Archive for Museums and Libraries


I am starting a series of poems that use heteronyms in the title.  Heteronyms are words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently when the meaning changes.  For instance, tear.  A tear fell from my eye when I heard the fabric of my dress tear. 

Some words are homophones, like knight and night.  They sound the same but mean something different.  Heteronyms are more interesting because their pronunciation changes as well as their meaning.  Of course, this can pose a challenge for readers if the word is used in an ambiguous way such as in the title of a poem:   Tear is not a Simple Word

Last Saturday I was at the Art Institute of Chicago.  From small town to big city in three hours.  Just point your car toward the Southeast and soon enough, there is O’Hare International Airport – ORD – one of the largest in the country in terms of moving huge numbers of passengers and waylaying luggage (mine, April 2011). 

And then there’s that cluster of skyscrapers in the distance – John Hancock is my favorite.  I love the two antennas that stick up off its roof like they are signaling to space aliens.  By now my heart is really humming.  Then suddenly we are off the freeway and into a funky neighborhood heading East on Ohio toward Michigan Avenue and there is Millennium Park and, ta dah, the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Inside, I snagged a docent tour of Ab X art – abstract expressionists – starting with Jackson Pollock.  Toward the end of the tour the docent showed us Andy Warhol’s gigantic silkscreen print of Mao Zedong.  It’s fabulous.  There is Mao in his grey jacket emerging from great swatches of paint and he’s made up in drag with pink cheeks and blue eye shadow.  And it is huge.  No small life size portrait like Warhol’s multiple Marilyns.  Mao’s dimensions are 176 ½ inches by 136 ½ inches.  That’s over 14 feet tall.  Powerful.

When I got home, I asked my husband how he would pronounce MOW.  He said, mmm – ow, which rhymes with cow.  It could be pronounced mmm-o, like the word low (long o sound), as in, “Please mow the lawn.”  But we call our cat MOW when he’s being noisy and making those loud, demanding MOW sounds.  His name is Rio (rhymes with chee-o), which is a heteronym for the town of Rio, Wisconsin (long i sound like ri-ot).   

So for us, Mao and Mow are homophones, words that sound the same but with different meanings.  Sadly, however, not everyone recognizes the Mow that rhymes with cow.  There is a website called Rhymer at  When I entered Mow, all of the words that are listed rhyme with JELLO.


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Community Poems

The theme for submissions to the 2013 Wisconsin Poets Calendar was “community.”  I submitted three poems and one was accepted.  The following was not.  That makes it perfect for my blog.

Reception at the Chazen Museum of Art

On aurora-rose limestone stairs,

the Director points to the diamond ceiling

and tells a story about an artist who drove

from Milwaukee for the Iron Man Contest.

The genius ladies arrive, wearing earrings

 and bracelets from the Art Fair on the Square,

when a silver case, steaming with dry ice,

enters the door bearing four kinds of

Babcock ice cream from high up on Bascom Hill.

Smoked salmon snakes among chunks of cheese

and spears of chicken satay stand at attention,

naked without their peanut sauce.

A young couple in black cling, oblivious

to the charm of their matching nose rings.

Frozen strawberries, like lost party goers,

float past the ice-maiden in the punch bowl.

Above, Mrs. Pearce, in her yellow shawl,

mocks the crowd below, too busy talking

to abandon their glasses of white wine

and drift upstairs to look at the art.

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The Fourth Part of the World

This is a scan of Martin Walderseemuller’s 1507 map of the New World.  It portrays the New World, that strip of land on the left, before Europeans knew that there was a separate continent on the other side, the fourth part of the world.  The map labels the continent as “America.”

I’d read about the map and its discovery in 1907 in a book by Toby Lester calld The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth and the Epic Story of the Map that Gave America its Name.  After reading this fascinating book, I discovered that the Library of Congress purchased the only copy of the map in 2003 for $10 million.  So, when I was in Washington DC, I went to the LoC to find it.

I was pretty sure I’d have to ask to see it, but no, there it was in a dimly lit room at the end of an exhibition called “Exploring the Americas.”  I was the only one in the room, but while I was examining the map and reading the labels a very annoying lady from the museum marched in a guest and told him in an unnecessarily loud voice the whole story of the map: the mystery of including the unknown continent, the naming of America, the disappearance of the map for 400 years.  So he wouldn’t have to read the labels, I guess.  Well, the LoC did pay a lot of money for it, so I suppose the map is their’s to show off. 

(OMG, I just read in the LoC brochure that acquistion of the Waldseemuller map was made possible by the generosity of, among others, David H. Koch.  If you are from Wisconsin, you’ll recognize that name.)

Here is the reading list I gleaned from The Fourth Part of the World, a history of people who thought about the shape of the world and what might be out there:  Aristotle / Homer, the Illiad and the Odyssey / Pliny the Elder, Natural History / Ptolemy, Geographia / M. Polo, The Travels / Virgil, The Aeneid / Roger Bacon,  Opus Magnus / Francesco Petrarch, Letters in Familiar Matters and Lie of Solitude / stories about the Voyage of St. Brendan / Dante / Giovanni Boccacio, poet. 

The web page has an excellent review of The Fourth Part of the World, and close up photos of the map.  Much better than the LoC’s website, which is in stark contrast to the exhibits at the Thomas Jefferson Building.  The LoC website is extremely cumbersome and designed for someone who already knows the answer to the question she’s researching.  On the other hand their exhibits are beautifully designed and labeled and their brochures are lush with photos and comprehensible text.

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