Windows to Creative Expression, Young poets and artists from The Poetry Studio

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Brattleboro >> Seven-year-old Samuel Garbarino wrote, "Poetry is like love armies that hold off the dark." That is the first stanza of his poem that is part of the "Windows to Creative Expression" exhibit at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) officially opening Oct. 7, showcasing the work of young poets and artists from The Poetry Studio. Poet Ann Gengarelly has been leading poetry classes year-round at the Marlboro studio for the last 15 years, where students combine the elements of poetry and the elements of art inspired by that poetry to reinforce and expand the meaning of each other. Art history Professor Tony Gengarelly joins the class each summer to teach bookmaking to the students to display their creations.

The Poetry Studio provides the ideal safe and supportive environment, surrounded by beautiful gardens, to begin writing poetry and to explore their imaginations, a place where they feel free and safe. Ann said many of their poems are a connection to the natural world and their own inner nature, especially during the summer classes where there is a lot of work focused on the natural world. For example, Ella Dathory-Peeler???, who has been coming to The Poetry Studio since she was 7 and is now 15 years old, wrote "The Emotion Tree." The visual expression for her poem is rings of the tree, each representing one of her emotions. Ann said 6- and 7-year-old children are very clear in their voice, but all of her student's poetry is a testament to their profound wisdom. Other students now 16 years old have also been coming to The Poetry Studio since they were 6 years old. Ann said they even have families coming from Brooklyn, N.Y., because they can't find a program like this one in New York City.

When asked if she considered herself their coach, Ann responded, "I see myself more as a midwife, letting what's in there, out. It's significant that I listen. Our philosophy is to keep it a safe environment, and we listen carefully. My work is about hearing their voice. Metaphorically, I'd really want to be a guest in their country, to visit and ask questions. It's all about the questions."

Tony added, "Her work is getting deep, to a wisdom that if allowed,unfolds. It was always there."

Last May was the first time the Gengarellys presented their student's work to the public in an exhibit at Brattleboro's River Garden. BMAC's curator Mara Williams was impressed with the exhibit and invited the Gengarellys to bring their exhibit to the museum. This show contains new poetry, art and handcrafted books of students' work from the summer intensive programs and the eight- to nine-week after-school-programs, plus work spanning up to five years. Since it is at the museum it must be juried. Three locally respected authors looked at every piece of poetry and art.

Tony said, "Ann and I were motivated to do this exhibit by our desire to share with the larger community the extraordinary creativity of young people — both their poetry and art — which is a unique expression that deserves special attention." There is a lot of new work — it is excellent work, but a smaller base since museum policy is juried art only, so the pieces had to be limited, it is smaller, more concise than last May's exhibit.

BMAC's exhibitions manager Sarah Freeman said, "I have a background in art education so I'm always excited to display students work in art education." She tried to include as many pieces as possible in the limited space in the Ticket Office Gallery where the exhibit is being held. All told there are 13 artists' books displayed in Plexiglass cases, plus 23 panels on the wall with collages, drawings, pop-ups, and illustrations, and soft and hard cover books.

Williams invited Vermont Poet Laureate Chard deNiord to write an essay for the opening of the exhibit and to be included in the brochure. He wrote the introduction to give people an idea of what was going on there. When asked to write the essay he said it was immediately exciting. "Ann and Tony, primarily Ann, have been working with students a long time to take off on their own in her beautiful garden. These students are remarkably precocious and remarkably in touch with the images of their imagination. They are willing to say larger, ambitious things, as they are not jaded yet."

He opened his introduction with "In his famous poem 'Friendly Song,' the late Brazilian poet, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, wrote, 'I am working on a song / that will awaken men / and make children sleep.' ... Perhaps de Andrade's strongest message in these lines, ... is his implication that children are already awake to the music and meaning of poetry, unlike adults who must be awakened from "the sleep" of their prosaic routines to regain the poetic consciousness of the child." He also wrote, "The rich display of imagery, lyrical economy, and bold self-exploration in these recent poems from The Poetry Studio both dazzles and moves the reader. The young poets who wrote them capture de Andrade's metaphorical notion of the child's "sleep," that is, the dream-like expression that transcends mere information with "memorable speech," waking the reader with surprising original sense."

On deNiord's essay Ann gushed, "Oh my gosh, it was amazing, his reflection of the studio and remarks show his deep insight to the student's wisdom."

"Windows to Creative Expression" opens to the public on Friday, Sept. 30, with an official opening during Gallery Walk on Friday, Oct. 7 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Admittance is free during Gallery Walk. The exhibit will remain at the museum through Feb. 6. Through the duration of show, there will be a space where exhibit-goers will have the chance to write their own poems.

deNiord is also going to introduce a reading of the young poets' poems, scheduled for Oct. 16, from 2 to 4 p.m.at the BMAC as a featured part of the Brattleboro Literary Festival. He will also be reading some of the students' poems at that time. Also, meet some of these young poets there.

Contact Cicely M. Eastman at 802-254-2311 ext. 261.


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