“What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way about.” -George Orwell, Politics and the English Language
Words can cast the fate of an empire, or control the future of an intimate relationship. They are a tool and a weapon, building up and tearing apart the structures of civilization. With just a few words, we can exact such harm or convey absolute affection. But words do not stand alone. Words connote meaning and it is this meaning that can be lost in translation. When we are not careful with our words, we can so easily cause inadvertent injury to the recipient. Words in print pose an even greater challenge. The nuance of tone is lost and it is left to the reader to interpret meaning. The crafting of words is itself an art, one that requires the determined patience to sit with language as it slowly unfolds its meaning.
Patricia Spears Jones collects postcards. The award-winning poet and author of many books sometimes uses these postcards to inform the scenarios for her work. Such is the case in her poem Beuys and the Blonde in which she imagines the meeting of Marilyn Monroe and German performance artist Joseph Beuys. The poem speaks to the culture of the 1960s through the lens of two icons of the time. Along with several of her colleagues and friends, Spears Jones edited an anthology of poems by women from diverse backgrounds. Her poem 14th Street New York recalls the procession of a black saint through the streets of New York without police escort amidst city traffic. The poem speaks to a time in the city that has slipped away as the streets have been increasingly sanitized in a sense. Spears Jones points to a desire on the part of those running the city to create an orderly city, a place where there are no surprises in the name of safety. Spears Jones is the 2017 recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets and Writers. Spears Jones acknowledges the arduous work of being a poet. A ten-year gap between her first and second book was largely due to repeated rejections of the second manuscript. “As with any art form you just say I’m in it for the long haul,” Spears Jones says.
Joseph Keckler creates his own performance material. The writer and singer uses the interplay between his multiple talents to craft unique performances. For his first book, Dragon at the Edge of a Flat World, Keckler has created a series of intimate bookstore performances and videos that supplement the material within the book. The first scene in the book finds the author at age three watching his house burn down in the middle of a Michigan winter. This early memory signified the collapse of his whole world, in a sense. Keckler’s song The Ride explores themes of passage, language, and communication. The video for The Ride features Edgar Oliver as the silent driver. Strangers From the Internet recalls an episode in Keckler’s life inadvertently fueled by psychedelic mushrooms wherein he invited strangers to his home but they never arrived. The song envisions what their arrival may have been like, set to harpsichord. For the video, Keckler solicited actual internet strangers to perform in the video. Composer Patrick Grant arranged the orchestral score for the piece.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
Take time to sit with your words. Know them intimately before sending them into the world.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Patricia Spears Jones most recent book A Lucent Fire is available through White Pines Press Distinguished Poets Series. Joseph Keckler’s book Dragon at the Edge of a Flat World is due out November 20.
Opportunities / Open Calls
The Prince Claus Mobility Fund provides financial travel support to emerging artists residing in countries on the DAC list. Submissions for Prince Clause Mobility Fund will open on February 1, 2018. For more information about eligibility and deadlines, visit their website.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.