By Deb A.
Tim Jurney's poetry rings out with his original voice and eclectic imagery. His piece, "i think i am a walking poem now, exhibit a-z" is featured in the second issue of Agave Magazine, and Tim has kindly allowed us here at the Agave blog to premiere one of his poems as a special treat for our readers later this week.
In anticipation of what's to come, we talk to him about bending language, collecting the scribbles in margins, and not being the voice of the Internet generation.
AGAVE: Your poetry is original and inventive; where do your ideas come from?
TIM JURNEY: I'm a junior Spanish Major/Humanities Minor at Kenyon College, a tiny liberal arts school in the middle of corn-field nowhere. Practical vocation? Arguable. But I will say that the Liberal Arts give me so much fodder.
At the end of every semester I go back and type up all the parts I've underlined in novels and textbooks, all the margin-scribbles from class, all the refuse and fragments from this weird, academic circus I live in. The Word documents are incredibly long and the documentation process is arduous as all hell, but even after only five semesters I have more material to work from than I could ever turn into palpable pulp. Ideas are everywhere! But nowhere more than a place like Kenyon, which trades in them.
As a student of Spanish and Humanities, what motivates you to write poetry? Does one aspect of your life inform the other?
No hyperbolics could do justice to the effect that my studies have had on my identity as an artist. Writing is just a form of re-reading — and to do it you have to read so much. You don't have to read the classics (although I'd argue those do help), but you do need to consume a helluva lot. Spanish is the most beautiful language in the world, and the Spanish world is filled with thinkers and artists who we don't see nearly enough of in English (our global linguistic hegemony is criminal — the cool stuff mostly happens elsewhere these days).
As to what motivates me: writer Jean Rhys said it best. "All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."
Tell us about your first favourite poem.
Oh boy! Firsts are tough for me, because I have so many of them all the time. But when I was ten a family friend gave me a complete collection of Emily Dickinson's poetry, and I loved how confusing it all was. I would hold on to little phrases that made sense to me and carry them around with me for days, making sense of everything as a Loaded Gun or measuring every Grief like Mine.
My most recent first favorite poem is "New York, New York, New York, New York, New York" by Catie Rosemurgy. I read it and was like THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER FELT LIKE THIS. It was awesome.
What do you believe is the key to finding an honest, non-jarring way to incorporate colloquial language into a poem?
I hope my language is jarring, actually. The key for me is to write in the words that I actually use. I'm on the internet all the time, so I don't shy away from internet-y nouns and verbs and adjectives and spellings and grammatical quirks, because those are the honest expression of my existence. I think and even speak in internet jargon — most of my generation does. It is almost always jarring to see Facebook-language in poetry today, at least for me as a reader. But I like that.
"Being The Voice Of The Internet Generation" can't be the point of any of my poems because that's shock value, and poems should last far beyond their shock value. But it's a good way to get people to notice your writing at first, and anyway most people my age who write without internet jargon are doing a lot of self-selection. Which isn't generally a great way to write poetry.
The imagery in your poems is strikingly vivid and unorthodox; what draws you to create such weird and wonderful images?
Language is very frustrating for me. I don't feel happy very often (although sometimes I do) — I usually feel something much more complex, emotions like the glint of a tiger's eye or bones clapping in an encore. My friends are used to this. I come to the table for lunch and say "today I am full of cicadas and jean jackets" and that is my way of telling everyone how I am doing.
I think a lot of people see poetry as an art which intends to confound — twist up words until all sense is lost. For me, poetry is the most concise and direct way to express something which would otherwise take pages and pages of prose to explain. And since language is so feeble, I have to bend it a lot to get where I'm going.
*** Dear Readers, don't forget to watch this space for an exclusive poem by Tim Jurney later this week. ***
By Deb A.
Catherine Evleshin's crisp, vivid writing graces the pages of the latest issue of Agave Magazine in the form of a short story entitled Maceo's Rumba. A former dancer, she neatly weaves the rhythms of dance into her writing, creating works that pulse with energy and meaning. She recently shared her unique perspective on fiction with us for this week's installment of Five Questions With....
AGAVE: As a former performer, researcher, and teacher, what motivates you to write?
CATHERINE EVLESHIN: As an “objective” researcher, I found I could not tell the stories that I knew were out there. Fiction can often reveal more profound truths. I went back and forth for some years, swinging deeper into the world of fiction.
What themes are you most interested in examining through writing?
I am concerned with environmental issues and social justice –intrigued with the near future. Most of my stories could be labeled political or science fiction or fantasy, but dance creeps in, because I can demonstrate setting and character best in the mode of celebration, especially since music and dance are so central to African and Latino cultures.
What role do you believe dance can play in literature?
That depends upon the author’s experience. I can spot a surface understanding not based on actual participation by the author. Not that she must be “professional,” just authentic.
"Maceo's Rumba" practically vibrates with energy. What you you believe is the key to maintaining a steady, elevated pace throughout the story?
“Maceo’s Rumba” is a paean to my favorite dance complex, the Afro-Cuban rumba, and a tribute to the Cuban artists and everyday people who suffer family separation, physical deprivation, and bureaucratic torment. African drums, Spanish poetry, flamenco passion, unique to Cuba and informing musical and dance styles throughout the Americas, even back to Africa. Alternately sensual, tender, combative, or comic, performed with fierce pride and synchronicity. I love what you said about the story vibrating with energy. That is because Havana itself does that. No one comes away from that city unchanged. I kept the pace by visualizing, dancing in my mind, if you will, the tension and rhythm of the city.
What experience would you like to give your reader?
You might ask, why not use film/video to illustrate dance. Been there, done that. I took on the challenge of fiction to do what no other medium can, get inside the head of the dancer, with the goal that the reader can vicariously experience the intensity.
By Deb A.
The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) marked International Women's Day with a report entitled "The Gender Gap in Art Museum Directorships", and the results are as disappointing as Georg Baselitz's view on female artists.
The statistics start out with a certain amount of promise: a relatively respectable 42.6 per cent of art museum directors across North America are women. The promise quickly turns out to be hollow, however: on average, female directors are paid less than 80 per cent of what their male counterparts earn. While women hold 48 per cent of the directorships in art museums with budgets under $15 million (and are paid $1.02 for every dollar earned by male directors), once we reach the largest art museums, the numbers plummet. Women are at the helm of only 24 per cent of museums with budgets surpassing $15 million, and they can expect to earn 71 per cent of a male director's salary there.
There is no lack of theories from the individuals interviewed for the report as to why so few women head up the continent's biggest art museums; hypotheses range from the gender composition of museum boards to how women present themselves in interviews to a lack of interest on the part of women in running the largest museums. And yet the only references the report makes to the importance of gender equity are fleeting and broad:
"By opening opportunities to a larger and more diverse set of potential leaders, art museums will realise the benefits of drawing upon a larger number of exceptional leaders with diverse experience and perspectives."
The absence of anything more specific on the benefits of bringing women into leading positions in museums is perhaps the most interesting part of the study. One on hand, sweeping statements about the need for diversity neatly sidestep the trap of perpetuating stereotypes of women. On the other, a stronger understanding of what a woman could be expected to add to the conversation would shed light on the actual biases and issues that museums, in particular the most influential institutions, face.
The study opens by stating: "The art within our great museums reflects and shapes our culture. As the directors of the leading visual arts institutions in North America, AAMD members have an unrivalled platform to influence the role that art plays in our society."
If bringing more women on board would improve how museums reflect and shape us, how skewed is the view that is currently on display?
By Deb A.
Philosopher Alain de Botton believes that there are helpful answers to the issues that plague us – from wondering whether a relationship will last to being unable to put down one's smartphone – to be found in art. In his new book, Art as Therapy, he argues with the help of philosophical art historian John Armstrong that art has a purpose, and that is to help us understand ourselves. He goes so far as to venture that in their dry delivery of dates and materials, museums miss the point of what art is all about; it is the emotional reaction that a painting evokes and what it can tell us about our own state, rather than its place in history, that make it important. Museums, he argues, should be places in which we not only learn about art, but also gain deeper insight into ourselves.
And so, Diego Velazquez's Christ Crucified might offer a remedy for anyone convinced that they are the only ones not having fun. An ancient Chinese dish can relieve us of the worry that we can't afford nice things. Rembrandt's The Jewish Bride gives pause to anyone who lacks patience with loved ones. The Art as Therapy website offers many more examples geared toward lending validity to the process of appreciating art on a personal level, without needing to know much about the historical context or technical details of a work.
The Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) have all endorsed this method for bringing daily life into high culture. Starting in April, the museums will offer visitors captions that venture more into the realm of self-help than art history, working under Mr. de Botton's theory that gaining pleasure or meaning from art is not the preserve of art historians. Rather, a little knowledge and a lot of feeling can go a long way.
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