Greetings Inkpot readers! This week MFAC alum *Polly McCann writes to us on dystopian politics, where to write, and her new artistic community/gallery, Paper Birch Landing.
Dear Hamline MFAC-ers & Friends,
Last night my ten year old said, “Do you know what we like to talk about at lunch on Wednesdays? Politics.” What followed was a brief conversation about a rather awkwardly groomed politician who used to be the richest man in America. I gleaned from the following conversation that even ten-year-olds think building a wall to keep people out is an evil political plot that must be punished over chicken nuggets and instant mashed potatoes. Some of the political thoughts in our country seem to remind the local fifth graders of their favorite dystopian novels like The Unwanted by Lisa McMann.
I said, dastardly politicians who build hypothetical walls of hatred hadn’t read any good children books when they were kids. “That’s why we write for kids,” I said. Because we are hoping a generation of people grow up already knowing that forcing people to be the same, or forcing people to stay out, or forcing them to live in fear just leads to dystopia. It ruins our world, our creativity, then our hearts. Well, I wasn’t that poetic aloud, but how much can you say at bedtime?
Last week, I wasn’t there on Wednesday to tuck in the kids. I drove downtown and parked myself in a folding chair in the back room of the Uptown Arts Bar. I wanted to find out about the other poets and artists in my hometown. Pound Slam is spoken word poetry: 30 poets, three minutes each, three rounds. Three hours of in-your-face-poetry. So now I know what poets care about; what they are angry about. I know about their spiritual lives, their jobs, their loves, their politics. They are angry about dystopia too, they say something about it in a rhythm no political figure except Martin Luther King Jr. could probably imitate.
Monday, January 18th was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I didn't have the day off. I was working downtown. How did I get out of the burbs? In the 2014-2015 school year I sat at home and wrote a novel alone in my grandma’s old dining room chair. In the 2015-2016 school year I left my house and rented a studio space in the city. It’s made all the difference. Maybe 20 years of creating in a small room finally got to me. Maybe I’m just rolling in a current of events I have no control over. Whatever the reason, I’m not alone anymore. I have two other artist/writers with me at the studio space we share. From the third floor studio I have a view of KC’s midtown and all of King’s dreams echoing about in the street.
My work is better with a view and coworkers. I need other writers. I can’t sit alone, building awkwardly groomed antagonists to fight on paper, with accidental walls around my writing space. Artists experience the same thing. The walls are up. Having been an artist and a writer exclusively - and now trying to do both - I want to bring the two groups together. So I’m doing something new. It’s formed out of the community I met when I left my desk at home. Now it’s turned into an art gallery of sorts.
What will happen there? We are trying to figure that out. Writers can meet in our art gallery for critique groups. Spoken word poetry might be nice on the terrace for our June Street Art show. “…merely posing,” a quote from a poem by the new poet laureate, sounds like a great name for a juried art show with a photography theme. Novelists without an office could use the study for a space to get away. We can throw awesome book launch parties, build websites, make cakes. I’m thinking if we work together as creatives - a rather new term I’m fond of - then we can inspire each other to keep going. Someone has to make sure kids read good books with good old common sense for what's a bad idea. Someone has to make sure writers get recharged. Artists need other creatives to experience their art. Maybe we could meet in the middle. Step over the walls. There’s a lot of work to do. As one of my new artist friends says, “We’re stronger together.” I'm calling it #ArtLocal.
*Polly McCann, artist, writer and mother, earned her MFA in writing from Hamline University. Tea with Alice is the working title for her first collection of autobiographical poems; three generations of stories retold in free verse. She has been published in Naugatuck River Review and Arc 24. She is the owner of NewThing Art Studio in Kansas City. She loves to grow basil and explore unexpected surprises in her free time.