When you’re a kid into art, it’s hard to imagine doing that and getting paid for it like a job. (We all know that old adage about starving artists). This is possibly even more true for those who like writing poetry. You don’t often hear about professional poets.
Well, today’s an exception. My guest Glenis Redmond is an award-winning, professional poet, and teaching artist. In this episode, she talks about being drawn to poetry from an early age, her biggest inspiration for diving into a poetry career, and how she approaches teaching poetry in workshops and the classroom. I hope you love this conversation as much as I did!
2:49 – How Glenis made the transition from counselor to professional poet artist
8:25 – The discipline of being an artist and how dialing in on your desire affects other people
10:16 – Why Glenis decided to start teaching poetry
14:22 – The intangible objective to working with teachers and students on poetry
16:23 – The keys to getting students to go deep and share their vulnerability through poetry
22:53 – Why introverts are big storytellers and the power of giving students agency
25:04 – How visual arts and poetry intersect and influence Glenis’ work
32:24 – Using praise poetry as a tool to connect with visual art in the classroom
36:10 – How praise poetry speeds up the social-emotional learning process
42:12 – The artwork that changed Glenis’ life
- Glenis Redmond
- Glenis on Instagram
- Glenis on Facebook
- “Literacy at Work: How to Write a Poem with Glenis Redmond”
- The Christening by Jonathan Green
- Julia Cameron’s Course: The Artist’s Way
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
- 82 Questions About Art
Be a Podcast Guest: Submit a Voice Memo of Your Art Story (Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your story.)
Cindy Ingram: Hello and welcome to The Art Class Curator Podcast. I am Cindy Ingram, your host and the founder of Art Class Curator, and The Curated Connections Library. We’re here to talk about teaching art with purpose and inspiration from the daily delights of creativity to the messy mishaps that come with being a teacher. Whether you’re driving home from school or cleaning up your classroom for the 15th time today, take a second, take a deep breath, relax those shoulders, and let’s get started.
Hello everybody. I have another super inspirational and fabulous guest for you today on the podcast. I cannot tell you how much I loved this conversation with poet, artist Glenis Redmond. I just felt, after talking with her, that she is just pure love and wholeheartedness. I can’t say enough of how lovely the conversation was. Glenis Redmond is an award-winning poet and teaching artist. She has been a literary community leader for 27 years. This past year, she was awarded South Carolina’s highest award, The Governor’s Award for the Arts through the South Carolina Arts Commission. She’s a Kennedy Center teaching artist in Washington, DC. She is amazing. Check out the show notes for more links about what we talked about in today’s episode but without further ado, I am so happy to introduce to you Glenis Redmond. I am so excited to welcome Glenis Redmond to the podcast. Welcome, Glenis.
Glenis Redmond: Hi. It’s so good to be here, Cindy.
Cindy Ingram: I am so thrilled to talk to you. I saw you on a webinar recently. Your words were just so very powerful. Then I went on a binge of YouTube and watched some of your work on there. I just knew that the Art Class Curator community would love to hear more about you and your work. Can you introduce yourself? Tell us about you, your background, and experiences?
Glenis Redmond: Sure. Thank you for reaching out because I am a big believer in community as far as the arts are concerned. I am a poet and teaching artist. I’ve been doing this work for 28 years. My love is of course writing but also teaching. I’ve been going across the country, preaching the power of the gospel of poetry and the arts to teachers in school districts, and administrators across the country as a community center teaching artist. I am a mother of twin girls and a Gaga to a seven-year-old grandson, and a six-month-old granddaughter.
Cindy Ingram: Wonderful.
Glenis Redmond: I think that sums me up.
Cindy Ingram: What brought you into poetry?
Glenis Redmond: I think many of us are born poets. Not to say you can’t learn to be an artist. You can, but I think I was always, from a very young age, noticing the world and how people interacted, how nature and how I responded to the world. I wish somebody would have told me at a very early age, “You’re a poet,” but nobody knew. I grew up in a family of artists too but nobody did it as a profession. I was just that mismatched child but I knew I was different but I was a dancer. I thought I was a visual artist too. I was all of that.
That was my way to respond to the world. I didn’t know until I left the counseling field in my 30s at probably the age my daughters are now, that I was restless. I was restless. I love counseling. I still love people. I’m still a people person but there was an itch inside of me. The itch was a greater call of the arts. I had a chronic illness, fibromyalgia at the same time, so my boss at the time said, “Hey, you need to take some time off because you just need to get your health together.” It was there. I took The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I never went back. I never went back to counseling, those were in the early 90s. Long story short, I always knew I was an artist poet. I didn’t know how to get there. In my 30s, that’s how I finally said to myself life is too short literally. I went down the path of poetry. I’ve been doing it professionally ever since.
Cindy Ingram: I can imagine, I think as kids wanting to be artists, it feels really hard to imagine that being a job when you grow up. I can imagine poetry being even more foreign. You don’t hear about people being professional poets all that often.
Glenis Redmond: Especially for me, I had two things going on. I’m a first generation college student. I had a couple of siblings that went but didn’t finish. That was a whole new world, then to graduate from college, then decide I was working on a PhD in counseling, then decide I wanted to leave a PhD program and become, “What? A poet?” I mean everybody thought I had gone mad. I had lost my mind, I probably had but I had gained my heart in the process because I stopped thinking about what I had seen as far as role models and what did I want? That was a whole shift. Once I got aligned with what it is that I want to do aside from being a mother, a daughter, a sister, a counselor, what is it that I want? I wanted to put pen to paper, I wanted to put pen to heart, and I stopped asking the questions how. I just started doing it. Magically, the pathway opened up.
Cindy Ingram: I was going to ask you what were your first steps but I think you nailed it on the head right there with, “I didn’t worry about how, I just started to do it.” That really resonates with me and what I’m doing. It’s just like, “Well, I know what I want to do. I’m just going to do it. We’ll see what happens.”
Glenis Redmond: I forget who said it but, “The genius is in the boldness of doing it.” You don’t give yourself all these excuses like, “Well, I don’t have this, I don’t have that.” No, you just start. If you want to do that, just do it. I didn’t have anybody tell me that I couldn’t do it—I mean I did have people telling me I couldn’t do it. I had a lot of people telling me that—but I didn’t listen because that burning inside of me, and I don’t know if that’s how you felt, I just felt like I had nowhere else to turn but inward or just to give up on life in a way, just to say like, “Well, is this all there is?” Not to say that all the things were for me, they were valuable but there were other things I needed to do to expand. I gave myself tasks. I said I wanted to do five poetry readings a month after I did The Artist’s Way. I am going to get published. I got the Poet’s Market, 1995. I started going to professional development. I just took it on as a job, a type-A person. Even though that doesn’t go along with being art as a poet, I had both sides of my brain lit up, so I was doing the head work. I started one day a week saying, “This is my poetry day.”
Even though I was raising twin toddlers and married at the time, I still had a committed space for my work. That was a game changer because once I started guarding that day a week, then other people started guarding that day a week. That grew into a practice for me as a poet, an artist. I don’t think I would be where I am today had I not guarded that Thursday once a week that was dedicated solely to poetry because that space expanded. I think that space out in the world now, of me as a teaching artist, stems from that Thursday that I guarded for myself.
Cindy Ingram: You gave that space to yourself to create. I love that. I was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. I’ve read it multiple times. I love that book but she talks a lot about the discipline of writing and the discipline of being an artist, that it’s not just that words are constantly flowing but that you have to develop these very specific processes and time. I like you’re showing that in that space you gave yourself.
Glenis Redmond: I love that. I haven’t read her Big Magic book. Of course, Eat, Pray, Love is amazing. I think of her book, what is it?
Cindy Ingram: The Signature of All Things. I haven’t read that yet.
Glenis Redmond: She’s right. She’s dialed in of course. I think it’s important to dial other people in. Once you get dialed in, you change who you are. Even in the community, I think you are a soul flame that sends up a flare and that ignites other people. That’s one of my things as a teaching artist. When I go around the country and teach workshops, I’m not trying to make people poets. I’m trying to help them find the poetry within their lives. Some people do want to do it professionally. Some people just want to just do it. I think we all as artists, what happens with artists with art, it builds in this capacity for empathy, which we need in this world. I find that quite beautiful and a wonderful charge for us as a community.
Cindy Ingram: Definitely. You started dedicating your time to writing, reading, and sending things to be published. What made you decide to start teaching?
Glenis Redmond: I love poetry in all aspects. I started the first poetry Slam in Greenville in the early 90s but I also like very academic heady page poetry. I loved it all. I would slam poetry at night, then I decided I wanted to give away the form, so I had nighttime poetry and daytime poetry. I had something for everyone. I just was so on fire for poetry. The Slam was not enough. It wasn’t going to hold me. That was a great power to be with those folks but I also had this power to talk to young people about poetry and talk to teachers about the importance of poetry in the classroom. I had all of these aspects of poetry that I wanted to realize. I didn’t want to limit myself in the teaching artist part. It really spoke to the extroverted part of me. I have the introverted part. That’s the writing part but the extroverted part is the giving it away, whether performing or teaching in a classroom.
Cindy Ingram: I can imagine your background in psychology fuels that need to connect with another BA.
Glenis Redmond: Yeah. My workshops were often poetry circles, like my group sessions that I used to have, my group counseling. That’s how you came into my poetry workshop. I wasn’t counseling. Although there were a lot of tears and I welcome tears because I think when people meet themselves at deeper levels, which poetry does, what art does, people do need to release. I don’t know how many times, especially with my teacher workshops, people have been told really bad things about themselves when it comes to writing and the arts like, “You can’t draw. You can’t write.” That’s a horrible place to be arrested. What I found myself is going into the community and opening those doors of where people have had arrested development, and say, “You can do whatever, creatively. You can do it. You can do it right now. We’re going to do it here. We’re going to have a dedicated space.” That space I gave to myself on Thursday, I gave it to others. Even if it was only for an hour or it was only for three hours, guess what, no one else is in here. We’re going to go. This is what we’re going to do. I just gave permission in these rooms. People are hungry for permission to gather, then also permission to go deep. I’m going to stand here because I have done that for myself. I’m going to facilitate this space. It’s going to be safe for you to do it.
Cindy Ingram: I love that because so many of us have these just really thick armors built up around our hearts or when it comes to our creativity, our emotions, the things that we want to express, it just keeps people trapped. I think these experiences are so magical.
Glenis Redmond: It’s true. It is magical. It’s sacred in a way. It is sacred when you say, “I’m going to give myself these many minutes or these hours.” To me, it’s like I never talk a lot about the aspect of poetry where just reading a book, that space to give you that luxury you give yourself, you’re like, “I’m tuning out the rest of the world. I’m just going to read this book. I’m just going on a journey.” That’s the same way in a workshop when you say, “I’m going here.” When you sign up for a workshop and you say, “This is just for me,” it’s a gift. I feel like in the last 28 years, I’ve been able to go around the country and give people the gift of time to themselves, and to deepen their relationships with themself.
Cindy Ingram: That’s beautiful. When you’re working with teachers and students, what’s your main goal? What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
Glenis Redmond: There are several goals but the objective is to expand the margins of poetry, depending on what the workshop is but to introduce them to the form, to craft, and allow them to be inundated in the craft itself. A lot of times when I’m in school, they do want a product but the product to me is an aside to the whole process because my objective is to open doors and for them to create. I write a lot of autobiographical poetry or poetry origin work. I want them to get on that path. I want them to get on that journey. For teachers, what I’m trying to do is ignite them and say, “Hey, poetry is a wonderful supplement in your classroom to go hand in hand to whatever you’re teaching. I don’t care what it is if it’s history.” If it’s English, if it’s literature, there’s a place for poetry. I’m doing lots of different things in that workshop but the big thing is that I’m a door opening and hoping the process will lend itself to further experiences, and experiments in poetry.
Cindy Ingram: It’s beautiful. I watched a video of yours. I don’t remember the topic. I’ll find it and put it in the show notes for people to watch too but you were leading students through this process of discovering who they are and you had a white board, and you were like, “This was me as an 11 year old.” You’re writing everything about you, then they were writing everything about them, then they created these poems that were so beautiful, so vulnerable, really deep. These were probably middle school or fifth grade kids. They were really going for it, then they were sharing. How do you, with a group of students, get them to go that deep and get them to share their vulnerability in it with the other classmates?
Glenis Redmond: We’re a couple of things. Number one, I will say what you were looking at was the self-portrait workshop, which I think is great when we’re talking about the visual arts because I think it’s a great place for arts teachers to have them write their self-portrait but also paint their self-portrait and create text. That’s what that was. What’s interesting, a lot of times when I’m going into a school, I’m usually there for a week or two weeks. If I’m lucky, with the state theater, which is where I was in that video, it’s three weeks but I’ll have maybe three times with the kids. Sometimes, the class period is 45 minutes, sometimes, it’s an hour. That’s not a lot to gain trust, so I have to go in there and do it really quickly. What I do is I let kids know a little bit about myself. I do some poems, then I say, “Hey, I’m talking to your head, the academic self but I’m also talking to your heart today, so through these poems, I want you to connect and notice what you connect with in these poems, and what do you notice in these poems.” I’m engaging them in the work already.
I don’t talk down to them. We have a little discussion, usually five to seven minutes. That’s it because I don’t have much time there. We talk about the poems, “What did you notice? How did you connect?” They’ll say, “Oh, my mom was like your mom.” or “I didn’t have a mom like your mom. I’m so sad.” They’ll notice and we connect on that level, and I say, “This is important because we’re engaging, we’re inspiring each other with our stories.” Then I will give them a craft lecture, maybe give them 15 minutes on. “Okay, this is how this poem is set up. This is this form, this is what you need.” I inspire them first, then I give them the craft information, then I give them maybe a poem or two from students the same age as them to inspire them a little bit more, then I tell them, “We got 10-12 minutes and we write.” By that time, they are so ready for me to shut up, so they can write their poem. We brainstorm, we list make because you can’t do any of that. You can’t leave that step out. Once you ignite the inspiration, you have to make sure there’s a place for it to go. It’s very methodical, it’s very scaffold but it’s like lightning happening, then they’re ready like, “Leave me alone. Why don’t you be quiet, so I can write my poems?” We never get into the place of, “Oh, I don’t have anything to write about.” We have already unearthed. We’re doing this archeological dig. I’m mixing my metaphors but we have this archaeological dig that we found, found, found, found. Now, you go and you find your nuggets and put it on the paper.
Cindy Ingram: I love that because it’s just like creating a thumbnail sketch or something for your artwork. You need to have a place to start. Just hand them a piece of paper and be like, “Write a poem.”
Glenis Redmond: No, never, never will I do that. I’m going to lead you and we’ll do activities that lead. I let them have conversations with each other. We have broader conversations in the classroom. Then really what I think art is you having a conversation with yourself. If I’ve done my job right, I’ve given them skills and tools to have a conversation on the page with themselves. They can reflect deeply. They can write it out. We can edit later but the jewels are just putting it out there. That’s where I go when I workshop. People say, “You only give them 12 minutes?” Yeah. The pre-writing is going to be 40 minutes. We have to build up to the writing. It takes the whole class period to build up to that 12 rich full writing time.
Cindy Ingram: I love that. I also loved what you said about listening to the poem and connecting with one through your head, and also through your heart. I wrote that down because I think that we could do that with works of art too. I can ask, “How do you connect this artwork with your head versus your heart?” How do you get kids to really tap into their heart? Do you have any strategies that you use for that?
Glenis Redmond: Tapping into the heart all goes back to stories. We’ll probably talk about this but where I feel like art and poetry merge is that I do a lot of what we call ekphrastic writing, which is writing to artwork. I think because I am a closeted visual artist, I really went back to paint. I never really did that professionally but I still do it for myself. That’s why I love works of art. My home is just full of artwork. There’s one person who I love. His name is Peg Leg Bates who’s a one leg dancer from Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He taught my parents. He became world famous. There’s a sculpture in Fountain Inn you can go and see him. I just think he’s phenomenal. He died in 1998. His story is amazing for so many reasons.
I wrote a poem to Peg Leg Bates, to the statue, to that place. I think engaging students in that way, the stories, if I say, “Well, how do you connect to this Peg Leg Bates story?” They’ll go like, “This man had one leg. He could dance. I have my own challenges and these are my challenges that I come up against.” I ask them to engage the artwork and talk back. That’s how I get them to engage by the heart. It’s not all the, “Okay, now we’re going to write a persona poem. We’re going to use alliteration. We’re going to use that.” Those are all craftings that they need to learn but those aren’t inspirational. The hard part is the inspirational part. How are you connected? What are your gifts? What are your challenges.” The questioning is how I engage them by heart and they tell me their stories because everybody wants to talk about their stories, even if they are incredibly introverted. As a matter of fact, I think introverts are even bigger storytellers. They may not always want to be on stage but they have a story to tell. That’s how I get the heart to speak. When you get the heart speaking, it never wants to be quiet. It can be a whisper. It doesn’t have to be a shout.
Cindy Ingram: It’s just that natural desire to be seen and to be known. I’m an introvert myself. The stories are there just as much.
Glenis Redmond: That’s probably richer because that rich interior life is great. You may not want to broadcast it but you may want to speak it, you may want to whisper it, whatever way you want it to come out there but I think the rich interior life is alive in all of us. I think it’s tricky when someone says, “Oh, they can’t do that.” I have rarely found that to be true in classrooms. I find students may not have the agency. They may not have the access but once you give them the skills and tools, they have plenty to say. The other side of that is just to listen. Maybe I’m the first person who’s asking them to write about themselves. “Tell me about your life.” But if you ask that question, you have to really be there and hold what they tell you.
Cindy Ingram: I love that. That’s perfect. It’s so good. Where do you see the intersection between visual arts and poetry? How does that come into your work?
Glenis Redmond: I’ll tell you this. I tell a lot of people in my workshops, writing is visual art. Anybody who thinks it’s not is off the mark because number one, it’s the land of metaphors. It’s image based. I write from images. Everybody’s different but I do write from the image. I see. I don’t see words. Even in a story, it’s dream-like. It comes in sequences. I write from those images. I pin them down with words. I think writers in a lot of ways we’re behind visual artists because I think we primarily as people understand the world through images first before the written language came much, much later. We’re a step removed from writers. We’ve gotta invoke that image through our words. There’s that. I pull from visual art so much because it’s such a great example, like we were talking about earlier how to get to the heart. When I go to museums, it’s hard. I can’t go through a whole museum. I can’t. It’s just too much. I see people go through and they’re doing it like they’re ordering a fast food menu. They just go through. I can go through a section and I go, “Okay, that’s enough.” My heart just gets full, full, full, full, then I go. I can’t really absorb anymore but that’s how powerful imagery is. I feel like they really do dovetail. That’s why I go back to ekphrastic work a lot. I’m looking at visual arts.
One project that I have been very much involved in for maybe the last eight, nine years is this work by a visual artist by the name of Jonathan Green. He is a Gullah landscape artist in South Carolina. If you’ve ever come across this work, he really writes about the African-American story, which is really integral, especially when I came across them in the 90s because we had been bombarded by all this negative imagery in the black community. The Mammy Jars and just all the stuff that as a kid, I just got this whole internalized, all this negativity. Until Jonathan Green came along and I would see his postcards first, I saw his calendars and it’s us, these hybrid colors, celebration, and this beauty, I just started getting this sense of pride. That’s how he got on my radar. Lo and behold, I find his work and literally, I find him. He’s the one who put me on the path to poetry because he’s like, “I don’t know why you’re counseling. I think you should be writing.” Those many years, he did me a favor and helped me get on this path.
But long story short, he was painting in the 90s this enslaved potter poet by the name of David Drake. Why is David Drake so important? 50, 60 miles from where I grew up, you have this enslaved person making pots, which is not unusual because many enslaved people have these artisan jobs or side jobs but he learned to read and write. Not only read and write, he put his poetry on his pots, couplets on his pot, which is forbidden, get you killed. One of his most famous couplets is, “I wonder where is all my relations/Friendship to all – and every nation,” which is a powerful couplet. “What? You’re putting a misabout to us, to your people, where they are.” It’s so beautiful.
So Jonathan Green had painted Dave. He brought him to life. There’s no photographs of David Drake. He brought him in vivid color, so we could see him. He dubbed him “Sir Dave.” He put him into the line of royalty. I didn’t know Jonathan Green had done that. I was working with some University of Delaware professors, Dr. Gabrielle Foreman and Dr. Lynnette Young Overby. We had been working on Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Wilson but Dr. Foreman said, “Well, I think you should look at David Drake. He’s from South Carolina.” But I wasn’t ready. Right after she said that, every school I went to, somebody would say, “Do you know David Drake?” I’d be in Birmingham, Alabama at the museum, they’re like, “We have a pot we want to show you, Glenis.” I go in there, it’s a David Drake pot. Finally, I said, “Okay.”
Cindy Ingram: Universe, message received.
Glenis Redmond: Message received. We decided to bring Dave to life and Dr. Foreman had her students dance day. Dr. Foreman is an African-American literature scholar. She had all the facts about history on Dave, then I brought him to life through poetry. We have a book coming out of the University of Georgia Press called Praise Songs for (Dave the Potter) David Drake, with the Art of Jonathan Green and Poetry of Glenis Redmond. It’s an eight year long process but any art teacher that’s interested in Jonathan Green’s work will love it. It will be a wonderful teaching tool because it interviews Jonathan Green essays, the collaboration, then the artwork itself and me writing to the artwork. That’s another bridge to poetry and visual art. It’s just this wonderful conversation of the artists, talking to each other, in a sense visual artist poet but also how the work itself talks to each other. I think that is a palpable tool to teach students as well how to look deeper, how to notice deeply. I think this work will amplify because there’s so many hands that’re lifting it. It’s not just my voice, not just Jonathan Green’s eye. It’s so many voices looking at work and how the community works as well.
Cindy Ingram: I love that. When is the book coming out?
Glenis Redmond: It comes out in 2022.
Cindy Ingram: We’ll keep an eye out for it.
Glenis Redmond: The book is slated to come out. I shouldn’t say spring 2022. I think the book will be coming out in the fall of 2022.
Cindy Ingram: Awesome.
Glenis Redmond: Yes, I’m excited, we’re all excited because it’s been a labor of love. We all have work that we do aside from that work that we get paid for. This was all a labor of love because of the love of David Drake and what Jonathan Green had done with art. I think that’s another testament that art comes before in a way, then poetry can enter in and connect. I’ve seen so many ways where I think art and poetry hold hands. Another thing that I do a lot is teach praise poetry, which is another autobiographical art form for students to talk about who they are and honor themselves. When I was here, I went into a visual arts class with the teacher at one of the high schools here at Travelers Rest. The art teacher had me teach the praise poem workshop. Her students wrote praise poems but from their praise poems, they had to take the text and create their self-portrait, their praise self-portrait, which was really powerful and lovely. It was just how you see because I think poetry is seen one way. The visual art is seen in another way but when you merge the two–
Cindy Ingram: You’re seeing multiple sides of a person inside and out.
Glenis Redmond: Exactly. The internal landscape and the external landscape, which is all the world to me. The world’s coming together.
Cindy Ingram: I love that. I can make guesses on what a praise poem might be. Can you describe that a little bit more?
Glenis Redmond: Sure. When you say praise, it can be weighted for people because they’re like, “Oh, I think church related.” Let me back up and say most indigenous cultures have praise poetry. What it is, is especially pre-literate societies where you carry the lineage through song, you carry the lineage through storytellers. A praise poem would be a way of announcing yourself to your people. I believe in that form, I think we need more of this ritualistic ritual in our society. This is me when I come in and I say, “You’re going to write your praise poem.” It’s not saying, “You’re going to do this braggadocious thing. What you’re going to do is connect.” Because praise in a lot of West African languages is linked to the word tendon. It’s not praise up here. It’s praise in connection, what makes the connection between nature, yourself, and others.
That’s what a praise poem is. You do it through your height, the color of your skin, the color of your personality. Again, you have the outside and the inside world, an animal, how you walk in the world, what you would like to be, your profession, and all that. You do that metaphorically. You talk about yourself metaphorically. When I came in, I didn’t know that about that student. I didn’t know that’s what they thought but when you give them the skills and tools to reflect on themselves, they come back with some really powerful beautiful praise connections. I’ve been teaching praise poetry for almost 18, 19 years. It never gets old. It’s beautiful when we read. I’ve taught it to kindergarteners, to senior citizens. I just love to hear people make connections in their life.
Cindy Ingram: I just want to go write one. That’s what I’m doing next.
Glenis Redmond: You can do it.
Cindy Ingram: But I love that because one of the big social, emotional learning standards is really understanding yourself and your strengths. I think so many of us are taught to tone it down. “You’re being too much. You’re being too braggy. You’re being too proud.” Pride is like an emotion that is almost shamed. Being prideful or being proud of yourself is so fulfilling.
Cindy Ingram: I love that.
Glenis Redmond: It’s building an agency, what you’re saying. Who knew I was doing social, emotional learning? I did. I was a counselor, so I knew that I’m building a foundation for social, emotional learning. Because when you reflect, how do you think you get to be who you are and understand? I don’t know if you’ve had this experience with yourself. You see yourself as a student and when you were a child, and what it took for you to get. When you look back and you do this hindsight, you go, “Oh my goodness, this was in operation but I had no clue.” That’s maturity. You gain insight. To me, what poetry does, it speeds that process up because you are giving young people, you’re giving teachers, you’re giving them the tool to do that. It’s set in the form, especially in praise poetry, to lift up out of their life, gain hindsight, foresight, and be present at the same time. We are writing a poem but we’re doing what Dr. Engler, my bible professor at Erskine College, was always telling us, he said, “This is for the test.” He would wrap on his desk three times and we would all write it down. “Okay, this is for the test.” Then if he hit the desk once, he would say, “This is for life.” At the time, I didn’t realize what that was happening but I got used to the three times, scurry, then I got used to them. Oh my goodness, this is a life lesson. That to me is what is embedded in praise poetry, in the arts, these skills and tools that are for life that build a way of seeing, and a platform on which to stand to advocate for yourself. It’s not bragging. Praise is not bragging. It’s making connections in your own life that oh, wow. You might see some things that are uncomfortable too but you also start ownership, a very accountability at a young age. It’s a great tool.
Cindy Ingram: I went to a painting retreat last week and at the beginning of every day, we did this circle and she had us do this one activity where we were in the circle, then one person at a time would go to the middle and we would say like, “I’m Cindy and I am blank or I am here to blank.” We just had to say something, then everybody in the group would say, “You’re Cindy and you’re an artist.” I said, “I’m Cindy. I’m an artist.” They say, “You’re Cindy and you’re an artist.” Then everybody would make eye contact with you. I think we were doing praise poetry because it was so powerful to just stand there and say something that you know to be true, and want to be true and to hear it reflected back by everybody in the group.
Glenis Redmond: Yes, it’s affirmational. Number one, you’re being affirmed by yourself because you have admitted, you’ve gone, looked, and said, “I’m claiming this.” Then your facilitator had it echo back to you, which is really a powerful stance. That’s how I feel about the reading of praise poems. There’s the writing of it, which is the claiming of it, then the reading of it is where you’re meeting the community. They’re listening to what you have affirmed. I don’t like to put spirituality on anything, especially when it’s coming to school but there is something powerful and palpable that is happening. It’s more than just the standards. Yes, we are meeting the standards but we are doing something even beyond that. It’s the Dr. Engler, “For life.” We are doing the one, two, three, and the one at the same time. We’re getting it all.
Cindy Ingram: Yes, we’re so lucky to be in this work. That’s so amazing to just imagine the impact on all of these kids and students. I think that was actually a super beautiful way to wrap up our conversation but I do want to ask you just a few more follow-up questions. One is how can listeners connect with you online?
Glenis Redmond: You can connect with me online at my website, which is glenisredmond.com. I do newsletters periodically. The other place if you want to follow my journey is Instagram. You can find me pictorially there. That will not be solely poetry. That’s grandkids in all of the like when I’m allowed to post but my Instagram handle is glenismakingpoetryreign.
Cindy Ingram: Oh.
Glenis Redmond: Yes, because my students said, “You got to be cooler than that.” I said, “Okay, I’m going to make it reign, not rain.” You can find me on Twitter but I don’t really quite know what I’m doing on Twitter. You can find me there but I’m kind of not there. Then I have a Facebook page.
Cindy Ingram: We’ll link to all of that in our show notes as well. Then my one final question that I like to ask everybody and I think you might have already answered it, and that is, which artwork changed your life?
Glenis Redmond: It has to be Jonathan Green but before David Drake, a community decided to buy a Jonathan Green painting back in the 90s. I was a mother of twins and did not have much money, so what I was able to offer was like $50 but I thought it was a huge amount but I’m so glad that I did. My name is on the plaque for The Christening. It’s a beautiful scene but what that did for me because of what Jonathan Green had done for us as black people but also for South Carolinians, it allowed me to be play space because I talk to students a lot and I’ll say, “What do you feel about the city or the town you live in?” They all think wherever they live is boring. They want to get out.
I taught the kids in New York who say the same thing like, “Are you kidding? There’s so much going on here.” It’s all about the eyes, it’s all about the mind’s eye of what you really see because every place we live is rich. What Jonathan Green was telling me with that painting is to see. To see beauty, you can see struggle but to fine-tune and get closer. Find that gaze. I would have to put it in The Christening by Jonathan Green. You can Google it and find it. It was another doorway for me to discover myself as a poet and a teaching artist, and to move out in the world to always make room to connect and notice the surroundings. We are more than what we think we are ourselves, then who we are engaging every day. I’m still living that life’s lesson from the visual artist to see deeply.
Cindy Ingram: I love it. We’ll share some of his work on our website too. We’ll link to that image so that everybody can check it out. I was Googling it while you were talking, so I could get a taste of it.
Glenis Redmond: Good.
Cindy Ingram: I love it. Thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. It was such a pleasure.
Glenis Redmond: It was my pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much, Cindy. Thanks for all you do. Hello to all the educators out there. I hope you connect. It’ll be great to connect with you on some level.
Cindy Ingram: Wonderful.
If your art appreciation classes were anything like mine, they happen in dark rooms with endless slides and boring lectures. Art in the dark. But art appreciation doesn’t have to turn into nap time for your students. Start connecting your students to art with powerful class discussions. It can be intimidating to start talking about art with students, so teachers always want to know what they should say. The real question is what you should ask. You can get 82 questions to ask about almost any work of art for free on the Art Class Curator Blog. The free download includes the list of questions plus cards that you can cut out and laminate to use, again and again. These versatile questions can be used in everything from bell ringers to group activities to critiques. Just go to artclasscurator.com/questions to get your free copy today.
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82 Questions About Art
82 questions you can use to start and extend conversations about works of art with your classroom. Free download includes a list plus individual question cards perfect for laminating!
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