Image credit: Seattle Early Music

This is a guest post by
Jennifer Bullis

In January 2018, out of the blue, I received an email from a composer in Seattle. He wanted to compose a cantata about the mythical Sirens, he explained, and was looking for a librettist. He had an idea: to seek a poet to write the lyrics. Standing in Elliott Bay Book Store, browsing the recently published Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, he flipped to the mythology section, where a poem of mine happened to appear. When he contacted me, I was intrigued by his concept and by the prospect of working with someone in a different artistic medium. Thus began my collaboration with Aaron Grad on “Honey-Sweet We Sing for You.”

Aaron detailed for me his ideas for the cantata and his reasons for choosing the Sirens as his subject. Inspired by the #MeToo movement and Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey, he wanted to compose an original piece reimagining the story of the Sirens from their own point of view. Based on his idea, Early Music Seattle was planning a myth-themed concert of short pieces by Baroque-era composers, highlighting women’s stories and voices, for the 2019-2020 season.

This collaboration has been an education and a joy for me at every phase of the process. Aaron asked me to draft the libretto first, and then he composed the music to it, and we worked together to revise the libretto as the whole cantata took shape. Initially, to help me prepare to write, Aaron gave me a fascinating crash course in operatic vocal composition and the cantata form. I learned, for example, about recitative and aria passages, including the good and necessary “rage aria,” a section conveying the character’s fury at being wronged.

Developing the content, I got to research other versions of the Sirens myth, and found useful models for transformation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It offered Aaron and me a different way into the Sirens narrative, one that de-centers Odysseus and his sailors and focuses instead on the Sirens’ original devotion to, loss of, and search to recover the goddess Persephone after her abduction by Hades. In this new context, the Sirens’ songs of enchantment can be imagined as not only a seductive lure to sailors, but as cries of outrage, grief, and searching. “We sing for her,” sings the soprano voice in the cantata’s final recitative; “We sing for all our sisters.” The program’s title was adapted from this lyric.

Since planning for “For All Our Sisters” began, it expanded to include even more women’s voices and artistic forms. EMS Executive Director Gus Denhard commissioned Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna to narrate the program and perform original poems, and Seattle dancer Milvia Pacheco to choreograph and perform an original dance.

The live performance was scheduled for May 30th, but because of the pandemic is being rescheduled. In the meantime, Early Music Seattle is posting an exciting series of videos in which the program’s musicians and other artistic contributors, filming from home, present excerpts and discuss their visions for amplifying women’s voices through their performances. You can watch these videos on Early Music Seattle, with new videos posted weekly, and enjoy these artistic collaborations highlighting women’s voices and stories.

In addition to the links embedded above, learn more at:

. . . . .
Jennifer Bullis is the author of the chapbook Impossible Lessons (MoonPath Press). Her poems and essays appear in Verse Daily, Cave Wall, Water~Stone Review, Terrain.org, Cherry Tree, Gulf Coast, and Under a Warm Green Linden. She is nominee for Pushcart and Best New Poets awards, and is recipient of an Artsmith Residency fellowship. Her full-length manuscripts have been finalists for the Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes for Poetry and the Moon City Poetry Award.

lettering Oregon

August 6, 2018

While people around the world are busy writing their August Poetry Postcards, people in Oregon are writing letters. Dear Stranger is a wonderful collaborative project of Oregon Humanities in which Oregonians are invited to write a letter “about the place where you live or a community where you feel at home.” Letters are submitted to Oregon Humanities, where they will be paired and mailed to another letter writer.

Dear Stranger extends the conversation that has been started in the Bridging Oregon project.

book arts

July 6, 2018

Okay, before you get too excited, the available slots for literary artists/writers are already full. But if The Collaboratory rings your chimes, you can get on a mailing list in case of cancellations and be notified when the next round of signups begins.

Brought to you by the geniuses at Container (Jenni B. Baker and Douglas Luman), The Collaboratory is a new creative accelerator that pairs literary and visual artists to collaborate on an artist’s book or text object. The theme for the pilot cohort is BREACHES.

Over the course of 13 weeks (August 13-November 11), Collaboratory members will participate in a guided series of virtual activities where they’ll get to know their assigned partner, collectively generate a pool of project ideas, prototype their text object’s design and text, and deliver and showcase their work virtually. Select Collaboratory members will also be invited to sell their completed objects through Container’s online marketplace.

No prior book arts experience is required: they’re looking for folks who want to learn as they go and who get excited by experimentation. For the pilot cohort, participation is limited to a total of 20 participants: 10 visual artists and 10 literary artists. The participant fee is $29. Enrollment is open through July 31, or until all of the cohort spots are filled.

For more information, including the 13-week agenda, details on the theme, and FAQs, visit the Collaboratory home page.

still time, Spokane

April 21, 2018

Alchemy for Cells and other Beasts : When Women Collaborate is on view at the Spokane Art School through Friday, April 27, 2018. With poetry by Maya Jewell Zeller and illustrations by Carrie DeBacker, the exhibit highlights an imaginative creative collaboration. Alchemy for Cells and other Beasts was published in 2017 by Seattle-based Entre Ríos Books.

poetry in Kirkland

April 15, 2018

In what is now a legendary commitment to poetry, Christopher Jarmick, poet and owner of BookTree in Kirkland, Washington, is scheduling monthly workshop/reading/open mic sessions that are free and lively.

For National Poetry Month, the featured poets will be Anita K. Boyle and James Bertolino. The program, on Saturday, April 21, 2018, will begin at 4:30pm with a workshop on Collaboration (Boyle and Bertolino have collaborated on a number of chapbooks, among other projects), to be followed at 6:15pm by a reading and open mic. See further details and poet bios on the BookTree event page and on Facebook.

A pair of terrific poetry workshops are on offer this Saturday, November 5, 2016, at Honey Moon Mead and Cider in Bellingham. Space is limited and registration is required. All fees benefit the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest: $30 for one workshop or $50 for both, paid by check or cash at the workshop. Register by sending an email to boyntonpoetrycontest@hotmail.com indicating the workshop(s) you wish to take and including your name and a phone number. Please bring writing materials.

Judy Kleinberg10:00am – Noon
J.I. (Judy) Kleinberg

Finding Poems: a hands-on workshop

In this fun and fast-paced workshop, Judy Kleinberg will offer an overview of found poetry techniques and an opportunity for you to experiment and identify the ones that resonate for you. You’ll discover ways to add found elements to more conventional-form poems and to use found prompts to kick-start new work. Some materials will be provided, but your writing notebook, pens, paper, scissors, junk mail, magazines (or books you’re willing to cut up), and glue sticks will be very welcome.

Kami Westhoff1:00 – 3:00pm
Elizabeth VignaliKami Westhoff and Elizabeth Vignali

Why Write Collaboratively?

Most people think of writing as a solitary act, yet ultimately the goal of the writer is to connect with the reader. Through collaboration, the writer can connect in a more immediate, tangible way. Writing with others can rejuvenate a sometimes lonely process, allowing the writer to be both contributor and reader, enhancing their perception and bringing into focus the goal of that ultimate connection with the reader.

One of the wonderful things about collaboration is that there are nearly as many ways to collaborate as there are types of people, so anyone can find a collaborative process that works for them. In this workshop, we’ll engage in various collaborative exercises that highlight our strengths, as well as encourage us to venture outside our comfort zones and ultimately enable us to grow as writers.

Knowing another writer’s name will be attached to your piece of writing can push us to work a bit harder to find that image that sears into the reader’s consciousness, to offer that perspective that incites action or a quiet moment’s reprieve, to render that scene in a way that promises the reader that even in a lonely world there are profound connections to be made, not the least of which come through the written word.

Learn more about the instructors on the Workshops page.

Tess Gallagher - Lawrence Matsuda

Join Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda this evening, Wednesday, July 20, 2016, at 7:00pm in the Village Books Readings Gallery (Bellingham) as they read from their new book of collaborative poetry, Boogie-Woogie Crisscross (MadHat Press).

“These poems developed via e-mails exchanged between Tess Gallagher and Lawrence Matsuda over a number of years. The resulting collaboration is a poetry jam session where they trade and borrow images, and run riffs on each other’s poems in a responsive, competitive, and lighthearted way. At the start of each section they expand on what happens in their exchanges. Early on, Tess characterizes the style as being ‘kind of hip and comic book and jangly,’ and also ‘prickly with antennae.’ Like any dance it’s also an invitation to lose time and as Larry says, to show your ‘chops’ — a kind of dueling banjos.”

More on the Village Books event page.

seeing red, being red

July 19, 2016

Red Lineage

Red Lineage is not new. The project was created by artist/poet Natasha Marin about ten years ago, but has a vitality that keeps it engaging.

“Red Lineage is the title of an original poem, adapted to allow others to personalize their own versions. When performed, these poems echo and overlap, thereby fostering a sense of community despite real and/or perceived social and demographic barriers. Within the Red Lineage, everyone is red—a metaphor that invokes the idea of the bloodline.”

Explore Red Lineage and add your own on the Red Lineage website. See more on the Red Lineage Facebook page. Learn more about Natasha Marin, Red Lineage and the artist’s other projects on Natasha Marin’s website.

What color red are you?

public poetry

April 1, 2016

Google Poetrics

Talk about crowd-sourcing! At the new Google facility under construction at King’s Cross, London, Poetrics is an interactive installation that translates voices into poetry. Three motion-activated microphones pick up voices and use Google’s speech recognition software to interpret the words, which are then displayed on a series of 17 LED panels. (The panels are arranged in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 words — not syllables — although the designers say that they were inspired by haiku.*) See more pictures and see the report on ITV news.
*For the down and dirty on 5-7-5, see this explanation.

Reasons to go to…New York

February 12, 2016

Barbara Guest - Fay Lansner

From February 20 through April 23, 2016, Poets House will host the exhibition Metamorphosis: The Collaboration of Poet Barbara Guest & Artist Fay Lansner. The show tracks their long collaboration and friendship through drawings, paintings, collages and portraits. On Saturday, February 20, there will be a tour of the exhibition and a conversation with Erica Lansner, Gabrielle Lansner, and exhibition curator Raphael Rubinstein followed by the opening reception.

More about Barbara Guest. More about Fay Lansner.

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