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Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Black History Post

      For almost a decade now I have been working, in my writing and in my museum work, to make the story of American history more honest and accurate. Beyond making a few people uncomfortable, I haven't made much impact. Yet.
       I will persist.

       I am no longer working regularly in museums, but I still visit them frequently. Last weekend I visited the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, Massachusetts. I am fond of this museum, and tour it at least once a year. It is a beautiful space with art from all over the world that is expertly curated and always impressive. My daughter and I had gone down specifically for the Georgia O"Keeffe exhibit (I'll post about that later), but this time I noticed there wasn't much going on at the museum in celebration of Black History Month. Nothing at all that I could see. (In fairness, the PEM does have an extensive collection of African Art but it is not currently on view.)
      And it got me to thinking, how easy it would be to remedy that, especially in the American Art wing where I found this:





     While it was noted (in the small marker pictured above) what was most noteworthy about the people featured in the large portraits, I wondered how relatively easy it would be for the museum to make other connections to black history in the American Art wing with similar markers, or maybe something more eye-catching. I am sure there are countless, fascinating connections that could and should be made to African Americans both well known and unknown as well as to events related to black history in the art pieces on exhibit in that wing, and all of them could be noted near the art as was done here with the Phillis Wheatley connection. 

      We went on a tour of three historical houses that the PEM maintains, and the tours were also completely bereft of black history. I asked the tour guide what she knew of one of the house's history of slaves and servants, and she quickly replied there was none, telling me the date that slavery was abolished in Massachusetts which was a good half century after the house was built. I'm not insisting that the house owners were slave owners but I certainly question it. Either way it is simply not possible that the three houses we toured have no black history to share. Salem played a major role in the slave trade, from shipping fish to the West Indies to feed the enslaved there, to sending and financing slave ships back and forth across the seas. 

       It is important, critically important, to tell these stories. As I have told people I've worked with at history museums in New Hampshire and Maine, if we are not telling the whole story than we are not telling the truth. Historians can't cherry-pick the history they tell. The public is entitled to the truth. The public wants the truth. The public needs the truth.

      As a teacher I think of bringing children of color into these public spaces and it makes me angry. We can do better. Much better. Not just in February, but February is certainly a time to be examining what visitors see and hear.

      And just so I'm not singling out the PEM for criticism, I am disappointed to add that we had an early dinner at a restaurant nearby called Turner's Seafood that I chose because it was housed in a  historic building. I was hoping to learn some of its history when we visited, but found none inside nor on the restaurant's website. Later research shows that it too, has a significant history to share and is listed as site #3 of African American Heritage Sites in Salem as chosen by the National Park Service who notes: 

3. Salem Lyceum 43 Church Street
    The Salem Lyceum opened in 1831, and its rows of banked seats quickly filled with residents of Salem eager to watch demonstrations, lectures, and concerts. Nationally known artists, politicians, philosophers, and scientists, including Daniel Webster, Alexander Graham Bell, and Ralph Waldo Emerson came to speak in the building. Many activists in the abolitionist movement came to the Lyceum as well, such as William Lloyd Garrison. In December 1865, Frederick Douglass lectured in the hall on the assassination of President Lincoln. 
      The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society The hall was also used for meetings and lectures by the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, whose members included the noted African American abolitionists Charlotte Forten and Sarah Parker Remond. Charles Lenox Remond gave the Society’s anniversary address in 1844 and was frequently asked to speak as part of the Society’s ongoing lecture series.

       How I wish I had know that while we were in the building. Apparently we missed this plaque rushing to get in out of the cold.

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     It feels a tad ironic to me that the hall's original mission was to supplement those with incomplete educations and that the first lecture given there was entitled "The Advantages of Knowledge." 
       

Sunday, February 4, 2018

       Last weekend I was most fortunate to attend a meeting of Maine Women Authors #MeWA which is a group that gets together on a regular basis at varying locations. This meeting was memorable because of where it took place.
     Thanks to the efforts of a member, Professor Elizabeth  De Wolfe, we met at the Maine Women's Authors Collection wing of the library at the University of New England in Portland. We were given a tour of the collection, and it is beautiful and inspiring, as a place to visit briefly and a place to work for hours.
     Now added to my ever-expanding bucket list is to someday have my work included in the collection! For now it was heart-warming to see friends like Jane Cowen-Fletcher and Betsy Sholl on the shelves.
     Here is a mini-tour for you:

 The space, inside and outside, that houses the collection is beautiful.

 All genres of writing are represented in the collection.
 This gun belonged to author Josephine Peary, wife of Admiral Peary.

This table belonged to May Sarton.


 Sarah Orne Jewett.

 Old and new works, some rare, are preserved and protected.


 Just loved everything about the collection!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A new volunteer gig ...

       I started a new volunteer job this weekend. Not that I really have any spare time, but that has never been the criteria that I use when accepting volunteer positions. Volunteer work should be a labor of love, and this one is like a perfect storm of my interests, and if I may so so, a good use of my skills.

        For a couple of hours each week, I am working as a transcriptionist of the Anti-slavery Collection of Distinction at the Boston Public Library. I am one of a large team of volunteers that reads original documents, and types in a transcription which will eventually be made public for easy reading by anyone, anywhere..

      More details can be found here:

https://www.antislaverymanuscripts.org/about

     I think I need better eyeglasses!!


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Friday, January 5, 2018

WRAD


Sunday, December 24, 2017





https://archive.org/details/mountainmaidand00procgoog

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Rice Pudding Poetry


Award-Winning Poet David Rivard Featured in Rice Pudding Poetry Series

Poet David Rivard will be the featured poet in the upcoming Rice Pudding Poetry Series on Thursday evening, January 18. Together with a group of “community readers,” including Agnes Charlesworth, Tammi Truax, Alison Harville, Joan Beskenis, Alan Bing, and Lorna Perry, Rivard will read from his most recent collection of poems, Standoff, which has won the 2017 PEN/New England Award for Poetry. Guitarist Woody Allen will also perform.

Rivard is the author of five previous collections, including Wise Poison, winner of the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1996, and Torque, winner of the 1987 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. His poems and essays appear in the American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, Poetry London, and other magazines. In 2006, Rivard was awarded the Hardison Poetry Prize from the Folger Shakespeare Library, in recognition of both his writing and teaching. Among his other awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Civitella Ranieri, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. A former Poetry Editor at the Harvard Review, Rivard lives in Cambridge, with his wife and daughter, and teaches in the University of New Hampshire MFA Program in Writing.

The evening begins with live music, refreshments, and conversation at 6pm. The reading starts at 6:30pm. This event is free and open to the public, and seating in the upstairs library is limited. A book signing will follow the reading. Rice Public Library is located at 8 Wentworth Street in Kittery. Parking is available in the lots on either side of the Rice Building, or across the street in the Taylor Building lot. Call (207) 439-1553 for more information.



Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Poetry Salon

     Last weekend I served as facilitator at a poetry salon. I know all of the poets who were expected to attend, and they are an accomplished lot, so I put a lot of thought into what to do with them. Since December was underway I thought about the significance of the time of year for all people everywhere now and throughout history. The importance of the season is something that we all share, a mark of our humanity. It occurred to me that ekphrastic poetry is the same, and so that became the theme of the salon. 
         As an introduction I initiated a discussion of a collaboration that I find simply fascinating; Allen Ginsburg and Paul Cezanne, and I read his poem below, and shared how Ginsberg said that studying Cezanne's paintings had great influence on his HOWL. The poem and a good analysis are here:               https://ekphrasisanalysis.weebly.com/cezannesports.html

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What's it Like to be You
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Mommy? .... Mommy, tell her to go away.
      Mother of sorrows, I think of you now and may have at the hour of your awakening.
Hunger, how is it you followed me this far from home
      I would like to hear you voice.
We've had so little, and our bodies no longer groan.
      And where did your buttons go?
How did I get here
      Mommy, make them go.
and how do I get out?
       Somewhere, oh somewhere, there lies an answer to my prayer.

      As promised here are a couple of links about ekphrastic writing opportunities:

http://mainewriters.org/programs/artword-ekphrasis-at-the-pma/

http://www.ekphrasisjournal.com/




Friday, November 24, 2017

Call for Submissions



      I've always been enamored with Rumi, and love his poem This Being Human. I know that I am not alone in loving that poem and that many people have been helped by reading it. Yet when I hear it I often find myself inspired by just the title, and my monkey mind goes swinging off in another direction. This morning I succumbed to that inspiration and wrote the poem that actually came to me on my yoga mat yesterday. It later occurred to me that I would love to read more of these, poems written from the prompt of those three words, This Being Human.

     So let's do it! I will organize, edit, and seek a publisher if we compile enough poems for a volume. Your submission can be emailed to me at T4tu@comcast.net.

     Here is the original, though there is no need to stick to Rumi's interpretation of This Being Human. I want to read yours.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Updated bio

     I am updating my bio and setting up an Amazon author page (which is proving to be fairly challenging) but thought I should share it here as well.


      By day Tammi works with fourth grade readers and writers and as a Connections program facilitator for the NH Humanities Council teaching new adult readers, and at home, writes stories. All of her work is about sharing her love of stories with others, especially in sharing stories that tell truths previously buried. She has lived and worked in New Hampshire, Maine and Germany, and has taught in a variety of nontraditional settings from preschool to prison. In 2008, with NH poet Kyle Potvin, Tammi founded the non-profit The Prickly Pear Poetry Project: Processing the Cancer Experience Through Poetry.
      Children’s literature is a lifelong passion and she has several picture books ready for a publisher. She is currently working on two works of heavily-researched historical fiction; a middle-grade novel-in-verse (ready for publication) and an adult novel, still being revised. A volume of her poetry (also about history) is due out in Feb. 2018 by Hobblebush Books. Her work can be found in several journals, newspapers, magazines, and online, including at The Huffington Post. In 2014 she was the first winner of The Provenance Prize for creative short fiction, and has been awarded stays at several prominent writing retreats. In 2015 and 2016 Tammi was awarded the Buffler Poetry Residency at Portsmouth (NH) High School. She was recently selected to be the Maine Beat Poet Laureate for 2018-2020. Tammi is a member of many writing and historical associations. She writes from a cottage in southern Maine, and is seeking representation for her work.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Found Poem

https://thefemlitmag.com/say-her-name-by-tammi-truax-c6b5102682d6

Thursday, October 19, 2017

MWPA



MWPA_white_200


I am pleased to be a member of the MWPA. Learn more at (http://mainewriters.org) .    

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Banned Book Week


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https://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2016/sep/26/banned-books-week-2016-the-10-most-challenged-titles-in-pictures

Friday, September 8, 2017

Looking forward to this!


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Working with Marilyn Nelson

      This week, as the grand finale of my much too brief summer vacation, I took a little road trip up to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to attend a couple of workshops taught by Marilyn Nelson. She is one of my favorite author / poets and I had never met her so was really looking forward to the day.


       She first read to us, poems by four poets and had us attend to particular words that stuck with us while she did. I especially enjoyed learning about YA artist Curtis Crisler's Tough Boy Sonatas.
        During our writing time she asked us to "think about the US at this moment" and then challenged us to write golden shovels using some of the words we'd attended to during the readings. I had tried writing golden shovels before with little success, and I'm not sure I did any better this time but I include my attempts below.

     If you are not familiar with the golden shovel form, a type of found poetry created by Terrance Hayes, here is a link to a full introduction:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/92023/introduction-586e948ad9af8

       I took this photo in the church, of the altar behind Marilyn, which I found so well suited to the mood of the poems we were working. (Created by a VT fiber artist, name unknown to me.)


Golden Shovels for Our America


    We survive so many yesterdays
gleeful or garbage
addiction ripening
holy blood in
your syringe, my syringe, pass the
spoon down the shit-hole hall.


I smile though grayed
dazzle in
flying and
wonder white bread gray
my dream
survives, makes
me pause just for a
minute, I become giddy
my poem the sound
I am not
supposed to make, turns strong.


                                I wonder will I?
                        I wonder if we shall?
                            Can we just create
                              a better ending if
                        we try harder, try not
                                          to make a
      joke of our freedom, a foot note
in a democracy that devolved into a
                                         shit - hole.

With this last one I excused myself from using words from the prompt poems to see what would result.

So many yesterdays
      accumulate like garbage;
            old apples ripening,
                    having fallen in
                          the shade, decomposing in the
dirt, uncherished, while a wooden bowl sits empty in the hall.




 
             Thanks to Marilyn, Arts on the Edge
and  Rev. Gina at The First Congregational Church for a wonderful experience. The following photos are from other stops made that day; a quick swim and feeding dinner to a duck out of my hand at the lake, a pullover at the Governor Wentworth summer house site (he's featured in my book https://www.amazon.com/Poets-Tale-Lady-Wentworth-Illustrated-ebook/dp/B00G6R06IC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503844701&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Poets+Tale+lady ).


 I saw poetry prompts all over town!






Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Snippet I Snipped

    It is so hard to kill one's darlings, and the following snippet was one of mine. Instead of obliterating it into oblivion I find I can better cope with cutting it if I can paste it here. So from my historical novel in progress I leave this, just now knocked off the edge of my machete. For those of you following along the deceased is Ona's young son Will.




Friday, July 21, 2017

On Go Set a Watchman



     I don't as a rule review books, and this post will not be a book review as much as a sharing of my thoughts about the publishing of Go Set a Watchman.

     I resisted reading it for a long time. Then a few Saturdays ago I found a copy in the swap shop at my town dump. I brought it home and read it. It did not break my heart as I'd  heard happened to other readers. At least it didn't for the reason I'd heard it was breaking hearts across America, due to Atticus's fall from grace. To Kill a Mockingbird is, always will be, one of my favorite books, but I never saw Atticus as an infallible man. I knew we were seeing him through a little girl's eyes.

     The same girl when grown, Jean Louise, sees him more realistically. I didn't find much there to be shocking. I'm sure she wrote quite realistically of race relations in Alabama at that time. Less believable to me was the idea that she, grown-up Scout, was so pure of racist beliefs or even awareness and that her new home, New York City, was somehow responsible and so much better.

      But none of that matters. Not at all. Because we should not be reading this book. It is so clear when you are reading it that it is a draft, an early draft of Mockingbird. That is what writers do, we hash out stories on paper, wrestling with them while we wrestle with ourselves, figuring out how to tell a story while we figure out how the story connects to who and what we are. And no writers early drafts should be shared without permission. It was wrong to publish this book, at least in this format, presenting it as a finished novel. As a manuscript published for academic purposes, especially about how a novel can change so much with relentless revision, it certainly is instructive.

     This publication, and the way it was released, was grossly unfair to Harper Lee.

      When I am touched by a book, when it connects with me in any meaningful way, I give it a place in my home and am unlikely to ever part with it.

     Tomorrow I will set Go Set a Watchman back in the swap shop at the town dump. I think that is what Lee would want me to do. Scout too.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

With thanks

I really appreciate the 10 Minute Writer's Workshop at NHPR.

http://nhpr.org/post/10-minute-writers-workshop-jonathan-safran-foer#stream/0

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Going nuts about Nutshell



     I need to talk about Nutshell.

     I recently finished reading Ian McEwan's Nutshell, his 17th novel (I believe) and I suppose I have no business questioning the man's writing but that is exactly what I am going to do.

     First, let me say I loved the book. And I loved it from the first sentence, "So here I am, upside down in a woman." It is brilliant. Everything about the book is brilliant.

     But the whole time I was reading it I struggled with the point of view. By that, I most definitely do not mean that the PoV is that of a fetus. I did not struggle with that and see it as the reason for much of the brilliance.

     Nor am I referring to the fetus's ability to talk, think, reason, or imagine. I accept all of that as brilliant too.

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      No, I struggled with the first person PoV of the fetus only because it seemed inconsistent to me, so here I ask for your help. Was I wrong in that? I felt like it fluctuated and did so frequently from first to omniscient. It made me pause many times in my reading. Now I grant you that the average reader wouldn't have had as much trouble with that as I did, say a person who isn't spending a good two hours per day wrestling like a WWF star with PoV in her own novel, (or someone who hasn't taught prenatal development at the college level) but it gave me a lot of trouble.

     Early on I decided to accept anything the narrator could have heard no matter how implausible (the flip of a notebook page), and only question that which could not be heard, thus the narrator could not have known of it. I also let go everything the baby could have known, even temporal knowledge, by way of his mother experiencing it. Even with those allowances, I examined how the fetus could have knowledge of a great many things. Some just seemed impossible to me. A few of these might have been OK to slip in when absolutely necessary, (is it?) but I felt there were far too many. The editor I am currently working with would not let me get away with that for even one paragraph! There were so many of these that I began to question myself. Was I getting something wrong? What say you?

     A few examples are:

Speaking of his uncle on page 111: "Now he feels like getting up. It's 6 p.m., he notes. Enlivened, he stands, stretches his arms athletically with a creak of bone and gristle, ..."

Again on page 117: "Now he's at her side, sharing the view, trying to find her hand."

On page 144 going on at length about a social media site giving us seventy-one gender options.

On page 158 again of Claude: "He knows he must be kind. But kindness without desire, without promise of erotic reward, is difficult for him. The strain is in his throat."

    Well, you get the idea. Am I being overly critical? Can a writer be inconsistent in PoV? Or am I nuts?




     

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

End-of-year Review

      Enjoying three days off upon completion of a new job in the elementary school that my daughter attended a few years back, a school I have always been fond of. It was a very rewarding year in many ways, namely, I got to do the kind of work I love to do. My title was "site coordinator" but most of my time and energy went into planning and teaching after school enrichment clubs for children in grades K to 5, that are meant to reinforce what the teachers are doing all day in fun and unusual ways, and to prevent academic failure, especially in literacy. A perfect fit for me really. I never became a traditional classroom teacher because I can't stand the constraints of rules and regulations and need to have a fair amount of freedom to respond to what the students at hand most need. This year I was able to do just that.

     Not all of my clubs were literacy focused, though I work literacy into every one. Even when I teach children's yoga, I work literacy into the lesson. But many of them were all about books; The Eric Carle Book Club was a blast, The Pete the Cat Club was a big hit, as was the Beatrix Potter Book Club. For the older grades, I taught a Graphic Novel Club, a Playing with Poetry Club, and a BFG club where we put on a play at the end.


  Digital literacy is important too, and I introduced official author apps in my book clubs as an optional activity. These kids are trying the Eric Carle apps.
 A tea party in the Beatrix Potter Book Club was really a literacy / math activity.


       This pic was taken in a science club I taught that was all about elephants, but we did lots of literacy stuff as well.

      One of the first clubs I taught last fall was a Cursive Handwriting Club for grades 3 to 5. I think penmanship is an excellent enrichment program when schools have trouble fitting into the school day. I encouraged all of my students to enter the national competition and trained them for it. Only one of my kids wanted to go the distance. She practiced and gave me her best effort, and I sent her entry in. To my delight, she won the New Hampshire competition and her entry was forwarded on to nationals. Here she is receiving the award at the end-of-year assembly.



      In her winning entry she wrote, "It helps me be a better writer because cursive helps me learn how to write words in a fun way. It helps me be a better reader because when I write in cursive I see words ..."















   In addition to designing and teaching clubs, some of the other initiatives for literacy I took this year were to bring in the first after school author-in-residence, Terry Farish,
and to oversee an optional 25-minute silent reading session every day that turned out to be quite popular with a large group of children that really need some silent, downtime.
     Another addition I made was to end each day by reading aloud to the children, no matter their age. The reasons for that could fill an entire blog post!

      One more: early on in the year, I saw that the early release day programming, (when we have the children for an extended period of time), needed work. I decided that the only way I could endorse movie watching (which the kids enjoy and it does give them a nice change of pace) was if we made it literacy based. I curated a series of movies for the year that were all movies adapted from books, such as Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. The movies were preceded by a book talk about the author and his/her work, and followed up by fun activities related to the story. Big kids had to write a film review. These two pics were taken the day they watched Paddington.


     There were lots of Paddington books to check out, including an antique first edition.
      Kids were encouraged to bring their own favorite bear to watch the movie with and then made name tags for them.








      I loved doing this work. Getting kids excited about books and authors, about reading and writing, and sharing my love for books with them is important work, and there isn't much I'd rather be doing. But I'm not sure I'll be doing it next year.       There are a whole host of reasons why I'm unsure; the job is changing and I'm not sure what it is changing into, the grant that funds the program is on Trump's hit list for complete elimination, and coming sooner, I've been informed I am likely to lose my ACA health care. I may be forced to find a job with benefits (I currently get absolutely none contrary to what Kellyann Conway says). I wonder how society is better served by me bagging groceries instead of working with at-risk students?

     I'll keep pondering it, but in the morning I am off to head up summer camp enrichment programming. I'll keep at it as long as I can ...

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Littlest Poets

     I have been working with the littlest poets, children of all ages, for more years than I care to calculate, but it is something that I truly love to do. From reading Mother Goose rhymes to babies all the way up to reading (and now writing) novels in verse to big kids. In this post, I'd like to share some of my most recent work teaching an after school enrichment club to children in grades 3 to 5 that I called Playing with Poetry.

      I called it that because that is exactly what I aimed to have the children do if for no other reason than I wanted them to know that poetry is not boring, and that creating a poem is something that everyone can do. My objective though was not to have them write poems but to make them laugh. I really didn't want to hear poems, I wanted to hear giggles because of poems. That isn't at all hard to do.

     We started each session with a read-around (passing allowed for those that prefer listening) from anthologies of the funniest poets for children I could find, relying heavily on Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. We passed around one book and read the poem that was opened to at random. It gets them giggling while the sound of poetry settles on them.

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     Then each week we would try a fun way of creating a poem. The first week was what we called
Twisty-Turny poems inspired by Prelutsky. They took to it as naturally as I thought they would. Below is one child's very first attempt.

     Another week was rebus poems mixing symbols with words. The following week was devoted to Book Spine poetry which is a way of playing with poetry that many adults enjoy (just google it if you haven't played yourself.) Kids, I think, enjoy it more because it gets them up and moving around and talking and they like documenting things digitally. Here are a couple of examples from that day.



      Then I introduced an old favorite of mine that I have done with children as young as age four as well as new adult readers. It always, without exception, produces results that are impressive to me, but more importantly, make the creator feel creative. I call it cut-up collage poetry. It is easy to tell how much they like it when they ask if they can do another, and maybe just one more... I ensure success by doing most of the cutting myself and sharing an abundance of words and phrases for the poet to choose from that are likely to lend themselves well to poetic expression. It results in poems that are also visual works of art. Here are some pics:





     They also spent some club time playing at http://www.shelsilverstein.com/fun/ because there are lots of fun things to do at the site. A little something for everyone.

     While we are on the subject of children and poetry I'd like to encourage you to check out the work of a few of my friends at I Care Foundation and find a way to participate and play with poetry.