May 1, 2015

Poetry and Art in Needham

        Yesterday I was at P and T’s school hanging mounted and decorated poems the seventh graders had written, and today I’ll be returning to be in the audience as the seventh grade poets present their masterpieces.  I’m so glad the kids have done such an extensive poetry unit, because I see in the schools a disturbing trend to concentrate more on “useful” skills, the sorts of things that will no doubt help them get good jobs or something.  But I believe it’s a terrible mistake to think that art and poetry aren’t useful.  They foster and encourage those parts of the mind and soul that are absolutely vital for creativity, empathy, and - yes, I’ll come right out and say it - happiness.  Even in the most purely practical sense it’s surely obvious that people are more productive at their jobs when they’re creative, empathetic, and happy, but I also believe that we should be teaching our children (and ourselves) that there is indeed more to life than getting a “good” job.  So as I tacked poems onto the bulletin boards yesterday I was delighted to see the wonderful ways in 
which the kids at P and T’s school had decorated the papers, and I look forward to hearing them read out the words of their poems this morning.  It is in the children’s poetry that I find hope for our future.
        As soon as I get home from Poetry Day, I’ll load up the car and start setting up for Needham Open Studios, which is this weekend.  I’ve got an interesting new print design to work on as I sit with my display for the next two days, and I’m also excited about my ArtWeek Boston event on Saturday at 2:00.  There’s something deeply satisfying about using your hands and  carving right into a fresh block to make something new.  One of the things I love best about relief block printmaking is that even though I usually plan my blocks, the finished print isn’t the same as the sketch I draw.  I never know just how it will look, and there’s always suspense as I ink and press, and then the surprise when I pull the first one.  Accidents of carving are often frustrating, but sometimes give the print that mark of the hand which makes it more interesting than I ever could have planned.  For the hands-on activity at my Boston ArtWeek event, people won’t even plan 
what they carve (unless you want to!) so there’s even more surprise, and even more delight when you see the beautiful, intricate designs you can get by inking, stamping, and combining multiples of your own small block.
        Come join me during Needham Open Studios to see my process of making a large relief block print, and then try your hand at carving and stamping your own miniature block.

[Pictures: Emily Dickinson, wood engraving by Barry Moser;
 E.E. Cummings, wood engraving by Moser;
William Carlos Williams, wood engraving by Moser (Images from]

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