Fast-Fish & Loose-Fish

Entry begun Sunday, June 22, 9:45 am

The Morgan is at Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven waiting for us. She arrived on Wednesday afternoon on a beautiful sail from Newport, reported by Tom Dunlop for the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette. The Sirius towed her out of Newport, with the Morgan taking on more of the wind as they moved into and through Vineyard Sound en route to the Haven.  Dunlop found “the sound of the vessel moving through the water one of the greatest pleasures I have ever had.” On this transit, the Morgan passed many of the landmarks she will be passing, in reverse order, as she sails into New Bedford next week: Cutty Hunk, Sekonnet Light, Gay Head, West Chop. By noon she was “officially in Vineyard Sound,” but Dunlop “could just barely make out Gay Head” in the haze. As seen in the photograph below from the Gazette’s Mark Lovewall, “there is beautiful glittering water, sharp little waves on the top of the big rolling waves.”

The Morgan on Vineyard Sound, June 18, 2014.  Photo Mark Alan Lovewell, Martha's Vineyard Gazette

The Morgan on Vineyard Sound, June 18, 2014. Photo Mark Alan Lovewell, Martha’s Vineyard Gazette

Here they “dropped the towline and began sailing.” Dunlop is amazed at “how quiet the vessel is now that it is under her own sail. There is just the whistling of the wind and the hushed sighing sound of the wash breaking away from the bow. The ship has a lovely long, easy motion in the sea as it heels every so slightly to the right.” While sailing on the open sea, the Morgan was a “loose-fish” (in the language of chapter 89 of Moby-Dick). Now, at Tisbury Wharf, she is a “fast-fish” awaiting those of us who will board her on Tuesday evening in advance of Wednesday’s scheduled sail.

I think I’m mostly ready for the trip. I’ve got the blog up to date. The Art of Seeing Whales exhibition will need only fine-tuning. I’ve got my silken sleeping-bag liner and new laces for my boat shoes. I got a refresher on using my GoPro from a helpful clerk at Target yesterday. And I have just finished sorting out fifteen new Moby-Dick prints on metallic paper that Robert Del Tredici sent to be considered for the art exhibitions I hope to organize to accompany the production of the Moby-Dick opera in Cincinnati in June 2016. Del Tredici did his first body of Moby-Dick drawings in the 1960s and he is still at it. These new pieces, like their predecessors, are both fast fast and loose—tethered to Melville’s novel through a text that appears in the drawing, but free in the spirit of invention and interpretation. The text embedded in the image I am posting here is from the New England Primer as quoted in the “Extracts” section of Moby-Dick: “Whales in the sea / God’s voice obey.” The multitude of whales in the sea, the plenitude of life and imagination, the overwhelmed sailor trying to take it all in from a masthead rocking at a pretty severe angle—all of these elements make this a perfect “bon voyage” offering for my upcoming voyage.

Robert Del Tredici, Whales in the Water, 2014.

Robert Del Tredici, Whales in the Sea, 2014.

Entry continues at 1:45 pm

I just got back from a meeting with Matt Kish. He brought me the eleven new drawings we had commissioned for the Melville Society Archive in New Bedford, plus one additional drawing as a bonus. I will feel like a courier for a high-end museum as I carefully transport them to the Whaling Museum tomorrow. He had sent me digital images of all twelve, but to slowly turn from one to another during a relaxed conversation with the creator was for me as pleasurable as it was for Tom Dunlop to feel the motion and hear the sound of the Morgan for the first time. Matt is so articulate that I half-wished, afterwards, that I had asked to record our conversation. But there are times when it is better to be simply alive, not archival.

Matt Kish with two brand-new drawings in Bellevue, Kentucky, on June 22

Matt Kish with two brand-new drawings in Bellevue, Kentucky, on June 22

These twelve new images are decidedly loose-fish compared to each of the 552 in his Moby-Dick in Pictures. None of them is tied to a text. He has left himself free to range through the entire story and to present each character in what he feels is his essentials, stripped of the limits imposed by any text, scene, or physical setting. Christina, Melanie, and I should have a great time deciding tomorrow which of the twelve to feature in whatever space will be available in the Center Street Gallery at the Whaling Museum. Matt and I were both on tight schedules today, but we both had time for me to take the above photo of him with two of the new drawings outside of Avenue Brew, the coffee shop two blocks from my house in Bellevue, at which me met. Devotees of the novel will be able to identify the subject of each.

Entry continues at 4:00 pm

After entering the above passage about Matt Kish, I drove over to the Cincinnati Public Library to see John Campbell present his still-evolving project from my recent Emily Dickinson class to members of the Cincinnati Book Arts Association at their annual exhibition. He had a large, engaged audience as he explained the many dimensions of Dickinson’s life and art that inspired this proliferating project, represented here by a large artist sketchbook in a glassed-in case and mural-sized enlargements much too large for a case. I was able to see the wonderful image on the back cover of the sketch book (featuring Emily at a piano and magnified fly) much better than during the limited time available during the class presentation in April in the Honors House.  

John Campbell with three Dickinson drawings, Cincinnati Public Library, June 22, 2014 copyright John Campbell

John Campbell with three Dickinson drawings, Cincinnati Public Library, June 22, 2014 copyright John Campbell

John is not done yet, and he is firing on all cylinders, so there will be much to choose from when we have our Dickinson Valentine’s Fest in February (and when Emma Rose begins to design our Dickinson catalog after finishing the Moby-Dick one.

When Emma Rose and I met on Friday afternoon, she was able to show me screen shots of the mock-ups for the first few pages of the Moby catalog. The catalog will be chronological according to the course in which each student was enrolled, so it will begin with Fred North, the Moby student in 1994 who was the first to ask if he could submit a painting rather than a research paper as his final project. Fred, like most student-artists in the catalog, will be represented by two facing pages in a horizontal (“landscape”) format. 

Screen shot of mock-up for the Fred North entry in the Moby catalog

Screen shot of mock-up for the Fred North entry in the Moby catalog

Emma Rose is using the InDesign program inn advance of publication by Blurb. As you can see, her current mock-up for Fred features both of the Lee Shore paintings he submitted at the end of the semester.  In one, the voyage of the “lee shore” sailor is confined within Fred’s motorcycle jacket,.  In the other, a tiny sail is barely distinguishable amidst the Turneresque immensity of sea and sky.  Emma Rose’s current page for Fred also includes photos I took of him and his family at the 1996 exhibition of Unpainted to the Last in Evanston, Illinois, and extracts from his artist statement for the two paintings. I will be eager to see the new catalog spreads she will have ready when I get back from this trip.

 Fred’s two Lee Shore paintings are a perfect illustration of the difference between fast-fish (sailing within a motorcycle jacket) and loose-fish (the open ocean). Fred’s artist statment emphasizes the passage in “The Lee Shore” in which Ishmael makes this declaration: “But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, indefinite as God—so better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be dashed against the shore, even if that were safety!” Ishmael dedicates this chapter to Bulkington, the fearless spiritual quester who leads the Peqoud into the open ocean but does not survive the voyage, thereby becoming Ishmael’s “sleeping-partner” shipmate.  Fred, who was probably in his early forties when he took my class, died much too early, early in this century. He, then, and Shawn Buckenmeyer, now, have become my sleeping-partner shipmates for next week’s voyage.

I wonder if Fred ever imagined that I might one day be sailing on a real whale ship. He gave me a pencil drawing as a present for the course that I have just come across when gathering material for Emma Rose to use in his catalog entry. He has drawn me high up in the right hand corner, propelled by the collision at the lower left in which sperm whale has stoved in a whale ship (and knocked a book called “Becoming Stella” out of my hands). But this is not intended as an unhappy image. I have a big grin on my face, and the text behind my head says: “SO MUCH FOR DAMP, DRIZZLY NOVEMBERS IN MY SOUL!”  The drawing in which Fred sends his teacher sky high as the whale breaks up the whale ship is an extreme manifestation of the questoin with which Ishmael ends chapter 89: “What are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?”


Fred's sketch of me as a present for the 1994 course

Fred’s sketch of me as a present for the 1994 course






The Art of Seeing Whales

Entry begun on Saturday, June 21, 5:55 am

Crew hoists sails in June 11 trial run, Stephen Dunn, Hartford Courant

Crew hoists sails in June 11 trial run, Stephen Dunn, Hartford Courant

While I have been getting my affairs in order here at home, the 38th Voyage of the Charles W. Morgan has gotten under way. The Morgan sailed out of New London last Sunday, June 15, one day later than scheduled because of rough water. The photographs are absolutely thrilling, and the twelve-hour transit from City Pier in New London to Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island, went without a hitch (except for a sail boat race in Newport that caused the whale ship to cool its heels for half an hour before its first landing). After being towed from its berth in New London by the tugboat Sirius, the Morgan had plenty of opportunity to sail under its own wind power, to the apparent satisfaction of all.

“You can just feel that she is happy and she wants to go and wants to sail again,” deckhand Aaron Gralnik told reporter Johanna Somers of the New London Day. Mystic Seaport historian Glenn Gardinier “was captivated by the way the Morgan took the swell of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in more than 90 years.” He also “spent time admiring how the shadows on the floors and walls of the ‘blubber room’ rocked back and forth as the Morgan swayed in the sea.” My favorite quote in the account by Somers is this one from Alan Schaeffer, a crew member from Mystic: “Remember, no one who is alive has sailed a ship like this until last week.” How sweet to see the Morgan easing in toward her berth in Newport.

Charles W. Morgan arriving at Newort, June 15.  Sephen Dunn, Hartford Courant

Charles W. Morgan arriving at Newport, June 15. Sephen Dunn, Hartford Courant

Beyond the challenge and thrill of preparing for my own voyage, I had the pleasure of working this week with Christina Connett and Mike Dyer of the New Bedford Whaling Museum to finalize the object list and draft the wall texts for the exhibition we are calling The Art of Seeing Whales. The museum staff will be installing the show on the day I am scheduled to sail into New Bedford on the Morgan, so we had to make all of the major decisions by this weekend. It is a wonderful challenge, and opportunity, to be integrating works from our Melville Society Archive with those of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and its recently acquired Elizabeth Schultz Collection. This enables us to illustrate the human process of “Seeing Whales Across Space and Time”—in the words of our opening section as currently conceived. Mike had the brilliant idea of juxtaposing an iconic Dutch painting by Esais van de Velde (Whale Stranding, 1617) with a newly acquired Chinese paper cut-out by Qiao Xiaoguang (The Story of Moby-Dick, 2010).

Esaias van de Velde, Whale Stranding, 1617, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Esaias van de Velde, Whale Stranding, 1617, New Bedford Whaling Museum


Qiao Xiaoguang, The Story of Moby-Dick, 2010, Schultz Collection, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Qiao Xiaoguang, The Story of Moby-Dick, 2010, Schultz Collection, New Bedford Whaling Museum

William Bradford, Clark's Point Lighthouse, Ne3w Bedford, New Bedford Whaling Museum

William Bradford, Clark’s Point Lighthouse, New Bedford, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Our next grouping, “Seeing the Whale: The Perils in Between,” evokes the course of a voyage through images of the departure from the home port, the action at sea, and the human aftermath. William Bradford’s Clark’s Point Light, New Bedford, could be any whale ship heading out in hope of a prosperous voyage. Peter Martin’s Melville the Man #1 (2013) imagines the author of Moby-Dick returning to New Bedford late in life and remembering the book about the White Whale he had written forty years later.

Peter Martin, Melville the Man # 1, 2013, Melville Society Archive

Peter Martin, Melville the Man # 1, 2013, Melville Society Archive

Our next grouping, “Seeing the Whale: Cutting In,” includes Isaac Sheffield’s Portrait of Captain Franklin F. Smith (posted earlier in “Stowing Down and Scanning the Horizon”) and Mark Milloff’s Stripping the Whale (posted under “Shawn, Vali, and Alison”). It will also include Matt Kish’s original drawing of the cutting-in scene he reproduced as page 295 of Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (2010).

Matt Kish, drawing for pate 295 of Moby-Dick in Pictures, 2010, Melville Society Archives

Matt Kish, drawing for pate 295 of Moby-Dick in Pictures, 2010, Melville Society Archives

Our next grouping, “Seeing the Whale: Mother and Infant,” is inspired by the moment in Moby-Dick in which Ishmael, amidst the carnage of the “Grand Armada” chapter, looks deep into the water and sees mother and infant whales absorbed in their life-sustaining activity. George Klauba’s The Pod in one of several surprising images with which we will illustrate this theme.

George Klauba, The Pod, 2005, New Bedford Whaling Musewum

George Klauba, The Pod, 2005, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Our next two groupings will juxtapose images of whales as “Monster and Myth” with those of a more “Holistic Harmony.” One of the latter, entirely new to me, is The Great Hunter by the Inuit artists Nanogak, Kaodloak, and Kanayok.

Nanogak, Kaodloak, and Kanayok, The Great Hunter, 1995, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Nanogak, Kaodloak, and Kanayok, The Great Hunter, 1995, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Our last grouping, “Whales as Inspiration,” brings together several works which invite the viewer to “Model thyself after the whale!” (in Ishmael’s words from the “Blanket” chapter). Vanessa Hodgkinson’s Squeeze of the Hand (posted earlier in “A Little Lower Layer’) is one of these. So is Kathleen Piercefield’s From the Headwaters of the Eternities, inspired by Ishmael’s observation in chapter 105 of Moby-Dick that whales were swimming through the world’s waters long before humans existed.

Kathleen Piercefield, From the Haert of the Eternities, 2004, Schultz Collection, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Kathleen Piercefield, From the Headwaters of the Eternities, 2004, Schultz Collection, New Bedford Whaling Museum

It is a great pleasure to envision such a collection of images coming together. It will be even more wonderful to see them on the walls. I will meet with Christina and her assistant Melanie Correia next Monday afternoon in the gallery after flying from Cincinnati to Providence via Philadelphia and driving a rental car to New Bedford. With our proposed works actually in the space, we will see how everything fits and make any necessary adjustments. The next day I will be off on my whale ship adventure while they are beginning to install the show—in addition to everything else they and the entire town are doing to prepare for the arrival of the Charles W. Morgan.

Stitching Across Oceans

Entry begun on Friday, June 13, 10:30 am

With Kevin and Tammy Muente at Stitches in Time exhibition

With Kevin and Tammy Muente at Stitches in Time exhibition

The first time I wrote a journal in which to record immediate sensations I might later convert to a published text was in July 2008 during a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in my home state of Washington with Kevin Muente, a landscape painter, and his wife Tammy, a curator and free-lance writer. The original idea was for me to keep a running journal during our two-week loop of the peninsula and for Kevin to make open-air paintings in addition to taking photos as the basis for studio paintings he would make back home. I ended up with a substantial journal which led to considerable historical research after I got home. Kevin created seven open-air paintings to which he added 19 studio paintings after he got back home. The immediate result of the trip and its follow-up was an exhibition in NKU’s Third Floor Gallery from August – September 2009. We called the exhibition Stitches in Time on the Olympic Peninsula, which was also the title of the catalog of the exhibition, edited by Tammy.  The catalog included all twenty-six of Kevin’s paintings accompanied by photographs from the trip and my essay “Stitches in Time: Kevin Muente at Work.”

Coastlines from Neah Bay, south to Ozette, southeast to Sekiu, National Park Service map

Coastlines from Neah Bay, south to Ozette, southeast to Sekiu, National Park Service map

I loved the challenge—and the discipline—of writing that journal on the run. The experience became especially rich during two days with the Makah Indians at Neah Bay, followed by a day-long trip to the site of the ancient whaling village at Ozette. So much happened in those three days on the extreme Northwest Coast of the continental United States that I was still writing it up in my journal after we had moved on to Forks, La Push, Ruby Beach, and Quinault. That visit to the Pacific connects with my imminent visit to the Atlantic coast because each was very much about whaling. The Makah had resumed their ancestral cultural practice of hunting whales in 1995—until a ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals forbid its continuance in spite of (a) the tribe’s conscientious adherence to the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency and (b) the explicit rights the Makah had been given in the Treaty of Neah Bay in 1855 to hunt the whale “at usual and accustomed grounds and stations.” At the time of our visit, the Makah, under the leadership of Micah McCarty, the tribal chair, were working hard to comply with a new set or regulations adapted to the language of the court’s decision. We were hoping to meet Micah McCarty during our visit to Neah Bay, and we were also planning to see the Makah Research and Cultural Center, a museum that preserves the excavated remains of the ancient Makah whaling village at Ozette, fifteen miles down the Pacific Coast, which had been obliterated by a landslide around 1500 A.D.

Ridge of gray whale's back, Strait of Juan de Fuca, July 2008

Ridge of gray whale’s back, Strait of Juan de Fuca, July 2008

We knew we wanted to see the Makah Research and Cultural Center, so we did that our first afternoon in town. We did not know that Micah McCarty would invite us to meet in an outdoor campground near Hobuck Beach to hear him give a talk on the history of the Makah whaling culture to a class of biology students from Evergreen College. Nor did we know that we would meet John Scordino, the Makah’s marine biologist, who invited Kevin and me to accompany him on a four-hour grey-whale census down the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Sekiu and back in a small Zodiac boat. The first whale we saw announced himself with a spouting that hovered and glistened in the air like those fireworks sparkles that seem like they will never fall from the sky. The next one surfaced right next to us, a magnifying gray blur in the clear blue water until his back, a ridge long enough to walk on, broke into view. The third gray whale we sighted was charcoal black; we did not get as close to him, but we felt he was elderly, as he kept in the part of the kelp garden nearest the shore, and rose or sank quite slowly.

Still life of stones and bones commemorating the ancient Ozette

Still life of stones and bones commemorating the ancient Ozette

To get to the site of ancient Ozette the next day, we had to drive almost all the way to Sekiu and then back across the Peninsula, because the topography along the coast line is impassable even today. From the Ozette Ranger Station we knew we had a three-mile hike down to the shore before walking a mile up the beach to the site of the ancient Ozette landslide. We did not know that along that shore we would see a little open-air shed filled with improvised tributes to the ancient Ozette who had perished. These poignant memorials included a still life composed of shoreline stones and gray whale bones with grass growing through it like the green verdure that weaves through the sperm whale skeleton in “A Bower in the Arsacides” in Moby-Dick, symbolizing for Ishmael the loom of time in which “Life folded Death; Death trellised Life” (chapter 102).

Corpse of ship-struck whale on the shore of Cannonball Island, July 2008

Corpse of ship-struck whale on the shore of Cannonball Island, July 2008

The Ranger had told us that if the tide had gone out far enough we might be able hike beyond the ancient Ozette site to Point Avala and wade out to Cannonball Island. She said that a whale had been stranded there about a month ago and parts of its body might still be on the rocks. The tide was out far enough for us to carefully step through the receding water and onto the island shore. None of us had ever seen a stranded whale. It was flat as a pancake, raw pink in color, and putrid in smell. Its striped pouch showed that it was a baleen whale. We later learned that it was a juvenile humpback who had been killed by a ship strike as it was peacefully feeding on krill in the Pacific Ocean Natural Marine Sanctuary extending far out from this shore. On the Atlantic Coast, legislation has been implemented to regulate the speed of cargo ships passing through waters in which whales customarily congregate. Such legislation has not yet come to the Pacific Northwest Coast. It just happened that the tail of the flattened whale pointed straight to the spot along the shore where the ancient Ozette had lived five hundred years ago. Ishmael begins is examination of the skin of the whale in the “Blanket” chapter by celebrating its subtle beauties “in life” (chapter 68). We were seeing a much sorrier spectacle in death, under conditions that made me feel a new poignancy for those right whales who are peacefully feeding at the beginning of the “Brit” chapter, but are themselves subject to the sea that “dashes even the mightiest whales against the rocks, and leaves them side by side with the split wrecks of ships” (chapter 58).

Ancient Ozette petroglyph of mother and infant whale

Ancient Ozette petroglyph of mother and infant whale

We knew from the guide book that there was a second trail from the shoreline back up to the Ranger Station from Sand Point—and that if we hiked the three miles south from the trail we had descended we would have a nine-mile triangular loop. This can be done only when the tide is out, as the shore is impassable at high tide. I had checked the tide chart on the bulletin board at the Ranger Station and we were in luck. The tide was beginning to ebb as we began our hike down to the shore and would be out long enough for us to take the long way back if we desired. We had loved our time along the shore and we decided to extend it even though it would mean getting to our bed-and-breakfast in Forks late at night. I wanted to explore the three-mile shore between the two trails because there were known to be ancient Makah petroglyphs there, one of which I had seen on the cover of a book, incising the shape of one of the first colonial sailing ships that had come along this shore. We never found that petroglyph, but we found many more, some representing whales, some delineating human figures, some showing human and whales together. My favorite is the one that Kevin found carved into the spacious face of a rock resting flat on the shore, showing a mother whale with its baby calf. This is the ancient Ozette equivalent of one of my favorite passages in Moby-Dick, the one in the “Grand Armada” chapter in which Ishmael’s whaleboat slips into a magical calm within the murderous action of the chase.  He sees “suspended” deep below him “the forms of the nursing mothers of the whales.” Ishmael notices that the “delicate side-fins” of one of the “infant” whales “still freshly retained the plaited crumpled appearance of a baby’s ears newly arrived from foreign parts” (chapter 87).

Stone lance-head from Dorset website; try to get image from Makah museum

Stone lance-head from Dorset website; try to get image from Makah museum

This was a magical day, and a perfect complement to the surprise encounters with living whales the day before. Each new stop seemed like a fresh new step in to the material and spiritual substratum of Melville’s Moby-Dick. During our walk along the Ozette shore I remembered that Ishmael had mentioned Northwest Coast Indians somewhere in Moby-Dick but I could not remember where. When I got home I found the passage I was looking for at the end of chapter 81, “The Pequod Meets the Virgin.”  Ishmael is looking closely at the ulcerous spot in the flesh of the aged bull whale that Flask had cruelly “pricked” with his lance, provoking the already captured creature into “more than sufferable anguish” during its final, bloody flurry. Moments later, the fresh corpse of this “piteous” whale would break free of the chains of the ship and sink with “all its treasures unrifled.” Before that happens, however, as the whalers are “are cutting into him with a spade” near the ulcerous spot, “the entire length of a corroded harpoon was found embedded in his flesh. . . . But still more curious was the fact of a lance-head of stone being found in him, not far from the buried iron, the flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted that stone lance? And when? It might have been darted by some Nor’ West Indian long before America was discovered.”

How did Melville know, when he was writing Moby-Dick between 1850 and 1851, or when he was at sea between 1841 and 1844, that the Northwest Coast Indians had been hunting whales long before the time of Columbus? Did he know, one wonders, about the Ozette whaling village that was buried by a landslide around the year 1500? If so, from whom? From whalers at sea? Whatever he knew, and how, what I see as most interesting about Ishmael’s observation is that the round stone lance-head cast by the Northeest Coast Indian left the surrounding flesh undisturbed for centuries, where as the “corroded” modern harpoon had spread the ulcer.

The schooner Exact, courtesy MOHAI

The schooner Exact, courtesy MOHAI

When Melville published the first American edition Moby-Dick in New York City on November 15, 1851, the virgin forests of the Northwest Coast were beyond the reach of East Coast industry. Two days earlier, however, the schooner Exact had dropped the Denny party who became the founders of Seattle at Alki Point. By October of the next year, Henry Yesler was in the process of building the first steam-powered sawmill on Puget Sound, leading to the founding of Seattle in 1853. The Treaty of Neah Bay was one of several treaties in 1855 which helped open the forests of the Olympic Peninsula to the new sawmills. On January 26, 1856, Herman Melville’s cousin Guert Gansevoort commanded the frigate USS Decatur in the one-day Battle of Seattle that crushed the last substantial Native American uprising in the wake of the recent treaties. The way was now secure for the East Coast industrialists to invest heavily in harvesting Northwest Coast forests—and for noble Douglass fir to be cut from the rugged slopes of the Cascade and Olympic mountains, dragged down to the shore, and shipped around Cape Horn to become the keels of East Coast whaling and sailing ships.

Catalog cover for the 2009 Stitches exhibitioni

Catalog cover for the 2009 Stitches exhibition

We were invited to include a writing sample in our application to become a 38th Voyager. I submitted my transcription of the Ozette section of my Olympic Peninsula journal, even though it has never been published, because its spirit and texture seemed closest to what I hoped to be able to do in response to a voyage on the Morgan. If I had known how to blog in 2008, that would have been a perfect way to share my experiences on that trip. In 2009, we called our exhibition catalog Stitches in Time because many of the sites Kevin painted looked as we imagined they might have looked hundreds of years before. We also used that title because Kevin’s camera had a “stitching” function that allowed separate photographs he had taken of adjacent scenes to be stitched together into a single panorama he would later use as a guide for studio paintings.

Gp Pro Hero 3 Silver Editioin

Gp Pro Hero 3 Silver Editioin

For my voyage that is now ten days away, I have just bought a GoPro camera that will allow me to record panoramic images of the ship and its surroundings in video as I climb the rigging. When I went to Target to buy a few accessories for the GoPro camera that I had ordered from Amazon, I learned that the new iPhone 5S that Joan had given me for Christmas can itself automatically stitch together a quick sequence of adjacent stills into an integrated panoramic image by panning the camera from one side to another of the desired subject–just as the landscape painter must do mentally in integrating a flood of impressions from a single scene.

Essay to Book to Blog

Began this entry on Friday, June 13, 8:30 am

In my application to be a 38th Voyager, I envisioned that my final product from the experience would be an open-ended essay enriched by my experience as a Melville scholar and a teacher of Moby-Dick. My plan was to begin keeping a journal during the trip to Mystic for the Training Day and to simply see what evolved from there. I was envisioning the essay itself as a work of creative non-fiction, a work which the immediacy of a lived experience can be enriched by imaginative associations ranging from the broadly cultural to the deeply personal (which describes quite well the wordscape of Moby-Dick in relation to Melville’s original whaling voyage).

By the time I was finishing the journal entry for my Training Day as my plane was landing in Cincinnati, it was already clear that the length of what I was writing more closely resembled the first chapter of a book than the prologue of an essay. As I finished up the last week of the Spring Semester, saw my students present their final projects in Dickinson and the Arts, and began to sort and store all of the classroom materials to clear the decks for the voyage itself, I realized that the process of making the transition from the classroom to the whale ship was itself worthy of mention in the narrative I now was writing. As I was writing the section I am calling “Stowing Down and Scanning the Horizon,” I already felt that this was the beginning of a new chapter-length section, one that I quickly named “All Astir” after the chapter in which Ishmael describes preparations for his own voyage in Moby-Dick. Just as Ishmael writes in the “Advocate” chapter that “the whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard,” so was my college classroom now buoying me out to the whale ship.

“All Astir” has been interesting to write because of the way one thing leads to another. I love the improvisational nature of creative non-fiction of this sort, where you do not know where you are going until the process takes you there. As I thought of this project eventually becoming a book maybe two years from now (that is, if I found a publisher), I realized how much of the immediacy of the experience would necessarily be lost. Also, as I transcribed one journal entry after another into my Microsoft Word document, I kept inserting images would make excellent illustrations for whatever I was writing. It almost began to hurt to insert some of these pictures when I realized that ninety percent of the photos themselves, as well as much of their immediacy, would be lost if this project were published only as a book several years from now. With regard to immediacy, consider the image I am posting immediately below that Mary K Bercaw Edwards sent as an email attachment this morning. It was taken six days ago by her former student Nathan Adams from the deck of the Charles W. Morgan in the first trial voyage out of New London to see how she could sail under her own wind power.

The restored Morgan's first trial voyage, June 6, 2014, photo Nathan Adams

The restored Morgan’s first trial voyage, June 6, 2014, photo Nathan Adams

Six paintings greeting visitors at Shawn's Memorial Art Exhibition

Six paintings greeting visitors at Shawn’s Memorial Art Exhibition

It was at Shawn Buckenmeyer’s Memorial Art Show where it dawned on me that my writing project had to be a blog. A blog would allow me to share the immediacy of the written experience enriched by a superfluity of images. I had never created a blog and I am digitally challenged, but conversations with my colleagues John Alberti and Jen Celio at our event for Shawn convinced me that I could learn to convert my Microsoft text into a WordPress blog that would be much better suited to this project than the open-ended essay that was already morphing into a book.

Web site Moby and the Net for Moby and the Arts Class, 1996-97

Web site Moby and the Net for Moby and the Arts Class, 1996-97

With the help of Ed Trujillo, technical advisor to our English department, I am now up to date. I have converted my Word files into a living blog that others can see. There were some bumps along the way. The first weekend I could not find my blog files on my home computer and thought I had lost them all. On the second weekend, I could find my files and edit them, but it was not until I saw Ed the next week that I found out there was a “visual” alternative to the “text” function in which I could edit the text in a format similar to that for Microsoft Word rather than in HTML code, which I had been doing all weekend. Fortunately, I had learned the rudiments of HTML from my Moby students who had created Moby and the Net, our own website, during the Spring 1996 class ( But it is certainly easier to edit a text closer to the way you will be seeing it on the screen.

Now that I am into the rhythm of the blog I can’t doing this project any other way. I still write

First page of handwriten Training Day entry
First page of handwriten Training Day entry

out each new entry longhand—including this one—before transcribing it into a Word document from which I now convert it into a blog entry. I imagine that many younger people who are at ease with the new technology are creating everything from the get-go on the blog itself. But for now I like beginning with a handwritten journal entry. On NPR the other day I heard a report of what seemed like a fairly rigorous experiment showing that the human mind more securely retains information we have written out in longhand than that which originates on a screen. So, the starting point for this project will remain the handwritten word, even though the end result already certain to be something far different from what I had originally envisioned—as is, of course, the immediacy of its publication on the blog.



Summer into Spring

Began entry Monday, June 10, 9:30 pm

If I am not teaching summer school, classroom preparation usually takes a back seat to my research projects until crunch time comes for the new semester in early August. One would expect that to be even more the case this summer in advance of a sabbatical year in which I won’t be teaching again until the 2015 Fall Semester. But Emma Rose and I have much to do, both singly and together, in preparing for the Dickinson and Moby-Dick exhibitions, catalogs, and related events during the Spring Semester before I leave for the whale ship adventure two weeks from today. I will also have to continue making plans for the art exhibitions I hope to bring bring to Cincinnati as supplements to Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick opera in June 2016.

Screenshot of 78 of 202 Moby images

Screenshot of 78 of the 202 images that Emily Wiethorn took for Moby catalog

Last week Emma Rose and I were excited to hear form Emily Wiethorn that she had edited all of the Dickinson and Moby-Dick photos she had taken for us and was now ready to transfer them to our computers. It took a while to get together because Emily was beginning a full-time job last Monday, but we were all able to meet after work last Thursday night to see and receive the images. They are beautifully done and they will enable us to make wonderful catalogs. There are so many high-density files averaging about 10 MB apiece that the only way to make the transfer was from Emily’s computer to our portable hard drives. I did not until now have one, so I bought a Toshiba with a lot of memory–and with a label saying it works both for a PC (which I have) and for Mac (which Emily has). What I did not know until Thursday night is that if my portable hard drive had first been installed on a PC (which I had made sure to do a few days before) it cannot receive files from a Mac. Fortunately, Emma Rose has a Mac, so she was able to transfer all of Emily’s files through a cable to her portable drive, and then relay them via CDs via my desk computer to my portable drive the next day.

Emma Rose Thompson presenting her final project in the Spring 2013 Moby class

Emma Rose Thompson presenting her final project in the Spring 2013 Moby class

Now that we have nearly all of the images for the art works we plan to feature in each catalog, our next priority is to design the layout and prepare all the texts and other supporting materials we will need for the Moby catalog. Emma Rose is primarily responsible for the design.  Right now we are planning to reproduce all of the images against a black background (because the color will look better) and print most of the text in dark ink within blocks of white. Each student artist will have a two-page spread, with a short bio, extracts from the artist statement, and supplemental photographs on the left side, facing Emily’s photographs of the art works themselves on the right.  After having consolidated my binders, I now have a catalog entry, a classroom presentation photo, and an artist statement for each student artist, so this week I have been making copies of these materials for Emma Rose so that she will have plenty to work with while I am away for the voyage. We have decided to structure the Moby-Dick catalog according to the chronological sequence of classes in which the art work was made, beginning with Fred North’s class in 1994.  This is working out extremely well so far in the material I have been assembling and generating for Emma Rose. I am posting here the photo I took of Emma Rose when she presented her final project to the Moby class at the end of the 2013 Spring Semester. Then she was proposing an imaginary Moby-Dick art exhibition. Now she is designing a real one.

Kimberly Gelbwasser, soprano

Kimberly Gelbwasser, soprano

Today was a great day for the planning of our Valentine’s weekend for Emily Dickinson next February. I met Kimberly Gelbwasser, who will be the soprano for our Dickinson song recital, for the first time. She is joining our faculty in August after teaching for several years at East New Mexico University. She was in town for one day, so we had lunch together and discussed plans for the Dickinson Festival in general as well as the kind of music she might like to perform with pianist Ingrid Keller in the recital itself. Kimberly has sung opera, but she loves art song best, and I can already feel that she and Ingrid will be an exceptional performing team. Kimberly is already familiar with Dickinson songs by Aaron Copland and subsequent composers, but she is not yet deeply familiar with Dickinson’s life and writing, so she was eager to borrow for the summer pretty much everything I had put on reserve for last semester’s class: the complete poems, selected letters, biographies by Richard Sewall and Martha Nell Smith, books on Dickinson and music by Larry Starr and Carolyn Cooley, and scores and recordings of Dickinson poems set to music by Copland, Jake Heggie, George Getty, and others. What a treat it will be for me and my students next February, in the midst of the Marathon Reading of Dickinson’s poems in the exhibition space, to walk across the plaza to Greaves Concert Hall to hear Kimberly and Ingrid perform a complete recital of Dickinson songs.

Cover of libretto for  Moby Dick Oratorio

Cover of libretto for Moby Dick Oratorio

I had another fine musical development last week when Molly Herron sent me a CD of the Moby-Dick Oratorio that she and three other composers, all in their thirties, premiered in Brooklyn in February of this year. Each of the four composers created three songs for various combinations of the five vocal soloists and nineteen instrumentalists who performed the premiere. I had been very interested in the way the four composers had gone about composing the pieces and structuring the concert, and the musical result, based on the CD, was everything I could have hoped. Molly had also sent me the program and the libretto in addition to the CD. She and her colleagues are nearly ready to post a video of the premiere performance; as soon as they do that, I will be sharing it with various musical forces in the Greater Cincinnati area, as it would be a brilliant supplement to the local premiere of the opera itself.

Poster for Denton premiere of Heggie's Ahab Symphony

Poster for Denton premiere of Heggie’s Ahab Symphony

In early May I met Robert Porco, director of Cincinnati’s May Festival Chorus, on a downtown street as Joan and I were walking to the restaurant at which we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. I had been extremely impressed with the way his chorus sang the two Dickinson songs in John Adams’s Harmonium a few days earlier, and he was interested in what I tlld him about Heggie’s Ahab Symphony for tenor and chous, which had premiered in at the University of North Texas in Denton in April 2013.  He invited me to send him a score and recording.  I would love to hear his chorus perform the Ahab Symphony in May 2016, one month before the Moby opera comes to town.

Shawn, Vali, and Alison

Began this entry Sunday morning, May 24, 5:50 am

Alison Lundergan Grimes looks to be about the same age as Shawn Buckenmeyer (Daniell). I just checked the internet, and Alison is one year younger, born in 1978. Both were experiencing exceptional personal and professional growth early in 2014. I do believe that Alison embodies many of the values of self-actualization and self-expression that Shawn embodied in the life she led and the art she created. I did not have a chance to converse with Shawn about politics. But I’m quite sure she would have been as enthused as I am about the senatorial race in Kentucky, and as hopeful as I am that like-minded voters in Campbell County can have a strong voice in its outcome. The “Voyage of one Shawn” is ending prematurely at very moment that the “Voyage of one Alison” is gaining national recognition. Given the history of Mitch McConnell, there is certain to be a “Bloody Battle in Kentucky” over the summer and through to the fall to the November 4 election.

Vali Myers, Stella Maris, NKU Honors House

Vali Myers, Stella Maris, 2001 giclee print from 1998 drawing, NKU Honors House. Photo Emily Wiethorn

Shawn was not one to remain confined to one location for long, so sometime this summer Chuck will carry her ashes to Italy, where they would have been honeymooning in early June. He will release them somewhere in the Bay of Naples, where they will enter into rhythms of the ancient Mediterranean. I like to imagine her remains, still buoyant, floating alongside the island that Vali Myers depicted at the heart of Stella Maris, the drawing in pen, sepia, and watercolor that she completed in 1998 (posted here). The island in the center of the drawing is the one Vali saw every day from the refuge for endangered animals she had established high up in a steep valley ocwelooking the Bay of Naples high above the town of Positano, between Sorrento and Solerno on the Italian coast.

Vali drawing White Whale in Stella Maris accompanied by her loving creatures

Photo of Vali drawing White Whale in Stella Maris accompanied by her loving creatures, gift to the author

Vali had mentoned to me that Stella Maris is the name of the Pagan goddess of the sea worshipped along this coastline before the dawn of Christianity.  She liked the fact that the island she saw through the tunnel of her secluded valley resembled the body of a female at rest. The Stella Maris of her drawing is weeping like a crucified Christ for the sins of the modern world, specifically for the destruction mankind has inflicted upon its fellow creatures. The white whale depicted at the upper right is rising one more time against the men who have attacked it.  The welcoming space below the teardrop of the Mediterranean sea sustains and shelters living creatures representing those that Vali actually sheltered in her own nature refuge (as seen in the photo she sent me of herself drawing the white whale in Stella Maris surrounded by her creatures curled in comfort)..

Vali Myers, Moby Dick, NKU Honors House

Vali Myers, Moby Dick, 1996 giclee print after 1974 drawing, NKU Honors House. Photo Emily Wiethorn

Rob Kallmeyer, one the students in my class in Moby-Dick and the Arts in 1996, had fallen in love with Vali’s 1974 drawing entitled Moby Dick when we saw it in Beth Schultz’s exhibition Unpainted to the Last on an overnight trip to Northwestern University. He found a way to telephone Vali in her Italian valley and had several very inspiring conversations with her that then led my correspondence with Myers about her Moby Dick drawing as well as the Stella Maris then underway. We ended up ordering special giclee prints of each work that now hang in the Honors House in which most of my Moby classes have been held.

The Fall 2013 Moby class in which Shawn enrolled met for three hours one night a week. On one of those nights we took an “art walk” through four buildings on campus that house Moby-Dick art. We were only a few weeks into the course but Shawn was already “in the process of figuring out what direction to take in my project” at the end of the semester. During our art walk, the artist she was “drawn to the most was Vali Myers: “Her use of dots to create beautiful, surreal, curved lines and shapes is what drew me to her piece Moby Dick. There’s so much going on.  In the fore front we have a lounging, sensual female unabashedly lying naked across the bottom of the canvas. Is she mother nature? A female representation of Ishmael? I almost envision her as a genie in a bottle. In the background we have Moby Dick and a ship battling. Notice a few dead bodies swirling in the waves. On both sides of the canvas, we have two faces, one looking angrily at the woman while the other looks at the battle between the ship and Moby Dick. Perhaps the faces are Man; looking, judging, angry men. The lounging female doesn’t seem concerned. I found it interesting when we were discussing eco-feminism and the fact that Myers wanted the whale to win. I don’t know much about eco-feminism, so I’ll have to do some research and maybe find a way to apply it to my project.” She certainly did.

Cover of catalog for Vali Myers retrospective in Australia, 2013-14

Cover of catalog for Vali Myers retrospective in Australia, La Trobe University Museum, 2013

Vali Myers died of cancer in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003. At the time of Shawn’s death in April 2014, six of Vali’s Moby-Dick drawings were part of major retrospective of her career on tour through her native country of Australia. The exhibition had opened at La Trobe University in Melbourne while Shawn was taking our art walk through the Honrors House in September. On April 14, when Shawn was giving her Celebration presentation, the exhibitioin had just arrived at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery, where it will still be on display when the Charles W. Morgan is scheduled to sail into New Bedford on June 25.  In addition to reproducing Vali’s Moby Dick on the cover of the catalog, the organizers of the exhibition invited me to contribute an essay discussing all of the works in the show with a Moby-Dick component.  I called my essay “Vali Myers, Moby-Dick, and Eco-Feminism,” and stressed that Vali’s lifelong engagement with the novel made her a pioneer in the eco-feminist movement that that has resulted in some of the finest literary and artistic responses to Moby-Dick in our new twenty-first century.

Vali’s admiration of the whale, not the men who were trying to kill it; her deep fellow feeling for the living creatures she assisted in her wildlife refuge and celebrated in her art; her unapologetic embrace of a female perspective centered in a female body; her prophetic sense of a sacredness in nature that mankind has mindlessly desecrated; and her extraordinary graphic ability to address all these themes in the context of Melville’s Moby-Dick—in all these ways Vali Myers has already inspired an impressive variety of female artists across this country and around the world. Here in my own classes in Highland Heights, Kentucky, male as well as female artists have been inspired by Vali’s example. In the photo posted here, Shawn and her I & Q are accompanied by the three other female students who presented their Moby-Dick creations in the April 2014 Celebration: Danielle Kleymeyer, Mary Belperio, and Ronnie Mitchell.

Danielle Kleymeyer, Mary Belperio, Shawn Buckenmeyer, Ronnie Mitdchell, and their teacher at 2014 Celebration

Danielle Kleymeyer, Mary Belperio, Shawn Buckenmeyer, Ronnie Mitchell, and their teacher at 2014 Celebration

Vali Myers, Holy Ghost, 2001-02

Vali Myers, Holy Ghost, 2001-02, p. 62 in Dusk to Dawn catalog

The academic thread of the “Voyage of one Shawn” that has suddenly ended will be completed in December when she will be awarded a posthumous M. A. degree in English from Northern Kentucky University. The corporeal component of her life voyage will find its last expression when Chuck releases her ashes into the Bay of Naples sometime this summer, enacting her own personal variation on Ishmael’s image of those who have “placelessly perished without a grave” as he contemplates those marble tablets memorializing sailors lost at sea in the Seaman’s Bethel in New Bedford where they can still be seen today (“The Chapel,” chapter 7).


As for the spiritual element of Shawn’s life voyage, I would compare that with Vali Myers’ Holy Ghost (2001-02), the last major work Myers completed before her death. There is no whale in this drawing, but this is her last homage to Moby Dick, for she had written to me of the giant squid, “which lives in the deepest valleys of the ocean,” as being the natural prey and worthy opponent of her beloved sperm whale. In this work, Vali imagines herself taking her final rest under the sheltering arms of that enveloping creature, now as peacefully at rest as the recumbent female shape of the island at the center of Stella Maris (which reappears, heavily shaded, just below the horizon line in Holy Ghost). Turn one of Shawn Buckenmeyer’s corporeal, spiritual female nudes from vertical to horizontal and you have a fitting companion to Vali’s peaceful self-portrait at the bottom of the drawing..

Mark Milloff, Stripping the Whale, NKU Honors House

Mark Milloff, Stripping the Whale, 2005 giclee print after 1985 pastel, NKU Honors House. Photo Emily Wiethorn

By the time that Shawn Buckenmeyer (Daniell) is awarded her posthumous degree in December 2014, we will know the fate of the maiden “Voyage of one Alison Lundergan Grimes” into some of our nation’s most violent political waters. She is likely to encounter the senatorial equivalent of the passage in Moby-Dick in which the sharks feed on the body of the whale with such “incredible ferocity” they “viciously snapped, not only at each other’s disembowelments . . . but bit their own; till those entrails seemed swallowed over and over again by the same mouth, to be oppositely voided by the gaping wound” (“The Shark Massacre,” chapter 66). I am hoping that she will survive like the White Whale that turns on its bloody pursuers in Vali’s Moby Dick and rises with its fiercest pursuer lashed to its body in Vali’s Stella Maris, winning the election that will enable her to make the U. S. Senate a more functional body for the common good.

Grand Contested Election and Unbearable Loss

Entry begun on Friday, May 23, 5:20 am

I can’t go back to sleep so I may as well begin this entry. In the opening chapter of Moby-Dick, the narrator imagines a program drawn up by “those stage managers, the Fates” in which his own “Whaling Voyage by one Ishmael” appears as a “sort of interlude” between “Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States” and “Bloody Battle in Affghanistan.” The grand contested election for me this summer is the one in Kentucky in which Alice Lundergan Grimes is challenging Mitch McConnell for the U. S. Senate seat in which he, as the minority leader of the Senate, has essentially tried to nullify the last two presidential elections, the ones that elected Barack Obama in 2008 and reelected him in 2012. Obama had no chance to win Kentucky’s electoral votes in either of those elections, winning only about one third of the popular vote, so I spent much of each campaign in Hamilton County, across the Ohio River in Cincinnati, whose huge grass roots effort helped Obama win each election in Ohio and in the nation. Grimes and McConnell each won their primary election by a wide margin on Tuesday night, she against four competitors who all finished in single digits, he against Matt Bevin, a Tea Party Republican who lost to McConnell by a 2-1 margin.

alison 1

Alison Lundergan Grives at Bellevue Vets May 22, 2014

After seeing the respective acceptance speeches of McConnell and Grimes on Tuesday night, I was thrilled to hear that Grimes was coming to last night’s Campbell County Democratic Party Unity Rally here in Bellevue, the town in which my wife Joan and I have lived since 1980. The rally was at the Bellevue Vets Club, about four blocks from our house. Alison Grimes arrived right on time, at the beginning of a rally that introduced a full slate of Campbell County Democrtic candadates for this November’s election. We had a full house, an ample potluck dinner, and a candidate who has an excellent chance of defeating McConnell in the fall and sending him home after 30 years of partisan obstructionism in Washington. He in his acceptance speech on Tuesday had tried to tie her tightly to President Obama, who remains unpopular in the state. Earlier in the campaign he had snidely called Grimes an “empty dress.” In her appearance at the Bellevue Vets tonight she was young, statuesque, flexible, bright, resourceful, pragmatic, personable, and inspiring. Speaking a few feet from us for about fifteen minutes without notes, she touched on many of the points she had made in her acceptance speech Tuesday night. She emphasized that President Obama is not on the ballot in Kentucky (“our election in November won’t change who is in the White House, but it can change who is in the Senate”) and she declared most elegantly that “I am not an empty dress and I can think for myself.” It’s great to have a national race on this side of the river to work for.

One of the pleasant surprises of last night’s rally was to see Ashley Tongret of the Cincinnati Opera, with whom I had worked in arranging a public screening of the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick opera at my university last November. She had heard that I will be on this summer’s whaling voyage and said that Jamie Jones, one of her friends from graduate school, now teaching in Michigan, was to be on a similar voyage that is departing from somewhere in Connecticut soon. She checked her smart phone and found that Jamie is on the first leg of the Morgan’s 2014 voyage, scheduled to leave New London for Newport, Rhode Island, on June 14.

Shawn Buckenmeyer with I & Q

Shawn Buckenmeyer with I & Q at Celebratoin of Student Research and Creativity, April 14

I can’t write about my excitement from the visit of Alison Lundergan Grimes to Bellevue last night without writing about the death of Shawn Buckenmeyer (Daniell) less than a mile away in Newport, Kentucky, on Saturday, April 26, our Training Day at Mystic Seaport.  Shawn Buckenmeyer (1977-2014) had been born in Groton, Connecticut, where the tug boat Kingston II had already served the naval boat yard for decades.  Shawn was a student in my graduate class on Moby-Dick and the Arts during the Fall 2013 semester. Her final project for the class was a painting she called A Story of I & Q in which she expressed the love between Ishmael and Queequeg in the form of two female figures joined across the body of a white whale. I took the photo posted here at NKU”s Celebration of Student Research and Creativity on April 14, eleven days before Shawn died suddenly in her sleep. At the Celebration, she presented her I & Q along with Moby-Dick art by three other women from my most recent Moby classes, all of whose work will be featured at our exhibition Moby Comes to Covington in April 2015.

Shawn was to have been married to Chuck Heffner next Friday, May 30. They had planned a honeymoon in Italy. Instead we will be having a Memorial Art Exhibition of her work at the York Street Café in Newport tomorrow night. I have written a tribute to Shawn for the electronic art journal AEQAI scheduled to be posted today. I’ll complete this entry after our event for Shawn tomorrow night.

Entry continues on Saturday, May 24, 10 pm

Untitled painting in Shawn's Memorial show, May 24

Untitled painting in Shawn’s Memorial show, May 24

We had a moving celebration of Shawn’s life tonight. The third floor of the York Street Café was packed with people who loved her, the great majority of whom I had never met.   Tonight ee who know her during the last two years in the M A. program at NKU became keenly aware of what a relatively small, though deep, part of her life we had known. The walls of the room, and a few of the tables, were packed with her art. Before tonight I had only seen I & Q and the one work she donated to an auction to benefit AEQAI at a Cincinnati gallery on April 17. I loved seeing the bright colors, the bold figures, the raw emotions, and the challenging themes of her art. Yes, most of her figures were female, and a great many of them were unclothed, but this led to more variety than sameness in artistic treatment. The spirit and the flesh wrestled in a long dance throughout the room, the viewers winning. She had a subject, she had a palette, she had a touch, and she had a voice. I could see an eroticized face from Eduard Munch in one painting, and a female pleasure zone from Vali Myers in another, but Shawn’s touch and voice were unmistakable throughout.

Untitled painting at Shawn's Memorial show

Untitled painting at Shawn’s Memorial show

I was happy to see I & Q just inside the door. Shawn’s mother Suzzana and her fiancé Chuck had chosen what they considered the best of her works, most of which were untitled and undated, and it was fun for me to wonder if the six or seven I liked best were the most recent. Many, like I & Q, were not for sale, but those that were, were going fast, the proceeds going to the Shawn Daniell Memorial Fund for the Arts that Chuck has already set up to benefit students at NKU ( Chuck and his mother had asked if I would speak, which I did. I emphasized the exceptional growth I had seen in Shawn from the time I met her as a student reporter in February 2011 to the day she presented I & Q at NKU’s Celebration event in April 2014, a framework that had also guided my tribute to Shawn that was posted on AEQAI today ( The evening’s other speakers were the young man who had served as matchmaker for Shawn and Chuck; Daniel Brown, who had been grooming Shawn to become the editor of AEQAI when he retires; and her brother Fred. We each addressed different facets of the exceptional woman we had known, and we all did our best to sustain the spirit of celebration more than the loss.

In a special session for Shawn at our English Department Graduate Colloquium at NKU on May 3, my colleague Jen Cellio read a short story Shawn had recently completed for a writing class. I had never heard her fiction before.  This story, about a young girl’s response to relentless hazing by her classmates, was honest and compelling. Shawn had just begun to work on the graphic novel that would have been her M A capstone project. With her unique abilities in visual art, her newly found talent as a writer of fiction, and her deep understanding of the relation between image and word, her graphic novel was likely to be fabulous. All we can do now is be grateful that we knew her. A number of our graduate faculty attended tonight, and so did many graduate students who loved her deeply and cherished both her creative and editorial work. Three of them, Nicci Mechler, Lauren McGee, and Minadora Macheret, are with Chuck in front of I & Q in the photo posted here.  Each of the three had presented creative projects from my Emily Dickinson class at previous Celebratoin events.

Nikki, Lauren, Minadora, and Chuck with I & Q on May 24

Nikki, Lauren, Minadora, and Chuck with I & Q on May 24