Archive | June, 2012

Creative Person of the Week

29 Jun

Frances Jane Crosby (March 24, 1820 – February 12, 1915), usually known as Fanny Crosby in the United States and by her married name, Frances van Alstyne, in the United Kingdom, was an American Methodist rescue mission worker, poet, lyricist, and composer. During her lifetime, she was well-known throughout the United States. By the end of the 19th century, she was “a household name”[1] and “one of the most prominent figures in American evangelical life”.[2] She became blind while an infant.

Best known for her Protestant Christian hymns and gospel songs, Crosby was “the premier hymnist of the gospel song period”, and one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000,[4][5] with over 100 million copies of her songs printed. Crosby was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1975. Known as the “Queen of Gospel Song Writers”, and as the “Mother of modern congregational singing in America”, with “dozens of her hymns continu[ing] to find a place in the hymnals of Protestant evangelicalism around the world”, with most American hymnals containing her work, as “with the possible exception of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, Crosby has generally been represented by the largest number of hymns of any writer of the twentieth century in nonliturgical hymnals”. Her gospel songs were “paradigmatic of all revival music”, and Ira Sankey attributed the success of the Moody and Sankey evangelical campaigns largely to Crosby’s hymns. Some of Crosby’s best-known songs include “Blessed Assurance”, “Jesus Is Tenderly Calling You Home”, “Praise Him, Praise Him”, and “Rescue the Perishing.”  Because some publishers were hesitant to have so many hymns by one person in their hymnals, Crosby used nearly 200 different pseudonyms during her career.

Crosby wrote over 1,000 secular poems, and had four books of poetry published, as well as two best-selling autobiographies. Additionally, Crosby co-wrote popular secular songs, as well as political and patriotic songs, and at least five cantatas on biblical and patriotic themes, including The Flower Queen, the first secular cantata by an American composer. Crosby was committed to Christian rescue missions, and was known for her public speaking.


(Excerpt taken from )

More Haiku

26 Jun

Irony by Mani G. Iyer

slowly climbing tree

when reaching lone coconut

it drops to the ground.

**Haikus are poems that have to do with nature.  They consist of 3 lines: first line contains 5 syllables, second line consists of 7 syllables and third line consists of 5 syllables.  Can you write a haiku and submit it to ?

Creative Person of the Week

22 Jun

Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988) was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top Forty, including “Only the Lonely”, “Crying”, and “Oh, Pretty Woman”. His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of “In Dreams” in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet revived his career in the 1980s. In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year, at the zenith of his resurgence. His life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife and his two eldest sons in separate accidents.

Orbison was a natural baritone, but music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. The combination of Orbison’s powerful, impassioned voice and complex musical arrangements led many critics to refer to his music as operatic, giving him the sobriquet “the Caruso of Rock”. Elvis Presley and Bono have stated his voice was, respectively, the greatest and most distinctive they had ever heard. While most men in rock and roll in the 1950s and 1960s portrayed a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, desperate vulnerability.

Orbison was initiated into the second class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 by longtime admirer Bruce Springsteen. The same year he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame two years later. Rolling Stone placed Orbison at number 37 on their list of The Greatest Artists of All Time, and number 13 on their list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.[4] In 2002, Billboard magazine listed Orbison at number 74 in the Top 600 recording artists.[

Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas, the middle son of Orbie Lee Orbison, an oil well driller and car mechanic, and Nadine Shultz, a nurse. Both of Orbison’s parents were unemployed during the Great Depression, so the family moved to Fort Worth for several years to find work, until a polio scare prompted them to return to Vernon. To find work, the family moved to Wink, Texas. Orbison would later describe the major components of life in Wink as “Football, oil fields, oil, grease and sand”] and in later years expressed relief that he was able to leave the desolate town. All the Orbison children were afflicted with poor eyesight; Roy used thick corrective lenses from an early age. A bout with jaundice as a child gave him a sallow complexion, and his ears protruded prominently. Orbison was not particularly confident in his appearance; he began dyeing his nearly white hair black when he was young. He was quiet and self-effacing, remarkably polite and obliging—a product, biographer Alan Clayson wrote, of his Southern upbringing.[8] However, Orbison was readily available to sing, and often became the focus of attention when he did. He considered his voice memorable if not great.  He was known for performing while standing still and solitary, wearing black clothes and dark sunglasses which lent an air of mystery to his persona.

On his sixth birthday, Orbison’s father gave him a guitar. Orbison later recalled that, by the age of seven, “I was finished, you know, for anything else”; music would be his life. Orbison’s major musical influences as a youth were in country music. He was particularly moved by the way Lefty Frizzell sang, slurring syllables. He also enjoyed Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers. One of the first musicians he heard in person was Ernest Tubb playing on the back of a flatbed truck in Fort Worth. In West Texas, however, he was exposed to many forms of music: “sepia”—a euphemism for what became known as rhythm and blues (R&B); Tex-Mex; orchestral Mantovani, and zydeco.

(Excerpt from )

My Father

18 Jun

by Mani G. Iyer

his stentorian voice
his erect body
his volcanic anger
his generous heart
his reckless youth
changing to
a religious, disciplined lifestyle
at my unknown sister’s burial
his abhorrence for subjugation
his love for chatter
his knowledge of the ominous
his apathy toward his family
his courtship with death
all reduced
to ashes
in my palms
most of it strewn
in a nondescript river
and very little
I carry with me.

Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985.  He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome.  He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision.

Summer Meditation

16 Jun

by Stella De Genova

It was a sunny vacation morning and I thought I’d try a haiku:

Sun feels warm, birds chirp

Breathing in my surroundings

Beautiful morning


On Being Blind at the Silent Retreat

9 Jun

by Jeff Flodin

There’s a joke that goes, “I thought about going to a silent retreat but I talked myself out of it.” That’s my reality, but I have male friends who have fought weekend traffic both ways to the Minnesota backwoods for the chance to camp in all kinds of weather with a hundred other men and pound on drums for forty-eight hours. And the best part is that nobody says a word, except for the clandestine readings of Robert Bly poems behind the privy. My friends report revelatory experiences from such weekends and, for me, any weekend in Minnesota without fishing sounds like heaven.

Surely these events generate so much testosterone that any man not affected does not have a pulse. Primal energy. Jungle drums. Men, men, men. I applaud any man’s attempts to become less of a man – that is, to compete less, communicate feelings other than envy, and pursue serenity as a contagious condition.

I’m still looking for my first silent retreat. Maybe I’m too picky or find fault too easily. I like to think I’m a sensitive guy. I only partly agree that sensitive means easily annoyed

Now, in the sensitive-guy circles I bisect, word is out about a silent retreat without the mosquitoes. It’s in a convention hotel in Schaumberg. The Minnesota alumni who attended the last one said it was OK, but lacked backwoods ambience. They found earth tone furnishings containing earnest folks meditating and making meaningful eye contact. While I too find serenity in silence, I fear that, without the visuals, I’m short-changed. Take away the audio track and I’m reduced to the senses better suited for my Seeing Eye dog, Randy. Maybe I’ll send Randy to the Schaumberg silent retreat. I’ve never heard him bark. He follows gestures very well. He has soulful eyes. He’s a sensitive dog. He’ll like it. And when he comes home, perhaps his new-found serenity will rub off on me and I’ll file my next report from the Minnesota backwoods, banging the drum slowly.

Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.  Jeff’s bi-weekly blog, “Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss,” is posted at The Guild for the Blind’s website (, where this essay first appeared.  Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this site.

Blue Jacket Girl

4 Jun

by Nancy Scott 

She lurks without a traceable name
in our telephone chatroom writers’ group.
The moderator teases her handle
but her not-girl, gravelly voice
says nothing beyond “Present.”
I want to help her bend our best and worst selves;
want to say I’m not brave.
In her novel approach, I would have to be “wacked”
or be the accomplice with the list
who reminds to fill the gas tank and pack rubber gloves.
It must be practice.
It must be fiction.
It must be murder.
Were she writing romance or memoir or poems,
she’d tell us who she is.


Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet.  Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries.  Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.

Creative Person of the Week

1 Jun

Doc Watson (1923-2012). The music world yet lost another legend just a couple days ago with the passing of guitar virtuoso, eight-time Grammy winner,  Doc Watson.

Doc was humble, and about as laid back as they came. But when he attacked his custom-made Gallagher guitar with a flat pick, he ruled the stage. His self-taught style and the work of the late Clarence White paved the way for Tony Rice, Jim Hurst and other super pickers of today.

How good was Doc? Dan Miller, in a superb profile in the September-October 1998 issue of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, called him “the man who had the deepest, most enduring and most profound influence on the way the acoustic flat top guitar is played as a lead instrument in folk, old-time, and bluegrass music today.”

Doc also had a comfortable, smooth baritone voice.

Arthel Lane Watson was born in North Carolina in 1923 and spent nearly all of his life in Deep Gap. An infection left him blind before his first birthday – a fact that makes his musicianship all the more remarkable. But his father taught him early on that the lack of sight was an inconvenience, not a disability.

He played the banjo as a child and became familiar with the music of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers from recordings played on his family’s wind-up Victrola. He gained a broader exposure to music when, at the age of 10, he started attending the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, N.C.

That’s when he switched to playing guitar. Just as countless budding guitarists improved and perfected their technique by playing along with Doc – or at least trying to – Doc learned by playing along with Jimmie Rodgers’ records.

Doc picked up his nickname for life during an early live radio performance, when an announcer decided he should be called something other than Arthel. “Call him Doc,” yelled a woman who clearly was a fan of Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Watson.

He started his musical career in 1953, playing electric guitar with Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen, a western swing band. He switched to acoustic guitar in 1960 and went on to play with Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs and other bluegrass stars over the years.

Recordings of performances with Monroe were prized bootlegs until Smithsonian Folkways released them in 1993 as Bill Monroe and Doc Watson: Live Duet Recordings 1963-1980.

But Doc is perhaps best known for performances and recordings with his son, Merle, and for his work on the legendary 1972 Will the Circle Be Unbroken album.

He toured and played with his son from 1964 to 1985, when Merle was killed in a tractor accident. Three years later, Doc organized a tribute concert, which has turned into the annual MerleFest in North-Wilkesboro near his home.

Doc, as usual, played a bit at this year’s festival.

Then-President Bill Clinton presented Doc with a National Medal of Arts in 1997, and he was inducted into IBMA’s hall of honor in 2000.

Bluegrass Today readers who want to know more about Doc and his music can check out the 2010 biography, Blind But Now I See, by Kent Gustavson. Or grab a CD and a good set of headphones, close your eyes and enjoy the clear, clean picking of a master.

(Post from  Personally, I didn’t know about Doc Watson but I like bluegrass and I’m going to listen to Doc’s music as soon as I can!