Writing Marathon in the Haymarket, Winter 2007

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Five NeWPers gathered in the Lincoln’s Haymarket District on April 28, for the second NeWP Writing Marathon. The five are: Robyn Dalton (photo left), Robert Brooke, Anne Walden, Robyn Dalton, Jeff Grinvalds (photo center).

From Robert Brooke:

I am in the Lentz Asian Art gallery, examining a kimono for a children’s ritual-a Japanese rite of age recognition, like our first communion or maybe first piano recital, where boys and girls are dressed in special clothes and certain words are spoken which, if considered deeply, might have wisdom about how we choose to live.

Robert in front of old train car

I want, I realize, a ritual to exist in our community for the issue I’ve been exploring this morning, as I write about my Grandmother’s story: a ritual that might surround our young with the question of who to choose to love and of what love might do to you. I want a set of special robes, and candles, and perhaps some gongs rung with small oaken mallets in harmonic sequence approaching the B flat minor chord. I want to choose a time of year–not Valentine’s Day that we already have, with its spring dreams and excess of pink crepe paper–but something mid-summer, in the bright heat of July, maybe exactly midway between Memorial and Labor Days. I want a procession and a mixed array of dried and live flowers. I want words, and a story, something I could have mouthed at age five or seven, then repeat from memory at age ten like the Angelus I learned in church, and then might be able to ponder when I reached age 16. Grandma’s story might do, with her choice between the men she loves and the lived consequences of that choice.

Elsewhere, in the same display, a pair of Korean male and female dolls dance in flowing robes, blue and red, her figure slightly smaller and slightly ahead, his hand on her elbow, his hand on her waist. The pose is formal–an instant frozen from a dance, like a snapshot from a wedding part–and the faces painted white–clear, stark, unexpressive–an image of movement and proportion and the possibility of certain grace.

from Jeff Grinvalds:

The Mill, Lincoln , Nebraska

Poster advertising Friday LIVE

How many people are actually paying attention to any of this? How is it that stale performances on American Idol can draw millions of viewers, but brilliant poetry is lucky to get an audience of three? Why is it that the “real” things in life are always struggling to make ends meet, but football draft dray… THE DRAFT!!… is a superbowl type event?!

Looking at the NET Live! (attached photo) Banner wondering who actually listens to Nebraska’s Weekly Arts & Performance Magazine. Who pays attention?

My dream experiment is to see if advertisers could push (PUTSCH) something onto the masses… see if they’d respond. A direct injection of culture through mass media.  Dress J.M. Huscher up and put him on prime time… get Matt Mason on Letterman and Leaman on Oprah (all slam poets here). Recommended reading:  Ted Kooser. This week on Grey’s Anatomy–a two hour performance by the London Philharmonic!

Novelists reading their work… artists on display… and not just the niche folk appreciating but the 65% who don’t vote! The 65% who are so tired from working two jobs, raising three kids, that to sit back and listen, enjoy, think becomes meaningful and interesting and above all pleasurable. How can we build-in a intrinsic reward for thought?

Why do I find it difficult navigating the serpentine advertisements searching for artistic engagements? I want to see a movie at the Sheldon Art Gallery , but they never play at the right time. Parking is a pain. And I don’t even know where to go. There’s an art showing somewhere at some address, but I’m not sure if we’re welcome. Thirty dollars to go to the museum? $50 for the symphony? Money that could be spent on shoes or cell phones! I can go to Oakview to see any of 13 different movies, a plethora of parking, and friendly people selling tickets where everything (prices, times, titles) are clearly displayed.

Going to a movie, watching television, etc. these cultural commonalities are easy and built-in to my psyche because of learned experience. Most people don’t want to take the time to step out and learn a new system when the one they engage in is working for them.

Author’s Note:  I wrote that while looking at a public television station banner. I want to expand on the last point… about comfortable experiences.  It explains a lot of what we do as human beings… why creative enterprises often fail.  You have to make the reward for new experience higher than both the risk and the effort. I have to really want to try something new to follow through.  

from Susan Martens-Baker:
11:30 a.m. on a bench outside The Oven

There is a smell down here which almost reminds me of New York ‘s Greenwich Village : food cooking, car exhaust, old-part-of-time grime. I’ve always loved this smell, utterly vacant in small towns and suburbs. The beauty of the city. The comfort of other humans close by, struggling and enjoying together.

I need to move. Or travel more. Or something.

12:10 p.m. Crescent Moon Coffee courtyard

Just now, passing by Licorice International (???), I was struck by the similarity between Zen mediation practice and writing marathon practice. We site. We walk. We write. We talk.

This courtyard is so beautiful. I want to spend at least the next three days here. (I still need to move.) Back to mind. Monkey Mind, to be sure. But the writing marathon is still very Zen… The sparse, bleak beauty of this brick wall and the elegant ironwork below contrasts nicely with the fragile spring leaves on the trees emerging comfortably from the patio blocks. Contemplation and quiet as a path to happiness?

12:45 p.m. Lentz Asian Art Center

Writing in art galleries. Hmmm. Very different from writing in coffeeshops. So quiet. So still… How soon forgotten the deep healing of quiet stillness. A black kimono from the 1940s strikes me as most gorgeous in a room full of gorgeous textiles. The chrysanthemum design stuns me with its elegance. Giant flowers worked in gleaming silk are fireworks displays at first glance. The stylization strikes me as looking nothing like chrysanthemums and yet the technique captures the flowers’ absolute essence. Such is art: to represent intangible truths. Impossibly precise, unflinchingly human, the synthesizing of opposites…

Today’s writing marathon brought to you by…
the colors blue, black, and yellow
the movement and stillness motifs
and the letter “W”.

Marathon Participants Robyn Dalton, Robert Brooke, Jeff Grinvalds, Susan Martens-Baker, Anne Walden
Marathon Participants: Robyn Dalton, Robert Brooke, Jeff Grinvalds, Susan Martens-Baker, Anne Walden

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