Archive for April, 2009

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Immigrant Women Talk About Coming to Indiana

April 28, 2009

Assisted by members of the Indiana Diversity Women’s Network (IDWN), Dulce Maria Scott has been collecting the stories of immigrant and diverse women in Indiana. Dr. Scott, a faculty member at Anderson University, received a small grant for the project from the Indiana Humanities Council and another grant from the university.

She writes: The work is still underway, but thus far we have acquired an understanding of a variety of reasons why the women left their country of origin. We have also been able to ascertain some of the major challenges faced by the women in their journey of adaptation and integration into American society and the Hoosier state.

The women’s experiences are varied. Some arrived in the United States to pursue a higher education, others to find a better job, some as a result of marrying an American man they met in the country of origin, and others arrived as children or were born in the United States to immigrant parents. Some left their country to escape poverty, others to escape political turmoil, and still others left because the opportunity to do so presented itself to them.

Upon arrival, many of the women experienced cultural shock, an intense sense of isolation, and, in, some instances overt prejudice and discrimination. Some experienced a loss of social status upon arrival. Occupying middle to upper middle class positions in their country of origin, some of the women struggled initially with having to accept menial labor positions in order to survive in the United States. The process of adaptation and integration to American society was not easy for the women, and we have acquired an understanding of the difficulties and challenges they faced in this process.

A few of the women interviewed arrived in the United States at a young age or were born in the United States to immigrant parents. Theirs is the experience of the first American born generation, a generation which is usually caught between two cultures. Theirs is often an experience of conflict between the parent’s values and those of the wider American society. Their struggle is one of trying to fit in with the children of mainstream society, while simultaneously living at home in accordance with the native culture of their parents. While the identity of women who arrived in the United States as adults remains rooted in the country of origin, the second generation tends to experience a much more fluid identity, partly American and partly ethnic.

We hope that the stories collected will become a historical document that gives a voice to immigrant women arriving in Indiana in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Women are often at the center of family and community life. The story of immigrant integration/assimilation into American life is also the story of women who are in the labor force, raise families, further their education, and assume leadership positions in their places of work, churches and communities.

What’s your story?

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Get inspired on Earth Day

April 20, 2009

As we continue to celebrate National Poetry Month with Indiana’s Poet Laureate, Norbert Krapf, take a minute to celebrate another annual April event: Earth Day. What in nature inspires you to write, make music, or reflect? For me, springtime is one of the greatest sources of inspiration–as is traveling to new places.

One of Norbert Krapf’s natural inspirations is below, which was published in Bloodroot: Indiana Poems. If you want to hear more, he’ll be reading fifteen minutes of nature poems on April 25 at the Earth Day Indiana Festival on the  American Legion Mall in downtown Indy around 12:15 p.m.

Can’t get enough of the poet laureate? Read about his trip to Rhode Island for National Poetry Week with a who’s who of poets, here

 

Sycamore on Main Street                                                     

 

It stands like a resolute

deserter of its own kind

high above frame houses

halfway up the hill.

 

Slowly, its brown mottled

bark has flaked away

leaving an ivory shaft

which glints in the sun.

 

Below the earth’s surface,

its swollen roots crawl

homeward down the hillside,

wriggle beneath pipes

and pavement, plunge

into the depths, and suck

at the waters of the ancient

swamp beneath the park.

 

 

Norbert Krapf, Bloodroot: Indiana Poems.

© 2008 Indiana Univ. Press

www.krapfpoetry.com  

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Norbert Krapf: A Statement on Words and a Poem on Localism

April 8, 2009

For National Poetry Month, Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate, has supplied this post to Hoosierati:

As part of an e-mail interview for National Poetry Month with Rosa Salter of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, I was asked, as Indiana Poet Laureate, to answer ten questions. The last one produced what I think are the best results: “Where do the words come from?”

Here is my answer: “The words come from the people you descend from, those who made you and brought you up and taught you to read and write and talk and communicate and how to live and conduct yourself. The words come from the culture you live in, they come from the books you read and the songs you listen to, but if you learn how to listen to the deepest part of yourself, that’s where the most important words that are yours come from, in your unique combinations and rhythms, in what is your verbal DNA! And words come from beyond and through you, if you learn how to put yourself in the right place and develop a keen pair of ears, good eyes, and an open heart.”

In summarizing my experience of almost forty years of writing and publishing poems and prose, such as the memoir The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2008), I was drawing on my principle of “localism.” In a sense, “localism” is another word for “regionalism.” I am fierce about this, that we must live locally even as we think internationally, that we must dig down into the place where we live, find the universal by going through the particulars of our daily life. There is more than enough darkness and light to explore anywhere.

In the end, all places are one. Even Shakespeare was “a local writer” in Stratford-upon-Avon. As I say in the memoir, a sense of place and time travels well. We benefit from exploring our place, our past, our heritage, a process that illuminates our present and future.This principle of localism involves engaging with our artists, sculptors, photographers, writers, musicians, dancers, actors, filmmakers, our farmers and food-suppliers, independent booksellers, and arts and humanities organizations, which in turn encourage and challenge us to explore our identity, the multiple layers of our sometimes mysterious humanity. We cannot live fully and be healthy and balanced without committing ourselves to this process.

Where did I get this principle of localism?

I could say books I read, writers whose work I love, such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, William Stafford, Wendell Berry, James Alexander Thom, Etheridge Knight, Mari Evans, Scott Russell Sanders, Susan Neville and Jared Carter. That would be true, but perhaps the most important influence was my mother, a farm girl who never had a chance to go to college but loved the poetry of James Whitcomb Riley and Tennyson, as she told me late in her life. Bloodroot: Indiana Poems (IU Press, 2008), 175 poems written 1971-2007, includes the following poem, in the concluding section of new work that bears the same title:

The Local News

When the mid-day meal was about over,
we children knew it was time to hush.
She grew taut as a high-intensity wire
ready to spark. The local news was about
to come on WITZ AM, our local station.
Who died and where and when would he
be laid out? Who was admitted to the hospital,
and for what? Who was arrested for drunk
driving? Who got hauled into court for what?
Whose baby was born and how much did
it weigh? The national and international
economies might dip or bounce,
regimes might rise and collapse,
Joseph Stalin might be laid out
in his famous coffin on the front page,
planes may be shot down over Korea,
but the bigger picture, the greater story,
was always and forever the local news,
the news at noon. When the local news
was over, she would relax and say,
“Okay, you kids can talk again now,”
and she moved on with her chores.

© 2008 Norbert Krapf

[For more information and a photo gallery documenting Norbert Krapf’s many appearances as IPL, go to www.krapfpoetry.com

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Meandering Indiana – 12

April 1, 2009

On a sunny day in spring, what is better than to get out on the road and travel to another county in Indiana? Today, though, I’ll have to be content with getting out a map and paying a virtual visit — this time to Jefferson County. (By the way, geology.com has a very handy map of Indiana’s counties with each of their county seats.)

Madison, Indiana, has almost too much history to describe. Founded on the Ohio River in 1809, it became the gateway to Indiana Territory. Thirty years later a railroad was put in place to connect Madison with the new state capital at Indianapolis. Today Madison’s downtown district, consisting of more than 130 blocks, is a superstar on the National Register of Historic Places.

Credit: Wanda Hertz

South Side of Main Street (credit: Wanda Hertz)

The visitors bureau for Madison describes a number of historic sites, many of which have been long-time partners of the Indiana Humanities Council. The Jefferson County Historical Society offers a Heritage Center and Railroad Museum, under the direction of Joe Carr. The Lanier Mansion, a state historic site, recently received a grant from the council for its Lanier Days celebration, June 13-14, 2009, with historic interpreters and re-enactors and a Historic Trades Fair on the mansion grounds.

My personal memories of Madison include a stay at the Broadway Hotel, established in 1834 and known as Indiana’s oldest.  It was easy to imagine stopping there in the mid-1800s and climbing the narrow stairs to a Victorian room lit by lanterns, no TV or phones, just summer sounds outside on Main Street and voices from the tavern below.

Before we leave Jefferson County, we might stop at Hanover College, a few miles west of Madison. Hanover, with a commanding view of the Ohio, is the home of the Rivers Institute, a center for the interdisciplinary and collaborative study of river environments. Interdisciplinary — for now that we are reassessing everything in our society, it is becoming clear that the environment, along with other aspects of science and technology, must be approached with all the insight that humankind can bring to bear. Such thoughts are inspired by Jefferson County, a place where the concurrence of nature led to the construction of history, coming together to form the beginning of the Indiana we have today.