October 3, 2008

Today was an unexpectedly fantastic day. My schedule for today just said ‘Arts and Poetry field trip’.

Now, who would know what to expect, as that meant our painter/poet professor would be planning something for us. Now as an aspiring writer, I know that order is not a particular strength for most artist, so I really had no idea what we would be doing.

We started the day by going to Professor Halpe’s house. I have never in my life seen a house anything like this. It was built on top of a hill and along the side of the hill there was a garden and paths dug in to wander. Now, garden is a relative term, as in America we think of garden as a neat patch of flowers planted and meticulously maintained, in Sri Lanka garden is more or less a term for planting trees and watching a forest bloom. From Halpe’s deck he could reach out to the top of a papaya tree and pluck ripe fruit to eat. Then inside his house, their was an art gallery, every wall was lined from bottom to top with original works from all genres of painting. Then to add to the splendor of the place were three pianos, his wife is apparently a renowned musician. Then in the very middle of the floor was a small pond filled with Koi fish. The beauty of his home was so impressive that while there I couldn’t think of a word worth saying, instead I just let my eyes wander.

Then that he appeared at the ISLE center with two friends, who happen to be two of Sri Lanka’s top writers, Carl Muller and Jean Arasanayagam. They are each Burgher people, which just means that they can trace their lineage back to European decedents which accounts for their names not being traditionally Sri Lankan.

I was so deeply touched that such talented and decorated writers, who each came dotting piles of their published books, would take the time to meet so intimately with such a small group of us. Professor Halpe, Muller, and Arasanayagam each read us some of their poetry. To read some one else’s poetry is one thing but to hear it spoken from the author and to hear their background stories gave it so much more value.

The first to read was Carl who was quite a character. We started the dialogue when I asked what his tattoo was of. He said all his tattoos are from his navy days and that they are all women’s names. I’m sure many have described him as crude but his work was beautiful and brave, while he spared no one in his attacks on the flaws in the world.

He was followed by Jean, who described herself as a very innocent women. Carl laughed as if this wasn’t true. I was quite happy, also, because she agreed to let me do my independent study in November on her and the conflicts that were reflected in her writing.

Halpe then ended the night, with his soothing voice. He is a man deeply in love with his wife and he read aloud a few poems about their reuniting after long times apart. His work was wonderful because it reminded all of us not to forget to find the beauty in life, even in deeply troubled times.

Well, thats all for tonight. I should get some sleep. Maybe in the morning I’ll go out and buy some books and finally be able to read the works of authors I’ve actually met.

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