Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Robinson Jeffers Big Read

The Robinson Jeffers Big Read has officially ended. We would like to thank our community partners, participating schools and the students and faculty of Occidental College for their support over the course of the program. Check back for final updates, photo postings and summaries of events both here on the blog and at the Jeffers Big Read Facebook fan page.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Jeffers Day is Here!

Join us for animals, art, poetry, music and Jeffers galore at Occidental College! The schedule for the day can be found here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jeffers Day is 4 days away!

From 10am to 2pm, Occidental campus is alive with poetry readings, art walks, nature walks, exhibits, music and drama. It's a great day to be on campus! Invite your friends and neighbors! Free and open to public. Schedule

New! Poetry Workshop this Thursday, Nov. 5, 6pm

The Oxy Writers' Workshop & Feast Arts and Literary Magazine invite you to a special poetry workshop honoring Robinson Jeffers. Student writers from these organizations will present a short lecture on Jeffers' thematic and aesthetic concerns, and then the group will compose some "free-writes" based on a selection from Jeffers. The workshop will focus on our response to the idiom of Jeffers' body of work.

We invite any and all poetry enthusiasts to attend - all levels of experience are welcome!!!! The workshop will begin at 6 in Fowler 113.

Reflections from an L.A. Poet

Suzanne Lummis led the Los Angeles Poetry Festival's multiple poetry readings throughout the Big Read month. Here are her reflections on the experience:
The three readings titled "The Deer Lay Down their Bones: Poems by and in the spirit of Robison Jeffers" featured long-time, well-published Los Angeles area poets and some accomplished newer poets, all reading selections of Jeffers along with their own work. I organized these under the auspices of The Los Angeles Poetry Festival, and the readings appeared on the Festival web site.

October 3, Saturday, Eagle Rock Branch LibrarySarah Maclay, Carine Topal, William Archila, Brendan Constantine, Charlotte Innes, Terry McCarty.
With 32 in attendance this library room looked fairly full. The audience included many Los Angeles area poets, UCLA Extension poetry students, and a few from the community, including a couple with their eighteen year old daughter who was attending her first poetry reading. Most, including the family, lingered for a long while afterward and seemed delighted with the experience. On my way to my car I passed a cluster of people still talking about poetry -- in the middle of the parking lot. Of the three readings, this one felt the most intimate -- like a salon. It would've been nice to have drawn more people from the surrounding community, but the following Saturday's reading did considerably better in that regard. Here, especially, the main result may have been the kindling, or re-kindling, of the poets' interest in Jeffers, and the way that this event fortified the participants sense of artistic camaraderie Later many enthusiastic emails circulated among the participating poets, all extolling Jeffers and their sense of fellowship. I've attached a copy of these emails.

October 10, Saturday, El Alisal (co-produced with The Historical Society of Southern California and "Lummis Day"Charles Harper Webb, Suzanne Lummis, Cecilia Woloch, Dale Raoul (actress), Jamie Fitzgerald
When all sixty seats filled, other people sat wherever they could -- well over 70 from far and near, some very near -- they walked over. Interestingly this audience included several stray Jeffers aficionados, people from here and there who'd always liked Jeffers then heard about this reading. Also History buffs showed up, and -- along with a number of noted poets -- many people I've never seen before at poetry events, or anywhere. I felt this reading was especially well paced and various, spirited. Dale Raoul, an actress, did a lovely job with the Jeffers poems she chose -- wonderful to have someone from one of the other arts involved. Again, a happy mood prevailed after the reading. Several people bought books. In my set I'd told the audience that I believed no one should grow up in a house without poetry books -- I'd never lived in a place that didn't have poetry on the bookshelves. During the reception -- a fine one provided by The Southern California Historical Society -- a working fellow from the neighborhood came up with a copy of "In Danger" and asked me to dedicate it to his son. "For him" he said, pointing to the the baby carriage. He took a photo of me together with his wife and baby, and they seemed quite happy and proud to be introducing their boy to contemporary poetry, at the age of six months.

Saturday, October 17, Arroyo Seco Branch LibraryDorothy Barresi, Lynn Thompsn, Erika Ayon, Judith Pacht
This one had an especiallly improvisational and participatory quality, which made for good fun and engaged the audience, who numbered 35 -- again, plenty for that room. A couple or more Occidental Students were in attendance, various library patrons, at least one visual artist I recognized, and a fair number of Los Angeles area poets. To his regret Pete Fairchild couldn't come; his wife had planned a birthday surprise. I invited, impromptu, William Archila to read something of his in the spirit of Jeffers. He rose to the occasion with a fine poem, one revolving around the Guayabera, a style of shirt common in Latin America that William felt would look good on Robinson Jeffers. Erika Montenegro, the saavy librarian, chose to set up this reading to resemble a panel, with the poets together at a table. At the end of the reading I invited Erika to pose a question to the poets, and following that the audience posed questions, and also talked to each other -- but in an orderly fashion. And then many poets in the audience began spontaneously to annouce their upcoming readings -- also in an orderly fashion. Of the three readings this one drew out the most discussion of Jeffers and his poetry; whereas the others involved simple presentation of his poems with some comment from the poets on why they chose those particular poems. Erika had set out a fine reception, and, as before, many in the audience stayed for a long while afterward engaging the poets in conversation.

Many thanks to Dale Steiber and Emily Bergman for support and assistance on all readings.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jeffers Day - Festival, Nov. 7 10am-2pm - Free!

Don't miss our final event of The Big Read. We are wrapping up our month-long community celebration of poet Robinson Jeffers, class of 1905, on Saturday, Nov. 7, with a festival of poetry, exhibits, music, dance and performance at the Occidental College campus in Eagle Rock

Schedule at a Glance:

Library Steps: 10:00-11:00am
California poets, Oxy students and community members perform Jeffers poetry as well as their own works, music.

Upper Herrick: 11:10am – 11:30pm
Scenes from Jeffers’ acclaimed version of Medea performed by Marshall HS.

Coons Steps: 11:30AM-12:30pm and 12:30-2:00pm
Performances by Occidental Glee Club, Pulse Hip Hop Club, Feast Literary Club, Oxy folk dance troop, plus more voices of poets, ASL translation of Jeffers poetry.

Ecologies of Poetry Site Specific Student Art Works
Occidental students, working with Jeffers Big Read artistic director, Corey Madden, have created four sites on campus where poetry, performance and ecology intersect in site-specific art works. Guided walks through the sites are led by student artists.

Walk #1 (25 mins) - Quad and Gilman Fountain South Lawn- 10:00am, 10:30am, 11:00am, 12:30pm, 1:00pm, 1:30pmWalk # 2 (20 mins)- Olive Grove to Sustainable Garden- 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm

Bird Watching Walk
Campus walk led by Associate Professor of Biology, Beth Braker and Jeff Chapman of the Audubon Center.

Wildlife Waystation PresentationWildlife Waystation presents a live California raptor and more on endangered wildlife of Southern California.

Demonstration Bee Hive
Occidental College’s Bruce Steele, a bee-keeper with more than100 hives in the area, offers a safe peek into the lives of bees.

LIBRARY: Gallery 10:00am-2:00pm
Exhibitions and performances…Robinson Jeffers and the Ecologies of Poetry main exhibit with curator; Gear Up student art exhibition offers a variety of media, including photography, collage, clay-mation, shadow puppets and video; plus poetry performances.

COONS Administration Building 1st Floor Rotunda -10:00am-2:00pm
Occidental Student Artists Response to Jeffers Poetry Selected prints from works created by Occidental College students in three Fall printmaking classes in AHVA.

Events are free, This Is a *CSP 99 Event. Program is subject to change.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jeffers in the Classroom

Artistic Director Corey Madden has leading a nine-week workshop with Occidental College students called "Robinson Jeffers: Ecologies of Poetry." Photos from the class can be seen here. Here are Corey's notes on the experience thus far:
The independent study course: Robinson Jeffers: Ecologies of Poetry, is a participatory nine (9) week workshop where students will
· Develop skills in devising and composition;
· explore themes related to Robinson Jeffers’ poetry and legacy
· Use compositional elements such as natural elements, music, sound, performance, movement, text, environments, etc
· engage with the work of other artists including Maya Lin, Andy Goldsworthy and Isamu Noguchi and writers such as Gary Snyder, John McPhee, etc.
· collaborate in teams and independently
· engage with several communities during the development and presentation of work ( Oxy students, NE elementary and/or high school students, NE general population)
· create and produce multi/inter-disciplinary performances and installations in class and on campus
· plan and install their culminating projects within a budget and timeframe on the campus for the public and Oxy community between November 1-7, 2009.

9/15/09 CLASS 1
After a fast and furious recruitment process, we have 6 students registered for the Independent Study “Ecologies of Poetry” and about 30 students who want to participate in the project but haven’t got time in their schedules for a regular class.

Joni, Dmitri, Natayla, Monikah, Elaine and Julian represent a diverse cross section of the college community. We have science, humanities and arts majors, with interests in education, ecology and interdisciplinary art.

We read the Robinson Jeffers’ NEA reader’s guide together as a group. We looked at documentary photos of North East Los Angeles from the 1880s through 1920’s. We also looked at the work of land artists Maya Lin, Andy Goldsworthy and sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

I introduced the concept of composition by talking with students about their own experiences with making art, writing, music, running experiments etc. I talked about the common threads in any generative and creative process. I also talked about “shaping meaning” as a common process in all art, and “shaping meaning over time” a key difference between plastic arts and performing arts.

This class will develop the ability to compose short interdisciplinary works through an “additive” pedagogy. Over the course of 8 week, students will make a series of compositions, using “elements” such as text, site, nature, performer, sound, social content, introduced each week. Structuring and response techniques are introduced through dialogue among students as they watch and respond to each others’ work.
For our first class, we did a close reading using Jeffers’ the poem, Science. From this the students created a found poem, composed of words and phrases from the Jeffers’ poem to which they responded. Each student read her/his work aloud. For homework, I gave them their first Composition, in which they will use their found poem, a piece of paper, and an element of nature to make a site-specific work.

9/22/09 CLASS 2
I taught a one hour workshop at Lincoln High for 9 high school students in the GEAR UP mentoring program. I developed a variation of Composition #1 and the kids created found poems by cutting up the Jeffers text and then making a collage using the documentary photos from the turn of the century as inspiration. We’ll display these works on Jeffers’ Day. Had to race from Lincoln to Oxy in 95 degree heat! Phew!
At Oxy students showed their Composition #1- Text. This composition gave students the chance to work with three “elements”: Text ( found poem), Nature, Site ( a piece of paper)
Very excited by what the students produced this week. A few examples: Elaine embossed her paper with the bark of a tree and cut a door in her paper, that she opened and closed at the beginning and end of her poem. Joni produced a facsimile of a tree using her paper and placed a live oak branch in it. Dmitri drew an extraordinary pen and ink of a hand holding a compass.
Bruce Steele, “the patron saint of ecology” at Oxy came to class took the students and me on an enlightening and exhausting walk up to the top of Fiji Hill. Water use is of great concern to Bruce, and we learned about a water recycling system he helped designed and had installed under the parking lot on Fiji Hill.
Oxy uses 95 million gallons of water a year, most of which waters the soft scape. Run off because of the extensive hardscape is a huge concern on campus.
From high atop Fiji Hill, Bruce introduced us to the geology of the area, showed us native plants and talked about a variety of animals he’s encountered as a beekeeper in the area.
Bruce and the grounds staff cut a tree down and have kindly sawed it into 6 inch pieces for use in our projects. He has also gotten the FEAST the sustainable garden club to give us one garden bed to plant aesthetically. Bruce has also agreed to bring his bees to the garden for Jeffers’ day. Yeah, Bruce!

9/29/09 CLASS 3
In the first half of class today Elaine, Julian and Dmitri showed their site based works, based on Composition #2.
We offered responses to each student artist: what we saw, felt, heard, or were aware of in watching their piece. I also drew attention to structuring a work in simple ways: “Beginning, Middle, End” or “Establishment, Tension, Release” and to placing the audience in a very specific relationship to the site and considering how to move the audience’s focus.
In the second half of class we spent time with composer, Bruno Louchouarn as well as student sound designer, Jeff Adler, who has offered to work with students on their pieces.
We talked about sound and music as compositional elements in your pieces. Bruno focused his talk on the use of metaphor as a construct to develop sound/musical ideas for your piece.
Key ideas in the use of metaphor to stimulate development of a work:
Metaphors associate the meaning of one thing with another
Metaphors can be in varying degrees of contrast or consonance with each other.
For instance, we came up with several different metaphors from considering a simple plastic bottle of water.
One could work with the concept of the bottle’s “transparency” or the water’s “purity”.
A next step would be to generate associations that these metaphors brings up: cloudy, dirty, distorted, membrane, containment, etc…. and also look for strong contrasting metaphors such as “pollution” or “contamination”.
From this ideas about sounds and music, but also the piece as a whole may be generated. A site work example developed in class:
“Floating many plastic bottles of dirty water in the Oxy fountain and playing a score that shifts from sounds of nature to sounds of construction to sounds of wailing children.”

Met with student dance club leader and discussed potential collaboration.
Visited with Elissa Chandler and about 15 students at the FEAST garden. We have several ideas about how to collaborate. Along with Auntie Em’s FEAST will sponsor at table at Jeffers’ Day with organic food baskets on display, as well as bi-lingual instructions about how to plant a kitchen garden.
Went to Opening Day for The Big Read. About 80 people showed up. It was wonderful to hear Jeffers’ poetry read by students, the new President of Occidental and to see how many members of the community are supportive.

10/6/09 CLASS 4
Natalya, Monikah and Joni showed Composition #2 -Site today. Natalya worked in the olive grove. Monikah found a hidden gem, in the garden south of the President’s House and Joni, showed work in the plant matter recycling lot up on Fiji Hill.
In a response period we focused on how to visually define a site, how to avoid limiting the site to the space around the performer, directing the eye through a progression of experiences that include “arrangement” can have a huge impact on directing attention
In Composition #3-Sound we’re incorporating the concept of metaphor from our class with composer, Bruno Louchouarn, and working with the text, Regarding Wave by Pulitzer Gary Snyder, another California poet sometimes referred to as the poet laureate of Deep Ecology.
Because time is marching on, we’re combining Composition 3 and 4. Composition 4: Social Content asked students to select Social Content to include in their work. I gave them four suggestions: sustainability, water use, youth, art and poetry. In some cases students have already selected content that’s meaningful and resonant with Jeffers’ Day. Students will also work in partnership, in preparation for how they will work on the final compositions.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More Big Read Events this Weekend!

Saturday, October 24

10:00am – 12:00pm
Walking Tour of Jeffers' Highland Park
Highland Park Heritage Trust, meet at the Band Shell

Neighborhood walking tour of the area around where Occidental was located when Jeffers was there. The tour will be led by Occidental alumni, Marilyn and Curt Robertson ('70, '68). The tour will begin at the band shell with a poetry reading and include two more readings at two of the houses. Refreshments will be served at Hillary Danner's house at the end at Avenue 50 Studios. Sign up online at the Heritage Trust website, donation requested.

1:00pm – 3:00pm
Art and Nature and Poetry, Debs Park
Audubon Center at Debs Park
4700 North Griffin Ave., Los Angeles CA 90031

Join artist Patricia González and an Audubon naturalist as we discover the nature of Debs Park through art and the poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Work on your own art and take it home. Families with children of all ages are welcome.

Sunday, October 25

11:00am – 1:00pm
Walking Tour of Jeffers' Highland Park
Highland Park Heritage Trust, meet at the Band Shell

Neighborhood walking tour of the area around where Occidental was located when Jeffers was there. The tour will be led by Occidental alumni, Marilyn and Curt Robertson ('70, '68). The tour will begin at the band shell with a poetry reading and include two more readings at two of the houses. Refreshments will be served at Hillary Danner's house at the end at Avenue 50 Studios. Sign up online at the Heritage Trust website, donation would be appreciated.