Teachers

For this, my first blog post, I want to express gratitude for several significant teachers of mine. These teachers provided a potent example of artistic paths which gave me impetus for mine. They roused my curiosity, pointed out an unseen direction, and inspired possibilities. This post is dedicated to them.

I’ve yet to meet anyone more fiercely committed to her work and students than Joan Digby, poet, essayist, and English professor. She whips out text in record time. Once she sets her mind to writing a poetry chapbook about her cats or a book on collage, the project easily takes shape, likely why she was hired as National Honors Director. I sat in her classes in awe as she extracted eloquently articulated layers of meaning from every poem or novel read.

Carmen Beuchat left her native Santiago for New York when she learned about Merce Cunningham. He rocked her dance world and she, in turn, set mine into motion. I took one class, Movement Improvisation — one, yes, but I audited it several times, unwilling for a semester to pass without her movement challenges. The previously inert mass of my body awakened to movement freedom relieved from the pain of scoliosis.

Though I met them separately, it’s hard to separate Steve Paxton, who founded contact improvisation, and Nancy Stark Smith who made sure that the dance was well documented and taught. Paxton came to my university as a guest artist and I followed him to St. Mark’s Church where he and Smith ignited my ongoing exploration into fully inhabiting the body with all its moment to moment changes.

Jerome Rothenburg is a prolific poet with a voluminous understanding of the field. His catalog of forms such as tribal and modern sound poetry, visual poetry, ethnopoetics, and more opened doors to poetry as an event of language. He led me to homophonic translations and other word games, my eyes crossing, then widening to the malleability of words.

I’ve an indelible memory of Anne Waldman, feminist and fervent poet. She’s standing in stilettoes on a folding chair under the tent on the grounds of Naropa University reading a Gertrude Stein play. With clenched hand and shrill voice, she catapults Stein’s grammatical gymnastics toward listeners. Words have power not only in their meaning, but in the vibration of their performance, and she channels them with a primal and religio-mythic energy.

To do justice to the influence these artists and teachers have exerted upon me and countless others requires significantly more space than provided here.

Words. And movement…

breathe and extend between the lines of page and face what you know and what lies in wait, in transit, ready to materialize.

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