Meet Karla Huston The Wisconsin Poet Laureate
Spotted Cow • Miniature Circus • Let’s Draw
WISCONSIN ACADEMY WINTER/SPRING 2017
EVENTS & EXHIBITIONS CALENDAR Lifelong learning opportunities across the sciences, arts, and letters.
@ THE JAMES WATROUS GALLERY
Let’s Draw On view February 10–April 9 Reception Saturday, February 18, from 1–3:00 pm A group show featuring drawings by six contemporary Wisconsin artists—Emily Belknap, Tony Conrad, Nina Ghanbarzadeh, Lee Mothes, Zach Mory, and Katie Ries—and exploring the history of “Let’s Draw,” James Schwalbach’s iconic 9XM School of the Air radio series. Presented in partnership with Wisconsin Public Radio. ACADEMY TALK
Raising Creative Kids Tuesday, February 28, from 7–8:30 pm Wisconsin Studio, 3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts • Madison The Wisconsin Academy’s Growing Our Creative Power series of talks continues to explore how specific investments in the knowledge economy and our creative sectors can make a brighter future for Wisconsin. Panelists include: Tony Evers, Deborah Gilpin, and Ruth Maegli. POETRY READING
Poetry & Pi(e) Tuesday, March 14, from 5:00–6:30 pm Wisconsin Academy Steenbock Offices • Madison Join us for a celebration of everyone‘s favorite mathematical constant, featuring a poetry reading with Wisconsin Poet Laureate Karla Huston along with ice cream and pie. Presented with support from the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. Registration fee required.
Creativity & Main Street Wisconsin Tuesday, March 28, from 7–8:30 pm MMoCA Lecture Hall • Madison The Wisconsin Academy’s Growing Our Creative Power series of talks continues to explore how specific investments in the knowledge economy and our creative sectors can make a brighter future for Wisconsin. Panelists include Fran Hill, Mary McPhetridge, and Greg Wright.
Special thanks to Academy members, donors, and the following sponsors and partners for supporting our mission of connecting Wisconsin people and ideas for a better world:
Building Sustainable Communities through Energy & Resilience Wednesday, April 5, from 9:00 am–4:00 pm Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts 51 Sheboygan St • Fond du Lac A full-day summit to empower local Wisconsin leaders to advance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and resilience across the state. This event aims to inform key decision-makers on the latest technologies, funding opportunities, policy strategies, and communication tools to move Wisconsin forward in addressing climate threats, encouraging energy innovation, and building resilient and sustainable communities. Registration fee required. ACADEMY TALK
The Art of Discovery Tuesday, April 11, from 7–8:30 pm Wisconsin Studio, 3rd Floor, Overture Center for the Arts • Madison The Wisconsin Academy’s Growing Our Creative Power series of talks continues to explore how specific investments in the knowledge economy and our creative sectors can make a brighter future for Wisconsin. Panelists include three Wisconsin Academy Fellow (TBD). ACADEMY TALK
Inside the Creative Process Thursday, April 20, from 7–8:30 pm Mead Public Library, 710 N 8th St • Sheboygan Join us for an evening with Bruce Dethlefsen, former Wisconsin Poet Laureate, as he discusses his evolution as a poet and shares his wisdom for emerging writers. Presented in partnership with Mead Public Library Foundation. @ THE JAMES WATROUS GALLERY
Gina Litherland & Gerit Grimm On view April 28–June 18 Reception Friday, April 28, 5:30-7:30 pm, with artists’ talks at 6:30 pm In her paintings, Gina Litherland explores the interplay of myth, the natural world, memories, and dreams. Gerit Grimm’s sculpture combines pottery form and fairytale imagery to create an uncanny union.
The Evjue Foundation The charitable arm of The Capital Times
Sally Mead Hands Foundation The Great Performance Fund at the Madison Community Foundation
The Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters
OFFICERS OF THE BOARD Tim Size • President Patricia Brady • President-elect Linda Ware • Immediate-past President Rich Donkle • Treasurer James W. Perry • Secretary Richard Burgess • Vice President of Sciences Marianne Lubar • Vice President of Arts L. Jane Hamblen • Vice President of Letters STATEWIDE BOARD OF DIRECTORS John Ashley, Sauk City Kimberly Blaeser, Burlington Malcolm Brett, Oregon Frank D. Byrne, Madison Roberta Filicky-Peneski, Sheboygan Joseph Heim, La Crosse Tom Luljak, Milwaukee Robert D. Mathieu, Madison Bernie L. Patterson, Stevens Point Kevin Reilly, Verona Nathan Wautier, Madison Marty Wood, Eau Claire
In This Issue After months and months of planning and designing, we're (more or less) finished with our updated look for Wisconsin People & Ideas. Working with Huston Design, our Madison -based creative team, we've come up a new design that is accessible, interesting, and visually appealing. Most notable to longtime readers are likely the addition of a regular Letters section and changes to the Upfront section, which is now called Happenings. We feel these Happenings elements need no title or much explanation: they reflect what is happening—right now, or in the near future—across any number of cultural, artistic, and scientific areas. We've streamlined and in some cases eliminated unnecessary or overly burdensome text areas, and built in plenty of white space and interesting images and pull quotes to give the reader reason to linger and look. Also, attractive and useful little ampersand "popouts" in almost every article point readers toward an area of our website featuring additional context and content surrounding the subject at hand. These new features, along with the polish put on our always-excellent essays, fiction, and poetry, reflect a magazine that is truly made by and for the people of Wisconsin. Enjoy! TJ Lambert
WISCONSIN ACADEMY STAFF Jane Elder • Executive Director Augusta Brulla • Head Gallery Attendant, James Watrous Gallery Chelsea Chandler • Environmental Initiatives Coordinator Jody Clowes • Director, James Watrous Gallery Aaron Fai • Project Coordinator Angela Johnson • Exhibitions Coordinator, James Watrous Gallery Don Meyer • Business Operations Manager Matt Rezin • Data & Office Systems Coordinator Amanda E. Shilling • Development Director Jason A. Smith • Communications Director and Editor, Wisconsin People & Ideas
Jason A. Smith, Editor
OFFICERS OF THE ACADEMY FOUNDATION Foundation Founder: Ira Baldwin (1895–1999) Andrew Richards • Foundation President Jack Kussmaul • Foundation Vice President Rich Donkle • Foundation Treasurer David J. Ward • Foundation Secretary FOUNDATION DIRECTORS Jane Elder Tim Size Linda Ware
On the cover: Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate, 2017. Photo by Mike Roemer/roemerphoto.com.
Wisconsin Academy Steenbock Center Offices 1922 University Avenue • Madison, WI 53726 ph 608-263-1692 • wisconsinacademy.org
CONTENTS 04 From the Director 05 Letters 06 Happenings Wisconsin Table
10 How to Spot A Cow
Myles Dannhausen Jr.
16 Small Town, Big Sustainability
20 Meaning and Melody
26 Bill Mattison’s Miniature Circus
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
VOLUME 63 · NUMBER 1 WINTER 2017
@ the Watrous Gallery
34 Drawing Conclusions
Mary Hoefferle & Jody Clowes
42 Weathering The Storm
51 Poetry Contest Honorable Mentions
Jeri McCormick, Janet Leahy, Ann F. Wenzel
Wisconsin People & Ideas (ISSN 15589633) is the quarterly magazine of the nonprofit Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Academy members receive this magazine free of charge. Since 1954, Wisconsin People & Ideas magazine has been a trusted resource for people who care about the issues and ideas that shape life in Wisconsin. Wisconsin People & Ideas publishes fiction and poetry from Wisconsin writers, highlights new works from our visual artists and photographers, and covers science and environmental issues that affect Wisconsin’s people, lands, and waters. Copyright © 2017 by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Postage is paid at Madison, Wisconsin.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS
JASON A. SMITH editor
54 Mansion Of Happiness, by Jon Loomis Karla Huston
55 Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories, by Jennifer Morales
JEAN LANG copy editor JODY CLOWES arts editor
The Last Word
CASEY VARECKA editorial assistant
CX DILLHUNT cold reader
56 When the World Shifts Linda Ware
HUSTON DESIGN, MADISON, WI design & layout
A magazine by and for Wisconsin.
Your subscription supports a magazine made by and for the people of Wisconsin. Subscribe today and get the best of contemporary Wisconsin thought and culture delivered to your door four times a year. Visit wisconsinacademy.org/subscribe
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Amanda E. Schilling
When Frames Trump Facts
t seems fitting that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016 is post-truth: an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The events of last year seem to confirm that we are indeed in an era of post-truth. “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts,” said political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes on “The Diane Rehm Show.” While grammatically flawed, Hughes’ assertion nicely articulates how a public figure can transcend the standards of objective reality with a simple, yet easily disprovable, tweet. Similarly, in making his case for the pro-Brexit vote back in June, British MP Michael Gove pointed out that voters didn’t need any more reasoned information about the implications of leaving the European Union because “people in this country have had enough of experts.” MP Gisela Stuart, piled on, reminding voters that “there is only one expert that matters—and that’s you.” It remains to be seen whether or not facts—along with the experts who bring them to our attention and rely on them—will be welcome in 2017. While it can’t predict what will happen this year, science can tell us a lot about how facts move through the human cognitive process. We know, for example, that our brains use simplifying mechanisms to “file” new information into categories. This mental filing begins with a sorting process based on what we find important: personal needs
and priorities, values and beliefs, people and experiences with which we identify, and things we think we already know. These big “folders” serve to shape the way we sort and interpret new information. Facts that are then assembled and placed into these individual folders take on the characteristics of the particular folder or are discarded if they don’t “fit.” Over time, these cognitive pathways become the ways in which we interpret the world. That’s why tailor-made messages that are “framed” to appeal to these cognitive pathways can be so powerful—and why facts often fail to move hearts and minds as successfully as frames. The art of framing public communications taps into what scientific research (by, ahem, experts) has revealed about human cognition, psychology, and behavior. Framing is now a deeply embedded practice in political discourse and the public policy-making process because it is so effective in creating movement around an issue. Indeed, back when I used to hold workshops on social change communications, I had a slide that simply said, “Frames trump facts.” Of course we still need facts to navigate life and—more often than not—it is experts who have many of the important facts (none of us want to subject ourselves to a fact-free medical procedure or drive a car designed without facts). So, in this post-truth era—remember, 2016 was also the year of “fake news”—how do we better spot framed messages so that we can seek context and factual evidence? First, be aware of the power of framing labels in the media and public discourse—who is using them, and to what end. For instance, one person’s “ivory tower elitists” and “burdensome environmental regulations” are another’s “scientific experts” and “public health safeguards.” Next, seek and demand facts and context to find the deeper story behind the frame, and challenge others to do so as well. Finally, support and share the information sources that truly investigate and document their conclusions. At the Academy, we’ll continue to do our part to provide potent factual information and insightful context through our publications and programs, and encourage readers and participants to reason, question, and exercise their own deeply rational capacities. So, let’s make 2017 the year in which you work with the Academy to elevate the facts, support expertise, and make Wisconsin—and the world—a more-informed place.
Jane Elder, Executive Director
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
NEWS for MEMBERS Board Leadership News Beginning in January 2017, Tim Size will begin his two year term as Academy Board president. Size is the executive director of Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative and has been serving on the Academy Board since 2012. We are also pleased to announce the election of four new Academy Board members: Kimberly Blaeser (Burlington), Rich Donkle (Madison), Robert D. Mathieu (Madison), Nathan Wautier (Madison); and two new Wisconsin Academy Foundation Board members: Mark Bradley (Wausau) and Freda Harris (Madison). Our deepest gratitude to our retiring Academy and Foundation board members for their combined 59 years of service: Les Alldritt (Washburn), Terry Haller (Madison), Diane Nienow (Middleton), Millard Susman (Madison), and Bob Wagner (Mequon). Fellows Nominations Is there an educator, mentor, civic or business leader in your community who has made a significant contribution to the cultural life and welfare of our state and beyond? Help us find our next Wisconsin Academy Fellows. Nominate someone yourself, or share this information with others. Nominations are open now until September 30, 2017. For more information, visit wisconsinacademy.org/ nominate. Letters to the Editor We w a n t t o h e a r f r o m y o u a b o u t Academy programs and publications! A Letters section was added to our pages during the redesign of Wisconsin People & Ideas as a way to share feedback and comments directly with and from our readers. Send your comments t o e d i t o r @ w i s c o n s i n a c a d e m y. o r g for possible inclusion in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
Letters Congratulations to editor and staff on the recent issue of Wisconsin People & Ideas (Fall 2016). I enjoyed all the articles—but especially appreciated the Read Wisconsin piece (“Cheesehead Lit 101”), providing an update on current Wisconsin writers. Good job. Thanks. Faith B. Miracle, Madison
I am a board member of the Friends of Toft Point, an organization mentioned in the article about Roy and Charlotte Lukes (Summer 2016). The article captured the spirit of this amazing couple. Myles Dannhausen Jr. hit it on the head. A friend of mine wrote a beautiful poem about Roy’s voice, which was very distinctive. And then there’s the tilt of his hat. Such a great cover shot by Len Villano. Nancy Rafal, Baileys Harbor
Thank you Jane Elder for you for your excellent editorial at the beginning of the Spring 2016 Wisconsin People & Ideas. You hit it right with the comments about supporting the university and the value of entities like the Academy. I’ve been an Academy member since 1994 and have benefited from programs offered for educators over the years such as ESRA (Earth Sciences Resource Associates) and WASDI (Wisconsin Academy Staff Development Initiative). Keep up the great work, and I will continue to support the Academy and look forward to the publications and events you sponsor. Karyl Rosenberg, Thiensville
In recent months, Wisconsin lost two remarkable scientists and longtime Academy members: Orie Loucks (September 2016) and Hugh Iltis (December 2017). Both men worked primarily in the plant sciences and were intensely interested in environmental issues—which included the active pursuit to ban the use of DDT in the late 1960s. These were dedicated and memorable teachers who were fiercely devoted to preservation of the environment, and they spent much of their time and energy teaching legislators and the general public alike about the impact human activities have on ecological systems. We will miss them. Millard Susman, Madison
MUSIC 22, A Million, a new album from Eau Claire artist Justin Vernon and his band Bon Iver, is nominated for two Grammys: one for Best Alternative Music Album and another for the band’s visual artist, Eric Timothy Carlson, for Best Recording Packaging. Other nominees in the Best Alternative Music Album category are PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Radiohead, and the late David Bowie. Recorded mainly at Vernon’s April Base Studio in Fall Creek (just southeast of Eau Claire) 22, A Million features the pitch-shifted falsetto of Vernon over fragmented yet somehow primal percussion and deeply distorted electronic synthesizer. In prior years, Bon Iver was nominated for four Grammys and won two in 2012 for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album (Bon Iver, Bon Iver). The 59th Annual Grammy Awards show will be held on February 12, 2017, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and televised live on CBS. Jason A. Smith
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
One of the only “small-town” children’s museums in the nation, the Black Earth Children’s Museum offers engaging and unique play experiences for children ages two to ten. The brainchild of Black Earth residents and parents Aaron and Karen Carlock, the museum is designed to be a community resource and anchor point for downtown revitalization efforts. “We recognized that western Dane County lacks a really great educational place base,” says Karen, and the couple saw an opportunity to “breathe new life to the downtown [through] a museum that can really help youth in the community.” Located in the historic Patron’s Mercantile Co-Op Building, the Black Earth Children’s Museum contains 7,000 square feet of exhibition space designed to encourage active learning and exploration with an emphasis on local content. A toddler barn has toy animals and tools, and a garden out front can be “planted” and “harvested” and produce brought to the adjacent restaurant, which has scaled-down kitchen implements. For children a little older the museum features a Cave of the Mounds tunnel (complete with fossils) and a miniature version of the observation tower at Blue Mounds State Park with a telescope on top. A pump circulates a few inches of water through the trout steam exhibit, propelling foam trout with magnets through the current. Older kids can get a “fishing license” and fly rod with a line and magnetic cork fly. Younger kids can use the fixed fishing pole at the end of the stream to catch fish. Of course fishing vests and hats are available for dress up. Other exhibits include a wetland made from foam floatation noodles, a night-sky viewing dome, a reading loft, and a forest treehouse. While the Carlocks are the driving force behind the museum, a committed group of community volunteers are working to develop exhibits and construct the space. For instance, local designer Gary Cox created the floor plan, and area educator Kay Butcher developed some of the exhibit learning components. Karen Carlock says that future programming plans include summer workshops such as robotics and journalism for middle school- to high school-age kids. But, for now, she and Aaron are furiously working with their board and community volunteers to get everything installed by the opening date: June 12, 2017. Jason A. Smith
N O N PRO FIT
FELLOWS I N TH E N EWS
Jo Handelsman, (2014) a Yale University professor and associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, returns to Wisconsin this February to lead the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. A former professor and chair of the UW–Madison Bacteriology Department, Handelsman was co-founder of the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute at UW–Madison and founder of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching. Melvin R. Laird (2003), a long-serving legislator and former U.S. Secretary of Defense, has died. Later in life, Laird was active in The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Laird Foundation for Historic Preservation. He is the recipient of more than 300 awards, most notably the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Ro b e r t Ma t h i e u ( 2 0 1 6) h a s j o i n e d t h e Wisconsin Academy Board of Directors. An astronomer and science educator who works at the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, Mathieu is a well-known leader in national initiatives for the improvement of science higher education. Since 1982, the Wisconsin Academy has honored people who represent the best and brightest of Wisconsin. The highest level of recognition conferred by the Wisconsin Academy, the Fellows award acknowledges a high level of accomplishment as well as a lifelong commitment to intellectual discourse and public service. Jason A. Smith
Fellows are the best and brightest of our friends and colleagues. Nominate a Fellow at wisconsinacademy.org/nominate
There are more than 28,000 Wisconsinites over the age of five with a disability living in the sparsely populated northern counties of Wisconsin. Many of these people struggle to live independently, let alone work and participate in their communities. While 81% of Wisconsinites without disabilities find employment, less than half of those with a disability do. A large part of this disparity is due to the struggles of living independently in an ablebodied world. North Country Independent Living, located in Superior, is reducing that disparity by working with the state government to provide the disabled of Northern Wisconsin with a wide range of services including job training, public disability education, assistive transportation, and arranging personal care if assistance is needed in the home. The agency is a great information resource for those with disabilities and their family members, and it also provides referrals for people who encounter disability-related discrimination in housing or employment.
North Country Independent Living is unique in offering peer support for those who need assistance as well as independent-living training in skills such as budgeting money, self-advocacy, and navigation social situations. The agency works to better serve the needs of the disabled community by employing people with disabilities, who comprise the majority of the staff and Board of Directors. John Nousaine, the director of North Country Independent Living and recent recipient of the Earl Walden Award for excellent service and advocacy in disability needs, has worked in the independent living field for over 25 years. Nousaine knows the difference that organizations like his can make in lives of Wisconsinites with a disability and their families. He points out how, because only two communities in Northern Wisconsin have public transportation, even getting to work—let alone anywhere else— can be an extraordinary challenge. Through a unique voucher program that pairs drivers with people in need, North Country Independent Living’s transportation service is helping rural, disabled Wisconsinites get and keep their jobs. Casey Varecka
I N N O V AT I O N
Zeynab Ali Zeynab Ali, a senior at Rufus King High School in Milwaukee, feels acutely the current national debate surrounding immigration. Ali was born in a refugee tent village in Kenya, where her parents were forced to flee during the Somali civil war. She landed in the United States when she was six years old, and her family later settled in Milwaukee. Ali says that the events her family witnessed— mass murder, starvation, deprivation—both in Somalia and in the refugee camps, aren’t what you usually hear about in the emotionally charged debate on immigration. She felt that she wanted to do something more to bring attention to the immigrant experience and the corrsosive effects of rabid tribalism and unfettered greed. Published in late 2016, Ali’s book Cataclysm: Secrets of the Horn of Africa combines a fairly comprehensive history of Somalia with the story of her own family’s harrowing escape from what can only be described as utter chaos. Early chapters feature reflections on Islam, tribal affiliation, and the maleficent influence of Ethiopia before Ali chronicles Somalia’s descent into famine and systematic destruction by Somali warlords. Ali describes how roving bandits, who pillaged and raped in Somali villages, thought nothing of killing her mother’s father—before her very eyes. “My mother told me that almost all Somali Bantu women who were born in Somalia experienced rape by armed Somali men,” she writes. “The only ones who hadn’t encountered rape were those who were luckily born in the refugee camps like me.” Ali describes a childhood spent in refugee camps where food, water, and human decency were rare. Her parents often worked all day for meager wages. Later chapters that span Ali’s early years in America provide thoughtful obsevations on life as a young, Muslim immigrant who is eager to give back to her adopted community. Cataclysm: Secrets of the Horn of Africa underscores how the immigrant experience is one that reflects a basic human desire for safety and acceptance. Jason A. Smith
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
Steve Visuri and Karen Harrington, who together have over forty years of experience in medical devices and diagnostics, set out to develop the first over-the-counter microbiota capsules to treat Clostridium difficile infection. Based in Waukesha, their company FloraSeq is developing a highly unique live biotherapeutic agent (similar to probiotics) in capsule form. A patient swallows a capsule containing treated fecal matter, which breaks down in the large intestine. After continuing treatment for a few months, the patient’s microbiome is repopulated with essential gut flora and restored to health. Clostridium difficile is just one of thousands of microbiota species found in a healthy human gut. But C. diff, as it is called, can become toxic when the gut is subjected to doses of antibiotics such as penicillin that kill off competing microbes that otherwise keep it in check. The penicillin-resistant C. diff flourishes and releases toxins that cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon. The solution to C. diff infections is to restore a normal population of microbes to the gut. With a success rate of more than 90%, fecal matter transplants have become a very effective way repopulate the large intestine with essential microbiota harvested from a healthy donor. However, the procedure (which is somewhat invasive) is not readily available at many hospitals and clinics. FloraSeq is currently undertaking a clinical research study with a nearby medical institution to test the efficacy of their drug on patients. While companies such as OpenBiome currently provide hospitals and doctors with fecal matter capsules, FloraSeq is hoping their over-the-counter capsules will allow a greater degree of self-care for those with severe gastrointestinal distress. While they are still a relatively new company with a ways to go before seeking approval from the FDA, the early rounds of testing have been encouraging, and Visuri and Harrington are excited to move their promising product to market. Casey Varecka
We’ve had issues for 40 Years 1976–2016
AIMEE LOUISANNE WITH T-REX AND FRIEND FROM DINOSAUR ZOO LIVE. PHOTO C. WAITS
ERTH’S DINOSAUR ZOO LIVE
THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES
MANUAL CINEMA’S LULA DEL RAY
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HOW TO SPOT A
COW BY MYLES DANNHAUSEN JR.
owa residents are known to drive for hours to buy it. In Illinois, a friend isn’t a friend if they return from a weekend Up North without a six-pack of
it. And bars from Minnesota to New York have been busted for illegally selling it to die-hard beer fans. Back in Wisconsin, Spotted Cow is found in beer coolers and on draft from Bayfield to Beloit. This award-winning farmhouse ale ranks among cheese curds and the Green Bay Packers as a point of pride for our state, and it is one of a dozen—six annual and six seasonal—handcrafted beers made by the husband
and wife team behind New Glarus Brewing Company.
Bottles of New Glarus Brewing Company's signature beer come off the production line. Soon, all New Glarus bottles will be sourced from Ardagh glass manufacturing plant in Burlington, adding another dimension to the Spotted Cow tagline: Only in Wisconsin.
Dan and Deb Carey’s partnership reflects a couple content in their business roles. An artist of hops, barley, and yeast, Dan Carey has earned the highest accolades of his craft. Deb is the hard-nosed marketer and entrepreneur who in 1993 became the first woman in the United States to found and operate a brewery. For over twenty years, the Careys have thrived by making great beer in Wisconsin, for Wisconsin, and by running a business that values quality and community above all else.
BREAKER OF BARRIERS
Deb Carey, founder and president of the New Glarus Brewery Company, poses near the copper fermentation tanks. Deb says the brewery is in the midst of an $8 million expansion project that includes the construction of a $2 million canning line, new warehouse, new keg line, and additions to the bottling line.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
At heart, Deb Carey is an artist. While she paints for fun in her spare time, she draws on her background in art and design to craft labels for each New Glarus beer, complete with a short story behind the beer. For Spotted Cow she went whimsical, drawing a cow leaping over an outline of the Wisconsin map, a label that is iconic now, but was mocked when she first placed it in front of barkeeps. Customers were just used to Bud, Miller Lite, and Schlitz, all beers with boldly worded labels. The idea for Spotted Cow came to her while driving around the English countryside with Dan in 1995 and admiring the freeroaming sheep. What’s more Wisconsin than spotted cows roaming in a field? she thought. When the two returned home to their fledgling brewery in the tiny town of New Glarus (about a half an hour south of Madison), Dan began work on a cloudy, yeasty farmhouse ale that could live up to the name. The final product was unlike anything else found on tap or shelf in the mid-1990s (Leinenkugel’s Red was about as exotic as it got back then). But who would buy it? Deb was convinced that Wisconsin was thirsty for a beer with a terroir, that people were tired of marketers telling them what they wanted, and that many would be willing to pay a premium for authentic products made by their neighbors. She foresaw the future of the beer market, one that looked very different from the one dominated by slogans like “Tastes great, less filling.” But the future hadn’t yet arrived, and the male-dominated world of the beer distributors and tavern owners wasn’t quick to accept a thirty-something, blond brewery owner who spoke her mind. Deb says that many in the Old Boy’s Club were more accustomed to seeing a woman on a beer poster than hearing one tell them about what it takes to make a consistently excellent beer that would create a loyal customer base. She still recalls a bar owner asking incredulously, “Lady, do you really think a man is going to walk in here, sit down at my bar, and order a beer called Spotted Cow?” “It was a struggle, it was really difficult,” Deb says as she recalls the challenges she faced. “But I decided that every day, I’m going to fight the good fight. I’m going to talk about beer intelligently and eventually they’re going to have to respect me.” Soon bar owners were getting requests for that amazing beer with the funny name. As the beer grew more popular, those that dismissed her were soon calling and begging for the unmistakable Spotted Cow tap handle. “I always say that Deb can see around the corner,” Dan says. “People who are really good at chess play five or six moves ahead. That’s what Deb does in business.” In time, Deb’s business credentials would become unquestionable, and New Glarus Brewing Company would grow from a small craft brewery to an industry powerhouse, generating over $41 million
in revenue in 2015 alone. Along the way, Deb was named Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Association in 2011 and named a Champion of Change by President Barack Obama in 2011. Deb says that New Glarus Brewing Company is a success today because of an investment not in neon signs or big marketing campaigns but, rather, in her husband Dan and his commitment to crafting quality beer.
John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal
THE BEER GEEK’S BEER GEEK If we are in, as many say, the Golden Age of Craft Brewing, Dan Carey is definitely beer royalty. New Glarus Brewing Company was only three years old when Dan Carey won a Gold Medal in 1996 for his Wisconsin Belgian Red at the Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s premier beer showcase. In 2005 and 2006 Dan was named the festival’s Brewer of the Year, and many more awards followed. While Dan’s carefully crafted beers quickly earned acclaim, his successes are the culmination of more than a decade of arduous study and experimentation. A San Francisco native, Dan earned a degree in food science with an emphasis on malting and brewing science from the University of California–Davis in 1983. A stint at a Montana brewery followed, where he met Deb, a single mom doing freelance graphic design projects for the brewery. They were married after Dan landed a job as a production supervisor at Anheuser-Busch, and the two moved their family to Fort Collins, Colorado. While working for Anheuser-Busch, Dan continued his study of brewing science. Dan recalls often leaving work and driving over an hour to Golden after work to study in Coors Brewing Company’s extensive brewing library. “I was employed by their major competitor, but they were gracious enough to let me study in their library for two hours a day,” Dan says. “I did that for a year, every single day, studying for the Master Brewer examination.” In the United States there aren’t any legal requirements to become a Master Brewer, but in Europe the title requires an arduous course of study and apprenticeship. Dan had already claimed the valedictorian title for the Course in Brewing Technology at Chicago’s Siebel Institute, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious brewing school, when, in 1992, he traveled to London’s Institute of Brewing and Distilling to take the Diploma Master Brewer examination. Today he is one of few Americans to pass that exam and claim the title of Master Brewer. “He’s a beer geek’s beer geek,” says Brian Yaeger, an Oregonbased beer writer and the author of two books on breweries. “We’re approaching 5,000 breweries in this country, most started by home brewers whose neighbors told them they’re good at this and should open their own brewery. A lot have created very good breweries, but they don’t have the training that Dan Carey went through twenty, thirty years ago. And he continues to sharpen his brewing brain. He’s a true craftsman who understands the science and masters the science.”
Dan Carey, New Glarus Brewing Company co-founder and brewmaster, inspects a crop of barley growing near Monroe. Dan says that the company is in the development phase of creating a distillery but hasn't yet determined a location.
A PASSION FOR QUALITY Though he has always had a passion for beer and a desire to expand his learning, Dan says he was never interested in opening a brewery. “I
While the beer garden hosts over 250,000 visitors every year, a special “Hard Hat Tour” gives a complete behind-the-scenes look both the original Riverside Brewery and the state of the art Hilltop Brewery.
“We had about $40,000, an old warehouse, some very poor equipment, and the two of us,” recalls Dan. Looking back on their precarious financial position, Deb says, “We needed to make that brewery work, or go live in our car.”
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
worked in the industry, and it’s a tough business, a nasty business,” he says. “It’s a constant knife fight.” But Deb understood how she could turn Dan’s gift for brewing into a business that could support their family and cultivate his passion. She proposed a partnership: Deb would raise money to start a brewery, and Dan could make the kind of beer he wanted to make. The catch: It had to be in Wisconsin. Deb drew a large circle around Madison on a map and told Dan to visit the area in February and pick a town where they could build a brewery. “I figured that if he liked it in February, he’d like it year ’round,” Deb says with a laugh. After bouncing around several little towns, Dan called Deb from New Glarus, a village of around two thousand people that was founded in 1845 by Swiss immigrants. The town retained its old world architecture and reminded Dan of Aying, Germany, the small village outside Munich where he served a brewing apprenticeship in the winter of 1986. Within days they has had sold their home in Fort Collins and put every penny they had into building New Glarus Brewing Company—in a small town in which they had never lived and knew practically no one. “ We had about $40,000, an old warehouse, some very poor equipment, and the two of us,” recalls Dan. Looking back on their precarious financial position, Deb says, “We needed to make that brewery work, or go live in our car.” Today New Glarus is producing almost 200,000 barrels of beer per year, making it the twentieth-largest craft brewery in America, and twenty-seventh largest in the world. That growth has come even as they’ve continually sold their product only in Wisconsin (they sold
briefly in the Chicago market but Deb grew tired of the long sales drives and demands of Windy City distributors and tavern owners). Certainly New Glarus is a large brewery, but Deb despises the industry obsession with barrel production numbers. She cheekily says that, “size is a guy thing,” adding that people rarely ask important questions such as, “what is the quality of your beer [or] what is your employee turnover?” Dan appreciates the brewery’s growth, but for reasons you won’t hear from many brewers. “For me, what’s most exciting is we’ve reached a critical volume where we can interact with our suppliers and help with breeding of barley, advise and help improve farming and the sustainability of farming,” Dan says, “For me the future is all about finding the best raw materials. Agriculture is in a state of flux right now, with huge changes going on. For us to be right in the middle of it is extremely important.” But changes are afoot that require smart brewers to look far ahead. “The weather’s changing,” Dan says. “I don’t care what anybody says, things are becoming unpredictable, and with that unpredictability it will become difficult to ensure supply, so I need to be diversified.” Like a chef who visits the farmer’s market to find the best ingredients, Dan goes directly to growers to find the best hops for his beers. “To be able to go out into fields and talk to farmers and explain what you want is huge,” he says. One of the farmers he works with is James Altwies of Gorst Valley Hops in Mazomanie. Wisconsin was a national leader in the production of hops during the mid-1800s, and Altwies has spent the last ten years trying to re-introduce hop farming to the state. Gorst Valley Hops grows about one hundred acres of high-quality hops, much of which is used by New Glarus Brewing Company. “Frankly, their standards are higher than any other brewer I deal with,” says Altwies. “Very few brewers anywhere actually go to the length that Dan does to select his raw ingredients. He personally picks his hops. He’s looking at the color, the physical form of the hops, the moisture content, and the aroma. He knows what he’s looking for.” Dan knows that quality comes at a cost, but, like Deb, he believes that people are willing to pay more for a better beer. As with not only his beer ingredients but with food production in general, Dan says that, “in order to get farmers to grow what you want and the quality that you want, you have to be willing to pay for it.” So only the best Wisconsin apples, cherries, and cranberries go into his Serendipity sour ale. His Wisconsin Belgian Red, a cherry ale made with a pound of Door County cherries for every bottle, was indeed the first beer to earn Dan international acclaim.
COMMUNITY FIRST Each year New Glarus draws more than 250,000 people for brewery tours and to sample specialty beers in the sprawling beer garden. Many of the visitors also spill into the town to patronize local inns, gas stations, restaurants, and bars, creating an estimated economic impact of $40 million each year. “It’s done a lot to keep this town thriving,” says Susie Weiss of the New Glarus Chamber of Commerce. “It looks like a festival here every weekend now.”
When it came time to build a new brewery in 2006, Deb had no interest in the stark industrial look of most new breweries. After a long search for property, she found a plot on a hill overlooking the town. Deb designed the $21 million facility to look like a European village. Rather than a single centerpiece bar, the beer garden sprawls into the hillside, with pouring stations in small Bavarian-style huts spread around the grounds and structures made to look like historic ruins creating cozy nooks to enjoy your beer with a view of the surrounding hills. The new brewing facility is meant to last long after they’re gone, but they’ve already built lasting impact in the way they run their business. Dan and Deb offer their eight employees full health insurance, paid vacation, and matching 401Ks, and, in 2014, they began the slow process of transferring ownership to their employees. “Traditionally business is viewed as a vehicle to generate wealth for shareholders,” Dan says. “We view our business as a way to create wealth for our employees. I come from Labor. Deb comes from Labor. We understand how hard it is for a person to make a buck. If you put your employees first, they’re going to be better to you, you’re going to have a better product, and the shareholders will get wealthy in the end as well.” “We employ veterans, single moms, great salt-of-the-earth people,” says Deb. “When they get a living wage, they can send kids to college, they can buy a house. … I’m well aware that things like health care and a living wage can change a person’s life.” In recent years international conglomerates like Miller-Coors, Heineken, and Anheuser-Busch have gobbled up several of the country’s most revered independent breweries, including Lagunitas, New Belgium, Founders, and Ballast Point, making absurdly wealthy men of their owners. The Careys aren’t accepting any offers on New Glarus Brewing Company. “We’re doing something that we really believe in and that we love doing,” Deb says. “I can’t imagine Dan ever not being in the brewery. If I told him tomorrow, ‘you have a lot of money but no more brewing,’ he’d be a basket case. What we have now is way, way beyond anything I ever dreamed of.”
Myles Dannhausen Jr. is a Door County native living in Chicago. He's contributing editor for Peninsula Pulse and Door County Living, as well as course director for various Door County races (both foot and bike) and organizer for the Door County Beer Festival.
SMALL TOWN, BIG SUSTAINABILITY WISCONSIN COMMUNITIES TAKE THE LEAD IN MAKING CLEAN ENERGY CHOICES
BY JENNY PEEK
hile 2016 was the warmest year on record, NASA records show that the ten warmest years since scientists began
recording the Earth’s surface temperature have all occurred since 2000. For those who understand that human activity is warming our planet, there is a growing sense of urgency to make energy choices that limit the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
Vernon Electric Cooperative member/owners who purchase a solar panel can visit the array and see where their energy comes from.
Town of La Pointe
The good news is that in the last few years, America’s energy choices have increasingly favored renewables. A recent Gallup poll shows that 67% of Americans support increased investment in renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Yet, even with demand on the rise, many communities in Wisconsin and the energy utilities that serve them lack easy answers for providing renewable forms of energy. Energy demands, geography, environmental impacts, and economics are just a few of the considerations that go into making energy choices. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to addressing energy use and global warming, and many people find the problem too nebulous or unwieldy to address. For Larry Bean, it’s the impact that climate change will have on his community that drives his decisions about energy use. Bean, who has spent nearly fifty years immersed in environmental science and policy—first as a professor and then as a state energy administrator—is very much aware of the ways in which burning fossil fuels has driven climate change. While he was able to explore the science behind global warming as a teacher, it was his 22 years as the head of the Iowa State Energy Office that helped Bean understand how communities can control their role in climate change. “We worked on policies and programs that reduced energy consumption of government, modeled ways that citizens could reduce their use, and advocated for the development of renewable energy technologies. The work and concern in those years was to implement mitigation efforts for climate change and to develop more sustainable energy resources,” Bean says. “So I’m very concerned about the climate.” Bean isn’t the only one. Over the course of 2016, Wisconsin began construction on more solar energy projects than in any other previous year. Last year we added more than 30 megawatts of new capacity—enough to supply about 5,000 Wisconsin homes with electricity for an entire year—through projects ranging from utility-based solar arrays to commercial and residential rooftop installations in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, and the Chippewa Valley. Today, the American solar industry workforce is bigger than that of oil and gas workforce combined, and nearly three times the size of the entire coal mining workforce. With solar equipment costs plummetting (nearly 70% since 2010) and concern rising over another year of record-breaking heat, citizens are looking for ways to use clean energy to power their homes and businesses while protecting the health of the people, land, and waters they hold dear.
David Maxwell/Vernon Electric Cooperative
The Town of LaPointe’s solar array and new butterfly garden reflect a community-wide commitment to sustainability.
BUILDING A RESILIENT COMMUNITY As retirees, Bean and his wife spend half of the year in the small, unincorporated town of La Pointe on Madeline Island, which is part of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. About eight years ago, Bean became a catalyst for clean energy in La Pointe. Building on the community’s interest in sustainability and a shared love for the natural environment, he encouraged the town board to create an energy committee—a committee he now chairs—to increase the island community’s energy resilience and sustainability. “The ideal would be to make municipal operations resilient to any threat [such as a major storm], says Bean. “So we’re looking at how to
Find out how small changes at home and in your community can help address climate change at wisconsinacademy.org/climateforward
Solar Jobs on the Rise Employment in energy generation by source in U.S. in 2016
373,807 187,117 101,738 68,176
Fossil technology includes coal, oil, petroleum, and natural and advanced gas combined. Each technology in electric power generation has seen an increase in jobs, but none as much as solar. The boom in the country's solar workforce can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity. Solar energy added 73,615 new jobs to the U.S. economy over the past year while wind added a further 24,650. Source: U.S. Department of Energy
get to a point where the island could operate whether there’s power from the major utility company or not.” After a series of energy audits, the Town of La Pointe made some efficiency-based changes such as switching to LED light bulbs and ensuring municipal buildings were well insulated against the island’s harsh Wisconsin winters. After that, the energy committee comprised of six La Pointe residents pursued both wind and solar as alternative forms of energy to power the town’s municipal buildings. But because of the island’s relatively small size—fourteen miles long and three miles wide—there were few feasible sites for a wind turbine. Other considerations, such as a special dock large enough for installing and maintaining the turbine and the challenge of running transmission lines from the site to the town, made wind energy a nonstarter for the community. So, the La Pointe energy committee turned their focus to solar. They applied for and received a $75,000 grant from the Wisconsin State Energy Office (now the Office of Energy Innovation), and the town received an additional donation of $20,000 from the local library to install a solar array on the island and also lay the groundwork for a solar microgrid. Like a solar array, a microgrid generates energy from the sun’s rays. But while solar arrays are reliant on traditional electric transmission grids to distribute energy to customers, microgrids have control software that can sense when, say, a tree knocks down a power line, and disconnect from the grid to rely on their own solar and other distributed energy resources to keep the lights on. The energy committee hired Chippewa Valley Alternative Energy to do a planning study, and, upon completion of the study, contracted North Wind Renewable Energy to do the installation. Today, the 18.2-kilowatt (kW) solar array, built in the center of La Pointe just minutes from the ferry line, provides enough energy to power two of the town’s municipal buildings. “We’ve taken the first step. We have a solar array that provides about 112% of the annual electricity needed for our medical clinic and library,” says Bean. “But to be able to operate without power from Xcel Energy [the local utility provider] we would need battery backup or another way to generate power when the sun isn’t shining, so we still have a ways to go.” Next summer the Town of La Pointe board plans to add additional solar panels to power the town hall. If the energy committee is able to keep up the momentum and funding for more solar, they hope the town will add the school, emergency services building, winter transportation building, and the materials recovery center to the proposed solar microgrid. Very soon, every municipal building in the town could be powered by sunlight. “Madeline Island is such an excellent demonstration site for people to learn, see, and realize the impact of these kinds of initiatives,” says Bean. “The town board is unanimous in its support for our committee and our work, and the fact that this is an environmentally sound thing to do is part of that support.”
RESPONDING TO CONSUMER DEMAND According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 13% the electricity in the U.S. in 2015 was generated from renewable energy
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sources, including hydroelectric, wind, biomass (both wood and waste), solar, and geothermal. Yet few of us can directly harness wind or hydroelectric power. So we leave it to utilities to provide consumer access to renewable energy. Advances in clean energy technology are creating new opportunities to produce energy more cheaply and efficiently from carbon-based sources such as natural gas. But, while natural gas may be cheap now, its price fluctuates according to supply and market demands. The cost of solar energy, on the other hand, continues to drop. Looking at the two energy sources side-by-side, one can see why solar is becoming increasingly attractive to energy providers. Even though the future of the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from American power plants 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, remains uncertain, the falling cost of renewable energy and rising consumer demand will continue to drive carbon reduction strategies. Community interest in living more sustainably, more in balance with the environment, is also pushing utility companies to offer more renewable energy options through initiatives such as community solar. A community solar project—usually called a solar farm or solar garden—is a solar array that has multiple shareholders such as homeowners, farms, and businesses. Ownership of a solar farm, whose generated energy is shared by its members, can be community-based or led by a third-party. It’s important to note that community solar participants are not physically connected to the project, so they do not receive energy directly from the array (it’s fed into the utility grid). In Western Wisconsin, Vernon Electric Cooperative is responding to the demands of its customers—known as member-owners in the co-op world—by building and operating the first community solar project in Wisconsin that gives people the chance to choose the source of their energy. Joe McDonald, CEO and general manager of Vernon Electric Cooperative, has been in the co-op industry for close to thirty years. Cooperatives are organizations owned and run by members, each sharing in the profits and goods produced for their mutual benefit. The focus on members is what McDonald likes most about the co-op model. “When I started at Vernon Electric Cooperative [in 2009], I had heard about community solar from my previous job and we had members that were interested in it. So we just kind of took the ball and went with it,” says McDonald. In 2013 Vernon Electric Cooperative, with support from Dairyland Power Cooperative—a generation and transmission cooperative that supplies Vernon Electric with power—and developer Clean Energy Collective LLC, broke ground on a community solar project near Westby. “The reason we were able to build our community solar [farm] was because Dairyland Power built a 520 kW solar array on our property and then we tagged off of that and, using the same builder and contractors, were able to add [our arrays] much cheaper than we could have on our own—and substantially cheaper than an individual putting it on their own roof could,” says McDonald. The co-op’s 305 kW solar farm, which went online in June 2014, today generates enough electricity to power thirty homes. “We sold the almost 1,000 panels [on the solar farm] in less than two weeks,”
exclaims McDonald. “We’re one of the few models where we actually sell the panel. The norm has been that co-ops own the panel and simply sell the output, but our members like the idea that they can come and see and physically touch the panel. It’s part of the selling point,” McDonald says. Another major selling point was the cost. While it can take 15 to 22 years to recoup the cost of a standard residential solar array, Vernon Electric was able to offer solar panels with a 12- to 13-year payback. Two key factors leading to the high demand and success were the price point and flexibility that the project offered. Vernon Electric Cooperative was able to bring the cost down to less than $2 per watt by leveraging economies of scale (through Dairyland) to build the array, taking advantage of incentives for building the first community solar project in the state, and offering a $71 per-panel rebate through Vernon Electric’s Do Watt$ Right energy efficiency program. For member-owners who don’t have the capacity to purchase solar panels, Vernon Electric Cooperative also offers an option to purchase renewable energy generated by Dairyland. This is a good fit for renters and others who might not want to make the long-term investment in solar panels. As Vernon Electric Cooperative’s 10,500 members become increasingly interested in renewable energy sources, McDonald hopes to offer more opportunities for them to pick and choose where their energy comes from. “We have a very [environment-oriented] group in our service area,” says McDonald, noting that, “people have relocated to our area just for that [reason].” While protecting the natural environment is a primary driver for member-owner participation in the solar farm, McDonald says that many appreciate the ability to protect against future energy rate increases and reduce the carbon footprint of their homes, farms, and businesses. No matter what happens on the state and federal level in regard to carbon regulation and environmental policy, local communities such as the Town of La Pointe and Vernon County are leading the transition to renewable energy. And they show no sign of slowing down. These ground-up movements calling for increased energy options demonstrate how smart energy choices can protect Wisconsin communities—and the world—from climate change.
Jenny Peek is a freelance journalist based in Madison. Her articles on topics ranging from animal research to K–12 education to climate change have appeared in In Common, The International, Isthmus, and Wisconsin State Journal.
MEANING AND MELODY
THE ILLUMINATING POETRY OF KARLA HUSTON
BY ELIZABETH WYCKOFF
n a late November afternoon at the Hoffman Memory Care Resource Center in Kaukauna, Karla Huston witnessed the power
of poetry at work. She was leading her first program at a Memory Café—a gathering space for people experiencing memory loss—and trying to figure out how to get the attendees engaged. “I read a couple of my poems that deal with memory,” Huston recalls, “and pretty soon, everybody was bubbling over with stories about when they were young: dance halls and proposals and first dates.”
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
Wisconsin Poet Laureate Karla Huston at Thomas A. Lyons Fine Books in Neenah, 2017.
“What I loved about poetry when I began writing it— and what I love about it now—is the synergy of word and sense. … I love searching for that right word, the one that is both meaning and melody.” Photo by Mike Roemer/ roemerphoto.com
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
The enthusiastic response from the Memory Café participants demonstrated to Huston how “poetry has the ability to tap into memory and those experiences we share as humans.” It also gave her a renewed sense of purpose in sharing her poetry with others. As the new Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2017–2018, Huston plans to nurture the growth of poetry reading and poetry writing among elderly and memory-impaired people across the state through Memory Cafés like the one she lead in Kaukauna. The national Memory Café movement brings together people who suffer from mild memory loss and dementia, along with their caregivers, to celebrate and collaborate in creativity and storytelling. During her time as Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Huston will travel across the state facilitating Memory Café events and working to build community around the restorative potential of poetry and the arts. “Poetry can make valuable connections with those who suffer from memory loss, an often ignored population. That is a wonderful gift, and I’m happy to give it.” Huston found her voice as a poet in her early forties. Her first formative encounter with poetry occurred in the early 1990s at the University of Wisconsin−Oshkosh, where she’d gone back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in the quest to become a high school English teacher. She remembers asking her professor at the time, Doug Flaherty, about the poems of Emily Dickinson. “I didn’t understand how poems were written, how poems happened, how poets worked,” she remembers. “I asked if poets wrote with intention or whether poems rolled off their pens like some sort of magic. I was curious, but wasn’t sure how to put into words what I wanted to know.” In 1994, with a BS in Education under her belt, Huston was hired as an English teacher at Neenah High School. While her students became her first priority, she still wanted to know more about poetry. So Huston signed up for her first creative writing class through the Continuing Education department at UW−Fox Valley. Her teacher was Neenah-based writer and poet Laurel Mills, who has since become a good friend. “I’d never written a poem before [that class],” Huston says, “but I tried it. I agonized over the best word—sound and syllable. I was entranced. It was one of my best writing experiences. I’d written my first poem, and I was hooked.” She signed up for more poetry classes in 1996, and, though it was a struggle to balance her day job as a teacher with her graduate classes, she eventually earned her Master’s in English and Creative Writing from UW−Oshkosh. In those early workshops, Huston imagined herself as a fiction writer, rather than a poet. Having read more fiction, she initially felt more comfortable writing in that genre (some of her short stories went on to win awards, including the Wisconsin Writer’s Association 1998 Jade Ring Award for “Picture This”). But, she says, “as hard as I worked on a story, I found that I didn’t enjoy it as much as telling that story in a narrative poem.” The lush language and almost musical composition found in Huston’s poems make evident the pleasure she derives from playing with words. “What I loved about poetry when I began writing it—and what I love about it now—is the synergy of word and sense,” she says. “I love searching for that right word, the one that is both meaning and melody.” Her poetry is deeply influenced by memories of her mother and grandmother, who lived just down the street from where Huston was
raised in West Salem, Wisconsin. In fact, Huston’s 2013 collection, A Theory of Lipstick, which won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, is dedicated to her mother. In the collection’s ultimate poem, Huston writes: “My mother wore Love That Red / and when she put it on, I knew / she was going farther / than the clothesline / or the edge of our corner lot.” Both her mother and grandmother were homemakers, and their domestic labors made an impression on Huston. “If you want to know about my early feminist leanings,” she says, “I always thought it was very odd that [Sunday] seemed to be a day of rest for everybody except for the women who were still expected to cook.” Huston’s poetry reflects her observations of women whose voices were often subsumed under their social and domestic responsibilities. “I grew up in a generation of women who were defined by the men they married,” she says. “They were Mrs. Someone, homemaker, wife, and mother. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of women from the Fifties (and earlier generations, too), whose lives were made full and satisfied by the roles of mother, wife, and homemaker. But I am also a child of the Sixties, where women could imagine something different, something more—a career maybe, an identity fully their own.” The interrogation of traditional gender roles is a recurring theme throughout Huston’s wide body of work, which includes one collection and eight chapbooks. Some poems are written about women literally defined by their husbands—“The Dog-Catcher’s Wife” and “The Plastic Surgeon’s Wife”—while others, like “Mona Lisa Imagines,” assume the thoughts of a woman whose inner life is inaccessible. By writing poems from the perspectives of these characters, Huston provides them with both agency and individuality. She admits that writing through the voices of other characters allows her to take risks she might not take if she were writing in her own voice. “I love to ‘wear the mask’ and create poems in persona,” she says. “In Greek plays, an actor could play many parts by simply changing masks. It’s adopting a whole new way of speaking in a voice not exactly your own.” In many instances, Huston tries on the masks of women in popular culture: from Gina Lollobrigida (a 1950s Italian starlet and sex symbol) to Rapunzel. In one poem, a female narrator wryly compares herself to an aging Judy Garland—“too old / for the part, but blue-eyed and braided, / my pinafore more than a little tight”—underscoring the societal pressures placed on women to look and act youthful. Huston’s poems about Wonderbras, control top pantyhose, and even lipstick detail the many ways in which women’s bodies are concealed and confined. But the poems are often empowering, too. Many depict women engaged in acts of liberation or defiance, allowing their bodies to be seen on their own terms and their voices to be heard. “Men have always written about women’s bodies,” Huston says, “and I feel that women have the right to reclaim what is theirs—and to be able to speak about it without criticism, and in the way that they choose to.” Poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux have served as Huston’s inspiration on this front. “What Do Women Want?” is one of her favorite Addonizio poems; it features an empowering red dress that the narrator wants to wear—and eventually be buried in. It’s the type of poem, Huston says, that makes you want to stand up and shake your fist. “Those kinds of women writers [like Addonizio and Laux] really convinced me that I could write whatever I chose to write,” she
Window Dressing The woman in the window banged off plastic arms, twisting the waist loose, then shimmied silk dresses over hard shoulders and hips. Arms reattached. The quick zip. She loved the heads the best, the way she could remove the skull cap, reach in to adjust the backs of the eyes, then face them where they needed to look. In spring, she’d link them with silk tulips, gardenias and leaves. Outside, shoppers stopped to peer through slips in the grey muslin and vowed to return. Inside the resin women stared into the wall of glass, that vacant wishful look almost like they were expecting the men from the opposite window to save them, their chiseled chins glowing like lighthouses. The children at their feet with their baskets and bonnets, their bright maryjanes, wondered, long after the curtain fell, if anyone would notice them, see how their hunger lingered long after the light spilled into the street below them.
Read more poems by Karla Huston and former Wisconsin Poets Laureate at wisconsinacademy.org/poetry
says. “And they’re absolutely fine poets in their own right, never mind the subject matter. They’re masters of the craft.” Over the years, Huston has begun to feel more confident in her own identity as a poet. “It took a long time,” she admits. “I’d seen myself as someone who wrote poetry, but not as a poet. I finally gave in to it when I immersed myself in poetry books and like-minded friends who also wrote poems.” Huston found fellow poets who challenged and encouraged her newfound passion through the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. “Writing is a solitary act,” Huston says, “so finding like-minded writers who struggle and succeed is essential to the process.” Along with Laurel Mills and Doug Flaherty, she cites Wisconsin’s first Poet Laureate, Ellen Kort, as an inspiration. “Ellen told to me not be afraid to write badly,” she remembers. “I’ve learned that it is in the act of writing that we learn to write. No one learns to do anything well without practice—and failure and more practice.” Huston also keeps herself connected to the larger poetry world by writing reviews for Library Journal (a job she’s now held for over ten years) and Wisconsin People & Ideas. She claims that being a reviewer has changed her relationship with poetry. “As a writer,” Huston says, “you’re asked to attend to a poem in a different way than as a reader. To see what a poet has done with language and line and the way meaning is presented is illuminating.” And since she often doesn’t get to choose which poetry books she reviews, she’s exposed to a wide range of styles and forms—much wider than what she might seek out on her own. Similarly, teaching has encouraged Huston to read poetry more widely and deeply. “I’m always looking for model poems to show students and from which to create prompts,” she says. “I’m always looking for ways to engage students and get them writing—and maybe have some fun.” After years of dedication to the craft, Huston has firmly established herself as a working poet in Wisconsin’s writing community. She serves as vice president and membership coordinator at The Mill: A Place for Writers in Appleton, in addition to serving on the board of the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Huston regularly speaks at book
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
festivals, writing conferences, and other literary events about the public value of poetry and the arts. And she has been teaching poetry workshops at The Mill since it was founded in 2011. As someone who has lived almost her entire life in the state, Huston doesn’t hesitate to refer to herself as a Wisconsin writer. “There is a certain value system that Wisconsinites hold close,” she says. “That work ethic, the value of an education, the importance of modest things. My parents modeled these.” Huston’s appreciation for modesty can be discerned in her observational poems—about things like lake flies, falling leaves, and the companionship of dogs. And these poems are clearly rooted in Huston’s memories of her family and time spent in Wisconsin. Huston is eager to promote the reading and writing of poetry during her two years as Wisconsin Poet Laureate. “It goes without saying that I am looking forward to meeting poets and lovers of poetry and those who aren’t too sure about this poetry thing, all across the state,” she says. It’s both humbling and motivating for Huston to remember that there was a time when she had plenty of questions about poetry herself. “Now I know that writing poems is glorious and often fraught with frustration and hard work,” she says, “but I believe there is still magic involved.”
Elizabeth Wyckhoff is an editor at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press and freelance writer living in Madison. Her writing has appeared in The Collagist, Copper Nickel, and Quarterly West, and in the online publications Electric Lit, The Rumpus, and Tin House.
100 Years of Innovation Explore historic audio, video and more.
Photo: UW Archives Image SO8156 Peg Bolger in WPRâ€™s Radio Hall ca. 1940s
M AT T I S O N
MINIATURE CIRCUS BY BARBARA SANFORD
mid parts and pieces of miniature circus wagons and a menagerie of
partially completed zebras and giraffes, Bill Mattison sits hunched over his brightly lit workbench in his basement workshop wearing a pair of jeweler’s magnifying glasses. Using an ultra-fine artist’s paint brush, he carefully applies intricate red arrowheads to each of the sixteen spokes that radiate from the hub of a one-and-ahalf-inch circus wagon wheel.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
Lynn Ellen Mattison Raley
n Mat tiso n Rale y Cou rtes y of Lyn n Elle
Amanda E. Shilling
Then and Now: Bill Mattison in his workshop creating his circus wagon models at age twelve, and still today.
A visit to Mattison’s workshop is an immersion in all things circus. On the table behind him is the blacksmith’s tent. There, blacksmiths repair wagon wheels and shoe horses, while others work metal over glowing forges as smoke curls skyward. Barrels of water and fire buckets complete the scene. Nearby, at the sideshow, posters advertise Penguin Boy, Spidora, and other “wonders.” On a nearby shelf sits a pair of cast iron acrobatic clowns that Mattison’s grandfather gave him for Christmas when he was seven years old. “My clowns needed a place to perform, so I built them a circus,” says Mattison. One thing led to another, and the Mattison Brothers Circus was born over eighty years ago. Bill Mattison was born in Elkins, West Virginia, in 1928. He is the son of Ralph and Dorothy Mattison, La Crosse natives who returned to Wisconsin to settle in Madison when Mattison was two years old. “My grandparents lived in La Crosse, and the circus parade went right by their house. I’d sit in the gutter and watch it go by,” says Mattison. “Then I got the [cast iron] clowns and began making my first circus wagons out of Kraft cheese boxes with Chinese checkers for wheels.”
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
When Mattison was a boy, the country was just coming out of the Great Depression, and his parents (like many Americans) didn’t have much money to spend on toys let alone expensive circus models. Always resourceful, Mattison used whatever he could find—tin cans, old cardboard, and modeling clay were his construction materials. He had no tools other than the few hand-operated ones his parents had (this was all before the advent of electric tools). So Mattison did his woodwork with old, discarded razor blades with glued-on handles and drilled holes with a hand-turned pin vise with a needle. Much to his family’s dismay, in the midst of his model building activities, thirteen-year-old Bill Mattison ran away from his Madison home in the summer of 1941 and hitchhiked south to Illinois to join the Barnum & Bailey Circus as a workman, or roustabout. This adventure opened another chapter in Mattison’s romance with the circus. His parents called the local sheriff, who found Mattison on the circus lot the next day. But before the sheriff could send him home, the circus commissary head talked to Mattison’s father on the phone and promised he’d get Mattison safely home at the end of the summer.
Learn more about Wisconsin artists and artisans and view their work at wisconsinacademy.org/craft
Lynn Ellen Mattison Raley
His father was relieved to know that his son was all right and in good hands, and Mattison settled into life with the circus. In those days, the circus traveled by train. Performers rode in comfortable Pullman cars, but roustabouts like Mattison slept in cars with bunks stacked three high and three across. That first night on the rails, Mattison, being the smallest and newest roustabout, had to sleep in the middle bunk. “Beside me was a man who undressed in front of me and then proceeded to take off his wooden leg,” recalls Mattison. “I quickly froze and closed my eyes, scared to move or barely breathe.” The following night, he broke the rules and slept out on the flatcar carrying the tent canvas. The logistics of the circus were complex. Like a city, the circus needed space for everything from wagons to dining tents, dormitories, corrals, a side show, and, of course, the big top. Because the circus lot in every town or city was different, a “twenty-four-hour man” arrived the day before the show to stake out the grounds and make sure that every bit of this fabulous temporary city would fit on the lot. Nothing was left to chance. Local kids were often recruited to hold the “dumb” end of the tape measure, usually in exchange for a free ticket. When Mattison joined the circus, his job as a roustabout was a bit more dangerous than holding a tape measure. An elephant hoisted him up to the twelve-foot-tall sidewalls of the big top. From there, Mattison climbed up the lacings that held the canvas sections of the tent together, tightening them as he went, to the top of the big top, 62 feet above the center ring. Once there, he climbed through a small hole, where he straightened the large bale rings encircling the center poles, and climbed down again. Something new happened every day. Once, in Winona, Minnesota, he noticed that the animals were restless and creating a stir. Mattison looked down and spotted a rattlesnake slithering along the ground. He grabbed a shovel and calmly beheaded the snake. The superintendent was so impressed that he promoted Mattison from the rigging detail to prop boy, a more prestigious (and less dangerous) job than roustabout. Mattison says he loves the logistics of the circus most of all. To him, the performance is incidental. “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” he says. What really fascinated him was how the circus was unloaded off the train, how it was organized, how schedules were met in the days before computers, and how they got everything to the lot, or show grounds. The weather was all-important. Despite rain, wind and mud, the show had to go on. “They couldn’t afford to miss a show,” he says. “It’s all thought out. Load and unload. First on, last off.” But circus life was not for him, and, as promised, Mattison returned to his family in Madison at the end of the summer. When he was about fourteen, he completed his first Mattison Brothers Circus, featuring electrical lighting, music, and moving performers, with over 250 animals, 75 wagons and 15 tents. The name pays homage to the brothers—Charles, John, Albert, and Otto—who founded the Ringling Brothers Circus in 1884 in Baraboo, Wisconsin. By the 1930s, these
Amanda E. Shilling
sons of German immigrants were among the most famous of American entrepreneurs. After his circus outgrew the family’s backyard, Mattison displayed it on the southeast corner of Spaight and Few Street and at Madison East High School, the East Side Festival, and a Milwaukee school. Mattison’s detailed, miniature circus reproduction was even featured in Boys’ Life, Capital Times, and Wisconsin State Journal. Mattison continued making circus models through his high school years, until football and his studies began to take up his leisure time. He started up Star Photo while still in high school and built it into a wellknown Madison business. He married, raised a family, and became nationally known for designing and building racing sailboats and especially iceboats; he was one of the nation’s top iceboat competitors. But over the decades Mattison never lost his love of the circus. As a frequent participant in Milwaukee’s Great Circus Parade and regular visitor to the famous Circus World Museum in nearby Baraboo, Mattison still felt that same thrill he did when he was boy. He wanted to preserve that experience for his children and grandchildren. When Mattison retired in 1998, the Mattison Brothers Circus became the vehicle to take him back in time. Because circuses change each year, Mattison decided to model his new Mattison Brothers Circus on the Ringling Brothers Circus of the 1920s. For Mattison, it’s all about the details, and he thoroughly
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
The trap doors and clean-out mechanisms on the cage wagons are built as if to remove waste from tiny, live animals. The pulleys that raise the canvas on the big top, of course, work just like they do in real life.
researches each piece through a collection of circus books that “go way back.” He says that getting the colors right is one of the most important and hardest aspects of model building. Because most books on the circus were published before the advent of color photography, Mattison looks for the original artists’ renderings. “Circus World Museum now has a great library with the most accurate information in the world about American and world circuses,” he says. To replicate the pieces to scale and specifications, Mattison measures photos and occasionally travels to Baraboo to measure the actual wagons in the Circus World Museum collection. Along the way, he’s learned that the average circus wagon is sixteen feet long; that four to five wagons fit on a rail flatcar; that wagon wheel sizes are standard; and that front wheels are smaller than back wheels because the wagon had to turn on itself 360 degrees. Mattison says that while the circus owned its own flatcars, they had to pay the railroads for freight by the foot. So footrests on the wagons were designed to fold up to utilize every inch. Noting that every baggage and cage wagon was standard size, he says of the model measurements, “If I got one, I got them all.” Using an elaborate step-and-repeat process, Mattison makes the fixtures, or molds, to make the parts. Consistency is critical, and Mattison works using a rigorous half-inch-to-one-foot scale. His
Amanda E. Shilling & Lynn Ellen Mattison Raley
Lynn Ellen Mattison Raley
Amanda E. Shilling
Attention to detail: Hand-carved ornamentation and elaborate working parts on each piece are based upon a one-half-inch-to-one-foot scale.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
models are built out of basswood because it’s easy to work with and readily available. Brass is his preferred metal for hardware. Mattison measures the length and width of each wagon and cuts the base, which is approximately 3/16-inch thick. Starting with the bottom, he adds the sides, ends, and tops. Finally, the doors go on after the roof is framed. Then he spray-paints them using an airbrush. The wheels come last. All doors, springs, wheels, and hinges open, close, turn, or move in whatever ways the actual circus wagons or vehicles would require. The trap doors and clean-out mechanisms on the cage wagons are built as if to remove waste from tiny, live animals. The pulleys that raise the canvas on the big top, of course, work just like they do in real life. Noting color and detail from historical photographs, Mattison hand-carved the basswood ornamentation for the parade wagons and the Lion and Mirror wagon. His model of Cinderella’s carriage is finished with gold leaf. Her glass slipper rests on a pillow, and the carriage lanterns have working lights. The Golden Age of Chivalry wagon, which carried a beautiful woman atop a two-headed dragon, comes apart, just like the real one, so it’s ready to ride the rails after a parade. Interesting details abound. The ticket taker stands fold up and the umbrellas come off. Inside the ticket wagon, the lights are on and there is even a safe. Smoke wafts from the forges in the blacksmith shop. Occasionally, he will buy commercially manufactured animals— giraffes, lions—if he can to save time and labor. But Mattison casts the horses in latex rubber in various different poses. By breaking apart the neck, head, and legs, and putting them back together differently, he gets even greater varieties of poses from his cast horses. Then he paints them. Each one is correctly harnessed. Even though Mattison says he’s “not much of a musician,” the bells on his bell wagon are all tuned to different notes and they actually play. Like his bell wagon, the calliope on the America wagon plays different notes, but is run by steam. Mattison built a tiny, 100-psi stainless steel boiler and connected it to the brass whistles and valves. Heat from the boiler would have destroyed a wooden wagon, of course. So, true to the original, Mattison’s model is clad with metal and features an open roof and sides that allow the steam to escape. Mattison doesn’t keep track of the time he spends building each piece. “I don’t want to,” he says. But he knows the bell wagon took a year for the bells alone. Cast in the state of Oregon, the bells were tuned by a computer to achieve the right frequencies. Mattison would tap a bell, whose sound registered in a computer that turned a lathe that trimmed the bell’s shape until it produced the right frequency. The bells were then sent to Milwaukee to be cast in wax molds. His wife Mauretta found some small metal type, and a jeweler stamped “Campbell Foundry” on the finished bells, which are stationary but played with a clapper that moves inside. Unsatisfied with the sound the bells produced on their own, Mattison made an amplifier, which he buried in the wagon, to boost their volume. It’s this kind of unyielding commitment to verisimilitude that earned Mattison a place in the Circus Model Builders Association’s Hall of Fame, of which he is one of the first lifelong members (number 208). The award reflects a belief that his wife Mauretta has held for years: “There’s sawdust in his veins,” she says.
Amanda E. Shilling
Mattison traces his obsession for detail and passion for the circus to his childhood. It’s during this time that Mattison discovered— and cultivated—his talent to make and fix almost anything. When Mattison constructed a full circus wagon weighing over a hundred pounds (before his parents even owned a car), he tackled the project like a geometry problem. When he was in tenth grade at Madison East High School, Mattison used a complex sand casting process to make an aluminum elephant from a five-piece mold, which was years ahead of what he was being taught. “My art teacher, Mr. Dhein, didn’t believe I did it. So I made fifty and put them on his desk,” recalls Mattison. Today, at age 89, Mattison shares his talent and enthusiasm with children who are building models of all kinds. He wishes he could be more optimistic about the future of circus model building but notes that the inspiration—big top circuses and circus parades—are less common now. “It will be a lost art,” he says. “There have been so many changes in the circus that it’s difficult for young people to carry on the tradition. Kids haven’t seen a tent circus, and they won’t be able to see circus animals. The elephants are gone."
Barbara Sanford is a Madison-based freelance writer whose work has appeared on Smithsonian. com and in Boys’ Life, BRAVA, Grow, Madison Magazine, Midwest Living, Wisconsin Trails, and Wisconsin P e o p l e & I d e a s . A s a fo r m e r p u b l i c i s t a t t h e Wisconsin Academy, Sanford has written about everything from happiness to stem cells to church hats.
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Emily Belknap, The Neighbors' Tree, 2013. Marker and colored pencil on mylar, 12 x 30 inches.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS Â· WINTER 2017
@ THE Watrous Gallery
BY MARY HOEFFERLE & JODY CLOWES
aking marks—scratching in the sand, carving into a branch, or marking stone with a charred stick—is a primal human activity. Since prehistory we have used
drawing to visualize, explore, refine, and communicate ideas, from the practical to the purely expressive. Drawing helps us understand what we see and imagine and share our vision with others. Whether it’s done with pencil and paper or computer software, drawing remains a fundamental tool for artists, architects, designers, and engineers. Yet until the 1950s, few American public schools taught drawing or offered any serious art curriculum. Wisconsin was no exception. In the 1930s, the majority of rural schools were comprised of one or two rooms in which several grade levels were taught by a single teacher. There were no specialized elementary art teachers in the state, and few resources to support teachers who wanted to offer art to their students. This deficit inspired a group of progressive-minded educators and radio producers in Wisconsin to develop a radical idea for teaching visual art and a variety of other subjects including music, wildlife conservation, and social studies, over the air. Though many rural homes—and schools—still lacked electricity, battery-powered radios provided a prized new link to the larger world. “Let’s Draw” was developed by WHA (now Wisconsin Public Radio) in 1936 as part of its School of the Air series of programs designed to provide free courses for the school children and adults of the state. A teacher and recent University of Wisconsin graduate named James Schwalbach had written a thesis on how art might be taught on radio, and was asked to lead the “Let’s Draw” program, which wove together music, stories, dramatic readings, and instruction into lively programs addressed to rural and underserved schools.
Schwalbach felt his own art education had been overly rigid, even stifling, with projects too often limited to copying, tracing, and coloring. He designed the weekly “Let’s Draw” radio lessons to spark enthusiasm and imagination, and to encourage students to treat art as a tool for creative exploration. “Remember, art is fun!,” he’d say, urging students to “Hold the crayon loosely and swing your whole arm with a great big grin on your face.” But Schwalbach also took art instruction seriously, offering techniques for using chalk, crayons, and watercolor along with ideas about composition, texture, volume, and space. The half-hour broadcasts began with a brief reminder about materials and structure, then quickly moved into a dramatic reading or story, enlivened with music Schwalbach chose himself “to see if [he] could hear the pictures.” To help teachers prepare, Schwalbach sent out an annual manual detailing the themes and materials needed. Although the manuals were illustrated, teachers were urged not to post sample images too prominently to discourage copying. According to Schwalbach, copying “ruined creative ability” and was antithetical to the central tenets of “Let’s Draw,” which emphasized “personal integration, love of beauty, thrill and pleasure in creative expression.” On air and in his teacher manuals, Schwalbach passion-
University of Wisconsin Archives #S17707
University of Wisconsin Archives #S14465
@ THE Watrous Gallery
James Schwalbach, the driving force behind the School of the Air's “Let’s Draw” program from 1936 to 1970.
Hold the crayon loosely and swing your whole arm with a great big grin on your face. Students participate in a “Let’s Draw” lesson, circa 1950.
ately championed drawing as a vehicle for creative self-expression, unconstrained by adult standards and unfettered by art “rules” (including no rulers!). The art tools and media Schwalbach chose for “Let’s Draw” also promoted self-expression, and drew from children’s life experiences for subject matter. He often chose topics that might pique the interest and spark the imagination of rural Wisconsin children, such as, “Draw your favorite shack,” “Illustrate a scene from Huck Finn,” or “Draw the funniest thing that happened to you this summer.” Schwalbach considered rulers, pencils, and small-sized paper as hindrances to free expression, and preferred colorful crayons, watercolor, and large paper, which allowed for those relaxed, sweeping arm movements. Schwalbach’s early curriculum reflects philosophy grounded in Modernist ideals and progressive values. Modernist artists like Kandinsky, Klee, and Matisse drew inspiration from the spontaneity, purity, and simplicity of children’s art. The Modernists, along with progressive art education theorists of the era such as Victor Lowenfeld, believed to a certain degree that direct art instruction and rote learning “corrupts the natural flowering of artistic abilities” and robs children of their “artistic innocence.” The art teacher’s role, then, was to provide children with materials, propose drawing prompts related to their interests, and offer moral support and encouragement to draw according to one’s own “natural” inclinations. However, if we trace the arc of activities for “Let’s Draw” during its on-air period from 1936 to 1970, we see how Schwalbach’s curriculum was clearly influenced by broader education reforms, technological advances, and changes in American culture. While words such as “freedom,” “originality,” and “self-expression” pepper early “Let’s Draw” programs and teaching manuals, they are virtually absent by the mid-1960s, signaling a shift in emphasis on creativity to an expanded curriculum that incorporated concepts and
content pertinent to the discipline of art and preparing for a working life. As early as 1959, “Let’s Draw” was teaching students about the elements and principles of design—what’s known as the language of art—as well as media-specific techniques and processes. By responding to these changes, Schwalbach became a master at teaching students how to develop craft/technical skills and understand ways in which composition and choices regarding elements of art—color, shape, line, texture, space—work together to visually communicate ideas. What makes this so remarkable is that he did it all over the airwaves, with little visual prompting. Schwalbach kept his drawing prompts open-ended and primarily related to children’s interests, but over time his suggestions for subject matter shifted from almost exclusively narrative illustration of stories, poems, and children’s lived experiences, to include communicating ideas through abstract and non-objective imagery and symbols. While in 1941 a lesson might include a request to draw a “cowboy campfire,” in 1967 Schwalbach asked students to illustrate the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree with the tree as a pattern of abstract shapes and colors rather than a realistic representation. A later lesson required an illustration of the ambiguous concept of “processions.” When prompting children to draw the building facades from a street in their town, Schwalbach explained the principle of “emphasis” or “center of interest” and then asked students to apply this concept. He expanded the function of drawing in children’s lives to not only serve as a vehicle for self-expression, but also as a powerful visual language in which to communicate ideas. Even though his expanded curriculum suggested adult standards as a way for children to improve their works of art, Schwalbach maintained that “a good drawing looks like it was fun to produce.” Enjoyment, so central to sustained engagement in the artistic process, remained a high priority for the duration of the program.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Learn more about the James Watrous Gallery’s Let’s Draw exhibition and related events at wisconsinacademy.org/gallery
Schwalbach’s curriculum for “Let’s Draw” steadily grew more complex and layered over time, keeping in sync with the consolidation of rural school districts and the subsequent expansion and specialization of the teacher pool. By 1960, the still-popular “Let’s Draw” program incorporated printmaking, collage, multimedia, chalk, pen and ink, and markers. Today the landscape of drawing in contemporary art education is even more multifaceted. Now students have access to digital drawing tablets, design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, 3D digital printing, and drawing in virtual reality. Each new media challenges students to develop new techniques, solve new problems, reach new audiences, and create images for new purposes. While self-expression is still important, contemporary educators introduce students to drawing as a means of brainstorming and planning, as visual explanation (like infographics), as a means of research or investigating ideas and natural phenomena, as a process in which to learn “to think like artists,” and even as a form of social and environmental activism. “Let’s Draw” did occasionally prompt students to use drawing for functional design—fashion, furniture, and toys—but today, children use drawing to tackle an even wider range of challenges related to careers in the visual arts: experience design (video games), environment design (theme parks, homes, urban planning), and object, web, and graphic design. While he drew philosophical inspiration from the Modernists and often featured the work of local “Badger Artists” such as Warrington Colescott and John Steuart Curry, Schwalbach presented very little about famous artists or major art movements. Art teachers today draw on classic and contemporary artists to help students contextualize their own drawing practice in relationship to a wider community of visual artists. Teachers ask their students to draw using traditional methods such as charcoal, viewfinder, and grid to create representational drawings from observation, and also use experimental methods like “drawing ” with natural found objects in site-specific places outdoors. Similarly, the historical and cultural contexts of art received little consideration in “Let’s Draw.” Today, art teachers who develop culturally relevant curriculum ask students to examine the cultural meanings of a variety of art forms (not just fine art from the Western canon), study artists from diverse backgrounds, and ask children to share their own cultural perspectives in and through art. The one-size-fits-all curriculum presented in “Let’s Draw” was as much a function of the medium as the way in which the program was used at the time. How drawing is taught in elementary and middle schools today is highly dependent on the developmental stage of the age group. Drawing for a first grader is vastly different than for an eighth grader, and drawing prompts for a six year old,
indeed, might reflect the kinds of open-ended, free-from-adult-constraints approach of the early “Let’s Draw” activities. But by eighth grade, students are encouraged to develop technical skill and apply the elements and principles of design in an intentional way to help communicate their ideas, plus understand something of the historical and cultural contexts of their art practices. Of course, today children, teachers, and just about anyone can directly access drawing instruction through YouTube videos or online art courses. But that feeling of belonging to something bigger, a movement to create art throughout the state, was and always will be unique to “Let’s Draw.” This was largely due to the time Schwalbach spent promoting the program. He built support by giving awards, organizing exhibits of student work, dropping in (often unannounced!) to observe classrooms during the broadcast, and offering regional workshops. Each week students were asked to submit their classroom’s five best pictures, and WHA volunteer judges rewarded dozens of these with honorable mention postcards each week. The top thirty “Honor Roll” winners were announced on air and became part of a traveling exhibit sent to schools; they were also invited to Madison to help record the last broadcast of the year. As participation grew, this annual Honor Roll gathering was split into several regional events. These traveling exhibits of student work and Schwalbach’s in-person school visits helped to develop an enthusiastic network of participation in—and support for—the “Let’s Draw” program, which is still remembered fondly decades after leaving the air.
Mary Hoefferle is the Undergraduate Art Education Program Director at UW-Madison. She teaches art education methods courses and supervises program majors. Her research interests include community-based art practices and the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Jody Clowes is the director of the Wisconsin Academy's James Watrous Gallery. Her background includes senior positions at Milwaukee Art Museum, Detroit's Pewabic Pottery, and UW-Madison's Design Gallery.
TURN THE PAGE FOR A PREVIEW OF LET'S DRAW @ THE JAMES WATROUS GALLERY
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Katie Ries, For the Land Scouts Guide Book, 2014. Ink on paper, 12 x 18 inches.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS Â· WINTER 2017
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Zach Mory, Swell, 2015. Graphite on paper, 48 x 180 inches.
Emily Belknap, Cornfield, 2015. Marker and colored pencil on mylar, 10 x 34 inches.
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Tony Conrad, Untitled 2, 2015. Graphite on panel, 45 inches (diameter).
Nina Ghanbarzadeh, Worthy of His Love, 2015. Pen and gold leaf on frosted mylar, 36 x 36 inches.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS Â· WINTER 2017
@ THE Watrous Gallery
Lee Mothes, Sky and Surf, 2016. Graphite on paper, 22 x 30 inches.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS Â· WINTER 2017
WEATHERING THE STORM BY LANGE ALLEN
etween Lâ€™Anse and Baraga on Indian Cemetery Road, Joseph Deer-Running operates the orange,
Mac snowplow #7 in near whiteout conditions. With his hands wound tight on the oversized steering wheel, swatches of crystal flakes encapsulate his cab, trapping him inside a globed chamber of isolation, a fetid tomb. Bouncing on the padded spring-loaded seat, he inhales recycled stale air, the stench of scorched carpet from under the heating vents, musty in dank corners.
Like a metronome, the wipers whip frantically across the windshield nudging him into a hypnotic trance. In the soft voice of a wind-strummed pine he hears a lesson from Mishoomis, his grandfather, Walter, echo inside his head: Winter—the great snowy Biboon, the season where never-ending squalls roil off Lake Superior, the Gichigami, the vast inland sea of Chippewa legends. This is a crucial time in which Mother Earth, the bountiful Ashkaakamigokwe, finally gets her much needed rest, the blessed spell of renewal, when Giiwedin, the North Wind, brings the purifying snows to cleanse the land, when some plants and creatures discard their weary robes and return to the soil, while others slumber within the nurturing sanctuary of hibernation. Like all living beings, they know their purpose, and what path to pursue when the time comes.
Usually his grandfather’s metaphorical teachings have a pacifying effect, but now his words just leave Joseph frustrated. Winter lasts way too damn long and every year it seems to grow longer. Switching his headlights to bright, the beams throb on towering snow banks, twelve feet high, shattering the record of 1920. And there had been an earlier weather alert forecasting the worst blizzard of the season, with a wind-chill of -35 degrees. This is the prime slot though, the three-day, twelve-hour weekend shift, the highest paid time and the only one open to Joseph so he can still attend classes in the MA Program at Northern Michigan University during the week. As an added bonus he can fantasize the night away while he invents scenes and characters, writing feverishly when off duty before hitting the hay, lest he forget. Joseph has a stack of poems, short stories, and a slush pile of novels stashed under his bed, accumulating dust, neither seen nor published. The idea of putting his work out for public scrutiny, the chance of further rejection, might push him over the edge. Or convince him to quit writing altogether, the main outlet for his pent-up anxiety. Anyway, thanks to his cousin Ayaabe and his uncle Grizzly, both tribal police, who helped him secure this job, he has an overpowering need to prove himself as a useful citizen of the community, willing and able to pull his own weight. Plodding along, the metal blade cleaves headlong through scrolling snowdrifts. Eyes locked on the black, tree-lined road, Joseph conjures words to a prose-style poem due for class on Monday. Lost in deep concentration, his thoughts pierce the air, filter through the labyrinth of pines, spruce, birch, and hardwoods, permeate the wall of snow, even the storm itself, as the verses surge from his brain—terse and fast—one after another. The boring hours fold into themselves, shrivel to minutes, then seconds, to a vacancy … a numbness. Hunched over the wheel, at six-foot-three, Joseph is what the locals refer to as a big Upper Michigan "Yooper" Chippewa, or as he prefers, Anishinaabe, "a human being," a lean frame of muscle and a mane of raven hair that has grown long and shaggy since his honorable discharge from the service, a premature release after undergoing multiple surgeries following the explosion that ended his military career two years ago. Once his battle wounds had sufficiently healed—the more lethal shrapnel removed and the third-degree leg burns successfully grafted—he passed his physical therapy requirements and was promptly kicked to the curb. The dark days that followed consumed him, body and soul. In vain attempts to return to his normal pre-war self (whatever the definition is, as it changes on any given day) he remains at large, as his mother puts it, “intermittently angry at the world.” With a Canadian Chinook wailing off Keweenaw Bay, visibility only a few feet, Joseph wishes for a different life where time moves effortlessly like the Two-Hearted River, flowing gently on a midsummer’s afternoon. To make money writing, or fishing, or writing about fishing; it’s the same vision he proposed to Mishoomis when he graduated from high school almost a decade ago, Mishoomis who faithfully stands by waiting for Joseph “to get his head on straight.” Might be awhile. A gust of wind drowns out his muttering and sends snow devils skittering across his path until they disappear into the hungry belly of the night. Joseph wonders if this is all there is? Will he break free from the bleakness of eight months of winter? Why can’t he be content like Mishoomis, a WWII Vet himself, going on ninety-three this coming summer, living a simple life in his cabin in the woods, the original Deer-Running
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
allotment by Porcupine Lake, buried deep in the reservation where he continues to be the last tribal Medicine Man, a Midē´wiwin, providing homeopathic cures and spiritual guidance to his people? The old man is thoroughly at peace, even faced with constant setbacks. He told Joseph that all an Anishinaabe truly needs is family, friends, and the Ashkaakamigokwe—the forest, rivers, sloughs, lakes, and the animal people who live within her bounty to enjoy and reap the rewards of a good life, the enlightenment of what he calls mino-bimaadiziwin. “The forest will teach you all you need to know,” is one of Walter’s favorite quotes, convinced every plant, every creature holds a valuable lesson: “If a person would only listen and look … if a person would only hear and see.” Joseph focuses his attention on the road, slicker than he anticipated, with low-lying pockets of packed snow that cause his tire chains to snag and lurch. Fortunately for him, there’s not much to plowing, a chore that even he can manage: keep the rig on course and out of the ditch, dodge the occasional late night driver navigating home from the taverns, peel layers of ice, grade, salt, and part the pillars of snow while he listens to NPR and the evening edition of “Democracy Now” as they reveal the idiocy of our government that keeps him pissed off enough to stay awake and his brain stoked on high. BJ Hollars: "Weathering the Storm" As Joseph sees it, somewhere along the way this so-called free country has strayed from its democratic sensibilities. And if anyone doesn't shy away from the hard stuff. had the balls to ask his opinion he’d tell them, although they never do, Instead, it confronts it: heartbreak, the on account of him being an ex-Marine suffering from an acute case of ravages of war, and feelings of disconPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the conflux of wide-ranging aftershocks of combat—from terrifying flashbacks, embarrassing bouts nection from one's culture. All of this, of crying, to destruction of property, or rearranging someone’s face. mind you, is accomplished in a deceivOnce the government reluctantly admitted the existence of PTSD, in ingly simple narrative about a young spite of the epidemic of depression, suicides, murders, spousal abuses, soaring divorce rates, drug addiction, and other blaring indicators man driving a snow plow. This author surrounding war vets, his military shrinks finally tied the burdenunderstands how to use an external some affliction around his neck like a choke collar of humiliation. The pressure to explore an internal one, disease has the tendency to act up at the most inopportune moments, so people for the most part tiptoe around him and never ask anything and the result is mesmerizing. more challenging than a question about the weather, afraid Joseph might blow, as he has done more times than he cares to remember. And just recently he received an additional diagnosis of a chronic case of Traumatic Brain Injury, due to brain slamming concussions from repeated bomb blasts. But at least this explains why he’s missing chunks of memory, the mood swings, nightmares, migraines, inability to make decisions, and his impaired problem-solving skills, not to mention his Parkinson’s-like shakes where his fingers twitch when he’s fatigued or nervous. Besides a plethora of drugs prescribed by a revolving door of ever-changing military psychiatrists, his last therapist had taught him Yoga and Pranayama, (a breathing exercise nicknamed the Skull Cleanser), to divert any impending flashbacks, along with Guided Imagery, a playlist of preapproved visions to keep his fumbling mind on track, control combat stress, and reduce tension. And sometimes it actually works. Yep, lots of time for contemplation on the night shift. Probably too much if Joseph didn’t keep it in check where the wartime flashbacks had a habit of making an unexpected appearance. As he has already done once this evening on his nearly two-hundred-mile scheduled Round Dance, a continual loop clearing the back roads bordering the reservation, Joseph pauses at the four-way stop outside the sleepy village of L’Anse. The red sign bangs and slashes the air as if boxed with an invisible giant’s fist. Curling from the hood of his truck, tendrils of steam ascend
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like manidoog, those ethereal spirits of the forest. The elders would blame the blustery wind on the Wiindigoo, the cannibalistic monster of winter. And on such a desolate night as this, might Joseph believe it too. His grandfather’s words of wisdom send chills up his spine: The Wiindigoo is a blood thirsty giant with a heart of ice, a wicked beast that swoops down without warning, attacking village upon village, showing no mercy, no compassion, gobbling every person in his path—man, woman, and child. The insatiable hunger, the greed of the monster knows no bounds. The more he eats the more he craves, even the Wiindigoo himself, devoured from the inside out.
He remembers that Mishoomis had accused the Iraq War of being the most ruthless Wiindigoo to date; a war that started so small and grew fourteen years long and counting. Mechanically, Joseph steers onto Red Road, a narrow two lane trail bound on both sides by true darkness— the crowded trees of the Ottawa Forest on his right—the Keweenaw Bay on his left, all evidence of life blotted out by a curtain of snow. While the plow’s blade scrapes and grates on the bumpy track, he recalls the day Mishoomis had asked him to consider taking his place as the next Midē ´wiwin. But that was before Joseph joined the Marines. His grandfather hasn’t brought up the subject since his return and there was a rumor circulating that he also asked Joseph’s cousin Kesh. The old man must be desperate, seeing he doesn’t have long in this world. But then Joseph has been evading his grandfather’s phone calls requesting him to take part in the Reentry Ceremonies, a revised version of the Sweat Lodge and Vision Quest he conducts for war vets to help heal their battle scars, mentally and physically. Joseph just isn’t ready to face Mishoomis and relive all his miseries. Not yet. For now, his main goal is to apply himself to the task of fitting back into society, accomplish common everyday chores, and maybe overcome the tribal gossip that travels through the reservation party line faster than high-speed Internet. Joseph’s heard the whispers. Behind his back they call him the “crazy war vet,” considered by most on the reservation as an all-around oddball and hermit. Once Joseph clears a precarious stretch of rolling hills, he cruises the southbound straightaway on Skanee Road, the Mac purring to an easy forty miles-per-hour. As the passing scenery blurs with cataractous inertia, he turns up the radio in time to catch the hourly news: always the violence of war and hate, earthquakes, floods, droughts, pollution, a wounded planet on the verge of collapse, a man who can’t breathe, the human battle rages on and on. Exactly what he needs to avoid in his present state of mind. Immediately, before another catastrophe is exposed, Joseph switches the dial and settles on a classical station playing nonstop symphonies, a burgeoning wide-open palette for interpretation. After a swift succession of gulps from his coffee mug, Joseph unleashes his fertile imagination and spends the next couple of hours captivated by the music. Under the snowy veil of invisibility his thoughts flow freely. Utilizing his Guided Imagery technique, carefully handpicking positive memories, rose-tinted over time, he constructs intricate stories where his ex-girlfriend Omiinii, Chippewa for dove, flits back to him—rapid, unhindered, one scene onto the next. While a melancholy waltz by Chopin, as bleak as the storm, quickens to a crescendo, Joseph relives their long, meaningful, and philosophical discussions in his shabby basement apartment in Marquette: Crazy Horse to Leo Tolstoy, Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Yeats, Paula Gunn Allen, and Omiinii’s all-time idol, Joy Harjo. They debated poems zealously, sometimes furiously, turning over every line, uncovering inspirational messages mined not from the written word but the spaces between, followed by hours of making love—making love, they couldn’t get enough of making love, the pleasure of caressing, kissing, touching each other’s bodies. As if feeding his intoxicating memories to the radio, The Revolutionary Étude plays in the background, Chopin’s notes pouring from the depths of his doomed soul, building higher, higher, until the piano explodes with rapture.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
A pause of dead radio air, the wipers filling the silence with their persistent tick-tock, Joseph comes back to the present, and releases a sigh. Suddenly Brahms rises through the white noise of the ether: Piano Concerto No. 2, contemplative and melodic, providing a tranquilizing mood to his romantic wanderings. Omiinii, a stunning poet and violinist in the NMU symphony, his only serious post-war girlfriend, had introduced him to this unlikely choice of music. They met in writing class and were inseparable last year. Before this musical awakening, Joseph’s tastes were limited to powwow beats, hard rock, hip-hop, rap, and the crooning of his grandfather’s Elvis and Johnny Cash. Of course, Joseph doesn’t flaunt this abnormality— the Classics—not wanting to add to his label as “oddball.” But he has to admit (if only to himself ), this music is a worthy substitute for a soothing walk in the forest, with almost the same therapeutic effect. Joseph’s eyes mist recalling their short-lived yet tumultuous love affair, those hours of being entwined, the heat, the fire, their lovemaking. “A woman, the sacred womb of life, has the power to make a man immortal,” Mishoomis would always say. Omiinii took Joseph under her wings, chopped down the chaos of thorny old growth that had kept him safe after Iraq, reorganized his mangled roots, took an axe to trim his boughs, built a homey nest of autumn leaves. And, most important, she loved him. Together of one creative mind, a garden of prose blossomed, as they composed lengthy falsettos of ecofriendly poetry. It had been his happiest and most productive months since the war. As seems to be Joseph’s luck, eventually Omiinii flew away, transferring to the University of Wisconsin, all the way over in Madison, and he became mortal again. Without saying goodbye, she left a poem tacked to his door entitled, “You are the caged bird I cannot free.” This past fall, to prove her wrong, Joseph strayed from his insulated haven, joined a delegation from the tribe to march in Washington against the Alaskan pipeline, against the destruction of Ashkaakamigokwe, chanting and playing his dewe`igan, his hand-held drum. The police took him down for obstructing his own justice, kicked his ass, and then threw him behind bars for a week. But Joseph knows it wasn’t bad luck; it was his attitude that chased Omiinii away. Since the war he’s changed from an optimist into a brooding cynic, alienating himself from family and friends, sabotaging any future happiness. His Anishinaabe name, Inigokoode`e, to “have-alarge-heart,” in a spiritual way, bestowed during his childhood Naming Ceremony, at the time was a perfect fit, in the sense he had been cheerful, always smiling, with a passion for life, who would give the clothes off his back to anyone in need. Shaking off those depressing thoughts, Joseph cranks up the defroster, and concentrates on his side of the road, trying to decipher the yellow line, obliterated under inches of fresh powder, shrouding patches of treacherous black ice beneath. In the breakdown lane his high beams flash across a dark bundle. Or maybe the storm is playing tricks on him. “What the hell?” Joseph brakes and aligns his lights on the bundle. Exhaling a prolonged hiss, the wheels skid, the brakes catch, chassis squeals, overheated ball bearings grind, and with a great parting of toxic fumes, the truck shudders to a stop. With each wiper pass, the bundle becomes clearer. Even then it takes a minute for the scene to register. There in a pool of the truck’s golden glow, under a dusting of snow lies a body. Joseph’s brain stalls, goes blank, then reboots, adrenaline pumping a raging river into his veins. He hasn’t seen a body since Iraq, where dead men, women, and children littered the sides of the streets like so much discarded trash. The sight, the stench of diesel, the earth-quaking rumble, triggers a flashback of a Humvee barreling over a barren wasteland under a blood-red sky. The world around Joseph dims. Instantly, the snow transforms to blowing sand, the Northwoods a vast undulating desert.
In the breakdown lane his high beams flash across a dark bundle. Or maybe the storm is playing tricks on him. “What the hell?”
Clenching the wheel, Joseph’s pulse thunders in his ears, his heart an iron fist, a cold anvil clanking erratically against its cage of bones. His fingers, then arms, begin to twitch until his whole body is a miserable hub of quivering confusion. A dull whoosh of noise ricochets inside his head, speeds up, becoming louder, louder—the screams of young men uncreated in an explosion of bloody pulp, the keening of old men and women in desperate prayers to a god that has abandoned them, the endless barrage of American made mortar rounds, ceaseless gunfire—where children’s laughs turn into horrified wails, followed by a final, baneful silence. Then, the vilest memory, one that Joseph thought he had locked away for good, emerges from the depths of his manmade vault. His last mission. He smells the blood, human sewage, and cooked flesh. He feels his head split from ear to ear. His scalp peels back. Paralyzed, the top of his skull detaches, lifts off. Joseph cries out, overwhelmed by phantom pain from the EID detonated by a cell phone. His Humvee, a tin can spliced open, brain fluid leaking from his ears, his legs on fire, his best friend Connor, the pieces and gore of what was left covering Joseph—slimy, rank, a human life wiped off the planet in less than a second. Connor gone. Gone. … All of a sudden Joseph’s once-airy chest is crushed by the weight of what feels like the engine block pressing down on him, unable to inhale or exhale. Everything the therapists had taught him, the breathing exercises, the yoga, the Guided Imagery, flies out his head. How can he remember every stinking second of the war yet the most endearing recollections from his childhood have become a big black hole? But Joseph knows, has always known, he can shove and push and punch the war away, lock and seal it in a vault, regardless of a hundred therapy sessions, or a million, the fact remains, the war has never left. He carries it around every damn minute of every damn day. With hopeful aspirations, foolishly so, he went into battle, an eighteen-year-old kid, emotionally unprepared, not knowing the language, not understanding the culture, commandeered by nitwits and seriously green officers. Unaware, Joseph thought that when he enlisted in 2006, he would be part of the contingent of the new and improved coalition forces, a warrior in the footsteps of his hero Tašúŋke Witkó, the famed Crazy Horse, to bring aid to the Iraqi people, help them reconstruct their bombed out villages, to show them that Americans were not evil monsters, that they truly cared. But instead of working for Crazy Horse, Joseph found himself working for Custer. Joseph grits his teeth, strangling the steering wheel to stop his finger’s incessant twitching— mad at himself for letting the flashback in, mad he had been so stupid for enlisting in the first place. And yet he went back three more times, then to Afghanistan, trying to get it right. Or maybe once you’ve entered the killing fields, adequately desensitized, a band of brothers watching each other’s backs, a bond Misoomish had forewarned is as strong as matrimony, there’s no easy way to leave, no going back to what you were. But none of this changes the underlying truth: every second Joseph was being shelled and shot at, with every bullet and missile that came close and missed, he was undeniably, euphorically, horrifyingly, and yes, wonderfully alive in a way that he’d never felt in his entire life. Looking back now, it all seems selfish and shallow. “Enough,” he sobs, shedding the well of tears that had been contained since the war, “ENOUGH!” Slowly, Joseph shakes his head to dispel the nightmare that has a hold on him. “You’re okay,” he says, finding the sound of his voice, be it another sign of his deteriorating mind, reassuring. “You can do this.” To center himself, to keep himself whole, he chants a prayer asking the Great Spirit to guide him, “Aayaa Gichi-Manidoo, Naadamoshin. …” In his mind’s eye he sees his pleas take flight, reeling and spinning outward with every breath, out his nose, eyes, mouth, like so many long strands of light until they become impossibly thin and lucent, spiraling away, where they
According to Mishoomis, there is no word for goodbye in Anishinaabemowin. From the moment someone enters your circle they continue to be part of your life forever, extending into the next world.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
flatten as straight as arrows, penetrate the atmosphere, the metal hull, through the four layers above the earth, the four layers below, the biitawikamig, the space his relatives, present, past, and future, are said to exist. A blanket of calm stifles Joseph’s crashing nerves and the indelible Marine training kicks in, engrained into every cell like instinct. He zips up his parka, pulls his hood low over his forehead, stuffs his hands into his ski gloves, grabs the first aid kit under the passenger seat, opens the door, and spills out, a steaming mass surging into the cones of light, toward the body. The wind whistles through snow-laden trees. Sagging boughs creak and crack, like the haunting sounds of an army of Wiindigoog, their vicious jaws, sharp as scythes, gnawing in the minuscule crevasses between his parka. Each intake of frigid air scorches a trail into his lungs. Stumbling at first, he charges forward in a slippery sprint, cleated boots clawing for purchase, though by the looks of the person, in the full throes of rigamortis, Joseph knows nothing can be done to save him. Now up close, Joseph can see who it is. Russell Lone Bird. A smile etched on his chaffed face, limbs akimbo, beak thin, with black, starved eyes, frozen in an awkward repose, the old man is coddled in his bear skin coat next to the drained bottle of Jack Daniels that failed to keep him warm. Just to be one-hundred percent positive, Joseph kneels, ungloves his hand, and takes Russell’s pulse on his carotid artery in the hollow of his neck. Stranger things have happened in the north. Hunters lost in the woods have been pronounced dead of exposure only to resurrect on the way to the morgue. Russell’s lips are blue, skin ice, his life-force extinguished. Head bowed, Joseph scours his mind for the words to the song Misoomish taught him to help the dead onto the JiibayMiikanan, the Path of Souls. He digs into the gaping hole and comes up empty, another memory swallowed in the void, so he simply says the only thing that comes to mind. “Giga-waabamin miinawaa,” telling Russell, “I will see you again.” According to Mishoomis, there is no word for goodbye in Anishinaabemowin, the old-time language of their Chippewa ancestors. He said they view a person’s relationship as being interconnected, a circle, and from the moment someone enters your circle they continue to be part of your life forever, extending into the next world. Once Joseph calls the tribal police, he tries to get Russell’s arms to lie down. With each attempt they spring up like live wires, fingers steepled, as if praying to Giizhigookwe, the Sky Manidoo. He figures Russell must’ve been headed for the reservation from the Happy Endings Saloon, the watering hole he frequents, taking a shortcut through the drifting snowfields to his cabin. Or maybe he wanted to join his wife who died from diabetes on the hospital steps not long ago, waiting to clear the red tape of “easy and affordable healthcare.” Suicides are the leading cause of deaths on the reservation, Joseph ought to know, and seeing he hadn’t spotted Russell on his last go-around, he must’ve died only a few hours ago. In record time, Ayaabe and Grizzly arrive in the squad car, red and blue lights flashing, their sirens muted by the woolen snow-drenched sky. Grizzly trains his spotlight on Russell as they huddle in the cold, exhaling clouds of exhaust. “This is the second one this week.” Grizzly tugs his fur hat down over his ears. “Not a bad way to go though, eh?” Standing even taller than Joseph, Grizzly shrugs his massive shoulders. “That’s what the two will do. The cold and the booze. They numb you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile.” Joseph has no idea if this is true, but clings to the hope that it was. Ayaabe, squat and thick around the waist, dressed in a hooded snowmobile suit, slaps Joseph on the back. “I’ll get Walter on the horn. He can help us tell the relatives and get the burial ceremony underway. Russell would’ve wanted a traditional wake.” Joseph only nods. As far as he knows, Russell has no living relatives. After Joseph relates a summarized account of discovering the body, his voice surprisingly steady, stronger than he thought possible, Grizzly tells him he’s free to go. Ayaabe follows him to the truck and rests a hand on Joseph’s shoulder, scanning his face for any traces of cracking. “You gonna be alright?” Joseph wears his standard lopsided grin, pretending all is good. “I’m fine,” he says. Though, he’s not sure what he is. Right now he feels disoriented, his mind adrift, tethered on a fraying rope.
“Good. Good,” Ayaabe says, his words muffled by the snow that has turned into nails of brittle sleet. “Just stay focused. We need you to keep the roads safe.” It was Ayaabe who had found Joseph unresponsive at the village boat landing after downing a whole month’s worth of sleeping pills this past November. It hadn’t been Joseph’s first attempt. Or his second. There had been many times he stuck a loaded pistol in his mouth, only to chicken out at the last minute. “You got it.” Joseph gives him a thumbs-up and hops back into the balmy cab. He drives off wondering if Russell’s death holds an underlying significance, a profound message, the purpose just out of his reach of comprehension, or too immense for his tiny human mind to grasp. Check out new fiction by emerging Whatever the lesson, Joseph knows that in this neck of the Northwoods every and established Wisconsin writers payday is spent burning out your problems in a state of drunken bliss. Safer for at wisconsinacademy.org/fiction him to work overtime while he struggles through college, simmering below the flames of an actual fire, quietly dreaming about his Two-Hearted River. Carving a trail for the last shift of mill workers, the plow’s steel blade thrusts through winter’s glassy mantle, leaving behind a plumed cloud, a swath of starry asphalt, pitted with granules of neon blue salt. Within Joseph’s vessel, the air stills into delicate arias of Debussy, solitary and aloof, amid whispers of snow cutting sideways against the windshield, swirling, swirling, off into the darkness, his gaze held in the false glitter. Finally the truck reaches the top of a windswept hill, the storm now tampering to a few flakes. A fast moving gray mountain, the clouds vanish into the west, the place of spirits, as a new dawn heralds the end of the line. Slowly, Joseph coasts down the hill to enjoy the unveiling. Over the land a great celestial light spreads, the fields and forest bathed in purest white. Below, the Gichigami yawns in an upheaval of glacial slabs, backlit in hues of palest blue. In the east, the source of new beginnings, a luminous haze hovers, descending in long violet silk scarves. Gradually, an indigo bruise stretches on the curved crease of the east, climbing the horizon, the sun’s blaze growing into a ball of dazzling red. “Time to go home.” Joseph breaths a heavy sigh, relieved to have made it one more day. Without warning, from behind a snowy copse of pines, a stag bolts across the road followed by the rest of his clan. Joseph slams on the brakes. The metal Goliath trembles and comes to a halt to let the herd pass. One by one, brown velvet deer bound in graceful arcs of spine and slender legs, a steady rhythm to the tempo of Mozart, a lone violin, soft and trilling. With each leap, a warm radiance floods Joseph’s cold veins until his Wiindigoo ice-shelled heart shatters, the human one beneath set free. The cadence of their fluid motions, buoyant and unresisting, draws Joseph in. He leans forward, face pressed to the windshield. The deer stop to stare at him, their eyes deep pools of hushed water. When Joseph opens his mouth to speak, each deer takes a piece of his voice, a piece of his wartime memories, as they sing their Deer Song. Chuffing, chuffing, they laugh, pawing the ground in rapt pleasure, perfectly content in their ordinary lives as deer.
A political activist, wilderness enthusiast, and writer, Lange Allen has studied Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin and Michigan. Drawing upon a rich Métis heritage of Anishinaabe (Lake Superior Chippewa), Italian, and Polish, Allen’s writing reflects a diverse background, incorporating Chippewa traditions and mystical lore from the wild Northwoods.
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
New Wisconsin Poetry Honorable Mention Poems from our 2016 Poetry Contest
Breakfast with Poets Poet Galway Kinnell, in his poem Oatmeal, tells us it is not good to eat oatmeal alone. He proclaims it is better for oneâ€™s mental health to eat it with someone. He brings imaginary companions to his breakfast table, among them Keats and Milton, they eat porridge and talk of writing poetry. I too am concerned as to what eating oatmeal alone is doing to my mental health and decide it is time to have an imaginary friend share breakfast at my table. I invite William Butler Yeats, but he tells me he really does not like oatmeal and never ate it while in Innisfree, too slimy he says and always too lumpy. I decide to mention my fragile mental status and explain how Galway invited Keats and Milton, but now Yeats gets all upset wondering why Galway had not invited him. He just wanted to hang out with those English poets Yeats bellows, and in that moment all the animosities of history rise up, right there on a summer morning. Yeats paces the deck, mumbling about the troubles, the turf wars, the occupation. I know the only thing that will ease his distress is the porridge I have cooking on my stove. I rush to spoon the five-minute oatmeal into his bowl. Upon tasting the glutinous mixture an immediate calm settles round him, and for the first time he notices the bees in my garden. He says they are like his bees in Innisfree, where he has nine bean rows, and a hive for the honeybee. Now he leans back and tells me he feels right at home at my table, and is glad I thought to invite him for breakfast. Iâ€™ve sent Seamus Heaney an invitation to come for oatmeal next week. I do hope there will be no more outbursts.
Jeri McCormick, Madison
The Sighting Our fast train hugs the Rhine, skirts forests and castles, pulls in at Nuremberg, Cologne, Kassel—cities outliving their war-weary past. In Giessen, an old man tells us a story from his childhood. It was 1945, near war’s end, he says. German soldiers bounced along in a rag-tag convoy, civilians alongside, lugging their belongings—all fleeing the encroaching Allies. Motors and voices hummed all around. Our boy of ten rode among the lucky, hoisted into a transport truck where he sat huddled beside his father, looking out at the winding trail of fellow refugees, sharing their urgency of exodus. Shrill screams and a sudden roar announced the sighting of an American Mustang, sent the boy’s heart plummeting. He dared not look as the plane targeted and strafed a path among his fellow migrants. All is lost, he thought. But there came no hail of bullets to his truck. Opening his eyes, he took in the B-51 cockpit and its American face, still fixed in memory. In that zip-by moment, the pilot nodded, acknowledged the hunched child.
And lifted the plane away.
That boy grew up, fathered a son who in turn marvels at his dad’s salvation, passes on the tale to Americans like ourselves. Another story that moves humanity along, raises a white flag for children everywhere.
Janet Leahy, New Berlin
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
Working for Eugene Me and Karlene Working for Eugene We are fifteen We cannot vote But place calls to grownups Please vote we say Door to door we bomb houses with flyers As if we could stop the bombing 6000 miles away Please vote we say At school we are very uncool One day Philâ€™s brother comes home in a box We do not know what to say Me and Karlene Working for Eugene We are fifteen.
Ann F. Wenzel, Madison
Read award-winning poems by emerging and established Wisconsins poets at wisconsinacademy.org/poetry
The Mansion of Happiness: Poems by Jon Loomis Oberlin College Press, 68 pages, $16.95 Reviewed by Karla Huston
I’d never encountered Jon Loomis’ poetry before. But I was delighted to make the acquaintance of both poet and poetry at the Foot of the Lake reading series in the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac. Winner of the 1997 FIELD prize in poetry, Loomis published his first and second books of poetry in 1998 and 2001 (Vanitas Motel and The Pleasure Principle, both by Oberlin College Press). He then turned his craft to writing mystery/detective fiction, creating four novels in the Frank Coffin Mysteries series during the 2000s. Readers of Loomis’ poems will be thrilled to know he is back to poet-ing. With The Mansion of Happiness: Poems, his first book of poems in more than fifteen years, Loomis is sharper than ever. His verse reflects a self-deprecating sense of humor and a wry take on life. The Mansion of Happiness begins with the poet/narrator’s demise, a familiar trope for most writers who find their grounding in writing about life, death, and love—and the myriad metaphors which lie therein. I’m reminded, if briefly, of Cesar Vallejo’s “Black Stone Lying on a White Stone,” a poem mimicked by many poets. While Loomis’ narrator doesn’t name the day of his death as Vallejo does (a Thursday), readers are given many details of the day: bees and flowers, the colleague who may find him, the worry about what might be discovered on his laptop, what he should have said to his wife, his children. Then like a feinting saint, the poet rises: … through the trees, look down from the steep steel roof of the new student union. A small crowd, my body—Jesus, I’m fat. Somehow I’m missing a shoe.
Written in free verse, these poems are mostly constructed in tercets. Many of them end in ellipses, as if there is more to say, more mystery, the poet wanting the reader, perhaps, … to fill in the blanks. Though Loomis’ poems are often irreverent, there is always something more. The poet/narrator, seemingly befuddled by life, comes to conclusions somewhere close to stunning. The poems about his young son, especially, ring with perplexity, fill readers with tenderness. In the poem, “The Babysitters,” the narrator muses about the babysitters, young girls with their “tall, clean beauty.” Readers are left with: But Henry, my little son, what does he want, eyes soft
WISCONSIN PEOPLE & IDEAS · WINTER 2017
with desire? Come, he whispers. Come up to my room— I’ll show you my trucks.
For all of Loomis’ smart talk, there is the wonder of his imagery: “magenta scarf tossed over the day’s blue lampshade, “amber, rustling squadrons of monarchs,” “drapes paisleyed with mildew,” “the window’s violet // mouthful of sky,” “desire like a crown of napalm.” Many of the poems deal with the art and craft and struggle of writing poems. In “Poetry Workshop: Course Objectives,” he lays it out, how poets should be: We’ll shimmer like bats in the treetops, commune with the dead, decide what to do with our mothers, turn mothers into cats, cats into flame, flame into sorrow, nothing into the something, that’s like the thing we would say if only we knew what it was … If only.
While Loomis begins The Mansions of Happiness with a poem about the poet’s demise, readers are brought full circle with his last, “If I Come Back,” a poem that imagines a second chance at life, a narrator who wants to return as a tree, a maple, “a crimson throb,” someone who might let the dog off the leash once in a while. Someone who might get it right this time. If only.
Karla Huston is the Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2017–2018. She lives in Appleton.
Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories by Jennifer Morales Terrace Books, 202 pages, $19.95 Reviewed by Mari Carlson
“Netania pulled on Bee-Bee’s hand, bending toward her. ‘Meet me halfway, will you?’ ” Netania, a lesbian, is leaning in for a kiss she’s not sure will be well received by her non-lesbian friend Bee-Bee. We never learn if she gets the kiss or not. That’s how it goes with Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories: each of Jennifer Morales’ finely crafted tales end without a clear conclusion, inviting us to lay on the table our own fears and assumptions so that we greet—and bid farewell to—her characters with an open mind. What we receive for our efforts is a hopeful glimpse into a community largely interwoven by grief. (Think Crash the movie, but optimistic instead of sadistic.) A book about community generally features an ensemble of characters, and Morales introduces us to most of them in the first few stories. So, when it’s their “turn” to narrate, it is easy to make sense of the time frame. Because each of the characters tells his or her own story in the first person, Morales not only fills out our picture of the central figure, Johnquell, but helps us identify as “I” in many different ways. Narrated by the neighbor whom Johnquell was helping when he got injured, the first story begins, “Johnquell’s neck is broken and chances are he won’t walk again.” This neighbor’s grumpy friend then tells the story of her own fall and subsequent rehabilitation with the support of family and friends. Johnquell’s mother, sister, grandmother and aunt Bee-Bee each tell stories, too; some set before Johnquell’s accident and some after. There’s a substitute teacher Johnquell dislikes and also a long time teacher/mentor he adores. Told by Johnquell’s best friend, Taquan, the last story explores how Johnquell’s injury leads to a newfound motivation to achieve a goal. What I like about each of these characters is their willingness to change, even face fears and overcome them. But everyone needs and has help. When Johnquell’s mother returns a mishandled piece of mail to a woman with a similar name and address, they end up chatting and crying together—strangers, yet companions in sorrow. At
first, I found the serendipity of the meeting farfetched. But I realized how the grief and pain Johnquell’s mother feels can make the impossible seem possible, which opens up narrative possibilities that Morales handles with aplomb. Morales saves her most adept writing for last with Taquan’s voice. She adopts his slang and syntax. “He [the counselor at the community college] be using words I ain’t never heard and I be trying to not let on that most the time I ain’t got a clue what he saying.” Perhaps it isn’t exactly as a real Taquan would say it. But Morales, a long time Milwaukee resident (she now lives in Verona) and former member of the Milwaukee Public School Board, has obviously spent a lot of time and attention with the real people who inform her characters. This book couldn’t have come out at a better time. In our current, highly charged cultural climate, Morales deftly lifts up voices that might otherwise not be heard. The themes of understanding and sympathy Morales explores in these stories may very well help us meet our own neighbors halfway. In this way, Meet Me Halfway is a piece of literary activism: an invitation to compromise and a promise that there is a reward for doing so.
When not reading or writing, Mari Carlson is probably practicing or teaching violin. She plays with the Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra, the Chippewa Valley Symphony and various folk ensembles. She lives in Eau Claire with her family, including three cats.
Don’t know what to read? Check out reviews of new and interesting books by Wisconsin authors at wisconsinacademy.org/reviews
The Last Word
When the World Shifts
owards the end of Tom Stoppard’s play, The Real Thing, Henry, frustrated with his recalcitrant seventeen-year-old daughter, tells her, “Happiness is … equilibrium. Shift your weight.” A year later Stoppard gave Henry an additional line: “Equilibrium is pragmatic. … You compensate, rebalance yourself so that you maintain your angle to the world. When the world shifts, you shift.” Did Stoppard think that matter-of-fact first line needed explanation? Sometimes we need explanations, and sometimes we get things right away. But more often we need fuel: knowledge from plays, paintings, stories, lectures, poems, texts, experiments—life. Each learning experience invites us to recalibrate our perceptions and our responses. That’s why the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters holds so much promise for its members and for the state. As a few of you know, shortly after I accepted the role of Academy president, my husband died suddenly. Not only would this work keep me busy, I thought, but it might also help me toward a new equilibrium, if not a sort of happiness. And it has: During my time as president I have savored the mission, the responsibilities, and the people who share common values with me. But more important than its personal relevance for me is the Academy’s civic and civil role. Recent cultural phenomena suggest that we at the Academy need more than ever to facilitate a clear-eyed assessment of the rhetoric we rely on and the audiences we seek. While the Academy remains resolutely nonpartisan, we can redouble our efforts to bring rigorous and open civil engagement to every corner of our state.
Nor do people have to lose something to find new angles in science, art, and writing—and at the spaces in between. As we look to 2020, when the Wisconsin Academy celebrates its Sesquicentennial 150th year, the Academy has forward-thinking aspirations for its programming, publications, and participants alike. In my time as president, I’ve been pleased to see a more engaged Academy Board and Foundation, improvement on member relations and statewide initiatives, and thoughtful groundwork laid for improved Academy facilities. As for Henry’s blunt advice, lack of equilibrium can be useful, too: it can impel us toward meaningful change. When people seek imaginative encounters and creative learning, the Academy can provide access to Wisconsin’s opportunities—but only if you join us in this mission. The aesthetic and the cognitive at their best can also be profoundly moral, I believe. The arts, the humanities, and the sciences reach hearts as well as minds. And partaking in them makes us better people. Let me conclude with these humble but inspiring lines about equilibrium and vision from Richard Wilbur’s poem, “The Eye”: Forbid my vision To take itself for a curious angel. Remind me that I am here in body, A passenger, and rumpled. Charge me to see In all bodies the beat of spirit, not merely in the tout en l’air Or double pike with layout. … Let me be touched By the alien hands of love forever, That my eye not be folly’s loophole But giver of due regard.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as Academy Board President. Thank you.
Linda Ware, Academy Board President
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Everything you need to know about Wisco: The redesign is complete! Feast your eyes on the new and improved magazine of Wisconsin thought and...
Published on Jan 30, 2017
Everything you need to know about Wisco: The redesign is complete! Feast your eyes on the new and improved magazine of Wisconsin thought and...