Eight years ago, I retired from 33 years of teaching art in the Boston Public Schools, and, soon after, my sister took a class in monotype printmaking. When I saw the variety of techniques used in the process, I was greatly intrigued and took a class myself. I’ve been printing ever since!
Monotype printmaking involves planning, spontaneity, and unexpected outcomes. Although the basic technique consists of painting on a plate and then running it, with paper on it, through a press, the print does not end up being an exact copy of the plate because of what happens as it’s put through the press. Monotype has been called “the most painterly method among the printmaking techniques” and is often called “the painterly print” or the “printer’s painting.”
I particularly enjoy monotype because the process offers infinite potential for variation– including working on prints after they’ve been through the press. I use watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, acrylic paints, and collaging. I’ve also worked with styrofoam and linotype and created several collages out of cut up, rearranged, and recombined monoprints.
Although I’ve been aware of BOLLI for about 10 years and encouraged my husband David to join, I didn’t join myself until one and a half years ago. I’m so glad I finally did. I have really enjoyed the classes and meeting so many vibrant people through it. I like taking a variety of courses and being exposed to so many new ideas. In addition to BOLLI, I really enjoy time at our condo in Williamstown. There’s so much to do out there– theater, museums, and the beautiful outdoors!
“A visit to the Robert S. Peabody Archaeological Museum in Andover on the occasion of my fiftieth reunion at Phillips Academy sparked an interest I never knew existed. The museum has a select number of exhibits dealing with North American Indigenous Cultures, but its primary purpose is the education of students from the Academy. It didn’t take long before my wife, Susan, and I began commuting once a week to act as volunteers. Over the 6 ½ years we have been going to the museum, the scope of what I do has varied widely. A sample of the tasks I have performed includes: sorting out the correspondence of the museum’s benefactor; cataloguing large numbers of photographs of archaeological sites; bagging 10,000 year old artifacts (arrowheads, gouges, scrapers, etc.); inventorying one percent of the entire collection of 500,000 artifacts; hunting for missing books in a library of over 10,000 volumes; and assisting with online searches. I have also been asked to contribute to the museum’s newsletter.” Quinn contributed this item to the museum’s blog in February of this year.
A WESTERWALD CHAMBER POT
by Quinn Rosefsky
As a Peabody Museum volunteer for the past 6 1⁄2 years, I have had the rare opportunity to help staff members with a variety of unique and exciting tasks. Today, I was introduced to a bit of our Colonial history. The object in question is a rather attractive example of its kind, a chamber pot that survived intact from early Colonial days, preserved in a drawer in the Peabody’s basement storage. See the full catalog record online at http://bit.ly/1XVnQd3. Aside from the intrigue of its nearly pristine condition, there is the question of date of manufacture. The Boston City Archaeologist, Joe Bagley, points out that the chamber pot may be from a 1630s well on Boston’s Congress Street. Several avenues of inquiry are open, including details of the well’s exploration and if the well was ultimately used as a privy and refuse dump, a common trajectory for such a feature. But in order to take a stand on the dating issue we need to have an appreciation of the phases of use and manufacture of such pots.
The earliest chamber pots date from at least the sixth century B.C. in Greece. In the past four to five hundred years chamber pots were found in nearly every household, usually stored under beds but sometimes in dining rooms. English and Colonial lead-glazed earthenware chamber pots came in a variety of colors: brown, green, red, orange, tortoiseshell, gray, and black. There were also stoneware pots, and some of the more striking ones are known as Westerwald or Rhenish Gray (1575-1725), followed by Debased Westerwald (1725-1775), and then American Westerwald (1730s). In the eighteenth century, these pots were mass-produced.
Not to be ignored were chamber pots made of metal, the earliest example being from 1545. It was possible to assess a person’s wealth by whether or not they had silver or pewter chamber pots. But the English Civil War of the 1640s temporarily spoiled this method because the Royalists conscripted silver and pewter to make silver coinage to fund their war efforts, a practical, if unhygienic way to pay off debt using dirty money without resorting to taxes.
A chamber pot might have a tame inscription, “Break Me Not I Pray in Your Hast for I to Non will Give Destast.” Some showed less decorum, “Oh Dear Me What Do I See.”
The chamber pot at the Peabody is gray, salt-glazed stoneware with cobalt blue cordons beneath the rim and above the base. In remarkable condition, the pot measures 6 3⁄4” wide at the opening and 6” high. There are no pithy inscriptions, but two cobalt blue bellicose lions, each one crowned, and three stamped rosettes, each filled with four spades and a central diamond, are eye- catching. These lions and rosettes have been “sprigged on,” meaning attached with separately molded designs. The rim tapers upward to a narrow “seat.” For dating purposes, it appears that mid-eighteenth century pots had wider rims. Extending out from the rim is a ribbed handle attached in a manner so that the pot won’t tip. There are no “makers” marks or dates. But comparing the chamber pot under examination with a very similar Westerwald example dated 1632 found in Ivor Noël Hume’s 2001 book, If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2,000 Years of British Household Pottery, we see many similarities, including the tapering of the opening, rosettes, and the sprig-applied crowned lions. A valid case can be made for a 1630s date given the similarities with Noël Hume’s text and its preservation in the Congress Street well. But there are other dating possibilities that need to be considered.
With the accession to the throne of England of William and Mary, whose reign spanned the years 1689 to 1702, they brought with them a passion for what was called the Rhenish or Westerwald chamber pot, originating in the Rhineland district of Germany. The style and patterns were very close to what we have at the Peabody, examples of what were called “grès-de-flandres.” By 1710, large supplies of these gray stoneware chamber pots with their sprig-mounted lions and rosettes were being shipped to England. Over the next fifty years, this style of chamber pot was found in most British and Colonial homes. Eventually variations were produced on both sides of the Atlantic, satisfying a combination of hygienic, commercial, and political needs. Later versions of Colonial chamber pots had variations in the rosettes, including a profile relief of George III sprigged onto the side. What better way to pay daily homage to the monarch?
So which date do we choose? In order to settle the debate, I would be happy to fly to Amsterdam with the Peabody’s Westerwald chamber pot tucked under my arm (in bubble wrap) to compare it with the one from Noël Hume’s book. As there is no inflammatory profile of George III, I doubt I would have any difficulties in case the plane had to make an emergency landing at Heathrow Airport. But budget constraints are likely to apply to such a trip and less costly research methods would pertain, such as having a debate amongst archaeological scholars. Whatever the outcome, we have the satisfaction of knowing that this chamber pot, however humble and utilitarian, played a role in the origins of Congress Street prior to its transformation into a thriving financial district.
Quinn says that “Membership at BOLLI since the fall of 2012 has been a wonderful opportunity to study and make new friends and acquaintances. The courses I have taken have all been fascinating. It’s fun to try new things and be part of groups interested in exploring and discussing a variety of topics. I have especially enjoyed The New Yorker Fiction Salon, which, for me, served as a springboard for developing and teaching two courses and acted as a strong incentive to get me to write fiction. It has also been highly rewarding to serve as a liaison from the SGSC to SGLs. And for someone like myself who has been perplexed and stymied by world events, the Current Events meetings have been an excellent way to experience clarity if not solutions.”
For fifty years, artist Suzanne Hodes, who joined BOLLI this past fall, has enjoyed her quiet home near the Charles River here in Waltham. Pictured here in her studio with two of her paintings, she says, in fact that the river has often inspired her work.
Suzanne has found inspiration in many places and has, in turn, inspired others. In the 1980s, she co-founded Artists West Studios in Waltham and Artists for Survival, a group that worked for 15 years to plan exhibitions and educate the public about the need for a nuclear weapons freeze. She has exhibited widely in New York and New England, and her work is in many area museums.
She says that, at this point in her life, while she has many interests, she—like so many of us–joined BOLLI in order to make new friends. “One of my friends was teaching a course on Longfellow and was very enthusiastic, and I knew Tamara Chernow from the Waltham Library, so I went to some of The New Yorker discussions and also went to see a play with the group.” This fall, she took Fara Faramarzpour’s course, “Our Home/Our Planet,” which she very much liked. “I was a science major before art,” she says. “There was lots of interaction in the class, and Fara made time to have everyone involved.” She is looking forward to her next BOLLI ventures.
We are all so pleased to welcome you to BOLLI, Suzanne!
For a more thorough introduction to Suzanne and her work, visit her truly wonderful web site by clicking on the link below:
“Ever since I first fell for books,” Maxine says, “I have been a lover of short stories. My father had a huge collection, and I was tortured with nightmares from reading “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell Tale Heart” while still in grammar school. My older brother was a terror, so I understood “The Ransom of Red Chief” well. And I read the complete works of W. Somerset Maugham in a small, third floor walk-up apartment in the early ‘60s when I was home alone with a newborn baby as Nikita Khrushchev was placing missiles in Cuba and aiming them at the United States. I devoured short stories for years and then started writing my own some forty years ago.”
Stories by Maxine appear in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions of Maine’s Goose River Anthology available on Amazon. She wrote “Technology Gotcha?” for an assignment in Betsy Campbell’s Fiction Writing course during BOLLI’s 2015 fall term.
By Maxine Weintraub
Due to severe thunderstorms in the area, the flight from Phoenix to Dallas had been diverted to an Air Force base in Texas. Tons of huge, commercial airliners were lined up on the runways, like elephants standing in a row before entering the circus ring. Finally, the log jam opened, and they were airborne, Dallas bound. Bumpy, but who cared? Life was going to begin for her now. She knew it.
Barbara rushed off the plane in Dallas, hurried to the nearest airport store, and purchased a throw-away cell phone. Then, she went directly to the American Airlines waiting area until it was time for her Boston flight. The waiting area was fairly empty—two young couples sitting quite far away and one pleasant looking, middle-aged man sitting across from her on the usual uncomfortable plastic seat. He nodded and looked like he might strike up a conversation in order to pass the time. She was not interested. First of all, she had a most important call to make. She had waited months for this. And secondly, he was too young. Probably mid-fifties. Way too young.
She fiddled with the unfamiliar, cheap phone and dialed the number she had memorized two weeks earlier. The time was now.
“Hello? Hello?” The gruff voice asked for her identifying name.
“Charlotte,” Barbara told him.
“Okay. The job is done,” he growled, “and you owe me the balance. Cash. Now.”
“Currently,” she said, “I am stuck in the Dallas airport. Bad weather. I have the cash with me and will give it to you when I get to Boston. Or I can drop the envelop in a mailbox. What do you want?”
“Listen, lady. Your old man is dead. He’s in the alley behind Beacon Street, between Clarendon and Dartmouth, just like you ordered. Near his car. Looks like robbery. You owe me, and I want it now.”
“Okay, okay.” She was shaking. The miserable son of a bitch was dead. No more skirt chasing for him. No more humiliating nights for her. And she had his money. The hell with the prestige of being wife of the Chief of Surgery at Boston General Hospital. She had the bucks now, and her new life could officially begin. “Okay. I’ll be in Boston in a few hours and will follow through as arranged.”
“You better, lady, or you’ll be lyin’ in the morgue next to your old man.” He hung up.
Barbara was still shaking, both from terror and relief. It was done. Over. She had dealt with the under-scum of Boston to find a hit man—my God, had she really done that?—and had pulled it off.
She looked up, in a daze, at the man across the aisle. He had been on his cell too. Suddenly, two armed Dallas policemen were walking swiftly toward her. “Madam, please come with us.”
“What? What is happening?”
“Lady,” said the man from across the aisle. “You had that phone on speaker.”
In her capacity as BOLLI Matters’ literary editor, Maxine is in regular touch with the SGLs who offer BOLLI writing courses, with the Writers’ Guild Special Interest Group, and with the editor of “The Journal” to solicit material to feature in our BOLLI WRITERS column. Fiction and/or nonfiction in any genre is accepted.
“It’s kind of like Groundhog Day every time we come in here,” Nancy cautions as we squeeze through WBRS’s cramped studio located on the second floor of the Shapiro Campus Center. Wending our way through boxes of outmoded equipment items and bins of old CD’s, we move into the recording area. “Apparently, the studio is going to be renovated, so they’re always moving stuff out,” she adds. “But then, stuff seems to reappear every week.”
In the recording space itself, the walls are lined with posters (and wads of masking tape where other posters used to be). “BMI—Helping Bands Avoid Desk Jobs Since 1939,” declares one. “Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night,” announces another. Rock magazines, campus flyers, and newspapers are strewn about the space, and one blue ice skate blade guard rests on the floor under the counter at which I take a seat. This is definitely a college radio station. But Judith Stone and Nancy Connery are somewhat unique college radio station program hosts.
It was Judith who led the way into radio. A hospital administrator, she was Associate Hospital Director at U. Mass. Medical Center and Project Director at the Research and Training Institute at Hebrew Senior Life. But when celebrating her 60th birthday, Judith decided that she wanted to do something entirely different. “I had a friend in P-town who had a show on the Outer Cape station,” she says, “and I began to think about how much I had always loved radio.” She used to listen to opera with her father who would narrate the shows for her. “It was a fantastic bonding experience—a gift.” She sits back, smiling, and adds thoughtfully, “In adolescence, when you’re feeling isolated and awkward, radio becomes your friend. It’s your membership, really, in the culture.” Most of us can certainly relate to that idea. “Anyway, I heard they were looking for a DJ, so I went over to interview, but I didn’t get the job.”
That did not stop Judith, though, for whom the idea of becoming a radio host had taken firm hold. “There was this woman who called herself ‘The Trash Queen’ who did a show for a prison in the Catskills,” she recalls. “She lived in New York and collected stuff from estate sales. I thought that sounded interesting, so I called her to see if I could intern with her, but that didn’t work out either.” She kept at it, though, and eventually found her way to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, which she assumed was “a matchbook cover thing, but it’s actually real.” An open house led to an audition where “They put me in front of a teleprompter and sped it up,” she says. “Then, they offered me a scholarship.”
Eventually, Judith ended up with a jazz show on what she would later learn was a pirate station in Allston. “It was in a kind of sleazy neighborhood,” she remembers with an eye roll. “People would even walk in off the street. Nancy came along as security.” Not long after, the station was shut down, and she saw a notice that Brandeis was looking for someone to do a Yiddish radio program. “It was perfect,” she grins. “Yiddish had always been part of my life. My mother was raised in a Yiddish household, and her mother always said that English was just a flash-in-the-pan thing.” It was a match, and for the next several years, Judith and her mother, Pearl Cohen, then in her 90s, hosted “The Yiddish Hour” on the Brandeis station every other Sunday at noon. In 2003, Judith added her jazz show to the Brandeis station roster, and “Home Cookin’ with Jazz” has been running ever since.
After Nancy (also a hospital administrator) retired from her position as Director of Admissions and Financial Services at Mass General, she got involved with the show as well. “I focused on building up the audience,” she says. “I started mentioning it to people, had cards made to give out, and started emailing our listener base every week. We started coming up with catchy weekly themes to draw interest as well.”
Judith says she doesn’t have any musical talent herself but, being a great appreciator of music, she loves bringing it to others. Nancy prefers her backstage role on the show, but, not long ago, she started to add comments from the background and now just “gets into schmoozing” with their listeners. At times during my visit, I actually forget that we were on the air and just joined the conversation myself!
“There’s hardly any kind of music I don’t like,” Judith says. “Except maybe Kenny G.” She pauses for a moment and then adds, heatedly, “Do you know how popular he is in China? When stores are closing at the end of the day, they play Kenny G. And he doesn’t even get royalties for it.” She shakes her head in dismay–both for China and Kenny G.
“Most of what we play is vocal music,” Nancy says. “And the show is very eclectic. We sometimes play show tunes, R&B, Motown—anything that strikes us. And sometimes,” she adds with a wry smile, “we sneak in some liberal politics too.”
On the day of my visit, the show features “roots” music—Klezmer, Cajun, bluegrass, and more. It may not be jazz as some think of the genre, but it’s certainly folk music with a “home cooking” flair.
Tune in to WBRS 100.1 FM on Mondays at 1:00 for a full serving of “Home Cookin’ Jazz.”
Helen Abrams, a second year BOLLI member who led the photography Special Interest Group’s recent tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery, reflects on Mount Auburn, and photography.
Being in nature led me to bird watching and photography. Living in Watertown, right next to Mount Auburn Cemetery, I was able to indulge both interests while also learning how to become a tour guide and docent. Over the past eight years, I’ve led tours on famous people (inventors, explorers, women reformers, artists), symbols of passage, Jews buried at Mt. Auburn and photography. After leading photo walks during the spring, summer, and fall, I decided to try a winter walk. I am particularly interested in photographing trees and have found that it is in the winter when their bark, seed pods and overall trunk and branch formations are the most sculptural. I invited Jim Gorman, one of the cemetery’s foremost horticulturalists, to join us.
After the tour, Helen reflected on the group’s venture.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Bright sun, fresh fallen snow, brisk but not windy. Since the walk started at 2 p.m., we got the long shadows of afternoon light which was especially interesting for photographing trees, grasses, and monuments.
The BOLLI group—including Martha Berardino, Maike Byrd, Ricky Ezrin, Joanne Fortunato, Dick Hanelin, and Arthur Sharenow—carpooled to Auburn Lake and parked along Oak Avenue. From there, we circumnavigated Auburn Lake, which has a great collection of unusual trees as well as long vistas with a bridge that cuts the lake in half. It’s sometimes called “Spectacle Pond” by birders.
As we walked, Jim talked about the trees. He talked about when they had been planted (especially those after the Hurricane of 1938), shared some historical facts about them (such as the discovery of the Metasequoia or Dawn Redwood that had been thought to be extinct), and what to expect from them at different seasons of the year. He pointed out pine cones, “antlers,” seed pods, and the famous Bald Cypress “knees.” Best of all, to me, was the array of unusual types of bark on the trees which, without leaves or flowers, were particularly handsome against the snow. A highlight was the Lacebark Pine with great patterns and shapes in blue and gray hues.
Having Arthur Sharenow on the tour was so helpful. He was so generous to everyone by sharing his great knowledge of photography. He gave us valuable insight into camera equipment, exposure settings, battery use in the cold, shooting from different perspectives, and more. Dick Hanelin, who admits to loving abstract work (or, to paraphrase him: “I hate literal shots”), spent much of the afternoon on the ground. He says it gave him a different vantage point for shooting at unusual angles.
By 3:30, we were back in our cars, heading home. All in all—great fun!
Helen enjoyed a career in healthcare which culminated in a fifteen year stint at Harvard University Health Services where she served as Director of Contract Management and Strategic Planning.
Seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list, and since sightings are never guaranteed, I may just fly to Tromso in Norway and stay there until I’ve had my fill! Three major personal interests evolved for me over the course of my working life: nature, travel, and learning. Finally retiring this past August, I’m now free to explore them full time.
“I woke up one morning with the phrase ‘the shortcomings hotel’ in my head,” poet Jan Schreiber told the audience at Brookline Public Library. He went on to introduce his wry “story poem” about a man with his own inadequacies in a hotel where “the drinks are cheap and plentiful, though watered down and weak.” Jan, a popular BOLLI Study Group Leader, says that he draws inspiration for his poetry from a wide variety of sources—sometimes just a concept or image like that now unforgettable hotel.
At Brookline Public Library’s June 24 “Changing of the Bard” event, the city’s outgoing Poet Laureate Judith Steinbergh was joined by her successor Jan Schreiber and past National Poetry Slam winner Regi Gibson of Lexington for an evening of reading in rhythm, rhyme, and even a little “rap-sody.”
Schreiber’s career has been a long, varied, and distinguished one. As a respected social scientist, his book on terrorism, The Ultimate Weapon, is still cited by scholars, but in recent years, Jan has devoted the bulk of his energy to poetry and criticism. He is the author of four collections of poems, two books of verse translation, and one volume of literary criticism. He serves as co-host of the Symposium of Poetry Criticism at Western State Colorado University; co-founded the journal, Canto: Review of the Arts; and, as literary editor, launched the poetry chapbook series at Godine Press. He has also been honored with the Carey Thomas Award for creative publishing.
Works he shared with the audience on June 24th ranged from his piece about that limited man in a limited inn to his “Inventory” of love in dotage to his fictional Wisconsin “Reverend Charles Colby” and even a translation of ancient Chinese. All demonstrated his acute eye, exacting wit, and deep sensitivity—qualities long heralded in poet laureates.
Brookline established its poet laureate program in 2012 as another way to promote the city’s arts. By reaching out to community centers, libraries and schools, the hope is that authors honored with this distinction will engage the public in poetry. “I think any time you can get young people interested in the tradition of poetry, it’s a good thing,” Schreiber said after his appointment in March.
Schreiber began writing when he was “a kid in Wisconsin.” He says that, at that point, his work was “verse (not really poetry)” and that “it wasn’t till I was about 19 that I started putting down ideas—still in prose—that might somehow turn into poems. When you’re that age, you’re overwhelmed with feelings and perceptions about the world, and, for a while, each observation you make seems unlike anything that’s been seen or thought before. Once you start seriously reading earlier poets, you discover otherwise.”
While working to spark interest in poetry among young people, Schreiber has also provided BOLLI students with opportunities to dig deeply into the tradition. Having earned his Ph.D. at Brandeis, he says, “I’m not rich enough to add a farthing to the University’s endowment, but I can perhaps contribute to the intellectual tradition through teaching.” Jan points to his encounters with class members who are “eager to delve into the complexities of poetry” as being especially rewarding although “doing justice to dense material with limited time” is always challenging. Participants in his courses have not only praised his work as a study group leader but also formed an affinity group, BOLLI’s Poetry Circle devoted to digging into the work of both established and lesser known poets.
Jan describes himself as a “formalist” poet. “I write mainly in meter and often with some sort of rhyme.” He places more emphasis on challenging ideas or observations, he adds, than on “raw feeling or self-involvement.” During his recent spring term BOLLI course on 20th Century women poets, Jan talked about the clash, over the last few decades, between poetry rooted in traditional forms and free verse. He notes, though, that “a particular juxtaposition of ideas can be very moving in itself, if offered in spare and precise language. I think you see that if you look over the most distinguished poems written in the twentieth century.”
In his BOLLI courses, Jan has focused on a host of well-known poets who have made outstanding contributions to the literary tradition. But he has provided class participants with the work of contemporary poets who are doing so in the twenty-first century as well. This spring, for example, those enrolled in his seminar, Imaginary Gardens: Women Poets of the 20th Century, were introduced not only to the work of award-winning bilingual poet Rhina Espaillat but to the poet herself when she actually joined the group for one session. Not only a stirring poet but an inspirational teacher, Schreiber’s long time colleague and friend told the group that “Everyone has a poet inside. That’s where the poem comes from, the inside. Once it appears, the editor takes over and finds the form the poem needs in order to be heard.”
Schreiber joins Massachusetts poets from a wide range of communities—from Northampton, North Andover, New Bedford, West Tisbury, Cambridge, and Somerville to Boston—as a city-wide poet laureate. Joe McGonegal, chairman of Brookline’s selection committee, said Schreiber was chosen for his “commitment to the community and his poetic strengths. His devotion to the town, his enthusiasm for embracing the role, and his career in verse made him an ideal choice.”
The poet laureate tradition, traced to ancient Greece where a laurel wreath was used to crown poets and heroes, was revived in 1341 with the crowning of Petrarch on the Campidoglio. In England, Geoffrey Chaucer was called Poet Laureate in 1389 and given an annual allowance of wine as his award.
When the new Brookline poet laureate was asked if there was anything else he would like to share with BOLLI Matters readers, Jan said, “I could write a book… In fact, I have. You can engage with a lot of ideas about contemporary poetry by reading it, Sparring with the Sun, which focuses on six twentieth-century poets but also discusses several others and questions the ways we determine what poems are worth keeping and teaching to the next generation.”
We point with great pride to our “BOLLI Bard” and, in true Chaucerian tradition, raise a glass of wine to celebrate Jan Schreiber’s appointment to his two-year tenure as a poet laureate.