Boston Writing Marathon

This marathon took place at the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project in Boston on Nov. 22, 2013.  Our big group of eight turned out to be perfect for wandering and writing in the two large, gorgeous spaces we visited: Central Library and Trinity Church.  It was a special marathon for me, since I got to write in a group with 1) my Marathon Guru, Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project Director Richard Louth, who invented the writing marathon, 2) my Marathon Mamma, Dakota Writing Project Director Michelle Rogge-Gannon, who took me on my first writing marathon ever back in 2006,  and  3) Tom Pankiewicz, a long-time writing marathon fan and the former Director and founding Co-Director of the Prairie Lands Writing Project, my new NWP home.  We were joined by several new writer friends who helped us find our way, both geographically and metaphorically.

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Bates Hall Reading Room, Central Library, Copley Square, 10:47 a.m.

This is a Library from Story and Legend. Amazing contrast between where we were—the Boston Convention Center—and where we are now.  The physical and mental shifts disrupts my usual presentation-day conference panic, bringing blessed refuge on a rainy day in Boston.

We’ve wandered into the Bates Hall Reading Room where the classic green lamps line up in comforting rows.  Long wooden tables stretch out like pews underneath a soaring, vaulted ceiling.  This stunning, hushed space is ruled by an unspoken covenant, pulling on the medieval authority of wood, stone, and brass.

Everyone here within my view has a laptop except for Richard and me, plus one lone woman three tables down, reading and writing notes and catching my weird marathon glance over her spectacles.

A security guard walks through, slowly, like a Zen meditation master.

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I cannot ignore the signs before me, propped up in little plastic stands between the green lamps.  “Be alert ,” they read in large, worried letters.  “Please do not leave personal items unattended, even when photocopying, requesting materials, or making a phone call.”

Be alert, indeed.

Un-alert, we nearly left my writing marathon guru behind in the awful Sheraton lobby.  We left a phone message with a rendezvous point and hoped for the best.

Nothing like a little snag to get the writing blood flowing, to make the unfolding of new space all the more magical when we emerged, all eight, together, into this Temple of Words, newly alert.

Alert and grateful.  We would not be here without each other, in good and ambling company.

We would not be here now, glancing at our watches, alert to the deadline driving our writing toward our regroup-and-share time.

Oh, my dear group of writers, thank you for your  patience and for your warm writer smiles, traded ever more silently as we moved deeper and deeper into the library’s heart.

Other groups had passed us earlier on the sidewalk, clogged briefly with writers emerging onto Boylston Street and heading to Copley Square. Before that, NWP friend Troy Hicks, had passed us in the corridor of the convention center, grinning and smiling. “Looks like a writing marathon,” he said.  I could tell that he wanted to come, too, but was clearly off to some conference obligation.

“It’s ok, brother,” I thought.  “We’ll write for you, too.”

Trinity Church, 11:15 a.m.

We’ve traded our tables for real pews now, having made our way to Trinity Church,  an important stop we nearly missed.  It had been so chilly in the damp but beautiful library courtyard that we’d been sorely tempted to take up Richard’s suggestion to sit by a warm fire and have a Guinness at the Irish pub just up the street.  But Micha reminded us that we were a mere block away from the church, a historic landmark, and so we moved on toward it in the drizzle.

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Another great reason why it’s good to be writing in a group.  Yesterday at the plenary session, the new acting president of the National Writing Project said, “We know more collectively because we learn together.”  She was talking about NWP, but it’s also true of writing marathons.  We know more collectively because we write together.  .

As we sit, more writers from other groups come into the church. They take their  places a few pews ahead of us and begin to write.  Writers at the back of the church.

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There should always be writers at the back of a church. Just in case.

Alert. Waiting. Listening. Recording.

Pens poised like antennae to receive the signal,

transmute it through ink–

the Word of the World,

transcribed unto itself.

Note: After I wrote this, a concert started in the church.  An all-female vocal ensemble called Lorelei performed, starting with a stunning piece that sounded like Gregorian Chant.  Their voices filled the space in a way that left me so awe-struck and moved to tears that I could no longer write.  It was a great gift, another testament to the magic of the writing marathon and the way it opens people to experience the world more fully and deeply so that they can share it through writing. 

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The Ultimate Word Nerd Road Trip: Advanced Writing Marathon in New Orleans

Last week I was blessed to finally be able to participate in the mother of all writing marathons, the Advanced Writing Marathon hosted by the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project every summer in New Orleans.  I was blown away by the writing, the city, and the hospitality of my fellow teacher-writers.  Here’s what I read at two successive read-alouds on July 12th and 13th in the gorgeous VIP suite of Le Richelieu, our home base and hotel in the French Quarter.

11:16 a.m.  Dry Dock Café in Algiers

On the Canal St.-Algiers ferry, crossing the Mississippi.

We’ve just crossed the Mississippi River on the Canal Street-Algiers ferry, a trip I’ve been wanting to take for years.  So glad to finally be doing it and to have such a great local guide in the wonderful Jeanne.  I’m thinking of the Travelling Willburys’ song that George played on the jukebox yesterday at Harry’s Bar, especially the Tom Petty line, “I’m just happy to be here/Happy to be alive.”

But during the river crossing, all I could think about was the scene in Tremé where the John Goodman character takes his own life by purposefully falling off this very same ferry.  More than the death of a favorite character, it became a symbolic act within the story which represented the overwhelming despair faced by so many after Katrina.

One of the most chilling alerts ever issued by the National Weather Service

I can’t imagine loss like that, loss and endless grief and anger.  I am a guest in this city, and it has a hold on even me, in a way I can barely explain (though as a writer, it’s my job to try).  I’m overwhelmed by this place and its forgiving spirit in the wake of enduring so much.  New Orleans has every reason to be angry.  To be enraged.  And not just by Katrina, but by all the Katrinas that have come before, the historical and the political, the meteorological and the bureaucratic.

New Orleans has every right to be mad as hell.  But instead it endures.  It thrives and it forgives.  And it smiles.

I can’t begin to unravel how the city does what it does.  So instead I will write about my barbecue shrimp.

Barbecue shrimp at the Dry Dock Cafe in Algiers

I have no idea how it does what it does, either.  I was encouraged but also warned by my benevolent writing group.  And I was given a big pile of napkins.  All my senses have been engulfed by its crunchy, gooey, spicy, buttery awesomeness…

 

 

1:26 p.m.  A small park near the Old Point Bar on Delaronde St.

The wind ruffles the pages of my notebook.  Behind us, the levee rises fifteen feet or so above the street, blocking our view of the river but shielding this old neighborhood from floods.

On a writing marathon, our own levees are breached sometimes, the river of words seeping over our defenses and swirling into our ready-or-not pens.  The words flow and the river flows and the tears flow, and they all wash over us.  They wash us.  Maybe not clean, exactly, but cleaner than we were.

Mural on the levee wall in Algiers

4:10 p.m.  Molly’s on the Market

On the ferry ride back from Algiers, there was a woman standing along the railing near me.  Her pink mohawk-ish hair was tied down with clips and beads and flowers, her skirt slung low on her hips and adorned with a garland of feathers.  Her bare skin was peeking out all over her strappy black t-shirt and cami combo.  She was all by herself, but she was leaning a bit over the side of the ferry, smiling into the wind.  Smiling out at the afternoon rain clouds.  Staring down into the churning, green-brown water and smiling, smiling, smiling.

 

10:30 a.m.  Suite 217 at Le Richelieu

Dear New Orleans,

I can’t thank you enough for your warm hospitality this week, especially for such a motley crew as a bunch of writers.  But, then again, you’ve always been kind to writers.

Yesterday I had my beautiful writing marathon moment with Jeanne and Stephanie and Dee and Pacian and Pete in Algiers.   But I forgot to thank you properly for my perfect New Orleans moment, which came to me as I sat with George and company at Harry’s Bar on Wednesday.  George had expertly steered us into the shelter of Harry’s in perfect time to enjoy the afternoon downpour while we wrote and listened to his $5 worth of jukebox selections.

Writing at Harry’s Corner with Diana, George, and Karen

I have to tell you, after reading The Writing Marathon: In Good Company Revealed, writing at Harry’s Corner Bar with George was like stepping into a famous painting.  Like walking into one of those gorgeous, hazy Monets with the footbridges and the water lilies.

The bar crowd was intensely interested in us writers, especially since another group had stopped there not long before.  They wanted to know what the heck was going on.  Thinking myself clever, I suggested that we were a conspiracy of writers.  The entire row erupted at my mention of “the ‘C’ word.”  One patron grumbled, “We already have too many conspiracies in this town,” and left.

A little later, the video poker player standing near us told his female companion that he was “watching the kids do their homework,” and we were again pulled into a bar-wide conversation about what we were doing.  One red-faced man seemed unable to rest until we fully explained ourselves.  So we gushed for a while about New Orleans as a Mecca for writers, about how people come from all over the country just to write here.  As we spoke, his expression slowly softened and his eyes grew misty and bright.  He told us, “Well, I’m glad y’all are here.  I hope you enjoy yourselves.”   He talked a bit about how friendly people in New Orleans are, how they actually talk to each other and about how they all, mostly, get along.

“I’m just a drunk,” he said, gently taking his leave of us, “but I know a few things.  Good luck with the writing!”  With that, he disappeared out into the wet sunlight.

So much more was happening in that little bar than I could ever possibly write down.  But in that moment, I finally understood what Hemingway meant by those lines we quote at every writing marathon launch: “The story was writing itself, and I was having a hard time keeping up with it.”

New Orleans, I can’t keep up with you in the least.  And I love that you don’t mind that at all.   I love that you are what you are.  And that you are here for me and for us all.  You’re patient and funny and kind in ways that not everyone understands.  But we writers are working on that.  It’s the least we can do.

If you’re ever up in Nebraska, be sure to give me a call.  I’d love to get together and show you around Omaha.  She’s definitely not you, but she has her moments.

Thanks again, so much, for everything!  I’ll see you soon, I’m sure.

Love,    

Susan Martens

SLWP Director and New Orleans Writing Marathon inventor, Richard Louth, with visiting Nebraska Writing Project gals in the VIP Suite of Le Richelieu.

 

 

 

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UNL Student-Athletes’ Writing Marathon Tour of the Student Life Complex

We didn’t get as much writing done as we would have liked, partly because the 100 degree heat drove us back to the classroom.  But we did some grand exploring.  I got to see the places where my students work with their tutors, the various training facilities, and the amazing Heisman Trophy Room (a.k.a the Nebraska Experience Room).  The students even led me on a mock tunnel walk onto the football field of Memorial Stadium.  It’s always fascinating to me what happens when people get to show their places to others on a writing marathon.  It usually helps the “tour guides” re-see the place through newcomers’ eyes and even discover things they had never noticed.  Many thanks to my student guides on this sizzling summer session writing marathon!

Students posing in a lounge-like study room in the “eagle’s nest” area.

11:30 a.m.  Student Life Complex

Beautiful and gleaming, it’s an amazing place, just as tour guide Graham described it in his last essay.  I’m so glad that our athletes are so well looked-after and so-well supported.  After hearing about their tightly-scheduled lives and long hours of training, I understand why they benefit from such structured places to help them achieve academically.  There is an aura of decorum and hard work carefully maintained throughout the complex.  Though the students joked, on entering, about the “no smile” rule, everyone we met seemed cordial (if businesslike).

Stopping for group photo outside the Heisman Room/Experience. Note the Star Trek doors behind us.

12:10 Heisman Trophy Room

When students told me, after the previous writing marathon, that they stopped in the Heisman Trophy room, I had pictured a room with trophies.  Not the multi-media experience it actually is.  Star Trek doors, huge speakers, spotlights, and multiple projectors all work together to showcase three secret panels which swing out, Indiana Jones-style, to reveal the three Heisman Trophies at various points in the video.  It feels like something you might see in Las Vegas or Disneyworld, all dazzling and sleek.

I’m so grateful for this tour and the chance to write about these amazing places.  I come away from this writing marathon with a much more visceral sense of the lives of the student athletes who’ve been in my classes here at UNL.

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Dual writing marathons on UNL City Campus

This is a first for me: two writing marathons happening at the same time!  On this day, I  helped to launch the writing marathon for the Nebraska Writing Project’s Summer Institute at 10:30, then  went on to join the one for my ENGL 150, Rhetoric as Inquiry class at 11:00, then met back up with the Nebraska Writing Project folks at 2:00.  And of course, as always happens on writing marathons, these groups of writers ran across each other at a key moment.

Manter Hall no-koi pond.

11:35 a.m.  Manter Hall

I’m going to stop telling people about the koi pond.  I haven’t seen koi here for a while.  But someone has added a few things since that last time I was here.  A plastic duckie and a few abalone shells.  The duckie looks strangely at home, gently bobbing against the concrete sides of the pond.  The shells are glittering beautifully at the bottom, their mother-of-pearl reflecting back the overhead lighting.

I see a plaque on the wall of Harold Winfred Manter, a famous parasitologist and former teacher at UNL.  The building is named in his honor, but I wonder if he also donated some money.  If I ever have money to donate to UNL, I will give some to Manter Hall to fix these lights above the non-koi pond.  These are the worst-sounding lights I have ever heard– a horrible buzzing completely at odds with the peaceful garden below.

12:10 Architecture Hall

I’m thrilled to be exploring a new floor of Arch Hall.  Sam said, “It’s like every floor has its own thing going on.”  And he’s right.  This floor has groovy 60s chairs and a great view of the owl of the old law school facade.  I’m blessed yet again to be in a group of writer-explorers.  Earlier, we found the bridge that connects Manter and Hamilton Halls, then explored the weird signage in the basement chemistry labs.  In Arch Hall, Jessy showed us the awesome third floor grad student lab with its strangely angled beams and piles of architecture projects.

Fourth floor bridge between Manter and Hamilton Halls

12:45 Back at the office in Andrews

I’m thrilled to hear the question from Robert Brooke, Director of the Nebraska Writing Project, echoing across Architecture Hall’s light-filled atrium: “Hey!  Are you guys writers?”

I’m  even more thrilled to hear Sam’s quick reply: “Yup.  We’re writers!”  Robert gives us a thumbs up sign, then he, his group, and his iconic hat disappear around the stairwell.  It’s a good day to be a writer among writers!

My own group joins the flow of marathon groups coursing back into Andrews Hall.  Today, we are rivers of writers flowing from a common source, gathering up and laying down the rich river-writer silt in the landscapes as we go.

The facade of the old law school, preserved inside the atrium of Architecture Hall

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The Grey Dog Adventure Team Status Updates (To Philly and Back Again on the Bus)

Over Memorial Day weekend, I traveled with a ‎fellow intrepid (and funds-challenged) doctoral student to a conference in Philadelphia.  On the bus.  The Big Grey Dog, Bernice called it, though we found out that Greyhound actually contracts out several of their schedules to other carriers, like Trailways  It was one of those times when we both had more time than money, and bus fare was about $300 less than the plane,  so we bought the tickets and christened ourselves the Grey Dog Adventure Team (GDAT).  

When our friends and family found out about our plan, they demanded regular updates to track our whereabouts and our safety (since our sanity was clearly already a lost cause).  I’m not a terribly avid Facebook poster, but this time I saw Facebook status updates as the perfect genre for our purpose, context and audience.  We were headed to a giant nerdfest anyway– the Rhetoric Society of America’s Biennial Conference– so it seemed an appropriate rhetorical strategy.  

I’ve compiled the updates here, interspersed with a few choice photos, and I will let them tell the story.  Mostly, it was awful: cramped, exhausting, chaotic, confusing, and malodorous.  I can’t say that I recommend it, especially not for the 65 hours we were either en route or stuck at a station.    But I have to say, there were also moments of real charm and joy.  Friends, if you ever find yourself on a long and sort of scary bus trip, I urge you to take a small pillow, a fleece blanket, a stout heart, and an open mind.

Cheers to all fellow Grey Dog Initiates! And to everyone heading out soon or out there on the road already, safe travels and happy trails!  

The Grey Dog Adventure Team Status Updates

Part 1: Omaha to Philadelphia (39 hours total)

9:10 a.m. Grey Dog Adventure Team with Bernice. Our last driver sang “kiss my ass” during “Jumping Jack Flash.” Now leaving Des Moines…

12:42 p.m. The next driver said, “That guy’s an idiot.” We are now on the local local local getting to Chicago four hours late.  But this driver looks like General Hammond from Stargate SG1, which is reassuring.

“Bus interdiction” in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

2:20 p.m.”Bus interdiction” with drug-sniffing dogs. The patrolman said “Welcome to Cedar Rapids. Don’t touch the luggage.”

3:43 p.m. Dubuque and we lost Turtle Man, who slept a seat behind the Grey Dog Adventure Team by pulling his hands and his head into shirt. Onward!

7:33 p.m.  A great-grandma from Freeport IL told me about the summer of 1956 in Chicago when it was so hot everyone went out and slept in the park. Now Chicago traffic is slowing the GDAT’s progress…

9:56 p.m. I sat with a young man turning 22 tomorrow who was bringing his boyfriend back from Chicago to live in his small hometown. He told me, “You meet a lot of nice people on the bus.” Amen, brother.

6:13 a.m. GDAT wearily approaches Cleveland. Three hour layover in Chicago sapped Grey Dog Adventure Team’s  strength. Can’t quite comprehend 14 more hours of this.

11:09 a.m. The much-touted greyhound wi-fi is not very hi fi. Photos soon. For now, GDAT looking good in Penn, though this driver schooled me on improper ticket detachment and read one dude the riot act when said dude was on his cell phone during announcements. Ouch. We miss cool blues-listening driver from yesterday.

8:46 p.m. And so the Grey Dog Adventure Team found redemption this morning in egg and cheese sandwiches and nerdy coffee talk in beautiful Cleveland!

11:56 p.m. Final leg of the trip was grim, but I had a great chat with a Pitt med student. We talked Grey’s Anatomy and student loans.

Our room on the 29th floor of the conference hotel, a mere three blocks from the Greyhound Station.

12:01 p.m. (arrival in Philadelphia)  Grey Dog Adventure Team having trouble adjusting to the conference hotel swank after 36 hours of bus stank.

Part II: Philadelphia to Omaha (26 hours total)

 

Like a reverse kind of superman, I changed clothes and repacked for the bus in the ladies’ room of the third floor of the hotel conference center. It was hours after checkout, and we were gearing up for the trip home. I kept staring at these spring green chrysanthymums in their pretty square vases filled with black spa stones. In minutes, I would be back in belly of the Big Grey Dog.

6:15 p.m. (departing from the Philadelphia station heading to Pittsburgh) Our driver, Daryl, gave the best pre-trip speech yet, letting us all know what was what in no uncertain terms. An accomplished rhetor at the helm of this sleek grey dog! The Philly bus station staff are all pros, too. Great start!

10:42 p.m. Driver Daryl makes a stop for a safety check after expertly piloting grey dog through the storms. He tells us we have ten minutes and can either smoke or run to the bathroom. “Choose wisely,” he says, “and don’t wander off. Because I ain’t gonna come looking for you!” :)

4:59 a.m. Our next driver said, “My name IS Earl.” He warned us about taking off our shoes and seemed to enjoy saying “Hotlanta” during his endless repeat of the connecting bus info. Fellow passengers have been doing Earl impressions during the layover in Columbus OH. On to Dayton!

8:51 a.m. (posted by Bernice due to my dying cell phone): Grey dog adventure team survived driver-in-training Cecil but nearly missed the last leg bus.  That would have ended badly for Cecil!

3:00 p.m. Grey Dog Adventure Team befriends a Muslim woman in a hijab travelling alone but also headed to Omaha. She shares her delicious homemade bread with us. We try to give her some chocolate in return. She passes but takes some raisins. For the most part, bus people look out for each other. Grateful GDAT working up some good bus karma

6:15 p.m. GDAT finds itself once again in the hands of Jumpin’ Jack Flash in Burlington, Iowa, and fears for the worst. But this time he is on time and brought along Galaxy Quest for us to watch on the bus DVD player.  Redemption in Des Moines! And almost home…

11:00 p.m. Grey Dog Adventure Team returns safely home! What a wild ride!

11:00 a.m.  (the next morning)  Many thanks to everyone for reading and supporting Grey Dog Adventure Team updates! It helped to know that Bernice and I had readers out there wishing us well and watching our progress. We now have a new appreciation for bus travel and a renewed faith in the human spirit, not to mention the kinds of stories that no amount of money can buy. From here on out, when I see clumps of intrepid bus travelers waiting at rest areas, I will smile and tell them the same thing that others in-the-know told us: “Happy trails and safe travels.”

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On the Writing Marathon at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans

I was privileged beyond measure this past March to attend the first Writing Marathon to be held at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans.  At its launch, Southeast Louisiana Writing Project Director, Richard Louth,  read us the famous Hemingway quote from A Movable Feast and told us, “When you write in a place, it belongs to you forever.  Today, New Orleans belongs to you.”

He also told us, as per writing marathon tradition, that if anyone asked us what we were doing, we should tell them, “I’m a writer.”  “The world loves writers,” he said.  “People want to hear your stories.  And they want to tell you their stories.”  

Many thanks to Richard, to the wonderfully hospitable teacher-writers of the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, and to the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival organizers.  Here are some pieces of writing that emerged from that day: 

At “The Original” Cafe Maspero

My walk to the Monteleone Hotel  leads me down a quiet, freshly-washed Chartres Street, at one with the morning dog-walkers and the friendly doormen.  A tarot card reader calls to me as I pass between his table and the cathedral steps in Jackson Square.  “Hey gorgeous,” he calls.  “Are you ready for your reading?”

“Maybe later,” is my reply, clearly the wrong one, but my mind is on the walk and on getting to the writing marathon launch on time.

He can feel the hesitation in my stride, however slight.  “Come here,” he says, beckoning.

I can feel his will drawing me into the folding chair, but I resist.   “I can’t,” I say.  “I’m going to see my writing marathon guru.”

His eyes are pirate-hard and crystal-bright.  “Never say no to a gypsy, darling,” he says, smiling darkly.

My gracious and lively writing group at the Original Cafe Maspero.

At the river:

How does one begin to describe the smell of the French Quarter?  It’s an exercise both impossible and cliched.  But this morning in the original Cafe Maspero,  my nose isolated a new note in the bouquet:  well-worn, well-loved, sunbaked brick dust.  It’s the smell of decay, I suppose, but here it is a luscious entropy.  Preserved and cherished and inhaled like perfume.

My group writing on the banks of the Mississippi.

 

At Molly’s on the Market:

I’m collecting writing marathon lore, dipping my pen in the local waters.  Everyone has a story to tell.   About marathon stops.  Marathon people-spirits. Marathon magic.    I’m so very grateful for the hospitality of my morning group, and so very sad to leave them, so very, very sad to leave the cool oasis of Molly’s On the Market.  For now, I’ll take their stories back to deepest Nebraska, where writing project folks will smile to hear “how they do it in New Orleans.” Just like we do it in Nebraska.  With spirit and spirits, “in good company revealed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about writing marathons, please check out the Writing Marathon Central website and the book, The Writing Marathon: “In Good Company Revealed

Writers always somehow end up at Molly’s on the Market. Many thanks to my wonderful group for showing me the way!

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Torn Notebook

I love “Torn Notebook,” the sculpture by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen on the UNL campus beside the Temple Building.  Many writing marathon groups have stopped here over the years, but I had never before done much research

on this piece before now.  This sculpture is one of many famous ones by this husband-and-wife team, including “Clothespin” in Philadelphia,  “Shuttlecocks” at the Kansas City Art Museum, and “Flashlight” at the University of Las Vegas.    You can see lots of their other, large-scale public sculptures on their webpage, here.

According to the artists’ statement, “The Torn Notebook, as executed, appears as if it had been tossed onto the lawn that runs along the border between the campus and the city. Barely touching the ground, the sculpture seems to rise like a huge bird spreading its wings. The ‘pages,’ formed out of rolled aluminum, look ‘torn’ roughly in half. Selections from our earlier notations are water-cut through the metal, creating a continuously changing interplay of light and shadow. Coosje’s script is on the top half of the ‘pages’ and Claes’ on the bottom, in reverse relation to each other, so that one set of script will always be read backward. Loose ‘page’ fragments are strewn over the lawn, as if blown by the wind.”

Apparently, the words written on the notebook and its pages are based on the notes that the artists took as they drove from Kansas City to Lincoln one day.  One of the pages says “barbed wire L-bow” and forms the basis of my writing for this stop on the writing marathon:

The Sour Patch Kids watched in awe as I downed my shot of wheatgrass juice from the Juice Stop. It’s one of my Stupid English Teacher Tricks.  My other is less impressive, and I don’t even know if I can still do it.  I used to be able to recite the prologue to The Canterbury Tales in Middle English.  Yes,  just call me Super Nerd.

We’re here on Torn Notebook plaza, watching the 12th Street traffic, motorized and pedestrian.  There is a great joy in folks’ strides today as they walk in the warm sun with their jackets over their arms.  This fragment of Torn Notebook nearest me says, “barbed wire L-bow.”  I know I’ve pondered its meaning before.  Today it seems whimsical, though on some days past it has seemed menacing.  

Now that I’ve seen the story behind this sculpture, of Claes and Coosje taking notes on the landscape as they drove across the prairie, I’ll always think about this piece as a symbol of research merged with art.  They said, “Only when we were back in the studio in New York did we realize that a sculpture about the process of collecting observations could be the perfect subject for a university site.”  I have to agree;  it works very well in that space– a  perfect place for writers and a natural stop for any writing marathon–though the four-story light-up flash light at LVU would have been cool, too.

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