New outfit for the Bavarian Tractor (my vintage BMW motorcycle)

Now that I’ve graduated college, I have time for fun stuff, like accessorizing my motorcycle with colors. I found this tank on eBay and it’s blue and sparkles. Pretty great, I’m enjoying the splash of color over the standard black tank. Here is my 1976 BMW R75/6 in front of Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee. Swipe to see a close up of the tank.

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Photography and Flowers at Riveredge Nature Center

I’ve been working my way through learning how to make photographs. I took an intro to photography class in my last semester at college and it gave me some insights and some confidence in using the manual settings on a camera.

I’ve been attempting to capture shots of the wildlife and landscapes at Riveredge. This spring I took my first photographs of warblers that I was happy with, something I’d never attempted in the past.

I’m learning that, in general, if you can take bird or flower “portraits” often times F8 is a preferable F stop to use. That way a sufficient amount of background I know this is no great wisdom about photography, but it’s new to me as I learn it and imbibe those conclusions.

Taking photographs of flowers has been interesting, and more than anything else possible, the light is really important. Too much sunshine and most of the color will get blown out. I also learned a lot about ISO settings in photographing these orchids. For some reason, I seem to have overall neglected the ISO, maybe the cameras I’d used had it sent to auto so I hadn’t played with it much.

I took the below series with the ISO setting I’d had for quickly dashing songbirds – quite high something around 5,000 for the ISO. As you an see, much of the yellow coloration is washed out white on the surface of this orchid. This also has to do with how bright the sun was at that moment.

I realized the folly of this and went back later to take the below photograph, which I’m much happier with, once the sunlight subsided due to cloud cover. I’m much happier with the resulting detail and considerably less resulting patchy noise throughout the photo. The ISO was probably in the low hundreds for this shot.

I don’t relay these observations as some sort of especially knowledgeable person about photography, rather more as realizing my own stumbling blocks or evolution, and hopefully some of these realizations might help someone else in their own process.

This opportunity has taught me many lessons about how to capture which subject matter and I’ve appreciated the opportunity to gain these insights. Check out this recent blog of Blooming Spring Flowers at Riveredge.

New work in SIDEBURN Magazine

Pick up your copy of SIDEBURN here, see caption with the picture below for my part in this edition of this beautifully improbable marriage of motorcycle racing and art rendered quarterly on paper.

Dancing, Context, Music, Masculinity

As with most things, I stumbled onto the music of Kevin Morby long after everyone else had. It was by way of seeing the video (below) for I Have Been To The Mountain.

 

After awhile I bought the record, Singing Saw, and have enjoyed it, but while driving with the windows and moonroof open for the first time I was stunned by how the music didn’t capture the way I felt while watching the video. I realized, on the winding two-lane 55 bordered by hopelessly saturated farm fields, that the absent ingredient was the theatrical dance performance by Nathan Mitchell. Context informs everything, and my context for this song had been the playful, expressive, tattooed and dying character in the song’s video.

Probably a year ago, I received a wedding invitation that requested an RSVP with three songs that would, “Get you on the dance floor.” I agonized over that until I had to send back the RSVP. The problem wasn’t which songs, it was the idea that I would move my body in a way that might somewhat mirror my emotions. I don’t move with emotions. I’m a poet, a writer, sure I’m artsy with my feelings in a way, but where I grew up boys and men were never taught a vocabulary for moving expressively. We were taught to fight back when necessary, or maybe to throw something in anger (like dad), but never to be open with our bodies in any way. If anything, we avoided dancing (and feelings, surprise) until pulled onto the dance floor by a woman whose attraction we couldn’t deny.

Sketch of Fats Waller drawn from the Phaidon Century photography collection.
Quick sketch of Fats Waller drawn last semester.

My last semester in college I had all electives left over and took a drawing class. At first drawing made me anxious and frustrated because I could immediately see that I wasn’t good. I knew logically that drawing is a skill – like anything else – but I always expect a lot from myself. Once I calmed down, increased my dexterity, and found a groove, I was stunned by how emotional I felt while drawing. I’d be sitting in a class rendering the instructor’s arrangement of arbitrary bowls and cups and boxes and I’d nearly begin to cry. Moving to create or to feel seemed so alien to me that it almost drew me to tears for confusion of feeling. I am 38 years old.

The irony is that my 11-year-old is a dancer. Ballet, specifically. My kid doesn’t even walk anymore so much as pirouetting, or executing Grand Jete (more or less leaping forward with arms in the air – remember I’m not a dancer) from place to place. I never expected for a ballet dancer the way I’m sure my parents never expected for a poet.

When I was a kid the option was baseball, so I played baseball. And it was fine – old farm fields converted to dusty diamonds surrounded by developing cul de sacs. Not a place where men learn to express the language of thoughts and feelings. If anything, expressing yourself in those surroundings can put one in tangible danger of other men who lash out with a feral anger they can’t rationalize regarding expression. I think often of BH Fairchild’s epic poem Beauty deliberating on men expressing and encountering beauty; how radical to hear a man utter that anything is, “Lovely.”

As a child, never at any point did I have any clue what my dad was thinking or feeling, unless he was shouting in anger. He was like the brackish void up there in the driver’s seat, at the helm of the recliner with a newspaper, on the other side of the baseball I flung above the suburban lawn.

Sometimes I feel like an emotionally blind man trying to guide a child somewhere toward a vocabulary of feeling and assertion and communication. So I just talk a lot. By the time my kid was three I’d probably said more than my father told me his whole life. I don’t know what else to do, and that makes the most sense to me. I guess we’re both developing a vocabulary, if anything I’m probably at the handicap compared with the honesty immediacy of a child. Children will help you if you let them.

I looked into this Nathan Mitchell, the fella dancing in the Kevin Morby video, as I tend to do when stumbling on artists whose work makes me want to know more. Turns out (I gather from his Instagram presence) he rides motorcycles, goes fishing, doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. Overall, not too different from me. The big difference being his mother opened a dance studio when he was two years old. We learn the environment we’re simmered within. The context. I wonder if he sits down to type and is stymied by linguistics, the way movement appears to flummox me.

Poem while sitting in traffic

This is how poetry happens. By noticing what you’re noticing. Not some crap about being visited by the muse. Just pay attention to what catches your eye, your senses, galls your sensibilities, your curiosity for language. And play with that, follow that. Even if it’s consternation about the name of a company while waiting at a stoplight. Click the arrow to read this here little poem.

Milwaukee Press Club Award

An excellent way to close out my journalism degree from UW-Milwaukee with a photography award from Milwaukee Press Club. Thanks to the Press Club and to all of my instructors!

Furrow Release Party Wednesday Night

UW-Milwaukee has an undergraduate literature magazine called Furrow. I sent them a few poems and one got published. The release event takes place Wednesday, May 8 at Art Bar in Milwaukee. Check out the full details here. Reading! Poetry! Live!