THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Celebrating ArtPark in Wilson County
(Jane Wood with Mae)
Jane Wood, as she identified herself, telephoned me from Wilson to arrange visits to fourth grade classes while I was in town last April for a reading at the Wilson County Public Library. She mentioned that she'd been visiting middle school classes there for quite some time, reading poetry to the students and encouraging them to write their own poems and stories. How much she had been doing over the past several years became apparent as soon as I climbed in the car with her a few days later and we began to talk. Jane is a woman whose enthusiasm can't be tamped down. The day we spent together turned out to be brimful with talk, poetry, and even a visit to legendary whirligig artist (though I'd call him a "magician"!) Vollis Simpson, with whom she has been friends for years. Jane writes a regular column for the THE WILSON DAILY NEWS and she will soon have a book published with selections from these columns.
Our first stop that morning was the Wilson County Arts Council headquarters. When we opened the door into the spacious and imaginatively designed building, I didn't know what to expect. Jane had told me about her ArtPark project, a program she'd pioneered using the poems written in classrooms she had visited throughout the years. "Over here," she said, pointing to my right, as we entered through the side door. There in the corner was another world, a world of imagination, a child-sized niche where animals paraded along the window sill and poems bloomed from the centers of flowers.
Art Park is an original volunteer program offered to the 4th Grades of the public, private, parochial, and home schools of Wilson County on a rotating basis. The purpose of this 14 year old program is to encourage young students to develop their talents. Students are taught that nurturing the imagination is as important as rote learning. The core of the program is literary, but, as you can see from the photographs here, other arts find their way into the expressions of the young artists.
Presentation of ArtPark takes place in the classroom. The host school is visited once a week for 6 weeks, 30 minutes per session. Students are led into discussions that emphasize individuality and independent thinking. Their poetry appears in the column, ArtPark, in the Wilson Arts Council's newsletter, The Courier. And their work is displayed in areas designated ArtPark at the Wilson Arts Council, Public Library and the YMCA. The post to follow this one illustrates how ArtPark enlivens the childrens' book section of the Wilson County Public Library.
We all "see" differently, as Jane believes, and therefore we should create according to our own special vision. ArtPark discusses history to show the background of and for artistic expression, whether with paints and brush or words. ArtPark uses classical music to prove that music can "paint" images with sound, just as poetry "paints" pictures with words. ArtPark offers the "Pet's Name Contest" each year to emphasize the importance of responsible pet ownership. The prize is $25 and is donated by local veterinarians.
Although Jane gives so much of her creative energy to her community, she herself is a poet, writing poetry when she finds the time and inspiration, so often from the natural world that she loves. I will close out this post with one of her poems. Stay tuned for the second installment of my visit to Wilson, including my visit to St. Therese's School and the Greenfield School, a drop-in to one of Jim Clark's classes at Barton College, and my reading that night at the Wilson County Public Library, where more of ArtPark's display of student work blossomed in the children's section.
Sun squats on the horizon
A hush descends
Robins on the lawn
Dark drops to earth
They begin – katydids, whip-‘or-will’
the whir of wings
lest it comes again
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.