb Gray

Dawn breaking over the desert,
Woman steps outside,
Pushes back her front curl,
Yawning slightly,
Blinking a few times
No need to shade her eyes
The colored glow is faint yet
Is that a suggestion
Of sky-red,
Or the fading light
From a planet neighbor?
Flower and sand smells.
Back inside, turning.

Blue Other

Under the late afternoon sun,
standing in water
barely moving,
touching the slight ripple,
looking down at the suface,
lake water dark enough to calm
light enough to reassure.

Cool sensation above the hips
enjoyed alone.
Climbing out reluctantly—
a lady said the water was

Since that day,
blue, often gloom-covered,

appears to my mind's eye

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Featured Poet: Sharon Hawley

The strong, insightful, witty and musical poetry of Sharon Hawley is as heartwarming and inspiring as her personality. A wonderful friend and poet, she was celebrated Januuary 20, 2008, and a subsequesnt encore presentation a few months later, in the first Celebrated Poet's Tea at our home in Pasadena. Sharon's 120 day solo cross country bike trip is featured in the current issue of Glendoran magazine. She will present a slide show of her trip, sign her chapbook, and read poems composed during the journey. You can read some of her adventures her blog in progess, Pedaling West.

Here is a small collection of poems from her Pedaling West chapbook. The poems give you a feeling of the experiece, a poet's eye view while traveling solo across the country.

The Happy Side of Misery

On a country road in mid-Virginia,
a cyclist pulls another hill,
past a house with mammoth lawn,
a dairy barn behind.

Oaks and poplars catch the sun
and glisten with the grasses,
soothing tired eyes with
forty shades of southern green.

Bovine eyes look up from munching,
distracted by a passing beast,
a strange one this, not making sense.
Free from fence and milking,
instead of lying in the shade,
she pants a lonely hill.

Rebuke arose as proud I watched them,
a preacher in a wandering soul.
You fear the pain of fence,
perform the duties you suppose
your hometown breed imposes.

Then came to mind the antsy spirit,
wrestling with norms,
how I give so much for danger,
magnify the little gain.

In the weariness of afternoon,
legs draw concentration,
leave the brain to wander,
strain to hold the narrow way.
No shoulder, but a drop-off,
a coal truck bearing down.

Here I go, a long new road,
like going back again,
not so sure this hilltop hides
just another downhill ride.

The significance of Sharon Hawley
(May she rest in peace.)

Cleanly positioned in clearly marked lane,
Sharon rode in a bright yellow shirt.

Happily driving, son strapped beside,
a young mother chatted, her car pointed home.

Turning right where she always turned,
thinking of baseball, cooking and love,
she snagged the shirt, bicycle and all,
crushed them beneath her car.

For a week after that, her caution improved,
her son rode tense with the change.
she watched with care at every turn,
didnâ?Tt find quite as much to say.

Thus our Sharon affected her world
for the time that she spent passing through,
made a week safer for bikers and walkers
from this one mother of a boy of two.

Now that Sharon's back home, she is often asked "What will you do next?" What is your next adventure?" Always ready for a new adventure, you'll be surprised by her answer... coming soon!

Recently, Sharon inspired Kath's haiku and artwork below (collage and watercolor on handmade paper). Looking north at the snow-capped San Gabriel mountain peaks, most people would see them in the sense of line one. Sharon's reaction, however, is shown in line three!

distant snow mountains
on new year's morning
only a step away