Friday, June 23, 2017

You Can Sit on my Poem in NC!

Howdy, Campers, and happy Poetry Friday! The link to today's PF is below.

To find out how to win a copy of Darcy Patterson's newest book, Sleepers, read Carla's terrific interview with her here.

This is TeachingAuthors last post before our Summer Blogging Break. Ah, summer! Time for lemonade, reading in the shade, diving under waves, travel and parades, festivals galore and more and more and more! 😊 (Pssst--I've never used an emoji in a blog post before. I promise not to use one ever, ever again).

I received an interesting email in early January, 2016 (edited):
Dear April Wayland,

I write to you regarding your poem,
 “Taking Violin at School”, and my request to incorporate your poem into a public art project for the Town of Cary, North Carolina
[This, Dear Readers, is when I died and went to heaven.]
In 2013 the Town commissioned a design team to create a new streetscape for Academy Street, the Town’s “Festival Street,” in the heart of downtown. Concerts, street fairs, and major regional festivals are staged along this 6-block street throughout the year. 

As the pubic artist on the project, I designed twelve granite benches based on dulcimers, dobros, violins, and mandolins – all instruments that found their unique American voices in the hills and mountains of the Appalachians. These benches will be cut from native stone, then carved and etched at the quarry in Mt. Airy, NC. Once completed these stone benches will be set in configurations offering opportunities for musicians to play in duet, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet and as single artists – with room for small audiences to gather around. 

Into these stone benches I'm cutting text that speaks to either the specific instrument or more broadly to music and its presence.  My search for the right text led me to your poem, as well as to the poetry of North Carolina native Carl Sandburg, of Mary Anne Evans writing as George Eliot, of Coleridge, of Yeats, and others. Your poem, sited along the entry to the Town’s Library and adjacent to a violin studio, resonates as a perfect fit.    

My best regards, and thank you for your chosen work.
Jack Mackie

Needless to day, Jack and I became penpals. 
Jack Mackie
There is so much to tell you about my new best friend! His commissioned artworks include the Gift, Health Sciences Learning Center, University of Wisconsin; Vessel Fenceline, Santa Cruz California; Seats & Gavels, Scottsdale Arizona Justice Center; Dance Steps on Broadway, Seattle; Trillium Patch, Norfolk VA light rail station pavings: Charging Gates, Puget Sound Energy, Redmond WA: and the Trout Lily Clock, East Lancaster Transit Center, Ft. Worth TX. Wow--what great names he gives each project!

In addition, he's developed the Public Art Plans for the Memphis/Shelby County Central Library System; the Performing Arts Center, Mesa, Arizona; Historic Downtown Alexandria Riverfront, Alexandria VA; Charlotte NC Area Transit System; South Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Jose CA...and so much more--woo-woo!

And after many years of planning, Academy Street Melodies, in Cary NC is born.

I wanted you to meet him, so I've invited Jack to climb onto the porch of the TeachingAuthors tree house where I've just served him homemade lemonade...

Welcome, Jack--I'm so glad you're here. It sounds like you've created a truly beautiful streetscape. How did you come up with your design? I love sidewalks. It’s where people go to get from here to there, from home to work, from work to lunch, from work to home, from home to school, from school to home, from school or home to the art gallery or museum or café or swimming pool or movies or friend’s home, for a walk, or from home to violin practice… it’s a place best described as “the in-between,” not where I was nor where I’m going... This is where I love to work...possibly creating a moment, an aha.

Every place has stories to tell, as a public / civic artist it’s my task to find the stories and find the story-teller’s voice. The work is not about me, it must be about the people who live in a place, people who make that place their homes. I’m just the go-between who illuminates what’s already there. That’s where I always begin.

In the long list of “stuff” for a streetscape are benches, a place to invite us to have a seat, take a look around, ask, where are we?
bench designed by Jack Mackie
text by Mary Anne Evans (writing as George Eliot)
Jack, your answer's poetry! And why did you choose musical instruments? I approached people walking along Academy Street. I asked about Cary, why they live here or, if visitors, why they’ve come; what is it about Academy Street that brings them here; what should I explore?

It was in these conversations that the idea of musical instrument benches started to bubble up, and the idea of placing them in small “rooms” we could make with different paving materials, a cluster of trees, and always grouped, set for buskers, duets, trios, or a string quartet.

Next question was “which instruments?” I looked into the instruments of the festivals and found that many were immigrants –the Mandolin came to America as a Lute, with a deep rounded body and strings that were plucked. The Dobro, a unique American instrument, is claimed to be a mix of the guitar from Spain and the banjo. Dulcimers arrived as the German zither, the Swedish hummel, Norwegian langeleik, and the French epinette des Vosges. And the violin simply became the fiddle.

bench designed by Jack Mackie
text by Maya Angelou

How did you choose the poetry and quotes? I searched for text which speaks to and of the instrument that carries it or, of music, of dance, singing, or song. The text I chose was written by: Jonny Angel, Maya Angelou*, George Carlin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Anne Evans  [writing as George Eliot], Martin Hugo, John Muir, Walter Hines Page, Tan Pratonix ,R.R.Richardson*, Carl Sandburg*, April Halprin Wayland, William Butler Yeats  (* North Carolina Poet).

Some examples (most are just snips of the entire text used):

"Sweet Dulcimer.../in your strings and swirly grains /lie my life's story /and the way my river runs..." from R.R.Richardson, North Carolina poet

“Mandolin harmonies / trailed up Bear Hair Gap, / echoed between / the chestnuts, hickories & sweet blackberries.”  from Jonny Angel

"Sell me a violin, mister, of old mysterious wood.../ Sell me horsehair and rosin.../ Sell me something crushed in the heartsblood of pain readier than ever for one more song." from Carl Sandburg, North Carolina Poet

“and those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music”  credited to George Carlin

"I believe in the free public training of both the hands / and the mind of every child born of woman." WalterHines Page 


TAKING VIOLIN AT SCHOOL by April Halprin Wayland
I open my case
tighten my bow
pluck a string to tune.
I love to listen to it chirp across the echoing room.

My friends are in class
reading about
a famous English king,
But I am training this wooden bird upon my arm to sing.
from CALL DOWN THE MOON, Poems Of Music, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1995); reprinted in CRICKET Magazine 4/9; reprinted in GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING (Knopf 2002)

bench designed by Jack Mackie
text by April Halprin Wayland

What has surprised you about this project? I’m already receiving reports of buskers setting up on violins near the Town Library and children going from bench to bench making rubbings as they go. I never anticipated that we’d be going home with them to become their proud refrigerator art!

Readers, don't you agree that Jack is a poet in thought, words, design and art?  Thank you so much, Jack, for joining us today and for sharing your process. I am deeply honored that you chose my poem. Some day I hope to tune up my fiddle and play Pig's Ankle Rag next to one of your beautiful violin benches!

benches designed by Jack Mackie

photo of Emily (last name unknown) by Jack Mackie, who writes:
"as Emily sat to play, she read your poem saying, 'Oh, that’s so lovely….  I’m her….'"
(Yes, I'm now officially on cloud nine.)
Thank you, Heidi, for hosting Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe!
~ a perfect picture of summer ~

TeachingAuthors will be back refreshed and rarin' to go on Monday, July 17th. It'll be hard, but we know you can hold on without us until then. We believe in you.

posted with gratitude by April Halprin Wayland with help from Jack Mackie, of course...and from the delicious cauliflower-curry soup from a friendly Mediterranean restaurant that let me work at a table as long as I wanted.


Mrs. Wyman said...

Wow! What an honor for you. I absolutely love your poem and Jack's amazing benches. So cool! -- Christie @

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oh, this is so much better even than I anticipated, since my community in Bethesda, MD, put several wooden bus-stop "poetry benches" in place about 15 years ago. They are carved and painted with poems or excerpts, and wonderful to come across, but Cary's benches are part of something so much bigger! Loved the interview, and again, what a thrill--congratulations!

Tabatha said...

So much delight and wonder in this post! Mr. Mackie sounds like a terrific conduit for poetry and community. Congrats, April!

Linda B said...

We have a small little park nearby that has etchings of poems in the cement of the flower beds, April. Wow, what a wonderful thing for you, and for your poem. I can feel your delight from your words, and enjoyed meeting Jack and hearing all about this project. Nothing better than a sweet piece of mail! Happy Summer!

Carmela Martino said...

Wow, what an amazing project! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I can see why Jack wanted to include your poem, April. I especially love the image of training the wooden bird to sing! Congratulations!

author amok said...

Oh my gosh. That violin bench is gorgeous! Congratulations, April. I have some friends and family in NC. I'm going to pass this post along to them in hopes that they can visit the poem/art.

Anonymous said...

Yes, definitely gone to heaven if I were in your shoes. More than anything, its such a beautiful way of incorporating poetry and art. Congratulations to you both for such a lovely project/collaboration.

Brenda at FriendlyFairyTales said...

Those are glorious. What excellent company you are in, April. I lived in Cary for awhile, but they didn't have anything like this, then. How fabulous!

Ruth said...

Oh April, this is so wonderful! And as Brenda said, that's quite an elite class of poets you're hanging out with. Congratulations!

michelle kogan said...

Wonderful, lyrical sounds emerging from this post April, many congratulations to you and Jack Mackie! Your poem is lovely, a moment in time singing a song, thanks for all!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, community of poets! It's nice to have good news come out of left field. And, to be completely honest, I think I write for a tiny bit of be preserved somewhere as history. Do you, too?

And thanks for passing this on to your NC peeps, Laura :-)

Mary Lee said...

Wow! Yay, you!

Buffy Silverman said...

Well, wowzer!! You are a bench along with some poetry greats--how amazing is that?!

Violet N. said...

So pleased to read about this, April! How perfect for them to include a children's poem/poet (as violinists usually get a very early start). And what a gorgeous project.

Margaret Simon said...

This is just the coolest thing ever! Congrats on having your poem selected for such an amazing project. This makes me want to plan a trip to NC. Nothing better than the combination of poetry and art!

BJ Lee said...

April - this is amazing! You know, this is the first poem of yours I ever read! I love this poem and I love the work your friend is doing!

AnnaWriteDraw said...

How exciting and wonderful, April. Congratulations to you, the artist, and the town!

Jane @ said...

What an amazing opportunity! I love projects that bring poetry out of the classroom and the library and out into the world for everyone to celebrate, experience and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Gah! As a mother of strings boys (they started on violin, then moved to cello and viola) I am in love with this project. How wonderfully wondrously exciting!! And I adore the thought of kids taking rubbings of the various seats/words/art. Just beautiful! (PS I may even have a violin picture book MS that I've loved for many years, that I will never give up hope of finding a home...)

April Halprin Wayland said...

Buffy ~ amazing. Exactly the word.

Yes, Violet--I'm glad that he did choose a children's poet. And this bench is steps away from the library and a violin studio!

Margaret ~ I've always wanted to go to NC. Maybe now...

BJ ~ Thank you. This poem is the first one my mentor, Myra Cohn Livingston, praised--she was spare with her praise. It's had a life of its own--reprinted often.

Anna and Jane ~ thank you!

Kathryn ~ I hope this spurs you to take out that violin manuscript. Never have too many of music books!