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Monday, September 24, 2012

Josephine Hart

"Poetry has never let me down. Without poetry, I would have found life less comprehensible, less bearable and infinitely less enjoyable."

— Josephine Hart
Irish Novelist, Writer
1942 - 2011

Reading is a habit that many of us cultivated at a very young age.  And most of us would admit that reading has helped us through some difficult times in our lives.  What do you read?  Poetry?  Novels?  Biographies?  History?  Memoirs?  Reading has brought me much comfort during my life.  Without reading I would have been a much different person.  Reading has opened my heart and shown me many worlds.  I remember once while I was in college of going to a restaurant late at night and reading poetry aloud for the shocked customers.

Creative Practice
Read aloud  one of your favorite poems for family and friends to hear.

About the Novelist
Josephine Hart who was born in 1942 in Ireland.  She wrote six novels and hosted public readings of poetry.

Here is a video of Hart discussing her novel, Damage.

Biography Sources:

Monday, September 17, 2012


"Look and you will find it — 
what is unsought will go undetected."

Greek Playwright
497 BC - 406 BC

What are your dreams?  Your hopes?  What are you seeking from life?  What possibilities do you see for yourself?  Seek and you shall find.  If you can't imagine it, you can't achieve it.  Can you see yourself as a writer?  As an artist?  Or are you a wannabe — someone who wishes but does not see.

Too often we sell ourselves short?  We don't believe we can achieve our dreams?  And this lack of belief holds us back — keeps us from the success we desire.  A Greek playwright wrote these words almost 2500 years ago.  About 2000 years ago, Jesus said:  "Ask and it shall be given; seek and you shall find.  And many self-help motivational speakers will tell us the same thing today.  How many of us listen?  Too often we let our insecurities dominate our thinking.

Creative Practice
Visualize your dreams.  See yourself in your mind's eye as a writer, a painter, or a singer.  Spend 5 minutes every day meditating on this positive image of yourself.  Fill in the details.  See your success.

About the Playwright
Sophocles was born to a wealthy family in Colonus, Greece in 497 BC.  In 468 BC he achieved his first artistic triumph by  winning the Dionysia theater competition.  In his lifetime, he witnessed both the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War.

Sophocles introduced the addition of a third actor and reduced the role of the chorus in Greek theater.  He also introduced scene painting.  He is known for deep character development.  Only seven of his plays have survived.  

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Oedipus and Sphinx, 1808
Louvre, Paris, France
Sophocles is known for his plays about Oedipus.  It is the story of a man whom the Oracle said will kill his father and marry his mother.  To prevent the prophecy from happening, his parents planned his death and gave him to a servant to carry it out.  Instead, the servant gave the baby to a family who did not know his history.  They raised him as their own.  After he learned of the prophecy, Oedipus fled the home of his adopted parents because he did not want to cause them harm.  On his travels, he met a man and fought with him.  Unbeknown  to Oedipus, he killed his birth father.  He became the ruler of Thebes by solving the riddle of the sphinx and married the widowed queen, his mother.  When the truth was revealed, Oedipus blinded himself and his mother killed herself.  This story became the basis for Freud's Oedipus complex theory — men desire to kill their fathers and marry their mothers.

In college, I read Oedipus the King and could not stop laughing.  I thought this Greek tragedy was a comedy because of the language.  I could not accept the way the characters spoke about the gods.  I thought it incongruous with the world view I held so I found it humorous.  

Quote Sources:
Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way, p. 92.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Claes Oldenburg

"Very often I am sitting at dinner and I take out my notebook.  I get inspired when I eat, for some reason."

— Claes Oldenburg
Swedish Sculptor
1929 -

When are you inspired?  When you are eating like Oldenburg?  When you take a shower?  When you are walking or jogging?  When you are talking with friends?  In the mornings?  Late at night?  After a walk on the beach?  Or a short swim?  Inspiration comes in a thousand ways and in a thousand places and we never know when it will appear.

Are you a creative leader who waits until inspiration strikes to work on your creative masterpiece?  Don't!  You might be waiting a life time.  Inspiration is fickle and often unfaithful.  Learn to create each and every day even if it is only for 15 minutes.  

Also, identify the times of the day when you are most creative.  These will vary by person.  For some people the early morning is the most creative time.  For others it is late at night. For years early morning and late evening have been my most creative times, but I am now finding that I can also be very creative mid-afternoon.

Where are you most creative?  In your office?  At the local coffee shop?  On your sofa?  At the kitchen table?  Outdoors?  At the mall?  I have found that I can write almost anywhere if I put my mind to it.  I used to write in the privacy of my office only, but I have learned to write in the noisy chaos of shopping mall.  Technology now allows you write anywhere.  

Creative Practice
The Bottle of Notes
Get out of your office or studio and find a new place to write or paint or draw or sculpt.  You are only limited by your imagination and the amount of gas in your gas tank.

About the Sculptor
Claes Oldenburg, the son of a Swedish diplomat, was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1929.  His father was stationed in Chicago, IL in 1936 where Claes attended school.  He studied literature and art history at Yale University.  He also took art classes at the Art Institute in Chicago.  His first recorded art sale was at the 57th Street Art Fair where he sold 5 pieces for a total of $25.  He became a naturalized citizen in 1953.

Claes moved to New York in 1956 and became a part of the Pop Art movement.  Both his wives, Pat Muschinski and Coosje van Bruggen, worked with him in the creation of his sculptures.   Since 1981, Claes has signed all his works with his name and that of his second wife, van Bruggen.


Quote Source:
Clint Brown. Artist to Artist. Jackson Creek Press, 1998. p. 127.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Robert Spiess

"Haiku are best appreciated through the intelligence of the heart."

American Haiku Poet
1921 - 2002

Art, music and poetry should be appreciated in the heart.  Recent scientific research indicates that the heart has its own intelligence separate from the brain.  Creative leaders understand the heart's intelligence and have learned to listen to their hearts when creating works of art.  Are you listening to your heart?

Creative Practice
Meditate for five minutes on the love within your heart.  Then write a poem or paint a picture from the heart.  Don't think, analyze or question.  Just write.  Just paint.

About the Poet
In 1981, I was privileged to have dinner with Robert Spiess in Madison, Wisconsin.  We discussed haiku, the magazine, Modern Haiku, and his kayaking the rivers of Wisconsin. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man.

Robert Spiess was born on October 16, 1921 at 2 am in Milwaukee, WI to Myrtle and Oscar Spiess.  He was their only child.  The gregarious Oscar Spiess, was a sales representative for Miller Brewing Company.  Robert remembered his father as a storehouse of jokes and pranks.  Once Oscar cut the yoke out of his wife's egg and replaced it with the half of an apricot.

A high school English teacher inspired Robert's interest in poetry.  He entered the University of Wisconsin in 1939.  World War II interrupted his college education and he joined the Army Air Force.  He served as a cryptographer in the Pacific.  When  Eleanor Roosevelt visited the troops, Robert was surprised to have her join his buddies and him for breakfast one morning.  He was discharged in October of 1945 and returned to college where he graduated in June 1947 with a degree in botany.  A year later he received a master's in vocational guidance.  He worked as a employment counselor.

Spiess discovered haiku in the late 1930's.  Robert's first haiku were published in the American Poetry Magazine in 1949.  He often wrote his haiku while sailing, canoeing or kayaking.  In 1963 his haiku were published in American Haiku, the first magazine devoted solely to English-language haiku.  In the mid-sixties he served as editor of American Haiku.  In 1969, Kay Titus Mormino founded Modern Haiku which published several of Robert's haiku.  By the third issue, he was an associate editor and assumed the role of editor and publisher in 1978 which he held until his death.

Robert Spiess published haiku in many publications including American Haiku, Haiku West, Cicada, Dragonfly, High/Coo, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Leanfrog and Windchimes.  He also published ten books.

Here are a few of his haiku from his book, The Turtle's Ears.

An open channel
     winding through the river ice
          . . . the old green canoe

Morning river mist;
     somewhere in the distance
          the drumming of a grouse

Evening rain;
     frogs purring
          in the marsh

Tar paper cabin
     behind the river's white birch
          — a muskellunge leaps

Shooting the rapids!
     — a glimpse of a meadow
          gold with butterflies

Muddy summer stream . . .
     finding an abandoned farm
          with a useless pump

Here is a video discussing the intelligence of the heart.

Biography Sources:
Spiess, Robert. The Turtle's Ears. Wells Printing Company, 1971. 

Quote Source:
Spiess, Robert.  New and Selected Speculations on Haiku, p. 26.