Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On The Teaching of Poetry Writing

To teach a student only "your way" of thinking and to parrot your attitudes for a good grade is really limiting. I think with the teaching of poetry it is really important not to squelch the voice of the student-poet. All poets have their own unique style and voice. A student shouldn't be a clone of a teacher because it strokes his or her ego. It is important to listen really hard, to teach a few sharp tools and to stand back when the craftsperson sings out.


A good poem should have a slap -upside -the -head ending. Labelling it masculine or feminine, soft or hard seems inane. Poetry shouldn't end for you all neat and tidy and nice--this is poetry not a romance novel..the reader should be going along pulled into the story then WHAM! surprise..that 's what makes a poem endure , in my head anyway.. I really appreciate a writer who doesn't condescend to me and respects me as a reader enough to shock me.
Human beings have been walking around the earth telling each other their stories since the first cave paintings and probably before that. A poem tells a story. We want to hear a new story. So if the ending surprises us, perhaps that is what makes the story new. It is a disappointment if a reader gets to the ending before his/her eyes actually READ all the words the writer wrote and loses interest. Doesn't bother to read it all the way through.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Best Friends

“Best Friends” is a photo-poem composition created by me in 2007.

I attended an art gallery opening hosted by friends at their local gallery. At this event where I was taking pictures, I met a young boy who was all dressed up and had a shaved head. His parents explained that he had requested the hair cut because his best friend had been diagnosed with cancer earlier that year. While undergoing chemotherapy the young boy lost his hair and confided his feelings about this to his friend. I asked permission to take his picture. His parents agreed.

When I had the old fashioned 35 mm film developed, the resulting portrait was revealed. Friends urged me to give a copy to the boy and his family. So, as a Christmas gift, I framed the photo as a greeting card and printed the poem the childrens’ story had inspired in me, on the it to thank his family.

Later in the new year, I was told that when the child’s parents opened the card, they were so thrilled that his mom began to cry. She rushed to share the card with the mother of the little boy who was sick. This then resulted in both sets of parents taking the card to the childrens’ school to share with art teacher, principal and other teachers, one of whom was undergoing chemotherapy at that time as well. It so moved the staff that in the June 2007 edition of the yearbook a center page spread was created to honor the sick child using the photo-poem “Best Friends.”

In May 2008, Kinney Drugstores sponsored a benefit for Golisano Children’s Hospital, Syracuse NY . The Cazenovia branch photo department manager is well acquainted with my photography. She asked me to donate a picture for the cause. “Best Friends” was it. I enlarged it to an 11” by 14” and framed it in hardwood.. It stood on the counter in a place of honor during the entire event.

Home Is Where The Barn Is

In August 2007, a friend invited me to come to her fiance’s dairy farm of approximately 1700 Holstein cattle to take pictures of the cattle and workmen going about their daily routine.

I was using my 35 mm Nikon F 4 with film at the time. When I had the rolls of prints developed, I was thrilled that several of the shots were top quality.

I received notice of an upcoming art show to take place in the new Lipe Art Park in Syracuse, NY in October 2007. The theme had to do with how agriculture is relevant to city could choose from such subjects as those related to the land, animal husbandry, compost practices and recycling. I chose the animal category and queried the curators. They indicated that they were unsure of being able to use photography as this was an outdoor multi-season show, but to go ahead and send them my entries.

They were thrilled with the pieces I both of which may be viewed on my website. We coordinated our efforts and the curators created wonderful weather-proof framing for the shots. The show as a big success.

For Christmas 2007, the dairy manager’s fiancĂ©e commissioned me to enlarge one of the same series for her in a unique composition I created with my partner, Erin Carraway, for his gift. Thus was born “Home Is Where The Barn Is.”

It uses both the photographs that appeared in the Lipe show and several others framed in a design replicating an old barn gate with distressed metal work.. I painted over the photographs which were then decoupaged onto the mat board.

January 2008 we asked permission to borrow the piece back and entered it into a state-wide art show sponsored by The Art Association of Oswego, Fort Ontario, Oswego NY. Early March we learned that we had juried into the show. It opened March 22 to a full house.

Sushi Blues & BBQs, Hamilton NY also commissioned a poster-sized framed shot of the cattle at milking time. It hangs in their permanent collection in the restaurant and is entitled “Bret’s Girls.”