Tag Archives: northwest indiana

The First Lull

21 Mar

It was inevitable. Writing work kicked up, I was asked to organize a poetry reading, and I missed a blog week. Sigh. I had such good intentions. Anyway, this is me checking in, rather informally, to give an update on my current projects and send out feelers, without a fully-fashioned post. I hope to be back next week with something more ambitious.

As I said, I spent a bunch of time last week organizing and publicizing a Poetry Reading/Open Mic I’m planning for South Shore Arts. It’s at the Crown Point Community Arts Center {Map} on March 25th, 6-9 pm. This event coincides with the final days of the (M)others exhibit, on display until March 26th. I’m still interested in hearing from poets who would like to be added to the reading list before the open mic sign-up starts. Everyone is invited. Everyone.

I’m also compiling an email mailing list for anyone who’d like to stay up to date on literary events in Northwest Indiana, so if that’s you, drop me a line.

Two other events occupied my attention last week. On Wednesday, I heard Jill Alexander Essbaum read her poetry at Valparaiso University’s Brauer Museum. She writes beautiful, lyrical poems with sometimes shocking, definitely evocative themes: sex, death and religion — often all at once. She’s warm, down-to-earth, funny, self-effacing and clearly proud of her work. If her name is new to you, I recommend her to your attention.

The other wonderful, wonderful, wonderful event I enjoyed last week was Thursday’s live broadcast of the National Theater’s production of Frankenstein.

Click Here for the Trailer

I’d read a few reviews, but I always take reviews with a mountain of salt. I rarely agree with them. (Brainy women like to make up their own minds.) None of the reviews prepared me for how much I’d love this show. It’s disturbing, harrowing, and uncomfortable. The murderous creature is the hero of this production, and we cannot help but sympathize with him even as he commits horrible crimes. (For perhaps the first time?) we hear his voice, experience his agony and loneliness, and feel his suffering. If we cannot excuse his actions, at least we understand he acts out of despair and rage.

This show could easily have been a ridiculous melodrama, and in the hands of lesser lead actors or a more timid director, it would have been. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are amazing, though. I can’t overstate this. They make this production possible. Watching a man thrash about and screech for ten minutes should be mind-numbing, but instead it is engrossing. The newborn creature’s tension and discomfort enters your body and chest right in those first moments of the play, and there it stays for the next two hours.

Visually, the play is remarkable. The lighting is of course really, really cool, but I also loved the rotating stage floor, the brilliant colors, the use of scrims and the slanted floor of the Frankenstein mansion. I did have some reservations about the plotting which is odd at times, even while it makes narrative sense. (We just don’t get enough of Victor’s point of view to appreciate his struggles and motivations.) The dialogue is a bit heavy-handed in places, too, double-emphasizing the play’s themes verbally when subtlety would work better. Some of the supporting cast seemed a bit off as well. But overall Frankenstein rocked. The play is being re-broadcast soon (the dates vary,) with the lead actors switching roles. Find out when it plays near you on the National Theater Live US Venues site. If you get a chance to see it, absolutely do.

So, that’s it until next week when I write something pithy and deep. Possibly. Or maybe not.


The Creative Life: (M)others

24 Feb

2000irises: (m)others — art and poetry exhibit

In the interest of crass self-promotion, I’d like to discuss my current project. It’s a unique art exhibit at the South Shore Arts Center in Crown Point, IN titled (M)others. The reception is tomorrow night (Friday, Feb. 25th) from 6 – 9 pm, and it features artwork by Melissa Washburn and Patti Tobin Davis, as well as poetry by moi. (I’ll be doing a reading circa 7pm.)

First, this show is unique because art exhibits and poetry don’t often intersect. There is great sympathy among artists and writers, but our products are very different. Writing and art have always inspired one another, but the work itself does not often appear side by side in art galleries. I was straight-up surprised when Melissa asked me if I wanted to participate in this exhibit by contributing poetry (terribly flattered as well, as you can imagine.)

This exhibit also uniquely focuses specifically on the experiences of artists as mothers, and of mothers as artists. Many women find that once they take on the challenge of raising children, their creative work changes permanently.

Naturally, time to create all but disappears, and then when there is time, there is the problem of “mommy brain.” (Digression warning: Mommy brain may improve my ability to multi-task, but there is a reason for the conventional wisdom about mommy brain. Ask any momma on the planet. Yes, I can efficiently remember schedules and household maintenance, but creative thought requires Herculean effort. And if mommy brain were an anti-depressant, then post-partum depression wouldn’t really be a problem, now would it?) Anyway, my point is that by the time my daughter goes to bed at night, my brain is absolutely Jell-O, and switching from mommy mode to writer mode is like throwing a speeding car abruptly into reverse.

Motherhood is one of the most universal experiences, and yet it can be terrifically lonely and shrouded in mystery. None of the What to Expect… books can prepare you for the actual experience of having and raising a child, and while parenting itself is hardly original, the details are. Everyone knows a mother, and yet no one really knows what child-rearing is like until they do it.

This paradox offers all the more reason for women to resolutely find ways of combining the challenges and joys of parenthood with creative work. There is an obvious metaphorical connection between creating life and creating art (although one hurts more,) and the passions of parenting provide plenty of inspiration for art. By making time and space for creativity, and by finding ways of connecting with other mothers through sharing work, artists and writers find community, and mothers in general feel that their emotions and experiences are validated in a way they rarely are in popular culture. The loneliness abates. That’s what we’re trying to do with this exhibit: give space and recognition to the creative efforts of mothers, while examining how motherhood has influenced our work.

In addition to displaying our work, on March 6th at 2pm we’re also screening an independent film titled Who Does She Think She Is. The film’s website introduces its central concerns: “In a half-changed world, women often think they need to choose: mothering or working? Your children’s well-being, or your own? [This] documentary by Academy Award winning filmmaker Pamela Tanner Boll, features five fierce women who refuse to choose. Through their lives, we explore some of the most problematic intersections of our time: mothering and creativity, partnering and independence, economics and art.”

Let me finish by saying that while passionate about exploring motherhood, I am leery of enshrining mothers. Just the other week I heard an otherwise intelligent man describing his mother as “pure and angelic.” Gag. (You do know how you got here, right? Nothing pure about it.) The myth of the “angelic mommy” is just one more way that women feel pressured to be perfect. (Let the Mommy Wars ensue.) I don’t want my daughter to have any illusion about my perfection – fiercely devoted, loving, involved, and silly, definitely – but for heaven’s sake, not perfect. I want her to think of me as a woman who took care of herself as well as her family, so she can do the same when (and if) her momma time comes. I want to be a woman who makes room for creative work amid the chaos of daily life. Perhaps continuing honest conversation about the reality and variety of mothers’ lives will help dispel the myth of the “angelic” mommy, freeing mothers to be real people, and at last give value to the experiences of all people who answer those incessant calls for “Mommy.”

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