Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NATH Notes

How on earth, I wondered when I moved to a small town in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, would I ever be able to stay active in seeking social justice? Certainly I knew it would look different from the racial reconciliation / refugee resettlement work and conversations I'd had in Minneapolis. Would I stop caring? Would I forget and lead a happy little bubble life?

No, of course not. In looking for a way to match my talents with my community's need, I wound up editing the monthly newsletter of the Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing (NATH). At the end of each month, I remember there's a deadline coming and spend a couple of hours with the TV on in the background (largely ignored) as I copyedit, reformat, and rearrange. The newsletter goes out to over 1200 people. It's, you know, a nice thing to do. Hopefully it helps by connecting people to an important cause. There is only one house available to meet temporary housing needs for the people of four counties. It's only in its second year.

The pleasure of such work is that I get to witness the amazing giving that people do in order to keep the place running. This month alone,

  • a ten year-old boy sold burgers and hotdogs and donated half his profits to NATH. He also gave an additional hundred dollars "to end homelessness." Think about the assuredness and faith of that statement.
  • an elementary school summer donated their summer sewing projects (two quilts, a stuffed animal, and a game)
  • a woman ran a rummage sale and sold raffle tickets on the side for two days
  • a woman wrote a book, with a plan to divide all profits among three local charities. She passed away before selling all the books, so her local Lion's club has taken up the task
  • a nearby town is having a "town fun day" and donating half the proceeds to NATH
  • the local waterski team donated their profits from a performance
  • and there are dozens of people who show up to paint, build, sell brats and raffle tickets, answer phones, drive residents around...
Truly, the blessing is in reading what others do. It inspires me to look for other ways I can serve. Want to see for yourself or get involved? Call Director Tammy Modic at (715) 369-9777.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Rant about the Arts

In 2010, budget for supporting the arts in Wisconsin was slashed by 70%. Wisconsin now ranks number 47 out of 50 states in its commitment to supporting the arts.

Put in other terms, this state spends 13 cents per person on the arts. Our kindly neighbor to the west, Minnesota, spends $6 and change per person, giving the rank of #1. Yup, highest support for the arts, per capita, in the nation.

I feel it, as a writer. When I lived in Minneapolis, attending the University of Minnesota's MFA program, there seemed to be no end to the opportunities to interact with the creative writing and visual arts. Art crawls, spoken word, poetry / fiction / nonfiction / etc readings and classes at the Loft Literary Center, theater, dance forums...the list goes on. I listened, participated, tutored kids. There were lists of funding opportunities to which I could apply. I felt supported and proud to be an artist. Everywhere I looked, creative expression had a solid stage.

Then, I moved one hour to the east...and it all went away. Now, granted, I had been in a major city and in graduate school. I knew that level of activity could not be sustained in a small, rural town, even one with a university. But it wasn't just that. State level grants? Nope. Readings? Other than the Chippewa Valley Book Festival, not really. The Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets stands as one of the very few organizations available to allow writers to commune.

It's not that there aren't arts in Wisconsin. I have met talented artists in a variety of media as I've moved throughout this state. The passion for and commitment to the arts here in the Northwoods, where there is a predominate retired population, is nonetheless invigorating. There are pockets. There is even a bit of a groundswell. But, oh, how much better it could be if the state embraced the encouraging, rejuvenating, communicating, challenging, and celebratory powers that are the arts.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Poet Max Garland

When I begin to feel I have used up all my subjects for poems, when the lines I do write sound so completely "like me" that I am unsurprised and unenthused to see them, when I begin to feel distant entirely from poetry, I count it high time to get myself to a good poetry reading. How happy I was, then, to hear Rhinelander poet Brent Goodman and, particularly, WI Poet Laureate Max Garland read tonight. I taught at UW-Eau Claire with Max, and we exchanged poetry upon my arrival, so I knew I was in for a treat. I knew Max has a fabulous quick wit with an eye for the satirical--to the end that, I think, everyone in the department made sure to open emails from Max, as they were sure to be entertaining. I knew he is deeply contemplative and spiritual, drawing inspiration from, among other poets, the brilliant monk/poet Thomas Merton. I knew what I was in for, and I was not disappointed. Max Garland's work reads well aloud. It is accessible and yet surprising, with hit-the-nail-on-the-head word choice that, frankly, just makes me happy to listen to. Hearing him reminded me what I love about poetry, and it made me want to go write.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Call for Submissions

Announcing the 2014 Split This Rock Poetry Contest
Judged by: Tim Seibles

Tim Seibles

Benefits Split This Rock Poetry Festival
March 27-30, 2014

$1,000 Awarded for poems of provocation and witness

Prizes: First place $500; 2nd and 3rd place, $250 each.
Winning poems will be published on www.SplitThisRock.org, winners will receive free festival registration, and the 1st-place winner will be invited to read winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, 2014.

Deadline: November 1, 2013

Reading Fee: $20, which supports Split This Rock Poetry Festival, 2014. 

Details: Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership; issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.); community, civic engagement, education, activism; and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons. Split This Rock subscribes to the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses Contest Code of Ethics. Read it online here.

Submission guidelines:
Submit up to 3 unpublished poems, no more than 6 pages total, in any style, in the spirit of Split This Rock (see above). Please do not put your name or contact information on the poems themselves, only your cover page.
Simultaneous submissions OK, but please notify us immediately if the poem is accepted elsewhere.
Please contact us directly if you are unable to access Submittable at: info@splitthisrock.org. 
For more information:   

Monday, July 15, 2013

Re-creation time

I'm back!

For the past two weeks, I have not looked at a single blog. I have checked my email only in the most cursory way. No one called. I missed it all a bit, but not that much. Hurrah for vacation, for eating good food with my family and looking at the ocean, for staying right near this beautiful lighthouse in Maine. It was a time for recreation, and I don't simply mean going kayaking and reading lots of books. I mean recreation at its core:


a time to be made new. To be re-formed. To return to the normal world more fully myself. Ah...

(And now, back to returning emails...)