ELEVATED | ‘Blazing Ice,’ Children’s Poetry, and a Multicultural Banjo
by Leslie Vreeland
Jan 30, 2013 | 1106 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JAYME STONE, an award-winning banjo player, will give a concert entitled "World of Wonders" at the Wright Opera House Sat., Feb. 9. (Courtesy photo)  
JAYME STONE, an award-winning banjo player, will give a concert entitled "World of Wonders" at the Wright Opera House Sat., Feb. 9. (Courtesy photo)  

Author John Wright in Ouray and Telluride


Silverton resident John Wright will read from and discuss Blazing Ice, his gripping, true-life adventure story of how he forged the first overland route from McMurdo Station to the South Pole and back again, in Ouray this week. Wright’s book gets a perfect five-stars-out-of five rating on Amazon. As one reviewer puts it, “Turn off your phone, send the kids to grandma’s, put the dog in the yard. Once you start, you will not stop until the last word. This story and the telling of it are that good.”


The last man to attempt the feat that Wright and his team eventually accomplished over four Antarctic summers had frozen to death in 1912. Wright, a geologist who had worked in Antarctica for several years, was chosen to lead the 1,028-mile overland route because he was accomplished at risky, dangerous work (he was an explosives expert) and had a perfect safety record. No one could have foreseen the physical challenges of terrain and weather – the yawning crevasses, the killing cold – he and his team would experience on their way to the Pole, though. The team faced not only extreme conditions, but constant, gnawing uncertainty. As the author wrote, “When had there not been doubt?” The “route was mostly unexplored until we explored it,” he said. “And plan though we might, we never knew what we were getting into until we got there.”


Today, every crew hauling supplies to the South Pole by vehicle follows Wright’s so-called Proof of Concept Route by tracing the flags he and his team placed every 300 feet along the way. Asked if this accomplishment was the achievement of a lifetime, he demurred: “The highest honor of my life was being invited, twice, to testify before Congress on mining law reform.” But the Proof-of-Concept route, he admitted, “Was a high adventure.” John Wright will read from Blazing Ice at 5:30 p.m. Mon., Feb. 4, at the Ouray Community Center, and 6:30 p.m. Weds., Feb. 6, at the Wilkinson Library.  To read reviews of Wright’s book, go to tinyurl.com/aaxvlmd.


Banjoist Jayme Stone at the Wright


Finally, a heads-up: Canadian banjoist Jayme Stone will play the Wright Opera House a week from Saturday. If you think the sound of his instrument is synonymous with “twang,” you haven’t heard him play. The Globe and Mail has called this two-time Juno-award-winning artist “the Yo-Yo Ma of Banjo.”

Stone is touring in support of his most recent album, “Room of Wonders,” inspired by folk dances from around the world (his album before that, “Africa to Appalachia,” was based on his travels to Mali). Stone’s inspiration for “Room” struck while was fixing dinner: “I was listening to Bach’s French Suites while cooking. The performance had such a lilt to it that I literally wanted to dance,” he has said. “It was an epiphany moment. Bach used European folk dance forms to inform his own music. I realized I could explore folk dances in my own way, but with a worldwide scope.” “Room of Wonders” explores music from Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Brazil, Italy and North America. Expect to hear all of that onstage with, given this region’s fondness for the musical form, just a tad bit of bluegrass added in. Don’t care for this type of music? Don’t worry. As Stone once observed to a skeptical British audience, “The thing about bluegrass is that even if you don’t like it, it’s over quite quickly.” Stone plays the Wright Opera House Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m.


Poet Videlock in Grand Junction


The Western Colorado Writers Forum presents poet Wendy Videlock, who will read from her new book, The Dark Gnu, this Saturday in Grand Junction. Although it’s being promoted for youngsters, Videlock says, her new work is actually for anyone. She describes it as 


An odd little book

for the drifters and dreamers,

the tygers and sages,

and the children of all

inconceivable ages.


Writing is Videlock’s “life passion,” as she puts it, and her work has appeared in The New Criterion, Poetry and numerous other literary journals. But she’s also always loved painting, and she illustrated Gnu herself. “It came about as a collaboration between two disciplines, and turned out to be a real labor of love,” she said. “I really enjoyed finding a shape within the sound of a word.”


Despite its title, there is no story about a gnu at the center of Videlock’s new work. The book is a collection of poems – not a single narrative or story. There are recurring themes, though, of mystery and intuition. “We’ve become awfully rational and unimaginative in modern times. I find the focus on Reason a little dull,” Videlock said. “I was raised on Kipling and C.S. Lewis and Mother Goose, and I hoped with this book to carry on that long tradition of mystery and imagination.”  Though there is no story of a gnu in Videlock’s work, she writes of animals often. “I’m very interested in totems and archetypes, dream and vision, song and rhythm,” she said. “Animals are always finding themselves poking around in the pages of my work.” Here is “The Hawk,” which first appeared in Poetry.


The forest is the only place

Where green is green, and blue is blue.

Walking the forest I have seen

most everything. I’ve seen a you

with yellow eyes and busted wing.

And deep in the forest, no one knew.


Videlock will read from her illustrated book of verse at 4 p.m. at the Main Street Room, Spring Hill Suites (236 Main St.).  Earlier in the afternoon, from 1:30-3:30 p.m., she will teach a writing workshop entitled “What the Light Will Guess and the Dark Knows.” Tickets are $50; the workshop was nearly sold out at press time. For more information, call 970/201-0303.

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