It was the most intensive residency application I have ever seen. Two letters of reference to be sent directly to the foundation. An essay outlining my thoughts on the significance of at least two different pieces by the artist whose last home is where the residency takes place. A long questionnaire and several warnings that I would have to be totally unplugged for the duration of my stay, if awarded. Well, today I was awarded the residency at The Lake, the final residence of legendary NW artist Morris Graves in Loleta, California.
As I look back at the application, there was a six point questionnaire and I answered this as I have answered all residency and grant applications. I was completely honest and open about my own process. I have received many grants for my work with SPLAB, very few for my own writing, but for some reason, the administrators of the Morris Graves Foundation seemed to appreciate my comments. Here is a bit from my questionnaire:
5 & 6) Further thoughts on Personal Philosophies, &c. & How I learned about the Retreat Opportunity: I think my friend Sam Hamill told me about The Lake and the Woodside Braseth Gallery website had some basic retreat information. As for #5, I have written extensively about the Organic approach in poetry. I think I have outlined here how I see the work of Morris Graves reaching a level beyond the self, allied in spirit with Robin Blaser’s Practice of Outside. The levels reachable by transcending self are much more energetic than those available by staying within the heart and mind and certainly beyond the ego.
But there is an interesting anecdote about the process of composing this application. While I had gathered my materials on Morris Graves in preparation for sitting down and writing this, I had a Morris Berman book at my bedside, The Twilight of American Culture. On one or two evenings I wondered why I was reading this book when my work required that I more fully immerse myself in materials on Mr. Graves rather than this apparent sidebar. Well, lo and behold, there appeared a passage from Mr. Berman on one way in which we may get through the inevitable dissolution of the American empire and to a more just and sustainable existence, something that turned out to be quite relevant.
Mr. Berman has a chapter in the book entitled: “The Monastic Option in the Twenty-First Century.” He writes:
I have argued that we are in the grip of structural forces that are the culmination of a certain historical process, so a major change is not likely to be quick or dramatic; but individual shifts in lifeways and values may just possibly act as a wedge that would serve as counterweight to the world of schlock, ignorance, social inequality, and mass consumerism that now defines the American landscape. At the very least these “new monks” or native expatriates, as one might call them, could provide a kind of record of authentic ways of living that could be preserved and handed down, to resurface later on, during healthier times… we are drowning in information; hence, what is required is that it be embodied, preserved through ways of living. If this can get passed down, our cultural heritage may well serve as a seed for a subsequent renaissance.
Mr. Berman then quotes Basho:
Journeying through the world
To and Fro, to and fro
Cultivating a small field.
It is my own small field I wish to cultivate more deeply and it is apparent that a stay at The Lake would enhance that, in my view. As an author I interviewed said years ago, “if you do not see auras and wish to, hang out with people who do.” I wish to deepen my own artistic gesture and feel there may be no other place in Cascadia better than The Lake in which to do it.
Here is part of the acceptance letter:
From your application. we are pleased to learn about your creative life, and are inspired by the passion and joy of your work samples. Your contemplative approach to your creative goals and specific interest in Mr. Graves archives, your proposed activities and schedule, and your interest in our offer to experience the unique environs of Mr. Graves’ final home are appropriate for a private retreat at the Morris Graves Foundation. Thus, we are please to support your desire to be immersed in the quietude of this very special place by offering you an artist’s residency from November 1 to 12, 2013 in Mr. Graves’ personal painting studio.
You can read more about the Lake in this Seattle Times article from 2001: http://seattletimes.com/pacificnw/2001/1209/cover.html
My residency will happen in late 2013 and I will be working on Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia. Loleta is in extreme Southern Cascadia, so once accomplished, I want to visit the northern realm and the east in the years to come. I can see working on Cascadia poems for a long time.