Femme representation in Michigan’s music scene

Capital News Service

LANSING —  Female and gender non-conforming artists might not get the recognition they deserve.

Nationally, all of the top streamed tracks were performed by men, according to Spotify.  And it’s apparent that local artists outside of the male spectrum are often overlooked.

Still, passionate local and statewide female and gender nonconforming artists are pushing boundaries and making noise regardless of streaming service statistics.

The organization Girls Rock Detroit is part of the driving force of a music scene for women, gender nonconforming and transgender musicians. It’s inspired by the larger Girls Rock movement, which started in Portland, Oregon, in 2001 as a day camp.

Three Michigan women founded Girls Rock Detroit in 2011 after volunteering at the group’s Chicago organization. After volunteering at camps for a few more years, they organized  their first camp in the summer of 2015 for 26 campers.

It received federal nonprofit status in late 2015, said Rosalind Hartigan, a founder of Girls Rock Detroit.

A large part of promoting inclusiveness in the organization’s eyes is encouraging and inspiring creativity. Its mission statement says: “Girls Rock Detroit is dedicated to fostering creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness for girls, women, gender nonconforming and transgender people through music education and performance.”

In a field where expert level can dictate if you belong, Girls Rock supports musicians from fully experienced to not at all.

“Women and gender nonconforming folks who are looking to be part of a music scene should seek out their local Girls Rock organization,” Hartigan said. “In Detroit we have lots of fun and community-building volunteer activities year round in addition to volunteering at the summer camp itself.”

The group is now preparing for Rock Roulette, in which women and gender non-conforming people form bands and write songs. No experience is required. The bands will perform May 6 at El Club in Detroit. All proceeds benefit the Girls Rock Detroit camps.

Hartigan’s favorite takeaway from her experiences at Girls Rock?

“Women and gender non-conforming people – of any age – are powerful,” she said. “When we join together, we are even more powerful.”

Emily Yarmak and Chloe Drallos of the Metro Detroit band Zilch produce noise pop with dreamy vocals on top of distorted, shoegaze guitar riffs. They started playing together this year with Drake Defilipi and Evan Openshaw.

The members of Zilch are aware of challenges facing women rockers.

“After noticing the lack of female representation in the DIY scene, I put together a show of all femme-fronted bands, just to bring us all together and show that ‘we’re here and we all make good music,” Drallos said.

“Ironically, credit for the show was taken over by a (male) friend I asked to help with the booking,” she said.

That’s not unusual.

“The booking process is probably the main place that can make you feel limited by your gender,” Drallos said. “There’s a bit of pressure to make sure you get on good terms with everyone. There’s definitely a male-powered hierarchy there.”

Zilch encourages a community of musicians.

“The local music scene is filled with a bunch of people helping each other work towards the same goal while still having fun,” said Yarmak, who plays bass. “As such a young band we’ve already made so many connections and hope to keeping making more.”

While acknowledging the importance of femme power, gendering isn’t always necessary as more non conforming and genderfluid artists emerge.

“From what I’ve seen and experienced so far, the true positive aspects of being male and female are pretty much identical with music,” Yarmak said. “Stepping into the scene, you realize that everyone’s the same around here, and instead of separating each other we should all work together, whether that’s booking shows or just coming out to support.”  

Kevica Towns, also known as the neo-soul artist V.Soul, has a humbling point of view.

“My experience has been exactly that, an experience,” V.Soul said. “I appreciate every scene because it’s what makes me, me.  Local music is big to me because it deserves not only recognition, but appreciation.”

A Detroit native now living in Lansing, V.Soul’s rich vocals and R&B beats are centered in warmth and energy. She describes her art as cathartic.

Identifying as a female, V.Soul acknowledges pros and cons of being a woman in the music industry, particularly in Lansing where female musicians are a rarity.

“Some of the positive aspects of being female in the music scene are strength, strength over all stereotypical doubts,” she said. “Women can be overlooked due to stereotypes, so having to prove ourselves is natural.”

There are changes that she hopes to see in how women musicians are treated, mainly in securing a basic level of respect, especially in regards to body image.

“Wanting change to me is to be more paid attention to for our souls and intellect, not just our  physicalities,” she said.

Terri Powys writes for Spartan Newsroom.

Music strains: injured performers strike sour notes

Capital News Service

LANSING —  You’ve got to be tough to play music.

Stress as diverse as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and anxiety from being forced to stop doing what you love all take a toll on musicians.

Music-related injuries are commonly associated with playing too much, according to John Hopkins University Magazine. Professional and student musicians often play four to eight hours per day, most of the time without any rest days.

An Australian survey of 377 professional orchestra performers found that 84 percent of those studied had experienced pain directly related to their profession.

Music-related injuries span genres. Members of marching bands routinely face ankle, knee and neck injuries. Rockers and other performers brave the dangers of moshing and stage-diving.

Those are dangerous enough that venues like the Flint Local 432 in downtown Flint have banned both practices.

The event coordinator of the Local, Sara Johnson, said that’s because the venue is intended to be a place where young people can explore music in a safe environment.

“Many people coming through our doors are attending their first live show,” she said. “Our attendees are equally likely to be 14 years old or 40, and we have to be a place parents feel safe bringing or potentially leaving their kids.”

University of Michigan – Flint student Michael Puro, is a huge supporter of the hardcore and punk scene in and around mid-Michigan.

Black eyes, nosebleeds and blows to the head are common at intense and rowdy shows, he said.

But generally music injuries are related to playing instruments.

Central Michigan University bass performance graduate Kosta Kapellas has experienced injury firsthand and witnessed other students dealing with the physical and mental toll of playing music.

As an upright bassist, Kapellas has dealt with numerous finger injuries. And he’s had back pain from hauling his 50-pound instrument around campus.

“My fingers have been torn apart more times than I can count,” he said. “The back thing definitely knocked me out for a few days.”

Mental stress is also a consequence of being a musician, he said.

“I tend to find burnout super-common, and that tends to pop up a ton in music schools because of the crazy amount of work and demands the school puts on the students,” Kapellas said.

Injuries to musicians need a more nuanced diagnosis and treatment than standard trauma, according to Judy Palac, a Michigan State University music professor emeritus who chairs the Musicians’ Wellness Team.

Palac established the team in 2004 as a better resource for injured students than simply visiting the school clinic, she said. “Other doctors might say, ‘Well if that hurts just don’t do it.’ That’s not always possible for musicians.”

The team is comprised of music professors, physicians, physical therapists and psychotherapists. Their mission is to consult with and refer injured students to “appropriate treatment resources available on and off campus,” according to its website. The teams also research and promote strategies to reduce the risk of injuries among musicians.

Case studies have shown that treatments such as rest are “not to be considered a safe” method for many common injuries to musicians, Palac said. That’s because taking a break from the activity doesn’t address why the injury occurred in the first place.

To combat this, she says the team holds a monthly “consult and refer clinic.”

The Wellness Team “provides no cost appointments to students who are having issues, so they can get the right care they need,” she said. “We don’t treat them or diagnose, we just try to send them in the right direction.”

While that’s helpful, there’s room for improvement, said Emily Roberts, a music therapist and doctoral student in music performance at MSU.

Many of the problems have to do with the lack of emphasis placed on health by music schools, she said.

The Musicians’ Wellness Team “is really not very accessible. Students really don’t know about it,” she said.

Even if they do, there isn’t much the team can do besides refer students to an additional physician, she said. And a musician’s health course was recently removed from the curriculum, putting students at a further disadvantage.

“The first step is education,” Roberts said. “The musician’s health course was probably the most important course of my schooling — bringing it back is an important step. Hopefully from there, there could be a physician at the College of Music that could be there for [injured] students.”

Roberts wants the public to truly understand the physical demand of being a musician. “One thing that people often forget is that we are athletes, and we train very specific muscles like athletes, so we get injured just like athletes.”

Khal Malik writes for Spartan Newsroom.

Making Tracks for four decades

Capital News Service

LANSING — If you grew up in Michigan, might remember reading the wildlife magazine Tracks in your elementary school classroom.

Supported and written by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), the magazine has taught children in and outside the classroom about local wildlife and ecosystems for 40 years.

That’s long enough for editors to see the lifelong impact their work has on its readers, said Tyler Butler, the Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp director, as well as half of the Tracks creative team.

“It’s a wild experience coming across parents who remember reading the publication when they were a child,” Butler said. “Often, these parents have grown into outdoor enthusiasts and natural resource conscious adults that get a reminder of their childhood when they hold one of our publications in their hands.”

Butler and Shaun McKeon, the group’s educational coordinator, create content that meets Michigan’s science education standards. Occasionally they introduce young readers to native animals they may not even know exist.

“We are happy to introduce new and unfamiliar species to our readers and even happier when our readers declare that they now have a new favorite animal,” Butler said.

Their goal is to educate children about natural resources and the Great Lakes region’s wildlife. Each issue contains a quiz and classroom activity to bring the reading to life.

“As time has gone on and kids have gotten used to different types of media, we have had to adjust the magazine,” McKeon said.

Over the years, the magazine’s style has changed to captivate young minds by including more graphics and changing from a newspaper format to a storytelling format. As a print publication, Tracks can be used to improve reading comprehension and engage kids in school districts that might not be completely digital.

The outdoor group also offers a six-day, five-night summer camp to introduce a love for the outdoors to Michigan kids.

Since 1946, MUCC has helped more than 50,000 kids learn about nature and conservation. They camp, fish, canoe, swim, hike and learn about forestry, wildlife identification and archery. Campers can also earn hunter education certificates and learn conservation practices.

The magazine can be found in elementary classrooms all over the United States and is available for an individual subscription.

Jacqueline Kelly writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Pipeline attacks in video game sparks Great Lakes controversy

Capital News Service

LANSING – In the “Thunderbird Strike” video game, the conflict is over oil pipelines crossing Great Lakes landscapes.

Some petroleum industry advocates say that it encourages ecoterrorism. And that’s a serious claim – a federal offense.

A quick synopsis: Players control a figure of Native American mythology on a flight from Canada’s large deposits of heavy crude oil to the Straits of Mackinac. They gather lightning from the clouds and use it to strike representations of oil and gas machinery or to resurrect animals.

“I grew up with thunderbird stories being passed on to me,” said Elizabeth LaPensée, a Native American games developer and Michigan State University assistant professor in the Department of Media & Information.

“We talk about a time when the people will call for the help of the thunderbirds to heal the lands and waters,” said LaPensée,whose ancestry is both Anishinaabe and Métis, as well as Irish-American.

“The game really reflects that. It’s a story that’s combined with an understanding that there will be a time where there will come a snake that threatens to swallow the lands and the waters whole,” she said.

This snake appears in the final level of the game, a visual metaphor for Enbridge Line 5, the controversial pipeline that transports oil beneath the Straits of Mackinac. The pipeline, built to last 50 years, is now 62 years old.

Environmentalists and other critics say it’s old, worn, poorly maintained and in danger of polluting the world’s largest supply of fresh surface water.

The game also features scenes where people cross the screen carrying “No Pipelines on Indigenous Land” posters.

LaPensée advocates for this cause on the “Thunderbird Strike” website, encouraging visitors to learn more about oil pipelines and their environmental impacts.

“Thunderbird Strike” won Best DIgital Media award at ImagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival in Toronto. It’s the leading indigenous media arts festival in the world.

The game doesn’t sit well with supporters of the oil and gas industry, however.

When asked what Enbridge Inc. thinks of the game, company corporate communications representative Michael Barnes provided this statement: “No matter your view on future energy sources, reasonable people understand that destroying or tampering with existing infrastructure is dangerous – it has the potential to harm people and the very environment we want to protect.”

Barnes referred questions to the American Petroleum Institute, which said it doesn’t comment on fictional items like video games.

But criticism has been sparked elsewhere.

LaPensée received funding to make the game through an arts grant from the Minnesota-based Arrowhead Regional Arts Council and the criticism has been especially harsh in that state.

Minnesota state Rep. Bob Gunther, a Republican, called the Arts Council grant an abuse of funding.

LaPensée was audited, but everything checked out for her, she said.

Minnesota state Sen. David Osmek, another Republican, called the game “an eco-terrorist version of Angry Birds.”

Toby Mack, president of the Energy Equipment & Infrastructure Alliance, accused the game of encouraging eco-terrorism.

LaPensée disagrees.

“Nowhere in the game is there anything that really would encourage that,” she said. “It’s not meant to be violent. It’s meant to say that we can remove these structures in a safe way that will help the lands and the waters and the animals.”

Since the game’s release, LaPensée said she’s endured attacks on her reputation as a professor and game designer. She’s had to change her phone number.

“When the first oil lobbyist group put out a press release, their goal was the complete deletion of the game,” LaPensée said. “So I think it could be feasible they’ll keep following the game, even though everyone who has published about the game to date has not actually played it themselves.”

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Artist’s exhibition offers new take on time, space in the Great Lakes

Capital News Service

GRAND RAPIDS — You may have seen the posters — brightly colored, cross-sectioned landscapes that attempt to simultaneously show all of an ecosystem’s flora and fauna. You can find them in grade-school textbooks, hanging on classroom walls and at trailheads throughout the Great Lakes region.

The posters intend to educate viewers about biodiversity and the makeup of ecosystems. But they feel a bit lacking to New York artist Alexis Rockman, who traversed Michigan gathering inspiration for his exhibition “Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle.”

“I would see these posters and I would think, ‘That’s only half of the story,’” Rockman said. “There’s a much darker story that’s happening in these images, and that’s what I’m after.”

Rockman’s response takes the form of five mural-size paintings on display at the Grand Rapids Art Museum. They’re part of an exhibit that includes six large-scale watercolors and 28 of his field drawings.

It will remain on view through April 29.

The paintings share things in common with those educational posters.

They, too, are cross sections that show an amalgam of the scene’s inhabitants. But unlike those posters, they don’t omit invasive species, disease and pollution. And looking at them doesn’t invoke a serene sense of calm, but a discomforting feeling of conflict.

Each painting features a cast of Great Lakes actors spanning time and space. Pleistocene-era caribou march in the direction of floating timber and shipwrecks in “Cascade.” Microscopic actors like norovirus and salmonella are drawn as large as trout and waterfowl.

In “Forces of Change,” a kraken-sized E. coli bacterium wraps its tentacles around walleye and heavy machinery.

The stories are told chronologically. In “Pioneers,” the Great Lakes’ earliest fish — the likes of lake whitefish, lake sturgeon and burbot — enter stage left. The right side of the painting depicts a stream of invasive species cascading from the ballast of a saltwater freighter.

The colors grade from bright blues to warm yellows and greens — a shift from icy clarity to algae-polluted contamination.

Rockman draws inspiration from science and natural history, recalling a childhood fascination with museum dioramas.

“As a kid I’d go to the Museum of Natural History, and then I’d go to a jungle or something, and I’d be like disappointed because I could never see under the water,” Rockman said.

“When I go to these places, I always want to see it through that type of lens,” he said. “It’s this idea of this miraculous view where you can see simultaneity. Scale shifts, different pieces of information — regardless of the limitations of the human experience, you can still see things that matter.”

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The exhibition is born from the 30-year relationship of Rockman and Grand Rapids Art Museum Director Dana Friis-Hansen. In 2013, he asked Rockman about collaborating. The Great Lakes were a no-brainer for the exhibition’s subject matter.

“People are crazy about the Great Lakes,” Friis-Hansen said. “There’s a passion for the Great Lakes for their beauty, for their history, but also for protecting the Great Lakes.”

Rockman sees it as a passion likely to grow.

“The Great Lakes is something that’s right in the middle of America, something that we take for granted, I think, and something that is going to be of vital importance — I believe there are going to be wars fought over the freshwater in the lakes,” Rockman said.

To prepare the exhibit, he visited museums, ate whitefish and spoke with Great Lakes experts.

The concepts for the exhibition’s five main paintings were developed over coffee with Jill Leonard, a Northern Michigan University biology professor.

The large-scale watercolors are concepts that couldn’t fit into the five main murals, Rockman said.

The field drawings are monochromatic animal and plant studies made from site-sourced organic materials. They include a bald eagle painted in sand from the Lake Michigan beaches of Saugatuck and a common loon painted in coal dust from West Michigan’s Grand Haven Power Plant.

The “interpretation” section of the exhibition encourages visitors to respond. They can piece together puzzle versions of the paintings to contemplate connections between events and organisms. They can also write responses to the question: “What can you do to protect the Great Lakes?”

Nearby Grand Haven Public Schools students studied Rockman’s pieces and created art in response. Visitors can view them via QR codes throughout the exhibition. In the education gallery on the lower level are responses to the artwork by teams of elementary school students.

Student responses are inspiring, Friis-Hansen said.

“They’re carrying that thread forward.”

But Rockman sounds less optimistic.

“Dana and I have always believed that education is our only hope, and that’s why we’re doing this, bending over backwards to make work with kids and do educational stuff, and that’s crucial,” Rockman said. “But — I’m not sure. The recognition of being insane is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

“I’m less hopeful than I was 10 years ago, but I still get out of bed and do what I do,” Rockman said.

The exhibition will travel to five other museums after it leaves Grand Rapids: the Flint Institute of Arts, Chicago Cultural Center, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, Haggerty Museum of Art of Marquette University in Milwaukee and Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis.

Marie Orttenburger writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Woods, whiskey, women and widow-makers caught in lumberjack songs

Capital News Service

LANSING — Winter was the time of year when the North Woods rang with the sound of axes and saws felling giant white pines.

It was the late 1800s, the Golden Age of American Lumbering, and the supply of trees was endless.

That last statement would prove untrue, of course.

In reality in northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the timber moguls, surveyors, speculators and lumberjacks were merely following the path of clear-cutting and exploitation that had already moved westward from Quebec and Ontario, from Maine and New Brunswick, from New England and New York.

Demand for timber seemed insatiable as Americans moved westward, building Midwestern cities like Chicago and settling the prairies of the Great Plains with farmhouses, barns and shops. Railroad routes stretched further and further, with their mega-appetite for wooden ties.

But what of the lumberjacks whose perilous labor built the fortunes of timber barons and who endured the hardships and hazards and isolation of those North Woods?

Life was in jeopardy. Death loomed as branches – widow-makers – fell, as logs jammed in rivers swollen with spring melt and as diseases ravaged lumber camps.

The “Pinery Boys: Songs and Songcatching in the Lumberjack Era” (University of Wisconsin Press) throws light on the lumberjack culture of the era. It’s a revised and retitled version of a 1926 book by Franz Rickaby, an English professor who traveled 917 miles, mostly by foot, from Charlevoix, Michigan, to North Dakota to collect songs of the “quickly disappearing” shanty boys, the lumberjacks.

Some songs describe them sitting around the lumber camps at night, smoking pipes, telling tall tales and playing music.

But others reflect harsher realities, such as a song about a tragedy in Minnesota “concerning a young shanty-boy so tall, genteel and brave. T’was on a jam on Gerry’s Rocks he met a wat’ry grave.”

And consider this one that contrasts labor recruitment promises with grim truth:

“It being on Sunday morning, as you shall plainly see
The preacher of the gospel at morning came to me.
He says, “My jolly good fellow, how would you like to go
And spend a winter pleasantly in Michigan-I-O?
The grub the dogs would laugh at. Our beds were on the snow.
God send there is no worse than hell or Michigan-I-O.
Along yon glissering river no more shall we be found.
We’ll see our wives and sweethearts, and tell them not to go
To that God-forsaken country called Michigan-I-O.”

Some lumberjacks left the Great Lakes region to fell virgin forests elsewhere. One such song tells of a “heart-broken raftsman from Greenville” who worked on the Flat River and whose name “is engraved on its rocks, sands and shoals.” Spurned by his sweetheart, he vows:

“I’ll leave Flat River, there I ne’er can find rest.
I’ll shoulder my peavey and start for the West.”

The songcatcher, Rickaby, was “the source of deeply rooted insights into the gritty, almost forgotten reality” of the “singers and makers” of the songs of the North Woods, retired Professor James Leary of the University of Wisconsin, Madison writes in his introduction to the book.

Rickaby’s granddaughter, Gretchen Dykstra, writes in another chapter about his quest for songs.

“He slept in deserted camps on beds of cedar chips and in dark bunkhouses on grimy straw mattresses,” Dykstra wrote.

Rickaby described finding two songs “from a toothless shanty boy in a small lumber camp” near Allenville in the Upper Peninsula: Entering the lumber camp on an old logging road, “on all sides I saw the charred and fire-eaten stumps of what must have been magnificent trees, the hauling out of which this road was made.”

Coming out of the North Woods at the end of the season carried its own risks, many lumberjacks learned, especially the risk that their hard-earned wages could disappear quickly on liquor and women.

Here’s how one song put it:

“But here’s a proposition, boys; when next we meet in town,
We’ll form a combination and mow the forest down.
We then will cash our handsome checks, we’ll neither eat nor sleep,
Nor will we buy a stitch o’ clothes while whiskey is so cheap.”


New book shows off Michigan’s best waterfalls

Capital News Service

LANSING — “Waterfalls” and “Michigan” aren’t words often paired. Photographer Phil Stagg of Cadillac is on a mission to change that.

His latest book, “Waterfalls of Michigan: The Collection” is the fifth in a series documenting the state’s waterfalls. It contains the most spectacular and easiest-to-reach ones in the state.

And Stagg has been to every single one.

All photos, maps and descriptions in the book are his own. He’s walked every trail, some many times over. He’s taken GPS coordinates showing the exact location of each waterfall.


“I don’t think we realize the rugged beauty that exists in the state,” Stagg said. “That’s become part of my quest: to open the eyes of so many Michiganders who are not familiar with what lies north of the bridge. I hope that they will appreciate the U.P., maybe more than they have.”

There are 202 waterfalls in his book, most located in the Upper Peninsula. The full series includes more than 600.

Each waterfall is accompanied by a picture, information on hiking conditions, danger level from walking on uneven or icy ground, elevation change and a short description of the falls. Stagg also rates each on a “must-see” scale from 1 to 10 and marks the most spectacular sights with a green square.

“Waterfalls of Michigan: The Collection” (MI Falls Publishing, $29.95) contains those that are most beautiful and easiest to get to.

The series got its start in 2008, when Stagg took a photo he loved at Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P.’s Luce County. That photo inspired him in 2009 to seek others.

“I was just trying to find some at that point,” Stagg said. “But then when the idea of actually creating a book gelled in the mind, I thought, okay, let’s get serious about this and try to actually get to all of them instead of finding just the nice ones.”

It took nine years to gather his pictures and field notes. The first book came out in 2016, the other four following soon after.

You’ll find many well-known waterfalls like Tahquamenon, Agate Falls in Ontonagon County and Manabezho Falls in Porcupines Mountains Wilderness State Park in Gogebic County.

You’ll also find several that Stagg named himself — including one in the Porcupine Mountains. Stagg stumbled across it while hiking with his oldest son.

“He yelled at me and said, ‘Dad, there’s a waterfall! You need to come up here!’” he said. “I finally said, ‘Okay, fine!’ So I went up there and sure enough, there was this cute little waterfall. I called it Insistence Falls because he insisted that I go up there.”

Each waterfall-hunting trip he took offered a new set of challenges. Sometimes the falls’ location wasn’t marked on maps. Sometimes there was no maintained trail leading to it. Sometimes the falls themselves were unmarked.

Stagg sometimes had to rely on GPS coordinates or word of mouth to find the waterfalls. When he arrived, conditions weren’t always right for a good picture and he’d have to go back later.

The searches turned him into a hiker, he said. He said he hopes the same will happen to those who pick up his book.

“You can’t see it all, you can’t hear it all, you can’t smell it all from a picture,” Stagg said. “You have to get out there and experience it. The wind’s blowing and you’re hearing the water. You feel the moss along the sides of the river. There’s just so much more dimension to be seen than you can ever get with just a photo or two.”

Books in the “Waterfalls of Michigan” series have been sold across the country, from New York to Florida. Some people buy them to look at the pictures and remember their own vacations. Others plan their own hikes around the information Stagg offers.

They’re an introduction to something Michigan isn’t well known for — but perhaps should be.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Books celebrate Upper Peninsula language and literature

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Upper Peninsula has been omitted from at least two maps of the country this past year.

When an online ticket marketplace left it off an interactive map in June, a customer support representative joked on Facebook that they “got the important part of Michigan.”

A month later, Walmart forgot to include the U.P. in a graphic.

The snubs aren’t without precedent –- a WhiteHouse.gov page did it in 2013. The peninsula was even omitted from a state tourism campaign graphic in the 1980s, said Kate Remlinger, a Grand Valley State University English professor.

It’s easy for UP residents to feel unappreciated. Two recent books attempt to set the record straight.

Remlinger’s newest book, “Yooper Talk: Dialect as Identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (University of Wisconsin Press, $24.95) is the synthesis of a two-decade study of a peninsula that’s been stigmatized in part because of how its people speak.

It’s a dialectic concoction arising from the interactions of the native Ojibwe peoples, transplanted East Coast and Midwest residents and the British, Western and Central European, Scandinavian, Finnish, Russian and Chinese immigrants who settled there.

The dialect is mocked by some who associate it with the backwoods and backwardness, Remlinger said. Some students from the U.P. change their speech to avoid teasing, she said.

“If you want to find out which groups are stigmatized in a society, look at which dialects are stigmatized,” she said. “There’s a one-to-one correspondence.”

Remlinger first visited the U.P. in the late 1990s as a graduate student in sociolinguistics at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. She began to talk to friends she met from the peninsula about how they talked differently from where she had lived in Kentucky and Ohio.

The book is a product of those and other conversations over the years–an exploration of the U.P.’s identity and the Yoopers who live there.

“I’m especially interested in identity and how people use dialect as kind of a badge of identity, of who they are,” she said.

Remlinger’s book explores U.P. identity with clarity, driven by anecdotes and historical accounts. She goes beyond speech analysis, providing enough narrative and peninsula history to engage readers lacking a linguistics background.

Another new book celebrates the Upper Peninsula’s often-overlooked literature.

Ron Riekki grew up in Palmer and Negaunee, adjacent towns 15 miles southwest of Marquette. He’s now a successful author, poet, playwright, screenwriter and anthology collector. His newest collection, “And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017” (Michigan State University Press, $29.95), is partially a response to the lack of pride his teachers showed in U.P. identity.

Someone once asked Riekki if he called himself a “Michigander” or a “Michiganian.”

“My response was that I’m a Yooper,” he said. “And as a Yooper, I grew up with a strong sense of a lack of U.P. literature. As I grew older, I realized it existed; it just wasn’t taught in the schools.”

Local bookstores didn’t promote it, he said. Many Michigan anthologies left U.P. writers out. They might include authors who wrote about the U.P., but many of them weren’t natives.

There was almost no inclusion of classic peninsula writers like the acclaimed literary writer Bamewawagezhikaquay, also known as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, an Ojibwe woman born in Sault Ste. Marie in 1800.

The anthology compiles short stories, poems and even the lyrics of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” It includes established names like Ernest Hemingway, Steve Hamilton, Thomas Lynch and Emily Van Kley. And it contains local authors and poets.

Writers like Kathleen Heideman welcome the exposure.

The anthology includes one of her poems, an excerpt from a series inspired by the brokenness she felt during interviews with the people of Negaunee, a former mining community. The mines are long dry, but ore can still be found scattered on the ground.

Heideman isn’t from the area but eventually moved there from Minnesota after she fell in love with the peninsula’s can-do spirit. She now lives in Marquette.

“When you fall in love with the Upper Peninsula,” she said, “you feel like you can’t live any other place in the world.”

This is Riekki’s third U.P. anthology – the first focused on new writings, and the second, published in 2015, featured U.P. women writers like Andrea Scarpino, a poet who moved to Marquette in 2010. Now the two are working on a Great Lakes anthology set to publish next year.

The U.P., Scarpino said, isn’t what people often think it is. Her family and friends thought she was moving to empty wilderness, not a town where the summers are filled with art shows.

“People always ask me, ‘What’s going on up there?’” Scarpino said. “And they’re surprised that we have such a vibrant writing community and artist community.”

Riekki wants his U.P. to be recognized for the things that set it apart, even from the other part of its own state – an identity that developed independently, largely separated from its southern sister until the Mackinac Bridge opened in 1957.

Stephen Maier writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Bug wars: Samurai wasps vs invasive stink bugs threatening Michigan crops

Capital News Service

LANSING — The samurai wasp could be the country’s best chance at beating back a stink bug that’s invading the Great Lakes region.

That’s what researchers concluded at the recent end of an entomology project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“We’re finding when it has the opportunity to leave the test arena to look for its preferred host, it will do so,” said Kim Hoelmer, an entomology professor from the University of Delaware. “This increases the chances it will attack its main prey.”

The big concern about introducing the brown marmorated stink bug’s natural enemy into the environment was it wouldn’t limit itself to attacking the invasive stink bug, but also go after native stinkbugs.

In laboratory tests the wasp did attack some native stink bug eggs, said Ernest Delfosse, a retired entomology professor at Michigan State University. However, that happened when it was given no other choice. A real-world setting would most likely provide different results.

“In nature, there are other ecological and biological factors that intervene,” Hoelmer said. “If a predator comes across a non-preferred host, it will investigate it then leave it alone.”

The study also produced a wealth of information about Michigan stink bugs.

“We did a lot of collecting of stink bugs all throughout the state,” Delfosse said. “We know a lot more about stink bugs in Michigan than we did before.”

Researchers collected 70 species of the bug, some of which hadn’t been found before. They developed new techniques for growing the insects in labs that produced more eggs to test against the wasp to see how it would respond.

The wasp’s scientific name is Trissolcus Japonicus. Researchers call it TJ for short.

“This will all be useful in evaluating TJ because it’s going to get here eventually,” Delfosse said.

While their lab experiments were conducted, a different strain of the samurai wasp found its way into the United States in 2014. Delfosse said he suspects it most likely arrived in shipping containers from Asia.

It’s unclear what the wasp’s impact will have on the native stink bugs. It’s been found in eight states and the District of Columbia.

What is growing clearer is the damage to American agriculture caused by brown marmorated stink bug in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states.

It’s hard to fully quantify that damage because of how widescale it is, said Tracy Leskey, USDA entomologist.

“It’s just a really difficult pest to control, because it eats almost everything,” Leskey said

What has been recorded are damages in the millions of dollars. Leskey estimates the apple industry in the mid-Atlantic states suffered a $37 million loss because of the bug. Peach farmers lost more than half of their yield to the pest.

With colder temperatures, the brown marmorated stink bug becomes a nuisance in the house as well. It seeks shelter when the weather changes, something with few practical solutions.

Some people try physical fixes like filling in holes in their house or spraying pesticides around their property.

Unfortunately, the insect is well-equipped to handle both of these solutions, said Matthew Grieshop, MSU entomology professor.

Physical means don’t work because the small bugs fit through tiny cracks.

Pesticides don’t work well either because the stink bug uses a syringe mouthpiece it inserts into plants. It won’t consume much poison on the plant’s surface. It also uses stilts to walk, which elevates it from the surface, allowing it to avoid contact poisons.

Which is why Delfosse says the best chance at lowering its numbers is introducing its top predator in the United States

“TJ, if it’s successful, would become established on brown marmorated stink bug,” Delfosse said. “It would seek out brown marmorated eggs. Over a period of time, the wasp numbers would increase and most of the brown marmorated stink bugs would be attacked by the wasp.”

The brown marmorated stink bug was brought over unintentionally to the country in 1996. Sightings in western Great Lakes States like Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin were reported as early as 2010.

This isn’t the first time scientists have considered a bug-on-bug battle to fight invasive insects. In 2010, Minnesota officials released wasps to lower the emerald ash borer population, an insect that has destroyed millions of trees in Michigan and elsewhere in the Great Lakes region.

Jack Nissen writes for Great Lakes Echo.

Poet writes about damages from dementia and to the environment

Capital News Service

LANSING — Janet Kauffman — poet, teacher and environmental activist– writes in the shadow of a wooden raptor statue.

“It sits in the corner, kind of over my shoulder,” said Kauffman, who lives in Hudson. “It sort of captures the tone that I need. I tend to be fairly quiet and reasonable in daily life, and that’s not really what lies below or above. It’s my raptor on the inside.”

The result? Poems containing vivid images and their author’s energy.

This is the tone captured in her latest poetry collection, “Eco-Dementia.” It explores the relationship humans have with the environment, based on her work as an environmental advocate and her experiences with her father’s dementia. This is her seventh book.

The poems of “Eco-Dementia” are a collage of images that inspire visceral reactions. From “Keratella Offshore:”

“…bloom red, balloon, show yourself

whip-snap, weave complex paisley fabrics

from foot-glue, mix media on slow water,

raft the whole conglomeration into shore.”

The book is one part of a mixed-media project, also called “Eco-Dementia.”

The project came together over 10 years. Kauffman had been involved with issues of water quality in Lake Erie, particularly the effects of runoff from liquid manure on farm fields. After years of sitting in on committees, hearings and other meetings, Kauffman said she was frustrated by the lack of real change.

Around the same time, Kauffman’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This forced Kauffman to look at language differently.

“A lot of the poems show the kind of language that my father used,” she said. “When you don’t recognize your own children, when you don’t know where you are and you want to go home — that really had an effect on me.”

It also inspired the word that became the book’s title: eco-dementia. According to Kauffman, it’s the paradox that even though humans love this planet, they still damage it in sometimes drastic ways.

The book is broken into three sections based on that theme.

The first has poems that are more physically oriented, describing the joy found in the natural world. The second is a long prose poem about environmental undercurrents in everyday life set aside for its uniqueness, Kauffman said. The third deals with the sense of loss brought on by dementia.

“I wanted the language to stay as close to feeling like physical material as possible,” Kauffman said. “I love those places where you walk into a stack of grasses or something that’s almost impenetrable. That feeling of being held by vegetation so it’s your equal – I really like that kind of immersion. I hope there’s a little of that feel in the poems.”

Even though the poems are about nature, make no mistake: they’re not about the flowers and plants themselves. From “Every Shot-Through:”

“Don’t say that they’re not

those sticks at your feet,

a lie, a limit, the crimped

stalks of beech drops,

a scrawl diagrammed,

flower and all.”

These poems are more about experiences and connections than concrete things. Readers might not come away with a clear idea of what the poems were about – and that’s okay.

In the end, Kauffman says it’s the overall message that matters most.

“We really need to find a new way of living in the world,” she said. “We have to stop doing the damage we’re doing. We have to stop being crazy. And we have to find a way to protect our planet, protect our home.”

“Eco-Dementia” is available from Wayne State University Press for $16.99. You can find out more about Kauffman at her website, www.janetkauffman.com.

Kate Habrel writes for Great Lakes Echo.