Check out lots of pictures from SPARK on the Circle 2022 here!
When the eyes, hearts, heads, and ears of enough poets are turned like a searchlight on a subject, look out. This is the point of the Circle Anthology: to see what happens when 27 literary artists focus on a place — Monument Circle — and all its meanings.
Conceived by Big Car’s Jim Walker and organized by Natalie Solmer, founder and editor of The Indianapolis Review, the Circle Anthology is a new body of work made for SPARK Monument Circle.
The poets read their work live on the Circle on October 19 as part of the What a Wednesday event. You can go here to listen to all of all the poems as part of our Circle Sounds project via WQRT FM — Big Car’s community radio station (playlist also embedded here).
Thank you to all the poets for taking part!
Here are texts of their poems in full:
The Archive In My Bones
by Uzuri Asad
With good fortune
And an open mind
You may find that there is something
About one who knows their origins
One who knows their stories
And cares enough to commit to memory
The voices of others
The tales of their earthen trails
And gift them again and again
Walking with echoes of
A ravaged people
As their amplifier
Detachment from a legacy that was forced from view
Replaced with bloodied vision
Along with their unwilling offerings
Of the elevation of
Every common thing
Contributions reduced to rumor
They who speak with honeyed rage
Point out mistaken monoliths
Embedded in monuments
Determined that these details
Will not be overlooked
Pay close attention
When the storytellers share their souls
You too might find yourself in love
With a bitter truth
by C.S. Carrier
brick-paved, a circumference of locust trees,
intersection of Market & Meridian, focal point,
machinery buzzing, the ground vibrating,
sward where numbers began, congregations,
a Starbucks, Hilbert Circle Theatre,
the green steeple of Christ Church Cathedral,
lampposts with speakers, preening finches, the cardinal points,
bronze statues of luminaries, conquerors,
bison heads with livid chins spurting water into basins,
the clouds are moving, the sun is bubbling over,
begonias, coleus, canna lily, grass bundles,
flagpoles with cameras, reflections in panopticon,
chloramine, the din of water cascading into pools,
hair matting the ground, dark façades,
the displaced fires of the Lenape & the Miami,
a man sleeping, a man eating from a trashcan,
two men holding hands at a picnic table,
a woman reading a book on her lunch break,
serpents writhe around the eyes,
pedestals wrought with laurels & tears,
bears strapped into upright poses,
eagles, pendants from their beaks,
invisible grid of radiowaves, the statuary is symbolic,
astragals of cannons & horses, bows & bowsprits,
oolitic limestone from southern Indiana, o bells,
o obelisk standing up, gesture to the dead, what of the living,
I felt hope when I saw the crowd assemble on the steps,
the summer heat blistering, announcing itself.
To the brotha on the West Side
of the monument:
by Malachi Carter
Bro, I feel you.
I know that very position you’re in.
My feet hurt, too
Walking around this Circle
just to look up at oppression,
I’m tired of false freedom, too,
Yo, I was watching on YouTube
this reflexologist in Toronto
who uses these stick tools like a sculptor.
Let’s get some reparations
and go get foot massages,
Your shackles are oddly burdensome gifts;
mine are compression socks.
Both of ours are name-brand.
At least you got yours for free.
You hold up your chains
against an eagle-encrusted shield
shaped like the bottom of the chin of the liberator
who apparently doesn’t see
Or maybe they’re saving you
Remember, angels don’t look
like white saviors.
Only the Old World Sparrows about your head have wings on their backs.
But keep looking up, big bro.
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
justice like the noonday sun
that sets on your sole.
Maybe that’s why you hang your foot over this monument ledge—
to get your own
all-natural sun-beating solar foot massage,
you know, like those therapy lasers.
I see now—
you’re handing back Liberty
They were never yours.
by John L. Clark
Round & Round
lock it in and
crank it up
sounds like a
spin it backwards
ringing buzzers of
joy ushering in the
latest new poetics of
pop songs about
spinning around &
Low power is
by Mitchell L. H. Douglas
The track starts @ Market, backspins
to Meridian, each lane a groove, the song
of us embedded in the brick. It sounds
its way out of the round:
in children’s laughter, in the matter
of Black lives–a protest
from a car cut off, it’s needled driver
full weight on the horn. Crops of tourists scratch
heads, stare into the sun
@ the Capitol’s back. A man
w/a cup half full of change
extends his hand, shakes
& smiles. Lovers stop for a selfie,
rise of limestone spindle
between them, convertibles
blasting the ’80s
into new millennia. You would swear
it was a dance, the way cars swoon
left, locked in the lean of the curve. The couple
turn their heads to the beat, then back
to each other, grin in the spin.
Polis, you carve headstones
on your heart, honor ghosts of war
while new death cuts in. Our center
on spiral, fit to sift
new hurts from old. Digging
in the crates.
by Jarrod Dortch
When I was younger /
we used to roll around the /
circle beat real high
Young Black and free with /
the world as our oyster /
the circle or track
Still remember when /
my ride stopped popped and dropped on /
me on the circle
The center of town /
we spin around trying to /
make a way forward
When lit up and in /
all of its splendor the circle /
To Indiana’s Silent Victors
by Matthew Graham
“The thunder-chorus of a world is stirred
To awful, universal jubilee.”
— James Whitcomb Riley
Written for the dedication of The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Indianapolis
At the dedication, on May 15th, 1902,
Riley read his poem, and in the center of the city,</span
In the center of Indiana,
A limestone exclamation point of remembrance
Announced the start of a new century.
The dead of five military conflicts, one
Too shameful now to even consider
Celebrating, were honored
By the surviving veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic.
And although the white supremacists
Of Indiana’s Knights of the Golden Circle
Were long gone, in twenty years
The Klan would percolate up from the southwest of the state
Into Indianapolis like swamp gas.
In his keynote address that day, General John Foster warned:
“Every country may carry within itself
The seed of its own dissolution.”
And so it may.
What does this memorial mean today
And what should we think of the dead of so long ago
With their wars of just and unjust causes?
And how can we learn from their thunder-chorus
In our own still-tarnished and awful times?
Under Her Watch
by JL Kato
When I was a boy, the lady atop
the monument was an angel,
smiling down on my side of town,
where hillbilly drifters
and German immigrants slept.
I was welcome to cozy up
in their shotgun shacks
on narrow lanes, as long
as I was the only Jap.
As a teen, I saw a different lady
leading a phalanx of dead soldiers
from the War Memorial
and American Legion Mall.
Like a falcon swooping
down on a dove,
she marched toward me,
pointing her finger, exclaiming
“I want you in Vietnam.”
When I was fresh out of college,
the lady bestowed, at last,
a wife, a career, a car,
a safe neighborhood.
But the bronze lady wasn’t done.
One snowy evening, I stopped.
to fill my gas tank. A ragged woman,
cold wind blistering her fingers,
pleaded for some change.
“No time and no coins,” I said.
As I put away the pump,
a voice from behind said,
“Get inside and buy something warm.
Take your time and stay out of the cold.”
A ten-dollar bill appeared
in the beggar’s hand.
When I looked behind me, an angel
with a flickering sword
disappeared into the night.
by Lasana D. Kazembe
kind of like when
decorate the face
time with its wearied worried
lips like icons raised
as symbol and
symbolic monuments that foretell and
prey on truth and beauty in
all its forms
who were those
lives inserted into a country’s
open sores? etched forever in lime
stone leaning pose screaming silent
dangerous questions kind of zinn
like when history comes a-calling
demanding it be listened to
dissected dealt with
gave their lives as
sun and sea do or
once did? who? sons?
sons of ones?
teased and taunted
haunted by the corrugated history that
with its bronzed voice and
its obstinate eye its
brazen truth brandished
kind of like wartime knives
that ask not why
by Nasreen Khan
At the center of the city, there is a circle like an eye in the middle
of Circle City
and from the center of its pupil juts a steel and stone erection, altar
to gods of blood and war and death and slavery
encircled by a river of chemical water, sanitizing the floating sputum of a dozen cleared throats.
cast your bread upon the waters
Sleeping by this stern midwestern Ganges, Donna shivers under three layers of coats, castoff but impeccably mended. Muttering,
her breath forms crystalline in the fluorescent cold
And when she takes the sandwich that I offer—salami and provolone, not skimpy on the condiments, her eyes are clear,
clear, clear, like the very center of the White River turned glassy when in coldest midwinter its frozen solid, and my Black dog Ahab skitters ahead, showing me where the ice is rotten on my crossing from bank to bank, and back again.
Donna used to be an opera singer. Donna’s fingernails are clean. And she puts the Ziploc baggie away to save the sandwich “for later”, but I think she was raised right and is just being polite.Two months before Donna first told me, “my name is Donna but out here they call me Beautiful.”
the world came to a standstill, and the people who had shelter sheltered in place.
And the ones with none called anyplace a place
And I walked East from out of the Western Haughville night on a wandering whim, across the 16th street bridge over the White River.
cast your bread upon these waters
and I twirled at the intersection of New York where it crosses Pennsylvania
thrilled at the wide empty expanse of soundless car lanes,
all the people sheltering in someplace else
with their cars garaged in that sheltered place too
And it felt like in all the city with all its places, I was the last one left.
This is our bread you’ve refused to cast upon our waters
Here in the eye of this city, the eye of this storm, apple of our Fathers’ eyes, city Fathers cast in bronze 9 feet tall, sightless eyes with green cataracts of patina
Donna, give me sight!
I can’t see the specks of gold in your gaze, for the plank in my own.
“To Indiana’s Silent Victors”
Monument Circle, Indianapolis
by Karen Kovacik
No one has commissioned us unsung citizens
in hoodies or union caps. No one has memorialized
our guayaberas or rainbow flags, yet we stencil signs,
unroll banners, raise our voices heavenward
to make Miss Victory shake. No one cast us
in bronze, no one sculpted us in limestone
or granite. But we rise for the rule of law,
build an underground to Illinois, seek
retribution for knees on necks. We come
without cannon. Few of us have touched
a battleship’s prow. Yet we track every treaty
broken. And glorify beech forests,
along with buffalo and bears. At most,
we carry spare change. And single moms
who skip electric bills to feed their children supper
we lift up! We adorn no plinths—no one calls us
“conqueror.” We are bootsoles on brick,
splashes of glitter or perfume. We’re unsung,
citizens who will never have a monument,
and we’re fending off another civil war.
Animal Statuary Haiku Times Two
by Anne Laker
Oh bison, bearded
and spitting, we killed you off
then bronzed you, mid-breath
Oh pot-bellied bears
I pass you at dawn running
to catch a Greyhound
Two Voices Speak of Lady Victory in Monument Circle
by Alessandra Lynch
Shining and leaping it seems through stardust particles & mist & deadly particulates is she– in her flowing dress…trying to escape
the cement pigeon-eyed center of the city?
Beneath her, heavy bronze soldiers crawl and stagger upward and flesh-people walk airily past
…some in masks
“Airily” for where is there to be? Airily for need of clean air. They’re trying to launch to the moon…
…maybe she’s trying to get there first to warn them
At the human core is war not love after all?
…she’s a fierce love-form herself , her flowing colorless dress, an eagle-bird on her head, its
wings in shadow
Maybe she’s messenger to the moon, to mars
…dispel the costly human footstep
This is turning bleak.
…bleak contains a lake and Blake!
One low, one dead…
…it is a bleak stark time to be writing a Memorial Poem for a city
Where human hands are at war against human hands amid the endless stutter of guns, backwail of sirens
…and Sedges droughted and Red Knot, Eastern Black Rail, Piping Plover– jinxed
And butterflies failing and coneflowers burnt out like buildings, the sky in a stretcher
…and eyes of these Common Soldiers cast downward, silent mouths drily open and the
impoverishment of rivers and the dangling signal wires
Yet you are singing to me
… I am singing to you and watching the people below Lady Victory or is her name Nike?
She is not leaping after all—she is wading through the clouds
…and she carries a torch
And we have the means to sing of her and we have the means
…to listen to the particular voices silent in the streets
Are we the Silent Victors—both living and dead—?
…No blood where her shadow falls
pooling thickly in this hour– by tomorrow will be gone—
… She points her sword down, the eagle lifts its wings, her face is kind
If you had a face it would be kind
…if you had a face it would be one of a kind!
Loop (or a Black Girl Keeps Returning to the City of Circles Part 1)
by Ashley Mack-Jackson
Question: There are Black people in Indiana?
Answer: When I was 10, I almost died from poststreptococcal
glomerulonephritis: it was a trip: something else: how my body tried
to shut itself off: I remember: I couldn’t remember how to tie my shoes
I remember: my mother: dead serious in the shadow of the quiet room:
where they send you to let the ones you love go: she refused to go: I remember:
my body above me trying to drive myself back inside. Truth be told
I’ve always been holding on: letting go and something about December 1994
made the magic of separation: resurrection too tempting: the birth of a savior:
the patron saint of children and thieves begging forgiveness: a monument of war
strung up with thousands of twinkling lights: a loop that broke and broke and broke.
Depending on which way it went, I could’ve been on any side of this city
of circles: I was born at St. Vincent: Easter Sunday 1984: my mother waited almost
too late: I died at least twice at St. Vincent: near Christmas 1994: my mother
waited almost too late: at Riley Hospital: a hospital that lives in the neighborhood
the city stole from my mother’s people: I woke up to our pastor’s brown
face haloed in fluorescent light. Jesus Christ, how could I not take myself away:
give myself back to this city: my people? Again, and again and again.
How to Love a City Poem
by Chantel Massey
say her name with your whole mouth.
when you tell her story, start with her Heart.
how when you place your hand there,
you can tell she comes alive.
make sure you remind people to close
their eyes & listen,
hear the beat of the city pound.
it’s the feet that walk
to catch the 39 to work first
thing in the morning,
the kids that laugh & ride bikes
along the sidewalks
on Kessler. its the cars
that hum from Post Rd. to Guion,
then 121st st to Greenwood.
make sure you remind people
they are her Heart. watch
how the stories stitched together
quickly blanket her, call her
Naptown, if you want, –
this only means she is held
with warmth in many hands
& her name in many mouths.
call her kissed. call us a choir,
singing her a lullaby
of all the wonders
that rest in her belly;
of all the wonders
& stories in her Heart.
Circle the center
by Kevin McKelvey
How do you find the center
of a notched rectangle
that wriggles to a southern confluence
where buffalo fled the ax?
Is the center near Avon
or Eagle Township or beneath
the stained-glass dome
of the Boone County Courthouse?
My head can bob a center
in Lake Michigan
or Morse Reservoir
or a farm pond.
This circle makes
the mile square.
The township grid
squares the counties.
Make yourself an obelisk:
hand over hand above your head,
arms locked against your ears
—to slice through water—
to stand tall
in the middle of a corn field
until it tassels above you.
In this Owen County oolitic
the men’s floppy hats
don’t hide their blank stares
and the women glare
beyond the falling water.
Cannons and ships bluster
from the astragals.
But I fear the buffalo, bears,
panthers, eagles, horses—
the luster in their rock-old eyes
as if one more strain or flex
could collapse this monument.
Liberty for who?
is the question of any war—
of who wins
who builds the monuments
who’s beaten and trampled
who’s still oppressed.
If only a fledgling eagle
could crown us all free and equal
Liberty or Victory or Miss Indiana
while we balance on a globe
with a too-tall sword
and a torch above our head,
the flame a golden dove taking flight.
Nos vemos en el circulo.
by Félix J. Medina
Una línea que esta curveada, de una forma que abraza a todos, y cada punto en la línea está a la misma distancia del corazón.
Nos juntamos alrededor del círculo.
Alrededor del fuego urbano.
Este es nuestro estilo de vida Hoosier, que nos recuerda de nuestras derrotas, pero también de nuestras victorias.
Todo escrito ahí para recordarnos. Aquí comenzamos en el fin, y terminamos en este nuevo comienzo.
Nuestras vidas están interconectadas completamente por medio de esta forma de vida
No importa quién eres o de dónde vienes, sabes que el estar aquí, hace que el mundo sea redondo.
Hemos elegido a este círculo para que nos represente, porque todos hemos pasado por los mismos desafíos, y no hemos tenido opción más que ir para enfrente.
Este es un eco de 120 años de memoria.
Mira a tu alrededor. Todos los que estamos aquí en el circulo somos tus ciudadanos que alimentan al círculo con lo que necesita para funcionar, para respirar.
El círculo está en nuestra bandera, está en nuestra forma de vida, en nuestro cielo, y es el objeto redondo más perfecto y mayormente conocido en el universo.
Nos vemos en el circulo.
by Félix J. Medina
A line that is curved, so that its ends embrace each other, and every point on the line is the same distance from the heart.
We gather around the circle.
Around the urban fire.
This is our Hoosier way of life, and is here to remind us of our failures, but also of our victories.
All written for us to remember.
We start here at the end, and end in this new beginning.
Our lives, are interconnected fully through this humble form of life.
No matter who you are, or where you are coming from, you being here, makes the world go round.
We have chosen this circle to represent us, we’ve all been through the same struggles, and had no choice but to push ourselves through those moments.
This is an echo of 120 years of memory.
Look around. Everyone you see in this circle is a fellow Hoosier, one that provides to the circle what it needs in order to function, in order to breathe.
The circle is in our flag, is in our way of living, in our sky, and it is the most perfectly round object known in the universe.
Meet you at the circle.
by Susan Neville
I stand barefoot on a star-encrusted ball. Look up! Do you see me? I spin so fast you might think I’m standing still. I spin like the earth spins, the planets, like electrons spin, and protons, tornados and whirlpools, like children spinning on blocks of ice. I’m a dervish. One hand in the air, I direct the dance of ordinary time: In one direction the football spirals, in another the basketball spins into the hoop, in another, piston rings carry heat away from the hot piston of the racecar into the cooled cylinder wall of the engine. And there, the weekly passing of the peace, and there, the buttery violin passing a melody to the shining slide trombone. The fruits of the spirit: ice cream and strawberries, horse-drawn carriages, weddings, birthdays, picnics, song, our daily bread and passing circuses. I’m your wedding band. You circle me in celebration and despair. I’m made of the small eggs of rock that formed around the shells of inland sea creatures, and of the waves that spun the shells and the pressures that crushed them. But that was long ago. Do you like my dress? I do, actually. It’s so difficult to get that movement in hard stone. My dress is ruched, it billows around my ankles when I spin on my ball of stars. An eagle is attached to my hair.
Once my grandmother brought me to hear a president and to drink a soda at the five and dime. Once my mother bought a warm bag of red-skinned peanuts for us to eat, and we looked in the department store windows at mannequins dressed in Chanel.
Once I saw Richard Lugar on the circle, and he was very short. Once I saw William Hudnut, and he was very tall. Once I saw Francis Farmer, and she was very sad.
I rode a carriage around the circle with my daughter on her 10th birthday and with my brother on the day of his wedding. That was once. I sang with my high school choir at the foot of the monument at Christmas, but several times. I’ve stared into the fountains as though they were the blue green of the Caribbean. I’ve bought a pencil from a man without legs. In middle school I watched Dr. Zhivago and Gone With the Wind while sipping juice from a plastic orange. Sometimes now I think I catch a statue in motion, the sound of the eagle prepared to soar, the windows on the curved buildings opalescent and reflective as the arc of a soap bubble, and I think I can hear the voices of the war dead whispering from underneath the monument, joining with the sound of spinning wheels on the spinning brick tube of the street.
by Brianna Pike
She hovers high above the circle;
torch glinting gold, sword lowered
well below a gaze that drifts
south across a cerulean sky
before falling to the stream
of cars on their way to:
dinners round well-loved
late summer gardens brimming
sunflowers and bees;
block parties full of dancing children;
the aroma of fried food shimmering off pavement;
the seemingly endless turquoise of community pools;
soft green grass and smoking barbeque;
and fireflies that pierce the night like stars.
She watches you circle the monument murmuring
gratitude for barbeque, sunflowers, stars and pools.
She watches you circle around and around and around
But don’t you see?
She is already here;
gleaming and grateful
asking you to just look up.
by Karen Pope
Aqua blue fountains
dare hold drowned copper pennies
tossed wishes hoped true
by Karen Pope
Driving counter clockwise,
I am often transported back to a time
when downtown histories
were as obvious
as is the joy
of being greeted by warm Hellos…
designed to direct feet and wheels
North South East West
radiating out from center mass
City blocks of
tall short wide skinny shoulder-to-shoulder buildings
ornate with glass panes
portals for workers to peer outward
for pedestrians to peer inward…
Buildings with heavy doors
that seemed to inhale and exhale crowds of people
all shuffling to the rhythmic sound
of doors swinging open swinging closed…
my imagined Merry-Go-Round ride
but caught up in the dizziness
of buildings white clouds blue sky
twirling whirling in tandem
just outside my bus window…
not yet faded into black
Marrows Nut House
Power and Light…
Nor is the timbre of my mother’s voice
after buying submarine sandwiches
Spanish peanuts with jelly beans…
Reminding me and my twin
that she hasn’t any more money
for us to go back home…
Moving counter clockwise
Moving counter clockwise
Moving counter clockwise
THIS DAY CAN BE EVERYTHING
by Nick Reading
Concrete and cloud frame everybody walking here.
Little shadow, no shade, in a sweat
since midnight. Parts of town awake
with windows humming. Parts of town silent.
The city bus approaches, bicycles stamped
on the front like ransom, like spoils.
The guy attempting to catch it runs like
he doesn’t want to go where he’s headed.
From the steps of the monument, I count
every street, like years, passing
in direct routes through my body.
Out of sight, a mother calls a child,
her voice sifted through the fountain’s
thin curtain, It’ll be alright, in refrain,
sounding more like a hymn
than a promise. A promise like
pop-up showers in the afternoon. Like
recalling an apology I owe.
A hymn like waving at strangers
as if I’ve known them forever.
The hospitality in a day promising
to offer hope in its strange parlors
startles my world in a breath.
How familiar it feels to be hollow.
The mulberry’s spotted canopy.
The space between our bodies. A seat
on a bus somebody fills. The time off a clock
that’s ours. Our hands and what we hold.
by Natalie Solmer
The first time I ever got drunk was in Indianapolis
at the top of its tallest building, looking through
walls of glass. I was a teen at a cousin’s wedding
in the clouds, overlooking the grid, its circle center,
floating over the monuments to the dead.
I was nervous. My sister stole me screwdrivers—
orange juice & vodka until I melted
and my heart became shiny as the glass,
until there was the buzz of a city in me, circling.
Fate side-eyed me for a decade
its plot to pull me & Indy back—circles &
circles again, Tori sang when I was love drunk
on someone living in this city & circling me
across blue mountains. I drove back in
& touched the blood red street
of brick that still circles
the monument to the dead.
Near these ghosts, we’d make our bed
once. Again & again you’d evaporate
& leave me with a city, sad & shining
until finally it became all my own
& I learned to live in it.
by Yeabsera Tabb
a place for the mundane
a place for the extravagant
a place consistent, familiar, and also brand new
here at the center of the city
where we walk, work, wait and wonder
my heart longs for something
something like an unlikely connection
a random interaction
an interruption of the normal
moments that conjure feelings of familial laughters
moments like encountering an encouraging smile
here at the heart of the city
I long for pass by moments to linger
to blossom anew
to feel the grim of the day fade one small talk at a time
a place to witness pure human kindness
here at the heart of the city
to encounter a stranger and realize
we are not really strangers
to feel seen even for a blip of a moment
to feel the the beat of my heart after a round of ping pong
to get a moment to sit
by Sylvia Thomas
Meet me at the circle
Where I am no longer
on the street corner
I am ahead of the curve
that carves out a place for community
and where culture makes the cut
I grew up here
Where victory is a reminder
look up at the top to find her
We put her there
Did you see the people along the way?
Take our turn on the
steps of our monument
because it has taught us, we all have
something to say
Circling the statues with its stories
from past daughters and sons
we know these battles were won
but the wars have only begun
Here in the heartland, there are
no captains of the coasts
We are citizens of tomorrow
Living for the people who have died
the chants, the rallies, the protests,
the songs, the screams, and the cries
Bricks like these make us believe we are heard
We hold on to every word
Oh, to be at the center
To look around at each other
And think of our common link
Where you are
Where you are going
Where you were
I am not that far away
by Manòn Voice
after the golden hour, patina scintillates the corpses
of skyscrapers emptied of the proletariat
the electric colors move into rhythm
the circle turns turntable
early hip-hop discotheque
a vanity of blooming neon
beneath a quarter gleaming mustard ball
playing the Hook up top
bicycle, scooter, and car wheels spin around the platter
needling the groove
a Harley motorcade of DJs extends the break
and the clacking of horse hooves
dot the beat
the traffic of bodies will contort
fighting the torque
spindling them back into the cycle
some never leave
forced into the centrifuge of scratched dreams
tagging these streets steps and sidewalks in sleeping bags
in a hoodie
and black jeans
curses his courage
on the track spits back
a cacophony of slurs
he has nowhere to go
to sleep except in his hands
beneath this salute to soldiers and sailors
has never made it back home to his own mind
but at least the statute is familiar
the tone arm lifting us in and out of time
the capital city a
tale of two
playing the same record
on opposite sides of the mixer
Monument Circle, September 8, 2022
by Jim Walker
and yet here we are
at war with ourselves
bayonets of so much sound
pause the Circle
fold it in time
and I see people wobble walk
side to side as rocking horses
made of leather and old meat
I still take long, steady strides
only I hear my hip pop, feel tiny pain
nothing like whatever put her
in the machine she rides slow
behind the leashed dog
old man drives circles
in a Slingshot
with a skeleton
in the passenger seat
spitting buffalo, the upright bears
barrel banded in iron — just trying to help
eagles lift off from black stalks
war horses drink this blue water
— its hiss and fountain spray
by Raiha Zainab
To Indiana’s Silent Victors we stand,
In the brotherhood of this land,
We link arms and rejoice
In the victory of our voice
Monument Circle stands for thee
Lighthouse for our way to liberty
Holding up Lady Victory
Calling us home to the land of the free
War to the East
Soldiers forge into battle
The Goddess of War urges on the charge
In fight of the Union, we march
Peace to the West
Lady Liberty welcomes us to our homecoming
Break away your chains, hold up your flags
To Liberty we return
Atop it all stands Lady Victory
Her eagle crown fighting for our freedom
Her golden torch the light of civilization
We look to her to find our way home
To the Circle City
To all we love
To all we leave behind
Here to the Circle we come to remember
The land we built up together
Here in the plains of Indiana
Here in the crossroads of America
More than 4,000 people enjoyed two days of spending time together on Monument Circle on Oct. 22 and 23 as SPARK kicked off out first ever Circle SPARK Fest.
This partnership between Downtown Indy and Big Car closed the southwest quadrant of the Circle to car traffic and brought a host of free activities and cultural entertainment to visitors. This included artist-made seating for socializing, games like chess and ping pong, 25-plus local artisan vendors, all-local food and drink vendors, live music, pumpkin decorating, interactive artmaking opportunities, writing and decorating historic Circle postcards that we mail for free, a mobile art gallery and 360-degree selfie station, and a mobile art museum — the Wagon of Wonders.
You can see lots pictures and video clips here.
Curated and organized by Indianapolis multimedia artist and IUPUI professor Jordan Munson, No More No Place debuted October 19 on the city’s largest stage — and will extend its run for all to see.
This audio-visual collage pairs two-minute instrumental audio works by local composers with eclectic video art beamed onto Monument Circle’s ten-story projection system and played through the 360-degree speakers. The cumulative power of the work, Jordan says, is the best way to bust the old myth of “India-No-Place” once and for all.
Often mysterious images float and fuse, materialize and evaporate across the broad canvas of the building — and in tandem with the ever-changing soundscape — as the city streets and sidewalk below and beyond keep churning. See the list of contributing artists here.
No More No Place, which runs one hour, will show at the Circle between 7 pm and 8:30 pm on these dates:
Saturday, October 22
Sunday, October 23
Tuesday, November 1
Tuesday, November 8
Tuesday, November 15
Tuesday, November 22
SPARK has always been about showcasing the work of artists of all types in the Circle City in our favorite public places. But on Wednesday, October 19, from 6 to 9 p.m., we’re taking that idea to the max in a way that’s never been done before. In a very short time span, you can sample the commissioned work of about 65 local artists: musicians, composers, video artists, and poets. Like all SPARK programs, it’s free.
What a Wednesday is an assemblage of experiences:
Evening Embers — Let the ambient sounds of new compositions and improvisations by Indianapolis-based musicians Jordan Munson and Rob Funkhouser wash over you, through the Monument Circle sound system. Starts at 6 pm.
Public Art Tour — Inspired by the recent Public Art Census produced by Rokh – a cultural equity research & design studio – take a tour highlighting Downtown’s public works by artists of the global majority (Black-Diaspora, Asian, Latinx, dual-heritage, Indigenous, and Women). Tour led by artist Greg Rose. Starts at 6 pm.
Circle Anthology — At 7 pm, 27 poets share the (up to) 200 words they write to respond to the history, spirit, and symbols of the Circle. A sample from Lasana Kazembe’s wartime:
history comes a-calling
demanding it be listened to
dissected dealt with
gave their lives as
sun and sea do or
once did? who? sons?
sons of ones?
The roster includes Kazembe, Chantal Massey, JL Kato, Alessandra Lynch, Nasreen Khan, Karen Kovacik, Mitchell Douglas, and many more. Read all their poems here. The poems will air later on WQRT FM from the Monument Circle speakers as part of the Circle Sounds series. Hear all of the poems here.
The Indianapolis Review Editor Natalie Solmer and Big Car Executive Director Jim Walker invited the participating poets.
No More No Place — Curated and organized by Indianapolis multimedia artist and IUPUI professor Jordan Munson, this audio-visual collage pairs two-minute instrumental audio works by local composers with eclectic video art beamed onto Monument Circle’s ten-story projection system and played through the 360-degree speakers. The show kicks off at about 8 p.m. See the trailer here.
The cumulative power of the work, Jordan says, is the best way to bust the old myth of “India-No-Place” once and for all.
“It has been an amazing opportunity curating such a large collection of works from Indianapolis musicians and filmmakers,” says Jordan. “It has once again confirmed for me that this city has a deep and diverse pool of talent in our creative community. More than many people realize.”
Jordan enjoyed selecting whose sounds to pair with whose images—and the surprising, stylistic effects created, from intense to contemplative. Jordan hopes the project will “spark” conversation and future collaboration among the artists involved. He also believes No More No Place paints a fairly broad picture of Indianapolis. “We are all experiencing the same place, but in often wholly different ways.”
With mammoth-sized projection, immersive sound, and so much local creativity, No More No Place couldn’t happen anywhere else but Monument Circle. Or Indianapolis.
Share What a Wednesday on Facebook.
ABOUT SPARK: SPARK Monument Circle is presented by Big Car Collaborative, Downtown Indy Inc., and the City of Indianapolis — with support from the Capital Improvement Board and the Indiana War Memorials Commission. The goal is to spark Monument Circle with art, games, music, and socializing. SPARK at the Circle goes through Friday, October 28— Mondays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday evenings 5-8 p.m., and Fridays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
by Rob Funkhouser
Living near and working downtown, and growing up in Indiana in general, I always took Monument Circle for granted. On the face of it, it’s a cool architectural hub, but it’s also a big traffic roundabout, when it isn’t being shut down for American Ninja Warrior. What I thought the least about in general was the sound there. Sure, there are speakers everywhere, but, up until recently, the most interesting musical moment for me was walking around the Circle near Christmas and playing a game with my buddy trying to recognize which song the muzak engine was trying to imitate.
Even during the original iteration of Spark, in the halcyon days of 2015, when I had the chance to perform on the Circle, the experience was one that felt like glorified busking, playing near the edge of something magnificent, but short of the center. That all changed for me when I played on the Circle earlier this year when Spark started up again. Playing a sound on the central sound system in that space as an artist is a revelation, and gets at the heart of what music can do when it is effectively married to a space.
Evening Embers, which takes place each Wednesday evening at 6:30 through October 26, has been a study in just how easily a space can become an immersive experience when sound becomes a dominant factor in the environment. It has been a chance to allow artists to hear themselves in a way they probably never considered, and for people to engage with the peace of the quieter spots in the central grounds. Throughout the series so far, we’ve heard artists that live right in the zone where the beauty of the sound has equal standing with the content of the music to completely transform the atmosphere of Monument Circle from that of traffic din, to a space of deep calm and exploration.
Performances so far have included Landon Caldwell creating a collage of sound from woodwinds, voice, and sampled instruments, Mark Tester building a whole world out of a single synthesizer, Michael Raintree playing glacially paced abstractions of his songs, Airport People’s plaintive tunes, and Clare Longendyke playing a set that reached back to the very beginnings of ambient music. Most recently, DJ Little Town breathed some drum-heavy life into the series with an hour-long mix of varied instrumentals.
And there’s more to come:
October 12 – Jordan Munson and Rob Funkhouser in duo preceding a huge night of art including an anthology reading of poems written about Monument Circle, and the premiere of No More No Place, which features 40 of Indianapolis’ most talented composers and videographers paired together for shorts to be projected via the Circle’s ten-story building projector.
October 19 – Composer and performer Hanna Benn will bring a touch of the sacred in her vocal improvisations.
October 26 – Classical Music Indy is partnering with SPARK for a screening of the 1920 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with a live score by Jennifer Page, flute; Eric Salazar, bass clarinet; Allison Vickery, piano; and yours truly on percussion.
It is my hope that as many people as possible will come to experience the art of sound at Monument Circle for themselves and see the possibilities that imagination can bring.
Because, whether you like the art itself or not, hearing it in such a massive context will change the way you view the space, will hopefully open up new ways of thinking about public space, and, perhaps most important of all, it will be interesting.
We at Big Car are teaming up with Downtown Indy and the City of Indianapolis — with support from the Capital Improvement Board and the Indiana War Memorials Commission — to spark Monument Circle with human-scale activities like games, live music, artmaking, and socializing in a comfortable place. Everything is free for people to enjoy.
We’ll be going through the end of October — Mondays through Thursdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. In September: we add 5-9 pm Wednesdays and Circle SPARK Festival on Oct. 22-23 (Saturday and Sunday). Our last day will be Oct. 28. Find us at the southwest quadrant.
Circle Sounds — During all open SPARK hours, Big Car artists are programming Circle Sounds through the Circle’s amazing audio speakers. Circle Sounds also airs citywide on our community radio station, WQRT 99.1 FM and streaming at wqrt.org. It’s a mix of upbeat instrumentals — from jazz to world music to pop — that also includes work by local musicians. In between batches of songs, we share, instead of commercials, audio projects being created there. This includes commissioned poems in response to the Circle, haikus submitted by the public visiting the Circle, quick thoughts by visitors on why they love the Circle, and more. WQRT is also doing live DJing at the Circle and taking requests Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. Hear the kind of music and audio projects we’re sharing at the Circle here.
All weekdays — A range of pop-up offerings and opportunities to play games, make art, record poems, send free postcards, hang out in a shady spot, and get info from staff artists on site.
Tuesdays — Each week at noon, we offer Lunch Break Live presented by Lake City Bank featuring local (mostly pop and singer/songwriter) musicians curated by Indianapolis musician The Girl Called Books. (See full musician list below).
Wednesday evenings — Guided walks about history and culture offered the evenings each week. Wednesdays also feature Evening Embers: Ambient Music at Spark Monument Circle — organized by Indianapolis ambient artist Rob Funkhouser. (See full list of walks and Wednesday evening series musicians below).
Thursdays — From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., free, quick-stop artist interactions and hands-on activities ranging from block printing or live painting, to portrait drawing or henna hand art.
Fridays — Open until 9 pm for people enjoying the Circle and getting started on the weekend.
Circle Artist in Residence — Yeabsera Tabb is working on ideas related to play and exploring the Circle. One project includes playful prompts printed and located on the sidewalks.
Circle Anthology — We’ve commissioned 25 writers to share work inspired by the Circle. Their poems will air on WQRT FM during Circle Sounds playing from the Circle speakers and we’ll do a live reading with this group at 7 p.m. on Oct. 12 as part of What a Wednesday. This is linked to our Haiku Here that encourages people to submit their own haikus inspired by the Circle to air on WQRT and play on the Circle speakers during Circle Sounds each day. Hear the poems here.
No More No Place — Organized by Indianapolis musician and IUPUI professor Jordan Munson, this project pairs instrumental music by local composers with video accompaniments projected on the Circle. Debuts at 8 p.m. on Oct. 12 as part of What a Wednesday.
Circle SPARK Fest — Oct. 22-23 from 1-6 p.m. each day. We’ll showcase local artists and musicians with a brand-new, two-day celebration of art and harvest time. Artisan vendors, live music, performance art, pumpkin decorating, and lots more. On Saturday, bands playing are Radar Gold, Books & Straight As, Vertice, and The Brothers Footman. On Sunday; it’s Addie Kosten; Beatty and the Bayonets; Kristen Bales; Ricardo. Artist Derek Tuder will bring his mobile art gallery and selfie studio and Big Car’s Wagon of Wonders will be there.
Halloween on the Circle — Oct. 26 a Halloween-themed walk at 6 pm. and a live soundtrack to the silent scary film, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), at 7:30 p.m. on the Monument steps. Film and soundtrack by local musicians in partnership with Classical Music Indy.
Boot Scoot and Vintage Market on the Circle — Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. Hosted by artist John Stamps, this will be an evening of line dancing and country music on the Circle. Costume contest that night too. Massive line dance and costume contest led by John Stamps.
Lunchbreak Live musicians (Tuesdays at noon, free)
Sept 20: Florelis Jimenez Vejas (Venezuelan pop)
Sept 27: Bitter Proof (experimental classical, jazz)
Oct 4: The Hammer and The Hatchet (Americana)
Oct. 11: Katie Jo Robinson (Indie jazz-pop)
Oct. 18: Indy Annies (country)
Oct. 25: Crescent Ulmer (folk, singer-songwriter)
Walking tours (Wednesdays at 6 p.m., free)
Sept. 28 — Ugly Ducklings: Join historians Jordan Ryan and Callie McCune for a look at the hidden tales and amazing stories behind buildings you might love to hate: City-County Building, the Gold Building, the former Anthem building on Monument Circle, and others. You may even learn to love some of Indy’s most unseemly architecture.
Oct. 5 — Magical History Tour: Artist, scavenger, and raconteur Kipp Normand guides you on a stroll through the oddities of Indianapolis history and spaces. Get ready for weird.
Oct. 12 — The Circle City’s Namesake Landmark: Gain deeper appreciation for Indianapolis’s symbolic heart by exploring the history and architecture of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument and the buildings that encircle it. Tours presented by Indiana Landmarks (repeat of Sept. 14 tour).
Oct. 19 — Public Art Crawl: Inspired by the recent Public Art Census produced by Rokh – a cultural equity research & design studio – take an artist-led tour highlighting Downtown’s public works by artists of the global majority (Black, Asian, Brown, dual-heritage, Indigenous). Presented by Rokh.
Oct. 26 — Spooky Mayhem Tour: Brace yourself for a Halloween-ish tour of the seedy, sinister, dark side of Indianapolis history.
Note: All tours meet at the SPARK welcome trailer on the southwest quad of Monument Circle. Expect to walk between a half-mile and 2 miles total. In case of bad weather, cancellation decisions will be made by 3 p.m. Check SPARK social media or website for updates.
Evening Embers: Ambient Music (Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., free)
Sept. 28: Michael Raintree
Oct. 5: DJ Little Town
Oct. 12: Jordan Munson and Rob Funkhouser
Oct. 19: Hanna Benn
Night Calls on the Circle
Mary Goodwin from Aurora PhotoCenter will be in the SPARK project space on the southwest quad to give a short presentation about Night Calls, by photographer Rebecca Norris Webb, and answer questions about the projection exhibition before the showing from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm, with Night Calls showing at 8:30 pm.
Goodwin will discuss how the Night Calls projection exhibition and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument relate to each other at the site, encouraging exploration of the ways lives of service are honored and remembered through art and memorial.
More details about Night Calls: As part of the Shining A Light: Arts & Culture Series of Downtown Indy, Aurora PhotoCenter presents a public projection exhibition of photographer Rebecca Norris Webb’s series Night Calls on Monument Circle in Indianapolis.
Night Calls is an homage to Webb’s 100-plus-year-old father and to our Hoosier landscape. In these photographs, she retraces the route her father took as a doctor on his house calls through Rush County, Indiana, the rural county where both the artist and her father were born. The images feature beautiful scenes from his drives around the area, as well as portraits of people he helped bring into the world and others he attended. In addition to her award-winning photographs, this exhibition features poetry voiced by Norris Webb. The work is a quiet, serene reflection on life and nature, and on the artist’s love of home and family.
This exhibition of Night Calls is generously funded through Shining A Light: Arts & Culture Series with Downtown Indy and the Indiana War Memorials Commission. This projection piece was produced specifically for the Monument Circle outdoor architectural projection system. Night Calls is Aurora’s first collaboration with Downtown Indy, Inc., Innovative, Inc., and Dodd Technologies, the teams that helped bring this project to Monument Circle.
For more information about Night Calls, Rebecca Norris Webb, and Aurora PhotoCenter, please visit www.auroraphoto.org.
Full Schedule of Showtimes (Free and open to the public, screenings of Night Calls):
Oct. 1, 2
8:30 pm / 9:30 pm
Oct. 7, 8
8:30pm / 9:30 pm
Nov. 4, 5, 6
7:45pm / 8:45 pm / 9:45 pm
Nov, 17, 18, 19
7:45pm / 8:45 pm / 9:45 pm
Circle SPARK Fest Artist & Vendor Call Out
Sat & Sun, October 22-23 1-5 PM on Monument Circle
Big Car Collaborative in partnership with Downtown Indy, Inc. are bringing Circle Spark Fest on Monument Circle and are seeking artists to participate.
400 to 600 guests are expected at the following event, the majority of which are downtown for work, and a good number of downtown residents as well. Vendor Submission Form is due Wednesday, September 29th at 12 pm
Event: Circle Spark Fest
Location: SW Quad of Monument Circle (in front of Emmis)
Parking: Provided (1 vehicle per artist) on Monument Circle on the SE and NW quad curb lane.
Event Time: 1:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Load-in Time: 11 am
Load-out Completion: 9 pm
- We will require a $50 refundable deposit for artists to participate once accepted. Artisan vendors will be refunded their full deposit upon attendance.
- Artists must provide their own setup (which could include a 10×10 tent, table, chairs, signage, etc.)
- A signed Services Agreement that Downtown Indy, Inc. will need returned at least 48 hours prior to event
Big Car Collaborative and Downtown Indy, Inc. will provide:
- 1- (12×12) space along the curb lane or the inner part of the SW quad of The Circle
- Access to electrical outlet for $10 fee (limited number available)
- Overall logistics/event management
- Police officers to close the SW quad of the Circle
- Overnight security of vendor booths
- Port-o-lets and handwashing stations
- 1 parking space per artist
- Liability insurance for vendors
- Marketing and promotion of event (vendors will be required to market their participation of the event, Big Car and Downtown Indy will NOT promote any single vendor)
- Live music, games, and artist-led activities
Circle Spark Fest is open to all individual artists and artisans over 18 years of age living in central Indiana, but preference will be given to those living in downtown Indianapolis. All artwork must be original art or fine craft and made by the artist/s and/or artisan/s present at the event. We define “fine craft” as functional objects such as unique one of a kind ceramics, jewelry, etc. and also include creative functional non-art objects such as artisan made soaps, clothing, etc. Imported or commercially made objects will not be accepted.
All 2D and 3D media are welcome. However, due to the nature and timing of the event, it is recommended that all items are offered in an accessible size and priced relative to the environment ranging from the low end of $5 to a median $50 and higher end between $150 and $250.
Artists/Artisans will be selected based upon the quality and uniqueness of their work as well as its appropriateness for a variety of downtown audiences.
- This form will take 5-10 minutes to fill out if you have your upload materials ready.
- Via the online form, applicants are to submit 5 images depicting examples of the artwork/fine craft they intend to sell at Circle Spark Fest as well as an (optional) photo of their booth set up.
- You will be notified by October 3 if you’ve been selected to be a featured artist/artisan for the Fest.
Wednesday, September 29th by noon: Application Deadline
October 10: All artists/artisans are notified whether or not they have been accepted into Circle Spark Fest. Those accepted will receive further instruction on load in that they have been chosen and will be given further instruction on load-in and parking.
By Friday, October 14th: All required documents must be returned.
More information about the organizers of Circle Spark Fest:
With SPARK on the Circle in 2022, the artist-led cultural and community organization, Big Car Collaborative, is teaming up with Downtown Indy and the City of Indianapolis to spark downtown with free, human-scale activities like playing games, enjoying live music, making art, and socializing in a comfortable place to take it easy, spend time together, and enjoy our city. SPARK activities are free for everyone to enjoy.
For specific questions, please contact [email protected]