A Very Special Creative Thresholds Today

Raven Gets In--Walt Pascoe

Walt Pascoe, “Raven Gets In” 48”x60” Oil on canvas

On December 21 of last year, a dear friend and amazing human being said goodbye to planet earth. His name is Walt Pascoe. Intense and luminous artist. Witty, wry, and intelligent crafter of words. Wise spiritual seeker. And a mentor of sorts to so many of us–artists, writers, and anyone who found themselves on a life journey they hadn’t necessarily planned. In this Creative Thresholds, we’re doing a reprise of an essay he wrote in 2012 (which, incidentally and uncannily, was published December 21) in which he writes brutally honestly and with humor about his struggle with colon cancer. He also includes his art in the essay. Please check it out. His words are wisdom for all of us who are human: “A Tribute to Walt Pascoe: Savage Uncertainties On The Road Home Reprise.”

The Power of Art as Witness: Call Me Down the Rain

Robert Rhodes, ‘Night map (1) so we can always find the way to one another.’ Acrylic, gouache and pencil on Arches paper.

Robert Rhodes, ‘Night map (1) so we can always find the way to one another.’ Acrylic, gouache and pencil on Arches paper.

The second Creative Thresholds issue in July was a very special one and perhaps one of the most important ones we’ve done. It was a series of poems dealing with attacks by Boko Haram in the city of Jos and other areas in northern Nigeria. The cycle of poems began when poet Laura M Kaminski (who grew up in northern Nigeria) posted “Call Me Down the Rain” on her Facebook page. Poet j. lewis responded with one of his own, beginning a conversation. amu nnadi contacted Laura and his poem was added to the collection. They continued the dialogue in poetry form from there. Creative Thresholds has the entire series, in two parts: “Call Me Down the Rain” and “Call Me Down the Rain, Part 2.” Artist Robert Rhodes’s paintings accompany the two posts. Please visit and experience the power of art as witness. Here’s the poem that began it all:

Call Me Down the Rain

work-song honoring those attempting to return home to territory reclaimed from Boko Haram

I must dance a circle
bring the monsoon
call me down the rain

pray like someone greedy
give me give me give
more than my share

of this year’s water
bring it bring it bring
the water, carry me the river

call me down the rain
and flood the plateau, bring
rags and buckets to me

you will find me on
my knees and scrubbing
more than red dust

more than harmattan,
I must scrub the northland
clean down to the bedrock

how can we return
to farm and village, how
can we plant new crops

in this earth from which
we’ve lifted the broken
bodies of kin and country

washed them, taken them,
them all, to mourn and bury?
how can we till land

charred from bomb-blasts,
how can we plant when
we keep finding bullet-

casings in the soil?
our lips will not permit
yam and cassava grown

in blood-soaked dirt
to cross them, our bodies
will refuse such tainted

nourishment. no. you
must carry the Benue
here, bring bring me

water, call me down
the rain so I can first
scrub the stains

of blood and bitterness,
scrub until there’s
nothing left but dancing

here, until the stain is
gone from memory,
from sole and soul —
call me down the rain

–Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)
(first published in Synchronized Chaos, forthcoming in Dance Here, 2015)

The Latest Creative Thresholds

I’m a little late getting this up due to illness, but I still wanted to share the enchanting and provocative latest issue of Creative Thresholds.

Moni Smith specializes in pinhole photography, and her photographs are pure delights. There’s always more to see with her work, each extra moment of looking rewarded. Check out “Time In-depth.”

Moni Smith-Lemonade Nachos and Cold Drinks

Lemonade Nachos and Cold Drinks

Christopher Hutchinson, our writer for the “Postcolonial Thoughts” column, is back with another essay sure to make you think of an artist’s work differently, if not turn everything you thought on its head in “Post Colonial Thoughts: Lyle Ashton Harris Lecture at the HIGH: Indecisive Moments.” Read Christopher’s trenchant comments about Lyle Ashton Harris’s Blow Up IV (Sevilla) and other works.

Blow Up IV Lyle Ashton Harris

Lyle Ashton Harris, Blow Up IV (Sevilla), 2006




David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green and the Precocious Jason Taylor

Black Swan Green cover-largerI just finished Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas—which was a Man Booker Prize finalist—and Number9Dream among others). It’s a coming of age story, recounting one year in the life of thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, who lives in a small village—Black Swan Green—in Worcestershire in 1982. Cold War England.

I came away from the novel feeling that Jason’s character and voice were pitch perfect in representing the life and experiences of a sensitive and aware thirteen-year-old. Yet when a reviewer on Goodreads said that Mitchell needed to decide whether the narrator was a thirteen-year-old boy or a 35 year-old man—that Jason was too eloquent and insightful for a thirteen-year-old—I said, “Yes, that’s true.”

Not to whether Mitchell needed to make a choice, but to the complicated phenomenon of Jason being in some ways both a boy and a man—and perhaps that is exactly what enables so many readers (not just me) to experience him as being so authentic.

One could argue that Jason isn’t so precocious as to be unbelievable as a boy. He’s a sensitive, observant kid whose sensibilities have been developed and refined due to his experiences of being “outside” (and bullied) as a stutterer. A kid whose command of metaphor as a poet will not only allow him to be an eloquent narrator, but be more perceptive about his experiences.

But I agree with the reviewer in that Jason’s precocity goes beyond mere precocity. There is a maturity that only accumulated experience in the passing of many years gives, a maturity that (re)contextualizes experience into an ever-enlarging and (one hopes) inclusive web of meaning that isn’t available to a thirteen year-old.

Yet it is exactly the use of that web that can “fill out” a teenaged experience and make it even more authentic for the reader. It functions as the larger world within which a teenaged viewpoint roams. In Black Swan Green, Jason’s world is fuller and placed within a context that is able to make more meaning both to his own experience (and teenaged experience in general) and the time period within which he lives.

Black Swan Green is semi-autobiographical. Perhaps that is why Jason feels so adolescently real and yet mature beyond his years. His life has already been set into the context of a grown man looking backwards. Memories are always already set in a wider world of experience that can’t simply be dumped when one looks back or re-imagines the past.

But the restraints and possibilities of memory and experience are precisely what every writer must negotiate no matter what her genre, and its effect will linger even if she feels she should purge its particularity. So maybe it’s not a matter of choosing to offer a “pure” experience in the quest to write a much younger voice, but a matter of embracing and embodying one’s own self more fully as one writes.

End of the Year issue of Creative Thresholds ROCKS!

The last issue of CT  for the year–and the last issue before going to a twice-monthly format–ROCKED!

Michael Dickins explores the blunting of awareness and empathy by our mass media in Michael Dickins: PreOccupied.

Michael Dickins, “New York 2011”, 48”x48”, pastel, graphite, charcoal, oil pastel

Michael Dickins, “New York 2011”, 48”x48”, pastel, graphite, charcoal, oil pastel

J. Adam McGalliard works the layers of reality in  “Projections“:

“The projected image works as a double-edged sword. It can starkly reveal something that is hidden, like the writhing tattoos of the Illustrated Man, or it can mask an individual as a concealing veil or garment that creates a protected outer hull.”

J. Adam McGalliard, “Pink Magnolias,” Oil on Linen

J. Adam McGalliard, “Pink Magnolias,” Oil on Linen

A fantastic end-of-the-year meditation and killer playlist in Rebekah Goode-Peoples’s “Pay Attention (and then do something).”

make and do (1)

In the “Postcolonial Thoughts” column Christopher Hutchinson reviews leading art theorist/curator Nicholas Bourriaud’s The Radicant.


Stellar reflection by Daniel Boscaljon upon the nature of relationship  in “all that I had in you was only myself”  (image by me).

Melissa D. Johnston

Melissa D. Johnston

The Latest Creative Thresholds

I’m excited about the latest Creative Thresholds. Screenwriter and graphic novelist G.A. Gallas shares pages from her graphic novel The Poet and the Flea, an ode to William Blake. My nerd self totally swoons over this.

G.E. Gallas The Poet and the Flea page 22

Michi Meko. Flux 2013. Atlanta. One heck of a performance. Christopher Hutchinson discusses why it’s so good in “Postcolonial thoughts: Michi Meko’s The job of the resurrectors is to wake up the dead.” Meko photo 1

“A sound theater of Negro prison work songs will be played to wake up the souls of Negro men that were forced to lay the tracks in and around Atlanta as the re-enslavement of Black Americans increased during the Civil War up to World War II. Most of these free men were imprisoned on bogus charges enforced by Penal Labor/Servitude laws allowing the cycle of supremacy to continue….”
Meko photo 3 The first chapter from Jillian Schedneck’s book Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights recounts her two years teaching English in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. “I longed to be pulled and pushed, to journey to places that seemed unknown and less travelled, whose names held some kind of mystery and magic to my ears.” Definitely worth the journey.

Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights book cover It’s no secret I love mobile photography. If I ever wondered what some of the creative possibilities were for its apps, Maarten Oortwijn gives more than enough of an idea…and plenty of inspiration in “the digital painter.”

Maarten Oortwijn-contactsheet

Letters to You by Daniel Boscaljon (with images by me) continues with my “best for your worst.” “some words have power….”

not rothko experiment. the now final

The Latest Creative Thresholds

Photography, flash fiction, experimental writing, critique, and iPad drawings: the latest Creative Thresholds.

Go behind the scenes of photographer J. Christopher Matyjasik’s latest project: dixie’s s-bahn.

photo 7 christopher matyjasik

See the continuation of Daniel Boscaljon’s and my collaboration in confession: the nature of my crime.

not the last time no by Melissa D. Johnston

Read our new columnist Christopher Hutchinson’s look at Rashid Johnson’s work in Postcolonial Thoughts: Afrofuturist Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks.

Napalm by Rashid Johnson

Hang with Rachel Troutman as she sketches her iPad drawings in Sofa Drawings.

Rachel Troutman Revlon Still Life

Check out Maria Protopapadaki-Smith’s mysterious flash piece Dreamhealer.

Field Four (for video) by Melissa D. Johnston

Creative Thresholds looks forward to your visit!

August Creative Thresholds is here!

The online magazine I curate/edit/sometimes contribute to, Creative Thresholds, came out last Thursday with the August issue. (It comes out the last Thursday of every month). It’s a great issue with work by Peter Ciccariello, Seana Reilly, Pascal Gault, and Daniel Boscaljon (with an image from my In and Out of the Frame project). We’ve also added a new Twitter page to join our fairly new Facebook page.



Seana Reilly:  Natural Inclinations


Pascal Gault: Uncertainty in Photography and Interstitial Space

Pascal Gault-Photo 26862

 Daniel Boscaljon: Characters: X and I (and you)

rothko experiment mother and child three.1.3

Creative Thresholds

Last year, in between my first and second surgery for thyroid cancer (I ended up having three), I came up with the idea of having a magazine-style blog called Creative Thresholds where I shared some of my work but also showcased some of my super-talented friends’ work. That was about 7 months ago and the circle of writers and artists has grown to include new artist and writer friends.  I’m constantly amazed and thankful for their generosity and creativity.

The July issue just came out (CT comes out the last Thursday of the month), and, as usual I’m excited! This issue includes

question bridge image option 1

Critiquing “Question Bridge”: Representing Black Male Identity in America: An incisive essay about Black male identity in art, particularly the Question Bridge project, by Christopher Hutchinson

Brent Houzenga 6

Honorarium: Brent Houzenga’s multi-media art that transforms the images of those long dead.

rothko experiment B1.1.2a

everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate, written by Daniel Boscaljon, with images from me–the first in a series of posts called Letters to You

Maxwell Sebastian 3Maxwell Sebastian explores his ambivalent relationship with Atlanta in Dispatches from Atlanta: Love and Hate in the South