May 28, 2009

May Book Swap

First off was John Hunter who brought Anne Enright's Booker Prize wining novel The Gathering because it is set in Dublin in the New Ireland of the "economic miracle." John also donated Margaret Atwood's book of essays Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing. John was here to work on what he said people are now calling "life writing." His biography is about Samuel Smiles.

Next was John's wife Janet who donated I Never Knew That About Ireland by Christopher Winn, a book full of interesting asides on historical characters and places in Ireland. She also brought along Ken Hom's cookbook Ken Hom's Vegetarian Cookery.

Liza Filby who was here on the retreat before this one came next. She reintroduced Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim and Wynton Marsalis' road trip memoir Jazz in the bittersweet blues of life.

The Irish poet Tadhg Ó Dúshláine donated another of his great books of poetry Mallacht Famaire which he finished last year as well as a copy of some new work tentatively titled "Home and Away" or "Is Abhaile Againn."

Anne Mini, an American author, who has a great blog for writers that you should check out, who was also here last retreat, reintroduced Philip K. Dick's, Valis and F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise.

Lori Neville, a Canadian writer and artist who lives in California, donated The Virginia Woolf Writers' Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing. Lori also donated Gary Snyder and Tom Killion's book The High Sierra of California. Killion did the illustrations from woodcuts, in what Lori called "a feast for the eyes" and Snyder wrote the poems and journals. The poet works where Lori works at University of California, Davis.

The South African artist Deborah Clarke, who lives in France, brought a photo memoir of her father JFC Clarke's book A Glimpse Into Marabastad which documents a township in South Africa back in the early 70s.

Small Expo of Nora & Julie's Work for the other May Attendees

The writer Joanne Elliot checking out Julie Baugnet's book collaboration work.

John and Nora Lee McGillivray talking about Karl Blossfeldt's nature photgraphs.

May 26, 2009

Photos of American Artist and Occitan Poet Collaboration in May

Above are photos of some of the beautiful work that the Minnesota artist Julie Baugnet (on the left in the photo below), did at la Muse in the month of May. The paintings were inspired by the work of the local occitan poet and linguist Aurélia Lassaque (on the right in the photo below).

Julie shared the studio that month with another Minnesota artist, her friend Nora Lee McGilvry.

May 23, 2009

Labastide Onion Festival

These are pictures of the mad occitane onion festival - Lo camin de la ceba - we have in front of the village church, St. Andre, every year sometime in the middle of May.

In an ancient ritual people walk from Mazamet to our village of Labastide Esparbairenque to buy onion plants, drink wine, eat saucisson and french fries, and listen to these crazy goatpipes and dance a fun circular dance hand in hand.

Thanks to artist Julie Baugnet for the photos!

May 22, 2009

Montolieu and Booktowns

So, last Wednesday, the day before everyone left May's retreat, John drove everyone to the Booktown in Montolieu. They have over 15 bookstores, a museum of the book, a huge gallery space cooperative called the Centre D'Art et de Litterature, where the artists and text artists of our group had fun, as well as various other places such as the typography space, an illustration gallery. The list goes on and on. The place is a trip. We'll upload photos of the picnic amongst the cactus garden as well as other stuff taken by the attendees when everyone has sent us their photos!

Anyway, we just wanted to post some links to the rest of the Booktowns in Europe, as we intend to visit them all at some stage in the coming years, and there doesn't seem to be a consistent site listing of them all. So, here they are:

France has the most Booktown's in Europe, six, with places like Spain having just one, directed by Fundacion Siglo para las Artes in Valladolid, in the North. Here's the French ones, other than Monotolieu. They're all further north:

Becherel, Fontenoy-La-Joute, (this place has 280 inhabitants and can still fit 18 bookstores, one art store, one paper maker, and a calligraphy store in it. ) La Charite-Sur-Loire, (a UNESCO protected village) Montmorillon, Cuisery (they have a book market the first Sunday of every month).

Hay-On-Wye - Wales (They were the first Booktown, founded by Richard Booth in 1962. They have 35 bookshops and 60 other independent stores. They also have one of the world's biggest book festivals every year. This year it's from the 21st of May until the 31st. Hay-on-Wye is a small (pop. 1300) town with an estimated 2 million books!)
Wigtown - Scotland (over quarter of a million books to choose from...)

Redu (They get over 200,000 people every year)


Saint-Pierre-De-Clages (in the heart of the Swiss Alps, they have some cool churches too)




Fjaerland (that's it in the photo below!)

Mellosa (Right beside the Prime minister's place, this one's also a Peace Booktown)


Votikvere (can't find a link?)

Went on line to find one in the US. Are there more?:

Stillwater (here's their amusing story: " Stillwater, as a small town with 35 booksellers, had developed sufficiently by 1994 to encourage us to petition Richard Booth, King of Hay-on-Wye, Lord Protector of All Booktowns, for official Booktownstatus. In a flurry of faxes, letters, applications, testimonials and gifts to King Richard, we attempted to get him to visit Stillwater, a requirement under the Booktown bylaws. It was not until Tom Loome made a personal pilgrimage to Hay-on-Wye in March of 1994 that the King agreed to consider the matter and follow up with a personal visit. The rest is history. In a ceremony attended by the mayor and other city notables, Stillwater was declared the First Booktown in North America by King Richard Booth on August 26, 1994."

If any of you out there know of other Booktowns, tell us, and we'll upload links to them too!

DO-OVER! - Robin Hemley

Our friend Robin Hemley just came out with another book this month, DO-OVER!

Robin has published seven books altogether, and his stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and many literary magazines and anthologies. Robin got his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and he's the current director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He lives in Iowa City.

Here's what Publisher's Weekly had to say about the book:

"When Hemley ... decides that he wants to do over some of the experiences he flubbed as a child, he isn't just dreaming. The 48-year-old father of three makes a list of times and places he'd like to revisit, including kindergarten, the prom and summer camp, doggedly pursuing all the contacts and background checks necessary to 'storm the walls of childhood' as an adult. Surprisingly, the kids and teachers he meets along the way accept him in his overgrown state; some even express envy . . . Hemley is endearing, funny and more than a bit courageous . . . A big kid at heart, the author draws readers in with just the right mix of humor and tenderness."

May 15, 2009

2009 An Foras Feasa Fellowship

We are happy to announce Eibhlís Farrell as the 2009 An Foras Feasa Fellow.

Eibhlís is an Irish composer, as well as the Head of Music and Creative Media (Ceannasaí Roinn Ceoil agus Meáin Chruthaitheacha) at the Dundalk Institute of Technology. She will be attending the August 24 - September 14 retreat.

We would like to thank An Foras Feasa for sending Eibhlís our way. It is because of An Foras Feasa that La Muse was also able to welcome the poet Tadhg Ó Dúshláine last year. Tadgh is the head of the Irish department at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He will be attending La Muse again next month.

Below is one of the three poems from Tadgh's collection "Comhdháil." Tadgh wrote the poem while attending La Muse as the Foras Feasa Fellow last year. The poem won the Dánta na Comhdhála: Annual International Competition for best poem in Irish or Scots Gaelic. The Irish is followed by an English translation. (You can see video of the actual recital by Judith Mok that inspired Tadgh's poem at the end of the English translation below.)


Ar chloisint Judith Mok ag ceol i Séipéilín na Maighdine, le linn oscailt thaispeántas ealaíne La Muse, Labastide Esparbärineque, Languedoc, ar an Domhnach, 9. 8. 2008.

Bhí drogall ar an ndoras géilleadh d’eochair an Mhéara
Is d’éagaoin na hinsí faoi éigean a ghuailne
Faoi mar ba réabadh reilige tuama seo an tseanchreidimh
Séipéilín tréigthe na Maighdine
Ar maos le hiarsmaí na seandeabhóide
Ó laethanta an chreidimh a bhí anallód ann,
A chur ar fáil mar ardán,
Do Phrima Donna opera ar saoire sa dúthaigh:
Gabhar sa teampall
Ná stadfadh go raghadh ’on altóir.

Lasadh coinnle ar mhaithe le hatmaisféar
Is bhailigh ealta caobach ar thóir cultúir isteach
Is chuir, dá mb’fhéidir san, le dreach truamhéileach na Maighdine,
Muire na nDólás,
Seachas mar a bhíodh tráth ar mhair sagart beo ar an mbaile.

Thabharfá do d’uidh
Stáisiúin na Croise i gcailc dhaite
Múnlaithe go maoithneach de réir treoracha tinneasnacha
Naomh Bonaventura in Smaointe Beatha Chríost:
Na súile móra dólásacha,
Na geáitsí drámatúla, na gothaí impíocha
A bhogfadh an croí cloiche ionainn tráth
Do dhóthain de thitimí, de mhaslaí is de sciúrseadh thuras na croise
Ag gabháil trí ghleann na ndeor duit siar amach go héadóchas Golgatha.

Agus bhí an fhoireann tacaíochta leis ó inné ann:
Páirt lárnach ag Seosamh an seanshéithleach dílis,
Traochta, ar leathghlúin, ag friotháilt ar Mhuire,
Ná leáfadh im ina béal
Agus cloigeann na nathrach brúite faoina sáil;
Í ar a barraicíní ar tí a deastógála,
Treasa Avila, ag déanamh a marana,
Thérèse de Lisieux,
Suanmhar sítheach i measc na mbláth;
Proinsias de Sales ag cleachtadh cúirtéise
Vincent de Paul i mbun obair na trócaire.

B’oiriúnaí, déarfá, boladh túise agus an Tantum Ergo
An Pie Jesu agus an Salve Regina
Summertime and the Living is Easy
A raibh sé de dhánaíocht sa Iúdach mná crochadh suas mar finale
Ach in Veni Creator mo chroí caitliceach féin tharla rud éigin:
Mhúscail stáisiúin na croise ina dtableaux
Is bhí an baile beo:
Chaoch Iósaf súil leis an Mhaighdean Mhuire
Thuirling cumhracht Lisieux ar an slua
Leathnaigh drithlíní áthais ó Avila
Is bhain guth na mná macalla as sléibhte, gleannta is mánna
Siar amach go Cathair an Iomchúisimh i gCarcasonne;
Agus bhí sé ina mhaidin Chásca
Bhí baint an fhéir sa spéir le héirí gréine
Sa cheol a raid sí leis an mbith
Agus d’fhógair coiligh an bhaile i gcór le chéile:
‘Mac na hÓighe slán! Mac na hÓige slán!
Ag guth ainglí Judith Mok
Ag athghabháil ceol draíochta na dtroubadour
Maidin Domhnaigh Fómhair i Languedoc.

On hearing Judith Mok sing, in the Chapel of the Virgin, at the opening of the La Muse art exhibition, in Languedoc.

The door creaked when the mayor turned the key
As though objecting to this crowd of culture vultures
Disturbing the peace
Of the chapel of the Virgin fallen from grace
For an Opera Prima Donna on holidays to take over the alter
As though she were going on stage.

We lit candles just for atmosphere and crowded in
To sing the praises of the artwork
While the old statue of Our Lady of Sorrows looked more sorrowful still.

You couldn’t but notice the Stations of the Cross
The big sad eyes,
The dramatic, imploring gestures
That could once soften this heart of stone
Sending up sighs as you made your way through the valley of tears.

All the supporting cast were there:
Faithful Joseph central to the show:
There he was exhausted on bended knee tending to Mary
You’d swear butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth,
As she crushed the serpent under her heal,
On her tippy toes ready to be assumed into heaven.
Teresa of Avila in the background, transfixed in ecstasy
Thérèse of Lisieux, tranquillity itself tiptoeing through the tulips.
Francis de Sales all kindness and courtesy
Vincent de Paul all corporal works of mercy.

You’d have thought that the smell of incense and the sound of the Tantum Ergo and the Salve Regina,
Were more appropriate to the setting that Madame Mok’s choice of
Summertime and the living is easy as finale.

And yet, in the Veni Creator of my own catholic heart something happened:
And the stations of the Cross all came to life.
Joseph winked at the Virgin Mary,
The fragrance of Lisieux decended on us
And we tripped along with Teresa of Avila.
As the voice of the Prima Donna rolled down through the hills and valleys
To the city of the inquisition in Carcassone
And ’twas Easter morning;
The sun danced in the sky,
As choirs of starlings proclaimed resurrection,
On hearing the voice of Judith Mok
Echoing the local troubadours
On a sunny Sunday morning in Languedoc.

May 14, 2009

June University of Wisconsin-Madison Fellowship

We are delighted to announce that Edward Porter will be our June University of Wisconsin-Madison Fellow.

Edward is doing a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Houston, Texas, the degree being expected sometime in May 2012. He will be using his time at La Muse to finish revisions on the short story collection he has been working on over the past three years entitled "The Changing Station."

The title story of the collection, published first in the Colorado Review (Spring 2008), has already been selected for the Best New American Voices 2010.

May 5, 2009

May Book Swap

So, here are the books attendees donated to the La Muse library last night for the May Retreat:

Joanne Elliott, an American writer, was first. Joanne lives on the island of Inis Boffin in Northern Ireland so she brought along Territories of the Voice a diverse selection of short stories by Irish women writers such as Julia O'Faolain, Mary Lavin, Edna O'Brien and Elizabeth Bowen, as well as newer writers, including Anne Devlin, Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, Ann McKay, Fiona Barr, and Evelyn Conlon (Evelyn was here last year).

Joanne also graciously donated New Selected Poems by Richard Murphy a copy she was given by the poet.

Anne Mini, another writer from the states, who has a great blog for writers that you should check out, gave the library F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise.

Anne also donated a special book by Philip K.Dick, Valis.

The reason it's special: that's Anne on the cover as a little girl representing the new Messiah of the novel. (Sorry the image is so small!) Philip K. Dick was Anne's step-father.

The American artist Nora Lee McGillivray donated a great book of photographs of the boundary waters of the Minnesota area where she comes from, Looking for the Summer by Jim Brandenburg.

Everyone loved the book Nora created herself, below, "The Artist's Own Celestial Charts to Guide the Reader in Search of the Elusive & Changing CENTER." It's hard to see from the photo just how beautiful and intricate the work she does is, but it at least gives you an idea of the amount of time and energy that went into creating such a beautiful book.

Nora also gave us two amazing kids books, one from the twenties Millions of Cats by Wanda Gray and Betsy Bowen's Antler, Bear, Canoe. We've been reading them to our boys nearly every night for the last couple of weeks.

Julie Baugnet, an artist friend of Nora's, was here again to paint like last year. Julie reintroduced a great book she brought last year called Drawing from Life : The Journal of Art edited by Jennifer New. Some examples of Julie's journals are in the book and you can check out her recent work on her blog.

Journal of a Prarie Year by Paul Gruchow is another book about Minnesota, where Julie also lives. The publisher says this about the book: "Originially published twenty-three years ago, Journal of a Prairie Year remains one of the finest depictions of the prairie ever written, an essential reintroduction to a threatened world."

Julie also donated The Object Stares Back: On the Nature of Seeing by James Elkins, an art historian with Chicago's School of the Art Institute.

The Chicago writer Rebecca Pohancenik (she curates a cool site called text/gallery) was next with her choices. Rebecca lives in London where she's doing her doctorate.

Rebecca donated Bill Bryson's memoir The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America becasue of where she's from, as well as Angels & Instincts by A.S. Byatt. Like Byatt's novel Rebecca is writing an historical novel at La Muse alongside work on her thesis.

Last but not least came Liza Filby, a writer and historian from London. She is currently finishing her doctorate thesis on Margaret Thatcher, presently entitled "God and Thatcher: Religion and Politics in 1980s Britain."

Liza donated Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim which she called a classic description of academic life, in that, not much has changed since the novel was published.

Because his music inspires her, Liza also donated Jazz in the bittersweet blues of life by Wynton Marsalis, a memoir of the musician on a roadtrip.

We also suggested two or three books for each artist and writer to help them with their projects, but also to introduce them to the work of previous attendees as well as books we love.