Mount Island’s Village Voices is a new series of bite-sized interviews featuring diverse rural artists. If you’re interested in being featured, email us at email@example.com.
JC Wayne is a poet, visual artist, cartographer of the unseen, and founder of The Poartry Project, whose mission is “building loving worlds through loving words.” She is founder and host of the Voicing Art Poetry Reading Series in Burlington; poetry adventure guide of Plein Air Poetry of Nature Walks; creator of the international Free Little Poetry Project; and a poetry mentor at King Street Center. the recipient of a Livable Cities Initiative grant by the City of New Haven for her “Loving Heart for Healthy Communities” project. Her first book of poetry is entitled Voicing Art. Check out more of Wayne’s work at poartry.org.
What are you digging right now in terms of music, movies, new shows, books?
- BOOKS: Lots of literary sci-fi / fantasy / historical fiction, which are my usual genres. I’ve been ripping through The Great Library series by Rachel Caine and The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman. Now I’m reading the first of the Honors series by Rachel Caine while I wait for the last of The Great Library volumes to get to the library as an ebook. I am thoroughly enjoying the unusual protagonists of Honors.
- MOVIES: Documentaries like Abstract, Liyana, Dancing with the Birds, Beak and Brain, and American Factory.
- SHOWS: Dispatches from Elsewhere, Devs, Locke & Key (especially enjoyed that it was filmed in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where I’ve actually been), Ragnarok, Omniscient, Being Erica, Manifest, about to start watching The Stranger.
- MUSIC: While I was recently transcribing my latest Golden Threads of Good Book, Guild of Good, I queued up a classical music station on Pandora. I found myself entranced by Satie’s “Gnossiennes,” and by once again hearing Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre,” which was one of my favorites from elementary school music class. When I’m not listening to classical, I normally listen to traditional Japanese music or Nick Cave & Warren Ellis stations on Pandora.
Tell us a story about one of the first times you took up your practice as a creative—the first time you put pen to page, brush to canvas, etc. If you work in different mediums, what came first?
I do work in different media, and apparently art came first with a magic marker drawing that I did when I was about 1. But in terms of conscious practice, it’s always been poetry. The first breakout moment I had in my own voice – which remains one of the most significant moments in my practice – was around third grade. We were doing baby stuff in school with poetry – cutesy rhyming that I found cloying. I decided I HAD to do something different for our latest assignment. I had just been up to Walden Pond in Massachusetts with my family on one of the last hot summer days before starting school, and I had been struck by all the sounds there – the dragonfly wings, the birds, the cicadas, but especially the uniquely rich and musical sound of the plop of frogs jumping off the practically solid mass of water lilies in the pond. Without any exposure yet to non-rhyme verse or onomatopoeia, I found these things myself in my own mind just through thinking about how to do something different, and I never looked back. I was liberated!
How does living in, or having a connection to, a rural place (small town, village, etc.) impact how and what you create?
I create wherever I am and find inspiration in many things. I think the main impact of working in a rural place is the uniquely “small-world connectedness” of Vermont. There’s an accessibility to community and resources here that’s very flowing. There’s a true mutual helpfulness among creatives that’s wonderfully nourishing. I’ve seamlessly made meaningful connections and found some amazing opportunities here. One of the most meaningful is my weekly poetry mentoring of the kids at King Street Center. In this interim, we’ve shifted to sending them weekly handmade “Storytelling Superpower Booster” postcards until we can gather again in person. I’ve also been able to take loads of photos right outside my window of our resident bunnies. Those photos help guide my illustration of another Golden Threads of Good Book for Children, How Bullah the Bunny Found Her Bounce (and Purpose).
COVID-19 has affected us all as a global community, but in many different ways. What are your thoughts about this moment and what it could mean for other creatives? How has this affected your own creative flow?
My creative flow has exploded, as have opportunities to share. One of my poems was accepted to PoemCity Montpelier this year; the physical poem displays were suspended, which was disappointing, but it opened other unanticipated opportunities. An art/poetry piece was accepted for the Earth Day exhibit at White River Craft Center, but was put on indefinite hold, so that, too, was a little disappointing. But I’ve had the chance to read as part of Rattle’s “Poets Respond” series. My work on The Poartry Project was the subject of a feature article in The Citizen newspaper. As a result of that article, I’ve been asked to do a summer camp in a new work of the Poartry Project with the Clubhouse Summer Camp in Hinesburg.
In terms of what this moment means for artists, I believe that it’s providing rich material, fostering connection among creatives, and providing new opportunities for artists to do what we do — unpack the unimaginable and provide insight into the meaning of the unfathomable. For more of my thoughts on this, see my online portfolio of “Poetry of the Pandemic” and my short film presentation, “Energetic Ecology Insights on Coronavirus-19”.
Imagine you have to write a note in a bottle and send it to another rural artist living all alone on some desert island berry patch? What would you say to them?
What comes to mind when I read “desert island berry patch” are the fiery red blueberry fields I saw this past October in Maine. Here’s what my note in a bottle would say to a far-flung artist friend in this odd and otherworldly spring:
Blueberries swell rich while blue blood drips same as ours springs new life to pen
Visit The Poartry Project website.
Such a great interview! I loved reading about the rich sounds of Walden Pond that inspired the poet to break loose from cutesy constraints, back in third grade. Also, nice to get ideas for new reading!