Monthly Archives: December 2015

Making Poems That Work


Catamount Arts will offer a series of workshops this winter aimed at helping local poets to develop poems for potential submission to PoemTown St. Johnsbury, an April celebration of poetry. Lyndon State College adjunct professor and poet Bill Biddle will help poets to find the right words and phrases to convey particular emotions that will resonate with their reading audience.

Sessions will be held on Wednesdays, January 20-February 10 at 7pm in the classroom space in the Catamount Arts Center and are free of charge. Advance reservation is requested; please call 802-748-2600, extension 108, or email Poets are free to come to one or more than one session, and are asked to bring work in progress, along with their own writing gear (paper, pen, laptop).

Catamount Arts, the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and St. Johnsbury Chamber of Commerce are collaborating on PoemTown St. Johnsbury, which celebrates National Poetry Month by posting poems on business windows and offering opportunities for sharing and listening to poetry at poetry readings and slams. PoemTown St. Johnsbury is a satellite project of Montpelier-based PoemCity Vermont.

Poems for PoemTown St. Johnsbury must be submitted to Catamount Arts by February 15, 2016. Submission guidelines are posted on the Catamount Arts website ( and may also be requested by calling 802-748-2600, extension 108, or picked up in the Catamount Arts Center lobby. PoemTown St. Johnsbury welcomes all Vermonters, of any age and level of experience, who wish to have a forum for their writing.

Zarafina: A Review: A Pleasantly Done Animated Feature

Zarafina is a French animated film, directed by Remi Bezancon, and Jean-Christopher Lie, that I saw dubbed in English. As told by an African grandfather, it tells the story of Maki, a young boy who escapes from slave traders, befriends a giraffe, crosses the desert, meets an assortment of characters, including Hassan. an Egyptian, Mahmoud, an inventor, and a group of pirates. Maki finally travels to France in order to stop a war from happening. Zarafina is a nice surprise, an animated feature with storybook-like animation. Loosely based off the true story of Zarafina the giraffe, it plays like an old Arabian Nights tale, and is quite enjoyable in that regard.

The first thing to note about Zarafina is the very detailed animation. Every character in the film has a very detailed to look them, and the animated backgrounds are also very interesting to look at. If I ever get a chance to see this film again, I will look forward to rewatching these details.

The film is played moderately straight, but there is also a lot of comical banters with the African children when the grandfather is telling the story. There is also an elephant “poop” gag that is actually reused later on, for storytelling purposes. This is a clever play on the animators’ part.

The characters in the film are quite memorable. Maki, the protagonist, is a strong-willed, but very clumsy and naïve young boy. His relationship with the title character, Zarafina, a female giraffe that he swore he would protect and watch-over as long as possible, feels very genuine. So is his relationship with Soula, his female friend, who is missing throughout most of the film, having been unable to escape from the film’s villain, the slave trader, Moreno. Hassan is a typical looking Arabian man, but is clearly honorable and a true hero. While Mahmoud is a genuinely nice inventor whose hot air-balloon manages to get them to France. Even the pirates are presented as being genuinely honest people.

The score is among the best aspects of the film. It feels very mysterious, and yet very fitting, making me think that I’m trapped in a jungle, and then later that I’m going on a big adventure somewhere important. The music that plays when they arrive in Paris, in particular, is simply beautiful.

 Zarafina is a genuinely fun and well-made animated adventure. It’s an enjoyable film for all ages, and definitely recommended.

Grandma: A Review: A Pantheon of Miserable Characters

Grandma is a road trip styled movie that involves a very unhappy grandmother, named Elle Reid (played by Lily Tomlin), who takes her granddaughter, Sage (played by Julia Gardner), on a short road trip in order to get money for her granddaughter’s abortion. Full of some genuine laughs, and messed-up scenes, Grandma works because of the performances, and because the characters feel genuine and realistic, in spite of their miserableness.

Grandma is separated into six different sections. These sections are: 1. Beginnings, 2. Ink, 3. Apes, 4. The Ogre, 5. Kids, 6. Dragonflies. Each of these sections features the characters of Elle and Sage as they travel along to different places meeting different characters and asking for money for the abortion. These sections vary widely, but overall, I’d say they work. The script, by director Paul Weitz, is very sharp, with lines such as a “reasonable priced abortion”, and “old shit just bubbles up to the tar”, being among the most amusing quotes in the film. In fact, the audience I saw the film with, was eating it up and laughing hysterically.

The performances by Lily Tomlin, playing a stubborn, crazy woman as the grandmother, and Julia Gardner as Sage, the granddaughter, certainly help make the film as enjoyable as it is. Despite the miserable nature of her character, Tomlin gives a deliciously deadpan comedic performance in the title role. “Don’t you call me Grandma”, being her best delivered line. The rest of the supporting cast, including Marcia Gay Harden as one of the bitchiest mothers in film I’ve ever seen, Judy Greer as Elle Reid’s girlfriend Olivia, and Sam Elliot as Karl, an ex-husband of Elle. Their fake kissing scene is actually hilarious.

The characters in the film were among the nastiest, most miserable people I had ever seen in a film this year. Despite the unpleasant nature of the leading characters, I was able to find some hope in them, especially since the grandmother’s unpleasant nature is actually addressed in the film.

Overall, Grandma is not a film for everyone, but it is an amusing road-trip style comedy, that works, in spite of itself. Helped by good performances, a solid script, and a sharp sense of realism, Grandma is worth checking out, and if the audience I saw it with is any indication, then a lot of people will probably like it.