• Images For A Better World: Billy SIMMS, Visual Artist

Billy Simms, artist and educator, was born and raised outside of Washington, DC. He moved to the Tri-state area in 2004. Simms has a Bachelor of Art degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in theatrical scenic and lighting design and a Master’s degree of Science from The Johns Hopkins University in Special Education. He works in printmaking, sculpture, collage, and photography. He lives with his wife and two cats.

Simms’ The Clown Genocide is a story told in forty-two woodblock relief print images and ten accompanying bronze sculptures. Its artistic intent is threefold.
i)   Stylistically, to create a linear narrative told only in images. Its style is inspired by silent films and the works of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward, who created woodcut novels in the early 20th century.
ii)   Conceptually, to tell the story of a mythical genocide to challenge the viewer to ask questions about genocide and mass murder without any historical background knowledge.
iii)  Intellectually, to create a work that provokes questions such as: Why are some groups made the scapegoat for the troubles of society? What is the role of the 
average person in world events where mass murder is almost a daily news story? What does it mean to be a member of a society that has witnessed such events? And how do people heal from such events?

The Clown Genocide, image #3, woodcut print

Image #3 introduces the two main characters in the story.


The Clown Genocide, image #22, woodcut print

Image #22 is of the genocide that occurs in the story.


The Clown Genocide, image #36, woodcut print

Image #36 represents the idea of martyrdom in genocides.


The Clown Genocide (Spear), cast bronze

In addition to the woodcuts, Simms created accompanying sculptures in order to explore the story in 3 dimensions

The Clown Genocide (Ax in the Back), cast bronze

The “Ax in the Back” sculpture allowed Simms to show an additional image of a genocide not represented in the book.


• Words For A Better World: Franchot BALLINGER, Literary Artist

Now retired, Franchot Ballinger taught English at the University of Cincinnati for thirty seven years in the Arts and Sciences English Department, in University College and in Evening College. His specialties were creative writing and Native American oral traditions and literatures. He is the author of Living Sideways: Tricksters in American Indian Oral Traditions published by University of Oklahoma Press.

Ballinger has published many poems in journals and on-line over the years. He explores diverse themes in his poetry and writes in free verse as well as in traditional fixed forms. When he writes on peace and social justice themes, he tends to draw upon Judeo-Christian scripture as a source. After becoming a Quaker twenty two years ago, he has increasingly focused on spirituality in his poems. He has been particularly interested in exploring how his spiritual experiences affect/transform his poetic language.

Ballinger finds spiritual sustenance in the natural world, as a volunteer at the Cincinnati Nature Center, and as a Spiritual Care volunteer with Hospice of Cincinnati. His hospice volunteering includes playing Native American flute for patients and their visitors. He is currently participating in a two-year Quaker program, School of the Spirit: A Ministry of Prayer and Learning Devoted to the School of the Spirit.

1. In “Sanctified Church” Ballinger finds it hard to ignore the dominant religion in the US: profit.

Sanctified Church
a Wall Street triolet

The street teems with evangelical eloquence.
Gain is grace in Babylon.
Voices selling, voices telling (the Covenant of Cents)
And the street teems with evangelical eloquence.
Surely all that cash redemption is evidence
Their creed is something we can count on,
The street teems with such evangelical eloquence.
Gain is grace in Babylon.

2. In “Fine Dust” Ballinger reminisces on the fact that we carry our own burden of guilt for oppression and genocide.

Fine Dust

“Grandpa was Austrian, not German,” my mother repeated,
a fine distinction missed by little Yakov
as Hitler trod the Judenplatz during my childhood.
It mattered to her, of course, after the war,
after the inescapable knowing: the gas, the ovens,
the Jewish ash rising sacrificially, the fine dust of guilt
settling over everything spoken auf Deutsch
and further, finding its smothering way half the globe distant
and powdering perhaps even my little Yankee tongue
which had not yet tasted my other, closer inheritance,
the bitter fly ash of names like Pit River, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Tulsa, Birmingham, Mississippi, and more and more,
falling unseen but no less searing
and burning in the same cinder night.

3. In “Justice Creek” Ballinger hopes to suggest that environmental issues are not only about “nature”.

Justice Creek
A parable: Amos 5:24

The old stories tell us
of its source high in the mountains,
a meadow sacred as the life-bearing
breath that blew across. Snow-locked in winter;
in spring and summer a passionate release,
streams of living waters
scraping soil to the integrity of rock.
Then a pure tumbling down to the city,
the water rolling, an ever-flowing stream.
So the old stories say.
Now the witch’s brew of our days–the alchemy
of desire and fear–falls up there. Long ago
the water lost its soupy life, its few pools
scoured to a deathly sheen.
What survives is a trickle of spittle
in a sun-baked trench.
If you would know this truth, ask the trees:
Their parched tongues will whisper
in the grey winds and their limbs will sign;
prophetic voices for others
that we have made voiceless.

4. In “Snow Furies” Ballinger tries to suggest how the hypocrisy of our niggardly charity can haunt us.

Snow Furies

It’s snowing this morning
in a Christmas card sort of way.
From my desk I watch the flakes
in their fluttering descent,
little angels come to call upon us.
But an old man intrudes
into the alluring snowlight,
his windbreaker a dark field
the angels founder into.
He appeared there yesterday
as I returned home,
as if the winter squalid light
had transfigured itself into him,
a body to ask me for a quarter,
which I gave (having many in my pocket),
gave and wished him–
one of the haunting unhoused–away.
And now he’s come again,
looking this way,
a witness,
the Ghost of Charity Past,
while the snow
beats against my windows.

5. “Precious Seed” started to grow in Ballinger’s imagination years ago when he saw a magazine photo of a migrant worker’s child sitting in his pickup. He wondered about her future.

Precious Seed

Framed in the open window of the rusting red door,
she’s pretty as a picture, the seed of light
shines so in her brown face.
Too young to pick, old enough to be burden,
she waits in a migrant’s pickup at field’s edge,
waits for another August dusk.
In the hot and hazy Ohio air, her mother and father
are bent in the field’s mid-distance, vague question marks.
She watches, murmurs a child’s tuneless song,
not knowing yet the songless days before her,
not knowing how she will be about her father’s business.

The sun lays its dusty smolder across the field,
and a darkening veil falls over the eastern sky
under which her parents now return, faces drawn,
bearing the heavy sheaves of their days.
Her voice flutters about them in the parched light.
Was she ever a song carried in their hearts?
I imagine her mother at some past day’s hot and brittle end waiting
while her man–harrowed and harvested himself–hovers
over her, sparrow frail, embracing her with dusty wings.
No annunciation here, his finishing grunt the only Magnificat
for more fruit to be bruised at our tables.

6. Ballinger’s poem “Floating in This Dark” works with Trakl’s poem “Grodek” on the horrors of war.

Floating in This Dark
after Georg Trakl’s “Grodek”

It’s nightfall again. The plains lose their golden light,
promises that can’t be kept, and the blue lakes
are circumstanced darkly. Oaks cry out in wind voices

like bayonets, their leaves clattering like scabbards against legs. Tramped paths lead through the grass to black bodies. Quietly,

in a meadow corner, as if the gathering red clouds
of God’s presence, blood pools, cool as the moon.
The shadows, settling, regard dying boys
from whose slashed mouths leap wild cries.

Beneath the shining thorns of the stars, a sister’s or wife’s ghost
like a moth flutters down over a corpse, kisses the hero,

caresses his crown of blood. Now, softly the flutes
of deepest nights sigh, broken reeds of grief.
On a little hill like an altar, pain feeds spirit’s flame,
and all its children float in this dark thick as fireflies.

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