Arts & Culture: Diversity Dialogue

Cultural Diversity and Inclusion in the Arts in New York State’s Southern Tier

The Centrality of Books for the Arts: Infrastructure

Where can children meet art?

In a video age on TV, on radio, in mass media.  Though there is still an economic sorting— the best television costs money, you can’t get it  unassisted; the ownership of a television is still not access, as the ownership of a computer is only part of  the equation. You still need a conduit and a pass, that is a service provider and software, to use the internet and to “do” anything,  to do something with your computer.

And the better television, the access to movies without commercials,  or shows like Art in the City which present art experiences, galleries and museums around the US, or shows on poets and painters, sculptors and dancers, are on channels you can only get on cable or satellite.

I miss the casual and constant  visual education that  mobility and city provides, where fleeting magic masterpieces emerge and dissolve daily on many streets. the float of a long scarf behind the long stride of a hurrying passerby streaming above a steaming grate and the counterpoint of a  boxy yellow cab flashing by, and  your eyes glance up to glass, and sky and spires…..

Art making is about seeing what you see. How do you see and how do you learn to see without some education on the process or exploration of possibility?

Books are inexpensive portable teachers.  And the postscript to my transportation musing is about bringing the book, the library, the experience,the possibility to the audience.

Such was the book bus for me. The library was a refuge, but oh how wonderful when winter came to know that a mere three block from our house on Cheney Street to Farmer’s Boulevard in Queens, we could get on the book bus every week.  I would get home from school  just in time to dress my little sister and run, because the kind folks would wait  for us to make our selections, as long as we got there before they departed. Bless them.  It was close, it was delicious. They would take requests and as they got to know us, anticipate our desires.

Access to books is critical to the arts, to the young, to all.  I’ve got a lot of formal education, but not as a creator.  As a creator, I am primarily self taught.  I rely on the written word and recorded image, that is photographs, as a poet, fiction writer, papermaker, sculptor, and artist, and only slightly less so as a musician. While I would have been lost without the internet  — I’ve been online since 1987— it’s role has been more about feedback and networking. The initial impetus came from reading books.

I also know how central the library was to my early academic success. I read far more widely than what was assigned in public school, and those books that lead to scholarships, college and graduate schools, were there for the reading, for free, at the library.  O! I am so grateful to the librarian in Laurelton who let me slip into the young adult section with a permission slip While I was in elementary school, and to the anonymous women who helped me find what I was looking for or suggested what I needed to gobble up, next.

Someone said something like “you should read 10,000 words for every one you write.”  The idea is sound. So you should know/hear/play a 1,000 songs for every one you create.  And so on.

So why in the 21st century in an area where public transportation is scarce, is there no bookbus or bookmobile to take books to youth, the elderly, or the disabled?  It’s disheartening.

Why do we make the tools of knowledge, so hard to acquire?

In a pamphlet of resources for the disabled, a book dellivery service was listed. I was delighted, but when I called to use it, the library said it had been discontinued, several years ago.

How do kids without cars, get to the library?

Interesting and sad how infrastructure and education and the arts intersect. 

We must improve access to books and the arts.

About Akua Lezli Hope

Akua Lezli Hope uses sound, words, fiber, glass, metal, and wire to create poems, patterns, stories, music, sculpture, adornments, and peace. She wrote her first speculative poems in the sixth grade and has been in print every year, except one, since 1974 with over 400 poems published. Her collections and chapbooks include Embouchure: Poems on Jazz and Other Musics (ArtFarm Press, 1995; Writer’s Digest book award winner), Them Gone (The Word Works, 2018), Otherwheres: Speculative Poetry (ArtFarm Press, 2020; a 2021 Elgin Award winner), and Stratospherics (a micro-chapbook of scifaiku available from the Quarantine Public Library). A Cave Canem fellow, her honors include the NEA, two NYFAs, an SFPA award, and multiple Rhysling and Pushcart Prize nominations. She has won Rattle’s Poets Respond twice and launched Speculative Sundays, an online poetry reading series. Her work has also been published in numerous literary magazines and national anthologies, including: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The 100 Best African American Poems (Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2010); Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (Warner Aspect, 2000), Asimov’s Science Fiction, Gyroscope Review, Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality & the Arts, Strange Horizons, Star*Line, SciFaikuest, Eye to the Telescope, The New Verse News, Breath & Shadow, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop (Terrapin Books, 2016), The Cossack Review, Silver Blade Magazine, Stone Canoe, and Three Coyotes. She is the editor of the record-breaking sea-themed issue of Eye To The Telescope #42, and of NOMBONO: An Anthology of Speculative Poetry by BIPOC Creators, the first of its kind, from Sundress Publications (2021). A third-generation New Yorker and an avid hand papermaker and crochet designer, she exhibits her artwork regularly. She sings songs from her favorite anime in Japanese, practices her soprano saxophone, and prays for the cessation of suffering for all sentience from the ancestral land of the Seneca, the Southern Finger Lakes region of New York State.

One comment on “The Centrality of Books for the Arts: Infrastructure

  1. Jeff Atkinson
    September 22, 2008

    Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

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