a journal for eastern and western forms


Art ~ the moon and i

Norman J. Olson, US

Ballpoint pen drawing 5x8 inches:  the moon and i 4-22-2011

Ruminations of the Artist... is a new drawing started on Wednesday morning... i was sitting on a bench in San Antonio Texas, across the street from the Marriott hotel... it was a beautiful morning, warm with a bit of breeze... i was in San Antonio to do a brief poetry reading at the annual conference of the popular culture/american culture associations... i have read at these conferences for about the last 8 years and these are about the only poetry readings that i do... it is an academic conference so the vast majority of the attendees are college professors,

some years ago the woman who was editor of the Louisiana Review at the time came up with the idea of having some indepenedent poets read at these conferences and invited some of the small press poets she was publishing, including me, to participate... i do not normally do readings as they make me a bit nervous and i do not like to feel that i am pushing my art into places where it is not welcome and invited... ... probably just my normal neurosis at work there... so, i have been doing those readings annually ever since... the conference costs money ($183) and is held in a different city every year... the professors mostly have the fees and the air and hotel expenses paid by their schools but, i had to pay the whole deal myself... well, the air is free for me because i can fly on employee passes because my wife works for an airline... anyway...

this year, i could not scrape up the $183 to pay for the conference, so i went and read at it anyway, and figured, if they kicked me out, well, i got to see a new city and i would eat the cost of the hotel and go home... some years, the readings have been very sparsely attended... in New Orleans, a few years ago, none of the other readers (there were supposed to be four of us) showed up and there was no audience at all... I sat there until a half hour after the scheduled start of the reading session and then left... i decided later that if that ever happened again, i would read the poetry to the empty room as that would make a better memory than just walking out of an empty conference room...

whenever i go to these readings, i stay in a cheap hotel... because, again, i do not have a university to pay for the room at the fancy hotel where the conference is held... and i always go to the hotel, usually by bus or train, whatever mass transit that city has many hours before the reading so i know where the room is, where the bathroom is and get a feel for the place... plus, i just like to be way early for stuff...

so, in San Antonio, i stayed at a cheap hotel with an airport shuttle, well, it was supposed to have an airport shuttle, but when i got there, i found the shuttle did not have a driver, so i had to take a cab and between the hours of 6 am and 11 pm, when their shuttle would have run, they would pay the cab fare to and from the airport... i found that there was a standard minimum cab fare from the airport and in the three cabs the hotel paid for it was $12.50 the first time, $10 the second time, and $11.50 the third time... well, that was i guess a non standard standard... but i did not worry because the hotel did pay the cabbie... so, on Wednesday i was scheduled to read with three other poets at 1:15... so since the shuttle driver apparently had not appeared yet, the hotel paid for a cab to the airport... there i got on the #5 bus that took me downtown for $1.10... my impression of San Antonio from the bus ride was that it is a fairly sprawling place with lots of strip malls... i did not see a lot of terrible slums and there were not as many desperate and down and out people as you see on busses in most american cities... but maybe that was just the part of town i was in and there were the usual beggars that you see in every american city on the streets around the fancy hotels downtown....

so, i had breakfast in a tiny restaurant with paintings of cowboy boots on the wall... and then went to the opulent towering marriott to find the room.... etc... the air conditioning was cold, but it was nice outside, so i found a comfortable bench in the shade, although, it was a cloudy morning, the sun came out later... and sat and worked on the attached drawing...

i decided to try reading one of the prose pieces that i have been writing so chose the one about the trip to Long Beach as it was about a poetry reading and had what seemed to me to be some pretty good poems in it... so, when the time for the reading came, i packed up my backpack and went up to the room... all of the readers actually showed up and some audience members too, so it was going to be a real reading... two of the poets read before me.... they were like all other poets i have met, very full of themselves, as i guess i am too... anyway, we each had 15 minutes but the guy in front of my took five minutes of my time, so i started with only ten minutes... which started me out with a bad vibe... so, i read the poem from the essay about the museo del prado and the prose piece about the poetry reading in Long Beach.... i was not happy with the reading as i felt that i read the poems effectively, but the prose did not seem to me to work in between the poems... my reading style is a bit dramatic, melodramatic, i have been told... and the placidness of the prose passages did not seem to me to capture the audience as the poems did... well, anyway, i left the reading a bit unsatisfied with my performance... so, i think in the future, if i ever do any more readings, i will stick to poetry... and not read the prose..

so, yesterday, back in Minnesota, i went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art as they have a show of two large titian paintings and a couple of small titian paintings from a museum in scotland that is up only til May 1 and i had not had a chance to see it... the paintings are so amazing... i love to look closely at them and see the way titian with quick daubs and splashes of paint made a simulacrum of objects and people appear... his paint must have been mostly as thin as water with thicker daubs only used for highlights and heavy fabrics... but it is amazing the way nothing is belabored but everything looks like it was tossed in with quick flicks of the brush.... makes me want to bust out my oil painting things and see if i have learned anything from looking at the works of these great master painters...

by the way, there is a brief bio / artists statement up now on the website of Jay Gallery where my show is going to be this summer in Korea... at 

well, sorry, i had not intended this to be quite so long winded, but it is what it is... peace and love to all

~norman j. olson




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