In late April this year I won first place in the Feature Writing, Newspaper B category at the Oklahoma chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for “Mni Wiconi,” my story on Standing Rock published in The Tulsa Voice. Hearing the attempts at pronouncing “Mni Wiconi” was another kind of award.
Last month, I published an essay at Past Ten, a site created by writer Donald Quist and dedicated “to the transformative power of time and the human capacity to turn the unpredictable into art.” For the project, artists are asked to reflect on where they were ten years ago. My date was June 21, 2007. It’s accompanied by a new favorite author photo …
April’s second issue of The Tulsa Voice was my first at its helm. Designer Madeline Crawford and photographer Melissa Lukenbaugh created a beautiful cover (with an excellent corresponding story by Mitch Gilliam and Holly Wall), I wrote my first-ever editor’s letter (pg. 6), and we sent the paper to the printer on time (!). This was also a first issue for Kathryn Parkman in her new capacity as assistant editor. She previously worked for This Land Press and I am thrilled we have hired her. After ten years of editing and writing work, this experience was immensely rewarding. I’m looking forward to the work ahead.
A map showing underground injection (fracking) wells within the Pawnee Nation | 1/10/17 | Joseph Rushmore
When a 5.8 earthquake—the largest in Oklahoma’s history—struck Pawnee on September 3, 2016, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma felt literally shaken into action.
Six weeks later, on November 18, the Pawnee Nation and Pawnee tribal member Walter Echo-Hawk filed suit against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to challenge federal oil and gas lease approvals on Indian trust lands within Pawnee jurisdiction. The litigation came after months of attempted resolutions and meetings with the tribe’s federal trust partners, and after the tribe’s October 2015 moratorium on leasing and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) approvals was repeatedly ignored.
“Before that earthquake, we were content trying to resolve this administratively through negotiation. We had identified systemic problems and we thought we had time to work them out,” said Andrew Knife Chief, executive director of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.
“Then the earthquake hit and we realized—wow, we don’t have time. Unless we take more concrete action we’re never going to press this issue forward.”
Read my full story at The Tulsa Voice. Photos by Joseph Rushmore.
Andrew Knife Chief, executive director of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, and Adrian Spottedhorsechief, Pawnee Tribal Business councilman, at a fracking site near Cushing, OK | 1/10/17 | Joseph Rushmore
This month, I was honored to have my essay, “Big Mama: Universality and Wholeness in the Essay” published in AWP’s the Writer’s Chronicle. In its original form, this piece—referred to by a friend as “that essay on essays”—was my 2012 graduate school final lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It’s not available online for reading unless you’re a member of AWP, however I have a few extra copies of the magazine to share, or can send you a PDF version.
At the beginning of the month, I traveled with photographer Joseph Rushmore to the #noDAPL/Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock in North Dakota. My piece, “Mni Wiconi”—meaning “water is life,” was the cover story for The Tulsa Voice’s November B issue. You can read it here. To see it in print form, click here.
Horses and riders near the entrance of Oceti Sakowin just before a camp-wide prayer ceremony. 11/5/16. Joseph Rushmore
Oklahoma Visual Art Coalition‘s magazine, Art Focus Oklahoma, has moved to publishing quarterly. This means “Ekphrasis,” your favorite poetry and art column, will appear four times a year instead of six. This fall’s edition is something special: using the three rows of six blocks in Jane Razauskas‘ carbon drawing as a point of departure, poet Melody Charles responds in abstract verse with groupings of three lines of six syllables each. I hope you’ll agree the layout of the art with the poetry is as visually pleasing as it is to read. See it here.
(You can see previous “Ekphrasis” columns here.)
Today I have a satire piece, “Rilke Goes on a Job Interview,” up at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, featuring borrowed lines from “The Books of Hours” and “Letters to a Young Poet.” I’d hire the old poet, wouldn’t you?
I’m five artist profiles through a series of twelve for The Tulsa Voice on the first group awarded Tulsa Artist Fellowships. I figured I ought to maybe post about them here before I’m finished. Pictured below is Gary Kachadourian, a pen and pencil artist out of Baltimore, MD, who was the first in the series. All of the photos have been/are being shot by Tulsa-based photographer Melissa Lukenbaugh, which I’m excited about because not only is she great to work with and super talented, I love having the consistency of her vision paired with my pieces.
Gary Kachadourian in his Tulsa Artist Fellowship studio at Hardesy Arts Center, photograph by Melissa Lukenbaugh
Gary was awesome—he gave me two books of his, which are reproductions of his drawings that allow the owner to create an installation like the one pictured above by Xeroxing copies and making wallpaper, or by building mini scale models/scenarios (see photo below). He sells them here and you should definitely buy one or several (price point is around $5).
Dumpster model from “Dumpster and Sofa on Apartment Complex Parking Lot”
Gary also takes photos of cool cars he sees on the street with his flip phone (yes) and then carves models of the cars out of 2×4’s (yes) because the material is a limitation and doesn’t allow him to be perfect (yes).
I’ve also met with a Native American sound artist, a satellite painting and installation artist, a husband-and-husband installation artist duo, and a sgraffito and woodcutting artist (and writer) who is obsessed with Juárez. Seven more to go. You can see all of the profiles linked to on my work page under the journalism tab.
Gaylord Oscar Herron in his Tulsa bike shop, G Oscar Bicycles. Photo by Greg Bollinger.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to chat with G Oscar, or Gaylord Oscar Herron, photographer and owner of G Oscar Bicycles, in the upstairs studio of his bike shop.We chatted about biking in Tulsa, the importance of trees and dappled light and giving people space in which to live, and the temporality of Trump. G Oscar was generous with his thoughts and time. The interview is here.
I’ll be writing poems with the guys and gals from Short Order Poetry and Mused. in a couple of weeks at First Friday Art Crawl in Tulsa. I’ve been studying up on verse, came across this one by William Carlos Williams today, and thought it perfect for the occasion. Enjoy —
be of words, slow and quick, sharp
to strike, quiet to wait,
—through metaphor to reconcile
the people and the stones.
Saxifrage is my flower that splits the rocks.
I had a little piece of flash nonfiction published at Banango Street. It’s about New Year’s in New Orleans and that funny feeling of being in between things, not sure where you just came from and into where you’re headed. It’s also written in second-person, which I’d forgotten until a few people read it and commented. Because it reads you-do-this and you-see-this and you-drink-this, I’m immersed in what is happening—a favorite trick I think of occurring in poetry more than anywhere else. At least, that’s where I first learned about it. Anyway, the piece lives HERE.
I had the great fortune of interviewing a master interviewer, Krista Tippett. She let me keep her on the phone a little longer than our alotted time. When I tried to let her go, she said, “no, I’ll keep talking to you, this is good.” It was good! And encouraging to hear so from her. I imagine I felt something like Marc Maron did when he interviewed Terry Gross—like, holy shit, I am asking the questions here…what if I look like a complete bozo? I don’t think that ended up happening, but you can judge for yourself. The interview is posted HERE at The Tulsa Voice.
At the end of the interview, I asked Krista about my favorite lines from Rilke: “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions … Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Her response brought those old (1903 old) lines in modern context. She said, “There are a lot of open questions that aren’t going to be answered anytime soon. Like, how can we make our economy humane? And about how we structure our institutions. We’ve recently opened up questions about marriage and gender and when life begins and when death begins. Those are huge questions. Once closed, now opened. We have to honor that and be comfortable with it and let it be creative and generative. The more we rush to answer and shut things down, the more we don’t solve them. These things take time. Live into them, into their fullness. That’s counter-cultural, but we don’t have any choice. Anytime we try to close a question prematurely, we set up another fight.”