Burnside published my visual art take on the verse “a time to mourn.” You can see it here.
Last month Scripps College invited me to attend a lovely brunch amongst friends and fellow alumni at The Lotos Club:
Alumnae Panel: The Arts and Entertainment Scene in NYC
Mitra Abbaspour ’99, Associate Curator, The Museum of Modern Art
Barbara Barna Abel ’84, Casting Director and Coach, ABEL intermedia
Moderator: Veronica Gledhill ’06, Senior Fashion Market Editor, New York Magazine, Online and 2012 Outstanding Recent Alumna
with an update on the College
from President Lori Bettison-Varga
Oh, how I wish they’d do more of these. It was truly inspiring to hear these women tell their stories. They were so impressive yet so humble and honest in talking about their individual journeys as artists.
Elizabeth had secured The Lotos Club for the event, and I could’ve sat in that sumptuous library all day long. But I guess that was the point:
The selection of the name The Lotos Club was to convey “an idea of rest and harmony.” The spelling of Lotos comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lotos Eaters, two lines of which were selected as the motto of the Club:
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon
The endless afternoon setting provided the ideal atmosphere to indulge in creative and stimulating thought and conversation.
Of course, as a good Greek, I should point out that Tennyson’s poem was inspired by The Odyssey.
The circular staircase was breathtaking. I had to stop and take a photograph.
The Lotos Club has an impressive history and has counted amongst its members President Taft, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde’s brother Willie.
The lovely editors at Resource Magazine asked me to cover a story on indie, DIY weddings for their Spring 2013 issue. I got to interview Jen Campbell of the blog Green Wedding Shoes, who is so sweet and creative.
You can pick up a print copy at your local Barnes & Noble or keep sitting where you are right now and get the digital edition.
You might think Easter already happened back in March, but if you’re Greek you know it’s this weekend. And with Greek Orthodox Easter comes the sight of men who don’t grow mustaches ironically and women who still believe in using lots of Aquanet carrying candles with little red wax-catching cups.
If you missed it last year, here’s my story about this tradition and wondering how to get a lit candle home if I can’t take an open flame on the subway.
In case you missed it in the comments section last week, David Amram dropped and mentioned he’ll be reading at Literary Manhattan’s 2013 Spring Symposium. David is one of my all-time heroes–exceedingly talented and generous. I never get tired of listening to him play music–and when I say “play,” it really does feel like play, like he’s having a ball going from instrument to instrument, enjoying the craft of making music. He’s also a great storyteller. He has stories about everyone: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Johnny Depp, the list goes on.
Here’s the info for the 2013 Spring Symposium:
May 5, 2013
299 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10017
12 Noon to 3:30PM
$20 suggested donation
He didn’t mention it, but he’ll also be playing at Cornelia Street Cafe the following evening. Here are those details:
May 6, 2013
29 Cornelia Street, New York, NY 10014
$20 (includes a drink!)
Kalo mina! It’s the first day of May–or as we Greeks call it, Protomaia or the Feast of the Flowers. Here in New York it’s been a long, long winter. Every time it started to warm up, it would start snowing. After we had one big snowstorm, a robin, that ephemeral symbol of spring, chirped on top of a construction rod as if to say it was tired of the cold weather too. Now, at last the days are longer, and pink flowers are blooming in Spanish Harlem.
During the winter, people always tell me that they’re sure I must wish I was in Greece during the cold season. Yes, we have palm trees in Greece–my dad is obsessed with plants!–but the country doesn’t have a tropical climate year-round. It actually snowed in Greece this year, as you can see from Yannis Behrakis’ stunning photos of a snow-topped Acropolis.
Perhaps this year, more than ever, Greeks are celebrating May Day. Traditionally heralded by picnics and flower collecting, Protomaia announces the start of spring. And with spring comes rebirth. A new beginning. A fresh start.
We could all use that.
“Skillful pilots gain their reputation
from storms and tempest.”
American architect Bertram Goodhue was born on this day in 1869. I went Church Hopping to the Church of the Intercession in Washington Heights and St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Midtown, two churches he co-designed in New York.
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! In 1896, Goodhue designed a typeface for Cheltenham Press. Called Cheltenham, the typeface is the one used for the headline for The New York Times.
So here’s a fun fact I just read this week, via Yahoo: Ted Leonsis was the very first person to ever sent an AOL instant message.
Another fun fact: Ted happens to be my friend George Koumantzelis‘ cousin. George has been an early and avid supporter of my Kerouac research and the book I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful, and he introduced me to his uncle Billy Koumantzelis, who was friends with Jack Kerouac. Sometimes George sends out emails, and in the little “to” box my name is right next to Ted’s. It’s really quite surreal.
If you don’t know who Ted Leonsis is here’s a quick run-down of just some of his achievements:
- He was a senior AOL executive for 13 years
- He is the co-CEO of Groupon
- He is a founding member of the Revolution Growth Fund
- He is the majority owner of the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics, and the Washington Wizards
- He’s on the Board of Directors for American Express
- He produced the award-winning documentary Nanking
- He is the author of The Business of Happiness
- He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and raised in Lowell, MA
- He currently lives in Potomac, MD, at Marwood, previously owned by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Al Gore
- He mentors through the Hoop Dreams program
Successful people are often thought of as ruthless and privileged, but Ted Leonsis is a self-made millionaire who follows his heart. This is the promotional copy for The Business of Happiness:
When the plane he was on prepared for a crash landing, Ted Leonsis asked himself the crucial question, If today is my last day on earth—will I die happy?. . . and realized the answer was no. Despite having achieved massive business success—he was a self-made multi-millionaire at the age of twenty-seven—he realized he would die unfulfilled. He told God that if he survived, he would turn his life around, give back more than he took, and pursue happiness. After walking off that plane, he got to work.
And while I mentioned Nanking above, I should also point out that his other documentaries are equally about social justice. Kicking It is a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell about the issue of homelessness, and A Fighting Chance tells the motivational story of Kyle Maynard, a wrestler who was born without arms and legs.
Ted Leonsis and the stories he helps get to the public are examples that no matter what our circumstances we are all capable of achievement.
I had a really fun time putting together an article for Burnside about poets who are also visual artists. From the time I was a little child, I have been drawn to both the literary and visual arts worlds. Even in undergrad these two loves of mine co-mingled, as I majored in English and minored in studio art. My undergrad thesis looked at the relationship between writers and artists in New York in the ’40s and ’50s. It didn’t end there. While obtaining my MFA in creative writing, I took a poetry class on the collaborations of the poets and artists of the New York School. My article touches on some of the poets I’ve studied over the years, with of course a focus on the people commonly associated with the Beat Generation, but I pushed myself to find other examples as well.
Our cannons are so steeped in “dead white males” that it was important to me in stretching my knowledge to seek out poet-artists who did not play into that categorization. I was delighted to discover that Elizabeth Bishop painted. Two years ago it was the hundred-year anniversary of the former Poet Laureate of the United States’ birth, so there were many readings and events to honor her work. Somehow, though, I missed the fact that she was a painter. Maybe it’s because she herself did not take it all that seriously, as I point out in my article. I happen to think they’re delightful, though.
A contemporary poet-painter I am quite interested in researching more about is Babi Badalov. As my article touches on, he mixes languages in his works, a result of having moved a lot between cultures to avoid persecution for his controversial visual poetry. As a writer, language is something I hold dear. My vocabulary is a key to who I am: the words I’ve picked up come from my mother’s midwestern phrasing and my father’s Greek tongue as well as the vernacular of northern New Jersey and the jargon of the institutes of higher learning I attended. I’ve found the preservation of endangered languages so critical because language is about identity. The idea that a poet has no language and has many languages intrigues me. When does Badalov express himself in his native Azerbaijani language and when in Russian? Is his use of English a political act?
In my exploration of the Beats as visual artists, I could have easily waxed on and on. In fact, I did not go into any detail about Jack Kerouac’s artwork, even though he has been the subject of much of my studies. If this is something you’re interested in, leave a note in the comment section below, and I’ll write something up on this. What I did try to do for the Burnside article, though, was show that the Beats were following a rich tradition that came long before them. I point to William Blake and the Chinese and Japanese calligraphers as forerunners and influencers on the work of Allen Ginsberg and Phillip Whalen, for example.
My article was limited to just a few examples, a small taste of the artwork of poets. I’d love to hear who you think should be added to the list. Maybe I’ll make a part II!