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Camp Savage – 4/365, Archive 365, Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




Independence

Banging fireworks against pre-dawn chatter.
Red night, white galaxy, blue smoke
in the air, flowers made of fire.

Freedom does not rest
or sit softly on her laurels.
She is war-like and stubborn,
not blind to the truth.

“Fight for what you believe in” she liked to say.

Independence remains passive,
13 stripes, 50 stars
but fiercely springs to life
when freedom is stripped away.

never rest easy –
in the dawn’s early light
there is much work to do





ABOUT THE PHOTOS:

Liz and I stumbled on Camp Savage in 2009 while out on a day trip to take photos. I was shocked and surprised because I had no idea such a place existed in Minnesota. The Nisei (second generation) at Camp Savage were translators of language, maps, and documents during World War II. When Marylin submitted her piece about her childhood friend whose family was sent to a Japanese internment camp, I was inspired to go back and take a look at these photographs again. It’s the first time I have consciously written haibun (more about the form at haiku 4 (one-a-day) meets renga 52). I like working in the format of both prose and haiku. Independence Day in the United States reminds me of all the ways that people fight hard to gain freedom, independence, and equality, even within our own country. Below are the words on the plaque at Camp Savage:

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Independence, flag at Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

During World War II, some 5,000 to 6,000 Japanese American soldiers, members of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service, were given intensive and accelerated classes in the Japanese language at Camp Savage.

Their subsequent work translating captured documents, maps, battle plans, diaries, letters, and printed materials and interrogating Japanese prisoners made them “Our human secret weapons,” according to President Harry Truman, who commended them following the war.

The Military Intelligence Service (MIS) program began in the fall of 1941, a few weeks before Pearl Harbor, at the Presidio in San Francisco.

For security reasons it was moved in May, 1942 to Camp Savage, a site personally selected by language school commandant Colonel Kai E. Rasmussen, who believed Savage was “a community that would accept Japanese Americans for their true worth — American soldiers fighting with their brains for their native America.”

The 132-acre site had served as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s and was later used to house elderly indigent men.

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Plaque At Camp Savage, Savage, Minnesota, June 2009, photo © 2009-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Conditions there were extremely difficult in the early months of the war, when the first students studied without desks, chairs, or even beds. By August, 1944 the program had outgrown Camp Savage and was moved to larger facilities at Fort Snelling

Most of the English-speaking Japanese Americans, known as Nisei, were from the West Coast area. Some were already in the U.S. military service when they were selected for the language school, while others were volunteers from the camps in which American citizens of Japanese ancestry had been interned following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

According to General Charles Willoughby, chief of Intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur, “the 6,000 Nisei shortened the Pacific war by two years.”

-erected by the Savage Chamber of Commerce, 1993



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ARCHIVE 365: Since the completion of BlackBerry 365, I have missed a daily photo practice. There are so many photos from my archives that no one has ever seen but me. So I asked skywire7 if she wanted to do a daily practice for one year, taking turns posting an unpublished photograph from the past.

Archive 365 is a photo collaboration between skywire7 and QuoinMonkey featuring images from our archives. We will alternate posting once a day in our Flickr sets from July 1st 2012 through June 30th 2013. You can view our photographs at skywire7 Archive 365 set on Flickr and QuoinMonkey Archive 365 set on Flickr.

-posted on red Ravine, Independence Day, July 4th, 2012. Related to post:  Abraham Lincoln & Nikki Giovanni (On Poets & Presidents)

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By Erin Robertson




How to Throw


(response to Susan Howe's "Thorow")



Thorow the process of learning
Thoreau, the philosophy, learning of

the nearness of poetry

transcendence, geobiology
one of man, one of nature

nature in us as nature

men have words,
whose voices inhabit poems

literature of savigism

men have titles,
jentelmen

the origin of property

men have manipulations,
wars, besieges, laws

elegiac western imagination

how much can man control nature
a name's a name's a name

'where is the path'

the silence of nature
ise and wete and snow make no human noise

we go through the word Forest




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made this by combining two separate poems, which i guess, in the act itself, is another “statement” on poetry:



statement on poetry.


mountains and mountains
and mountains of molehills,
the equipment is broken
so i'm panicking, panicking.
the looseleaf topography i've created
keeps me in the valleys of self gratification
my self loathing would be strong
because my inability to hold my inhibitions

but words overflowing my mind
spill out to wash my soul
they wash the sin away
to sweeten the scent of grime
urge the dirt from my bones
pulled through the skin
evaporating in the frozen wonder
frigid atmosphere in my heart
residue from nights i hoped to forget




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About Erin: My name is Erin Robertson and I will soon be a sophomore at Temple University studying Psychology and Italian. My experiences, the people I love, and the life I choose to live, give me plenty of inspiration for the various creative outlets I pursue. I enjoy molding and sculpting words with my poetry as a form of expression.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, April 21th, 2011

-related to posts: Does Poetry Matter?, and Erin’s first poetry piece on red Ravine which includes four poems, one about her relationship to her grandfather with Alzheimers — Fourteen Dozen Roses: The World As The Jungle It Is

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I



seagulls and the smell of fish

the earth smolders and smokes

there is a fine line between solitude and loneliness

I like to walk that line


pink syrup flowing over rock

the wheat field consumed the trees

sandwich of bodies




II



nothing’s stable, everything shifts


I fly through the clouds

down below a brown landscape

where am I going?


helpless helpless helpless


i see wild stallions galloping

mountains can look like horses, can’t they

I climbed all this way and now cannot find the valley


tree figures run away


froth on chocolate milk

shadows of Stonehenge fall across the snow




III



pieces of cloud fall from sky

I think of traveling, being places where I don’t come from

soft edges on formerly rugged rock

salty lips, the waves pushing me back to the shore




IV



in my memory I see the waves

the colors pink and blue, like a gentle sunset in summer


black rock on a craggy coast

the sea rushed over the village


I think of strangers, and how much I am like them

there were children crying and colors flying





V



my slopes are cooling down

land melting thinning, what’s beyond

I think of the ocean, which I love and fear both

where the clouds meet the land


setting sunlight captured in liquid love


my edges are hotter than my center

papers fall from Heaven unnoticed

I see nothing for miles, I feel empty inside

some days I go back to the beach


I am flying apart







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These poems came out of an exercise suggested by red Ravine guest writer Judith Ford, and modified from an event she attended and describes in the post lang•widge. Guests at that event, which was held this past March in Bethesda, Maryland, was an “evening of art, jazz and spontaneous poetry, featuring paintings by Freya Grand.”

Freya Grand’s paintings, pictured above, became the inspiration for our own red Ravine “blog happening,” created and curated by Jude:

So here’s an idea: How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases…. Let’s see what we come up with.



Jude received free form lines and phrases from three participants (including myself). She printed them, cut them apart, and scrambled them. Then, she used playing cards to generate the poem, picking a card, choosing that number of lines, then picking randomly from the bunch. Jude took the liberty of creating stanzas as she typed the results. She did a beautiful job.

Thank you, Jude, for sharing this creative fun with us!


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By Judith Ford
 
 

You’re Invited, lang•widge, March 27, 2010, Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.




Poetry is a lot like music. Music evokes visual images; visual art can stimulate poems. Read that backwards and it’s true that way, too.

Last March, while visiting a friend in DC, I had the opportunity to experience all three — music, my friend’s paintings, and a spontaneous poetry happening — mixed together for one entertaining evening. The event: lang•widge. The setting: Gallery Neptune in Bethesda, Maryland.

My friend, artist Freya Grand, paints landscapes. Not your ordinary landscapes. Landscapes filtered through Freya’s vision and open to interaction with the viewer. In Freya’s words, “Painting landscape begins as an internal process. As in abstraction, forms transmit a mysterious secret life, exert a presence.”

Presence was abundant on March 27 at Gallery Neptune, even before the rest of the evening’s events unfolded.  I’ve always had my own strong responses to Freya’s work, partly because I’ve traveled with her to some of the locations she later painted. More because her work is emotional, full of motion and light. Like me, the lang•widge participants responded in their own unique ways.

So here’s how it went: A few weeks before lang•widge, Freya and gallery owner Elyse Harrison asked jazz musician Steven Rogers to preview the paintings and compose short pieces of music in response. Once everyone had had a chance to walk around and see all the paintings (munch on cheese and crackers, drink wine), we were asked to gather in front of a podium and listen to a short poetry reading by Charlie Jensen, poet and director of The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and the poet, Reb Livingston.








            



                            



                                       


Works by Freya Grand, Rock at Low Tide, 48″ x 60″, 2008, Burning Fields, 30″ x 30″, 2009, Cotopaxi, 48″ x 60″, 2006, and Fog, Benbulben, 30″ x30″, 2010, paintings © 2006-2010 by Freya Grand. All rights reserved.




Suitably warmed-up, we were each given a clipboard, a few sheets of paper, and a pencil. As Steven Rogers’ techno-jazz music played, we looked at the paintings again and quickly jotted down short lines. Whatever came to mind.

I was surprised by how much I liked the music. I am not a big jazz fan, but looking at Freya’s work and listening to this weird contemporary music, I found myself enjoying the way the visual and musical bits blended together. Whatever it was I wrote in response — I didn’t preserve any of it —  was full of the light and movement I’ve always seen in my friend’s work.  Hope, change, powerful natural forces, awe, wonder. 

When the four short pieces of music had finished, we reassembled in front of the podium. Volunteers did most of the reading, but first Charlie Jensen and Reb Livingston demonstrated the technique. They chose two from a diverse collection of colored dice. The number rolled determined the number of pieces of paper to be read together to create a spontaneous poem.

The results were surprising, to say the least. Where I had seen light and life, others had seen darkness and death, despair and violence. Sexuality. New life forms. Being lost, being found. Memories of blankets, clouds, and chaos.


 
 

During lang•widge, poets Charles Jensen and Reb Livingston explain the process, draw poem pieces, then read the resulting poetry, photos © 2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.



Here are some of my favorite lines:

smiley in foam, red glee

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

I’ve made a mistake coming here

I’ll never eat butter cream frosting again




When my husband, Chris, who loves to perform for an audience, volunteered, things got even stranger. He happened to pick a very long series of lines that were written in five different languages. Chris speaks nothing but English. His courageous attempts to pronounce Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, I think, Swedish, were sidesplitting.

Afterward Chris sought out the writer of those lines, and, yes, she did speak all those languages. She told Chris he’d done a pretty good job at guessing the pronunciations.

I sought out Freya. “Did you realize how much pain and despair was hiding in your paintings?” I asked. Freya is not prone to darkness or despair. She told me she was actually more surprised by the butter cream frosting than the pain. She said something like, “People project into my work whatever is up for them at the present moment.”

Not sure about that butter cream.



Freya Grand and Chris Ford, photo ©
2010 by Judith Ford. All rights reserved.




So here’s an idea:  How about trying a little mini da-da poetry writing sans Steven Rogers’ music? Take a look at any of the Freya Grand paintings in this post (or visit her website). Pick out a piece of music you currently like a lot. While the music plays, quickly, without much thought, jot down five (or so) lines or phrases.

Email them to me at pinkeggs@gmail.com.  After two weeks or so (about August 9) I’ll randomly pick out lines, type them in the order I’ve picked, and post them here in the comments section. Let’s see what we come up with.

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Here are two poems created during the lang•widge event; these are also posted on The Writer’s Center website.




1.



this is reversal

clouds coming up through earth’s crust

all my orange drizzles around in dust

I fly over this, I needn’t touch down

Earth is melting

manna comes down

my wings are lifted by

heat from the ground

Lift off!

Earth Burnt and Fractured

Evaporated Anger

Unexpressed Blindness

earth’s breath

greeny pastures of ooze

trudging uphill I see my shadow and a whale

I’m near a synthetic ocean

one that’s flat and even dry

cured epoxy cement

fake lily sky

but here’s where I swim

and here’s where I’ll die

your piano carries me anywhere

you play

standing stones

scottish shore

volcanic mist

walk to the top edge

as above, so below

coolness rising

You and me

never the same

mountain ranges between us

ocean depths……storms

air that we breathe

the only media

that unites

I lived there so long the ocean was like a person to me.

A giant meatball rolling towards its destiny.





2.



East coast sunsets

are less brilliant

but the sand between my toes

feels more like home.

Scary golf course littered laced

and smoking with traps sandy

silken tofu nowhere is there a

flag or a hole to crawl into

Dark fog charcoal wall

surrounding me give me grass

but it wriggles this grass

maybe the rocks will protect me

marshmallow antlers and steamy pea soup

There’s a smiley

in the foam

red glee

misty canyon aerie wheat

volcanic atmosphere rock strewn beach

geyser rivulets

yves tanguy

shadows

cliff hanger

steam

heat

his daughter in a box, pushed out to sea

wash of creation

thrum

pure thin air

Moses parts a red and vanillas sea

A single, persistent surfer.

I’d made a mistake coming here.

bleed





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Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with her 25 Reasons I Write post. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min.

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RUNES, BlackBerry Shots, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Yesterday we went to a book signing at Common Good Books. Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois recently released their second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The bread was delicious, the authors serious about their work, down-to-earth, engaging and fun. In casual conversation, it came out that Zöe knows Latin. I remembered that I had taken two years of Latin in junior high, a curriculum requirement in the 1960’s. That got me to thinking about language and alphabets.

After the signing, Liz and I did a little Christmas shopping and later went to the studio. I was looking at this set of Runes I made from clay a number of years ago. For a period of time in my life, I consulted with different oracles on a daily basis: the I Ching, the Runes, Tarot, Medicine Cards. I have a passion for learning about symbols in different systems of mysticism.

Symbols are used to create structure within a system, to help us understand complicated ideas with a simple visual. Over time, color has been organized into systems like Goethe’s Triangle and subsequent Colour Wheel, while chakras are symbolized by certain colors. Logos and brands (like red Ravine or ybonesy’s new logo) take their lead from symbols of yore. Graphic designers are always trying to create  innovative new fonts with which to drape old symbols in more imaginative cloaks. (Yet people still like an old standby because Helvetica remains one of the most widely used fonts around.)

I couldn’t find my Runes book last night or I would have drawn the Runes. But I did find an odd book I’d snapped up at a sale, an old Readers Digest Book of Facts. According to the Languages section of the book, all the alphabets around the world can be traced to a North Semitic alphabet that emerged around 1700 B.C. at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. From the Semitic alphabet developed Hebrew, Arabic, and Phoenician. Then Phoenician alphabet was adopted and adapted by the Greeks who in 1000 B.C. introduced a modified form into Europe.

The Greeks standardized the reading of written lines from left to right, added symbols for vowels, and gave rise to the Roman alphabet (used for modern Western languages) and the Cyrillic alphabet (named after Saint Cyril and used in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union). The North Semitic alphabet spawned the Aramaic alphabet which eventually developed into Asian alphabets, such as Hindi.

The earliest forms of writing are picture writings found on clay tablets in parts of the Middle East and southeastern Europe. Some of the oldest found in Iraq and Iran recorded land sales and business deals.

Where do the Runes fit into all this? They are a mystery. The Runic alphabet is one of the oldest in northern Europe with early examples dating to the 3rd century A.D. They have been found in 4000 inscriptions in Britain, Scandinavia, and Iceland but nobody knows for sure where they originated.

For some reason, the Runes remind me of the ancient celebration of Winter Solstice. Some scholars believe the Runes were derived from the Etruscan alphabet of southern Europe and brought north by the Goths after their invasion of the Roman Empire. To me, they are an oracle of mystery. And that’s what draws me to them.


Post Script: The bread baked by Jeff Hertzberg and Zöe Francois was delicious. Their new book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day looks like a winner with many whole wheat and gluten-free recipes. There’s a recipe for their whole wheat Christmas Stollen Bread in the post of their video interview at KARE 11. Or you can visit their website Artisan Bread In Five with fabulous photographs of mouthwatering baked goods. You will come away hungry for more!


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 13th, 2009

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Most of the things I’ve been accused of, I did do. Not terrible things. Normal, living day-to-day things. I once got into trouble for walking into the larger-than-life, under construction, sky barrel that would later become the water tank for the little subdivision I grew up in. I wanted to hear how it would sound to yell inside the green tank. Would it echo? Fall flat? I must have been only 9 or 10. I got in so much trouble when my parents found out. It scared them to know where I had been, what might have happened. I did it, I did.

I wish I could think of something ruthless or edgy that I’ve been accused of. Or even done. I can’t. I’m mundane, run of the mill ordinary. Yet I’ve done some extraordinary things. I thought about this topic while driving through yesterday’s snowstorm. The 35mph winds nearly blew the pickup off the road. At one point, I had to do three of those turn-into-the-curve corrections when I hit a patch of black ice on a freeway curve. Thank goodness no one was near me.

On a snowy backroad, I started to wonder what kind of people get accused of things they didn’t do. What about the American who recently was found guilty of murder in Italy for a crime she says she didn’t do. Is she guilty? Innocent? Who are we to believe.

What about Tiger Woods. Is he being accused of things he did or didn’t do? Are all those women lying? Or is it his wife. I have to admit, when I heard about the early morning jog off the road, the crash and burn, I immediately thought “domestic situation.” And wondered what he had done. I noticed he seemed angrier this year on the golf course, less focused, throwing his clubs around. No wonder. Who can keep all that pent up inside?

I don’t think I have the kind of thick skin it takes to be accused of things I didn’t do. Maybe it led me to play it safe. It makes me seem boring, even to my own self. Where’s the drama? Like I said, when I was accused of things, I often did them. Have I ever lied about what I’ve done? Yes, on occasion in order to get out of a messy situation. But not as a rule of thumb.

I’ve been accused of being quiet, moody, crabby, over-emotional, shy. I’ve been accused of being fearful. Are those things true? At times. When I was in second grade Mrs. Hamrick took a ruler, bent the palm of my hand backwards so the inside of my hand was taut and facing up, and slapped my palm with a ruler. She did the same thing to my friend Melanie. We were cracking up in class over the word “smelly.” It was the way Melanie said “smelly” that had me in stitches in the middle of class.

Should I have been accused of laughing too hard, too loud, too much? I don’t know. But I was. And the ruler stung. I rarely got in trouble, rarely got a spanking. Why was I so goody two-shoes? Always running down the middle line, playing it safe. I don’t know. I prefer to be accused of being the good guy than the bad. Yet I like the tough guy rebel reputation. That just doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense in the world of false accusations. Nothing makes sense in the world of truth. Everything is subjective, even the way facts are presented. I’ve been accused of being too detailed and long-winded. That’s a good reason to draw this practice to a close.

If I took the time to list all the things I’ve been accused of over the years that I did do, it would fill another writing practice. Most I’m not proud of. I’m flawed, human. I used to be a jealous person. I feel like I’ve dulled down in the area of personal relationships. And that’s where all the drama is. I don’t step in the mire as much as I used to when I was young and trying to figure out what made relationships tick. I crossed boundaries, stepped through quicksand, threw a few tantrums. “Throwing a tantrum.” Where do you throw one. Out the window, across the river, slithering through the psyche of a loved one?

Pitching a fit. That’s an old Southern phrase. I used to say it. I hear it still when I visit the South. “Don’t pitch a fit, Shug.” Or “She’s fixin’ to pitch a fit.” I love that phrasing. There is something more colorful about the Southern dialect. Descriptive and loose. Uncontained, visual. You can not accuse Southern dialect of being stilted or canned.

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Lawdy-mercy, no.




-Related to topic post WRITING TOPIC – 3 QUESTIONS. [NOTE: This is the second of three questions mentioned by actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith in an interview with Bill Moyers (see link). She talked about the questions in the context of interviewing people and listening to them. The three questions came from a linguist Smith met at a cocktail party in 1979; the questions were, according to the linguist, guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves. QuoinMonkey, ybonesy, and frequent guest writer Bob Chrisman take on the three questions by doing a Writing Practice on each.]

-Also related to posts:  PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by ybonesy), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (by Bob Chrisman), PRACTICE — Have You Ever Come Close To Death? — 15min (QuoinMonkey), PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? (by Bob Chrisman), and PRACTICE: Have You Ever Been Accused Of Doing Something You Didn’t Do? (by ybonesy)

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Question Mark, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


A few weeks ago, I watched an interview on Bill Moyers Journal and was mesmerized by the work of Anna Deavere Smith. It is tough work. She takes on controversial subjects most would not touch in our sanitized, politically correct language of the day. Her 1992 one-woman performance Fires in the Mirror explored the violence between Jews and Blacks after an August 1991 civic disturbance in the New York neighborhood of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. Her solo performance in Twilight: Los Angeles dramatized the 1992 riots that broke out in L.A. following the first Rodney King trial.

For her current one-woman play Let Me Down Easy, Anna Deavere Smith interviewed Americans from all walks of life about healthcare, medical, and end of life issues. After 9 years and 300 plus interviews, she chose 20 people; through their words, body language and speech, she transforms on stage into each one. I’ve only seen snippets of her 90 minute performance on TV. And from bullrider to politician to Buddhist monk, I could hear the voice of all America inserted into the healthcare debate, leaving little room for doubt — something has to change.

We are trying to bring disparate worlds together, not so that we can all get along, but so we can see out of the ‘me’ into ‘us.’

— Anna Deavere Smith

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Highlights


Below are few notes I jotted down while listening to her conversation with Bill Moyers. A few may seem cryptic, but will make more sense when you watch the interview:

  • The title Let Me Down Easy came to her almost out of a dream. There are two songs with the name. Of the title, James H. Cone of the Union Theological Seminary said they are the words of a broken heart and can be interpreted as broken love. “Don’t do it harshly. Not too mean. Let it be easy.”
  • Let Me Down Easy is a call about grace and kindness in a world that lacks that often —  in a winner take all world.
  • Death is the ultimate form of loss, the ultimate form of abandonment
  • It broke her heart to know that we, with all of our money and technology, believe that we can afford to leave people so alone
  • Are we afraid of being poor, afraid of losing, afraid of being sick? Is that why we distance ourselves from that reality all around us?
  • She chose these 20 particular people because they are very connected to the life cycle – death and life
  • The most important thing you can do is be with someone when they die
  • Art comes in when the official language falls apart. When things fall apart, you can see more and you can even be part of indicating new ways that things can be put together.


What seems to be important to Anna Deavere Smith is the art of listening. And letting what she hears soak into each cell of her body. Words matter. People matter. She believes something she learned from her grandfather (who was also the inspiration for her method of theater) — if you say a word often enough, it becomes you. In a New York Times article Through 1 Woman, 20 Views of Life’s End she says, “I try to embody America by embodying its words.”

Near the end of the interview, Bill Moyers asked, “When did you begin to listen to people so acutely?” Anna said when she was young, she lived next to a woman who weighed 400 pounds. The neighbor would ask her to go to the store to buy her fatback and she’d love to sit on her porch and listen to her stories —  that’s when she started really listening.

__________________________________________


Writing Topic — 3 Questions


How do we teach ourselves to listen? How do we get people to talk about what has meaning for them, moving beyond repetition or sound bites? In Anna’s words, “I say their words over and over. I listen and I wear the words.”

She said she also taught herself to listen by breaking up certain rhythmic speech patterns. She met a linguist at a cocktail party in 1979 who said she would give her 3 questions that were guaranteed to break the patterns and change the way people are expressing themselves:

Have you ever come close to death?

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?

Do you know the circumstances of your birth?


And that’s the inspiration for this Writing Topic — 3 Questions.

Choose one of the 3 questions above. Write it down at the top of your paper. Take out a fast writing pen and do a timed 15 minute Writing Practice.

Maybe 3 questions, combined with the wild mind of Writing Practice, will break patterns in our writing and lead us to listen more closely to our own voices.

__________________________________________


Epilogue


Anna Deavere Smith is on fire. In pursuit of her mission to translate art into social commentary about race, poverty, and injustice, she’s won two Obie Awards, been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and two Tonys, and is a recipient of the prized MacArthur fellowship. (Not to mention her role in NBC’s The West Wing, as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally.) You can read more about Anna Deavere Smith at Bill Moyers Journal. Or watch the full interview with Anna Deavere Smith and Bill Moyers at this link.

In November, the Moth Storytelling Awards in New York honored her as their 2009 recipient at the Annual Moth Ball. The Wall Street Journal blog Speakeasy covered the event which was also attended by writer Garrison Keillor. On the subject of healthcare, the blog references a compelling verbal account from Keillor that night about his stroke in September. He had the stroke while on a massage table, eventually drove himself to the ER, and waited 15 minutes in line before he was able to tell anyone he was having a stroke. Read the full story at Speakeasy: Jonathan Ames, Garrison Keillor and Anna Deavere Smith Headline Annual Moth Ball.


In some ways the most effective politicians are the ones who have the best verbal clothes that they manipulate the best way. And there is a gap between that type of clothing and where people walk and where people live.

Whitman was doing another kind of work for the country at that time. Speaking a different song. And I think the politicians can sing to us but I respect, in a way, the limitation of their language. I mean I guess it’s a part of our culture that goes back as far as Jefferson, that they have to be so careful about what they say. My only desire would then be that we would find other places in our culture to work out our differences.

— Anna Deavere Smith from Bill Moyers Journal, November 2009


-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, November 29th, 2009

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