Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB: www.storypreservation.org
ANNOUNCING SPl’S SECOND ANNUAL STUDENT POETRY CONTEST!
The SPI Learning Lab contains the voices and stories of nationally and internationally renowned poets. We combine their stories with suggestions for projects that engage students in the art and craft of poetry writing. OUR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTEST is open to grade 4-12 students from schools subscribing to the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab.
To subscribe to the Learning Lab goto: http://www.spi-learninqlab.org.
Click Login/Register > Click Register > Click Administrator (even if you are a teacher) > Enter your email and passcode. Registration is available on a quarterly or annual basis and allows all teachers and all students in a school access to the site.
• Official contest rules are posted on the site.
• Prizes will be awarded in each of the following three grade categories: Grades 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12.
• Students can write on any subject and in any form they choose.
JUDGED BY VERMONT POET LAUREATE CHARD deNIORD
In 1998, deNiord began teaching at Providence College, where he was eventually named the tenth recipient of the Joseph R. Accinno Faculty Teaching Award. That same year, he founded the Spirit and Letter Workshop, a ten-day program of workshops and lectures in Patzquaro, Mexico, featuring faculty poets such as Thomas Lux, Gerald Stern, Jean Valentine, and Ellen Bryant Voigt, among others. In 2002, deNiord co-founded the New England College MFA program in poetry, which he directed until 2007.
DeNiord’s poetry collections include Interstate (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015); Speaking in Turn, a collaboration with Tony Sanders (Gnomon Press, 2011); The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011); Night Mowing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005); and Sharp Colden Thorn (Marsh Hawk Press, 2003). DeNiord also authored a book of essays and interviews with renowned poets called Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs: Reflections and Conversations with Twentieth Century American Poets (Marick Press, 2012). The poets featured in the collection include Robert Bly, Lucille Clifton, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, and Maxine Kumin, among others. DeNiord is currently a professor of English at Providence College and the Poet Laureate of Vermont.
A story of courage, ethnicity, generosity, and inspiration.
CLICK ON LINKS BELOW TO LISTEN TO ASHLEY’S RECORDING.
Renowned for the extraordinary range and depth of his talent, Ashley Bryan is an artist, a writer, a poet, an anthologist, a storyteller, and a noted scholar of African and African American folklore.
His children’s books are full of love – all embracing, inspiring, warm, colorful, joyous, and bursting with song. He works largely with Black African-American poetry and spirituals.
Ashley hopes that his work with African tales will be like “a tender bridge” connecting past to present, reaching across distances of time and space. Ashley’s numerous awards and honors include the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration; six Coretta Scott King Honors; the Arbuthnot Prize, one of the highest honors in children’s literature; and a Fulbright Scholarship.
His poetry and paintings have and continue to influence a whole generation of children.
Born in 1923 in Harlem to West Indies immigrants, Bryan’s childhood was filled with books, music, and art, even though resources tended to be scarce during the Great Depression. Second of six children, Bryan cannot remember a time when he was not drawing or painting.
One of Ashley Bryan’s Sea Glass windows.
His first memories were of his parents sending him to Government run WPA classes which were free, and where he learned to draw, paint and play musical instruments. Ashley’s mother sang and his father played the piano.
After graduating from high school, he applied for a scholarship at a prominent art institution, but was essentially told that a scholarship would not be wasted on a colored person. Under the guidance of his high school teachers, Bryan then applied and was accepted into New York’s prestigious Cooper Union Art School. Two years at Cooper Union and Ashley was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. At the age of nineteen, as a part of the fleet that sailed to Normandy for the surprise invasion, Bryan drew whenever he could, keeping a sketch pad and art supplies in his gas mask.
From there, Bryan went on to study philosophy at Columbia University to, as he says, “understand war.” He received a Fulbright scholarship to study art in Europe, and became the head of the art department at Dartmouth College.
Ashley’s home, where the door is always open.
Ashley Bryan lives on Little Cranberry Island off the coast of Maine.
The above copy is taken from numerous sources, including Wikipedia, Reading Rockets, and Simon and Schuster author profiles.
TRACK ONE: INTRO TO RECORDING –
TRACK TWO: EARLY YEARS IN THE BRONX –
TRACK THREE: THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY –
TRACK FOUR: WORLD WAR II –
TRACK FIVE: THE ALL-WHITE WORLD OF CHILDREN’S BOOKS –
TRACK SIX: AFRICAN FOLK TALES –
TRACK SEVEN: AFRICAN SPIRITUALS –
The transcription from the first section of our interview follows:
Growing Up in the Bronx / Discovering the Importance of Community
I was born in New York City on July 13, 1923 of immigrant parents who had come from Antigua in the West Indies. They had six children; I was the second. I was raised in the Bronx during the Depression years. My parents provided food, clothes, and shelter but they couldn’t afford other things.
At that time there was the WPA, the Works Progress Administration. They offered free art and free music classes for communities throughout the country. My parents sent the six of us to all the things that were free that would help us to develop ourselves creatively. We worked with whatever materials we could find to recreate them, to make something of them — things that we would find on the streets – including fabrics and things from upholstery stores. My sister and I would bring them home and rework them into quilts, into skirts and jackets. We were always working with castoff materials, recreating them, bringing them into another form of life, which is a pattern that has stayed with me through life.
The good thing about growing up in tenement apartments was that we knew everyone in the house. Everyone looked after the other. My parents took care of the elders in the house. In good weather people sat out on the streets. They would bring their instruments, their music, what they would drink in the warm weather. They always had an eye out for the children. It was a different world in the 1930’s growing up in the city, which was broken down into small communities. It was that sense of community, which I’ve carried through life, which followed me to these islands off the coast of Maine. That’s what helped me decide that this would become my year-round home, because the community that I found here reminded of my New York City tenement apartment.
Cooper Union and Columbia University
My father was a printer but when he came to the United States, being a black man, all he was offered was a mop and broom. My dad never talked about racism. He simply said, “I knew I wasn’t going to last long in a job like that.” So, he went to the British Consulate and got a certificate from them stating that I had served in His Majesty’s Army and that he had worked as an apprentice printer as a child. That gave him an entrance into a downtown printing plant and that’s where he worked. He said it gave him a chance to be expressive in his work. And he was always bringing home extra papers from work. So I had these beautiful papers to work with.
I also had the good fortune of having wonderful teachers in elementary school. I had all white teachers throughout elementary, junior high, and high school. They all encouraged me. They always recognized my talent and gave me the materials that I needed to keep growing in my love of art.
In high school I joined the Art Club and, on graduation, I had the help of my teachers to prepare a very strong portfolio. Before graduating, they gave me the list of art schools in New York City to go to. So I went from art school to art school and was told – and this is New York City – “this is the best portfolio we have seen, but it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person.” When I came back to the high school and told that to my teachers, they said, “Ashley, come back and take a post-graduate course.” They knew I was black, I knew I was black, and there was no problem. It didn’t occur to them that I would need anything beyond my talents. So they said, come back, take a post-graduate course, work on your portfolio, and in the summer take the exam for the Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering. They do not see you there. So, that summer I took the exam. At that time, in 1940, there were three exercises: one in drawing, one in sculpture, and one in architecture.
When you finished those exercises, you put your work on a tray with all the information of who you are on the platform of the Great Hall. It’s a very famous hall, where all of our presidents have lectured, from the earliest time. It was founded in1850 for the working young men and women of the country, primarily for young women working in all aspects of the garment trade and for young men in engineering, as Peter Cooper was an outstanding engineer. So, I took the exams, I put it on my tray and left. Then professors looked over all of the work, and they selected those they wanted for admission to the Cooper Union. I was fortunate in being one of them. I was the only black in my class, but I had grown up in a mixed community of French, German, Italian, and Irish. I became close friends with the students there. We have followed each other through life. The very few, who at ninety, are still alive, I’m still very close to.
I was never a loner. I was always with others. I was alone in my art, creating my art. All artists and composers, in whatever form, they have to be alone in developing in what they do. But I always loved being with others and sharing my work. And I always had the respect of others, because of my real love of doing my work – and my respect for what they did. I was lousy in sports. I’d be the last one chosen on any team. But they understood that and they spoke of me as the artist of the community. I was never picked on. I don’t know why that is, other than I always had such a deep respect for what other people do that it never occurred to me that there was any kind of a hierarchy. You could be sweeping a street and I would respect what you were doing and your work in that community.
My work in the community was always open to people dropping in. I drew so much from just the informal visits and what they would have to say. You know, I think that’s why I say I don’t believe in interruptions in my life. Right now, talking with you, I am creating. I am drawing, I’m painting, I’m doing my bookwork, I’m doing my puppet work, my sea glass work. There is no interruption. Everything that is happening to me I feel is significant. There is no way you can take my time. It’s the one thing that I possess. I can only offer it to you in exchange for your precious gift of your time, so remain on a level of back and forth, you see. And that is why my door is always open and people will come and go. But they come and they say, “Oh, we’re interrupting you.” No! Look! Do you want to see my paintings, do you want to see my drawings, do you want to see my sea-glass work, do you want to see my bookwork? I am always producing.
WWII / Looking for answers
When I came back from the Second World War I was so spun around, as veterans are, it was difficult to go on. Well, I knew when I came back (I was inducted at nineteen) that I wanted to complete my studies at Cooper Union. So, I knew my direction. I was not like veterans who don’t have a direction. After the experiences of a war, they find it difficult to adjust and go one. Very often then, because they don’t have enough services to keep following them up, they fall through. And that’s why, when they say a third of the homeless are veterans, it’s very understandable, because without help of family, friends, or a direction in life, or a medical support system that will follow them closely, it’s very hard after those experiences, to say you’re normal and go on. That’s what I experienced when I came home. I knew I wanted to complete my course study, but I also knew I wanted to understand why man chooses war. So when I graduated from Cooper Union, I did undergraduate work as a philosophy major at Columbia, to see if I could find answers. And I only found more questions. But I was so intrigued by the way man thinks, in aesthetics and ethics, in logic, and these areas, which I studied, that I stayed with it. Summers I’d come up to Maine and I’d be outdoors painting the whole time. That’s what really gave me a focus and direction. When I graduated from Columbia University, I knew I would not go any further in studies.
Please check back regularly. More of the transcription to follow.
Made possible with funds provided by the Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason Foundation.
As an off-shoot of a Story Preservation nature-based Learning Lab project, a fourth grader in an SPI Learning Lab subscriber school chose naturalist David Carroll, who is in our collection, as the subject of a research paper. The student is very interested in nature and conservation.
The teacher mentioned this to me two days before I was scheduled to visit with David so I asked him if, during our visit, he would be willing to video record a message specifically for this student – and he agreed.
Story Preservation wishes to thank Morgan Blum Schneider the Director of Education at the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center in San Francisco for allowing us to use and share with Learning Lab partner schools the original lesson plan, which she developed, titled Surviving Hitler: A Love Story. The lesson plan follows the story of Jutta and Helmuth Cords and their involvement with the plot to assassinate Hitler. Jutta and Helmuth Cords daughter, Claudia Cords-Damon, shared her parents’ story with SPI. As has been said on numerous occasions, the resulting recording “reads like a novel.”
The JFCS Holocaust Center is dedicated to the education, documentation, research, and remembrance of the Holocaust. The Holocaust Center is Northern California’s primary resource for Holocaust education, leading the effort to increase awareness among the general public about the causes and consequences of racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance, and indifference during the Holocaust and today.
Story Preservation wishes to thank playwright Tom Anastasi for allowing us to use and share with Learning Lab partner schools his script for the play Surviving Evil. The play is a theatrical depiction of the life of holocaust survivor Stephan Lewy, whose oral history is part of Story Preservation’s collection.
What better way to teach young people about the holocaust than to have them listen to the stories of those who survived it and then, as we are now able to offer, have them take on the roles of victims, witnesses, and perpetrators.
From Stephan’s Story Preservation oral history relative to Kristallnacht:
“What they did, the Germans, they took the kids. We were about roughly fifty girls and fifty boys. They put us into the synagogue, and they couldn’t torch it, because we had Gentile people living on either side. So, above the arc, there is an eternal light burning in every synagogue, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ours was a gas-fired light. It could be electric; it could be a large candle that burns for seven days, and so on. But ours was a gas-fired light. What they did, they cut the gas line to this eternal light and let the gas escape. We were all sitting in
these seats —one hundred kids. They walked out, locked the doors on us, and walked away, hoping that we would suffocate in the process. So, fortunately, one of the boys, who probably was about fourteen years old, had enough sense to take a chair and break some windows, figuring he would be punished for breaking the window, but that’s what saved our lives that night. There were 279 synagogues that were either burned or demolished that night.”
The children of the Baruch Auerbach orphanage; Stephan Lewy, third row, far left. Photo courtesy of Stephan Lewy
This is a Learning Lab project and play well suited as a way to observe the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938, and to observe Genocide Awareness Month, which in many states is observed during the month of April.
Each Story Preservation recording takes, on average, 40 hours to produce. That includes research, writing, recording, editing, transcribing, more editing, tracking, mastering, and – finally – distribution to libraries and upload to our blog and Learning Lab sites.
And that’s just the fun stuff!
Thousands of hours more are spent working to sustain the organization.
If you find value in what we do, please consider making a tax-deductible donation – in any amount that suits your budget. Click here to donate, because …
Story Preservation wishes to thank the family of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Maxine Kumin and long-time Kumin family friend Suzy Colt for gifting a large selection of Maxine’s books to our lending library.
And Short the Season, W.W. Norton, 2014 (paperback)
Still to Mow, W.W. Norton, 2007 (paperback)
Jack and Other New Poems,W.W. Norton, 2005
Bringing Together: Uncollected Early Poems 1958-1988, W.W. Norton, 2003 (paperback)
The Long Marriage, W.W. Norton, 2001
Connecting the Dots, W.W. Norton, 1996
Up Country, Harper & Row, 1972
The Nightmare Factory, Harper & Row, 1970 (paperback)
Lizzie! Seven Stories Press, 2014
Quit Monks or Die, Story Line Press, 1999 (paperback)
The Roots of Things, Northwestern Univ. Press, 2010 (paperback)
The Pawnbroker’s Daughter, A Memoir, W.W. Norton, 2015
Oh, Harry!, Roaring Brook Press, 2011
What Color is Caesar?,Candlewick Press, 2010
Mites to Mastadons, Houghton, Mifflin, 2006
Story Preservation maintains a small but growing library of books that complement our audio collection. All are available on a lending-basis free of charge to teachers involved with the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab.
ANNOUNCING SPI’S FIRST ANNUAL STUDENT POETRY CONTEST!
The SPI Learning Lab contains the voices and stories of nationally and internationally renowned poets. We combine their stories with suggestions for projects that engage students in the art and craft of poetry writing. OUR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH CONTEST is open to K-12 students from schools subscribing to the Story Preservation Initiative Learning Lab. To subscribe to the Learning Lab or to register for a 10-day free trial, click Login / Register here.
Prizes will be awarded in each of the following four grade categories: Grades 1 – 3 / 4 – 6 / 7 – 9 / and 10 – 12.
Students can write on any subject and in any form they choose. Looking for ideas? Here are some PROMPTS.
Middle / High:
Referencing Stephen Kuusisto’s narrative found in the Learning Lab – ARTS/ POETS with focus on Track 06 “Creating Images that Can’t be Seen,” write a poem that depicts the invisible.
Referencing Chard deNiord’s narrative with focus on Track 05 “The Cold Eye,” write a poem with adjectives and then a second poem with the adjectives removed.
Referencing Wesley McNair’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “First Poem” and Track 05 “Young Adulthood,” write a poem about a personal life experience as viewed from a distance.
Referencing Bruce McEver’s narrative with focus on Track 02 “Poet in a Business Suit,” write a poem that is inspired by a work of art.
Write a brief letter or email to a special relative or beloved pet and turn that letter into a poem with the help of READWRITETHINK Line Break Explorer.
Grand Prize Winner’s poems will be published on the Learning Lab site. Grand prize winners will also receive a custom designed framed print of a line from their winning poem. Grand Prize, as well as second and third place winners from each age group will receive a personal note of congratulations from Story Preservation Initiative National Poetry Month Contest judge, Wesley McNair. (Maximum of four Grand Prize Winners, four Second Prize and four Third Prize Winners, representing one from each grade group).
JUDGED BY MAINE POET LAUREATE AND 2015 PEN NEW ENGLAND AWARD WINNER, WESLEY MCNAIR
Poet Philip Levine has called Wesley McNair “one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry.” He has won grants from the Fulbright and Guggenheim foundations, two Rockefeller Fellowships, two NEA grants in creative writing, and an Emmy Award. He has twice been invited to read his poetry by the Library of Congress. He was recently selected for a United States Artists Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists,” and in April of 2015, he was named as the recipient of the PEN New England Award for Poetry for his latest collection, The Lost Child: Ozark Poems.
AUDIO UP! on this fabulous recording. It’s impossible to not love and be inspired by Sy!
Photo by Paula Gordon. Used with permission.
To research books, films and articles, Sy Montgomery has been chased by an angry silverback gorilla in Zaire and bitten by a vampire bat in Costa Rica, worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba and handled a wild tarantula in French Guiana.
She has been deftly undressed by an orangutan in Borneo, hunted by a tiger in India, and swum with piranhas, electric eels and dolphins in the Amazon. She has searched the Altai Mountains of Mongolia’s Gobi for snow leopards, hiked into the trackless cloud forest of Papua New Guinea to radiocollar tree kangaroos, and learned to SCUBA dive in order to commune with octopuses.
Sy’s 20 books for both adults and children have garnered many honors. The Soul of an Octopus was a 2015 Finalist for the National Book Awards. The Good Good Pig, her memoir of life with her pig, Christopher Hogwood, is an international bestseller. She is the winner of the 2009 New England Independent Booksellers Association Nonfiction Award, the 2010 Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award, the Henry Bergh Award for Nonfiction (given by the ASPCA for Humane Education) and dozens of other honors. Her work with the man-eating tigers, the subject of her book Spell Of The Tiger, was made into in a National Geographic television documentary she scripted and narrated. Also for National Geographic TV she developed and scripted Mother Bear Man, about her friend, Ben Kilham, who raises and releases orphaned bear cubs, which won a Chris award.
Sy writes for adults and children, for print and broadcast, in America and overseas in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible at what she considers a critical turning point in human history.
“We are on the cusp of either destroying this sweet, green Earth—or revolutionizing the way we understand the rest of animate creation,” she says. “It’s an important time to be writing about the connections we share with our fellow creatures. It’s a great time to be alive.”
She speaks frequently at schools and museums, libraries and universities.
She is a 1979 graduate of Syracuse University, a triple major with dual degrees in Magazine Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and in French Language and Literature and in Psychology from the College of Arts and Sciences. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Keene State College in 2004, and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Franklin Pierce University and also from Southern New Hampshire University in 2011.
We’ll be recording Carlton Bradford in March 2016. He is one of the last of the direct line descendants of Pilgrim Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation. (Depicted above, the meeting between Governor William Bradford and Chief Massasoit).
As a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants and a man who knows well his family history, Carlton will share with listeners rarely heard stories on life in the early years of the Plymouth Colony.
Courtesy of Gail Matthews and Yankee Cable Network, this recording will also include audio from an earlier interview of Carlton and Paul Weeden, also known as Deerfoot, one of the last of the direct line descendants of Chief Massasoit, the leader of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620.
Of Squanto, another of the Wampanoag, Governor Bradford is known to have said:
Squanto … “was a special instrument sent of God for [his] good beyond expectation.”
Bradford and Deerfoot share a rich and fascinating ancestral history and are today friends – echoing the time of their forefathers.