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Fr. Virgil Furfaro

Father Virgil Furfaro—poet

A Father’s poetry

—Margaret M. Nava

Carl Sandburg described poetry as “a packsack of invisible keepsakes.” Plato proclaimed, “Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” And James Branch Cable defined poetry as “man’s rebellion against being what he is.” Father Virgil Furfaro would most likely agree with all three gentlemen.

Born and educated in Italy, Virgil Furfaro’s life was never easy. His father died in World War II two months before he was born, he and his sisters were brought up in the unstable atmosphere of post-war Italy, and during his high school years, it was discovered that the hard-of-hearing priest that baptized him had entered his name as Virgil rather than Vincent, the name everyone had called him from birth. Undaunted, young Virgil finished high school, studied engineering in Naples and the classics at the Classical Lyceum and the St. Louis University near Naples, and went on to earn a master’s degree in Spirituality of the Fathers of the Church. In 1973, he was ordained a Vocationist priest, and although he couldn’t speak a word of English, was sent to the United States to serve in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and finally New Mexico. Throughout his years in New Mexico, he served at parishes in Santa Rosa, Las Vegas, Belen, Mountainair, Our Lady of Sorrows in Bernalillo, and Holy Ghost in Albuquerque.

In the introduction to Father Furfaro’s recently published book of poetry, A Tormented Soul: Inspirational Poems, his longtime friend James Conder describes the priest’s time in the Land of Enchantment: “For over thirty years, he served the three cultures of New Mexico in twelve different parishes throughout the [Santa Fe] diocese. His close association with the Hispanics, American Indians, and Anglos of his various parishes and communities developed into a wonderful appreciation of their diverse cultures. His classical education, broad travels, and deep human interaction as a priest-councilor-confessor combine and reach expression through poetry in ways that illustrate the strengths, weaknesses, and foibles of mankind and nature in creative, artistic ways.”

Father Furfaro’s poetry runs the gamut from somber to serene. In his poem, “Genesis,” he tackles the problem of abortion and conveys the idea that “man is not born to enjoy life… but to perpetuate and communicate life for those who come after him—to preserve life.” In “Vision,” he mirrors the English poet William Cowper’s point of view when he characterizes the visions of nature as “mere esoteric digits that reveal the power of the Supreme Originator.”

Like many great poets, Furfaro looks at life with a pragmatism that is at once both realistic and disconcerting. Describing his own work, he says, “My poetry… is born from combining the fertile moments of my mind with a psychological, physical, and spiritual anguish that has characterized and tormented me for most of my life. Each aspect reinforces and enriches the other in such a way as to bring me a new vision of what I seek most—not a better life free of pain and anguish, but the appreciation of God’s wonderful gift of life, whether in good times or bad.”

Although he began writing as a child, Father Furfaro didn’t start saving his poems until he had what he calls a poetry conversion. “During a very stressful and long interval in my life, I came to know and understand the beauty and power of poetry as I never had before. I began to see in poetry the actual presence of a healing power. I began to realize that while pondering and writing poetry, healing sank deep into my mind and heart and gradually transformed me into the kind of person I had dreamed to be as a child.”

Admitting that many of his poems are not based on his own life experiences, Father Furfaro warns readers to study his poetry “with a mind free from the preconceived idea that the images and events described in any given situation were the author’s personal happenings.” As the Roman poet Catullus stated, “For the Godly poet must chaste himself, but there is no need for his verses to do so.”

Those who read Father Furfaro’s book of poetry will either love it or hate it. It is not a book for the faint of heart or those unwilling to face up to the cruel realities of the modern day world. It is, however, a book that reassures by putting into words what many of us can only imagine.

A Tormented Soul: Inspirational Poems (ISBN 978-1-4502-1300-4) is available in hardcover or paperback from iUniverse (iuniverse.com), Amazon (amazon.com), and independent bookstores throughout New Mexico. As an added bonus, the book also contains several of Father Furfaro’s favorite recipes—the Chicken Newmexitaly sounds delizioso. For more information, call (505) 771-0807 or (505) 867-2003.


The beauty of local art

On Sunday, April 17, 2011, at 2 p.m., the Placitas Artists Series will present the art of Vangie Dunmire, Sue Ann Mika, Gary W. Priester, and Gail Diane Yovanovich with a reception at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church. The works will be on display from the last Saturday of March through the last Saturday of April.

As a resident of Placitas for 22 years, Vangie Dunmire has been privileged to pursue her love of painting, as well as volunteer work in nonprofit, arts-oriented organizations. As a member of the New Mexico Watercolor Society (NMWS), she’s maintained contact with others who paint with watercolors. While working on her art history degree, Dunmire studied drawing, design, painting, and printmaking and continued her education with local instructors and painting workshops focusing on watercolor. She paints mostly in her studio, feels fortunate to have excellent landscape painting material right from her home on the north slopes of the Sandia Mountains, and thinks the best painting opportunities come when she is outdoors, enjoying a special location.

Ever since her fourth grade teacher assigned her to paint a Halloween scene on the window of the local A&P, Sue Ann Mika has had art on the brain, although it wasn’t always at the forefront of her daily life. Since retirement, art has moved to the front. Mika is a signature member of NMWS, serving on the board of directors, a full member of the Society of Layerists in Multi-Media (SLMM), and a member of the International Society of Experimental Artists. She has shown at many venues, including Texas/Neighbors, SLMM National, El Paso International, and the Fuller Lodge. In addition to painting, she writes poetry about her images and includes a poem on the back of matted/framed works.

Gary W. Priester is an honors graduate from Art Center College of Design in California. He worked in advertising for 15 years and was a principal in the Black Point Group, Design, in San Francisco for 12 years. Priester has been creating magical 3D, hidden image stereograms for the last 15 years. He is the author of three books of stereograms and is one of two stereogram artists who contribute images to the popular Japanese TJ Mook series, which has sold over four million copies. Priester also creates commissioned stereograms for advertising and promotion. He currently resides in Placitas.

Award-winning photographer Gail Diane Yovanovich showed a keen interest in art from childhood. She studied watercolor and oil painting from the age of 10, majored in fine arts in college, and concentrated on figure drawing at Rice University. She worked variously as an illustrator, museum curator, and photojournalist before taking up her camera as a fine art medium. Yovanovich has received many national and regional awards in both the fine art and photojournalism fields. Her photographs are in numerous private and public collections worldwide, and she also judges photo contests and juried exhibits. A former Rio Rancho resident, Yovanovich now lives in Edgewood and is an active member of the Corrales Society of Artists. 


Willy Sucre and Friends play string quartets

On Sunday, Sunday, April 17, 2011, the Placitas Artists Series will present Willy Sucre and Friends playing string quartets. Violist Willy Sucre will be joined by husband and wife violinists Guillermo Figueroa and Valerie Turner, with cellist Joan Zucker.

The program should include String Quartet in D Major by José Ignacio Quintón and String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 41, No.1 by Robert Schumann.

Renowned violinist Guillermo Figueroa is one of the most versatile musicians of his generation. He was concertmaster of the New York City Ballet, a member of the Emerson String Quartet, and is a regular performer at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Music in the Vineyards in California, and Music from Angel Fire. Currently, he is music director of both the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra (NMSO) and the Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, as well as principal guest conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony.

Violinist Valerie Turner, a native New Yorker, has an extensive career performing with orchestras and chamber ensembles all around the nation, including the Santa Fe Opera. Turner and her violinist husband, Guillermo Figueroa, are the founders and artistic directors of the acclaimed Festival de Musica Rondena chamber series in Albuquerque. They reside in Albuquerque with their three daughters.

Joan Zucker is principal cello of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. New Mexicans first heard Zucker in the mid-’70s, as jazz cellist with the Johnny Gilbert Quartet and as principal cello of the Orchestra of Santa Fe. Since then, she has performed in many of New Mexico’s finest ensembles, from the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and Opera to Twentieth Century Unlimited. She is married to NMSO’s assistant concertmaster, Joseph Zoeckler, whom she met in Venezuela. In addition to performing together, they have backpacked in areas as diverse as the Andes and the Himalayas. Their son Leo was born in 1992. Zucker plays on a Benjamin Banks cello made in Salisbury, England, in 1788.

The concert is generously sponsored by Drs. John and Dianna Shomaker.

Preceding the concert, a reception will be held for April exhibiting visual artists Vangie Dunmire, Sue Ann Mika, Gary W. Priester, and Gail Diane Yovanovich.

The concert will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 17, 2011, at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church; the artists’ reception begins at 2 p.m. Tickets for the concert will be available at the door one hour before the performance or may be purchased in advance at La Bonne Vie Salon and Day Spa in Homestead Village Shopping Center in Placitas, Ah! Capelli Salon & Color Studio in Enchanted Hills Plaza, Rio Rancho, or online at PlacitasArtistsSeries.org. Prices are $20 for general admission and $18 for seniors and students.

For more information, call (505) 867-8080, or visit PlacitasArtistsSeries.org.


An earful onto itself and wild cherry wine

On Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24, Anasazi Fields Winery hosts a wine festival at the winery in the historic Village of Placitas. Fruits of the Earth 2011 takes place from noon to 6 p.m. each day. Admission is free. Jim Fish, vintner and residence artist of the winery, says, “Grab a picnic basket, and join us for our annual celebration of springtime, Earth Day, and the wonderful fruit that has been grown in this village for years.”

Fish continues, “This year, as a special treat, we are releasing 20 cases of our exceptional 2010 Placitas Wild Cherry wine. Although this wine is still young, the final fermentation has been carried out on oak, and the wine is definitely ready to enjoy. We are holding another 150 gallons for the future.”

The musical lineup for the event is Sadaqah and Ann Ahlander on Saturday and Sage and Stagefright Slim on Sunday. Music will start at 2 p.m. on Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday. George Koinis of Sage warns that anyone coming earlier on Sunday “will be treated to one of Sage’s legendary ‘soundchecks,’ which is an earful onto itself.” The same can be said for the opportunity on Saturday to hear Beth of Sadaqah tune the 75 strings of her kanoon.

Sadaqah features Middle Eastern music on original instruments and will be joined by dancers for an exotic flair. Guitarist and classical-trained soprano Ann Ahlander will be performing her original compositions, as well as some amazing covers. As warned, our always fun, local band Sage starts tuning up at noon on Sunday. Stagefright Slim wraps up the event on Sunday afternoon with his original compositions for blues guitar.

Artists at the event include Fred and Kristin Wilson, Jonathan Kaniatobe-Lucas, Gail Tate, and Jim Fish. Gail Tate will have her lathe set up for wood-turning demonstrations. Other artists have been invited but have not yet confirmed.

No food will be available at the event.  Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic and nonalcoholic drinks. A wide spectrum of Anasazi Fields wines, including the new Placitas Wild Cherry, will be available for tasting and purchase by the glass and by the bottle. Water will also be available at no charge.

Fruits of the Earth 2011 takes place in the heated pavilion of the winery. If windy, however, the venue can get a little chilly. Weather-appropriate dress is recommended, as is carpooling and designated drivers.


c. Covergence Studios

Collaborative artists at Placitas library in April

It is hard to imagine two artists painting on the same canvas at the same time, but that is exactly what Wayne Mikosz and Riha Rothberg have been doing for 16 years. “The luck of the draw brought us together as painters, and our passion for the process has propelled us to continue and form Convergence Studios,” said Riha. Wayne and Riha’s collaborative work will be on exhibit in the Collin Room at the Placitas Community Library for the month of April. A reception with the artists will be held on Friday, April 8, from 5–8 p.m.

     

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