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!
Back when I was in undergrad at Scripps, my thesis involved the relationship between poets and painters. Later, at grad school at The New School, I continued to study the way visual and literary artists influenced each other other and collaborated with one another. It’s endlessly fascinating and much more broad than the time periods of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s that I tend to focus on. Burnside Writers Collective just published a survey I did that shows painters honoring poets throughout the ages called “Painters in Praise of Poets.”
In case you missed it, the art I curated for Burnside’s latest “A Time to…” series posted last week. This one’s on “A Time to Tear Down.”
It involves Legos.
I have a new little art post up on Burnside called “A Time to Tear Down,” as part of the “A Time to…” series.
Burnside Writers Collective published my article “St. John’s Leads the Nation in Civil Rights,” about the civil rights history of the Church of the Presidents. The article includes information on Barack Obama’s inauguration and Martin Luther King Day.
I left a comment on an article on Orion‘s website a while back and one of the editors contacted me to see if they could reprint it in the print edition of their magazine. Of course I said yes! I love the articles in Orion. My comment is now in the letters to the editor section of the September/October 2012 issue on newsstands now. I’m credited as “Stephanie Niko” because I oftentimes abbreviate my name when I leave comments on blogs.
The Millions published my essay “On the Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women.”
The article made the headline in the Page-Turner section of The New Yorker.
It also made it into the On the Shelf section of The Paris Review.
The article was mentioned in The Atlantic Wire.
Poets & Writers mentioned the article in their Daily News on 8/14/12 … and then again on 8/15/12 to note the response the article has gotten.
That second P&W write up was mentioning Slate‘s response.
Jezebel also devoted a whole article to my article.
Guy Librarian referenced the discussion.
The article was also mentioned on The Daily Beast.
The Huffington Post added commentary to the discussion.
8/19/12; 8/22/12: This post was updated to include additional mentions.
Burnside Writers Collective published my latest Church Hopping column. In this edition of my ongoing column, I visit Brewery Vivant in Michigan. What’s now a trendy Grand Rapids beer hall used to be the Metcalf Funeral Chapel. Writers Kim Gottschild and Larry Shallenberger join me.
You can read the full article here.
For the last time Burnside went Church Hopping during the Festival of Faith & Writing, check out: Calvin College Chapel with Fellow Burnside Writers.
For the time Burnside Writers Susan Isaacs and Donald Miller went Church Hopping in New York, check out: Calvary-St. George’s.
For another repurposed church, check out: Don Justo’s “Trash” Cathedral.
“Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?”
Sin and salvation.
Death and resurrection.
Hoodrats and comeback kids.
Parties and confession booths.
The Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday: indie rock’s Easter music.
I’m pleased to have a personal essay published inCreating Space. In the essay, I write about my angsty teen years in New Jersey … and how I still sometimes feel that way.
Creating Space is a Lenten devotional published by RedeemerWrites, part of the Redeemer Writers Group, an arts ministry at the Center for Faith & Work. As you may know, I’m one of the leaders of the Writers Group, and so I was involved in soliciting entries for Creating Spaceand editing them, under the direction of Maria Fee. The devotional features poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as calligraphy by artist David Chang.
Creating Space is on sale for $5.