Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Middlebury Hosts Weekend Events to Celebrate 'The Place of Dance'

Posted By on Tue, Apr 1, 2014 at 9:01 AM

  • Courtesy of Alan Kimara Dixon
  • Andrea Olsen

If you ask Andrea Olsen, dance has a role far beyond the stage or the studio.

"Since I teach in both environment and dance at Middlebury, I’m very interested in the way that place affects your movement and also how dance fits into the larger cultural matrix of the age," says the longtime dancer and Middlebury College professor. "My own personal feeling is that dance is essential to understanding human beings at this time on the planet, rather than being something extra or nonessential."

Olsen recently published a third book, The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making (Wesleyan University Press), coauthored by movement artist Caryn McHose. This weekend, the college hosts several events to mark the occasion.

A free dance performance featuring work by 11 artists interviewed or otherwise featured in the book is on Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m.; Olsen and McHose teach a "Finding Your Feet" workshop on Saturday, April 5, 2-4 p.m.; and a corresponding photography exhibit goes on display at Middlebury's Davis Library.

"My fear is that because there's 'dance' in the title, people who don't feel they are dancers would feel it's not for them," Olsen admits.

That would be to miss the point entirely.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

James Kochalka Writes a Letter to Himself ... in the Past

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The cartoonist as a young man - COURTESY OF JAMES KOCHALKA
  • Courtesy of James Kochalka
  • The cartoonist as a young man

For fans who can't get enough of James Kochalka, here's another opportunity to indulge yourself. On a site called Dear Teen Me — on which authors write letters to their teenage selves — the Burlington-based cartoonist has done just that. Not only that, but he includes a heartthrob photo of himself with hair!

The letter reveals what we already know, namely, that Kochalka has a lot of self-confidence. But it's interesting to note how he convinces himself — retroactively — to just let himself rip. Or, as we boomers used to say, to let his freak flag fly. A psychiatrist might read more into his mental self-psyching, but I think lines such as "Please, please remember to always let your ridiculous side shine through" (mission accomplished!) speak for themselves.

Kochalka, now 46, has mastered the art of keeping his inner child intact while having enough grown-up savvy to successfully create and market his cartoons in print, on the web, in comic books, TV shows, games and several series of children's books. To say nothing of his James Kochalka Superstar music career (see YouTube for any number of music vids).

Speaking of books, Kochalka's latest, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, is out now on First Second. As he notes, after a career in indie comics, this is his first book with a traditional publisher. He's also created a game called Glorkian Warrior: The Trials of Glork.

For the record, Kochalka also contributes a weekly cartoon to Seven Days — the current series is "Elf Cat." But since you're reading a Seven Days blog, you probably already knew that. And I'd be remiss not to note that Kochalka was the first-ever Cartoonist Laureate of Vermont — a title he recently relinquished, after a three-year term, to Brookfield-based New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Photographer Peter Miller's 'A Lifetime of Vermont People' Wins Regional Book Award

Posted By on Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 6:58 PM

  • Courtesy of Peter Miller

Award-winning, Waterbury-based photographer Peter Miller has been taking pictures of Vermonters since he bought his first camera as a teenager in Weston. Last year, he published A Lifetime of Vermont People, a gorgeous, 208-page, 9-by-12-inch coffee-table book with 60 black-and-white portraits culled from 63 years of his work. The images are accompanied by wonderfully wry and evocative essays penned by Miller.

A Lifetime of Vermont People was just named the best New England photo and art book by the New England Society in the City of New York (which, in case you were wondering, is "one of the oldest social and charitable organizations in the United States," founded in 1805 to promote "friendship, charity and mutual assistance among and on behalf of New Englanders living in New York," according to its website). 

"It's quite a surprise," says Miller, reached by phone on Monday, noting that his work had been in a pool of entries that included books published by major publishing houses, including Viking Press, HarperCollins and Knopf. 

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Burlington Playwright Publishes Book, Explores the Growing World of Found Poetry

Posted By on Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 11:29 AM

'The Bees,' by James W. Moore, from the book Scarlet Sister Mary - JAMES W. MOORE
  • James W. Moore
  • 'The Bees,' by James W. Moore, from the book Scarlet Sister Mary

They say destruction is a form of creation, and it's hard to think of a form that would illustrate that adage more literally than found poetry. If you don't know it, found poets take other authors' writings, then remove or restructure the words and punctuation to make a new poem out of an existing work of prose. Often, that means slashing whole sentences and paragraphs.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to do it, though the general idea is to use one or more pages of a book as a starting block and pare down from there. (Author Jonathan Safran Foer, of Everything Is Illuminated fame, prefers to literally cut out his found poems.) A favorite, oft-repeated phrase on found poetry websites and blogs characterizes the form as a "literary equivalent of collage."

Found poetry has only really gained a following in recent years, says local playwright and educator James Moore, who is also co-founder of Steel Cut Theatre. Moore's book of found poems, I am the maker of all sweetened possum: poetry found in 'Scarlet Sister Mary,' was published last week by Los Angeles-based publisher Silver Birch Press.

"It’s an evolving form and there’s a lot of room for experimentation and different ways of going about it," Moore says. "It’s not quite in its infancy. Maybe more like troubled adolescence."

Moore, like many others, came across found poetry by word of mouth and by tapping into online writing communities. A fellow Vermont poet shared some examples. Moore remembers thinking the poems "looked like redacted government documents." 

But, always eager to experiment, Moore began playing around. He began paying attention to an organization called the Found Poetry Review, which publishes print volumes of found poetry collections. The group also has a blog, and organizes events for its online community. For National Poetry Month in 2013, FPR came up with a creative project: The Pulitzer Remix, in which 85 poets were each assigned one of the 85 (now 86) Pulitzer-winning novels. As Seven Days wrote at the time, Moore and fellow Burlington writer David Krivilsky were among the participants.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Orange Is the New Black' Author Coming to UVM

Posted By on Tue, Feb 18, 2014 at 4:59 PM

click image The cast of the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," based on Piper Kerman's memoir - JILL GREENBERG
  • Jill Greenberg
  • The cast of the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black," based on Piper Kerman's memoir

Before "Orange Is the New Black" was a hit Netflix series, it was a critically acclaimed memoir — and before that, Smith College graduate and self-described "nice blond lady" Piper Kerman really did spend 15 months in federal prison on drug-trafficking charges. Kerman now frequently travels the country doing book readings and advocating for prisoners' rights. On March 27, she'll make a stop at the University of Vermont.

For those unfamiliar with the author's backstory, here's a recap: After graduating from college, Kerman stuck around Northampton, Mass., to work at a brewery and became romantically involved with a glamorous older woman, who happened to be trafficking heroin for a West African drug lord. Also self-described as a "well-educated young lady from Boston with a thirst for bohemia," Kerman eventually moved to Bali with her lover and began carrying suitcases of cash across international borders.

After six months of "room service, exoticism and anxiety," Kerman cut all ties with the lover and the life of crime and moved back to the United States to start anew. Years later, when she was in New York working as a television producer and living with her boyfriend (now husband), the cops showed up at her door. Her ex-lover's drug ring had been busted, and she'd been ratted out. After a lengthy legal process — and about a decade after her crimes had been committed — Kerman arrived at the federal women's prison in Danbury, Conn.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

'As the Crow Flies' Shortlisted for Best Web Comic of 2013

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 3:04 PM

  • Illustration by Melanie Gillman for Seven Days
As the Crow Flies, Melanie Gillman's online comic about a queer 13-year-old girl stuck at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp, is one of just 10 webcomics to be nominated for the Cartoonist Studio Prize. The $1000 prize is awarded by Slate Book Review and White River Junction's Center for Cartoon Studies. You can read the full list of nominees here.

Gillman, who now lives in Denver, Colo., is a graduate of CCS, where she received her MFA. The winner of both this prize and the same organizations' choice for best graphic novel of 2013 will be announced in March.

Gillman contributed to Seven Days' first-ever all-cartoon issue last July 3. At left is her self-portrait.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Poetry on Your Pillow? Hotel Vermont, Burlington Writers Workshop Hook Up

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 5:06 PM


The new Hotel Vermont has been winning praise from all quarters for its architecture and décor, cuisine and use of local resources and products, from granite to soap to original art (including the found-wood "painting" by Duncan Johnson pictured at right).

Now, along with that warm blankie from Johnson Woolen Mills, all 125 guest rooms will offer a small book filled with Vermont words. Writing, that is, by members of the Burlington Writers Workshop.

In an announcement today, BWW organizer Peter Biello said, "Our writers get a wider audience, and Hotel Vermont's guests get a pleasurable reading experience. It's a win-win."

It would be especially winning, Biello added, if one of those guests had the power to advance any of the writers' careers.

Regardless of serendipitous "discovery" by a visiting publisher, the writers can at least hope hotel visitors will choose their poetry, stories or essays for bedtime reading.

These pieces — I'm calling them "locavore lit" — will be chosen by staff at Hotel Vermont and and compiled into a modest publication on a quarterly basis, said the announcement.

Hotel Vermont marketing coordinator Tori Carton added, "The arts are an integral part of the Hotel Vermont experience and we hope that our partnership with Burlington Writers Workshop will continue to advance the arts in our community, and give our guests a well-rounded and unique stay in Burlington.”

By the way, a member of the BWW, Michael Freed-Thall, has a fiction story in this week's Winter Reading Issue of Seven Days. You can read "Fort Stockton Blues" here. And here's a glimpse at a past BWW workshop.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Leahy Honors Photographer Peter Miller in U.S. Senate

Posted By on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM


Waterbury photographer Peter Miller has had many well-deserved accolades in his long career. His latest is another honor that few artists can claim: Vermont's senior senator, Patrick Leahy — no slouch behind the lens himself — read a tribute to Miller on November 20 on the Senate floor. 

Leahy's speech, printed here in full, says it all:

Mr. President, for generations, Vermonters have contributed to our national culture, through art, music, film and prose. Peter Miller is one such artist whose impressive work throughout his life as both a photographer and author has showcased Vermont and its residents and enriching us all.

As an amateur photographer, I have followed Peter's work for decades with admiration. From his early beginnings as a U.S. Army photographer to his travels across Europe with Yousuf Karsh, he has channeled his passion and energy into a remarkable art. Over the past 20 years, his unique ability to capture the Vermont spirit has been well documented and his consistent approach to producing authentic depictions of the Vermont way of life is unparalleled. He shuns the commercialization of art and instead creates his work solely to share and promote the values of our small and community-based State. This attitude was evident more than ever when, being honored as the Burlington Free Press' "Vermonter of the Year" in 2006 for his book "Vermont Gathering Places," he frankly said, "I don't shoot for galleries. I shoot for myself and the people I photograph."

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Burlington Émigré Ben Aleshire Takes His Poetry to the French Quarter

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 12:14 PM

Ben Aleshire, the former Burlington "poet for hire" who could often be spotted at the downtown Farmers Market, moved to New Orleans last year. He's set up shop at a busy intersection in the French Quarter, selling poems to passersby, and has attracted the attention of that city's press.

The Gambit, New Orleans' alt-weekly, focuses on Aleshire and several other local poets for hire in a recent cover article. Here's a quote from it:

Both [Aleshire] and [fellow poet Tristan] Bennett say they can come up with meaningful work in 10 to 15 minutes. "When people stand there and hug me and weep and tell me they're going to frame it, I think the evidence is there," Aleshire says. "That keeps me doing it. It fuels me when people tell me that this is real."

Gambit photo of Ben Aleshire by Cheryl Gerber.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Vermont Photographer Publishes Book 'For the Birds'

Posted By on Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Charlotte photographer P. Brian Machanic has produced an 82-page volume titled This Book Is for the Birds, but of course the book is really for bird lovers.

Machanic notes in a preface that there are some "50-60 million" birders in the United States, that is, obsessed individuals "whose affliction for monitoring things avian is all consumptive, leading to forays afield at ungodly hours, while being viciously attacked by the biting insects which birds are supposed to eat." The author admits he is not one of these people:

I'm more of a bird-watcher sort, which means that I enjoy sleeping in once a month, and stop looking for nighthawks when the thunder and lightning starts. I have only a couple of well-worn bird field guides, the second of which was purchased when I thought I'd lost the first.

What Machanic is afflicted with, however, is "a penchant for spending hours and hours at a time waiting for that perfect shot" — that is, with his camera. (The detail at right is from "House Wren.") The right photograph, he imagines, might catapult him into "the Bird Watchers' Hall of Fame and allow me to generously dip into the multi-billion-dollar industry devoted to supplying every imaginable need of the birding world."

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