Monday, September 12, 2011

Poetry Audio Tour of the Pacific Asia Museum

When you are tired and have a headache - write a poem. When you are happy you do not know what to do with yourself - write another poem. When you look at a beautiful piece of art - write a poem again. Then, burn the first poem, hide the second, and record the third...

This is how we - over 30 California poets - have created the amazing new Audio Tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.

This Poets on Site Project was created under the guidance of the Museum's Education Director, Amelia Chapman, and thanks to the good graces of the indefatigable poets and artists, Kathabela and Rick Wilson - who organized, coordinated, and recorded the entire set. The poets have completed describing over 50 artworks from various Asian countries that are currently presented at the Museum. Their voices are accompanied by Rick Wilson who plays some of his amazing flutes from around the world. The instruments are named after each poem on the recordings.

All the poetry stops are now uploaded by the museum and can be heard on the phone from anywhere! How to listen? First dial 626-628-9690 then the number and the number sign, #.

The exhibition and the audio tour stops are divided into several categories, as follows:

The Art of Daily Life
• Tibetan Rug - Nora DeMuth, Sharon Hawley 404#
• Tibetan Table - Kath Abela Wilson, Monica Lee Copland 405#
• Rhini Horn Cup - Kath Abela Wilson Pauli Dutton 406#
• Thai Bowl - Constance Griesmer 407#
• Thai Bottle Vase - Constance Griesmer 408#
• Vietnam Charger with Myna Birds - Constance Griesmer, Pauli Dutton 409#
• Bilim (Bilum) Bag - Taoli-Ambika Talwar, Erika Wilk, Mira Mataric 410#
• Ink Box and Stand - Taura Scott, Kath Abela Wilson, Pauli Dutton 411#
• Horseshoe Chair (China) - Pauli Dutton, Alice Pero 412#

The Beauty of Nature
• Eagle in a Snowstorm - Sharon Hawley, Chris Wesley, M. Kei (read by Just Kibbe) 415#
• Persimmon and Pine Trees by a Stream - Christine Jordan, Erika Wilk, Deborah P Kolodji 416#
• Plum Blossoms in the Moonlight - Nora De Muth, Janis Lukstien, Kath Abela Wilson 417#
• Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather - Kath Abela Wilson, Nora DeMuth, Liz Goetz 418#
• Landscape after Snowfall - Ashley Baldon 419#
• Ducks and Lotus - Christine Jordan, Ashley Baldon, Deborah P Kolodji 420#
• Monkey Performing the Sanbaso Dance - Mira Mataric, Just Kibbe 421#
• Origins of Life (Korea) - Janis Lukstein, Sharon Hawley, Taoli-Ambika Talwar 422#

Wisdom and Longevity
• Yam Mask (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 426#
• Incense Burner - Nora DeMuth 427#
• Fukurojin - Nora DeMuth 428#
• Shou (Longevity) - Richard Dutton, Ashley Baldon, Joan Stern 429#
• Canoe Prow (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 430#

Religion and Faith
• Bodhisattva in Yab-yum Embrace - Genie Nakano 435#
• Vishnu and Garuda - Ashley Baldon, Christine Jordan 436#
• Daoist Priest Robe - Nora DeMuth, Pauli Dutton 437#
• Buddhist Five-point Crown - Genie Nakano, Mira Mataric 438#
• The Goddesses Durga and Kali Fighting the Demon Hordes - Pauli Dutton 439#
• Kensui (waste water bowl) - Peggy Casto, Kah Abela Wilson 440#
• Le Genie San Noms. CorĂ©e - Mel Weisburd, Monica Lee Copland, Joan Stern 441#
• Bodhisattva (Tibet) - Sharon Rizk, Nancy Ellis Taylor 442#
• Yamantaka Mandala - James Won 443#
• Bodhisattva (China) - Susan Rogers 444#
• Buddha (Pakistan) - Maja Trochimczyk 445#
• Seated Buddha (Korea) - Susan Rogers 446#
• Lohan and Attendant - Radomir Vojtech Luza 447#
• Goblins and Ghosts - Liz Goetz 448#

Status and Adornment
• Courtesan Reading a Letter - Deborah P. Kolodji, Monica Lee Copland 450#
• Kogo (Incense Box) - Sharon Hawley 451#
• Netsuke: Mask of Danjuro - Mel Weisburd 452#
• Netsuke: Pomander - Mari Werner 453#
• Netsuke: Horse - Joan Stern, Mari Werner 454#
• Gau (Protective Amulet) - Maja Trochimczyk 455#
• Female Figure - Mel Weisburd, Beverly M. Collins 456#
• Prince (India) - Kath Abela Wilson, Genie Nakano 457#
• Charger (Celadon) - Alice Pero 458#
• Charger (Qilin) - Mel Weisburd 459#
• Marriage Bowl - Rick Wilson 460#
• Earrings with Crab Motif - Susan Rogers, Nancy Ellis Taylor 461#
• Pair of Sleevebands - Erika Wilk 462#
• Pair of Bound-Foot Shoe - Chris Wesley, Taura Scott, Nora DeMuths 463#
• Ji-fu (Man’s Semi-formal Court Robe) - Maja Trochimczyk, Mari Werner 464#
• Head Ornament (New Guinea) - Cindy Rinne 465#


I wrote three poems for this exhibition and like the most "A Box of Peaches" (no. 455#), but its "thanksgiving" theme makes it more suitable to the month of November. Of the other two, "An Embroidery Lesson" focuses on an ornately decorated courtier's robe, called Ji-Fu. The same robe has also inspired Mari Werner to write about embroidery. Here is my poem.

An Embroidery Lesson

Tonight we’ll count the clouds
The blue splendor of courtier’s robes
Awaits them

We’ll take a long silk thread
And wrap it with a filament of gold
Until it shines like ocean sunrise

We’ll catch the bright flames of the fire
Of red-eyed dragons that prance
And snarl on the hem

Their talons stretch towards a mandala
Resting above cobalt swirls
Of midnight rain

This, an unspoken secret
The serpent eats its tail
The end is the beginning

Look, it moves across the sky
Chasing a flock of gold-rimmed clouds
Let’s count them


Rick Wilson improvised on the following flutes from his personal collection:

  • Japan: A shakuhachi was used to accompany poems about Japanese
    objects. The instrument is a little over 21 inches long and made of thick, heavy bamboo. It is held vertically and sounded by directing the breath towards an straight edge carved out of one open end. The instrument is very expressive.

  • China: On the recordings of poems about Chinese objects, a xiao was played. This instrument is held vertically and has a notch carved in one end. It is made of bamboo; it is lighter than the shakuhachi, but longer. It has a mellow sound.

  • Korea: A Korean danso was played for the poems about Korean
    objects. This instrument is a notched end-blown flute like the xiao but is smaller and higher pitched.

  • India: The bansuri is a bamboo flute played transversely (horizontally) in India and nearby regions. A large bansuri of the type played in Northern India was used to accompany poems on objects from this nation. The instrument is mellow sounding and is played legato with frequent portamento.

  • Tibet: A small transverse flute made in Nepal, a type of bansuri, was used for poems on Tibetan objects.

  • Vietnam: A small transverse cane flute purchased in Hanoi, a sao truc, was played for poems on pieces from Vietnam.

  • Indonesia: A suling, a traditional flute from Bali, was played on the recording of poems from Indonesia. This flute is a an example of a duct
    flute, which produces sound like a recorder or whistle.

  • Thailand: A wide-bore recorder was used as a substitute for the Thai khlui,a duct flute, on the recording of a poem about a bowl from Thailand.

  • New Guinea: Flutes are not common in Papua New Guinea, and a bamboo mouth harp made in the Philippines is played, in lieu of the traditional bamboo models found in the former country, for the poems on New Guinean pieces.


    At the end, though, Rick Wilson switched from music to describing his beloved wife in a poem inspired by The Marriage Bowl (460#)- comparing Kathabela to an elegant, golden, and magical dragon. She recently celebrated her birthday, and I honored her with a little birthday-wish poem, also describing her magical abilities:

    For Kathabela

    Hail to the Queen of Many Hats!
    The Sprite with multicolored notebooks
    collecting treasures, pictures, smiles.
    Let's laugh with the pixie sprinkling magic dust
    on each minute and gesture. Let's hear
    the weaver of words, spinning poems
    out of tea cups, necklaces and clouds.
    Long live the Queen of Pentacles,
    presiding on the Throne of Earthly Riches
    over her court of jesters, knights, and lovers.
    Let's praise the wisdom of a sage,
    the charm of a dancer,
    and the devotion of a whirling dervish -
    hidden in her secret name, revealed
    in the kaleidoscope of her art!


    The pictures are from Japan (Kathabela and Rick Wilson), from the courtyard of the Pacific Asia Museum (with Erika Wilk, photo by Kathabela Wilson), from recording sessions at Kathabela and Rick's salon in Pasadena, and from another exhibition of Poets and Artists at Susan Dobay's Scenic Drive Gallery in Monrovia (at 125 Scenic Drive, by appointment only).

    Invited to contribute to the Poets and Artists Exhibition, I made two collages, one with a digital art piece and four "klosy" of wheat, illustrating my poem, "Tiger Nights." I made and framed this collage as a gift for Kathabela's Birthday (it is above her head in the photo). So here's a poem and an artwork, as a tribute to the spiritus movens of the Poetry Audio Tour at the Pacific Asia Museum.
  • 1 comment:

    1. Dear sweet beautiful friend and poet Maja, this is a most beautiful tribute to poetry, friendship, and love... thank you for this it is a most exquisite reward for our work... Rick has a big smile on his face, looking at what you have done... what a refreshment and encouraging work of love. thank you for your deep and sweet sensitivity to all the details, and even the musical ones which because of your musical powers... (as well as magical) you are able to appreciate and celebrate in a most expressive and real way. Rick thinks his poem is in tune with yours. I love the photos you chose and treasure all we do together. Sweet sweet poet and friend.