Monday, August 8, 2016

Two Months at the Rensing Center: Towards a Radical Orientation (part 1)

A poet in the wind-up stages of manuscript revision can find, striving to bind the sheaf of poems under final orders, that what finally lets the binding set is a move or set of moves which move(s) against the grain of whatever thematic pattern or rhyme the manuscript pursues. Often such a move against the grain of one’s own work finds purchase in a tradition or A Tradition; preceding holds of value given shape and space by poets whose work in the past lends one’s own present work the ballast to jump-start the manuscript into the future of Poetry. The oratory and rhetorical hand-to-hand argument embedded at the level of the line in the inter-disciplinary poetry of the Black Arts movement has built, decade by decade, a wide foundational ballast for a range of contemporary poets working both in discrete lyric poetry that bears out the personality of a particular poet’s voice, as well as in experimental, voice-dissociative texts that benefit Poetry. That is one example of ballast that lets a manuscript book. 

I have worked on a manuscript-in-revision for the past seven years, and although parts of the revision process have found ballast in a tradition (historical vernacular) it wishes to shake up, and in A Tradition it seeks both the enmity and audience of (modernist New Criticism), my manuscript has long sewn division against itself to a fault. A contrarian’s contrarian. The past two months have changed this years-long stalemate. I was lucky, in April, in the middle of a personal geographical free-fall, to find myself landed by and at the Rensing Center, an ecologically-driven, aesthetically-directed, happily anti-bureaucratic, artist residency in the northwest nook of South Carolina, in the town of Pickens. Pried loose.

Pickens is upcountry, as local parlance has it, a half-hour south of North Carolina, an hour east of Georgia. While that cartography is readily available knowledge, the cartography that has brought my work order and bearing is that of the Rensing Center itself, whose single road—on which the guest house I am honored to be a guest is set—is paved under the direct and clear-of-trees path of the sun and moon. So the day and night have both hurdle and hurtle for the work of poetry. So each day and night shows readily its obstinacy against difficult work as well as its dog’s pant that says keep running, keep your blood up, poetry. Alignment, orientation, not matters I thought would have a hand in the revision of my work. Nor did I think I would find myself as alert a reviser as I have been under the blatant sign and rhyme of celestial bodies and alongside the Rensing Center's animal and vegetable hierarchies. For example, the vine, wisteria, is the upcountry’s Lear, every green thing at its hand’s disposal, and it tarries about, furious with forgetting and waking, a blinding migraine for its human subjects. Or the belly-groans and bells of the goats that go off every four hours. The thunder is on clockwork, too, in the summer months. This manuscript is still making a mockery of my efforts, in many places. But not in this place. At the Rensing Center, the role I've been given the space to take on the stage of my toy I keep toying with is a name I can read clearly for the first time. You must change your orientation.

- Matthew Moore 
  07 August 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016


Last month (June), I was an artist in residence at the Rensing Center again. For 3 weeks there, I took
photo shoots pretty much everyday (some days as many as 4 shootings).

This pic was a test shot as I prep to shoot myself dying my hair in the garden (an awesome garden built by the awesome residency's director Ellen Kochansky).

From a photo shot in the garden. Kiwi vines above what I call Shelby's gazebo shade strong afternoon sun and shine soft, even light to the subject.

Morning Light in the Garden

Rhododendron on Alder Creek (the waterfall trail). I walked this trail everyday to bathe in the waterfall.

I could find beauty everywhere. Here's an image from shooting right outside my studio-- the pottery.

Feed the goats, my neighbors.

My shooting territory extended beyond the Rensing Center art residency's property line. Here's at Jon Fritz's property. Thank you, Jon.

Magical landscape at the pond in the garden

Another area of the magical garden, right by the Pottery studio

Last but certainly not least, the Solstice Full Moon.

My residency began on the new moon. So I get to be there to absorb the energy of this special moon in its entirety. It is such a powerful thing.

With my deepest gratitude,
Wanrudee Buranakorn

For additional images and stories from my Rensing residency, you may visit my facebook page,

Monday, July 25, 2016


You know that feeling, of the project that has been on your stovetop for a long time, but never quite made it to the front burner? PEOPSSONGS was that for me. Begun in 2011 and then tabled through almost five years of touring and then starting a family, it began to seem as if I would never get around to it, and that if I finish it soon it would never get done. Enter the Rensing Center. Tipped off by a friend and previous Rensing resident, I applied and was accepted for a summer residency. For three weeks, I could indulge the fantasy that I had no responsibilities, family, or life outside the library (AC helped) and focus on the blank slate and the blank page.

Workspace in the library

The artist Fly is one of the most prominent graphic artists to come out of the '80s/'90s Lower East Side squatter scene, documenting punk bands, the Tompkins Square riots, and the drifters, visionaries, and charlatans passing through that world. Her longest-running project is a series called "PEOPS": single-page, head-and-shoulders portraits of the characters and scenesters she's met, surrounded by transcriptions of her conversations with them during the sitting. A few are well known – Lydia Lunch, Art Spiegelman, John Zorn (who says "Her visions should be read every morning instead of your daily newspaper") – but most are anonymous members of what used to be known as the underground.

I went through Fly's archive, selected thirty of her portraits, and edited their words to provide a text for a song cycle. In keeping with the radical populist communitarianism of the artist and her subjects, the cycle was to be for a capella groups of any size, choral & polyphonic in the style of Eastern European village song or southern Sacred Harp singing.

I pretty quickly settled into a routine - a long early-morning run on the Doodle Trail in downtown Pickens (only possible before the heat really sets in), an hour or so of piano exercises (I'm also trying to get my hands back in shape for some upcoming shows in the fall), and then down to work, either on the spinet or the library pump organ. The pump organ, because of the sustain, was particularly handy for writing choral parts. When I hit a wall I'd enter the pencil scratch into Sibelius (a computer notation program) in the hopes that hearing even a tinny MIDI version would nudge me toward the next section. Failing that, lunch.

Two weeks' work on the floor...

Around dinner, I'd put in a few hours of garden work: trimming hedges and kiwi trees, weed-whacking, and, mostly, battling wisteria. I think I'm going to have a kind of PTSD about wisteria. 

The other residents and I didn't get out much, but I can recommend a couple things: for swimming, Devils Fork State Park (about 20 minutes away); for 75-cent pool and cheap beer, Smitty's on Moorefield outside of Pickens. There's a fancy new Goodwill in Easley. Definitely check out the old-time and bluegrass music on the third Saturday of each month at the Hagood Mill. And for random junk and lots of used guns, the Wednesday flea market (I picked up a silver-dollar belt buckle and a new used Swiss Army knife). 

In theory, I've told myself repeatedly this month, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to get this kind of work done at home. But in practice, of course, a substantial creative project sometimes requires time bracketed off and set aside with no distractions or excuses (procrastination, of course, still worms its way in). Many thanks to Ellen and the Rensing Center for providing that time.

- Franz

Friday, July 15, 2016

As promised, Cheese Day! (actually called Nurture and Culture)

Here is the story of our goat cheese-making adventure, told mostly through photos (I am a photographer, after all). Special thanks to Ellen for hosting, Pam, John and Chad for all the detailed information and the rest of the attendees for being so open and present. It was quite a day!

Learning how to milk a goat.

It's harder than it seems!

Thanks, guys. #squadgoals

Bob gives a good side-eye.

Can you tell I love this cat?

Tasting the goat milk. 
Practicing calligraphy and meditating on ideas of nurture.

Pam shows us how to make Paneer.

John demonstrates his salting technique.

Pouring off the whey - gently!


We each got to drain and take home our own fresh goat cheese!

DIY cheese draining.

Reflections on nurture using pieces of 100 year old wood from the Forge (a residence on the property)

John the dog whisperer.

How we all felt at the end of a long productive day!


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blueberry cobbler

I can't believe how fast time has passed! It seems like I just got here, but it's been over 2 weeks. I'm in love with the Pottery and wish I could transport the space and its view back home. The giant work area, the concrete floor - it's such a great studio space. I've been more productive than I could have imagined, and I've still found time to bake my first blueberry cobbler, learn how to make cheese from John and Chad (more on that in a separate post) and play some pool at a local bar (75 cents a game!).

I made this!

Every day is full of making, thinking, reading and more making (with the occasional trip to visit Bob the Cat in the library). I'm finally getting better at the cyanotypes and fixing some issues with the process. I'm drawing as well, which is NOT my media. Who knows if they'll ever see the light of day, but it's good to stretch, right? Stay tuned for images from the big cheese day, and the best photo of Bob ever taken (if I do say so myself).

Small cyanotype exposing in the sun.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Might I have a bit of earth?

The back patio at the Pottery
When I was a child, The Secret Garden was my absolute favorite book. I've lived in cities most of my adult life, though, and haven't had an actual garden since I was a little kid. Plus, bugs tend to freak me out, mosquitoes LOVE me, and it turns out it's really hot in South Carolina in July! So I didn't realize when I applied to be a resident here at The Rensing Center how much this place would inspire me to tend to the earth around me. Despite the heat and the friendly mosquitoes, every day I find myself out behind the Pottery or on the Alder Creek trail, watering things, weeding, or clearing the path to the waterfall. It seems I've fallen for this little patch of earth.

Bob introducing himself
Last night I sat on the back patio of the Pottery and watched the thunderstorm come in, and recorded some sound. Yesterday during the day I made some cyanotypes in the midday sun and did a little drawing. The day before I wandered in the woods and photographed. I came here without much of a plan, and I'm trying to let myself explore and try new things without the pressure of making a whole new body of work. If I start to think too hard about where it's all going, I walk down to the library and hang out with Bob (the library cat). I've got three more weeks here, so maybe I can just wait and see what happens!


Monday, May 23, 2016

A few photos from my time

As a follow up to my other post, I also wanted to upload a few photos. The property is lovely. And the weather has been very nice--sunshine with a light breeze. Warm during the day, it is a bit chilly in the evenings--but I never needed to use the heating unit in the Guest House.

I reread Lydia Davis's The Cows in the presence of these fine creatures. The goats are often available as well, and they like to be pet. The two cats on the property were also welcoming. 

The Alder Creek Nature Trail was a favorite spot--a little place to pause and write awaits at the end of the walk. I took the journey several times during my stay.

(Posted by Janelle)