Ekphrastic Writing

Yesterday Lighthouse Writers Workshop in collaboration with Denver Art Museum sponsored an event featuring ekphrastic writing, writing in response to visual art. Our host writer for the day was MolinaSpeaks, a Denver poet and artist. Molina led us to the 4th floor of the museum where a we visited Mi Tierra: Contemporary Artists Explore Place,  installations by 13 Latino artists exploring “contemporary life in the American West.” Our process was to first visit each of the installations and then choose one that inspired close observation, interaction, mystery, whatever might inform our own writing.

My choice was a mixed media grouping by artist Ramiro Gomez. His bronze sculpture of a woman stands outside the museum, near the entrance, and three mixed media pieces inside portray the same woman, Lupita, who cleans the museum. Gomez says in his bio that manual work is an important element of his art. He uses cardboard, black trash bags, a cleaning rag, a spray bottle in his constructions, textures and surfaces that Lupita handles as she cleans.

The static art brings her not to life but into our lives. At breakfast yesterday I did not know her. With my morning coffee today, I know of her. Here’s the poem that developed as I sat with Gomez’s art:

LUPITA

Cardboard and black plastic,

cleaning rag and spray bottle–

everything means something:

the blood-red paint, a woman

cut out of the background,

leaving a white silhouette

of a brown woman. Warned

to “stay behind the line”

meant to protect the art,

I cannot touch her, Lupita

of Integrated Cleaning Service

though she touches me.

Makeup for TV

Writing is not, I repeat not, a solitary process. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I hang out with a lot of other writers, many of them I meet over coffee or in critiques or for free writing. I love these personal and up close meetings, especially in our high-tech world were too often we are avatars, mere head shots or invisible hands on  invisible keyboards. Yesterday I added another form of contact–television.

Stacy McKenzie is the host for a program called Off the Page, tag line, “where we get the story behind the story.” I don’t watch much television and have never been on TV, so I was curious and a little apprehensive. Television itself has prepared me for a chaotic crew of technicians and a round of retakes to make it perfect. What happened was much more comfortable.

In preparation, Stacy sent me a list of likely interview questions, so I would not be challenged by the unexpected. I talked with a friend who has had a lot of theater experience and Judy advised me to wear makeup because of the bright lights used in filming. What? Makeup? My cosmetics comprise a dried-up tube of mascara and a tinted Berts Bees lip gloss. Sigh, so I took her advice and called a local salon. Oh, excitement! “TV? Yes, we have an esthetician/makeup artist. We can fit you in at 1:15.” I didn’t have to be at the library where Stacy does the filming until 4:30, so I figured I had time to come home and wash my face if I couldn’t live with the results. But Tiffany at Centre Salon in Westminster listened to me and went with “a natural palette.” It felt odd, but I did not look like a clown. In the mirror I saw a face resembling my own, but just a little unfamiliar.

The film crew consisted of two men, both casual, friendly and undemanding. Stacy and I were miked with unobtrusive wires and all I had to do was smile, talk, and keep my tote bag out of sight. We talked about writing, about writing communities, about my books, and Stacy asked me to read a bit of poetry. Well, I read poems almost as often as I eat. The only retakes were for Stacy. She does so many of these interviews that she works at keeping the routine bits, her intros and outros and questions, fresh. So, now I can add TV experience to my list of things I never imagined doing.

The interview will be visible in September on the The Broomfield Channel-You Tube, the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library website and Broomfield Cable Channel 8. Stay tuned and I’ll post the link. Now, excuse me. I want to go buy a new tube of mascara. Just in case, you know?

Woman on the Move

Unknown

The Maine Coast

I’ve wrapped up many of the things on my to-do list and on Wednesday I fly east for three weeks. My luggage is packed with the usual things–clothes, books, a couple of writing projects. What will be left behind in Colorado? My Colorado family and friends, my dog, computer, car, reading chair and favorite coffee cup. Important things that spell home, although I still say that going back to Maine is going home. I am, as I’ve always been, a woman on the move.

What goes with me as I travel are my five senses, my ability to move through space, my voice and my attention to language. I travel with the habit of writing every morning to clear away dead leaves and try to see clearly to the watery bottom of my mind. As I write I travel down the page, an early stroll from sleep to awareness. To noticing what I notice, as Ginsberg put it.

I’ll notice people in airports, on buses, on the sidewalks of Portland. I’ll pay close attention to my son, my daughter-in-law, grand dogs, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. I’ll inhale the sweet smell of horses and I’ll taste the best seafood in the world right next to the water it comes from. My ears will relish the accents of New England and hope we never lose them. If I seem distant from this blog, it will be that I’m recharging that awareness, rebuilding myself from the roots up. I’ll certainly be back here in July. Until then, be safe, be well, know joy.