As part of our “Fellows Friday” feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.
This week, we speak to poet Catie Rosemurgy, whose wry and sharply imagined poems investigate the layered natures of identity, history, and narrative. Rosemurgy’s poetry collections include The Stranger Manual (2010) and My Favorite Apocalypse (2001). Her current work-in-progress is a collection of poetry and prose that explores the back story of a fictional town called Gold River, tentatively titled The Small Museum of Our Burning.
What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?
I’m amazed by the risks of live, collaborative performance. Writing poetry can be solitary in a way, though in another way all the poems I’ve ever loved are right there with me. But theater and dance bring real, autonomous bodies into direct and dynamic relationships. The moment of creation is visible, audible. I love the idea of art insisting on the present moment and on the physical proximity of conception and audience.
When did you know you were going to be an artist?
I knew from a pretty early age—grade school?—that I enjoyed writing. I didn’t think of it as “writing” though, but as putting words together into phrases that seemed worth remembering or, rather, into phrases that seemed to be a way of remembering. In junior high I had a heart-shaped page-a-day calendar, and I wrote a line or sentence or phrase on each day as it passed. I would look through previous months and a certain combination of words would bring back a few vivid sensations from even the most uneventful day. It seemed I had discovered a way of living, even briefly, from more than one vantage point. It never occurred to me to stop writing after that.
If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?
The Complete Poems and Letters of John Keats, the boxset of HBO’s Deadwood, and a boxset of all the Rolling Stones albums through 1978. Please do not make me choose between them.
Which artist would you most like to have dinner with, from any time in history?
John Keats, but I’ve always wondered why anyone thinks this would be fun. How nerve-racking. But if I could bring antibiotics with me it would be worth it.
If you could collaborate with anyone alive today (someone you don’t know personally), who would it be?
Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean of [the Kentucky-based band] Freakwater. In a perfect world, when I finish my current project, Freakwater’s perfect songs would start playing in the background whenever someone opened up the book.
Trapeta B. Mayson is a poet and a 2002 Pew Fellow. She serves as the executive director of Historic Germantown.
In this month’s Pew Fellows news highlights, photographer Emmet Gowin shows his work at the Morgan Library and Museum, and jazz pianist Matt Mitchell and choreographer Susan Rethorst are awarded Doris Duke Impact Awards. Bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma will pay tribute to the late Ornette Coleman, and visual performance artist Kate Watson-Wallace gives an interview on the evolution of her practice.
Kinan Abou-afach is a cellist, composer, and classical Arab musician born in Damascus, Syria, who performs extensively with Philadelphia Arabic cultural organization Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.
In 1999 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 46 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations and practitioners in the greater Philadelphia region.
Jamaaladeen Tacuma (Pew Fellow, 2011) is considered a living legend among jazz circles. He is credited with redefining the potential of the electric bass.
The Philadelphia Singers is a professional choral ensemble with a commitment to preserving and strengthening America’s rich choral heritage.
In 1996 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 28 dance and theater organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.
David Lang is one of America’s most performed composers, with an extensive catalog that includes opera, orchestra, chamber, and solo works.
Pew Fellow Geoff Sobelle’s award-winning production of The Object Lesson travels to Ohio’s Wexner Center for the Arts.
Avital Ronell is the author of numerous substantial works and one of the major forces in contemporary literary criticism and philosophy.
Brenda Dixon Gottschild is Professor Emerita of dance studies at Temple University and a senior consultant and writer for Dance Magazine.
Kendall’s poetic cinematic voice permeates his experimental documentary films that reflect on, as he says, “the everyday conditions of our everyday lives” in ways that bring together the physical, sensuous and perceptual with the intellectual.