Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reflections of Studio in the Woods

In May of 2010, I went on a field writing seminar to Louisiana. I have been thinking about the trip as of late because it's been almost exactly two years since I was there, and one of my co-worker's, Matt Decker, (check out his travel blog here: is on a road trip with his father, and his posts reminded me of my time down south.
As part of the travel writing seminar, the group kept daily journals. I recently pulled mine off the shelf and found myself reflecting on notes that I took at A Studio in the Woods in New Orleans. Some of my notes from the trip made it into several essays and poems, but some of what I jotted down stayed just as is: notes in a journal. I thought I'd share my notes/ journal scribblings from my day at Studio in the Woods here, not to allow them to take on another form, but simply to transcribe and to share my experience.
We were in a young forest that used to be a sugar cane plantation in the 1800's. Forests sometimes mature between 200-500 years. Our guide, David Baker, led us on a nature walk and he explained how the owners of Studio in the Woods were told they needed to eradicate the invasive plants, specifically the Chinese Privat Plant, the plant is like a shrub. Invasive species decrease growth rates of other plants... he explained how Hurricane Katrina, when removed from a sociological perspective will be good for nature as forests adapt to the category 3 (and above) storms in 20-25 years-- Katrina defoliated the canopy and broke it up.
(An Illustration from AD: New Orleans After the Deluge... a wonderful Graphic Novel by Josh Neufeld) The Hurricane flooded the city, not man, because the winds broke the levee, not men. Though others argue that it was the builder's fault. By focusing on the sociological perspective of Katrina, we overlooked the ecological perspective of the importance of the storm. When big trees go down in a storm, the canopy is removed and the trees are competitive. When the canopy is closed, the trees don't grow, they just hang out.
After our walk, we sat with Louisiana Poet Laurette, Darrell Bourque, and listened to him give a talk and a writing workshop. We listened to music by Dr. Michael White, a jazz musician and intellectual, who composed a song while at Studio in the Woods, he played music and the birds responded to the music, which helped him to compose "Dictation from God." I couldn't find the song online, but here is a taste of Dr. Michael White's Music. While sitting outdoors, surrounded by nature, Bourque asked us to consider Inscape---> What does it mean? What happens on the inside? Search for it in poetry, he said. More notes from his talk: Art & Science are related to one another: we are fated to be hardwired OR we are constantly in flux (ourselves, our cells, are telling us to be a bird or snake or something we are not).
(Picture by: Rosie Music) Poems are between imagining and analyzing. Locate a story and piece in the world you know (language that can be held onto)---> later it has to become more than language---> it has to live. Always look for divergence in your written work, move from the experiential world into the intelligences--->find whether you fly or slither. A meditation on death: How do you paint nothing? Paint life.

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