Friday, June 21, 2019

THE CONSOLATION OF GARDENS




Border Press announces the July publication of The Consolation of Gardens by Diane Marquart Moore, a poet living in New Iberia, Louisiana and Sewanee, Tennessee, with photography by Dr. Victoria Sullivan. The duet of poet and plant photographer, Moore and Sullivan, has produced another book featuring their pursuits of plant life scattered throughout the southeastern United States and as far afield as the Mideast.

Poet Diane Marquart Moore observes humanistic elements in the diversity of plant forms, from mayapples to the everlasting rose; and Sullivan’s trained eye records the color and structure of typical and atypical forms of leaf and flower.

A special page in Consolation of Gardens, derived from drawings delineated by the poet’s mother, Dorothy Greenlaw Marquart, in 1926, lends interest to this volume.

Poems about those living forms that provide beauty as the principal adornments in garden and field provide botanical bounty for plant collectors, explorers, and lovers of gardens.

The cover of this volume is a photograph of a beautiful glass piece, Spring Annunciation, rendered by Karen Bourque, glass artist in Church Point, Louisiana and designed by Martin Romero, Vice-President of Landscape Design for Mullin Landscape Associates, St. Rose, Louisiana.


Available by July 15, 2019 from amazon.com or order from Border Press Books, P. O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN 37375



Tuesday, June 18, 2019

FOUR RAVENS


I was reading E. B. White’s One Man’s Meat yesterday when Four Ravens, a book of poetry by my friend and editor Gary Lee Entsminger, arrived. I had just finished reading about White’s wife complaining that she didn’t quite understand poetry, and he told her that a poet’s pleasure is to “withhold a little of his meaning, to intensify by mystification, zipping the veil from beauty but not removing it.” Entsminger’s new book of poems certainly bears out White’s assessment of poetry while reminding us of his awe for nature and organisms and, at the same time, embracing metaphysical thoughts in many of his musings.

I particularly liked Entsminger’s poems about his wife, Susan, who is an artist and who drew the raven on the cover of Four Ravens and sketched this bird in simple line drawings throughout the book. In “Second Reality,” Entsminger reveals the force of Susan’s work as an artist in a poem that shows his respect and devotion to his talented wife: “…sky reflects through the window/smudges resemble puddles/bright yellow circles simmer/like sunflowers six feet high./…When did she realize her sketches/said something words cannot explain/as objects came together without touching/the way they once reigned.” 

The Entsmingers live in a rustic cabin on a plateau in Colorado and exemplify the philosophy of a “Thoreau-like” life, doing tasks that the modern world would call drudgery, including the task of cutting wood. For a winter fire that Susan performs in the poem “Oak,” as husband Gary watches: “Paté done he glances out the window/sees the girl still building trail/work not easy but satisfying/attention focusing her energy/as the waning light casts/shadows of unfamiliarity/she picks up her tools/and goes to the woodpile/stacks the oak/looks at him/through the window/already smelling smoke.” Such poems often concentrate on every day, revealing the couple’s devotion to sustainability and uncomplicated dramas that occur in their daily life together.

Another poem that exemplifies Entsminger’s concern for the environment and objection to a chemical that has proven to poison human life on a large scale is one entitled “In Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply,” in which the poet speaks out about Roundup, “buckets and thickets/poisoning everyone/around him…long ago people here/knew to grow/sun-loving crops/in a leafy moon/roots herbs berries/learning how to eat.” 

In “Guide,” readers could surmise that Entsminger is inspired to portray his wife at musical play (Susan also composes and plays guitar and other string instruments): “Bare shouldered/mountain maiden/plucks melodious/strings of sunshine/drawing the youth/who listens/to her paintbrush/glistening/in a meadow/he has climbed to/dawn after dawn/Knowing he’s there/she stops playing/sets aside her psaltery.” The imagery in this spare poem is reminiscent of a long haiku, another rich drama in everyday experience.

Gary’s oeuvre is not without wryness in the pithy lyrics entitled “Cowgirl” placed within the opening pages of Four Ravens, when a mysterious woman roams mountain slopes: “misplaced perhaps/or meant to be/alpine chic/and lengthy curves…in this gentle range/no one spends/their lives/on indifferent things/she rises now and sings/as the cows look up/still chewing patiently/ready to follow her/down to the milking/She looks across the meadow/seeing something we don’t see/and tips her hat to me. “

This book is the second collection of poetry Gary Entsminger has published and contains new work as well as older poetry that adds to an abundance of original nature lyrics and existential musings that constitute a profound volume of rewarding reading. 

Four Ravens is available from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403 (www.pinyon-publishing.com).


Saturday, June 8, 2019

TIME WAS, TIME IS…


In E. B. White’s Writings From the New Yorker, 1927-1976, White includes an essay entitled “Disillusion” in which he writes about aging humans hanging onto or “groping toward things that give us a sense of security.” He names clocks in telegraph offices as vanguards of the correct time, and when he passes a clock in a telegraph office that has lost time, he feels that life is slipping away from him. This entry was written in 1929, but it carries the same message for me 90 years later — a thought underlined in a quatrain of The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayaam: “Whether the cup with sweet or bitter run, the wine of life keeps oozing drop by drop; the leaves of life keep falling one by one.”

Unfortunately, I’m a time watcher, and I think at 84, it’s too late for me to develop a new behavior unless this behavior slips up on me when I’m not looking at clocks. There are five clocks in our house here in Sewanee, Tennessee, not including the clock on the computer and in my iPhone, and the only one I feel I can count on, like White’s clock in the telegraph office, is my iPhone. However, I use these clocks for a variety of activities. The clock radio in the bedroom is fast, so this means I can sleep ten minutes longer (I don’t have to punch in at an office but am shame-faced if I’m not at my desk at 8 a.m.). Two clocks in the kitchen advertise two different times: the one on the stove is a bit early and announces breakfast when I’m really hungry; the other on the opposite wall is ten minutes behind the correct time and means I still have time to dawdle before breakfast preparations begin... and so on. 



My good friend Janet Faulk-Gonzales, who, bless her, always manages to be late, often reminds me that too much emphasis on heeding time could bring disastrous results similar to what she refers to as “walking off the porch,” a story that appeared in a book entitled Porch Posts we co-authored several years ago. 


Painting by artist Paul Schexnayder for Porch Posts

Painting by artist Paul Schexnayder for Porch Posts


In the essay, “The Pacing Porch,” I relate how I obsessed over being on time for school every morning while my brother and sister chanted “Hup two, three, four, hup two, three, four,” and I paced the front porch in a frenzy until I walked right off the porch, treading air for a few moments before falling with a loud thunk. I was nine years old at the time, and ‘though this event chastened me and my impatience for a day or so, I was back at it a few days after the “flying high” moment. I never fell off again, but I figured out how many paces I could make before reaching the dangerous edge.


Diane's sketch for blog Time Was, Time Is...

Diane's sketch


Although there’re many synonyms for time; e.g., flash, spell, instant, jiffy, twinkle, wink, etc., my favorite is “jiffy,” which resonates with my translation: “joyfully on time.” I’m one who couldn’t abide using such an instrument as an hourglass —what if the sand got damp? Or someone gave me a genuine cuckoo clock from Switzerland and visited often to see if I had hung it even though I was made nervous by such a loud announcement of an entire hour gone forever? The silent, digital hands on a cell phone keep me attuned to movements of day and night in the revolving universe and suit my time watch quite well.

Let’s face it — some people watch second hands; some people  watch minute hands; and some people watch hour hands on the clock. Then, some people lose all sense of time, and the latter isn’t in my DNA. It’s now 9:37 a.m., and I’ll end this reflection on the passage of time by 9:38. Whew, I made it!



Wednesday, June 5, 2019

LINES FROM NORTH CAROLINA

"Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset" by Cindy Lou Chenard


If travelers want to indulge in visual overload, Asheville, North Carolina, home of the River Arts District, (aka RAD) , is THE destination. RAD is a place where 23 industrial and historic buildings have been renovated to accommodate 200 artists who have set up their studios inside. Here, artists work in a variety of mediums — fiber, metal, paint, wood —producing some of the South’s finest art in old warehouses along a mile of waterfront on the French Broad River. 

We spent three days in Asheville, sampling art and international cuisine, and managed to catch the last show of Neil Simon’s “Proposals” at the Flatrock Playhouse in Hendersonville, North Carolina, thirty minutes away from Asheville. The visit to the playhouse was a hairy experience as we lost our way for a few minutes on the return trip to the motel in Asheville., arriving at 11 p.m. with my anxiety at high levels and vowing never to attend functions in unfamiliar places after dark again. 

My favorite visit (the fourth one in recent years) remains the River Arts District where I encountered Cindy Lou Chenard who creates two-and three-dimensional contemporary landscapes and abstracts. I was attracted to the use of horizontal lines in her work which she calls “Art Des Couches De Bois,” (Art in Layers of Wood) I purchased two cards, one entitled “Blue Ridge Parkway Sunset;” the other named after one of my favorite contemporary hymns, “Morning Has Broken.”

"Morning Has Broken" by Cindy Lou Chenard


A former weaver, Cindy Lou begins the process of creating her art with a photograph or sketch of a mountain landscape or an abstract design. In the process of creating these scenes, she scales her design to a desired size and transfers the layout to pieces of thin birch plywood. Using either a bandsaw or scroll saw, she cuts out shaped pieces of wood, sands and paints the pieces, then assembles and secures layers and custom frames her three-dimensional artwork. I was drawn to the purple, yellow, and orange colors in the two cards that showcased her work and talked awhile with Cindy, long enough to meet her husband and a huge dog weighing over 130 pounds that plopped down in front of me. Mr. Chenard, a French Canadian, listened to our stock lecture on Cajun Country, and we passed a good time reviewing the merits of French cuisine for him.

A North Carolina native, Cindy Lou has a BS from NCSU School of Design and exhibits her work in the River Arts District and Woolworth Walk in Asheville. Her work is reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe’s landscapes and creates a grand sense of space in viewers.

When we returned to the motel, I was surprised to see the vivid orange and yellow line designs in carpeting throughout the halls and rooms and wondered if decorators for the new motel had taken a leaf from Cindy Lou’s beautiful work.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

PINYON REVIEW #15


Approximately nine years ago, I met a handsome black Labrador Retriever through photographs with accompanying text by Gary and Susan Entsminger, co-publishers of Pinyon Publishing in Montrose, Colorado. The Entsmingers sent me pictures of this lovely dog perched on mountain slopes and rocky ledges and standing in fields of wildflowers. One cover of Pinyon Review showed Garcia dressed in red jacket and matching red collar in a forest of yellow-leafed aspens, his head turned as if looking back toward his admiring owners. He was the dog of a breed I wish I could own but because of allergies to animal dander, cannot. So I owned Garcia vicariously and felt deep loss when he recently died during a harsh winter.


Three photographs of Garcia taken by Susan Entsminger appear in the latest issue of Pinyon Review, along with several poems featuring him; e.g., “Afterglow:” in which Susan describes her fondness for this canine companion that climbed mountain trails with her and Gary: “If I can I will/criss-cross those snowy woods/for eternity with you…walking into low late-day winter sun/maybe that’s what the light of afterlife feels like /blinding brightness soothing dreamy eyes/[I] felt I could walk straight into it/drawing us up the gentle slope to the cabin/slowly to coax our breathing calm/still you’d gallop in the last/to Gary waiting with a treat/three proud hearts bursting/like a flash of summer sun/sparking the heart of winter.”

Almost at Garcia’s heels in this fifteenth issue, photographs of Mark Sanders’ work of oils on canvas at Blue Creek in Nebraska appear. They represent artwork that Sanders rendered of the Nebraska Sandhills. Also, an oil on gesso over plywood entitled “Fireflies” shows Sanders’ range of painting talent — not to be eclipsed by his writing — his non-fiction biography, The Weight of the Weather: Regarding the Poetry of Ted Kooser, won the 2018 Nebraska Book Award. Sanders’ use of orange, yellow and blue color combinations feature brush strokes reminiscent of Van Gogh — he appears to use palette knives in his depictions of the harsh faces of both winter and spring in Nebraska. 

As I have been reading and observing the ballooning egos of artists and writers in our present culture, the poem of Scott Wiggerman in “Self Portrait As Collage,” spoke to my feelings about the narcissism rampant in the so-called “Academy of Poets” today: “You are still stuck on being an I,/as I was before I lost myself. Can/you hear how I am barely a murmur/of my former self? I, torn and broken,/in hundreds of pieces, learned to master/the art of assemblage. Like all art, it/was the stuff of trial and effort; it was/a matter of rearranging the no-longer I.” This brief but cogent verse is a brilliant assessment of practicing the art of egolessness.

Robert Elliott continues his work restoring and archiving glass plate photographic images of Yosemite National Park and California Missions from the early 20th century. In this issue of Pinyon Review, he and Susan Entsminger contributed photographs of Harold Taylor’s “Meeting of the Waters” featuring digital scans of the glass plates of Overhanging Rock, Half Dome Overlooking Tenaya Canyon, Mt. Lyell, and Vernal Fall below Emerald Pool. Taylor’s sister, Winifred, hand-painted prints made from his glass plate negatives. This restoration work by Elliott, who lived near Yosemite for over 45 years, is also featured in 5 x 7 greeting cards published by Pinyon Publishing. The legend on one of Elliott’s reproductions relates how Taylor walked all the trails carrying an 8 x 10 camera, tripod, and glass plates “and would often outwalk the mules.”

Luci Shaw’s many readers will welcome a return of her poetry in this issue of Pinyon Review. “Incoming Tides” focuses on the act of writing and ends in an evaluation struggling poets often make of their poetic contributions: “…By beauty/we may not mean perfection.” In “Rhythms,” she speaks of the balance we strive to achieve as we grow older, sharing the wisdom that overarches most of her work: “We need this steadiness, this/faithfulness, in realities we/have learned to welcome. Like rains/in a dry season. Like the way/every night we are content,/eager to creep/under the fringes of sleep.” Shaw, an accomplished poet and essayist, is Writer-in-Residence at Regent College, Vancouver and received the 2013 Denise Levertov Award for Creative Writing.

Gary Entsminger focuses on feet in “Sandals” that carry “waves of energy” [that] rise from the ground/into the soles/of our feet/a friendly charge/ from Gaia/but we usually retreat/into hard resistance/shoes that neutralize/the vibrations…[but]Indians knew/to walk in harmony/in moccasins/letting the vibrations/from their feet/alert the snakes/to slither elsewhere/feel the earth/from the soles/into the soul…” As a hiker and a mountain climber, Entsminger knows how to care for his feet so that he can achieve those peak moments while ascending rocky ground — fodder for his philosophy, poetry, and artwork. He's presently working on another book of poetry, and I’d put money on the fact that he’s probably working sans shoes of any kind this moment.

Of interest to followers of Stuart Friebert is a paper he presented at AWP Panel in Portland, Oregon this spring, celebrating an anniversary of Field magazine of which he was a founding editor at Oberlin College, Ohio. The Field magazine has featured such notables as Anne Sexton and Denise Levertov, and under Friebert’s guidance, The Field Translation Series developed. Friebert produced 14 volumes of translations in this series. His paper about the inception of Field magazine will be followed by a forthcoming article concerning the birth of the translation series. In Pinyon Review #15, Friebert also writes a memoir about his association with Michael Mann, son of the famed German author, Thomas Mann. A prolific writer who owes allegiance to no genre of literature, his eclectic work is often showcased in Pinyon Review.

Self translations of work by Chinese poets Ye Rugang, Yin Xiaoyuan, and Lang Tianya, and other international writers are included in this latest issue of Pinyon Review. 

Order this fulsome literary journal of high quality work from Pinyon Publishing, 23847 V66 Trail, Montrose, CO 81403.






Wednesday, May 22, 2019

RUMINATIONS ON WRITING

There are times when writers of any genre get up in the morning, primed to write, go into their writerly lairs, turn on their computers and…and end up staring into space looking for the sun to appear and shine in their brains. On such occasions, many of us resort to writing about writing and feel mildly satisfied that we’ve been vigorous enough to produce a few sentences. 

Today is such a day, and I’m armed with tools I read about in a recent article concerning composing poetry. The poet said that he got first draft results from writing with a fountain pen — a good one — in a journal containing high quality paper and, sometimes, from using an old manual typewriter. So, a friend gave me a quality fountain pen (no, not a Mont Blanc, but a good pen) for my birthday, and I bought a moleskin journal a la Hemingway style with graph paper lines and for awhile, the fountain pen produced a fountain of language. I haven’t purchased an old Olivetti like the one I used in Iran when I wrote columns to send back to a newspaper in New Iberia, Louisiana, but this morning’s bout with writer’s block has inspired a search for the typewriter.

In the foreword to Strunk and White’s 4th edition of The Elements of Style, Roger Angell tells of E.B. White’s Tuesday morning battles with words for White’s “Notes and Comments” column that appeared in The New Yorker and how he was often silent and preoccupied at lunch time, excusing himself early to get back to working on this column. “He rarely seemed satisfied,” Angell writes. “It isn’t good enough,” White said at times. “I wish it were better.” I might add, would that any writer could compose such pithy, humorous, and wide-ranging topics once a week for fifty years!

Angell also says that although White’s prose was celebrated for its ease and clarity, he had to be eternally attentive to style to maintain that celebrated standard. Early White essays showcased what Rebeca M. Dale regarded as “life’s little adversities — short, frothy, witty, even sometimes flippant, articles,” but his later pieces became longer and more serious. In either case, White was a dedicated author who for more than fifty years, practiced his craft despite mornings when he felt dissatisfied with the finished product.

When I was writing Their Adventurous Will: Profiles of Memorable Louisiana Women, I interviewed Shirley Ann Grau, author of The Keepers of the House, a book that won a Pulitzer Prize, and she confessed that she often cooked to avoid beginning any writing. She further explained that writing was “making a structure,” an art that required work and honing of technique.

Oh well, my trouble with blank spaces this morning could be worse. E. B. White says that “life is apt to be translated more accurately by a person who sees it break through the mist at unexpected moments, a person who experiences sudden clear images…his eyes are poppy and tired, and his sensitized mind has become fogged by the frequent, half-stimuli of imagined sight…he knows he must invite his soul…” And, White quips, “especially when he has received a thousand dollar advance from a publishing house.” 

We writers should all have the latter problem! Meanwhile, I think about purchasing an Olivetti manual typewriter and walk out on the porch to ruminate on Sherwood Anderson’s words: “Writing is not an occupation.”






Thursday, May 9, 2019

BETWEEN THE ROCKS

Savage Falls Trail by Andy Gay

Andy Gay of Cowan, Tennessee wears a lot of hats — musician, minister, photographer, writer, painter… I was introduced to him at St. Mary’s Convent, Sewanee, Tennessee when he and his wife Mary Ann began attending services in the chapel there. A former Presbyterian minister, Andy began playing his guitar in the Convent’s special programs about environmental issues, and he’s been a guest preacher at several St. Mary Sunday services. At breakfast in the refectory, we often talk with him about Ghost Ranch, New Mexico where he and Mary Ann have been vacationing for over thirty years. We only recently discovered that he has been creating paintings of Orphan Mesa, Canyon de Chelly and other sites near Ghost Ranch, which is, of course, the territory of the famed artist, Georgia O’Keefe. 

Andy’s passion for painting the natural landscapes of southern middle Tennessee; Alaska; the Isle of Skye, Scotland; Ghost Ranch, and other areas, worldwide, has resulted in a fascinating exhibit at the Artisan Depot Gallery in Cowan, Tennessee. There, we learned that he has also exhibited his art in the Tennessee All State Exhibit at the Parthenon Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee. As a retired minister, he claims time to paint, pursuing work in transparent watercolors after exploring the art of acrylic and pastel chalk painting. 

Andy’s exhibit at Artisan Depot Gallery was inspired by places he’d often visited or lived and dates back to the 1990’s; however, his venue at the Gallery is a “first.” Viewers learn that whatever the setting, Andy says he looks Between the Rocks (the title of his exhibit) where “the great and tiny, the hard and the delicate, the momentary and ancient, co-exist in beauty and are illumined by the multifarious moments of changing light and texture…”

Readers can see that the commentary accompanying paintings in this exhibit is as poetic as Andy’s paintings and reveals Andy’s writing talents; e.g., a description of “Into the Light” on the Savage Falls Trail in the Savage Gulf Natural Area, Tennessee : “On this trail to the falls one passes through masses of light filtered through rhododendron, and laurel stands bracketed by shaded passages. This bridge carries us from one issue of light into another. Every bend harbors some kind of mystery, no matter how many times you have been there…” The eloquent text reminds me of John Muir’s Wilderness Essays and, like Muir, it reflects the writer’s passion for places of endless variety that inspire wonder — natural formations, weather changes, light shows…

Andy’s description of the painting, “Sundance:” expresses his fascination with scenes of his New Mexico visits: “During the monsoon season, when clouds tower and sift the sky over Chimney Rock, light dances. Celestial celebrations go into the night in the forked lightnings over Pedernal, and to the east, the Milky Way unfolds itself, spilling stars now and again into our world…”

Andy reports that he has probably been inspired to paint more Shake Rag Hollow scenes in Sewanee, Tennessee through the years than any other region he’s visited. He writes that “the sun, in the last hour of the day, finds a path, here and there, to penetrate to the forest floor, spilling out in pools of light in the darkening wood. At the last, especially in September and October, the light becomes golden. You may step into these little pools of gold and bathe in them…”

Between the Rocks is a show that lovers of outstanding landscape art will appreciate. Whether Andy is writing songs and playing them, indulging his passion for watercolor painting, nature writing, or preaching an eloquent sermon, in my lexicon he’s a Renaissance man whose art shows “beauty in all its forms, both novel and familiar.”* 

*From Wilderness Essays by John Muir


See the Artisan Depot Gallery website for hours, exhibit announcements, and events scheduled.


Monday, May 6, 2019

LEAVE A LITTLE SPARKLE WHEREVER YOU GO!

By Frances Perea

That headline is the leitmotif of the artist Frances Perea, and visitors to the Artisan Depot Gallery in Cowan, Tennessee would agree that her newest collages reflect a whimsical spirit and strong interest in mythical/magical subjects; e.g., folklore surrounding fairies. Perea has captured the spirit of these creatures in various art forms, but one glimpse of her trading cards of fairy collages made me laugh aloud. I also thought of my mother who believed that these magical  beings could tell fortunes, prophesy births, foretell deaths, and intervene in household “goings-on.”

Perea also paints religious icons and attributes her inspirations for folk art to Latin American artists like Frida Kahlo of Mexico whom she regards as her most serious Muse. However, her latest creations reflect a whimsical spirit just on the edge of being mischievous. She’s also written a pamphlet that relates How the Fairies of Lullymore Came To Live in America and features a poem by Yeats on the back cover that begins with the lines: “Fairies, come take me/out of this dull world…” 

In antithesis to former stories about sinister fairies in folklore, Perea’s creatures are more well-intentioned and are generally protective beings who dance on household hearths. Actually  my mother claimed they danced in the flames of various space heaters in our home before central heating put them out of business.

by Frances Perea

Frances Perea is a native of Santa Fe, New Mexico and became involved in art at San Jose City College in San Jose, California. She began to exhibit in El Gatito Gallery in Los Gatos, California, then returned to Santa Fe and painted designs on furniture and pottery. She relates that one of her pieces was bought by Bono from the Band U2 and shipped to Ireland. Later, she initiated a line of religious icons and sold them through various museums, including the famous Smithsonian Institute, and through shops and galleries throughout the U.S. After she and her husband moved to Winchester, Tennessee, she began exhibiting through the Franklin County Arts Guild at the Artisan Depot Gallery. Perea also has a site called My Art Place on Etsy showcasing her collages, fabric art, recycled and digital art, and jewelry.


by Frances Perea

I’m trying to find frames small enough for the fairy trading cards shown on this blog and named the two I purchased after my two daughters who often read my blogs. I’m wondering if they can identify themselves in the pictures shown. The cards “leave a little sparkle” in my mornings, and I’m transported by Perea’s depictions of the diminutive sprites that inhabit her Tennessee fairyland.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

BEACH YEARNINGS

The Beach by Diane M. Moore

The above picture is one of the very few pictures I’ve painted during my lifetime and, of course, is in the rank of "very amateur art.” Now that summer is approaching, it represents my envee (desire, yearning, etc., in Cajun French) for beach life. The picture was executed on a visit to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and my visit there actually occurred in late spring almost twenty years ago. 

I recorded this experience in a journal, then painted the picture. A week spent in sun and sand engendered a feeling of peace, which being near the ocean often does, and I was unencumbered enough not to care if my art “got out there,” as we often say about the dissemination of artistic effort. I wrote: “The umbrella lady comes at high tide, unlocks a painted white box, and many umbrellas, royal blue, spill out, accompanied by matching chairs. Set up, they represent linear thought, each bather’s pole placed in the sand in line with neighboring umbrella, plumb bob straight. A grove of blue palms under which lobster red legs jet toward the sea becomes visible. Waves vibrate monotonously… the sands are heavy with leisurely thought…On the beach everyone searches for something…gifts of the tides.”

This part of the calendar year I live on The Mountain, as it is called here at Sewanee, Tennessee (April 1to October 15) and develop a yearning for water and beach every year. However, we’re likely to schedule leisure time at other elevations; e.g., this weekend in a state park called Pickwick Landing on Pickwick Lake, not too far from the Shiloh National Military Park where my great-grandfather fought as a captain in a Tennessee regiment.

One of the recreational perks Tennessee offers is its state park system—56 of them located in all corners of this wide state. We’ve visited only four of them during our eleven-year sojourn. Many were built by members of the CCC and WPA who were part of programs instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt established both programs in an effort to provide employment for indigent young men who needed jobs following the Great Depression.
Anyway, I won’t get to the beach this early in the season…and probably not at all…but we’ll enjoy a few days near a lake in a 1516-acre state park a few miles away from historic Savannah, Tennessee and the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge. I doubt if any art will result from the experience, but the thought of relaxing near a grand body of water is enough to satisfy my yen for sun and sandy beaches…for awhile.


Friday, April 26, 2019

REMEMBERING ANNE BOYKIN


April blossoms of Wild Azalea at Convent of St. Mary

Yesterday I received word that Anne Boykin, wife of a former Episcopal minister who once served in New Iberia, Louisiana had died. In 2009, shortly after we moved to The Mountain here at Sewanee, Tennessee, I wrote a blog about Anne, and the message is one of fond remembrance that needs repeating because it speaks of a better time in Anne’s life. The message is also repeated for her many friends in New Iberia, Louisiana. “Give rest, O Christ, to your servant Anne with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting” (From The Book of Common Prayer).

Posting from 2009:
Yesterday, temps on The Mountain hovered near 40 degrees, and a fine mist and rain fell most of the day. It could have been a gloomy time, but our long-time friend, Anne Boykin, invited us to have lunch with her in Tracy City to brighten the day. Tracy City is a small town at the end of a road that winds through the hills northeast of Sewanee and has lately become noted for its restaurant, “Tea On the Mountain.” The building that houses this eating place is a nondescript, white-plastered building with scant windows, and when we drove up and looked at the bland exterior, I thought “uh-oh.” However, we opened the door and stepped into a fine dining facility — white linen table cloths, fine china and silver atop antique tables scattered throughout several rooms, the walls lined with regional art and sets of fine china displayed on tables in every room — some sets for sale, some on exhibit only.

We were served hot tea as soon as we sat down and given a menu that featured a range of entrees from crab cakes to quiche, with accompanying green salad and French bread. The appetizer was an almond-stuffed date wrapped with bacon, and the piece de resistance was a tiny chess pie for dessert. The owner came to our table and told us a story about the pie’s name being derived from the wife of Andrew Jackson referring, off-handedly, to her dessert as “jes pie.” “Tea on the Mountain” was a real dining experience on a cold March day in the hills of Tennessee, and the hospitality within the square white building made me ashamed that I had misjudged the restaurant on the basis of its exterior.


Anne, who is our food guide on The Mountain, could open a restaurant at Sewanee had she an envee to do so, which she doesn’t have. She’s one of Sewanee’s finest chefs and a model of southern hospitality. I’ve put my feet under her table many times, enjoying delectable dishes prepared according to directions from neatly typed recipes passed on to Anne by her mother, who lived on a huge farm near Murfreesboro.


When Anne and Elmer (former rector of Epiphany in New Iberia) lived in New Iberia, Anne hosted weekly church luncheons and dinners in her home, even outdoor “feeds” in the rectory’s side yard, such as the one she hosted when I left New Iberia for our sojourn in Iran during the late 70’s. At 80, Anne says she has retired, but she’s noted for providing food and shelter for people who come to The Mountain for brief stays and find “no room at the Inn.” Last summer when a Vietnamese student graduated, he invited his family (who spoke no English) to the Commencement and searched vainly for rooms to accommodate them. Anne opened her home to them, and says they parleyed quite well without either speaking the other’s language. The Vietnamese family’s favorite meal while staying with Anne was breakfast, my favorite meal at her table. They were served a Tennessee farm breakfast, complete with tiny homemade biscuits, grits, sausage…the full complement of breakfast fare.


I’ve threatened to publish the small book of Anne’s recipes taken from her mother’s repertoire, but she insists she has retired and her kitchen is closed — and she doesn’t want the publicity… until someone shows up and needs food and shelter, that is. One of the reasons we retired to The Mountain is that we anticipated everyone at Sewanee being as hospitable as Anne Boykin. However, she’s still undisputed #1 gracious hostess on The Mountain — or anywhere else she has lived in the South.



Photograph by Victoria I. Sullivan

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

THE VOICE WITHIN THE VOICE



Most mornings in fair weather (often not so fair in spring and summer in Louisiana), Darrell Bourque, Louisiana’s premier poet, can be found writing the lines to a new poem while walking an old path near his home in Church Point, Louisiana. He’s a master of what poets call “voice,” often entering into the voice of some lesser-known figure who has made a significant contribution to the culture and history of his/her native state. 

Bourque’s latest book, From the Other Side, is beautifully illustrated with the art of Bill Gingles, a Shreveport artist, and features poems about Henriette Delille, a former New Orleans religious figure. During the 19th century, Delille organized a group of devout Christian women called the Sisters of the Holy Family to nurse the sick, care for and teach indigent and illiterate Black and Creole children, as well as immigrating adults who settled in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This group was formally recognized in 1942 by St. Augustine Church in the Treme of New Orleans, and Delille, who died in 1862, was first deemed Servant of God in 1988, then advanced to Venerable in the process of canonization by the Roman Catholic Church. Her inclusion in the process continues — the next two steps are beatification and canonization.

Darrell Bourque and his wife, Karen, became interested in this passionate and empathetic nun several years ago — an interest which culminated in Karen designing and rendering a glass triptych for a window of Christ the King Roman Catholic Mission Church in Bellevue near the Bourque’s home in Church Point, Louisiana. The recent publication of Darrell’s book of poetry, From the Other Side: Henriette Delille followed last month’s dedication of this window. 

Although Henriette Delille spoke French (as does Bourque), Bourque captured her voice in what he terms persona sonnets in English within From the Other Side, an impassioned voice that speaks of orphans and the uneducated on the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans — a voice derived from Bourque’s meditations on the images and colors in Gingles’ paintings; e.g.,:

What If You Dreamed

                    …We teach 
                    reading here the way we teach children to sing. Old
                    women wander from arches to see what this reach
                    
                    will reach. We start with the names of flowers sold
                    on the streets in the Quarter & the Marigny, peach-
                    colored, pink & red & blue-dyed flowers, white gold
                   
                    flowers named how they are named: Daisy, Bream,
                    Belle, Violet, Hyacinth & Myrtle, William, Iris, Reed, 
                    Sorrel & Olive, Lillie & Camellia, Rose, Red & Gleem.
                    We start with who they are & go to what they need.

One of my favorites, All the Time, is accompanied by Gingles’ painting by that name, an acrylic panel including scarlet forms resembling poppies in which Bourque presents Delille’s voice speaking about the work of the Sisters of the Holy Family: 

                       …We moved quietly from one need to another need
                       as we found it. We brought things inside our houses, kept our candles lit,
                       We let the world be the world, let the heart be heart, let creed be creed. 

This is one among many poems in the volume that show Bourque’s ability to achieve what A. E. Housman called “not the thing said but a way of saying it.”

Another poem in which Bourque imagines Delille speaking of her dedication to work with children of the New Orleans streets is the poignant:

The Difference Island 
              …My wings

              are who I am. They flew me to this difference island where I am no more
              a trace or line. We crossed bayous & bays & lakes & rivulets as fine as lace
              to this other world beyond geographies where I knew what I had to live for,
              the poor despised, the cipher bought and sold, what I saw in an orphan’s face.

Bourque used the titles of Gingles’ paintings for all of the poems in this volume and points to the language of the paintings as influencing the language of his poems. “Without these paintings I know I could not have accessed this particular set of poems spoken by the powerful and holy human being Henriette Delille is,” he writes in the acknowledgements to From the Other Side. I would add that Bourque’s deft gift of imagining the voice within the voice (“…What’s just beyond the tree leans on what we never knew we knew…”) influences the reader’s understanding of “the other side”and the art that takes us there. 

The Sisters of the Holy Family continue to carry out Delille’s mission in retirement homes, schools, and other sacred service organizations in New Orleans, Shreveport, Galveston, Little Rock, Washington, DC, in California, in Belize, and in Africa. Delille’s original prayer penned in French was a simple but cogent one: “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love. I want to live and die for God.”


Order from yellowflagpress.com or darrellbourque@gmail.com.