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Artist Interview

Poet Debora Kuan

April 11, 2017


In the Artist Interviews we sent to our three featured poets, we ask for a favorite line of poetry about Spring. Well, we might just have ours. It's a line from Debora Kuan's poem "Pastoral". And although it may not have been intended to refer to Spring, it somehow feels perfect for it:

                             To shepherd. To pause. Where things begin grazing.
                             This is some silo for storing. This is some green. 

Debora is a poet and writer who works at an educational nonprofit in New York City. She is the author of Xing and the newly published Lunch Portraits. We're so happy Debora Kuan chose Northampton as one of her stops on her book tour. Join us for a Night of Poetry on Friday, April 14th, 6-8PM. Debora will be joined by poets Dora Malech and Amy Dryansky. 

April is:
National Poetry month!

What poem have you read recently that we should be reading?
Any poem by Anais Duplan or Danez Smith.

If you could make one word a piece of gum, what would you be chewing today?
I hate gum, so probably Trump..?

Favorite line of poetry about Spring:
“Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote.” I totally butchered the spellings, sorry!

Give us a writing prompt (please).
In my new book, I wrote a list of 121 memories of my American childhood. Write 121 of yours!

Artist Interview

Poet Amy Dryansky

April 10, 2017

                                   Photo Credit: Trish Crapo

Amy Dryansky is not only a poet, teacher, mother, and blogger, she is also the newly crowned Poet Laureate of Northampton! (Or, as she likes to call it, "PoLo of Noho.") Award-winning author of two books, How I Got Lost So Close to Home and Grass Whistle, and supporter of so many of the organizations and causes that Ode holds near and dear (Center for New Americans, Northampton Arts Council, and The Literacy Project, to name a few), Amy Dryansky is the perfect poet to be helping us celebrate National Poetry Month. Please join us for a night of poetry on Friday, April 14th, 6-8PM at Ode. Amy will be reading alongside poets Debora Kuan and Dora Malech.

What poem have you read recently that we should be reading?
I’ve been rereading Laura Kasischke’s book, Space, in Chains, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. I feel the book is an amazing inquiry into our state of human frailty, and as Linda Gregg says, “all things huge and their requiring.” Or maybe it’s the “we are here,” of Horton Hears a Who, our tiny voices calling out in the enormity of existence, hoping someone hears us. In any case, the last poem I read from the book is, “At the Public Pool.” 

At the public pool
by Laura Kasischke

I could carry my father in my arms.
I was a small child.
He was a large, strong man.
Muscled, tan.
But he felt like a bearable memory in my arms. 

The lion covers his tracks with his tail.
He goes to the terrible Euphrates and drinks.
He is snared there by a little shrub.
The hunter hears his cries, and hurries for his gun. 

What of these public waters?

Come in, I said to my little son.
He stood at the edge, looking down.
It was a slowly rolling mirror.
A strange blue porcelain sheet.
A naked lake, transparent as a need. 

The public life.
The Radio Songs.
Political Art.
The Hall of Stuff We Bought at the Mall. The plugged-up fountain at the center
of the Museum of Crap That Couldn’t Last
has flooded it all. 

Come in, I said again. In here you can carry your mother in your arms. 

I still see his beautiful belly forever.
The blond curls on his perfect head.
The whole Botticelli of it crawling on the surface
of the water. And
his sad, considerate expression.
No, he said. 

--from Space, In Chains
Copyright © 2011 Laura Kasischke

If you could make one word a piece of gum, what would you be chewing today?
INTERSTICES. It’s a word I never get tired of having in my mouth. And I always have to think before I say it, even to myself. Also, I have a thing about negative space--what’s not there, the pause—so it’s also a great idea word.

Favorite line of poetry about Spring:
“Keep still, just a moment, leaves.”
--Robert Penn Warren, Deciduous Spring

Give us a writing prompt (please).
Write about the first anything: marriage/divorce/flight/accident/molecule/mountain/insect/whale, etc. 


ASK ALISON: Cashmere Care

March 11, 2017

How do I clean food stains off of a cashmere sweater?

Most important is to get the stain while it is fresh--we're all busy and think we will get around to that stain later! But leaving a stain to set leads to stubborn stain removal. Plus, do you remember what you've spilled over your favorite cashmere sweater?

My favourite cleaning supply and most trusty stain removal product by far is Dawn dish soap.  Dawn gets out most of the stains I've ever dealt with and it's incredibly gentle, which is key for delicate items.  There are a few other products I would use depending on the stain, but we will leave that for another time, another blog post.  

First, I use a spoon (not a knife as you may have heard as this could cause fabric damage) to scrape off any excess food.  Once you've got the solid food off if there was any, take your sweater to the sink and place your hand under the stain.  Run cold water over the stain continuously for about 5 minutes.  Don't rub or dab, just keep rinsing with the water.  This should get most or all of the stain out, but if it doesn't, the next step is to place a clean white washcloth under your stain.  Apply a small dab of Dawn over the stain and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Now back to the sink!  Using the same process, rinse out all of the soap until there are no more suds.  I hope by then your stain is gone!  

If it's still there and being stubborn, another great way to budge it is to get an additional clean white washcloth. With the original cloth still underneath the stain, reapply a small dab of soap over the stain, this time dabbing up and down with the other cloth.  Do not rub!  Now another trip to the sink, repeating the process all over again of rinsing the soap until no suds are left.  I'd say that 95% of the time your stain will be gone and you can wash your item as usual.  If you see any residual stain, don't wash! Start the process over one more time but this time allowing the Dawn to soak overnight.  This usually guarantees the stain is gone. Then, of course, rinse again.


Do you have tips for moth prevention?

I do! We all go crazy if we see moths fluttering around our closet! While the adult moth is the culpit for our holes in our beloved cashmere, it's their larvae (catapillers) that cause the damage. With some research, I've found, if we freeze our cashmere it kills the moth eggs and prevents damage! While doing our washing and spot cleaning of our cashmere in prep for storage we should looks for signs of eggs or holes. A good wool shop should usually provide hole repair, but the can't stop further damage if we had a moth lay some eggs! So this is what I do:

You need extra extra large ziplock bags and a few spare shelves in your freezer. After your sweaters are clean and holes repaired, fold neatly 2/3 sweaters per bag, and then place them in another bag (I always double bag). Place them in your freezer. I always keep them separate from food. Now let them sit for at least a week if not longer ( Our new age freezers don't stay at temperature that will kill larvae in just few hours or day, so be patient! ) I find I don't have room to do all my sweaters at once, so I do in batches. Happy freezing!

What's the best way to store my cashmere after winter?

First and most importantly, clean your cashmere before you store.  Wash as you normally would, making sure your items are totally dry before you begin. I freeze my sweaters first too (see above for how-to).

You need three key items that you can always get at most stores:

- Extra extra large Ziplock bags
- Rubbermaid containers (with a solid seal)
- Cedar balls or blocks

Fold your cleaned sweaters and, depending on the size of the Ziplock bag, place 3-5 items in each bag. Make sure you get as much air out of the bag as you can and seal it quickly.  Place bags into the Rubbermaid containers.  Now toss in a few cedar balls or blocks.  I love that the Ziplock bags not only keep out all the nasty things that could damage your cashmere, but also keep the cedar from adding stains whilst in storage. Now close the lid, store, and enjoy the new season ahead!


Have questions about clothes, plants, animals, life, or anything at all? Send them to me at Alison@odeboutique.com. I'll see what I can do! 



Artist Interview

Todd Lynch of Ecotropy Landscape Design

March 7, 2017

Photo Credit: Erin Long 

We always love bringing a little wilderness into Ode. But landscape artist Todd Lynch brought us a forest. Literally. He bolted tree branches to our floor, bent and braided them up to the ceiling and around our ducts. He hung chandeliers made entirely of strung leaves and individually glued Queen Anne's Lace. He collected root systems to which he attached culled and foraged findings. To call him a landscape designer and artist is accurate, yes, but he is more than that: nature's magician; sorcerer of sticks and stones; visionary of the wilds. Meet Todd Lynch of Ecotropy Landscape Designs this Friday, March 10th, from 6-8pm, where he will help you imagine and create your own natural, living art piece.

What’s your spirit plant?
My spirit plant is the white oak. There have always been oaks in the many places I have lived that I could go to when feeling either down or joyous. Oaks are my favorite trees to climb and their branches have held me and given me the perspective I’ve needed to see my way through difficult straits. On walks, they are companieros when I see them, their stout girth and joyous canopy surrounded by the jostling, fast-growing pines and birches. I identify with their presence – quiet, generous, and resolute, slowly growing and thriving amidst the constant dynamism of their ecological context. Getting lost in the dark cast of a pine and hemlock tangle is a metaphor for the kind of mind I experience sometimes. Arriving at a clearing where the oak thrives is miraculous and life-affirming everytime.  

Their medicine has been used to treat gastric problems, inflammation, wounds and, in some cases cancer. I’ve never used the medicine of the oak in that way, or eaten its plentiful fruit…but it gives me something richer and more dynamic… a living reminder to take it slow, to be generous, and to always spread my arms to shelter those I love when they need it.

What’s in your tea?
The tea I brought tonight is mint, nettle and tulsi. We grew these at our home and they form the base for our everyday tea in the spring time. I love the robust, earthy flavor of the nettle combined with the spice of the mint and the balance of the tulsi. Part of the magic of growing and drinking our own teas is feeling a sense of gratitude for the plants. That gratitude comes from being in relationship with each plant from seedling to harvest to preparation as tea, tincture, salve or honey. This kind of folk medicine is the most amazing way to integrate the external landscape into our own internal landscape.

How does nature speak to you?
I like this question, but it is hard to answer, because there are so many voices to be heard when out in the landscape…I try to listen and be as quiet and respectful as I can and gradually I become immersed. I always think of the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) when I take walks. More than anything, I am always astonished by the range of new stories and expressions that I encounter each time I return to honored places in the land or waterscape. One of my favorite ways to listen is to swim in open water…where I can physically be immersed and have my conventional way of being in the world up-ended…places like The Bend in Chesterfield or the DAR in Goshen are especially magical. 

What’s a dream art project for you?
I’d love to create a woven installation of plant material (like the photo below) that takes over an abandoned building – blurring the lines between spontaneous plant growth and man-made art. I’d have help from local students who would be participating in a school program on ecology/hydrology that I would teach in the same city where the installation would be located. Sharing how natural patterns and processes work in the landscape and making art inspired by those experiences with school groups energizes and inspires me. It’s the direction that I’d like to pursue more with my art-making. Part of the joy of art making for me is to witness people connecting seemingly disparate strands of their experience into a whole understanding because of something I have shared with them.

Best sound:
Other than the singing of my children, my favorite sound is found when I sit next to frozen streams and listen. It has to be that window of time where there is deep cold without snow, so I can witness the lava-lamp effect of the air bubbles moving through and against the ice. The music that the water and ice generate reminds me of the throaty bass of a tabla, hit directly in the center of the drum head. It makes me smile and laugh because that sensual vibe is not something I’d expect to hear in the midst of the winter forest’s austerity.

Who inspires you?
My grandma Jean is one of my inspirations. I used to love visiting her in Evanston, Illinois. She and I would adventure all over Chicago – not to museums, but to places where we could find free books, or listen to street musicians whom she had befriended. It seemed to me that she was the patron saint of alchemy. She could find enchantment in the humblest of materials – crushed beer cans or dried worms – and make others (even my grandfather) see how beautiful and poetic they were. Knowing that she lived her truth in such a way, in the era in which she did, compels me to honor her gifts to me and the world. When I integrate something unconventional into a composition it’s my way of thanking her for her brilliance and to ensure that there is space for all kinds of beauty to be celebrated.  

Photo Credit: Erin Long

Words to live by:
For some people, what they are is not finished at the skin, but continues with the reach of the senses out into the land. -- Barry Lopez

Hopefully there will come a time when I have no words, where I can honor and hold that kind of stillness that I so need, crave and desire in the natural world…One day the landscape will take the language out of me. --Terry Tempest Williams

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. -- John Muir

Favorite poem or book:
My favorite book is A River Sutra by Gita Metha. I had loaned it to friends so many times that I give copies away to folks instead. I love that it is a collection of stories that somehow all intertwine and that the unifying element is the River. A theme of connection and engagement in our lives is especially poignant for me during this time we live in currently.

What do you think is the most fascinating natural occurrence, plant, color, or design?
I’d probably say something different every day, but since we’re still in the grips of the winter, I’d say ice formations are an obsession for me. Again, that time when there is no snow, but just profound cold (also great for ice-skating on open water), there is the best ice. In particular, I love places where bubbles form and freeze. Over time, there is this spectacular layering effect of accumulated frozen air (when does air even accumulate?). These arrangements are spontaneous and joyful…I can almost hear the voice of the stream in each of these compositions. Someone else’s time defines our lives every day. Schedules, and having too little or too much time, can be overwhelming. A healing element of nature for me is that it is on its own time, and witnessing these bubbles reminds me of that…and challenges me to define my own sense of time and attempt to inhabit it.

What are the first signs of spring you notice?
The first signs of spring I notice are the songs of the red-wing blackbirds, the dances of the woodcocks, and the flush of exuberance of the willows up the hill from our house. I also love the earthy smell of the first warm rain and how it somehow summons mass salamander migrations across our roads as they seek places to spawn. 

Window Design

MARCH Window

March 3, 2017

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Our MARCH window is dedicated to every one of you who is working to support and empower the people who need it the most. Over the past few months, we’ve been so inspired by our Tribe: the women and people who are standing up for what is right. We've collected photographs from Women's Marches all over the country (thank you to all the contributors!!!), and they'll be on display for the entire month, so please stop by to see all that power and beauty. Onwards and upwards!

In honor of International Women’s Day, and in solidarity with a Day Without A Women, we’re giving out red bandanas to our Tribe to wear on March 8th.

Contributing Photographers share Why I March:

“I want my daughters to live without the fear of not having control over their own bodies. I want my girls to see their Mother stand up for what is intrinsically “right” in this world.  I march because I want to be an active member of this global community who believes and fights for equal rights for all human beings.  Sometimes, when the battle feels too overwhelming to win from the outside, you just have to show up and see who’s standing with you.”  

“I marched for so many reasons. I marched for all the young women in my life, who should always have a right to choices for their own bodies, I marched as a proud single mama to two incredible young men who should see and hear the strength of women, and that we are equal, I marched as a proud lesbian who someday if I meet someone, fall in love...that I will still have the same rights as straight people to marry the love of my life!” 

"I marched because I was terrified and broken and knew that I, compared to so many others, had the least to fear, yet the fear I was experiencing was debilitating.  And because I didn't know where else to begin, I marched and was reminded of the beauty and true goodness in humanity and lifted by the coming together of such love.” 

“I am a mother to a transgender child. I am a Mexican and Puerto Rican citizen. I have personally been a client at Planned Parenthood. I believe in the preservation of sacred lands and our environment. I believe in equal civil rights for all humans. I am a woman! And I feel like all of that has been under attack with the rhetoric and policies that are being pushed forward under this administration.” 

“I marched because I needed a starting point for action: to physically surround myself with strong women and to move forward with them. I marched to combat the hopelessness I felt at first. I marched to show solidarity with and support for those most attacked and marginalized right now. Marching was the start of my promise to stay informed, compassionate, and active.” 

Photo credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Ryane Delka

Photo Credit: Ryane Delka

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Erin Long

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Natalie Upton

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Jenessa Cintron

Photo Credit: Jenessa Cintron

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly

Photo Credit: Kristin Kelly