“Painter Working, Reflection” and “Ex-Voto” by Dr. Michael Cunningham

Frida Kahlo’s Portrait of Doctor Farill http://bit.ly/1Mw7iU5
Frida Kahlo’s Portrait of Doctor Farill

An introductory note on ekphrastic poetry (“Artists at Their Easels” ) by Dr. Michael Cunningham:

I have been interested in portraiture, artists’ renderings of the human face and figure. And I am interested in self representation, especially in the two forms where it is commonly found: the memoir/autobiography and in paint.

My “Artists at Their Easels” project is a result of the convergence of these two interests. At first the subjects came to me; for a long time I have been familiar with and provoked by the mischievous Rene Magritte’s “Clairvoyance.” The same is true for Jan Vermeer’s “The Artist in His Studio.” I have been fascinated by the photography of Vivian Maier, the North Shore nanny who shot thousands of street scenes in Chicago at the middle of the 20th century, none of which were reproduced until her negatives and proof sheets were discovered at a garage sale in the last decade. I was delight to find that, in some cases, Maier had turned the camera on herself, capturing her fleeting image in a huge department store window.

In other cases, I have deliberately looked for self-portraits in studio settings. I was familiar with the work of British avant-gardist Lucian Freud, but didn’t know that he had done self-portraits until I investigated.

If the limited number of poems that comprise this project can be classified, it would be in this way: poems in which the artist speaks and those in which an observer speaks. In the first category, I am challenged to be a good mind reader, that is, to take what information I may gather about the artist and imagine what he or she might be thinking. The poem about the Frida Kahlo painting shown here is such an instance. My research is not extensive. Though I have seen and enjoyed “Frida,” the 2002 biopic, and have seen a number of exhibits of her work and that of her contemporaries at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, I have not read Hayden Herrara’s biography. I suppose that this leaves me open to the charge of “historical error,” but then complete fidelity is not my goal. The Frida who speaks in this poem is the Frida that I imagine.

In fashioning poems in the second category –-  those about viewer responses – I rely on my own engagement with the poems. The speaker in these poems is some version of myself. The voice found in the poem about Vermeer is close to my own. It’s me that finds something intriguing about the use of red, an unusual color in the painter’s palette. The voice that you hear in the poem about the naked and aging Lucian Freud is my own; in the painting I find an image of my own increasingly decrepit form.

Dr. Michael Cunningham is the Director of the Lewis University Arts & Ideas program.

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A Trip to Hong Kong with Therese Jones

Dr. Therese Jones

If you could travel anywhere, where would your destination be?

I have longed to travel to China for thirty years because of the amazing arts, history, beauty, and my curiosity regarding Chinese literature. Ten years ago, I was so fortunate to travel to both China and Hong Kong. I accompanied some of the Lewis University Business Department faculty members and their students, who were studying international business there.

While in Hong Kong, we all took a river cruise, which was the inspiration for the poem below.

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Dr. Dawn Walts Reviews ‘The Black Hour’ by Lori-Rader Day

Photo from amazon.com
Photo from amazon.com

The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day is one of those books that made me want to buy a whole bunch of copies to distribute to my friends. If you’re looking for a perfect gift for that reader in your life, check out The Black Hour.

The crime novel opens with sociology professor Amelia Emmet attempting to resume her academic career while still recovering from a violent attack from a student—a student who shot and killed himself after shooting her. With the identity of the shooter known, the central mystery of the novel is not “whodunnit?” but “whydunnit?”

As Emmet re-acclimates to her university life, she finds her colleagues suspicious and awkward with her victim status. It does not help matters that her memory of the attack is clouded, confused, and completely lacking in details that will help provide an explanation or even a coherent narrative. For a professor who studies violence, her inability to understand and process the attack is as frustrating as the physical limitations she faces in the wake of her injuries. Graduate student Nathaniel Barber, Emmet’s teaching assistant is equally curious about the motive behind the attack. Academic research quickly gives way to investigative legwork as the pair try to learn more about the shooter and his possible motive for wanting to kill Emmet.

The skillfully constructed plot and characters are complex enough to keep the reader engaged and intrigued without feeling overwhelmed and confused. Rader-Day’s prose is crisp and concise, never losing sight of the central storyline. Her ability to alternate point-of-view is masterful as is her ability to subtly reveal the subtext of her characters’ behavior in a realistically constructed academic setting; it is hard to believe this is her first novel. Violence and depression loom large in the narrative, but the characters are written with such clarity and purpose that the darkness never fully envelops them (or, thankfully, the reader). It’s one of those books you can’t put down and are sad to see come to an end.  Reading the novel is a thrilling ride that comes to an end satisfactorily, though all too quickly.

For more information about Lori Rader-Day, check out her website.

Remembering the World of Poetry: A Faculty Feature by Jackie White

Photo from gennasarnak.com

This month of October—which begins with Dashain in Nepal and ends with Samhain among the Celts, which sees the conclusion of National Hispanic Month and the start of German Heritage Month and includes Indigenous and Italian and Polish Heritage celebrations, as well as the Independence Days of Cyprus and Portugal, Nigeria and Turkey, Turkmenistan and the Grenadines, with the birthday of Ghandi on the 2nd, Lief Erikson Day on the 9th, and Thanksgiving Day in Canada on the 12th–seems a fitting time to encourage JFR blog readers (and everyone) to explore the global vastness of poetry—itself the oldest and most universal genre. I’m also prompted to propose such an exploration because my father called me the other night to ask if I knew anything of the poetry of the Bible and why it didn’t rhyme. Finally, I thought, he’s glad I was an English major and became a poet!

Similarly, in my Native American literature class, I recently introduced students to the basic elements of all good poetry (rhythm, repetition, and imagery)—something I introduce in every literature course I teach—and always there’s a question about the assumed requirement of rhyme, especially for poetry in English.

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There Are Wrenches in English Too: Professor Eric Jones Profile by Richard Mulville

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Prof R. Eric Jones, Lewis University Aviation and Transportation Professor. Lewis student Richard Mulville interviewed Prof. Jones. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

There Are Wrenches in English Tooeric jones

Robert Eric Jones, though he prefers Eric Jones, is one of those mechanics who works and inspects airplanes on a weekend basis for SWA (Southwest Airlines.) Jones with his clean cut brown hair, standing about 5’10” with his lab jacket on, is a professor here at Lewis University.  Jones wasn’t always a professor at Lewis University, he has also worked in the United States Navy as an airframe and powerplant rated mechanic. In the Navy, he worked on LC-130’s,which is a four-engine transport aircraft. Jones was deployed to Antarctica where he worked on these type of airplanes and mostly transported toilet paper and plywood around the continent. After his four years in the Navy, he worked for United Airlines as a mechanic for three years. After his three year stint at United, he heard about new opportunities at SWA where he applied and received the job.

Jones has been working for SWA for 14 years and only works on the weekends now, stating “Yeah, it’s not a bad deal.” He is now a Flight Line Technician at SWA where he looks at planes before they depart. In the event that there is a problem with the aircraft, he decides if it’s a “go” or “no-go item.”  Since he has been with the company for so long, he is able to choose his own hours and works around his teaching schedule during the week. He is the proud married father of three children with one of them being special needs. This diverse background shapes a brief summary of Robert Eric Jones.

With all of his mechanical background, it is no surprise that Prof. Jones’s favorite type of book is either a nonfiction or historical book. In Jone’s library, he’d have, “different types of literature, historical, biographies and classics.” And, if he could co-write with one author, it would be David McCullough, a primarily nonfiction author. It is no surprise that Jones would want to work with someone who is also interested in nonfiction historical pieces. Although his favorite books are nonfiction, he does need somewhere to relax when he’s off the job. When asked where his favorite place to read is, he stated, “It has to be the bathtub, because of the Jacuzzi,” which is where he escapes when he’s stressed about working on airplanes or grading exams. Continue reading

Classical Women: Professor Dawn Walts Profile by Sabrina Parr

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Dr. Dawn Walts, Lewis University English Professor. Lewis student Sabrina Parr interviewed Dr. Walts. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

Classical Women1378854_672333156111118_683573564_n

Professor Dawn Walts is beloved by many of her students and as one of her students I can attest to this firsthand. Dr. Walts is always happy and upbeat in class, whether it is acting out a part of Beowulf or simply explaining a passage of text from Shakespeare. You can clearly see the love for reading shining out of Dr. Walts whenever she stands in front of her class; there is never a dull moment. Dr. Walts is like a book waiting to be read and we will do just that as we unpack her in the following profile.

Reading books is not something many people enjoy nowadays with all the distractions around. Smartphones make it easy to get the newest TV show right in your hand and why would you need a book when you can see it in front of you without any effort on your part? Dr. Dawn Walts is one of the few who still enjoys reading for fun. When asked where her favorite place to read is she replied, “I love reading on planes and trains.” Dr. Walts likes to be in motion. She likes to move while she reads, as she believes that reading provides the perfect escape to the crowded train or plane; although she is sitting, reading can transport her to someplace new or old. Books are a way of jumping out of our world and moving into someone else’s. Having a book in your hand is like holding a whole new world in your palm–all you have to do is open it and escape into it and all it has to offer.

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The Blackboard Wiz! LMS and Media Technology Administrator Alvin Butler Profile by Celeste Martinez

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Alvin Butler, Lewis University LMS and Media Technology Administrator. Lewis student Celeste Martinez interviewed Mr. Butler. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

The Blackboard Wiz with an Energetic Twist!butleral

Alvin Butler, the tall man behind the glass windows in the library who is always wearing a black leather jacket, is also known as the Blackboard wiz; and, I’m proud to say, he is my ICE (Introduction to the College Experience) mentor. I met Mr. Butler this year in my ICE class. I won’t lie, at first, I thought he was going to be an unfriendly, strict mentor; but, it turned out I was completely wrong. He is one of the kindest, though frankest mentors, you could have in ICE. He doesn’t sugar coat it for you; he tells you how it is. However, he listens to you, and you can tell that he truly cares about all of his students in ICE. I genuinely look forward to every ICE session with Mr. Butler. In this class we are able to speak our minds and express our opinions on various topics from racism to culture. He always says, “What happens in this class stays in this class.”  I like this particular approach because I like to know that we can be honest and say what we feel. We don’t have to be afraid that he will judge us, because he never does.

Mr. Butler understands us and always tries to learn from us, in the same way we learn from him. He makes the whole learning process entertaining, especially with his weekly stories that always make us laugh. His most recent story was about an embarrassing situation at a grocery store.  He was being a considerate husband and went to the grocery store to buy his wife tampons. When he went to purchase them, the price would not scan so the woman at the register had to make an announcement on the overhead speaker for a price check on the tampons. Mr. Butler became bright red and embarrassed, begging the woman to not make the announcement, but she did nevertheless. When he returned home he didn’t speak to his wife the rest of that evening. The whole class jumped out of their seats laughing when he told us, as it was one of his funniest stories yet.

Mr. Alvin Butler works at Lewis University as the Blackboard administrator, and teaches an Introduction to Information Systems course, besides being my ICE mentor. As the Lewis University Blackboard administrator, his job consists of interpreting the blackboard manual and ensuring that he and his group are handling the technology efficiently here at Lewis, as well as being able to write in technical terms and expressing himself in terms that his primary support will understand. Being an expert in technology, Mr. Butler has an educational background in his specific field. He graduated from Rock Island High School which is located in Illinois. Then, he received his Associates in Computer Science at Blackhawk College, which is located in Moline, Illinois. Later, in 2004, he received his Bachelors of Science in Information Technology at Franklin University in Ohio.

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Thoughts Before Words: Professor Clare Rothschild Profile by Daniel Echeverri

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Dr. Clare Rothschild, Lewis University Theology Professor. Lewis student Daniel Echeverri interviewed Dr. Rothschild. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

Thoughts Before Words

Dr. Clare Rothschild is a professor at Lewis University with a Ph.D in Theology.Clare Rothschild She was born in California and went to college there for her first few years. As a professor, she believes theology is important because,

“theological issues plague people because our thoughts about them are unsophisticated, lacking appropriate nuance and necessary ambiguity.”

Since she first became a theology professor, she reads “fiction as a discipline before bed.” She is the type of reader who wants “no distractions” while she reads and describes her perfect reading atmosphere on a plane.

English classes have always been easy for Rothschild, to the point where she was presented with the chance to co-write with Trevor W. Thompson, stating that she “would certainly do so again! He is perfectly brilliant.” Thompson has a Ph.D in Theology from University of Chicago, which is the same university that Rothschild attended, and where she received her Ph.D. in Theology as well. They have written several books and articles together. He is a very successful author and I would have to agree with Rothschild’s statement about him being “perfectly brilliant.”ROTCHRIST

Rothschild believes thinking is more important than reading and writing in theology. She wishes that students today would think before they read and write. Intellect is important to Rothschild, and because of this, she would love to meet Hercules Poirot, a fictional Belgian detective, who has been in 56 short stories and 33 novels. She thinks solving crime cases takes a lot of thought and that is why she enjoys him.

Theology has played a role in Rothschild’s life since before she could read. She memorized “The Little Book about God” by Lauren Ford, at a very young age. Also when she was eight she “detected” a mistake in the Ten Commandments from a children’s bible in a store. She had memorized the Ten Commandments so well that when she detected the mistake, it surprised her. Later in her adult life, she finally received a Masters in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1992; then, she went on to receive a Ph.D at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2003. Now she is teaching at Lewis University and is a well-known professor.

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Educational Differences between Russia and America: Professor Serafima Gettys Profile by Migle Giedmintaite

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Dr. Serafima Gettys, Lewis University Foreign Language Professor. Lewis student Migle Giedmintaite interviewed Dr. Gettys. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.

Educational Differences between Russia and Americaa_cc2c9b1dGettys

Dr. Serafima Gettys is a professor at Lewis University where she is serves as Director of the Foreign Language Program. She has been teaching at Lewis for ten years, and is originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, where he was born and raised. She attended the University of Leningrad before she and her daughter immigrated to America in 1990. Prior to coming to Lewis, she taught at Stanford University; however, when she saw an advertisement in the newspaper that Lewis University was hiring for positions to start new programs, she decided to take the opportunity because she  felt that she could do a lot more. Gettys states that when she was at Stanford, “People who were teaching languages were not as important as people who were teaching literature, so I was never able to do what I thought was right.” When Dr. Gettys came to Lewis, thereForeign-language-dictiona-007 was no foreign language program; now, Lewis offers up to nine languages, including Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, German, French, and Italian.

Since she began teaching, she has observed the level of knowledge that students around her had. She started out in Russia and was an English professor there for many years. She noticed that students in Russia had a high level of knowledge; they were pushed by their teachers to the limit. This made them feel obligated to know everything. Even when she was a student she was always expected to know more. For example, if someone asked her if she had read a certain book, and she hadn’t, she would be embarrassed; whereas, here in America, people often say “I hate to read.” For someone to grow up in the Russian culture, not reading a certain book would be the same as saying, “I’m an idiot.”

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The Power of Music: Professor Mike McFerron Profile by John Morrison

Hello, everyone, and welcome to our installment, “Acts of Reading and Writing: Faculty Profiles.” This week we feature Dr. Michael McFerron, Lewis University Music Professor. Dr. McFerron was interviewed by Lewis student John Morrison. The mini-interview, that the Jet Fuel Review editors are also partaking in for the “Meet the Editors” series, is located after the profile.mike-mcferron

The Power of Music

“Music is ubiquitous” is a quote that has driven Dr. Mike McFerron into a lifelong dedication of music. A quite fitting representation of a composer in the modern age whose writing is done primarily on a computer. Dr. McFerron believes in the freedom of music and how an abstract art can be relayed and turned into an individual’s interpretation. With a Doctorate of Musical Arts, he understands the ins-and-outs of music theory having obtained copious amounts of knowledge regarding acoustics and the science of music, which he accumulated during his time at The University of Missouri Kansas City Conservatory of Music. He is a scholar of the arts and a very interesting man; one that I had the pleasure of sitting down with one afternoon in his tucked-away office containing several book shelves and an upright piano, all very appropriate for the upcoming conversation.

Music often seems to be on the back burner for non-musicians, but McFerron’s passion runs deep: “I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t read music,” exclaims McFerron when asked who influenced him towards this life of music. He accredits this influence to his mother, whose love of John Denver encouraged him to pick up the guitar at age six. His mother’s love for music comes from her own mother, McFerron’s grandmother, a talented triple threat—actor, singer, and dancer—whose Irish heritage brought her into a world of the arts. “We were a very Irish family and when people got together they danced and sang; that was important to them,” says McFerron. With such a musical background, you might suspect him to be a virtuoso instrumentalist, but when asked how many instruments he could fluently play he responded:

“None, I’m not fluent in anything, I don’t know what fluency is in a musical instrument. My main instrument that I studied the most was voice, but I’ve dabbled a little bit in piano and a bit in guitar; I’ve played a little bassoon and I played a little percussion, but I would say I’m an expert in none of them.”

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