Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Local Geniuses

Gurldoggie joins the chorus in offering hearty congratulations to two remarkable Seattle artists who were recently recognized with well deserved MacArthur "genius" grants. The filmmaker James Longley ("who explores Middle East conflicts with portraits of communities under stress") and poet Heather McHugh ("a poet known for her syntactical twists") will each receive $500,000, spread out over five years.

Longley's film Iraq in Fragments remains the bravest and most moving film I have yet seen about the war in Iraq, and may be one of the best documentaries on a war-in-progress ever made. Youtube has a great interview with Longley about the making of the film, and while it cuts out a little soon, it's still very inspiring to see the combination of guts and humility that went into creating this unique film.

Heather McHugh is a local poetry goddess, twisting words and phrases around each other like licorice ropes. She studied with Robert Lowell, has won a considerable number of major poetry prizes, and now teaches in the poetry MFA program at the University of Washington.


There, a little right
of Ursus Major, is
the Milky Way:
a man can point it out,
the biggest billionfold of all
predicaments he's in:
his planet's street address.

What gives? What looks
a stripe a hundred million
miles away from here

is where we live.


Let's keep it clear. The Northern Lights
are not the North Star. Being but
a blur, they cannot reassure us.
They keep moving - I think far
too easily. September spills

some glimmers of
the boreals to come:
they're modest pools
of horizontal haze, where later

they'll appear as foldings in the vertical,
a work of curtains, throbbing dim
or bright. (One wonders at
one's eyes.) The very sight
will angle off in glances or in shoots
of something brilliant, something

bigger than we know, its hints uncatchable
in shifts of mind ... So there

it is again, the mind, with its
old bluster, its self-centered
question: what

is dimming, what is bright?
The spirit sinks and swells, which cannot tell
itself from any little luster.

1 comment:

Bikejuju said...

I'm a little late to this post, catching up on your wonderful blog. But James is a friend, and so let me tell ya, this could not have come at a better time, or to a more wonderfully deserving recipient. Yay!