The Official Blog of The Pfister Hotel Narrator Program
PLUME SERVICE III | January 25, 2017 | Small Details, Big Themes, and Lots of Wine
Plume Service is slowly but surely writing its way down the mezzanine hallways, so far invigorating half of the paintings with literary life: writers have wormholed and teleported, stepped into and out of oily, centuried canvases, listened intently for lunar whispers and clandestine confessions.
During the last week of January, Plume Service moved from its usual Saturday afternoon time to a Wednesday happy hour, where Chef Brian Frakes surprised us with some new (for us) offerings: succulent lamb puff pastries, tender veal with chimichurri sauce, and sweet dates wrapped in bacon, plus a sensible cheese platter, fresh crudité, and plenty of wine.
Really, we were all there to write . . .
Mark Twain to the rescue: “When the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.”
Enter Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
With those defenses in mind (ah, who are we kidding? there was plenty of wine), the January Plume Service participants allowed both their authentic voices and their fictitious selves surface as they considered well, having dined well, each painting on their list. On this evening, I invited them to think microscopically (focusing their words on a tiny detail or two, an obscured figure, or a feature that didn’t seem to be the painter’s focus) or macroscopically (drawing back to reveal a big picture, a weighty theme, a an omniscient or voyeuristic gaze).
Alexander Miller’s classicly styled poem for “Moonlight Scene” starts this post’s collection. It draws readers toward its center lines, with the “Sacred Fire” inspired by a barely detectable camper at the water’s edge. In a similar way, the form of the poem points us, through all the melancholy and suffering, toward the “tiny white hat” that was the first detail Bethany Price discerned in the idyllic “Landscape“.
Eduardo De la Cruz imagines not “The Dancer” herself but her shadow, whom he personifies as “The Sarah Nobody Knows.” My offering is inspired not by the obvious (the architecture) but by the seagulls in “Venice”, and it ignores any evidence that the scene is a morning or afternoon one, instead imagining what I wanted to imagine.
Monica Thomas’ “Chianti” poem (did I mention there was wine?) is stylistically different from most of the others, preferring short, clipped lines and stanzas like quick movie shots that tell a bigger story of a woman’s vulnerability and power. Microscopic to macroscopic. Christina Oster offers her version of this poetic movement in “The Fortune Teller“, focusing readers’ attentions on the specific location of the cross and on the “trickling” of the rosary beads as she explores a larger theme of Fate and Faith.
Finally, Eduardo’s second offering keeps us guessing until we realize that the speaker isn’t human, but is instead standing behind the white fence in the distant pasture on a “Sunday Afternoon“. This prepares us for very different kind of voice, in style and tone, in a postmodern commentary on the details of “Diana of the Hunt” and on Victorian art in general, a critique by the writer known as Celeste Hagiopiate that melds into monolog and self-aware confessional.
But enough of my literary criticism. Please enjoy our third installment of Plume Service at The Pfister, and please consider joining me and fellow writers on Wednesday, February 23, 6-8pm. Unwind after work and bring your plume, your notebook, your thirst, and your appetite! (Click “going” on Facebook.)
Moonlight Scene by H.M. Kitchel
Moonlight whispers between the leaves
Moonlight whispers between the leaves
As night approaches and twilight grieves
The passage of congealed time
To the memory of a dream sublime.
Forgotten yet is the scent of dawn
For the veil descends on the pathways drawn
Through the tangled forest of thought
Where tears are formed as memories are caught
And lit upon the Sacred Fire
That is both comfort and funeral pyre
Beseeched again to the insouciant sky
As the memories fall and tears are dried.
Reflected upon the flowing stream
The echo of reality does scream
Beneath the waiting touch of gloom
For darkness to eat the silver Moon.
But the night itself is another page
In the endless tale from Age to Age
Still the Cycle revolves to each
As Dusk to Dawn, each other they teach.
The Dancer by Adolphe Piot
The Sarah Nobody Knows
Creeping and eloquent in style–synonymous but wild in spirit and form–she feels a breath on her toes and nobody knows her. A gallant girl but holding on by the position of Sarah. At times Sarah stops, an applaud crashes, while the Sarah nobody knows hears a clapping of the soles. The fancier the carpet, the quicker the groove, the Sarah nobody knows is the one she’d approve. But bitter is Sarah, competing for first place. While the Sarah nobody knows competes for a face . . . in the world.
–Eduardo De la Cruz
Venice by H. Biondetti
The seagull time arrives
when men have heaved their last anchors
and slung on docks their fill of fishy nets,
have warbled their merchant announcements
of crusty bread and fragrant pancetta.
Their sea cries announce
the declining day and their right
to the crumbs of the morning
and the severed heads of the afternoon.
Now is the time for women to linger
on the sea plaza, pacing leisurely
under a hazy white-winged sky,
before returning home with baskets
redolent of yeast and cured meat
and slick fins and scales.
Chianti by E. Giachi
on slats of
straps falling off
man with wandering
cask of wine
and he’ll be out.
Sunday Afternoon by Richard Lorenz
I Thought It Was You
Brother, the time we grew, the times we saw the ships along the pier leaving men of hope and sharp ideas, and came back mules of war, or part of them. I remember when we rode along the tall greens back when we were too young for men. When the kids would play and we’d chase after them. Then war took us, and our groups were divided. Then, years after, I found you, with a large bandage around your body; you’d been hurt. Remember laughing about it? We stayed up all night and traded stories: the good ones, the fun ones, the bad ones, and really bad ones. Then, it was hard to talk. You managed to get a job outside of town in a rich man’s place, while I stayed in a poor man’s den. Months passed and no sign of you. I heard he has people take care of you, but sometimes I don’t know. I miss you, brother. We are old now. The other day I saw someone with a scar that looked like the one you had on your left side, but he didn’t turn to say Hi. He went right through. Maybe . . . he couldn’t be you.
–Eduardo De la Cruz
Landscape by Leon Richet
You haunt every step of mine and the bovines, too,
off in the fields gazing at each others’ tails.
When I walk home it’s heavy since
there is a constant incense stick burning
in my ears–a smoke trail
of whispers to yourself,
going mad, naive of my eyes closed–
listening to your brain forest prose.
I wish I had the pastel colors
rich enough to paint you my agony.
And in this willowy terrain
where the wind
where the tree tops
where the elements moan in power,
their dominion is my shelter.
I am drunk here, losing control
of my hands
sifting through grass and branch,
climbing a leaf god to descend
in a bruised-love state,
my tiny white hat dotted
The Fortune Teller by Ludwig Vollmar
She slapped them on the blistery wood, accordion style. “A fan of opportunity awaits you,” she told me. My fate was in the foreground. But without faith, how will I reach it? Faith and fate are distant cousins in my life at the moment. I turned my back to faith when I had hit after hit, loss after loss. In fact, I hung that cross high out of reach, high out of sight. “Bygones,” I said.
And my rosary, well, I tucked that in a treasure chest. But I did leave a few select beads trickling out. It is a treasure chest, after all, and faith at one time was my cherished treasure. Why bury a treasure?
Also ironic that the cross now hung in my background is made of the same wood in my foreground where this psychic has slapped her cards down.
The same wood.
Note to self: “My dear, you’re ignoring the obvious.”
Diana of the Hunt (after Domenichino)
Celeste Hagiopiate Reviews a Painting at the Pfister Hotel:
The Third Gathering of the Plume Service
Oh look, a Tableau. Victorians loved their Tableaus. Here, a zaftig Diana is posed in a most wooden position, two arms raised. She stands to the left of the center of the painting. She is far too modest to stand center stage. But damn it, she demands to be seen. Dark trees in the background circle her brighter figure.
She is at the apex of an isosceles triangle of stilted figures. In the background and to the right is another triangle, far more sparse and off-kilter than the opulent composition in the foreground. (Post Modern Aside: Dom Inouye, Pfister Narrator, has asked us to notice and amplify one small detail.)
Look. There is a chaste, bare-breasted nymph at the bottom of the painting. She is pointing aimlessly. Her index finger directs our eyes to the great beyond. Those Victorians! Stupid girl, she should be pointing at Diana or at the very least, pointing to the drunken revelers in the distance.
Was this painting meant for a mansion? I suspect so. A lunging hound honors the position off center and just a little lower to the right. A direct line can be drawn between it and Diana. This is a geometrically precise painting. What, you expect a lush, adjectival poem about a pretty little scene from the old crone? Leave that to the dewy-eyed twenty-year-olds.
Coda: I’m drunk. I don’t sing for my supper or for my Cabernet Sauvignon. Lousy voice. I can be coaxed to write and recite a brief address. I do it to entertain myself. If it entertains you, well, that is an extra bonus.
–Celeste Hagiopiate, Punk Theosopher and Poseur
Author: Dominic Inouye
As a teacher for over twenty years, Dominic Inouye has worked with everyone from elementary school students to adult learners, creative writers and physical therapists, to help them develop their reading, writing, critical thinking, and, most of all, their voices. He began his career at Marquette University, expecting to become the next Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society, then made a surprise move to the high school classroom, where he found his home at Pius XI High School, then later at The Prairie School in Wind Point, Wisconsin, where he is completing his seventh and final year as an English teacher.
Never one to pull an old lesson plan out of a dusty file cabinet and re-use it year after year, Inouye began experimenting from the very beginning with how to integrate authentic, real-world, transformative learning into his students’ study of literature and the expression of ideas. Examples include his founding of the Milwaukee Spotlight Student Film Festival, the C.L.A.S.S. program, which brings together 4th-12th graders for service learning, and the Senior Capstone program of individualized research projects. As expected, Inouye will not be bringing any dusty ideas to the Pfister--only creative celebrations of new voices.
Inouye was chosen to serve as the hotel’s ninth Pfister Narrator based on his writing style, his vision for the role, and his personality.