Thursday, January 31, 2019

A letter to the editor sent to The Recorder in Greenfield, Mass., on January 23, 2019 on the topic of the proposed library project.

Renters and the library

It is a myth often repeated that renters do not pay property taxes. 
In most cases, renters, through their monthly payments, cover taxes and the mortgage on the dwellings they rent. Renters also increase wealth for landowners. I would challenge anyone to look at the rents in Greenfield and consider what all that money could be paying for, if it isn’t also covering property taxes. It is difficult to find an apartment with one or two bedrooms in Greenfield for less than $1,000 per month. A house will be more.
Other strange myths about renters include that they aren’t committed to their communities, they won’t stay here for long, they don’t care about the local landscape, and that there is something fundamentally wrong with them for not getting the money together to buy a home. I have heard all of these opinions expressed in conversation. Take a look at average local wages and calculate how difficult it would be to save enough money for a down payment on a home while paying that rent and maintaining a vehicle. Now add student loans, a child, saving for retirement. 
Surely, some homeowners will be having trouble making ends meet, as will many renters.
And through all this, there is tremendous public support for the library project in Greenfield, across these sectors. 
A new and adequate library is an essential service. It is the starting point of continuing education for the entire population. The library is the community’s center, where members of the public exercise the First Amendment every day with access to news, information, arts and culture, and meeting spaces. We pay for this collectively through our taxes, local property and state income taxes. It’s a great idea. Let’s build a good library.

Samantha Wood

Monday, December 31, 2018

Light gets in

It is time to return to the laws of thermodynamics.

1- energy cannot be created or destroyed 
2- entropy always increases – something will be left behind
3-The entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero

What is light?

Merriam-Webster says:
 electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength that travels in a vacuum with a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second, specifically  such radiation that is visible to the human eye”

Whose eye?

Light is measured in candelas and lumens.

A candela is a measure of intensity equal to the light of one candle.
The lumen is a measure of luminous flux.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but where does it go when it gets in your eye? 
What is light in the body and mind?
Does entropy pool in the feet, the knees?

Light gets in but where does it go? 
Energy always moves, unless we register a temperature of absolute zero-

We are faced with a question at this time of year: 
Can we live without light?
Can you even see down the road to get home?
The Doppler of inspiration coming at you and leaving,
are we meant to freeze in a perfect stillness?

Energy cannot be created 
or destroyed.
It gets in your eye.
For we are an imperfect instrument,
and light cannot stop.

Even the light of one dead star on the darkest night is moving at a speed of 299,792,458 meters per second.
You can feel it when it hits you. 

I performed this poem at The Holiday Spectacular at The Shea Theatre in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, December 14 & 15, 2018.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

You can read my letter to the editor in support of the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild here (it has been updated to include information about cuts at The Recorder and my work at The Berkshire Eagle):

A public letter to Aaron Julien, president of Newspapers of New England, and Mike Rifanburg, publisher

You should recognize the Pioneer Valley NewsGuild (the union recently formed by  employees at The Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Valley Advocate) immediately and bargain with its members in good faith.
These journalists know how to make your newspapers strong. 
Decisions made under your management in the last year to cut local news staff at all the region’s papers under NNE ownership have led to a blistering decline in reader support, and worsening conditions for the most dedicated journalists who remain. There has been a serious and noted drop in quality news coverage across topics, including local government and the arts.
Recent cuts at The Greenfield Recorder have done severe damage to that newsroom
and the local operations in Franklin County, including circulation and advertising. There is no longer a night desk there.
Your purchase of the Athol Daily News and slashing of that staff has imperiled another local newspaper necessary to the towns it serves.
This has been a long time coming. Employees approached management on numerous occasions, and worked long hours in good faith to try to make the best of horrible plans.
As so eloquently observed in the Declaration of Independence “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
These journalists are fighting to save these papers, and they have learned they are not alone. 
Now they are offering you the opportunity to join them in that effort.
Supporting this union now will bring the most qualified people into the room. Western Massachusetts deserves good local news coverage. Every community does.
Show some respect and humility, and look to the people who know best how to do this work.

Samantha Wood
former managing editor for news of The Berkshire Eagle, former managing editor of The Daily Hampshire Gazette, and former longtime editor on the night desk at The Greenfield Recorder

Monday, July 23, 2018

Jul 23, 2018

There’s an editorial in The Recorder calling for a change in the Greenfield laws to ban people sleeping in the rough on the town Common.
Perhaps the current editorial writer has forgotten the purpose of the New England town common, or has subscribed to the notion that a town’s branding is more important than the commonwealth of the people who live there.
It’s a punitive, fearful, discriminatory cry from a local company that has itself long felt at liberty to pay its employees so little they routinely qualify for public assistance and cannot afford the rising local rents.
Perhaps some actual cross-sector collaboration and energy pulled together on practical housing policy to imagine and create truly affordable apartments in the walkable and bikable downtown, would be a better idea.
This is Franklin County after all, a place known for the highest percentage of income of charitable giving in the state even as its residents live pretty close to the bone. This is a place where people create food co-ops and arts organizations and farm shares and a Garlic Festival, Conway throws a dessert potluck to study-up before its town meeting, Greenfield built a stellar music and balloon festival — all this happens because people are sometimes simply fearless enough to dream up good ideas and show up to help.
We make some wicked good beer, too.
A good editorial should offer vision and leadership. This is a shameful piece.
We can fix the housing crisis locally, by using our imaginations, our good will and taking care of each other. I bet there will even be a few fun potlucks along the way.

-Samantha Wood

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Hauling Toward Home

An audio installation

I have come to a place in my life 
where I no longer know what "home" means.
Is it the place where I live?
Or is it the people I love?

Hauling Toward Home explores rowing across dark water to reach a familiar harbor. 
This project includes members of my family, separated by distances spanning the circumference of the planet, and friends from eras of my life so distinct from each other it is as though they occurred in separate dimensions.
But they are not separate. 

This installation launched at Eggtooth Productions
Full Disclosure Festival: Radical Interconnectedness
Turners Falls, Massachusetts
April 14, 2018

Listen in two parts.

Hauling Toward Home 1

Hauling Toward Home 2

Samantha Wood is an artist living in Western Massachusetts. She earned an MFA in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Hauling Toward Home is her third installation in Eggtooth Productions' Full Disclosure festivals. Previous works include The Uncertainty Cube and “Touching Myself,” a short play with Ayshia Stephenson.
Samantha Wood is a member of the art and performance group Exploded View. She works as the managing editor for news at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Exploded View

Exploded View

A multimedia exhibit and word performance by eight Pioneer Valley women:

Lea Banks, Trish Crapo, Edite Cunha, Candace Curran, Elizabeth MacDuffie, 
Diana Pedrosa, Nina Rossi and Samantha Wood 

Dynamic. Physical. Linking and exploding boundaries between word and vision, personal and public, with static and moving parts.

Each artist was tasked with finding a way to work with this idea of the exploded view, that shows parts relative to a whole, breaks something apart or explains a way of seeing the relationships between parts, whole or broken. Each has created a piece of visual art and a poetic text. Some of the art is sculpture, installation, three dimensional, some is collage and drawing, some digital.

Works in progress -- the group will have its first show during the Greenfield Annual Word Festival in October 2016 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Here is a taste of some of the work by these artists. Some of these are previous works and some in progress for the Exploded View show.

Trish Crapo. Why Does the Knife.

Edite Cunha. There was Something I was Supposed to Tell.

Trish Crapo

Edite Cunha. Fervor from the Truth

Elizabeth MacDuffie. Hey, baby (prototype).

Diana Pedrosa. Date Night
Nina Rossi. Head.

Nina Rossi
Diana Pedrosa

Samantha Wood. Uncertainty Cube.

More work and other projects by these artists can be seen at:
Lea Banks:
Elizabeth MacDuffie: Meat for Tea: The Valley Review
Diana Pedrosa:
Nina Rossi: Nina's Nook

Exploded View was conceived by Candace Curran, who showed up in my studio one day hauling a stack of old auto repair guides, saying "I've fallen in love with parts manuals, what do you think of this?"
Poet and librarian by trade, Curran has a history of bringing people together to make something new.
She produced Interface, a collaboration of word and image, which included a dozen events between 1993 and 2010 in the Haley's Publishing barn, the 1794 Meetinghouse, New Salem, Orange Innovation Center, Montague Book Mill .... These events were a marriage between poet and artist. Artists included were Les Campbell, Norah Dooley, Linda Ruel Flynne, J.R. Greene, Dorothy Johnson, Susan Pepper Aisenberg, Donna Estabrooks, Janet Macfadyen, Richard Baldwin, Jean Stabell, Candace Anderson, Alice Schertle, Barbara Ellis, Hugh Bloomingfield, Amy Fagan, Julia Penelope, Renata Sylvia Pienkawa, Cathy Stanton.

Artist bios:
Lea Banks is the author of All of Me (Booksmyth Press, 2008) and forthcoming collection The Bottomland. She lives in Western Massachusetts, is the Poetry Coordinator for the Brattleboro Literary Festival in Vermont, and founder of the Collected Poets Series in Shelburne Falls, Mass. Banks has published in several journals including American Poetry Journal,  Connotation Press, Big River Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Slipstream, Diner Sweet,San Pedro River Review, Town Creek Poetry, The Laurel Review. She has recent work in Meat for Tea, and off the margins where she was the guest poet. She has work forthcoming in Queens of Cups.

Trish Crapo is a poet, writer, photographer and multimedia artist working in western Massachusetts. Her photography and art have been exhibited throughout New England, at the New School in New York City and in Moscow and Tula, Russia. Her book Dune Shack is a collection of images and words, made among the dunes on Cape Cod from a residency in 2013. Her chapbook Walk Through Paradise Backwards was published by Slate Roof Press in 2004. Her poetry has been published widely, including in Southern Poetry Review, Bark and Meat for Tea. She covers poetry and the arts for The Recorder.

Edite Cunhā is a writer, artist, teacher and activist. Her fiction has been published both locally and nationally and won awards and fellowships including Smith’s Spencer Prize for Excellence in Writing, AWP’s Intro Writing Award and the Tara Fellowship for short fiction. She has been a fellow at the Vermont Studio Center, A Room of Her Own and the Disquiet Literary Program. She believes that creativity can transform the individual as well as society, and leads creative writing and multi-media art workshops for people of all ages. Cunhā has a BA from Smith College and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She lives in Turners Falls, Mass.

Elizabeth MacDuffie, along with Alexandra Wagman, founded Meat for Tea: The Valley Review over a decade ago. She is a proud and enthusiastic member of the Exploded View group. She lives in a house with a blue kitchen, in which she enjoys creating epicurean delights.

Diana Pedrosa is a multi media artist who goes by the alias ixchelailee or ixchel. She combines past photography education and passion for image transfer with her tactile inclinations towards fibers and patterns. Her materials include pattern paper, electrical, scotch, & gaffer's tape, found and appropriated images, photographs & photocopies, glue and paint and most recently digital photo editing programs. She lives in Turners Falls, Massachusetts.

Nina Rossi is an artist and writer in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, who is known for her odes to abandoned shopping carts and her sculptures of garden slugs, among other diverse creations, and her ridiculously narrow Nook gallery.

Samantha Wood is a writer, artist and editor living in western Massachusetts.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A review: White Blight by Athena Farrokhzad, translated by Jennifer Hayashida

A review: White Blight

by Athena Farrokhzad
translated by Jennifer Hayashida
published by Argos Books

Athena Farrokhzad's White Blight startled me from the moment it slipped out of the envelope and onto my kitchen table. It is silver.
It looks like a gorgeous piece of metal.
It reflects everything.

The design is smart and stinging.
The whole damn thing is redacted.
Every line is white type etched in black.

I sat down to take a first look at it. I just wanted to leaf through it, but I read the book to the end.
It scared the hell out of me. It is very good.
I didn’t look inside the book again for weeks.

Exile. Racism. No home; the here-home.
Holding the separate parts of yourself in your teeth, wondering what you can spit out or keep. The killing of the parents to make oneself whole. Love of family and their inescapable press.
Farrokhzad’s lines ring these truths in a new way.

“My mother said: Do not bury me here
Bury me where the veneer of civilization has peeled
Spit out my language, return the milk to me”

How much must the poet risk?
Farrokhzad shows us: The mother takes her fucking milk back.

White Blight fulfills beautifully the open promise, what I think of as the existential lie of poetry: that you can tell all the truth. This is how a hopeless person reads a poem and believes it. I believe everything here and I love it.

White Blight followed me around my apartment. It was in the living room; it was in the kitchen. Then it was on the bookcase beside my bed. Gleaming in the light. Daring me again to read it again. The lines were singing in my head.

“My father said: There were those who were executed at dawn before sleep cleared
My mother said: There were those who had to pay for the bullets
to bury their daughters”

“My uncle said: Is there a puddle where war has not washed its bloody hands”

“My brother said: Some day I want to die in a country
where people can pronounce my name”

“My father said: We are still there, even if time has separated us from the place”

The white type peers out of the black background and I am careful, almost like I have to find the words or pull them out – I work a little harder to see and it brings me in, like reading invisible ink.

What is the tool she uses to etch these lines in the dark? It cuts close.