How To Not Get A Grant by Miriam Sagan

About a year ago, the creative duo of Maternal Mitochondria applied for a small grant we did not get. Nothing unusual there. We thought we were right in their catchment area according to the call, but when we reviewed what they funded we could easily see—it just wasn’t us. Plus it was very competitive. That said, this is a usual enough occurrence. We apply to a lot of things, and often get rejected as well as getting accepted a fair amount.
So, what is of interest here?
I reviewed our proposal, which was for three projects. None of them seemed very pricey so I started to wonder if we could do them without the grant. And it seems like we can—and will.
The first was to do an all ages workshop of suminagashi and poetry and install a geocache walk in a public space. Well, we’re set up to do just that with the support of the Railyard Park in Santa Fe in August.
The second project was to do a geocache path of our own art and poetry. This project has really taken off, and is going to be a permanent site off Route 14. Our resource here, instead of the grant, is my son-in-law Tim Brown who is designing nine amazing spirit houses out of scrap metal. These will be containers for changing shows, but they are sculptural works of art all by themselves.
The third project was to geocache works of individual women artists which they’d installed near their studios/houses. We’d asked for small honorariums for this. This project hasn’t happened yet, although a variant will be a pop-up show curated at the Santa Fe Poetry Garden in the fall. But thinking about it now, it seems like it would be easy enough to get artists to participate without honorariums—or just to find another donor for this modest budget.
Of course a grant is good for visibility. However, I have learned over the years that hoping to be validated from the outside isn’t a position of strength. As artists, we don’t want to have to first please others in authority before we can create. We need to just go for it. However, this is much more doable if we are working in community, in collaboration, on teams, and with our friends, family, and neighbors. Money is a great resource, but when it is scarce there are substitutes.
So we’ll keep applying for things. And keep making art.

A Stitch In Stress

Life does not always co-operative with my goals or my attempts at serenity. Sometimes I have days or weeks where I’m not very creative. One of my practices is to embroider one thread a day.
I’m working on a tablecloth–mundane, printed, a kit. Cross-stitch. It’s big. Sometimes I imagine that at the rate I’m going I’ll never finish it. I gave up on following the suggested colors years ago. I’m just filling it in with blocks of whatever strikes my fancy. As cross-stitch, it mostly all goes in the same direction, until dyslexia strikes.
Really, I don’t want to finish it. It’s going to be a pretty goofy tablecloth and I suspect too large for my table. Plus, I just like cross-stitching it.

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Working New Poems Like Monoprints by Miriam Sagan

I’m so pleased to have work published in The Sunflower Collective. Here is a section, and the beautiful image chosen accompany the poetry. Click on the link to see it all.

in the ruins
of the lost city
you ask—where
did these people go?
and the dead
open one eye
surprised for just a moment
by our footsteps

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Beat inspired Artwork by Divya Adusumilli

Have been working very differently of late. Last October was productive, when my daughter Isabel and I were collaborating at Wildacres in NC. Came home and plunged into prose—draft of a speculative novel, 1000 cups of coffee project, Bluebeard’s Castle material on my father. By mid-spring, I realized i had written NO poetry at all in almost six months, with the exception of haiku as part of a collaboration with my friend Michael Smith. I was stunned, and a bit scared. Well, maybe not that worried as I have many decades of trust in creative process, but surprised.
I started writing poetry in a different manner. I think of the current work as mono prints—I get one pass. The motion is very rapid, associative, and I’m hoping—lucid. Working on making the syntax authoritative even if the meaning is mysterious. Anyway, magazines seem to like them!
The eight poems or sections here are present as one work, which looks good, I think. They were written individually. There are clusters and sequences in the entire project that I can’t see yet.

The Porches

I’ve been to about twenty writers’ residencies in the past 40 years. These have been widely varied,from granddaddies Yaddo and MacDowell with spacious studios and three squares a day to a small trailer out in Great Basin at the edge of a bombing range. In Iceland, an active volcano loomed outside the window. In Petrified Forest, I was the only person sleeping in the park, in a WPA style cabin rattled by the spring wind. At the Betsy Hotel, my stay came with beach towels and use of umbrella seating.
Each place has its advantages, its irritants, its adventure. I like to go just to…go. I was glad to discover The Porches in Central Virginia as a way to break our cross-country trip, our visits with friends and family, a bit of a quest to see how others are dealing with community, relationship, retirement (and work), and aging.
One fortunate thing in my life is that my ability to write seems timeless—it takes me out of myself. So I enjoyed that this week.
The Porches is gracious, peaceful, and a great setting for creative endeavor. It costs more than fully funded places like the near-by VCCA (where you are still asked for a donation) but less than the B & B equivalent. It reminded me more of the international residencies than the ones in the U.S.—not super competitive, simple application, and available for a short term stay. Some of these, at least in Scandinavia, tend to be “artists’ houses” funded by the state which you can use as a visitor or as a part of a writer’s union or group.

The musings below are from my ongoing 100 Cups of Coffee project—I’m over a third of the way through. Have been developing it partially on the blog—sometimes taking out the coffee context. Thanks for reading!

http://www.porcheswritingretreat.com/

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The Porches. In my room—a rather fancy cozy B & B style room, a large painting hangs, showing a bend in the road. The blacktop curves away to the left, and it and the shoulder disappear into grassy hills with blue and purple/black mountains behind. Four white trees stand in a grove and the road, with its white dividing line, leads beyond the viewer’s vision.
Yesterday drove just such a winding road with Rich to drop me for three days at this charming house and garden, to write.
Wisteria climbs up the column of the second story porch rail. At 8 am it’s almost too hot out, and I’m glad I already went for a walk. Green hills stretch before me, imperturbable.
I look in the mirror, hoping for wisdom, finding a familiar face.
Dead insects, who writhed towards the light.
I don’t remember what I dreamed.

***

A garden. As always, it seems, the head of a woman, neoclassical, in stone or clay. Or maybe she is a pot, with a fern growing out of her head to signify…thought…or dream.
Pink geraniums, wicker furniture, the sound of a train cuts through my sense of solitude, intensifying it.
A train going somewhere, indifferent to this hamlet with its locked church, its historical marker, one or two cars passing early on a Sunday morning, the feeling of…being left behind.
The train implies elsewhere, a lot of elsewheres, but since it will not stop, takes no passengers, and will not slow enough—even in my imagination—for me to jump it I stay here with the bees in a bush of soft mauve flowers. With my pills for what ails me in advanced middle age, my modest hand wash, a pile of silky embroidery thread for a too large cross-stitch tablecloth I may never finish. And a novel I appear to have finished the first draft of just this morning, and not exactly on purpose.

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Monday Feature: A web of hand-me-downs by Michaela Kahn

A web of hand-me-downs –

 Earlier this week I got a text from a friend of mine, someone I’ve known since Middle School, about a song she thought I’d like. She recommended the whole album, actually, but steered me to Ane Brun’s YouTube music video for her song, “Do You Remember.” It’s a great song – very strange and simultaneously sad (the lyrics) and yet happy (the music). The video itself is like its own universe, sort of Steampunk meets the the Dust Bowl.

 The exchange got me thinking about all the art that has been passed on to me over the years by friends, family, teachers, even strangers.

 There’s my step-sister, so much more worldly-wise than I at thirteen, who made a whole 90- minute video tape of various MTV videos she thought I needed to know (being MTV-less, myself). Another friend introduced me to most of the Pop music that I am still listening to today. There’s an Uncle (in-law) who introduced me to the Le Mystere des voix Bulgares and the movie Duck Soup. My husband introduced me to Wim Wenders movies, Miles Davis, and the paintings of Leonora Carrington (no wonder I fell in love).

 For literature, there is another list of great books and poems that have been passed on to me by others. Whether it’s the teacher who told me to read Gregory Bateson or the stranger at the Boulder Public Library who told me to read his book of poetry, “Tony the Bricklayer.” But with literature I’m more often the one trying to pass along favorites. Over the years I have passed on the names of dozens of writers and works to friends, colleagues, family, strangers. I become part of their web of hand-me-down art.

All this thinking about where the art and music in my life comes prompted me to look a little deeper into my experience of this passed-on art. I realized that when I listen to a favorite song, one that was shared by a friend, my own memories and emotions surrounding the song are also layered with memories of the person who gave it to me. It’s richer for having that connection. It got me wondering whether, in some ways, this is an essential part of what art is all about –that intricate web of interconnections that develops between the people who love it.

Have You Sacrificed To Be A Writer or Artist?

After writing a recent blog post about not having it all, I started to wonder about the rather old-fashioned romantic view of the artist as having to sacrifice something for that art. This might include ordinary life, financial security, even health or mental well-being. It’s an idea that held some sway with me when young—and I’ve always loved La Boheme. However, when I asked a group of contemporary writers and artists this question, most hardly saw any dilemma at all.

What did you sacrifice?

Some noted that one choice excludes another:

Isabel Winson-Sagan Other life plans

Yehudis Fishman really every choice that is chosen sacrifices the choices not chosen; most of us have multi and often conflicting interests that we have to navigate between.

A few did note the sacrifice:

Larry Goodell A huge sacrifice. No moneyed career. Poverty as a result of priority being the demand of creativity. Consequently very little travel and almost a daily penny pinching. But creative life has its incomparable surprises.

But a lot of the response focused on the purely positive:

Audrey Erin Wiggins I see writing as a gift not a sacrifice. It’s special.

Rod Scott I think it is a sacrifice to ignore the muse. Ignoring the muse has led to decreased empathy and frustration. My challenge has always been to make the effort to embrace the creative muse as it attempts to envelope my consciousness.

Reverie Escobedo When I was writing more, sacrificed on all fronts but was so glad to be writing and it allowed me to be home with my kids.

Holly Baldwin I sacrifice time daily as a parent for my children’s art, but that is very important to me as a member of the human family. More than anything, I sacrifice sleep and exercise, although I have become much better with that studying art/writing than I ever was as a pre-nursing student. I think we all sacrifice something in our pursuits, but it has to be for something extraordinary to our heart for it to be worth the trade off. Do what you love.

Jan Marquart I sacrifice nothing. Writing is first, everything else falls behind that.

Michael Smith No sacrifice at all, except TV. And that is no big loss! But perhaps I am in a unique position.

And some continue to contemplate the muse:

Russell Miller I don’t think I’ve offered up to the gods anything I wanted to keep for myself. But I admit I ask myself that question almost every day.

Guy Nickson Threading the different imperatives of life may not be a matter of volition or sacrifice. Maybe it’s karma or the puppet master that makes us dance our feverish jigs? Only Regret invites the question.

***

Thanks to all participants—a wonderfully varied and thoughtful cohort.

I Don’t Want To Have It All by Miriam Sagan

Recently, people have been complimenting me on my apparent creative productivity by saying: I don’t know how you do it all. But this is not a compliment I deserve, because I’m actually doing very few things. Yes, my novel (that took decades to write) just came out, and I’m running a writing program, and going on residencies—but this is essentially an integrated whole. I’m good at it, I know what I’m doing, I’m focused—and most important, I want to be doing it, and feel this is my life’s purpose.
I’m a 61 year old woman who right now isn’t doing any primary care taking for someone very aged, sick, or dying. Or, conversely, for small children or crazed teenagers. The periods of my life where this was true were considerably less productive. I also don’t can from my garden, volunteer, belong to any organized religious groups, work out at a gym, or floss. I don’t go to Paris. And I am uninformed on popular culture and not very well informed on world events.
Honestly, I’ve never tried to “have it all” because I’ve never had the stamina, or the skill set. I’m not in the entitled male artist role because I can cook tofu and clean up after myself—but I must admit I lean more in that direction than in the female direction of having it all.
What I really like, besides being a writer and teacher, is hanging around, being with my husband Rich and daughter Isabel and son-in-law Tim, having friends, being pretty places, dancing by myself, taking a bath, Netflix, reading, and going out for coffee. I have my guilty materialistic pleasures—but they aren’t very time consuming. I feel my obituary should read: She divided her time between Tune Up Cafe and Counterculture. Tune-Up is walking distance, Counterculture three minutes by car down Baca Street. Both provide cafe au lait.
Conversely, those who praise me often criticize me too— I don’t go out much to events, I tend to bail quickly from parties. I don’t have a smart phone—or even a workable cell. I may say I live for art but I seem to have a lot of accessories. The truth is—I’m not off the grid, or unmaterialistic. I just want a small but firm wedge between me and consumer culture. I may be femmey, but I also want that wedge between me and feminine expectation. I have what I need, I don’t much mind what I don’t have—and that is ample.