Kierstin Bridger in Ridgway
“Wired for Words” was a popular, four-week-long creative writing class taught by poet Kierstin Bridger last February. The class was so well received that Bridger is back: she’ll teach the “Best of Wired for Words” Saturday, May 11, at Weehawken Ridgway.
The class aims to get students to “Write without the filter – fast and furious,” Bridger says. That’s to help open the creative floodgates. Other times, the idea for a poem builds and builds. For example, two photos, over the course of about two weeks, recently came up in Bridger’s Facebook newsfeed. Both were from the Telluride Historical Museum. The first image, from March 29, was of a recent gift to the museum: a beautiful, ornate steamer trunk from one of Telluride’s bordellos. Bridger was instantly intrigued. “I decided to have a conversation with all the unknowns, what was outside the frame,” she said. But the picture wasn’t complete. The second photo, posted by the Museum on April 10, brought things into sharper focus for the poet: it was of the bordellos themselves, also known as the town’s cribs. These “small wooden structures on East Pacific Ave. housed Telluride’s ‘girls on the line’ and made up the local red-light district,” the post said. “Also known as ‘Popcorn Alley,’ the neighborhood earned this nickname from the noise made by the doors repeatedly slamming shut in the night.” “I imagined a whole world around the women and the miners who kept them employed,” Bridger said. “The word cribs, the cradle shape of the trunk, and the curiosity of what might be inside the trunk came together in a sort of elegy for the women, for their innocence, and for the children they may never have had.” Bridger had her poem. All that was left was to write it.
A painted oak steamer trunk
found in the bordello's attic
pasted portraits in sepia,
shape of a cradle, storing infant gowns,
too far-gone to ever christen a child.
They were the soiled doves, unmarried
women exchanging favors for the wages
of silver mines, rattled tales
and hymns, infantile endearments;
Dolly, Lamb, Lil’ Pistol, Sunshine.
A life measured in long draws
of gracile cigarettes. Darlings
delivered too early, or not at all,
yellowed linen, and quilt
packed chests, abandoned little birds.
Muddy, slanted floors, rooms of narrow sneers,
the one bent wood rocker in the corner,
light filtered through stained glass--
nothing pastoral or Magdalene, only
bright and pointed harlequin squares.
I think of the long stares, snowcaps,
hoarfrost on thin panes, the musty
lace and Derringer legacy, forgotten
women, whiskey hours spent lying
in kerosene-lit cribs lining this mining town.
To sign up for the Best of Wired for Words, visit weehawkenarts.org.
David Berkeley in Montrose
David Berkeley has lived in Alaska, Corsica and Brooklyn. He’s written for the Let’s Go series of travel guides, and for Outside magazine. He has gone to Harvard.
Maybe none of that matters anymore, but more likely all of it does. For all those experiences have helped make David Berkeley, the melancholy singer-songwriter who sees “compassion and misgivings” wherever he goes, in the words of one critic, who he is today.
Next Thursday, May 9, Berkeley will be in concert at the Twentieth Century Saloon to benefit Welcome Home Montrose, the grassroots initiative inspired by the determination of servicemen like Corporal Todd Love, USMC, who became a triple amputee after his encounter with an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan three years ago. Proceeds from the concert will directly benefit 30 “wounded warriors,” in Welcome Home’s words, who will re-locate to Montrose June 11. Berkeley is touring in support of his latest album, The Fire in My Head. Given its title, it would be difficult to imagine at least some of the new music doesn’t speak directly to Welcome Home’s clientele. And, indeed, his lyrics from “The Well” edge uncomfortably close to the war experience, and the reason Welcome Home exists.
“…Still going, going, isn’t it strange?
That one day we fall, one day we pay.
One day we fall, one day we pay.
I’ve been trying to hold on to something that lasts
Something with roots, or tied to some mast.
Because we will all wake up, our face to the glass
And wonder how it went by so fast…”
The Boston Phoenix called Berkeley the best of the young American singer-songwriters, with a voice full of feeling “and a big, big heart. And the balls to say what he thinks.” Which also sounds like our man in uniform. Tickets for the concert, which begins at 7 p.m., are $15, available at the Warrior Resource Center and online at welcomehomemontrose.org. To hear David Berkeley’s music, visit davidberkeley.com.
In Montrose: First Friday addendum
One of the themes of the First Friday stroll tomorrow night is zombies, and some of the art on exhibit may, at least at first glance, seem uncannily suited to that theme. The ceramics at the A+Y Gallery by Jacob Franck CKSP are “pretty gothic-looking,” admits gallery owner Yesenia Duncan. In one sculpture, for example, a bloodied hand emerges from the side of a pot. What was Franck thinking?
It helps to understand that he is a rock climber: Franck lives in Grand Junction, climbs in the Colorado National Monument, and is well-acquainted with sandstone, the Monument’s surface of choice. Many a climber’s hand has been bloodied during an ascent, particularly on sandstone cracks. Franck’s work ceramics may seem ghoulish, but they are also an honest depiction of a scrappy day at the crags. Then there is the matter of an oil painting of a skeletal-looking tree by Jennifer Jung, this month’s guest artist at Around the Corner Gallery; one almost expects to see a raven looming on one of its branches. (“It’s funny, this painting always seems to stir emotions,” Jung said.) Look more closely, though, and where you might expect a corvid to be perched, new branches are beginning to grow. What some might see as spindly, the artist’s eye finds beautiful. “To me, it was a gorgeous oak tree I saw one November in the early morning sun,” Jung said. She titled her work Resilience.