July 24, 2013

Night Train / Red Dust

About the project:

Night Train/ Red Dust began as a quest for my grandparents' stories. I grew up on the Vermilion Trail, also known as Highway 4, the road that runs through the Lake Superior National Forest, through the community of Island Lake, and to the Iron Range.  I learned this road was the original route to Lake Vermilion, and it was used since 1000 AD (by the Woodland Indian tribes whose burial mounds are found near Lake Esquagama). There is evidence of early mining among the Woodland Indians. In 1856, gold prospectors came to Lake Vermilion. The gold was there, but too difficult to extract from the quartz. Then iron ore was discovered. Around the small town of Biwabik (population 1500), the town where I went to elementary and high school, ten iron ore mines were working by the early 1900s and trains ran the length and breadth of the region.   

July 17, 2013

Bonfire of Roses

"Bonfire of Roses" is a phrase from Meridel LeSueur's essay in her book, Ripenings.  Meridel LeSueur had a powerful presence and reading voice that made me shiver the one time I heard her read her poems. I consider her my literary grandmother.

Check out this video-poetry that features three of my poems from Night Train Red Dust set into film by Kathy McTavish. She composed the music that was played by the Zeitgeist New Music Quartet in St. Paul.

bonfire of roses from Wildwood River on Vimeo.

To find out dates and times, visit the Fringe Festival web-page
at http://www.fringefestival.org/2013/show/?id=2418

Kathy McTavish and Sheila Packa
photo by Magic Box Photography

July 13, 2013

Opening the Eyes

Opening the eyes is one of the important benefits of art and poetry. A work is truly great if it can make us see differently.  One of my missions in Night Train Red Dust was to restore lost history of women. Any geographic area has layers of geology, people, and events. Do you know what happened in the place beneath your feet? Who walked on the same ground where you travel?

Women's stories are often forgotten. They are not considered "important" in the way the city builders and bridge builders and presidents, which is a terrible omission.  New biographies of women are changing the telling of history.  These new perspectives are essential.  Our geography has a spectrum of color. Aside from white immigrants, the First People, Native Americans, travelled on these rivers and pathways.  Highway 4 from Duluth to the Iron Range, once called the Rudy Perpich Memorial Highway, once called the Vermilion Trail began as an Indian path. It was used in 1850s for exploration.  In the 1860s, Civil War veterans arrived with the Gold Rush and they travelled on the Vermilion Trail to Lake Vermilion.  The gold wasn't accessible, but iron ore was discovered. Corporate interests paid the Anishinabe people in 'scrip' in exchange for the land. The people did not resist being relocated as the mining companies moved in to drill and excavate.  These stories are essential.