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Making History: Writing in Response to Art

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

By Laura Lee Bennett


On May 20, 2023, past Redmond Poet Laureate, Rebecca Meredith led a writing workshop at VALA Art Center based on the 10x10 Project, a series of poems written in response to photos of historic Redmond. The technique, ekprhastic writing—writing in response to works of art—allowed participants to describe what they saw in the photos, place themselves in the scene, refine their work, and connect with Redmond’s history. The resulting poems were both poignant and humorous—from two pioneer sisters singing hymns on wash day to a cheeky lullaby to the 1960s Nike Missile site.


Poets listen as Rebecca Meredith lectures on ekphrastic poetry.
Poets listen as Rebecca Meredith lectures on ekphrastic poetry.

Here are three poems from participants that came out of the workshop—and inspired the RHS photos that inspired them. We appreciate the work of these poets, and making a personal connection to Redmond’s history!



 

Lullaby for a Missile

By Janka Hobbs


Sleep little missile on your launcher

under a warm summer sun.

Pointed at cities in Mother Russia

though I do not know which one.


A bus has brought a crowd of people

to ogle at your launching stands.

The newspaper prints patriotic speeches

serenaded by a military band.


Sleep little missile on your launcher

may your flight remain a dream.

Long after your builders have died of cancer

may your field grow up again in trees.



Nike Missiles in Redmond, 1955

By Janka Hobbs


Rocket launchers pointed at the sky,

each at it’s own angle –

they wouldn’t want to miss anyone!


Below them, a crowd in military uniform

and their ladies in Sunday best

enjoy the sunshine.


Can you hear the band?

Is the Colonel going to make a speech?

Can someone fix the microphone

so we can understand a word he says?


Meanwhile, the photographer

from the Sammamish Valley News

has stepped over the barrier

to get that perfect photo for the paper.


It’s okay. It’s 1955

and he’s had his clearance checked.


Those missiles never flew.

Now, kids play soccer in the field

and trees grow tall around the edges.


 

Two

By Pamela Carolina


In this universe two wet noses find their way to the aromatic azalea laves we hold

Our hands rejoice on the sopt fur of the docile creatures.


You, my baby sister, always fascinated by the cuteness of cuddly, fluffy, adorable animals, large or small; when your awe and enchantment show on your face even greater cuteness.


I miss the day we discovered the colorful and soundful amazon jungle. Together.

From the phosphorescent caterpillar, to the pink wet nose of the ocelot.


In some other universe two sisters found their way to wet nosed, furry, chirping,

multicolored, vibrant, flowering adventures for a lifetime.



Hazel and Elizabeth Davis feed a young deer wearing a collar, while their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Davis, stand near their early home on Lake Sammamish. (Undated)

 

The workshop was offered in conjunction with the exhibit, “Though a Poet’s Eye,” co-hosted by RHS and VALA, where 10 photos from the Society’s archives were on display alongside 10 poems written by local poets during the City’s Centennial celebration in 2012. In fact, three of the poets—Allison Ohlinger, Denise Calvetti Michaels, and Rebecca Meredith—were part of the original 10x10 Project.


Rebecca Meredith is a retired psychotherapist, poet and fiction writer, as well as a co-founder of Redmond Association of Spokenword (RASP), Redmond’s long-running literary arts organization. In 2011 she was chosen the first poet laureate of Redmond. As part of her work she headed the 10x10 project, along with a group of local poets. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. She is the author of two novels, The Last of the Pascagoula and Look Up From the Water.

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