Reading Recommendation: Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss.

joybest

Cover Design by Fat Daddy’s Farm

Front: “Adieu Maman” by Jemila Modesti – Oil

Back: “Broken Chain” by Grace Benedict – Mixed media


The plain truth is, you do not have to be the parent of a lost child to appreciate the shared stories in Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss ISBN 9780985235604, a new collection of works edited by Melissa Miles McCarter of Fat Daddy Press.   The seeds of separation are sown at conception; our first loud and audible breath nothing short of a full-throated attempt at explaining the shock of lost connection.  The acknowledgement of that tiny knot in our lower abdomen  all that is necessary as frame of reference.

Aside from the candid honesty and epiphany found in these poems, prose and illustrative works, the thing that I most admire about Joy, Interrupted is its inclusion of voices from a landscape of backgrounds and personal  histories.  Missing from this anthology is the mindset that insists on a resume and a list of publications as validation for the act of putting words to human experience.  Each work  stands on its own merit in terms of articulation and expression. While  some of these pieces read like masterworks,  others provide the raw insights and vulnerabilities found upon pages from a day in the life of a grief survivor.

The common thread running throughout is the expression of a need to connect and find temporary shelter in shared experience.

In the words of its editor, herself the parent of an infant lost to SIDS:  “In reading about other dimensions of loss, I saw new opportunities for coping, for making meaning out of  pain and for healing. I watched as the contributors processed (or didn’t process) their grief and it helped me see that my own space between grief and joy was wider than I had imagined, with me moving closer and closer to the other side of joy. The contributors to this anthology helped me, as Shakespeare wrote, “give sorrow words.”

Baby Blue and the Missing Part,  Michèle Aimpée Parent

Baby Blue and the Missing Part, Michèle Aimpée Parent

From Joy, Interrupted, various authors and excerpts:

She, lying on the couch, shrouded

by an army surplus blanket, never spoke and stared

directly ahead at the nocturnal painting

of Christ Watching over the City of Jerusalem.

Nauseated by the smell of sweat and cod liver oil,

I relished digging my jagged nails into the jellied flesh

of her freckled upper arm, pinching her and telling her

she was faking because she didn’t want to divide fractions

or help her mother dry the dishes. She never flinched. Did I learn

she had been struck by lightning or did I make it up?

Now all I can think is “Christmas is a time of miracles”

as I listen to the hiss whir of the baby’s ventilator.

Already pneumonia has scarred his lungs

and now they babble about tracheotomies,

laser shavings, and Amoxicillin.

A lightning strike might take him home.

— from Struck by Lightning, Liz Dolan (24)

~~~~~

Marc twitches his nose and his bushy mustache lurches—

the most “him” thing left. That, and the lift of creases in his forehead.

And the small pursing of his chapped lips. His throat clears

and coughs still hold his sound, too.

Thomas has hiccups. “People were looking for Scream

this weekend at the box office,” says TV. Why do we want

to scare ourselves when life already provides the horror?

And more of Lindsay Lohan’s ongoing drama of jail and rehab.

This is news we care about. Not my stepfather dying of cancer,

unknown by most. Even I like celebrity news—flipping back

on my iPhone from Perez Hilton to TMZ. I crave

the nonsense; the non-scream.

–from “Celebrity News,” Sheila Hageman (25)

                                                                                            ~~~~~

A little girl smiles at me from the photo – a smile as bright and carefree as a summer day. Her hair is brown and long, just like the woman’s. I can almost hear this radiant little girl with an infectious smile giggling joyful delight, secure in her mother’s love as she relishes each day’s adventure. But the agony of the woman standing before me explodes in my brain, cruelly silencing the little girl’s laughter. The distance from the photo to this street corner – and the painful loss that brought her here – is beyond all measure.

Somehow I know, even before I read the words. I know the message. I know the pain and agony. I know the fear and desperation. The sign reads “Have you seen this child?” Suddenly, a lump in my throat makes it hard to swallow and tears sting the corners of my eyes, running down my cheeks. I can’t stop myself from being pulled into a flood of emotions. For a fleeting moment I see my own children, my daughters. The cardboard mirror exposes my worst fear as a mother. It has been said that to lose a child is to lose a piece of yourself.

I believe that the bond between a mother and her children is primal, instinctive, and even intuitive. My girls are the very heart and soul of my being. There isn’t anything within my power that I wouldn’t do for them or to protect them. I would fight for them to the end. If they were hurting, I would comfort them as long as they needed. And if they were lost, I would never rest until they were found.

–from  “The Sign,” Rebecca Manning (30)

~~~~~

Fragments lure her–

water snake head

shiny link chain

tender pink sole

damselfly wing . . .

The child, bands of sunburn

down her peeling back,

the scars of cigarettes

on the reticulated spine,

notes the quiet

revolution

in the earth,

and half recalls

the rules, rude and sly.

But Lilia and Marie

have fled the pond,

clambering from the

ooze, shrieking gaily,

eluding phantasmal foes.

Just one arrives

too late in the game

and shrugs: no wonder,

where rift and wrack

of cloud in coming night

glow, lurid as arsonist’s fire.

–from “Dandelion Child,” Carol Alexander (32-33)

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Letting go of heartbreak songs

In matters of self-education and scholarly pursuit, I can be honest and say for the most part, there has always been motivation enough to make me wise and willing to learn.  In matters of the heart however, I have been remiss with myself and sorry.  And, in looking back all I can say is: Man am I a sap and a moron.

I almost never listen to mainstream pop or country so this song is new to me. ..and it’s coming at a time when I could use a reminder of what really happens after having let yourself be stupid to the point of laying face up on the floor like a golden retriever: here ya go, trample my guts and eat my heart out.

And sad songs are OK when you want to cry, but if you want to get angry and get over it so you can get on with it. ..I think Reba says it best.

Watch this one.  Even if you have to click the link and wait for the advertising.  It will be worth it!

Horror Flicks and Billy Goat Chips: A Day in the Life of a Cosmically Down to Earth Guy from the Middle West, Collinsville artist and poet Terry Pierson

I met Terry Pierson a couple of years ago when he showed up in the front row of a Creative Writing class I was teaching at Southwestern Illionis College on the Belleville campus.  Strangely and serendipitously enough, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen him though.

“Hey, I know you,” I said after taking attendance. ” You are the painter guy from the Joan Baez concert. . . sitting one seat over in the next row.  I remember because you had paint on your jacket and a sketchpad. You were also the dark figure following on the sidewalk just past the Metrolink station.”

In the course of that conversation, we agreed that the concert had been a memorable one, each recalling the moment in the encore after hearing one of our fellow concertgoers shout, “Take it to the full moon, Joanie!”

And take it to the moon she did.  Continue reading

Pastel, Petals, and Channeling Van Gogh: The Emerging Works of Mallory Maves

Today’s artist’s interview features yet another blossoming talent from the Woesthaus night school of play and painting, another new friend and true kindred spirit, already drawing near and dear
to my heart. . .who like myself also too, has come to embrace a passion for
petals and pastels.

I met Mallory last spring. . .when the snow was thick on SWIC pavement. . . and we all propped our canvases close to one another trying to find some warmth in the midst of those Midwestern crows and cornfields. 😉

Mallory was the quiet one who smiled all the time. . .with a painting style very much like the artist
herself, overflowing with an abundance of warmth and sensuality.

You could just stand and watch her dab and dance around the canvas all day. . .her energy is so
inspiring too!

So on with the questions now! Just sit back and enjoy the wild ride!  (and do try to forgive this spacing format.  i am not sure how these line breaks happened with wordpress. . .can’t seem to delete them either.  very mysterious!)

 

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1. Introduce yourself…Tell me about your background.

What events led up to your life in art-making?
I don’t quite remember when I first became interested in art. I was home
schooled from 4th grade all the way through high school, and we always had art
classes with friends.  I remember I loved copying photos because I loved drawing
peoples faces. I would try to get my drawing to look just like the photo, and I
would always get so mad if it didn’t look just right.
I didn’t really start getting into the “artistic” side of drawing until I
started college at Southwestern Illinois College. I have loved every single art
class I’ve taken at SWIC. I really wanted to branch out and learn what I could
do with different medias, so I took as many art classes as possible. I loved
drawing, which I knew, so I took every drawing classes possible including the
studio classes. I then went on to design, photo, ceramics, and painting. I feel
like every art class I took influenced how I perceived my drawing later. I
graduated SWIC 2011 with a double associate’s of AFA and AA.
“Rose”  and “Van Gogh’s Shoes” oil on canvas, Mallory Maves
2. How do you get your hands and feet wet and dirty? What media / material & process do you like best, and why?
I prefer to draw, I use mostly graphite and charcoal, I’ve never been a
huge fan of color pencils. I like to make things as big as possible. When I was
younger I would work on things 8×10 or 5×7 because it was faster to finish
and easier to get done. Now that I understand the amount of detail that can go
into a piece just by upgrading the size to 30×36 or even larger, it makes me
feel that the time that it takes to fill the space is worth it just so I have
the perfect ending to my journey with the piece.
I feel like drawing is a very controlled art which I like, but painting is
what I really let loose with. My friend often says she loves to watch me paint
because I make such and mess around me. Splatters of paint will speckle the work
space around me, and the clothes that I wear, she just thinks it’s so
funny.

Mallory's palette

3. You know, Hemingway wrote a whole book around his experiences trying to feed himself in Paris as a starving artist. ..Do tell about your experiences.   How and what DO you feed
yourself?
I’m almost like a Rothko who only ate cheap Chinese or nothing while
working on a piece. I will go days without eating while working on a piece, not
because I can’t afford it, but because I can’t pull myself out of the “trance”
it has me in. When I do emerge to eat it’s a quick cheap meal that I can quickly
eat before starting again. I also like to drink wine while I paint. During the
“fasting” time I “feed” myself with music, and books, and sources. It is
important to be educated in the world around you so that can convey itself in
your art.
4. Now that you have some food in your stomach, tell me a bit about your process.
Do you have a ritual to get things started?  Comfort stuff. . .listening material?
Just like Audrey Kawasaki I do everything on my floor. When painting, I sit
on the floor in my room and prop my canvas up on the wall. For drawing, I like
laying my drawing board with paper on top right in the center of my floor
and kneel over it, it feels natural to me. I hate easels, I hate standing, and I
even hate sitting in chairs. When I do art I feel like I need to be at one with
myself and the best way to do that is to have no distractions, just me and the
floor.
I feel like music and art go hand in hand alot of the time. Music can be
very influential in the artistic process. I will listen to things based on my
mood or the mood of the piece. I normally loop the same albums over and over
depending on what the piece is making me feel. A common CD is “Lungs” by
Florence and the Machine, I could have the CD on repeat for hours and still not
get tired of it. Other that that I will listen to Bjork, Radio Head, TV on the
Radio, and sometimes even Ke$ha (just for fun).
5. What inspires you most?
People! People’s bodies, People’s music, People’s emotions, People’s
thoughts, even the decomposition of a person,  anything that has to do with
someone can and will inspire me. I’m working on a series right now completely
inspired by the expressions on woman’s faces after they die. Although from the
outside this sounds like a graphic horrific task I find the decomposition of the
body to be beautiful when painting. There are so many colors and so many things
the paint can do.  Each “dead woman” will tell a different story just by
the expression in their eyes and face. I’m hoping this will draw in the viewer
and create a thought process to discover the poor soul’s story. Make
people wonder what happened?
I have two oil paintings I am working on in the series, neither of which
are finished. By the time I am done I hope to have 15 drawings and
paintings.
6. How have you evolved in your process?  What learning experiences have had the biggest
impact?
ALL learning experiences have an impact. I have found painting, photo,
ceramics, even make up design to help me with my drawing and vise versa. The
number one thing I would tell anyone that helps is take a design class if
someone is able to. It really helps with a persons artist vocabulary,
the composition of a piece, and even dabbles a bit in color theory. Other than
that I really feel in is important for a person know history, literature, even
biology, everything in life that can be leaner can also be conveyed into an
artistic experience.

"Silence in Film," oil on canvas, Mallory Maves

7. If you could do dinner with any creative person , dead or alive, who would it be and where would you go to dinner?
Mark Ryden hands down! Ryden is a pop-surrealist painter who first started
out in the 1990’s, his work is just breathtaking. He uses his intellect to
create these beautiful paintings of dewy vixens, and random symbolism. I
would probably take him to sushi? Ryden had a solo exhibition in Tokyo in 2003
so I feel like sushi would be a good fit to his interests, plus I just love
sushi.

8. What would you order and what questions would you ask?
Tamago, Inari, Salmon, Tuna, maybe some spicy crunchy tuna rolls? And a
good white wine of course!
I would probably ask him just how he does it? How does he make an image
that evokes so much feel using every day items, such as meat? I would want to
who what his inspiration is as well. Why dose he create
such ridiculous worlds?
9. Now that you have made your marks, pass the torch. ..what advice do you have for emerging
artists?
Go to school, and finish college. I LOVED every college art class I ever
took!!! Also, listen to your teachers! My teachers would drive me so hard to get
more out of me, and although it gets hard to listen and even go to class at
times, they know what they are talking about. Artists especially young ones
often think we don’t need help, but that is not the case, there’s always room
from improvement. So If a teacher says get an artist statement, make one! If
they say go home and drink a cup of tea then draw the leaves at the bottom DO
IT! They know what they are talking about and it’ll make you a better artist in
the end.
The only thing that is kind of controversial that I myself find does not
work for me is keeping an artist journal. I love writing, but I HATE drawing and
planning things out before I start them, I love to just dive in, but every time
a teacher has asked me to do one I’ve done it.
10. For your burgeoning fan club!  Please tell us where we can find
you online.

Right now the only
place I have my art up is my own private facebook. I’ve thought about making a
SLART page or a fan page on facebook but I’m afraid of any backlash or people
not understanding my art.

Maybe once I begin school at SIUE this fall and bulk up my portfolio
alittle more I will think about  making my art public.