Friday, August 29, 2014

Tripping with the Girls at La Posada: Architects, Painters, and First Ladies

La Posada Corridor by Robyn Beattie
I closed out summer with a road trip to Winslow, Arizona’s La Posada Hotel for a gathering of the girls on my father’s side of the family. My aunts chose the location for its reputation as “the masterpiece and favorite building” of architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, for its ambience, for the luxurious garden grounds and how the Southwest Hacienda style hotel of Colter’s vision doubles as a museum.
After the ten-hour desert drive from San Diego, faces puffy, necks trailing heat rash dots and brains dulled, we unpacked our suitcases, shocked to find every article of clothing warm to the touch and damp. Over dinner, when the aunts asked after the state of our vehicle’s air conditioning, our California trio really couldn’t come up with an answer for why we didn’t turn it on…
…so we laughed uncontrollably later in our room, gripping the wooden spires of our bed-frames for support, chalking the oversight up to a combination of the heat’s gradual anesthetization and the distractive glee of marking our sojourn by bird: canyon wren, western king, red tail hawk, raven, boat-tailed Grackle, scrub jay, and scores of random no-special-name (but darling) sparrows.
La Posada’s artwork laden interior made up for the strain of arriving. I rose early and took over the
Window, Tina Mion Gallery, La Posada
Tina Mion mini-gallery room with its walls a deep rose-guava in the early light. Under the gabled window, on maroon leather couch, I wrote to the sound of the trains passing, my photo poem montage collaborator Robyn Beattie ranging the corridors with her camera for her own morning muse.
We spent the latter part of the day playing photo hide and seek with my sister and strolling the hallways upstairs where the canvases of painter Tina Mion live. Coming off my own inquiry using poetry to inhabit iconic women in November Butterfly, I was fascinated to see Mion’s series of paintings of the First Ladies (titled Ladies First). Warnings abound (and rightly so) to refrain from photographing or touching the artwork, so take a virtual peek here on Mion’s official website
Referring to her Ladies First series and her painting process in general, Mion states:
As the paintings evolved, it wasn’t the events that held my interest as much as the philosophical underpinnings of the people involved: what brought about their actions, and what were the consequences — public triumph, personal tragedy, love, betrayal, power and its loss, brilliance, mediocrity, poverty and a climb to riches, crushing fate, great opportunity, and apple pie.
Postcards, La Posada, Robyn Beattie
I love that summation, though the first-person poems I wrote for Marilyn, Sylvia, Joan d’Arc, Nefertiti, Amelia Earhart and Guinevere were more emotionally than philosophically driven, spurred by desperate empathy. I wanted the women I wrote about to have more agency—a longing intensified by my own contortions to balance lover, mother, writer, and wife selves. Though I remain curious, like Mion, about the wages of circumstance.
Just outside my room, I found Mion’s painting, “Jacqueline Kennedy, The King of Hearts;” Jacqueline dons the famous pink hat, holding in one gloved hand the King of Hearts playing card (it faces out and bears the face of her husband) neatly halved by bullet’s trajectory, bullet beneath card’s confetti. Mion writes, “The painting is meant to capture the last moment of innocence for Jackie — and an entire generation.”
I love that Mion ties history to her point of entry for each rendering; the inspirational backdrop for King of Hearts draws on stop-motion concepts or “stroboscopic photography” and the way television in 1963 was able to present the “stop-action assassination of Kennedy.” I love the nested visual metaphor Mion capitalizes on here—since that’s what poems and paintings already do—present a “stop-action” frame, a moment stilled.
Still, a poem moves for the seconds it takes a reader to read and cull the cumulative impact of the words. For a work of art, its narrative moves depending on where the viewer roams physically.
And keeps moving, when memory ranges back over the imagery (of poem or work of art), divining and gleaning in ways not possible during the fluid onslaught of life itself. I love that about poetry and art, that chance to enter or re-consider the stilled moment or occasion, again and again, from multiple angles.
With the Haiku Room’s one-a-day commitment nipping at my heels through sleet, snow, or infernal road trip, I responded to Mion in haiku:

Private feral eyes—
Tina Mion’s Jackie O—
Bullet’s public path.

That evening, we ate an exceptional dinner as the indigo light darkened the window panes, rootlets of lightning followed by the cool rush of rivulets of rain. We woke the following morning to the sound of the trains passing.

La Posada Rocker by Robyn Beattie
Down dawn’s rain slick tracks,
Steel plumage of two trains’ brakes
Wincing, mingling wills.

And we left La Posada no less in love with the will of the architect gracing every aspect of the hotel and grounds, including the fencing:

Mary Colter’s wall—
Embeds arrowhead of sky—
Absence shapes our forms.

Additional Notes:

My First Poetry Book:
Advance Reader Copies of November Butterfly are here! Though the book is officially available November 1st, I have a limited number of ARCs and of course unlimited eARCs available for reviewers; if you are interested in blogging about or reviewing the book, please contact me here on my main site. I’m unapologetically, intolerably, incandescent with joy that the poems have found such a beautiful home, thanks to Ruth Thompson and Don Mitchell of Saddle Road Press.

Forthcoming Poetry:
A poem from the new manuscript in progress took third place in the Snow Jewel and Grey Sparrow Flash/Poetry Contest; the print journal comes out October 1st. To order, visit Grey Sparrow’s contact page

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Fall Classes: On-line and In Person Blogging
Beginning Blogging, Story Circle Network (on-line)
Join us to discover your blogging focus or to re-invigorate your relationship to an existing blog. These classes tend to fire the imagination and invite reckless play that (I’m warning you) yields unabashed writing we later distill into future blogposts. This is your one and only beautiful life; join us to decide which part of it you want to share on-line through the malleable form of blogging.
Starts Monday, September 15th and runs six weeks.
Full course description for Beginning Blogging
Intermediate Blogging, San Diego Writers, Ink (in-person)
Your blog is up and running but you’d like some ongoing support developing your blogging practice and trying new post variations. Join this class to consider how to grow your blogging tribe, try your hand at video blogging, blog tours and more.
Starts Tuesday night, 6:30-8:30 p.m. September 16th and runs six weeks.
Full course description for Intermediate Blogging.

Photos: Are all by Robyn Beattie as attributed in caption; all others are photos I took.