Sunday Sentence #27


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My weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

When he woke in Germany in late November of the year 1918, he was only a few centimeters away from becoming French on Clemenceau and Wilson’s redrawn map, a fact that mattered nothing compared to what there might be to eat.

SOURCE: Ojibwe writer Louise Erdrich‘s novel The Master Butchers Singing Club



You vs. Yourself: Self-Portraits for Poets


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Self Portrait, Undated by Vivian Maier

Self Portrait, Undated by Vivian Maier


There has been a long tradition of self-portraiture in art, especially amongst women artists, who use it as a way of coming to a better understanding of oneself (as a temporary break into “other”), often adding symbolic imagery or stylized elements to their renderings.

images.duckduckgo.2com For a thorough education in the subject, refer to Frances Borzello’s gorgeous book Seeing Ourselves: Women’s Self Portraits, which covers eight centuries of “lady” painters and photographers and also includes an interesting discussion on 20th century adaptations for performance and new media.

For more of a crash-course style intro, see the annotated galleries at Women Artists at the Easel& Mirror Mirror: Self Portraits by Women Artists.

There is also an eclectic mix of historic and contemporary offerings at the Easel and Me blog.


If you’d like to try your hand at an artsy but less traditional self-portrait, plow through some of the lessons at the Incredible Art blog. Created for art teachers, but fun for adult dabblers as well, choose from vinyl window portraits, bobblehead selfies, collage silhouettes, scratchboard etching, Matisse inspired cut paper portraits and more.

A few more stray links that I like: The Self Portrait Project in Haiti and Alicia Savage’s Project Fairytale Self-Portraits.


Now on to the word-ly bit!  For the the low-down on poetic self portraiture,  check out Lisa Russ Spaar’s Arts& Academe post at the Chronicle of Higher Education–a quick intro to the genre with examples from a handful of emerging poets.

images.duckduckgo.comIf you want the expanded version (yes! please), pick up a copy of Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry (the original) and turn to her lesson on pgs. 277-283.

Here you will find three multi-step exercises on tackling self-portrayal in poems, including the persona poem and the Self- Portrait as OBJECT format.

There are, of course, more example poems packed into the lesson and a handy list of contemporary poems for further reference. Dverse has a few of the suggestions listed here up on their site along with a more open prompt.

The Poetry Foundation also has a nice offering of old& new poems.



For those craving more, Silver Birch Press has a meaty anthology with poems from 67 scribes from all over the globe.

Other poems I’ve gleaned from the net (for your use as models):

Self Portrait as Bilbo Baggins from Liminality

Self Portrait as the Letter Y at Fishouse

Self Portrait as My Father’s Son at Baltimore Review


Have a favorite self-portrait poem, painting or photo?  Shoot us a link in the comments. We love hearing from you.









Poetry Prompt: Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando


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Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (1879)--Degas, oil on canvas

Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (1879)–Degas, oil on canvas


Degas’ only painting of the circus, repeatedly called “one of his most surprising canvases” by biographers, it is now housed at the National Gallery in London. Find out more about the unique artwork and the mysterious mixed-race aerialist here.

Two poems for additional inspiration:

Aerialist by Syliva Plath

Aerialist by Victoria Hallerman

Share your own high-flying poems in the comments!




A Poem on the Passing of My Father

by C.A. LaRue
                            for Red Fox Man, beloved father

everything tastes of smoke
though the house has had 27 days
to bear your absence

i scrape your tools along cracked
walls that have waited 9.25 years
to mend Katrina scars

mama starts your truck 1x per day,
goes 0 miles: x equals the
qty of gas

dry mouths swallow Mound bars
from the stash you thought you hid in
your desk drawer: 240 calories per

son #1 digs the drain you
laid out for the backyard: 3ft deep,
1 ft wide

son #2 googles that your
remains weigh 6.3lbs, peeks
inside the urn

we sit them beside your birthday cards
(which you missed by days)

no one can move towards home or
dare to take a final sum


Sunday Sentence #26


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images.duckduckgo.comMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

Spelling is part of the story.

SOURCE: Jill Lepore‘s non-fiction portrait Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin



Sitting with Art #2


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Valerie HadidaValérie Hadida is a contemporary French sculptor & painter, working mainly in Bronze & clay.  This set of sculptures is from Les “petites bonnes femmes”/ The Little Women series, which has been described by critics as a “poetic encounter….[meant] to make us travel the path of women from adolescence to maturity and through the various emotions and moods that drive these generations of women.”

Trained at l’Ecole d’arts plastiques et publicité de la ville de Paris (EMSAT) and employed in the studio of Marielle POLSKA for 6 years, a character designer for several animated features and winner of the Paul Ricard Foundation Prize in 1991, she has been EXHIBITED in galleries since 1990.

Showing currently at @GalryVerneuil this January.



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May her art inspire your writing path for the week!

New! Sitting with Art


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Starting this week, we will take a more meditative approach in our lab work for awhile, trying on something called “Sitting with Art,” aka “picture study,” in which we will take a very small sample of a given artist’s work and contemplate its fruits.  Or as the late educational reformer Charlotte Mason describes it, we will

 open [our] eyes and minds to appreciate the masterpieces of pictorial art, to lead…from mere fondness for a pretty picture which pleases the senses up to honest love and discriminating admiration for what is truly beautiful – a love and admiration which are the response of heart and intellect to the appeal addressed to them through the senses by all great works of art.


Go cut ‘n paste style into a journal, an index card flipbook, or onto real picture paper. Tape to a wall above the computer or sink or just use a screensaver or a virtual album on your phone.  The point is to find some way to live with the chosen artwork for the week, with each piece getting as much “face-time” as possible.

For as Mason reminds us, (in speaking of children, but it is as equally applicable to adults), with such a close study

we cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.


Now then! Long intro, short, this week’s artist is a lesser-known “Golden Age” artist/illustrator self-styled as “SSS” with a portfolio as interesting as her bio:



Sarah S. Stilwell-Weber (1878-1939) was a “Golden Age” Illustrator as much loved for her sumptuous Collier‘s magazine covers as her intimate portraits of women & children.

A less-recognized student of the “Brandywine School” of Howard Pyle, she also worked with his sister Katherine Pyle, in bringing to life Katherine’s writings and poetry in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Scribners and the Saturday Evening Post in the early 1900s.

Some dubbed her work “mere kiddie covers” for her extensive use of small children engaged in imaginative play for most of the magazines’ covers.

But they did not know her larger body of work, or that she was also heavily influenced by the style choices of fellow female “Brandywine” illustrators like Elizabeth Shippden Green–one of the Red Rose girls–who like the rest of that trio was a part of the “New Woman” movement that bleed into art as a risingly educated class of women entered the workforce.

Paintings such as Stilwell’s “Woman with Leopards” & “Love at First Sight” were as highly skilled as any of the male pre-Raphaelite’ romantic masterpieces, and certainly worthy of praise beyond just their strength in selling magazines.  Alas, that is another story…..onward to the art!!!


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Some helpful handouts for this exercise & going forward:

Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poems

Looking at Art


The goal with this batch of labwork is to enrich both our language and senses, as well as to transfer the discipline gained in focused visual analysis to building new structures in our writing.


Just a few more interesting thoughts on ekphrastic poetry from Anne Marie Esposito of Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute:


1.Poetry and art can often influence or challenge our perceptions and prejudices, forcing us to re–examine and re–evaluate our opinions, values, and attitudes.
2.Poetry and art can help us to better understand the significance of place and time when evaluating or interpreting a literary work.
3.Poetry, like art, must be read, and reread, for both meaning and appreciation. The length of a line and the choice of a word can alter meaning just as easily as the stroke of a brush and the use of color.


Essential Questions


1.Is a work of art a representation of the subject or the artist’s interpretation of what is already an individual viewpoint? (Representation of a representation)
2.How can a poetic response to work of art be a fuller representation of a subject than the work of art is?
3.How can “reading” a work of art and/or poem challenge our perceptions and prejudices about people, objects, and personal/societal beliefs or values?
4.How does the length of a line, the choice of a word, and the clustering of details or images contribute to a poem’s meaning and effectiveness?


Just, please, do not feel pressured by these last thoughts to writing only poetry.  Move your narratives out into prose, into hybrids, anywhere the muse might lead.  Have fun and send along some things you are adding to your notebooks.


Sunday Sentence #25


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Nora Webster CoverMy weekly contribution to David Abrams’ “Sunday Sentence” project in which participants share the best sentence read during the past week “out of context and without commentary.”

The expression on Catherine’s face when she saw her hair had not helped; the fact that she had not spoken immediately meant that she was saving it up for later, and she would, Nora was sure, have a great deal to say.

SOURCE: The prolific Colm Toibin‘s latest novel Nora Webster (Simon& Schuster).



Odd Bits from a Creative Life #2


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First off, let me just say how thrilling it is that my little notes on a creative life are inspiring others.  Check out what Erika Dreifus is doing with the concept. Also, I finally figured out where I “borrowed” the series title from…see the Toulouse: Odd BIts of a LIfe in New Orleans blog.

I enjoy these type of entries from the actively creating best, so let me get on with it!


This week I’ve been experimenting with some kitschy cover designs that blend Lyra polycolor pencil with graphic layering techniques to create faux embroidery/faux embossing effects. Some small samples up above.  This has been immensely fun, and I am going to try to emulate carved Northwest Coast formline and quilling effects next.


The Paris WinterThe Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson
My Goodreads review: {trying to make better use of Goodreads by the way}

5 of 5 stars

It is hard to top my love of the Westerman/Crowther historical mystery series, but Robertson has blown me away again. She has such a gift for vivid description that (I assume) comes from her TV/film directing days…her words actually transport you into a scene in a way that moves you along as if you are a character in a film yourself. The fact that this book features a struggling female artist and BRILLIANT catalogue notes (to this female painter’s exhibition) so beautifully dispersed into the narrative…it is…it is just like she has written it specifically for me.

Did I mention the main character’s interaction with Gertrude Stein in her famous salon with straight-up discussion on Picasso or the depth of Robertson’s research into the women’s ateliers of the time?

Then there is the dark twist of Part Two and the corresponding move of the tonal palette. I must dissect this some more to figure out how to replicate this setting of mood.

Also, I usually hate epi- and pro-logues, but in Robertson’s hands, they are like a shiny gold-frame and feel absolutely organic.

Have also felt compelled to make several sketches of the cover. A+ , Imogen, you’ve won me over again!


Ah! She sent me a lovely note on twitter after it posted, which set my little fangirl heart all afluimages.duckduckgo.comtter.  But ownward……………….

I also reread Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay (Sun Tracks) &

Blonde Indian: An Alaskan Native Memoir (Sun Tracks) index this week and am about 2/5 through The Art of Slow Writing,


all of which have inspired me to slow down and enjoy the process of creating more.

I had forgotten how in Nora Naranjo-Morse’s preface notes (p. 15 in Mud Woman), she reveals that the Tewa (Pueblo) language has no word for ‘art’, but rather a phrase that in her words describes,  “the concept of an artful life, filled with inspiration and fueled by labor and thoughtful approach.”

The Tlingit language too, lacks a true word for the term, using verbs with complicated tenses that relate the act of painting or weaving or carving, etc..  It makes one question all over again the very place and function of art within culture.  But that is another debate.

I was also surprised to learn (from poet & Tlingit elder, Nora Dauenhauer) that ‘poetry’ too is missing in our tongue, coming across loosely in a phrase that roughly translated means “song language”.

I can not tell you how tickling this is for a friend of mine who works in music and on the side translates Scottish Gaelic ballads & poems. His exact phrasing was a bit more colorful than ‘tickling’, but it really rather lacks the merryiness in English, making my point. Maybe??


Anyway, inspired by artsy covers and what I am calling Robertson’s “pictures & frames” style in The Paris Winter (mentioned above), I assigned myself a half dozen mood-setting sketches to be set in the murky part of Mississippi called Creole that my grandparents used to live in.  Here’s something from that endeavor:


At the end of a shell road, a rusted bridge rides low over an oily creek.  Wild chickens roost in vine-choked trees of indeterminate colors and an army of fiddler crabs marches to its own chorus. The bridge used to lead to somewhere, but it’s all crumbled brick and cracked cinder-block now, tangled in more vegetation, except for one gray house that leans over a freshly swept porch. Its faded gauze curtains part for a bare-legged, freckled-faced girl that would rather pinch roach wings from her toes than bother with shoes.



Link back your own Works-in-progress, realbies.   I know you active creators are out there ready, ready, ready to share!!!!









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