Poetry Friday: Studio Art with Mr. Chruscinski, New Trier High School, 1994

October 21st, 2011

We are excited to share another lovely poem by Maine teacher and poet Anne Tommaso. We recently shared her poem “On Returning to Attend Poetry Class Ten Years Later,” and this week she once again takes us back to her school years.

Studio Art with Mr. Chruscinski, New Trier High School, 1994

Mr. Chruscinski built eight-foot still lifes
of junk: fabric, bones, dart boards
and we collected, hunched
into paper, hands black with coal,
faces figured madly while he stood
on his desk and bellowed, “draw on
the inside! Cubist, Cubist, Cubist!”

Mr. Chruscinski wore Rockports
and bought ties by the garbage bag
at church rummage sales, drove
his flesh colored Buick wagon to his office,
smoked four cigarettes, drank two cups
of coffee and was on a roll by seven fifteen.
It must have made bus drivers crazy when

Mr. Chruscinski planned field trips—
first Harold Washington Library in the Loop,
a side, side street gallery, Staropolska
on West Belmont for pierogi,
ziemniaki, cheese blitzes and then
down Milwaukee to American Science
& Surplus because “this is art”

Mr. Chruscinski would say and shame
those without drawings for critique
the next day. For him, there was never
“No Homework.” He scoffed at apathy,
sensationalized the “Smudge and Rub.”
He loved to say, “That looks like shit…
I love it,” which was almost as exciting

as when Mr. Chruscinski yelled “de Stihl!”
if you really turned yourself inside out.
He caught me alone in the back of the room,
one day late in May, students crawling
out of their skin to graduate, or at least
loiter in the White Hen parking lot. What inspired
my efforts, I don’t know. I was all over

the page in blue pastel, using the stump
so my lines were thick with the chalk,
and my arms were turning blue too.
Mr. Chruscinski moused his white head
between me and the paper.  He looked
at my work, but really at me and said,
“You get it. You. Right now. You’re an artist.”

Entry Filed under: Poetry Friday

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