Gifts for the Feminist on Your List
by Jessica Donald
Well, here are a few feminist suggestions that might get the ball rolling for all of you last minute shoppers. I have included some of my favorites, but to get the full effect you might want to go to the websites that I found these on, for Northern Sun, www.northernsun.com, for National Women’s History Project, www.nwhp.org, and of course those websites we visit frequently, www.feminist.org and www.now.org. All of which have great gift ideas. I would also suggest checking out www.simplypink.com and www.amazonfembks.com, which have specialized items for that radical woman or man in your life. All products can be purchased via the internet or mail. The latter may take a bit longer, so do not put off buying those gifts! Good hunting and wrapping to all!
A New Generation of Midwifery
I recently went to the National Regional Honors Conference in Washington, D.C. During this time I met many great people and heard many new ideas and opinions from my peers. I also attended a poster session that really struck me. A woman named Kelly M. Milkus presented on Midwives in America. The title of her project is what had struck me, as I flipped through the conference book—Forgotten Witnesses: Midwives in America. She presented a new perspective on midwifery that I had never considered before. She addressed the past, when midwives delivered babies until science was seen as safer. Midwives, labeled unfairly by the mostly-male medical field, were said to be unclean and unsafe. Many were even thought to be incompetent in their abilities. The history of the profession then led her to discuss the present-day function and reputation of midwives. Some facts that I did not know about midwives were:
Patients of midwives are almost always enthusiastic about their care and the personal nature of the birth process. Unfortunately, there are not many medical centers in the United States, which offer the choice of a midwife instead of a medical doctor. Ms. Milkus presented these solutions to the problem of the scarcity of midwives:
I agree with this. I would prefer to deliver a child within a safe, secure environment in which a midwife is present. I feel very strongly that, since we only have a small center in Pittsburgh locally, we must strive to break the silence and the falsities of the past. This is yet another field that women have excelled in, and they could do so again, but we need to support the midwife profession. If you would like more information on the facilities that are available to you, or if you are looking for a nurse-midwife, please see the website www.upmc.org. I hope this has opened your eyes, as much as it did mine. If you have any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com, and I will do my best to answer them.
A Myriad of Holiday Events
by Claudette Dolan—Research by Brenda Mitchell
December is finally here, and for many people in this country, that means a celebration of some sort. Christmas is printed, sung, and flashed at us, seemingly around every corner, but it is important to remember that not everyone celebrates in the same way. It is the wonderful array of diversity that makes this country such an amazing place to live, and I must admit that I didn’t know very much about the holidays featured here before now. Maybe you didn’t either. So, to celebrate our differences and acknowledge those who sometimes may feel left out in the snow this time of year, here is some information on other wintertime festivities.
This is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which has 12 months, just like the solar calendar, but is instead based upon the moon. This is the month of fasting as ordered in the Quran. Fasting begins at dawn and ends at sunset, but if a child is too young, he/she won’t be allowed to fast. If a person is too old or ill to fast, he/she will pay a charity to a poor person for every day he/she is unable to fast. Muslims believe that fasting serves many healthy purposes. It teaches self-control, gives people a chance to feel what starving people must go through, and offers the body a chance to rest and rid itself of unwanted weight and materials. Ramadan is also the month in which the prophet Muhammed was given the Quran, the holy book of the Muslim faith. On the 27th night of Ramadan, the night of destiny, Lailat Al-Qadr, is celebrated. This night is said to be better than a thousand months, and is a time when angels and the Spirit descend to carry out the Lord’s every command.
Also called Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, this holiday occurs in mid-December. Considered the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of winter, people make closer bonds with family by visiting them and exchanging gifts during their celebrations. The official colors are red, green, and white, which are used in decorating homes, along with a Yule wreath on the front door. The wreath can either be returned to nature on or after New Years Day, or burned on the Summer Solstice bonfire. Other activities for Winter Solstice include greeting the sun at dawn by ringing bells or doing magic for a more peaceful planet. To show appreciation for nature, many people leave seeds for wild birds, in a ceremony that includes a statement of appreciation for nature’s beauty by each family member.
This is the Jewish festival of rededication, also called the festival of lights. It begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month Kislev and lasts for eight days. The holiday’s origins go back to the time when Alexander the Great’s successor, Antiochus IV, controlled Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. He oppressed the Jewish people, desecrating their religious beliefs, until he was finally overthrown. At the time of the rededication of the temple, there was hardly any oil left to light the menorah candelabrum that was supposed to be left burning all night, every night. There was enough for only one day, but by some miracle, it burned for eight days—just enough time to prepare a new supply of oil. This festival honors that miracle, and the lighting of the menorah is an important part of the celebration. Fried foods are also a part of the tradition. Latkes, or fried potato pancakes, are very popular. Spinning the dreidel—a square top marked with four Hebrew letters—is a gambling game that is played, with winners receiving matchsticks, pennies, M&Ms, or chocolate coins.
Dr. Maulena Karenga and his family first celebrated this African American holiday in December of 1966. There are seven principles upon which it is based:
Umoja-unity, Kujichagulia-self-determination, Ujima-collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa-cooperative economics, Nia-purpose, Kuumba-creativity, and Imani-faith. The concept came about in the sixties, when African Americans were striving to recognize their culture, as well as avoiding the over-commercialization of Christmas. A candle-holder of carved wood is the center piece for the table, which holds, among other items, Mazao—fruits, nuts, and vegetables—and a communal cup of unity—kimombe cha umoja. Gifts are exchanged that are hand made or grown. They encourage growth, community pride, and success, and the acceptor promises to fulfill the moral obligation symbolized in each gift.
The New Year in Japan~
The season of the New Year in Japan runs from December 31st until January 3rd, , even though the New Year is celebrated on January 1st. The Japanese Postal Service prepares New Year’s postcards, which people purchase to send to business clients, acquaintances, friends, and family. These cards are called Nengajo, and usually bear caricatures of animals that represent the New Year. A note of thanks for help received during the year is included, as well as a wish for assistance in the one to come. On New Year’s Eve, buckwheat noodles—toshikoshi soba--are eaten to ensure prosperity and longevity. At midnight, the Buddhist temples ring bells, for a total of 108 peals, to welcome the New Year. People visit shrines and draw a fortune from a shrine- maiden clad in a white kimono. When the celebrants finally do go to sleep, they hope to dream of New Year, good omens, such as a hawk, Mt. Fuji, or an eggplant. And the perfect time to arise is just as the sun is coming up, thought to be a proper start for the New Year. Lucky visitors, during this time of celebration, can look forward to being served a saucer of Japanese sake, as well.
Think Spring—And Poetry!
by Claudette Dolan
As many of you are aware of, the Women’s Studies program, in conjunction with other departments on campus, will be a sponsor of the Women in the Arts program this upcoming spring. We are all very excited about these series of events, which will include, among other things, exhibits and poetry readings. This will be a forum for all sorts of artistic works by women, so, who better to be at the helm than Rosaly Roffman?
A repeatedly published poet, and a very dear friend to me, Dr. Roffman teaches as a faculty member of IUP’s English department, instructing courses in creative writing, mythology and literature. I first met Dr. Roffman during the celebration she directed for IUP’s 125th anniversary—Imagining the Future: Word and Image. There, I heard her read a poem dedicated as a tribute to Vincent VanGogh, in between helping out with the program. She was such an enjoyable person to work with, as well as a remarkable person of vision and talent.
I had an opportunity to speak with her recently at length about her thoughts on poetry and even some of her own works, which was a wonderful lead-in for the program we will be working on together , along with several others, next semester. I was captivated by her passion for poetry. She told me, “I think that reading poetry is very important—to read it out loud. Something happens. I don’t take it lightly. It isn’t a performance for me. . .I think poetry readings are very different from entertainment. They’re almost like rituals; people get quiet, men can cry if they want, and it’s a real movement in this country.” She was touched by men who indeed were “finding the feminine in their souls,” during a time when she was a patient at Indiana Hospital. There, she observed male nurses, men who had been “burly coal miners,” who had gone to nursing school in order to provide care to others. She wrote a beautiful poem about the experience, “The Professor Watches the Male Nurse,” which appears on the next page.
As she told me, “I don’t have a favorite subject to write about. What is interesting to me is that poetry can be about anything--and you just have to get out of the way of that feeling that a poem needs to be poem-like--but then you have to go back, and you have to craft.” Another of her poems came out of a summer course that she was teaching. “I taught a poem that was written by a Native American. . . He was a Chocktaw Indian, and what I learned was that the Chocktaw Indians, and I think other tribes as well, believe that things that are made are alive. This poem was about a canoe, so, it was spoken by a canoe. The writer wrote this poem with the voice of a canoe and I taught that poem and started thinking about my class receiving this poem. It was ‘weird’ until we began talking about how they name their cars. That was ok to do, and you could think about that as a poem. . So, I wrote this poem from my class and at the end there is this prayer. . .where I say it’s important for them to understand how strong that can be—the making of things from the imagination. There’s a little prayer for that in that, it’s not me teaching the class, but ten years from now it will be their stories. . .that I wish they will have the power to speak.” This poem, “The Last Class: After Three Days of Reading Poetry in Summer Session,” you will also find on the next page.
She also has a great appreciation for her colleagues, as well. “It’s nice to be embraced by where you are,” she says of the English department, “It’s very wonderful to have other poets on the faculty.” One last word on poetry from Dr. Roffman—“I hate being labeled as a hyphenated poet [woman-poet, etc.]. If you write about what’s closest to you, you will be an everything poet.”
This is a poem about Wanting
Or: The Last Class: After Three Days of Reading Poetry in Summer Session
I am wondering what my hushed students think
when they read a little poem spoken by a canoe
for their 8 O’clock class this Thursday morning
Stuck in between Listening to a Voice, Closed Forms
and Unusual sonnets, this birchbark doesn’t go away
O canoe I love you—pray for me now in my hour of chocktaw need
I will not ask any more how long I have to testify
on behalf of the sonata and its tender way with the living—
I know a woman lovely in her bones says one thing to them
about managing certain kinds of pain—and a girl in the front row
tells the latest on prayer: if you are having surgery, you can ask now
for a small group to pray when they roll you into an operating room
Of course I tell them—sign up for that, melody reaching for the spheres,
never mind what it means—I just heard about a doctor who took a Priest
home after his operation and had him dancing through pine flats in no time
and they had never met before—but why do I want to tell this story?
Maybe ten years from now everyone in 101 Leonard Hall will get it
Their stories, that’s what I want for them. O canoe I do love you so—
In this hour of Chocktaw need.
please pray for us
pray for us now—Rosaly DeMaios Roffman
The Professor Watches the Male Nurse
You wear your ice mitts like a prizefighter
and kneel as if in prayer, cradling those packs
around his feet. You turn him over in bed,
feed him his eggs with all the sureness that comes
from drinking with the men in Tanoma
before they sewed up that old mine—
those buddies whose language was fouls and runs
all of them volunteer in Viet Nam, all of their sons
still football players, driving reluctantly now
to a university some people consider the enemy
But the sureness of the I-V needle
like an ancestral pickaxe in the rock
startles even you, lets your eyes meet his
while you change the bag for him,
give him a sip of water, and without speaking,
take away his diapers—yes, startles even you
new to holding men, and rocking this one
till he went under—startles even you
who worked beneath the earth like him
and came up all black and proud once
Oh, I want to tell you as I stand by this door
that every Greek hero had permission to do this—
to find his sacred womanhood without making speeches
And I am on my knees
to you whose name I don’t know
and to those great gods
who wouldn’t have any of that
DID YOU EVER SEE A GROWN MAN CRY nonsense—Rosaly DeMaios Roffman
IUP Holiday Traditions!
Twas the month of December, cold with snow,
The icy North Wind had started to blow.
But finals and classes were almost done,
So all could rush home to holiday fun.
Looking forward, our readers chose to share,
Their holiday traditions full of love and care.
Each one unique in its own special way,
Differences create most wonderful holidays.
And remember as you all celebrate this year,
Our wish to everyone for happiness and cheer.
A holiday tradition in my family would be that on Christmas Eve, we watch White Christmas and listen to Motown Christmas before we go to bed. Even though my brothers are 12 and 20 and I am 18, we still leave out milk and cookies, too.
—Felicia Charleston, WS 200 Student
Our main traditions are taking a night to decorate the tree together, going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and taking most of Christmas Day to open our gifts.
—Tom Slater, English Department and Women’s Studies Faculty
My tradition began when I was an undergrad and my parents split up and moved far away, so there was no “home” to go to. I began attending a Christmas Eve dinner and gift opening with a group of 10-15 friends that was always a dress-up, four-course occasion. The requisite desserts included one Linzertorte from my friend Elisabeth and my Amaretto Cheesecake. Since moving to Indiana, I’ve tried to keep this tradition by inviting friends over to share Christmas Eve. Since I’m of German extraction, the 24th rather than the 25th was always the “big” day. And it has the benefit of getting the presents opened over wine and good coffee, instead of at the crack of dawn in pajamas. I think I have successfully passed this tradition on to my daughters.
—Janet Goebel, English Faculty and Director of the Honors College
We always eat the nutrolls and pumpkin rolls that our family made the week before.
—Erica Shafran, English/German Dual Major Student
We put out all the house lights and just sit by the tree with the Christmas lights on and sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve. On Christmas morning, we have French toast and fruit after opening presents.
—Laurel Black, English Department and Women’s Studies Faculty
My mother always convinces my niece and nephews that she isn’t getting them anything for Christmas, but the day comes and she surprises them with numerous gifts.
—Mary Wilson, WS200 Student
We go from house to house with Christmas gifts. By the end of the day, we are so tired that we can hardly eat, but that doesn’t stop us from devouring a big dinner. My mother is certainly the finest cook known to woman/mankind.
—Robin Verwey, WS 200 Student
No matter what the weather, we go for a horseback ride and we eat a big brunch of beans, rice, tamales, chiles, tortillas and fresh fruit.
—Judith Villa, English Department and Women’s Studies Faculty
Every Christmas, while my daughter was still at home, we had a fun way for her to find one of her gifts—usually a special gift. I would compose a 2-line rhyming clue leading to a location where she would find another clue leading to the next location, and so on, until the last clue led to the gift.
—Esther Beers, English Department Administrative Assistant
A loved one who is definitely spoiled in our house, during the holiday season is our bunny, Clover. She always gets yummy yogurt drops, as well as several other items.
—Claudette Dolan, WS Graduate Assistant
On Christmas Eve I always get together with my four siblings, along with nieces and nephews and go to my parents’ house. We sit in the living room and we read scriptures from the Bible and then we distribute presents from the “grab-bag” (drawing names) that we did on Thanksgiving.
—Rhena Berry, Liberal Studies Graduate Assistant
Every winter break, I wing back to Hawaii to regain my tan on sandy, white beaches, reaffirm my pair bonds with significant others, and grind away on ethnic foods, including Hawaiian poi. Then, I bring back some Aloha, assuming the snow doesn’t stop my flight back.
—Deanna Chang, Sociology Department and Women’s Studies Faculty
WS 200 Students’ Reactions to the AIDS Quilt
On October 30th, IUP’s Six O’Clock Series programming group presented the opening of the AIDS Quilt exhibit—an unforgettable piece of artwork dedicated to the countless number of people who have succumbed to AIDS. As we all know, there is no cure for this terrible disease that affects people in all walks of life. It is imperative that we raise awareness in students, so that they can be prepared to deal with both prevention and intervention. I believe Dr. Mitchell has made an enormous impact upon her WS 200 class by including the AIDS Quilt Exhibit as a part of her class. In the biology department, Dr. Bharathan will be teaching the course BIOL 281—Understanding HIV, Biology, and AIDS for the Spring 2001 term. I took his Biology II course while I was an undergrad, in which he focused on AIDS, and it was a very enlightening course for me. I believe everyone should learn all they can about this killer, because right now, prevention is the only final defense we have right now, and from what I learned about the virus’ structure in Dr. Bharathan’s class, I don’t see how we could possibly come up with a cure anytime soon. In the following responses, you can see how much the grief and sorrow reflected in the quilt has affected these students. For them, its purpose has been achieved. (Student names have been omitted to protect their anonymity).~
“I spent 30 minutes inside of the HUB Multi Purpose Room and saw the names of an extremely small percentage of AIDS victims. I heard the names of those who have died. All of the panels I saw touched me in an indescribable way. There were a few times when I got tears in my eyes.”
“Weaving the memories of AIDS victims together in this quilt symbolizes the loving memory other feel. And also the strength of these people who have had to battle the illness. Woven together, the panels of the quilt represent the stolen lives of the people who have died from AIDS.”
“Looking at these pieces of people’s lives, I’m filled with compassion for those who’ve suffered (the actual contractors of the virus and those who knew them) and I’m filled with anger towards those who devalue life by simplifying the agony of those who suffered.”
“As soon as I laid eyes on the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I found myself fighting back tears, for I know it’s only a matter of time before someone I know contracts this horrible killer and becomes the object of memorial. Seeing all of these symbols of shattered families is quite humbling and sobering. You wonder if there is any hope for a cure or if this quilt will be doubled or tripled with new patches of the tragic deaths of men, women, and children. If I believed in a higher deity that had control over these things, I’d pray like so many of these patches seem to do.”
“Even though my heart is heavy for those I know who have HIV, I do believe that experiencing this memorial has helped me to sort out some of my fears. So many others have gone through what I am going through, and they dealt with their losses. I know I will too.”
“What can I say? Or rather what can’t I say? The 19 sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt made me speechless because my mind was complete with a disarray of thoughts: What was that person like? How difficult is/was it to come out as a person with AIDS? Is it right to appreciate the force the beauty has of the quilt and the people’s lives, when there is still ignorance towards people with HIV/AIDS and how the virus is transmitted? Should I be hurt or mad or in awe of the quilt as a magical art piece.”
“There is a very big emotional impact behind the tragedy of AIDS. Especially the Quilt—Names and faces of people who were just like I am, a human being. The only thing that separates me from them is that they are not here now and I am.”
“I think it is nothing but love to have a quilt that celebrates the lives of people who have died from AIDS. I had no idea that the quilt was this big. It is wonderful how the memories of the people are still being kept alive. Each quilt has so much meaning about each person.”
“The seemingly endless list of names drones on in the background, each name speaking of a life and a death. Each time the reader pauses, I want it to end. But it won’t. The list is too long and every day names are added, making it longer still.”
"Against this background we wander as if in a slow dance and gaze at the colorful scraps that speak of love and loss. I hope that there is healing for those who made these patches.”
“The AIDS Quilt presentation is an excellent awareness idea, in that those who go and look at it get a sense of what this dreaded disease is doing to so many people across the world. The quilt in a sense really hit close to home for many. When I walked in the first one I saw was from Lancaster, Pa. I am from Philadelphia, and Lancaster is in my “backyard” so to speak. When I see the many people and many different places that AIDS is affecting, and to realize that this is a small portion of the lives that have been taken, I’m saddened by it all. Not only for the victims of AIDS, but the family and friends who lost loved ones because of it. The AIDS Quilt showed the love and affection from friends and family toward the victims so that their loved ones would not have died in vain. I feel nothing but the deepest sympathy for everyone whose lives are affected by this disease.”
“[The] Most touching thing to me was a letter from a mother to a son thanking him for the years he was in her life. It made me cry.”
“These people were not done living yet. Little baby Dwight was not even two years old. Many of these people shared the same interests as I do. I think of the hatred that was endured by so many of these. They are much stronger and braver than I am. I have never known anyone with AIDS. This makes it easy for me to forget its existence. Being here today, with this quilt, with the memories of these people, makes that impossible.”
“I didn’t realize how looking at this AIDS quilt would make me feel. I got the same feeling I did when I was standing at the wall in Washington D.C. with my father as he took rubbings of the names of men he carried out of the jungle to be sent back for burial. Just as the war that my father fought and survived. AIDS is a war. Only this war doesn’t feel like it’s going to end and government can’t step in and put an end to it.”
“You see when each victim was born and when they died and you see little hints of their personality from what their loved ones put into the quilt, and you almost feel as if you did know them and a part of you mourns for them. The AIDS quilt is a beautiful and effective way to make those who view it feel compassion for AIDS victims and their families.”
“This is the first time I had seen a piece of the AIDS quilt and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Certainly not so many local names and/or places on the quilt. By the time I got halfway through the multi-purpose room, I was overwhelmed with sadness…sympathy for all the people and families who put these patches together…very powerful. Each patch is so personal and I can imagine these people who died’s parents, friends, other family, etc. trying to put all of their memories and some memorabilia together in each patch, not to sum up their lives, but probably as a sense of closure, pride, love, and remembrance for someone they loved.”
“The more you stand among the quilt pieces, and hear the names being read that fill the silence, the more you begin to understand the pain that went into every stitch of every quilt. You read about how fathers, uncles, brothers, and so many others are missed. It makes you start to imagine how it would feel if you were stitching the pieces of someone’s life so that they would live on, so that those who see the quilt will understand that it was a person who died—a person that could be you.”
“Then I walked up to a display that had all of the quilt facts on it. When I saw that there were 83,279 names on the quilt. I could have cried. To that the quilt was the size of 25 football fields. To see that there was enough fabric to go from Providence, RI to Boston, MA. The quilt also weighs over 50 tons.”
“I feel very blessed to have seen these panels. Each person becoming familiar to me. HIV and AIDS wasn’t “real” for me until I saw the opening last night. I thought I was “safe.” I now feel a kinship with all the people involved in making the panels, because, in essence, they are fighting for my life. HIV and AIDS have become—HE—YOU—and “ME” now. This is my fight, my cause, and these are my tears. I’m glad I could be a part of such an artistic, heartfelt event.”
“One may read this and think of me as overdramatic, as overly emotional. Yet, whenever I see these quiltings, I can’t help but realize that each fragment was a person. Each person had loved one that cared enough to create a patch to keep his/her memory alive. This means that the small section of the AIDS quilt that I have seen represents thousands of hurting people. This is why I can’t help but feel sadness and empathy while I am in this room.”
“The AIDS quilt in the HUB was beautiful. The grieved used their hands, love and creativity to memorialize their loved and lost friends and family to create a visual stimulus perfect for today’s society, who are highly visual creatures. When you see in the visual sense how a disease affects humanity, it leaves a mark on you that is difficult to erase.”
“I appreciate the experience to witness this famous quilt and I believe it is amazing to see such a piece of art that touches the hearts of all who visit.”
Reader Contributions--Film Review and More Poetry
by Dana Jerman
"Keeping You Safe Beside Me"A Film by Dr. Ronald Shafer, IUP English Faculty
A Sunday, November 5th visit to Border’s Booksellers in the Monroeville business district marks the third viewing experience I have had with the film, “Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon: Keeping You Safe Beside Me,” and it still possesses the ability to choke me up and send waves of sympathy through my being. During the readings of Jane’s poetry and the excerpts featuring her voice, these times are especially poignant.
The countenance of Jane’s reading voice, her dry “K”s on words like “milk,” “rake,” and “black” strikes in the mind the vision of a mother reading hushed to her child under a soft lamp before bed. The child glances upward and watches his mother’s slow mouth form languinious words. Though he embodies the characteristics of the world, about to grow up amidst the threat of disease and depression, he begs to be taught, to know the plight, with the enthusiasm behind his bright gaze. We all become that child, with love and pride for his mother welling in his eyes, before this film.
The soft abruptness of Jane’s poetic verbiage is the real key in what captures our imagination and takes our breath away about pieces like “Otherwise,” a poem that expresses both gladness and worry about the tangible in her life that “might have been otherwise.” The sentences stamp along like a child learning to walk, straightforward, but with little fluff or overpoeticised grace. “I got out of bed on two strong legs,” and “I took the dog uphill to the birch wood,” are my favorite examples from this work.
More of this fantastic emotional range we are witness to in, “With the Dog at Sunrise,” a twenty-two-line think-piece that is really about intellect and the relationship that human intelligence has to pain. From sight, to the object, to the soul, Jane explores beauty in the poplar trees and winter dawn as she identifies with Sarah: “a widow at thirty-one, alone in the violence of her grief, sleepless, and utterly cast down.” Jane takes this fresh pain and marvels in turn at the naiveté of nature as well as its resilience. The lines: “The dog furrows his brow while pissing long” and “deer take their ease under the great pines, nose to steaming nose” come to mind as both the seen and the unseen travel out of Jane’s thought patterns and onto the page, that marks the way of her storytelling pen. To light the path of darkness with the philosophical ideas of hope and faith, Jane’s lyrics provide a momentary stay against confusion; perhaps her confusion at the moment is toward her talents as a poet. Donald [her husband] expresses her anxiety over being in the throes of depression and “convinced that she was no good,” at the World Congress of Poets documented in the film. But with symbolic lines like, “Searching for God is the first thing and the last, but in between such trouble and such pain,” as this and other poems have, Jane’s abilities are just as her emotions are—undisputed.
Donald Hall asks in the film: “How do people live without writing poetry?” Then, proceeding to answer himself, “Apparently some people can, but I don’t see how I could have…” With a style all his own, but possessing a storytelling element that matched his wife’s in quick harmonies and objects of simple pleasure, Hall reads for us his poem “Names of Horses,” and we are immersed as images of Eagle Pond Farm and the acres surrounding melt into each season—“a year without punctuation”—as Hall expresses a year on the farm. These images first graced our eager eyes at the beginning of the film as Hall read Thomas Hardy. Along with their beauty, Hall’s warm, bass voice [and] his throaty, yet lilting, “S”s command as much attention as the very words he uses in his works to love and lament each subject, from the vanished horses of the farm, which he goes on to talk at length about during the tour of the actual barn—showing us the old stalls, sleigh and (the horse) Riley’s square window—to his beloved Jane and the “psychic pain,” which he joined her in bearing, and then which he bore alone, as she became a victim of rampant leukemia and one of “the unripe dead” in [his poem] “A Grace.”
The promise of healing fills-in the hole left by hurt in the film, as we see Donald and Jane play back and forth into the marital banter of conversation—the foreplay of poets. In “Back,” we see a good example of this, as Jane speaks in the last stanza of “the black silk nightgown that he once thrust into the toe of my Christmas stocking.” And Donald goes on to reply in the film with the line: “and something libidinous in the toe,” from a poem read at the World Congress of Poets.
Donald goes on to speak of their discussions concerning poetic ideas and titles, like that of Donald’s “The Happy Man” and Jane’s “Happiness.” “Sounds too depressed,” said Jane of Donald’s title. And the ironic truth emerges: To know happiness in its fullest is to have emerged into it from the deepest, darkest of depressions. “And you weep night and day to know that you were not abandoned, that happiness saved its most extreme form for you alone,” Jane connects out of a disconnectedness that comes from fears unlike those documented in the poem. “There’s just no accounting for happiness, …And how can you not forgive?”
Just as they lived portions of their lives together, the poetry that documents that time weaves a thick, silky blanket of words that are images. This film does a most-excellent and accurate job of documenting these times and lives without overemphasizing the sadness of Jane’s death in 1995, or the grieving of her husband, Donald, as he works in words to support himself and continue sharing Jane’s powerful, elegant thoughts with the world of poets and poetry.
One glimpse into the wide and cool, sky-blue eyes of Donald Hall reveals what Dr. Shafer recalls as “the sheer twinkle,” the undying love of life in all its forms. The real poet is such because in his head, his life is words and the environment he surrounds himself with is beauty. Combine these elements, and no life experience is lost or belittled. Each day is praised, eulogized, and remembered—etched forever on a canvas of vocabulary often too powerful for its own wielding. Donald hall proves to be a knight in this harsh realm, a poet of the highest caliber. This film helps us understand him as much as it introduces us to the idea that poetry is all around. This was the story of one man’s journey to find its definition, and the woman who had the same goal.
My brother found
The stolen cigarettes,
Two, Carleton Lights,
The kind my grandmother smokes.
I am thirteen.
I light it up with awkward matches
And put it out.
A swift burn,
Then I fan the smoke that scares itself into my lungs.
My brother found
The stolen cigarettes—the promise of cancer,
That my mother threw away
Along with the year old
Unwrapped condom—the promise of sex,
The slim, cottony pantiliners—the promise of maturity.
And the tainted idea of a lock, holding shut the box
I kept quiet like Pandora
Underneath the yet unanswered promise of a bed.—Dana Jerman
Dana Jerman is an English major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
by Brenda Mitchell
WOMEN’S STUDIES PRESENTS "WOMEN IN THE ARTS" SPRING 2001
What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The World would split open.
—Muriel Rukeyser, Kathe Kollwitz, 1968
What if the World did split open? Think of the tremendous creative energy, potential, and momentum that such an event would release! Spring 2001 programs focus on women telling the truth about their lives. The telling takes many forms: fictional, fanciful, poetic, polyphonic, visual, visionary, theatrical, totemic, dancing, dissonant, melodic, mournful, revolutionary, radical -- perhaps most important, empowering, inspiring, and liberating. Please join the talking, seeing, hearing, watching, listening, yelling, laughing, touching, thinking.
We have chosen each other
and the edge of each others battles
the war is the same
if we lose
someday women’s blood will congeal
upon a dead planet
if we win
there is no telling
we seek beyond history
for a new and more possible meeting
It is impossible to thank all those who are involved in splitting open the World and seeking this new and more possible meeting. Please know that your work is greatly appreciated and forgive me if I have omitted anyone. Thank you to (in random order) Rosaly Roffman, Terri Smith, Richard Field and the University Museum, Maurice Kilwein-Gueverra, Chauna Craig, Brenda Carter, Hank Knerr, Susan Palmisano, all of the artists and collectors who are making our exhibition, "Face to Face/Woman to Woman" possible, Claudette Dolan, Marcia McCarty, Jessica Donald, and the oh-so-many others that will surface in my ruptured memory as soon as this goes to the printers.
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF PROGRAMS (some dates, times, locations still pending)
Deborah Zlotsky: Painter, an exhibition at the Kipp Gallery curated by Susan Palmisano. The artist will present a lecture on her work.
Vicky Clark, Director, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, will present a lecture on women in visual art.
Jeanne Drennan, Playwright. Drennan received Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships in 1998 and 2000. She writes that her "newest pleasure in theatre has been working with the City Theatre Young Playwrights Festival through its inaugural year." Her plays Asparagus and Limoges has been developed at various regional theatres, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and GeVa Theater. Her newest play, Wrong Side Out, will be produced at the Lester Hamburg Studio early in 2001 as part of City Theatre’s 4X5 Festival.
MARCH WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
Sixth Festival of Women Composers International (March 21-24), organized by Dr. Susan Wheatley and Dr. Sarah Mantel of the Music Department, includes a four-day conference with a residency for American composer Libby Larsen, one-day residencies for Pennsylvania composers, one-day residencies for African-American composers, and public performances of the works of women composers by students, faculty, and guest artists.
Lorraine Kreahling, an IUP alumnus, writer, and novelist is scheduled to visit IUP. Kreahling has also worked as the editor of Elle magazine and has published in The New York Times ,Cosmopolitan, and many other well-known magazines.
Jane Hirshfield, poet, has appeared as a guest of Bill Moyers and lived in a Zen Monastery for eight years. She is the featured poet at the PCEA conference in Punsxatawney (sp???) and will visit the main IUP campus in Indiana to read her poems on March 23 during the lunch hour.
Tres Vidas (March 26) is a new chamber music theatre work for singing actresses and chamber music trio, the Core Ensemble. The piece is based on the lives of three legendary Latin American women: renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, Argentinean poet Alfonsina Storni and Salvadoran peasant-activist Rufina Amaya. The musical score includes arrangements of popular and folk music from Latin America, music by tango master Astor Piazzola and new music by Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Jorge Liderman and Osvaldo Golijov. The text is written by Chilean scholar and award-winning writer Marjorie Agosin, Proessor of Spanish Literature at Wellesley College. A presentation by Michael Parola, Director of the Core Ensemble, will speak at the Six O’Clock Series immediately preceding the performance.
Tawni O’Dell, a native of Indiana and author of the controversial best-selling novel Back Roads, set in her hometown. O’Dell will be visiting IUP in connection with the Statewide Undergraduate English Conference and will read from her work at 8:00 pm on March 30.
Allison Joseph, April 6, 7:30 p.m. Oak Room West. Joseph is a prizewinning poet, professor, and author of three volumes of poems including What Keeps Us Here and In Every Seam.
Happy Holidays From All of Us at Women’s Studies!!
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