January 11, 2012

Greetings from Mt. San Angelo

Hiya. So I'm on my second full day at Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and while I'll be laying low on the internet in order to work for the rest of the month, I did want to check in.  It's wonderful to be back; it feels like home. 

Outside snapshots will have to wait for a sunnier day, but step inside my studio. I'm in W6, which has been home to many other writers I admire--Richard McCann, Melissa Stein, Leslie Pietrzyk, Eduardo C. Corral, and Meg Kearney (before we go, we sign our names and dates of residency on a paddle by the door). The VCCA staff calls this the "sunken living room" studio--it has a unusual faux foyer--and because I face the main road, I get to see everyone come and go. 

Because the furnishings tend to be a bit ratty and the decor spartan, it's a priority to make it feel like home. This time around my inspiration table holds books of art by Anselm Kiefer, Kara Walker, and Hiroshi Sugimoto; a big beautiful portfolio of photographs called Mississippi: State of Blues; and the graphic novel Cuba: My Revolution, by Inverna Lockpez and my friend Dean Haspiel. The erasure on the windowsill was handmade for me by the poet Hailey Leithauser. I bought that cut-glass decanter at a rusted-out yard sale in Johnstown when I went to my very first art colony, Vermont Studio Center. There is a hunk of coral beside it I picked up when staying in Miami with the LegalArt crew. And the wall is festooned with Penguin book cover postcards (the novelist Dylan Landis gave me a whole box of them for my birthday) and an amazing concert poster designed and screened by DC artist Anthony Dihle. 

And yes, if you look close you can spy horses through my window. They spend all day nuzzling each other. Except when they're kicking at each other.

A critical advantage of coming to an art colony within driving distance is that I can pack all kinds of stuff--including a printer. Having a printer comes in handy...

...when you're push-pinning your entire poetry manuscript (or what exists of it so far) to the wall. It's the best way to explore different sequences, recognize patterns--not just thematic ones but style of last line, shapes on the page--and understand the book as a whole. Plus I like the way the pages flutter when a breeze comes into the room.

Today's late lunch was turkey & mushroom fricasse (leftovers from last night's dinner) ladled over chopped greens. I'm lucky: the chef right now is an integrative nutritionist who cooks with olive oil 99% of the time. People ask what accommodations I request at colonies, and the answer is "the bare minimum." The key for me is clear, reliable information on how something is prepared. If I can eat it, I do; if not, I get a cup of tea and eat back in my room from the supplies I brought. No grumping. No demands. In a crowd of people I'm just getting to know, I don't want every meal to kick off with an explanation of my allergies. I'm here to talk poems. And write a few as well. 


Annette Gendler said...

I am JEALOUS! Please say hi to VCCA for me! It's pretty much exactly 2 years ago that we were there together - that place is truly a slice of heaven. Savor your good fortune!

Sandra said...

Thanks, Annette! I feel really lucky to be back here. This is my third January visit.

Bohemian51 said...

I hope you have a great stay at VCCA! I love how you pin your work to the wall to blow in the breeze. Now that's poetry!

Diane Lockward said...

i like the idea of an "inspiration table."

Obsession Literary Magazine said...

Do you feel that writing from a locale that you know other authors have resided within more inspires you or creates expectations that you feel you have to meet? Either way, it seems the scenery will definitely serve to inspire some fantastic work!