See our right-hand column for announcements and news briefs. Scroll down the right-hand column to access the Archives -- links to articles posted in the main column since 2007.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Local poets to gather in Eagle River June 20; teachers share poems at MTU workshop

A Summer Solstice Community Poetry Reading will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 20, on the deck at Fitzgerald's Restaurant in Eagle River.* The event is hosted by Matt Seigel with music by Erin Smith, Linsday Elect and more.

If the weather is more like winter solstice, meet inside the restaurant. For more information about the reading, contact Matt Seigel ( or Erin Smith ( and check out for upcoming events.

On the above Web site, the collection of posters announcing poetry readings is evidence that poets are alive and well in the Keweenaw community and that local cafés and restaurants have been welcoming them to read their work for several months. You don't have to be a poet to join them and listen, whether or not you drink coffee.

Teachers share poems at MTU workshop

A few weeks ago, in May, the Copper Country Reading Council and the Department of Humanities at Michigan Tech University hosted a free Poetry Celebration and Workshop for poets, teachers and community members in the Walker Arts and Humanities Center on campus. Participants read some of their own poetry or works by their favorite poets.

Evelyn Johnson, Copper Country Reading Council president and Michigan Tech University instructor in teacher education, welcomes participants to the Poetry Celebration and Workshop in the Walker Arts and Humanities Center on the MTU campus last month. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Julie Antilla, who teaches Advanced Placement English to seniors at Houghton High School, read poems by three of her students, who recently graduated: Daniel Woodford, Emily Van Dam and Minori Wisti. Keweenaw Now requested permission to publish Ms. Wisti's poem, "What is Poetry?" We received the permission and share it here with our readers:

"What is Poetry?" by Minori Wisti

Poetry is not you; it is not me
this is not poetry
Poetry is an angry mob,
confused strangers,
a whittled sob.
A paper plane;
salt and pepper,
a movie star,
a loney leper.
Poetry is taking flight
Poetry is losing sight
and stealing it back again
Poetry is a bipolar friend.
Poetry is ugly, stupid,
insufficient in its home.
It hates me, slaps me
in the face and leaves me
standing all alone.
And then it turns its clever head
to put me on a pedestal
Poetry is what I eat
because poetry is edible.
Poetry is standing up
and making it okay
to take "the road less traveled by"
or sing out loud all day.
But none of this is poetry.
Poetry has no definition
If poetry were confined to these
where do you think our minds would be?
We certainly would not be free.

Minori Wisti graduated from Houghton High on May 25, 2008. She plans to attend the University of Michigan and to study creative writing.

Julie Antilla, Houghton High School teacher of English, reads poems written by some of her students during the Poetry Celebration and Workshop at Michigan Tech in May. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Another one of Antilla's students, Cutter Hurst, attended the workshop and read one of his original poems.

At the MTU workshop, Evelyn Johnson, Copper Country Reading Council president and MTU instructor in teacher education, along with faculty from the MTU Humanities Department, invited local teachers to share ideas on teaching poetry. Several of the participants joined in a discussion of whether the inspiration to write is natural.

Evelyn Johnson reads a poem by Debbie Mues, a CLK (Calumet) teacher and artist who was unable to attend the workshop. Also pictured is Jane de Martini a Tamarack City resident, who later read a selection from Billy Collins, American poet laureate. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"All people are inherently creative," Evelyn Johnson said.

She noted students can be nurtured with reading and playing with language.

For Randy Freisinger, award-winning poet and professor of English in the MTU Humanities Department, the pleasures of poetry begin in elementary school. He emphasized the "play" aspects of poetry.

"Writing," Freisinger said, "is really playing with some of the ingredients of a poem."

Randy Freisinger, award-winning poet and MTU Humanities professor, reads his poem, "Cursing the Death," winner of a Reader's Choice award. The poem is about deaf children who visited his school when he was a teenager. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Freisinger said poetry includes the pleasure of song and dance -- a poem finding its own rhythm, its own voice. He said writing poetry gives one the pleasure of connecting with the reader as well as the pleasure of surprise for oneself.

"I wouldn't write if it weren't going to hold surprise for me," he explained.

He read his recent, award-winning poem, "Cursing the Death," a memory of deaf children visiting his school when he was a teenager, and also a Chinese poem from the ninth century, "Madly Singing in the Mountains."

Ciro Sandoval, MTU professor of Spanish, read, in translation, selections from poetry by Nicanor Parra, a mathematician and poet of Chile, and Nicolás Guillén, an Afro-Cuban poet.

Poems of Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton and Rainer Maria Rilke were the favorites that Robert Johnson, Humanities Department Chair, selected to read at the event.

Robert Johnson, MTU Humanities Department Chair, reads selections from some of his favorite poems at the poetry workshop. These included Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Common Things," "Ode to an Artichoke" and "Ode to French Fries." (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Veronica Horning, a teacher from Carmen Ainsworth High School in Flint, Mich., now on child care leave in Houghton, discussed how she gets her students interested in poetry. First she assigns them a research project in which they choose a poet from a list, do research on the poet and put together a Power Point presentation on the poet for the class.

Veronica Horning, an English teacher from Carmen Ainsworth High School in Flint, presents her methodology for teaching poetry during the poetry workshop at MTU last May. Pictured at left is Evelyn Johnson, Copper Country Reading Council president and MTU instructor in teacher education. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Several community members also attended the workshop and read their own poems or selections from favorite poets.

Tom Blessing of Calumet reads one of his own poems during the poetry workshop at MTU in May. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"It's delightful to find the creative talent in this northwoods pocket," said Paula Thomas, a journalist and poet who is a seasonal resident of Calumet and Sacramento, Calif.

Thomas read two of her own poems, "One Moment, which she wrote while traveling in London, England, and "Selecting a Reader." Thomas is also writing a historical novel.

Paula Thomas, a journalist and poet from Calumet and Sacramento, Calif., reads two of her own poems during the MTU workshop. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Jeff Juntunen, an MTU graduate from Hancock, also attended the event.

"I like writing," he said. "I'm glad I came."

*For more information about the Eagle River Inn and Fitzgerald's, visit

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Beautifully Mundane: Interview with Composer Scott Flavin, Bergonzi String Quartet violinist

By Mick McKellar*

I recently interviewed Scott Flavin, Director of the Frost Chamber Orchestra and the UM Baroque Ensemble and Professor of Violin at the University of Miami (FL). Mr. Flavin plays second violin with the Bergonzi String Quartet, a cornerstone of the Pine Mountain Music Festival for the past 13 years. In their 14th appearance in the Festival, the quartet will present the world premiere of Scott Flavin's composition: Beautifully Mundane.

Scott Flavin, composer and Bergonzi String Quartet violinist. In their 14th Pine Mountain Music Festival appearance, the Bergonzi String Quartet will perform the world premiere of Beautifully Mundane, Flavin's original composition. Their Houghton performance will be June 30 at the Rozsa Center. (Photo courtesy Pine Mountain Music Festival)

Intrigued by this new chamber piece with the exotic name, which also involves a video projector and a screen, I contacted the composer for some details.

(McKellar) Mr. Flavin, would you please describe the genesis for Beautifully Mundane?

(Flavin) Beautifully Mundane developed out of an idea I had of mixing two art forms: in this case, cinematography and live string quartet music. My concept was to allow both forms to be as equal as possible, not just to make "movie music" in the background, but by utilizing a film without sound, to present both on equal footing. Live string quartet performance is visually quite interesting, especially the physical interplay between the four string instruments; and I think the parallels with film are fascinating.

(McKellar) Is Heili Basham related to Glenn Basham, and how does her film relate to your composition?

(Flavin) Heili Basham is a daughter of Bergonzi Quartet violinist Glenn Basham, and is a talented graduate film student at the University of Miami. I asked her to put together a short (under 15-minute) silent film, either with or without a plot, but utilizing visually striking elements; and she did a really great job of it.

(McKellar) Over time, the word mundane has accumulated shades of meaning that speak to the average or boring aspects of activities or things, but its roots pertain to worldly and earthly things. How does your composition define the beauty in the mundane; and is there a story in this piece that you would like the audience to take with them from the composition, the film and the performance?

(Flavin) The "mundane" in Beautifully Mundane refers to the everyday routine of our lives, and the beauty and/or meaning we can find in that routine. The film shows everyday people at work, going through their lives. I think the images in this film can mean many different things to different people, and that indefinable emotional connection makes this project so interesting to me.

(McKellar) Is this combination of multimedia (video, graphics, etc.) and live performance intended only for live performance or will it develop into something more? Also, is this a new direction for chamber music and a natural progression for the genre?

(Flavin) My intent in creating this project was mainly for live performance. I am fascinated at the idea of combining a film with a live musical performance, with all its quirks and (hopefully) spontaneous magic. There are some inherent difficulties in synchronizing live music with film, which presents a great challenge, though most of the music is designed to enhance a given atmosphere rather than mimic exactly what is on the screen.

My colleagues in the Bergonzi Quartet and I are continually interested in opening up the string quartet genre to as many new people as we can; this is music that we believe in, and have committed our lives to presenting. Hopefully, adding an extra visual element to our performance may encourage those who have never been to a chamber music concert to "take the plunge" and see that, rather than being a "snobbish" art form, our music, and the way we present it, is relevant across the centuries and through each generation of listeners. Heck, it's even fun!

(McKellar) Is this a new direction for you personally, or an interesting side track on your musical journey?

(Flavin) Composition is a new area for me. As a musician I've been exposed to some of the most noted composers and their work, and as an arranger I've begun to grow more comfortable in trusting my "inner ear," so perhaps the time is right. I also have been and continue to be inspired and supported by my dear colleagues in the Bergonzi Quartet; their generosity in tackling the compositional idiosyncrasies of their second violinist is staggering, yet totally within their character.

On a personal note, I feel so honored to be presenting the world premiere of this work in the UP, as there are such wonderful, supportive audiences there.

The Bergonzi String Quartet will perform during the Pine Mountain Music Festival on June 25, 2008, at Immaculate Conception Church in Iron Mountain; on June 28 at Reynolds Recital Hall in Marquette; and on June 30 at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts in Houghton.

All performances are at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are available by calling the Rozsa Center Box Office at 877-746-3999 (toll free) or 906-487-3200. For information on local ticket outlets, visit Tickets will be available at the door. Cost is $20 for adults and $10 for students/children. This year's Bergonzi String Quartet performances are sponsored by The Boldt Company and The Blodgett Foundation.

*Editor's Note: Guest writer Mick McKellar is Marketing and Development Associate for the Pine Mountain Music Festival.

Recycle unwanted electronics items June 21 in Hancock

HANCOCK -- The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) will collect unwanted, outdated or non-working household electronics items from 9 a.m. to noon this Saturday, June 21, at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (540 Depot St., a block south of eastbound US 41) in Hancock.

Among the items accepted for a small fee are computers and accessories, microwave ovens, stereos, TVs and monitors, DVD players, VCRs, cordless phones, and electronic ballasts (all $0.10/lb.); fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs ($0.50 each); alkaline batteries ($0.85/lb.). Rechargeable batteries and cell phones with batteries are free.

For more details, see or call Barb Maronen at the health department (482-7382). If you miss this opportunity, don't panic! There will be a collection July 12 in Baraga County (location TBA) and another collection in Houghton County this fall.

There is concern that the transition to digital TV in February 2009 may result in people prematurely discarding analog televisions in the mistaken belief that they will no longer work. Only analog TVs that receive signals via rooftop or "rabbit ears" antennas will require converter boxes -- and a government-sponsored $40 coupon program is available to help pay for up to two boxes per household: Visit or call 1-888-388-2009. Cable and satellite TV subscribers can continue to use their existing TVs, even if they aren't digital-ready models.

For more information visit

Please note that this opportunity does not apply to Michigan Tech University-owned electronics, which are recycled through the University's e-waste program.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hancock takes second consecutive Cardboard Boat Regatta victory

By Michele and Gustavo Bourdieu

Boy Scouts of Houghton Troop 208 clash with crew members of the City of Hancock boat during the final heat of the 2008 Cardboard Boat Regatta on June 15 during Bridgefest. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

HOUGHTON -- The City of Hancock won first place in the (age) 12-and-over division of the Pirates of the Keweenaw Cardboard Boat Regatta, defeating the Houghton Boy Scout Troop 208, second place, and their rival City of Houghton, third place, during Bridgefest on Sunday, June 15.

"We defended our title," said Hancock City Manager Glenn Anderson of the second victory in a row for the City's boat, which defeated the Smart Park in the 2007 Regatta.

Asked why the Smart Park sailors didn't show up to challenge the City again, Anderson replied, "They got dumb this year."*

The Boy Scouts gave both cities a run for the money in three heats of the race, improving their skills in negotiating the buoys each time.

Boy Scouts of Houghton Troop 208 line up with their boat, Ducky Slayer, before the first heat of the 2008 Pirates of Keweenaw Cardboard Boat Regatta. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Thunder and lightning on Sunday morning caused just a slight delay in the start of the races. Fortunately, the weather cleared up shortly after 10 a.m. A good-size crowd of fans cheered their favorites at Houghton Beach on the Portage Lake Ship Canal.

The younger, under-12, competitors began the race with one- and two-person boats. Elo Wittig of Chassell, whose Dad, Robert Wittig, built his #4 boat out of a refrigerator box, won first place paddling solo against Zakris Sotirin-Miller.** Zakris built his boat with the help of Peter Rowe (who did not compete in the race) in the ACE (Athletic Conditioning and Exercise) program at Keweenaw Memorial Fitness Center in Houghton.

Before the race, Zakris Sotirin-Miller poses with his boat, built with the help of Peter Rowe, in the ACE (Athletic Conditioning and Exercise) program at the Keweenaw Memorial Fitness Center in Houghton. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Emily Johnson, fitness coordinator at the Center, said the program runs five days a week after school and is designed especially for middle- and high school students not involved in other sports.

"We get them interested in different sports -- outdoor and indoor," Johnson said.

The sports include biking and a mini-triathlon of rowing, biking and running, she added.

"We chose the Boat Regatta because it's a team-building activity and a lot of fun for the kids," Johnson noted.

Zakris Sotirin-Miller, in boat in foreground, and Elo Wittig set out for one of the first races for younger competitors as Houghton City Manager Scott MacInnes, one of the organizers of the event, supervises. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Patti Sotirin said the experience of building the boat in the ACE program was great for her son, Zakris.

"It really built self-confidence for Zakris," Sotirin said.

Zakris holds on to his overturned boat as one of the race monitors swims out to the rescue. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Elo Wittig paddles his cardboard kayak, Deep Six, to victory. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Zakris was still smiling when his boat overturned. Maybe half the fun is getting wet.

"Well, it didn't sink," his Mom, Patti, noted. "It just tipped over."

Another boat in the competition for younger sailors was the SS Ship, which one the prize for best-decorated boat, with its colorful pirate crew, Brian Milligan and Adam Drelich, both of Houghton.

Pirates Brian Milligan and Adam Drelich round a buoy during the first heat of the competition for younger sailors. Their creation, the SS Ship, won an award for best-decorated boat and came in second in their division. A safety monitor, right, is close at hand -- just in case. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

"We did it all by ourselves," Brian said of building the prize-winning boat, which also came in second in its division.

Some of the boats that didn't quite survive are dragged up on the beach. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

How many sailors are in this little blue boat? They must be vying for the prize of "best sinking." The Coast Guard and race monitor are checking them out. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

In the over-12 division, after three crowd-pleasing heats around the buoys, Hancock finally claimed victory over the Boy Scouts and the City of Houghton. Here are some highlights:

Hancock, left, Houghton, center, and Houghton Boy Scout Troop 208 set out for one of the championship heats. (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Bob Emmert, Boy Scout Troop 208 scoutmaster, and Leonard Bohmann, assistant scoutmaster, were on hand to assist the scouts with launching the boat. Bohmann said the scouts' boat, Ducky Slayer, was built mostly in one week.

"We had to wait until school was out," Bohmann noted.

Heading for a buoy, the Boy Scouts' boat, Ducky Slayer, chases Hancock's boat, Re-Loaded. The Portage Lift Bridge, namesake for the annual Bridgefest celebration, is in the background. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

The late Bill Blumhardt, former Houghton city councilor, designed and helped build the City of Houghton boat, "DC Love VII." On the side of the boat is written, "Design by and in memory of Bill Blumhardt." (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

The competition is fierce as both the City of Houghton and Boy Scout Troop 208 attempt to take away the City of Hancock's 2007 championship in the first of three heats. In this video, spectators comment on the buoys as obstacles for the challengers. (Video clip © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

Boy Scouts of Troop 208 negotiate a buoy as they paddle hard in competition with veteran sailors in the Hancock and Houghton boats. (Photo © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Hancock takes the lead in the final heat against the Boy Scouts and the City of Houghton. A closer look suggests some pushing and pulling was going on! (Photo © 2008 Gustavo Bourdieu)

This video clip shows some of the final heat of the race, and the victory of the City of Hancock's Re-Loaded, a boat built with the help of the Houghton crew in 2007.* (Video clip © 2008 Michele Bourdieu)

Editor's Notes:
* See Keweenaw Now's photo essay of the 2007 Cardboard Boat Regatta on our archived Web site. You'll find some of the same competitiors. Track their progress!
** The Wittigs also competed last year, but their boat design has improved.
To learn more about Bridgefest, check out their Web site.

Park invites public to tour Quincy Mine site, seeks input

Part of the landscape of the Quincy Mine site, a unit of Keweenaw National Historical Park, is seen here in this view from the No. 2 Shaft. Click on photo for larger image. (Photo courtesy Keweenaw National Historical Park)

CALUMET -- Keweenaw National Historical Park (KNHP) invites the public to a presentation of Part One of the "Quincy Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment" (CLR/EA) from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 18, at the Quincy-Franklin Firehall on Quincy Hill (US-41). The informational meeting will be followed by a tour of the Quincy site, hosted by the Quincy Mine Hoist Association, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and a CLR Open House back at the Quincy-Franklin Firehall from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The presentation will provide an overview of the CLR, which contains historic research and documentation of the Quincy landscape over time, inventory and mapping of existing conditions and an analysis of landscape character and integrity. This report is the result of a collaborative effort by park staff and a consulting team from Quinn Evans | Architects and Woolpert, LLC.

The public is invited to join staff from the park and the Quincy Mine Hoist Association for a tour of the Quincy site, which will provide an opportunity to explore some less familiar features of this historic cultural landscape.

The Open House will provide an opportunity for public input. Environmental assessment, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, is an important component of this project, and one where public input is of high value to the process. Environmental assessment considers the effect and impact of any action on the overall human environment, including the natural, built, tribal, economic and social environments. The careful consideration of treatment alternatives will lead the way to a recommended treatment plan, which will guide National Park Service efforts in the Quincy area well into the future. Public involvement is important to the success of this project.

The project team welcomes discussion and comments from all interested parties. Please contact KNHP Landscape Architect Steve DeLong, ASLA at 337-1104 x 122 if you wish to know more about the CLR/EA effort, or if you have information to share regarding the history or management of the Quincy Unit. The park looks forward to public participation at the meetings.

Editor's Note: For a map of the Quincy Mine unit visit the KNHP Web site brochure page and click on the KNHP Map and Guide (in pdf format).