01 January 2013

2012 highlights of faith-and-arts

This has been a very dark year. It has been the hardest season of desolation in my adult life, personally, professionally, and spiritually. Yet there have been many very bright spots in the arts scene -- not so much on the "faith" side of things, but that is a different story. Actually, I have written a little bit about that side of the story in an article entitled "Desolation and Creation" that's supposed to appear in Comment soon.

But here I want to dwell on the bright side, reveling in the artistic blessings I have received or seen this year. I hope you enjoy this list. What artistic blessings can YOU count this year? Would share some of them in the comments below? Thank you, and Happy New Year!

* The year started out very brightly indeed with the release of my first full-length book of poetry, entitled CADUCEUS. Here, here, here, here, and here are some excellent reviews. The book was well received when it was received at all, but like most poetry nowadays, got little attention. Although it is now out of print, you can get copies on amazon. [Do you own a copy of Caduceus? Leave a comment telling me what you think of it!]

* Many delightful events followed the publication of Caduceus. The community college where I teach generously hosted the book launch party, which was a beautiful evening of roses, refreshments, Choreologos, fellowship, and poetry. You can watch the video of the whole reading and of the Choreologos here (although I think I read too long, so I recommend skipping to the end -- thanks to Jim Femister for the video recording!).

* I was able to offer several "Poetry, Dance, & the Patterned Glory of the Universe" events; this is a really fantastic, fun presentation of the techniques of poetry, along with music, visual arts, and dance.  I have written about the best of these events here, and here is a video of one of the dances. Thank you to Betsy Gahman for calling an English Country Dance at one of these events; to Betty Barbour for playing the violin; to Nadine Kulberg, Sharon Gerdes, Marian Barshinger, other members of POTS, Ian Bridgeman, Emily Graham, Zach Kunkel, Mark Dobson, and Kitty Eisenmann for dancing and reading! [Were you at any of these? Did you dance? Leave a comment!]

* A variety of different venues gave me the opportunity to read from my book. One evening, I led the writers' group at Redeemer Presbyterian Church's InterArts fellowship in New York City, talking about the "priestly" or vicarious role of writers who can be a voice for the voiceless. I read and talked about Arts as outreach at College Church's missions night in Northampton, Massachusetts. I gave a reading and talked about the influence of Hopkins and Lewis, at King's College in the Empire State Building. I gave a reading at my alma mater, Gordon College, in Wenham, Massachusetts, and another in a great little art galley hosted by the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. [Were you at any of these readings? If so, what did you think?]

* In the midst of these readings, I was given an hour in heaven -- a glimpse of what fellowship may be like in paradise. The great artist Bruce Herman, professor at Gordon College, invited me to his home studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There, under the unfinished glory of his Four Quartets, he served me tea, homemade toast, and honey. He noted a flaw in one of the paintings and went over to touch it up. He discoursed eloquently about T.S. Eliot, inspiring me by his wide reading, deep understanding, and profound commitment to excellence. We sat and talked about art, painting, poetry. He asked many questions about me, and inspired me to make some new commitments to my own dreams. Sadly, circumstances since have forced me to postpone some dreams and give up on others, but I will never forget Bruce's brotherly, godly concern and council, nor will I lose the image of his masterpieces exposed in their fragmentary state, glowing with spiritual fervor, layered with meaning, colored by grace. [Thank you, Bruce!]

* Another paradisiacal sort of experience in the arts was the IAM regional leaders gathering at the end of February. I have already blogged about that, so let me just say now how encouraging that weekend was, and how much I have enjoyed keeping in touch with some of the hard-working artists and arts promoters I met there. Here are the websites of some people I met: composer Kent Smith, illustrator Matt Crotts, Mark Sprinkle of the BioLogos foundation, Christopher Bennett Gaertner of the band Avodah, and of course all my great current and former editors at Curator. Here is Makoto Fujimura's current project -- the same Four Quartets in which Bruce Herman's works will be shown. Here is an interview I did with Christy Tennant on IAM Conversations. [Thank you, IAM! Readers, please consider joining IAM or giving them a gift to continue their work.]

* Another amazing blessing came out of that IAM weekend: Shann Ray's shocking, unforgettable, serious short story collection American Masculine, which I reviewed on amazon. It's a powerful book, and I recommend it highly to those with strong stomachs and without faint hearts. Shann and his wife were wonderful friends to meet there at IAM.

* ...and one more new friend, with another amazing new book: Carrey Wallace's debut novel The Blind Contessa's New Machine is a remarkable jewel of a story. I reviewed it here. [Get it! Read it! Give a copy to a friend!]

* Also in February, I attended a glitzy opening party for the newly renovated Allentown Art Museum and its debut show, "Who Shot Rock-n-Roll?" Photographer Nienke Izurieta came with me, and we enjoyed great fellowship. Lydia Panas also had an exhibit of her portraits running at the same time. It was a swanky party and an exhilarating show. I also wrote an article partially inspired by the third exhibit that was running at the time, here--about hair salons and art.
[Thank you, Nienke!]

* Later in the spring, when my Caduceus energy was running down, Nadine Kulberg, mezzo and Ivan Tan, pianist, gave a performance of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin at LCCC. The literary club, Xanadu, hosted this event, which included readings of some German poetry and a brief introduction to the tradition of art song and Romantic poetry.  It was very well attended! [Thank you, LCCC, for this event! Anybody who was there, please leave a comment sharing your memories of this concert.]
* A big literary and social adventure unfolded in May and June. I took a three-week trip (generously supported by professional development funding from LCCC) to Seattle, WA; Upland, IN; and Chicago, IL, for research, conference presentations, and visits with friends. Some highlights include the Avatar exhibit at the EMP museum in Seattle with Leila Hepp, reading an unpublished Charles Williams play at the Wade, watching fellow researcher Brenton Dickieson make an exciting discovery about C. S. Lewis, and attending a poetry slam with the daddy of the poetry slam movement, Marc Smith in a sleazy club in Chicago. Whew! You can read some reports about these adventures here, here, here, and here. 
[Thank you, Leila & Becky, for hosting me!]

* Later in the summer, we spent a nice weekend in Newport, RI, looking at the mansions, enjoying the beauty of architecture. We got some ideas for our own (ahem) little "mansion," if we ever get back to working on it. [Did you know that The Great Gatsby with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was filmed in Rosecliff? Are you going to see Baz Lehrman's new Gatsby in May?]

* Ekphrasis meetings continued on the first Monday if every month, replete with hilarity and detailed critique. One high point came in July when Sharon Gerdes, artistic director of Players of the Stage, performed an original series of 7 monologues that were sort of spiritual autobiographies in short, tight, emotionally packed character sketches. [Thank you, Sharon, and thank you, all Ekphrasians -- I love you!]

* The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival was in fine feather this summer, but I was a bit out of it, so I didn't see all the shows, and I didn't review them this year. Next season, I hope!

* Xanadu, the literary club at LCCC, continued to thrive this year. I had the great pleasure of advising the club along with fellow members of the English faculty Katie Hostetter and John Nardone. Here you can view the most recent issue of the magazine we created, which looks gorgeous thanks to Kitty Eisenmann's fine design work.

* Nadine Kulberg also performed in the gorgeous opera Adriana Lecouvreur in New York's Lincoln Center in October, another glorious and heartbreaking musical event! [Do you need a mezzo? Give Nadine a call!]

* This was the year I got addicted to Sherlock and Doctor Who! I've always been a theoretical Doctor Who fan, but lack of cable, limited internet access, etc. have always kept me from indulging. This year I decided to (ahem) abuse my faculty library privileges a little bit to get the dvds. Don't tell! But, wow. British TV just rocks. I am in love. Seriously, dangerously. Whew!

 * Then, of course, there was The Hobbit. The movie itself was not a highlight -- you can read my reviews here and here -- but I had TONS of fun getting ready for it!! I wrote a a href=>prep article
, listened avidly to the Tolkien's professor's podcast, went to the midnight showing with a few friends. stayed up all night in a diner writing one review for Curator and another review for Comment, gave a lecture at Penn State, then took 222 people to see the movie. Whew. And now I'm involved in a financial dispute with the movie theatre, which accidentally double-charged me the enormous cost of the group showing, and is making a huge fuss about refunding the money. But that is also another story.


Anonymous said...

I am so delighted to read about your year, Sørina. And it gives me pure joy to remember that special gathering in February—I'm so glad you were part of that. Loved interviewing you for IAM Conversations, too! I look forward to staying in touch and continuing to be blessed by your gift of insight and words. Many blessings to you in the new year!

Anonymous said...

Great year, and ended well. Good show.

Rosie Perera said...

Wow, what a year! Sorry to hear it's been a dark one for you on several fronts, but glad to hear you've had all those awesome experiences. Also sorry about the nastinessssss with the Hobbit theatre. Hope you get that resolved to your satisfaction.