Wednesday, October 19, 2011

James Blackwood is inaugural Poetry Scores’ Writer In Residence

Introducing: Poetry Scores’ Writer In Residence Program
James Blackwood is inaugural resident writer

Poetry Scores – a St. Louis-based arts organization that translates poetry into other media – invested $96 this year into renting a prop shop to store its accumulating mass of movie props. This prop shop, located in a very unique local garage, was soon developed into a movie set. Most recently, it has served as a set for the intake office of Lost Almost, our fabled version of Los Alamos in the movie we are making, Go South for Animal Index.

As an office intended to look timeless, or at least old-fashioned, it has a plain, old desk with a manual typewriter positioned on it. It has started to look like a quiet, secluded place where somebody could do some serious writing.

From this happy coincidence comes a new Poetry Scores program: the Writer In Residence Program.

Poetry Scores translates poetry into other media, so as such, we have no direct stake in the production of poetry or any other writing. However, if the pursuit of our mission, in terms of translating poetry into movies, results in this kind of special space for writing in this hectic world, we feel compelled to make it available for writing.

And so we announce the inaugural and 2011 Poetry Scores Writer In Residence: James Blackwood.

What does our Writer In Residence get? A key to the prop shop. A shelf to keep the work written there. A book shelf to keep books needed to write what needs to be written there. Privacy, within the constraints of movie shoots and prop movements and dressing sets.

What do we ask? We ask that our writer take advantage of the uniqueness of the space. A writer can have a laptop and the internet almost anywhere anymore, but in our prop shop there is nothing for writing but a manual typewriter*, paper, pens, and pencils. We ask that our writer use only these manual tools for writing. Also, in this age of portable documents and writing pods, a writer can work on almost any document at almost any time. We ask that our writer pick up and leave their work for this residence at the prop shop.

We will provide a shelf to store the manuscript or drafts or whatever the writer wants to call it. We just ask that what is written in the prop shop, stays in the prop shop. That is, until the writer is ready to publish or perform, in whatever medium, in which case we would expect to be thanked, of course. We agree to respect the writer’s privacy and not go rifling through his or her work, though it’s also acceptable if the writer bring or devise a way to keep the work in progress locked away within the shop.

“There is a great sense of honor in this assignment and I intend to live up to that or to do my damnest at the very least,” said James Blackwood, inaugural (2011) Poetry Scores Writer In Residence. “I've been most comfortable in an imagist format and I intend that to be the mechanical theme of my work: short concise poems and prose sketches.”

Blackwood is a Poetry Scores veteran, first showing up as a volunteer to work the door at the first event the organization staged in St. Louis, the art opening for Crossing America, the group’s first poetry score. Currently he is a board member, though there is no conflict in the board’s awarding him this position because it has no monetary value and comes with no stipend. It is worthless, unless the peace of mind and isolation to write is worth anything.

“In addition, I'd like to use the space as a host for conversations with other folks. Art needs them, especially off-topic conversations. It'd be great to have visual artists come and consider the work in progress and maybe sketch some responses or other things for me to take in,” Blackwood said.

“The ‘maker’ culture that's come to life over the last decade or so is fascinating to me, not least of all because of the inherent irony of its name. While its community is nominally based on building things, its core is understanding them and that most often starts with deconstruction. It's a logical descendant of the hacker spirit that has continued along the bleeding edge of technology. It plays. It breaks. It learns. It builds. And now it is reflecting back past the technology that incubated it, to all parts of our lives.”

The writer is reminded that Poetry Scores’ core mission is translating poetry into other media, and any use of the prop shop to further that mission takes priority over the writer’s use of the shop as a writing shed; but in practice, the shop sits empty and open for long hours, days, even weeks on end.

The Poetry Scores Writer in Residence position runs from the Poetry Scores Art Invitational (second Friday in November) to the next Poetry Scores Art Invitational. The Poetry Scores Board of Directors chooses the Writer in Residence and its decision is final; the application window is the month of October for any calendar year, though the board reserves the right to choose a writer who does not apply. The board’s choice is subject to veto from the prop shop landlady. The new Writer In Residence will be announced annually at the Poetry Scores Art Invitational.

For information, contact Poetry Scores creative director Chris King at


* The current Woodstock in the prop shop is on loan from Bill Sawalich and may or may not be the manual typewriter made available to the Writer in Residence.

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