Poet Michael Collier grew up in Arizona, but he hadn't lived there for a while when he wrote "At the End of a Ninetieth Summer." His father was celebrating his 90th birthday, but Collier couldn't return to his home state to participate.
"I felt sort of disconsolate that I couldn't be there for it and give him my love and wish him well. So I created a moment that I imagine must have happened knowing where the gathering was and who the people were."
Collier writes poems about moments. During a conversation with Art Beat, Collier explained the importance of looking closely and "(describing) it as accurately as possible, because if you can do that, sometimes what happens is you kind of pass through the surface of the scene to get to something behind it."
While the scene in "At the End of a Ninetieth Summer" is fictional, Collier still captures careful details. The "robot vacuum" for example is "coming out and spraying water and breaking the stillness of the moment. It doesn't have a particular meaning, but it seemed to have a huge symbolic meaning."
At the End of a Ninetieth Summer
They drink their cocktails in the calm manner
Carlos Santana remembers Nelson Mandela during an interview Friday with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown at the Smithsonian Museum for African Art.
Carlos Santana is about to head on a tour of Africa, but before he does, he will join Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine and Martina Arroyo as 2013 Kennedy Center honorees. Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown spoke with Santana before Sunday's ceremony.
During their conversation, Santana reflected on the recent news of Nelson Mandela's passing and on what Mandela meant to him. "I'll always remember his supreme elegance and conviction."
For more of the conversation with Santana, watch Monday's broadcast of the PBS NewsHour. Tune in at 6 p.m. EST on our Ustream channel to live stream the show or check your local PBS station's schedule.
To explain the relationship between aria and variation in J.S. Bach's "Goldberg Variations," classical pianist Jeremy Denk likens the work to jazz. He describes the "Variations" as "the largest, most complex jazz riff in the history of music, maybe ... where you take the harmonies underneath a tune and then you improvise over them."
Denk released his recording of the "Goldberg Variations" in September, the same month he received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. The "genius grant" awards an unrestricted $625,000 for creative individuals to "follow their own creative vision."
Denk doesn't know what he is going to do with the money just yet, but he may invest it in a particular passion of his: creating conversations to illuminate the classical music he plays. His blog, Think Denk: The Glamorous Life and Thoughts of a Concert Pianist, is one place where he does just that.» Continue reading
Stephanie Sinclair photographed Nujood Ali, who stunned the world in 2008 by obtaining a divorce at age ten in Yemen, striking a blow against forced marriage.
Amy Toensing is a born storyteller. The photojournalist has traveled the world to find her subjects: from a cave dwelling tribe in Papua New Guinea to sunbathers on the Jersey shore. Her photos are revealing and honest, a testament to her skill. "Being intimate with your subjects ... bearing witness to their lives is everything for telling a powerful story," she told the NewsHour.
Toensing is one of 11 women whose work is on display at the National Geographic Society's "Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment." The exhibit showcases the work of female artists spanning generations as part of the Society's 125th anniversary celebration.
The subjects these women tackle are wide-ranging. From Prostitutes on a street in Mumbai to four sisters sleeping on a Sunday afternoon in Florida or a young leopard leaping through the grass, there seems to be nothing that these women shy away from.» Continue reading
Though many Americans know him through his columns for The Atlantic and the New York Review of Books, Clive James inhabits a much larger, more diverse role in British culture. This man of letters is a journalist, a cultural critic, a TV personality and an author of poems and novels.
An Australian by birth, James has lived in England since 1961. He has written five books of "unreliable" memoirs, and has several volumes of essays, including his most recently published, "Cultural Amnesia." His translation of Dante's "The Divine Comedy" was also published this year.
Reports circulated last year that the writer was "getting near the end." James, at 74 years old, has serious, life-threatening health concerns. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and then with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or onset emphysema. He can no longer fly and he is restricted by his physical limitations. But he keeps writing, with his sickness a source for new subject matter.
James' latest collection of poems, "Nefertiti in the Flak Tower," was published in the U.S. in October 2013.
Clive James recently talked to Art Beat by phone. This excerpt has been lightly edited for length.
ART BEAT: From where are you speaking?
CLIVE JAMES: I'm speaking to you from my house in Cambridge, England. And it's a cold day. This is a house full of my books and probably this is as far as I will get, since I have been quite, quite sick lately.
But if I make it through this winter, I plan to get some more writing done. I don't think I've got a big poem like Dante to translate, but I might pull out a few surprises yet.» Continue reading
James McBride talks to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about interpreting the structures of slavery in his new book "The Good Lord Bird."
"I had to create something that would allow people room to laugh at things they can't really talk about easily," said author James McBride about his new book "The Good Lord Bird, set in pre-Civil War Kansas. "And that's really the point of it, to give people space to laugh at everyone so they can see some of the truths inside these historical facts."
"The Good Lord Bird" is the winner of this year's National Book Award in fiction. It follows the battles between "slave state and free-state" forces in 1858, particularly the struggle of abolitionist John Brown. But the story isn't your typical tale of slavery.
McBride chose to narrate the book through the perspective of Henry Shackleford, a young slave boy whose master gets in an altercation with Brown, who mistakes Henry for Henrietta. Passing as a young girl, Henry dons a dress and bonnet to survive and trails Brown's crew through the historic raid on Harpers Ferry two years later.
The book is written in vernacular, or as McBride calls it "that hee-haw chit chat."
"I love that old country talk. We still have a lot of Americans who talk like that, black and white ... a lot of the old men in my family talk like that and I always wanted to put that in a narrative."
"The Good Lord Bird" is McBride's third novel. He is also the author of the bestselling memoir "The Color of Water: a Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother" and a touring saxophonist and song writer.
Above, you can watch the James McBride's conversation with chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown for the broadcast.
Spencer Michels looks on as a cameraman shoots the artworks hanging at the exhibit "David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition" at San Francisco's de Young Museum while. Photo by Cat Wise/PBS NewsHour
You may get a jolt when you enter David Hockney's new "bigger" exhibition at San Francisco's de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I did. There's something welcoming and inviting about this huge display of nearly 400 of his recent works, something that says "come on in and look around." It's not even subtle.
Hockney, now 76 years old, is not a mysterious artist; what you see is what you get. And, perhaps a bit like Van Gogh, almost anybody can relate to his work. But that hasn't diminished his stature.
A museum-goer walks past Hockney's work "Under the Trees" (2010). Photo by Cat Wise
Art critics often tend to complicate what they see, and over-interpret the works they are expounding. And maybe that's what good criticism is: connecting the artist with the past, finding things that the rest of us can't see. For example, Hockney acknowledged to the critic for the San Francisco Chronicle that he has been influenced by Chinese artists, who, the critic explained, find "graphic equivalents not only for physical detail but for the changing play of light and shade across shifts in weather and time of day." That's pretty complicated stuff that certainly wasn't apparent to me while soaking in the vast profusion of representational form and color that make up this exhibit. » Continue reading
In May of 1891, photographer Samuel Murray accompanied the New York sculptor William O'Donovan to Walt Whitman's home in Camden, N.J., Murray photographed Whitman as an aid to O'Donovan's sculpting the poet: "they took hell's times in all sorts of polishes," Whitman groused, but he was excited about this profile portrait, admiring its "audacity" and its "breadth and beauty both," calling it "an artist's picture in the best sense." Photo by Samuel Murray/Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution
Clive James wrote his poem, "Whitman and the Moth" during a 10-day stint at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital. In 2010, James was diagnosed with leukemia and already battling terminal emphysema. His friend, Canadian writer Adam Gopnik, brought him books to pass the time in the hospital. One of those was "The Times of Melville and Whitman" by American literary critic Van Wyck Brooks.
"(Van Wyck Brooks) said this wonderful thing," James recounted in a recent phone interview with Art Beat, "that Whitman had spent his last few weeks on Earth, his last time as it were, sitting beside a pond wearing nothing but his hat."
"The idea struck me so much that I wrote a poem about it right there in the hospital."
Read Art Beat's interview with Clive James on his latest collection of poetry and why his 'last time on earth' has been a wellspring of new subject matter.
» Continue reading
Architects, engineers, designers and students build their structures for the 17th annual Canstruction competition in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Photo by Tidewater Community College
Every year in more than 150 cities throughout the globe, architects, engineers, designers and students face off to fight hunger through an annual competition known as Canstruction. The "delicious" rivalry results in 10-foot sculptures built almost entirely of canned foods and then judged in categories including "Structural Ingenuity," "Best Use of Labels," and "Best Meal."
After the creations have been on display for a few days, they are carefully dismantled and all of the canned goods -- upwards of 30,000 pounds of food from a single competition event -- are donated to local food banks and pantries. Worldwide, last year's Canstructions brought in more than 3.4 million pounds. The goal this year is 4 million.
Snapshots of winners from the local competitions are shipped to the American Institute of Architects' national convention, where they will be judged for international bragging rights next year.
Art Beat recently visited the Selden Arcade in Norfolk, Va., to profile the 17th annual Hampton Roads Canstruction. Watch Jeffrey Brown's full report here:
Now it's your turn to do a little judging. To which of this year's Norfolk Canstructions would you give top marks? Check out the images and then vote in our poll below.» Continue reading
Poet Brenda Hillman talks to chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown about her new collection, "Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire," her connection to the elements, and her understanding of social justice and being an activist.
"I'm in love with the alphabet as a set of meanings that you can make anything of," says poet Brenda Hillman, a professor at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, Calif.
Her new collection, "Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire," is the last in a series of four books that showcase Hillman's exploration of the elements: earth, air, water, fire. She attributes that recurring theme -- one she has explored for 20 years -- to her deep connection to nature.
How are the different elements invoked in her poems? In this collection, Hillman explains that she came at it from multiple angles. "I kept fire in mind, but the fire could be political, it could a symbolic kind of relationship to fire and language, it could be passion, it would be the word 'fire' itself, which I sort of take apart in a few of the poems, letting the letters of the word 'fire' come apart."» Continue reading
Search this Blog
About Art Beat
Art Beat is the arts blog of the PBS NewsHour. Questions or comments? Email us at email@example.com.
SIGN UP FOR E-MAIL ALERTS:
Best of the Beat
Lesson plans, student voices and a teacher community devoted to bringing arts coverage into the classroom.
|Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour...Become a member of your local PBS station.|