Joshua Meehan, an artist with an Alaska connection, enjoyed sweet success at the L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards April 14. Meehan was born in Nevada in 1990 and raised with his five younger siblings in Anchorage. He now lives in Tucson, Ariz., though members of the family remain here.
The competition, likened to the "American Idol" of sci-fi writing and illustration, drew thousands of entries, of which Meehan was one of 12 selected by to receive awards for his art. Judges and contributors to the event include sci-fi royalty like Dave Wolverton, Kevin J. Anderson, Tim Powers, Larry Niven, Stephen Hickman and Cliff Nielsen.
Meehan received his prize at a gala Hollywood event with more than 1,000 sci-fi fans. He said Anchorage was a great place to grow up, watching moose eating outside his window and expanding his imagination while playing in the woods around Bayshore. A home-school student, he took private lessons from local art teacher Betty Dye. After moving to Arizona, he studied fine art and illustration at the University of Arizona. Recently he has pursued large-scale game and film projects.
Look for his work in "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XXIX," currently available online and soon coming out in print. Find out more about the awards at writersofthefuture.com.
New Mexico school honors two Alaskans
Two Alaskans have been tapped by the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, N.M., as artists in residence for the coming year. Traditional doll maker Glenda McKay -- better known nationally than in her home state, perhaps -- will be in residence in June and August. Poet Joan Kane will be there in January and February of next year.
Started as a center for the study of the archaeology and ethnology of the American Southwest, the school has increasingly expanded its purview to include social sciences and the arts. Four Native Americans are currently selected for residencies each year. Previous Alaska fellows in the program have included artist/photographer Erica Lord.
Out North's upcoming season will include residencies and performances by three artists from Turkey. Out North was among four U.S. organizations selected to host Caravanserai, an artistic and cultural exchange program meant to showcase the diversity of contemporary Islamic societies through art and culture.
It's produced by Arts Midwest and funded by the Building Bridges program of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. This it its third year of operation after two pilot seasons in nine U.S. cities.
The Anchorage stops for Caravanserai will include musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek in October, filmmaker Pelin Esmer in January 2014 and the Serkan Cagri Band in April 2014. (A separate arts group, South Arts, manages the film component of the program.)
Worth checking out
I haven't been able to get to the Kimura Gallery in the UAA Fine Arts Building during open hours recently, but plan to give it a try after hearing good things about the three students having their Bachelor of Fine Arts shows there through next Friday, Sarah Henry (sculpture), Iram Roberts (drawing) and Caitlin Smith (ceramics). One trustworthy observer tells me, "The work is stunning -- some of the best I've seen."
Pier One Theatre in Homer is presenting performances of Brahms' "German Requiem" next weekend. The Kenai Peninsula Community Chorus and Homer High School Choir will be joined by members of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra led by Mark Robinson. The concerts will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Kenai Central High School and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 5, at Homer High School. Tickets are $18 and reservations can be made by calling 907-235-7333.
On dissing 'Chapman's Homer'
The editor of my much-thumbed 1968 "Norton Anthology of English Literature" included John Keats' sonnet, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer," calling it Keat' "first great poem."
I'm inclined to consider it juvenile and dismissible, in no small part due to the poet's report of "stout Cortez" staring at the Pacific Ocean from a mountaintop in Panama.
"That it was (Vasco) Balboa, not (Hernan) Cortez ... matters to history but not to poetry," says a footnote to the poem.
I disagree. I say poetry must be held to an even higher standard of accuracy than nonfiction prose or journalism.
Poets have a special obligation to honesty. To present a falsehood as fact while purporting to pursue great truths is a kind of fraud, just as it would be fraudulent for me to put a "Hollywood" dateline on an article I wrote exclusively from my desk in Anchorage.
As I peruse the books of new poetry that come across my desk, such errors send out a siren shriek to me. They inevitably signal that the poem is not of the best quality. (I'm not referring to references to fiction, legend or myth, which are separate from verifiable history or science.)
In the case of "Chapman's Homer" I suspect that the romance surrounding its composition and the dear author who died so young has clouded the analytical judgment of the Norton editor and others. They automatically lump it in with Keats' later masterpieces.
That's lazy. Rather than great, this early sonnet can at best be seen as the product of an inexperienced and wildly enthusiastic personality who was yet some steps away from poetic greatness, the greatness found in works that continue to make many of us unabashed Keatsomaniacs -- "Bright Star," "Why Did I Laugh Tonight?," "Lamia," the odes, etc.
Keats seems to have realized this himself shortly after writing it, by which point he'd decided that truth and beauty are synonyms. Though he seldom retrod old ground, he recycled elements of "Chapman" into far better poems -- "On Homer," "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles for the First Time," "When I have Fears." These drill into the genuine Keatsian spirit, his addictive fixation with the horror of mortality. They release a pure intellectual ecstasy absent in "Chapman's Homer," whose sense of childish wonder he never really visited again. The great poems are not only unblemished by bad fact-checking, but are emotionally true and hence eternal. Honesty in specifics may not indicate honesty in art, but dishonesty in the former is always accompanied by flawed aesthetics in the latter.
I make this rant as a service to writers of poetry who may send their books my way. Don't present as actual details that are demonstrably false for the sake of your precious thesis. Such rude misapplications only dilute any power you may hope to achieve in what is an exquisitely delicate endeavor. To keep reading a poem with an open mind after stumbling into a statement along the lines of "Nome is the capital of Alaska" is like trying to finish a glass of good beer with unabashed gusto after removing a couple of large dead flies from the brew. Call it the two-fly school of poetic criticism.
So, please, check your facts.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
By MIKE DUNHAM