What Ya Gonna Do This Summer?

I’m stealing this idea from Philebrity editor Joey Sweeney. What are the things you are looking forward to between now and Labor Day 2015? Here’s Mine. Now it’s your turn! #SummerToDoList #summer2015

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Painting by Ric McCauley

What I’m Looking Forward to Doing the Summer of 2015
–meeting my friend Steph (along with all out other peeps) to show her the pleasure of happy hour drinks at Harbor Park.
–water gun battles.
–corn, potatoes, shrimp and sausage boiled in Old Bay.
–actually calling at least one old friend a week to catch up and stoke the embers of the good times we’ve shared.
–drinking wine and watching movies in the park.
–checking out the El Bar and hearing friends’ old stories about getting chased and beaten up on that block and boy has this neighborhood changed…
—-hanging out at the Lambda Literary Writing Retreat and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. (https://kellymcquain.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/lambda-literary-fellows-need-your-help/)
–reading for pleasure (hammocks preferred).
–planting something and watching it grow.
–wearing sandals every day.
–aw, hell. Going barefoot.
–helping my high school pal Ric hang his solo art show on the Chesapeake Bay.
–Jersey tomatoes.
–taking pleasure in my friends’ successes.
–jazz cocktails on M Restaurant’s patio.
–t-ball and playground trips with my adorable nephews, and pool trips sans their water wings. Checking in with all the other nieces and nephews, too.
–getting someone to go tubing with me in New Hope, or canoeing in the pine barrens…
–drawing, painting, getting messy and having fun.
–talking to someone older who might be able to give me a little wisdom for what’s ahead.
–wearing breathable seersucker shirts and shorts.
–eating outside.
–jumping in a fountain and pretend I’m on Friends.
–visiting Mom at her WV home… and seeing what latest critter has tried to get inside her house (in the last year, it’s been a mother bear with her cubs, two blacksnakes, and myriad deer. Only an enterprising groundhog has actually made it all the way into the living room)
–eating my way through Philly’s festivals. (Italian Market Festival? Check. Greek Festival? You’re up next)
–sudden thunderstorms where the temperature drops fifteen degrees in twenty minutes.
–peeling off wet clothes with someone I love.
–beach trips to Jersey, Delaware, and beyond, I hope.
–discovering the Drink of Summer (Paloma? Dark ‘n Stormy? Mojito? Some new invention?)
–writing, writing, writing. Finishing things, finishing things, and not beating myself up when I don’t finish everything.
–making a summer Playlist with the help of my music guru (he owns nearly six thousand CDs and they are all alphabetized! I know, I know. What’s a CD?)
–easy desserts of John’s Water Ice (lemon) with a shot of limocello (add strawberries for additional fancy-pants points.)
–hard cheese drizzled with honey infused by chocolate and habaneros (thank you, Mr. Artisanal Beekeeper at the Italian Market).
–seeing two summer blockbusters back-to-back on the big screen. Maybe even three!
–celebrating Walt Whitman’s birthday with some great out-of-town writers as part of the “Five for Philly” reading at Giovanni’s Room. https://www.facebook.com/events/836983619708969/
–shooting the shit with my neighbor in his yard.
–taking part in some exciting secret projects with various literary journals.
–and so much more!

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Good Karma Donations Being Accepted for Lambda Fellows

Lambda Literary Fellows need your help! And I am one of them. It’s been a great year for publishing poems, and recently I received the good news I was named a Lambda Literary Fellow, where I will get to study with poet Kazim Ali at the University of Southern California in June.

The opportunity comes with a steep price tag of around an estimated $2650 for tuition, fees, board and travel costs to Los Angeles (such as airfare & shuttles). I am trying to raise about a third of that money to help offset my out-of-pocket cost. If your rent is due, if times are tight, by all means pay yourself first and forget this message. But if things are a little easier in your life and you’dimage like timageo gain some imagegood artistic karma, please consider making a tax-deductible donation via the Donor Page to help me or one of the other writers who has yet to meet his or her goal. While many Fellows have already met their goals, others haven’t made a dent in it. $1? 5? No amount is too little, and it’s easy to make a secure online payment. You can also help by buying a copy of my poetry book, Velvet Rodeo, this spring at one of the many readings I have in the Philadelphia area or by ordering one from me directly ($8+shipping=$10). Just shoot me a message if you like at kellymcquain.writer [at]gmail.com. I hate asking for help, and no worries if you can’t do so. In fact, many of my online writing communities have already helped just by offering ongoing support, which truly means a lot. If not for such communities, I would not have maintained the momentum to keep sending work out and to apply for competitive opportunities like the Lambda Literary Retreat.

In related good news, I was also recently accepted as a Tennessee Williams Scholar to the prestigious Sewanee Writers’ Conference in Tennessee for July 2015. The scholarship helps cover that those costs, but I’m still saving for airfare and board for that too. But mostly what I’m sweating at the moment are the Lambda costs. Please consider helping out a writer this summer even if it is not me. Buy books, pass the hat, and help keep the beauty of words coming for somebody.

LambdaLiteraryI’m working my ass off this summer publishing new poems, doing illustrations for journals, and even writing a chapter in a round-robin murder mystery that’s a fundraiser for a great literary magazine I’m happy to support (more on this fun project later). An anthology I was published in—The Queer South–is up for a Lambda Literary Award on June 1st. More new publications in anthologies like Rabbit Ears: TV Poems and journals like Eleven Eleven and Knockout are on the way. 2015 is shaping up to be the best writing summer of my life! I love a lot of different art forms and sometimes feel pulled in a thousand directions, but I’m proving that it can all work if you keep your nose to the grindstone. I hope your summer is equally productive, too.

Thanks for listening.
–Kelly McQuain, May 2015. Philadelphia.

You can find out more about Lambda Literary here: http://lambdaliterary.donorpages.com/WritersRetreat2015/KellyMcQuain/

A list of all Donor Pages and a list of my fellow Fellows, with their bios. at the links here: The full list of all Donor Pages is here: http://lambdaliterary.donorpages.com/WritersRetreat2015/ (Click on “Show all fundraisers for this event”)

The Fellows:
http://www.lambdaliterary.org/writers-retreat/39293-2/

 

 

Visual Fables for the 21st Century

Fire at the Surface: Imagery and Process in the Paintings of Ric McCauley
Gallery 209, Cape Charles, VA

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“Fire at the Surface” –Detail, Ric McCauley, 2015

In Ric McCauley’s paintings, you will find whales listening to iPods, elephants riding Ferris wheels, dogs walking on power lines, and richly textured abstract color fields resonating with vibrant energy. A surreal dreaminess permeates McCauley’s work, as well as a deep love of the natural world. McCauley studied painting at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he graduated with a BA in Fine Arts in 1993. There he studied printmaking, photography, oil and acrylic painting. Recently McCauley recently won Best in Show at the St. Mary’s alumni exhibition (Boyden Gallery, 2014), and his work is part of several private collections.

McCauley grew up in West Virginia, swimming in creeks and sewing a garden to provide for his family’s supper table. Early on he learned how to get his hands dirty in the best possible way. He knows that an idea needs to be carefully tended if it’s to grow into a work of art. Now, as a seasonal resident of Cape Charles, sea life has recently entered his visual lexicon. His new body of work ranges from textured color fields (“Fire at the Surface”) to whimsical juxtapositions of nature and technology (“Whale Pod”).

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“Whale Pod” — Ric McCauley, 2015

In many ways, Ric McCauley is a process painter. He harnesses the chaos of his raw materials through will, determination, and a sense of play. It’s a delight to watch him work as he blasts tracks from his enormous music library in his Virginia studio or Maryland back yard. McCauley starts a canvas by first layering broad washes of acrylic color. Then he scrubs at the surface or sprays it with jets of water to remove excess paint and achieve texture. Rorschach shapes emerge. These serve as a catalyst for the dream-like imagery McCauley teases out of his projects. In “Buffalo Carnival #1″, an enormous beast of the plains carries a roller coaster on its back; in “Kiss the Sky”, a subterranean city hums beneath a melting, volcanic-orange atmosphere.

Interestingly, McCauley’s visual sense is informed by the fact that he is colorblind. He is unable to distinguish between certain shades of red and green, so you won’t typically see these colors side by side in his work. Instead, McCauley explores unusual palettes of blue and yellow, of orange-reds against stark blacks and winter whites.

His influences include Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko as well as Pop Artist Andy Warhol, whose Interview magazine was a literary and visual staple during McCauley’s formative years. Keen-eyed gallery goers will spot the influence in McCauley’s use of repeated motifs, as well as the black silhouettes that echo Warhol’s stenciled silkscreen shapes. McCauley also cites German artist Anselm Kiefer’s use of unorthodox methods and materials as an additional influence, though McCauley’s imagery tends to be more hopeful than Kiefer’s.

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Is a painting like “Buffalo Carnival #1″ reducing wild creatures to mere landscape? Or is it trying to remind us that the world we build our playthings on is actually animate and alive? Ric McCauley isn’t one to wags a finger. Instead, his artwork–with its fanciful shapes and colors, with its strong eye for form and balance–points toward the accord we must reach with the natural world. Deceptively playful, these paintings linger in the imagination with the power of enduring truth: they are new fables for the 21st century.

–Kelly McQuain
May, 2015
Cape Charles, VA

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“Jelly Headphones” — Detail, Ric McCauley

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Wistful for China

PhiladelphiaStoriesCoverSpring2015My thanks to Philadelphia Stories magazine for naming my poem, “Thirst” as an Honorable Mention in their recent Sandy Crimmins contest for their Spring issue. (Meant to blog about this a month ago, but I was too swamped with teaching.) The issue is available online, but if you are in the Philadelphia area you can also find copies in coffee shops and libraries around town. I wrote “Thirst” after spending three weeks in China as a guest of the Chinese Ministry of Education the summer of 2013. I was among a handful of American educators selected to take part in, what to me, is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime cultural exchange. I think of the trip often and I remain extremely grateful to the Americans and Chinese who made this opportunity available. On the U.S. end, I have the East-West Center to thank, a terrific institution in Honolulu dedicated to bridging cultures and fostering global relationships. (It’s also where Barrack Obama’s parents met back when they were students, and the Center likes to consider the prez as honorary son. But that’s another story.)

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In other good news, I learned recently that another poem has been taken by Philadelphia Stories for their summer issue. More on that later.

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After the Wreck of Amtrak 188

“How good this week to be reminded how beautiful and alive Philadelphia becomes this time of year.”

Yesterday, driving home from Jersey, John and I stopped by the neighborhood where the Amtrak wreck happened here in Philadelphia. Naturally the cops wouldn’t let us close, but we could see a huge crane arriving on the rail line to move away the damaged cars. Such a sad, neglected area of the city that is. Everyone in the media calls it Port Richmond, but John tells me that little neighborhood is really Harrowgate, centered on the church there, St. Joan of Arc, now closed (that’s how Catholics measure boundaries in this city–by its churches). Harrowgate’s cut off on its own by the El and the NE corridor, sort of like Devil’s Pocket in South Philly. (See the pic below; Harrowgate is circled in yellow). Harrowgate isn’t just weeds and cracked sidewalks, it’s also roofs falling down, houses boarded up–more than the usual grit and grim. But it’s about community, too. Poor blacks and whites and hispanics talking on stoops, their kids playing in streets still roped off by yellow Do Not Enter tape. I understand many of the people in Harrowgate helped the victims right after the wreck. National media didn’t report this, but local media did. The city should use this moment to do something good for that little neighborhood. I think the people deserve it. If you read the Inquirer story, below, you’ll find their lives are in stark contrast to the more-monied people on the train.

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This afternoon John and I went two blocks over to the Italian Market to buy food for dinner. That didn’t quite happen. The Italian Market Festival was going on. Every year there’s a Procession of the Saints and the streets fill up with Italians welcoming home relatives, as well as big crowds of the Mexicans and Asians who have arrived here more recently. Black folks, too. And Indians, and foreign tourists. Friendly hipsters with lumbersexual beards and serious neck tattoos. Lesbian couples groovin’ to the DJ playing The Electric Slide. Where else but the Italian Market Festival can you get an old-fashioned sausage and peppers alongside new culinary mashup like a chicken tikka quesadilla? Or rum drinks sipped from real pineapples? Or artisanal honey flavored with chocolate and habaneros?

The Festival is huge this year, larger than I think I’ve ever seen it, stretching up to Fitzwater and down to Federal, with dancing areas and music stages at the intersection of each block. I’d expected to see political candidates glad-handing the crowd in advance of Tuesday’s primaries, but no. Started in ’71, the Festival predates Rocky Balboa and ties in with First Holy Communion at St. Mary Magdalen De Pazzi, where the Procession of the Saints begins after church on Sunday. There’s no longer il palo della cuccagna, the climbing of the greased pole, which once stood 25 feet and was topped with prizes of money and slabs of meat. Yet still the festival is about food, food, food. And music. And laughter. And drinking with friends.

As the rain held off, everything seemed an extra delight. Who cared about the oppressive humidity in the air? In Molly’s Books & Records I watched a family of French audiophiles delight in snapping up a hundred bucks of vintage American vinyl. In the bar John and I sometimes frequent for Bloody-Mary-and-eggs-Benedict brunches, I talked to a young Bucks county blonde about which Philly neighborhood she should move into now that she’s considering her first big city apartment. Down past Washington Avenue, where cheese shops and fruit stands give way to taquerias, John and I dodged cellphone marketers and wobbling beer drinkers. A Mexican woman mixing tequila drinks in the heat shot me a drowsy smile when our eyes caught.

John made me laugh and he made me dance. How good this week to be reminded how beautiful and alive Philadelphia becomes this time of year. I love this city even when it breaks my heart.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/The_wreck_of_Train_No_188.html

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Green Line Cafe Poetry Presents Burke, McQuain, Hook & Wolf-Palacio

#PhillyPoets:  THE GREEN LINE CAFE POETRY SERIES PRESENTS:
https://www.facebook.com/events/112074619123477/
Steve Burke, author of After The Harvest
Jennifer Hook, author of This Is How He Left Me
Kelly McQuain, author of Velvet Rodeo
Donna Wolf-Palacio, author of The Other Side

Reading & Signing Their New Chapbooks

TUESDAY, May 19, 2015, 7 PM
*The Third Tuesday of the Month*

HOSTED BY
LEONARD GONTAREK

THE GREEN LINE CAFE IS LOCATED
AT 45TH & LOCUST STREETS
Philadelphia PA

(Please note the address, there are
other Green Line Café locations.)
greenlinecafe.com

This Event Is Free

BookExplosion

Donna Wolf-Palacio has had two chapbooks of poetry, What I Don’t Know and The Other Side, published by Finishing Line Press.  She received an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has published in Poetry, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Voices, The Musehouse Journal, Intro, The Interpreter, and Writing from the Heart: Poems about Adoption.  She wrote a collection of versions of Chinese poems, “The Heart of the Dragon”.  She has taught a poetry workshop at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was editor/consultant for the UARTS Poetry Review. She has received grants and fellowships from The Leeway Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Pennsylvania, Lyric Fest Opera Company, and the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. She worked as Senior Staff Psychotherapist for Hall Mercer Community Mental Health Center of Pennsylvania Hospital/UPHS for 23 years.

Kelly McQuain is a 2015 Lambda Literary Fellow. His poetry book, VELVET RODEO (2014), won Bloom magazine’s chapbook award, and went on to receive two Rainbow Award citations. His work has appeared in The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Weave, The Philadelphia Inquirer,—as well as in numerous anthologies: The Queer South, Between: New Gay Poetry, Skin & Ink, Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, and Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. He has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts in fiction and nonfiction. A native of West Virginia, he’s worked as both a pretzel maker and a comic book artist, and now he’s an English professor at Community College of Philadelphia.

Jennifer Hook is a California native who came to Philadelphia for the grit. She earned an MFA in Painting at the University of Pennsylvania. Following the death of her husband and creative partner of thirty-five years, she chose poetry as an entry into the territory of loss and self reinvention. She has read her work at 100,000 Poets for Change, Poetic Feats of Strength, The Osage Poets at the Green Line Café, Philadelphia Poetry Day, and Why Are They Called The Poetry Liberation Front? at the Big Blue Marble. She is the author of This is How He Left Me (2014).

Steve Burke lives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia with wife-Giselle & daughter-(also sometime-poet) Mariah; has read at multiple venues around the city; has been published in numerous magazines – including Apiary, the Mad Poets’ Review, Philadelphia Stories & the Broadkill Review – in January had his chapbook After The Harvest published by Moonstone Press. He agrees with Czeslaw Milosz that one of the purposes of poetry “is to remind us/how difficult is to remain just one person,/for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,/and invisible guests come in and out at will.”

GSU Radio Broadcasts Philly Poets!

Sunday May 10th Georgia State Radio broadcasted poems by writers with Philadelphia connections on an online radio show. CA Conrad, Ernest Hilbert, Jeffrey Lee, Elaine Terranova and I are in the mix, it looks like. Tune in on your computer here to hear the archived show.

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