Today's Artist

Wendell Berry Defies Biography

Ah, Wendell Berry. You were the first poet I read from cover to cover. I saw what you saw, out that little window, and I'd like to think I felt some of what you felt. You first showed me how poems can be breathed like incense–how a poem can be a pool for dipping and diving. How a poem can be bread.

Bread fits, because Wendell Berry is also a farmer with a lot to say about sustainable, ethical food.

Film promotional image from the   Kickstarter campaign for The Seer

Film promotional image from the Kickstarter campaign for The Seer

A documentary 'Portrait of Wendell Berry' called The Seer is about to be released, and I cannot wait. Even if he does sound a wee bit curmudgeonly in this recent New York Times interview. I'm sure it's that lovable brand of curmudgeonly.

If you want to start with Berry where I did, read Window Poems

Check out The Seer on Kickstarter


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Alana Levandoski Sings the Whole Story

When you can get poets Joel McKerrow, Malcolm Guite, Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw to contribute to a track on your album, you must be doing something right.

You'll find all four poets on "The Christ Hymn", featured in the video below. I highly recommend you sit back and soak that video in as small celebration of this Easter Monday. In fact, I'm going to do that right after I finish this post.


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Sarah Kay Reminds Me Of The Difference Poetry Can Make

Sarah Kay is a performance poet. She is also an advocate and activist who has done (like any poet worth her salt) plenty of soul searching. That journey brought her to the TED stage, in a video you can watch by clicking this image right here.

 

Sarah Kay is involved with Project VOICE, which "is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world." 

She has collaborated on books that fuse her poems with illustrations, such as "B", which you can get from the library as soon as I'm done with it. You'll find a whole collection of her poems in "No Matter the Wreckage", but I've got that one right now, too.

A recent interview on Brain Pickings with Maria Popova includes this exchange;  

"MP: And this brings us back to the legitimacy question — if making a living isn’t the metric of success in creative work, if academic credentials aren’t it, then what is? What is your internal barometer for your own legitimacy?
SK: Oof, that’s a big question."

What is your internal barometer for your own legitimacy. Oof.

Sarah Kay writes the types of poems that gain a new flavour in the mouth of the reader. Here are a couple readings by the author to savour, as we edge ever-nearer to Poetry Month. 


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Borys Tarasenko Draws a Sweet Jesus

Borys Tarasenko describes himself as 'Edmonton artist. Eater of lunch'. Which, of course, tells you more about him than it appears to. He's got a wonderfully dry wit.

I first saw Borys Tarasenko at the Royal Bison Art & Craft Fair here in Edmonton. He was at a table strewn with colouring books called Sweet Jesus. As someone who has encountered plenty of religious imagery, I was drawn in and found the drawings funny. Irreverent perhaps. Taking a playful swipe at Christian doctrine, I expected, but then I looked closer. These were not irreverent jabs at the Christian faith. These were old stories made new in a delightfully weird, contemporary style. When I found out that Borys' father is an Ukrainian Catholic priest–that Borys is speaking to the tradition of religious iconography from within–I became very interested. 


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Danny Schweers Prays in Pictures

I just received the latest edition of Danny Schweers' Photo Prayer this week, and it may be the only email I've consistently read for what must be nearing a decade. 

Photo Prayer is also one of the few projects I've seen tended to with such commitment and care for that length of time. 

With Schweers' permission, I'm happy to share the fusion of word and image that caught my eye this week.


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Hannah Gelderman Puts Animal Heads on People Bodies

Looking up (waaaaay up) from my coffee at Mandolin Books, I recently recognized a series of collages by Hannah Gelderman. I had seen her work a few months back in a solo show at King's University. I was struck by Gelderman's sense of humor. I had to walk up to each piece so I could read the title, often functioning like a punchline. 

Much of Gelderman's work creates narrative vignettes by casting animals as people in various everyday situations. She is also a painter, photographer and filmmaker. 


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Austin Kleon Shows His Work

A source of continual inspiration, Austin Kleon is a prolific artist who gives back to the significant community that surrounds him. From his live art sessions on Periscope, to his weekly treasure trove of email recommendations, I've learend a lot from Austin Kleon.


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Makoto Fujimura Paints with Gold and Grace

Makoto Fujimura is an artist who has opened worlds for me. He opened the world of abstraction so that I could walk inside. I'd felt shut out of that world before I encountered the welcome of his work. Something in his work continues to draw me, even though it contains no forms I recognize and no concrete concept I can dissect or explain. Even though I'd never heard of Japanese Nihonga painting before.

Fujimura might be the reason I painted my bedroom wall gold. 

Makoto Fujimura opened the world of faith and the arts several cracks wider for me. He showed me, before I began to see it everywhere, that there are artists of excellence who are fervent Christians. Honestly, I'd thought that was a hybrid that didn't exist, like a unicorn.

Finally, Fujimura showed me that, even in a world filled with hunger and thirst, extravagance in art is not only alright but needed. That beauty is life-giving. That hope and creativity are conjoined twins. 

Discover his work at http://www.makotofujimura.com/works/



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Scott Cairns Feeds My Soul

Today I received an email from Image Journal, and in that email was a link to a new poem from Scott Cairns called Lenten Complaint

Photo from  Image Journal

Photo from Image Journal

This poem reminded my how I've been stirred by the words of Scott Cairns in the past. How when Cairns reminds me that, "He shaped of every sepulcher / a womb", I resonate. How his relationship with Greek Orthodoxy, the Greek language and the Christian faith stirs a potent poetic cocktail. How his phrase 'every womb a sepulchre' How I haven't done so well with Lent this year. How I have my own complaints. How we share a broken hope.

I realized, reading that poem, that you may not know the work of Scott Cairns, and how that would be a shame.

His latest book of collected poems is called Slow Pilgrim. Whatever you are fasting from for Lent, I hope it isn't poetry. 

Read Lenten Complaint, from Issue 68 of Image Journal, here

 




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Wayne White Makes Me Smile

I first learned about White from Beauty is Embarrassing, the documentary that taught me Wayne White was like the underground bizarro-world Jim Henson, and pretty much endeared me to him forever.


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