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Zen and the art of spiritual maintenance: Part two


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Contemplation: Kyoto
  • Denis Kelly, Jr.
  • "Contemplation: Kyoto"

See part one here.

After gaining access to the room where Denis Kelly, Jr.’s photos were displayed, I walked around reading poetry that was posted on columns throughout the small room. The words and the photos both appeared to be printed on scrolls, which added a nice touch to the spiritual exhibit. Kelly welcomed the crowd and talked a bit about his work, noting that the photos had been compiled over 25 years. Soon after, Joyce Brinkman, Indiana’s Poet Laureate from 2002 to 2008, took the podium. Norbert Krapf, the current poet laureate, was unable to attend. In his absence, Brinkman read his poem, “Pilgrim Journey to Holy Lands” and followed with some of her own work, including "Finding the Divine" and "Holy Water.” Hearing poems based on photographs I could look at during the readings added a depth to the work that I appreciated.

After a short break, Joe Heithaus read Krapf’s "Klara's Flame" and then his own work, including "Triptych," which was based on photos from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. From the crowd, Kelly explained that he’d photographed the memorial in the morning, taken a train to Kyoto, and arrived in time to capture a Buddhist shrine at sunset. Ruthelen Burns read a poem based on the latter photograph, which shows Buddha in the forefront and a group of women with umbrellas walking in the background. What remains: The visual of Kelly sitting near the Buddha in a light rain, hands over his heart, in awe. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered someone as full of zen as Kelly. That peaceful quality is present in his photos, from the shrines to the eternal flame that burns at the JCC’s Holocaust Memorial. There is a reverence for all Kelly has experienced — including his deep gratitude for the poets’ readings — that is enviable. Luckily, it is also attainable.

Call the Indiana Interchurch Center at 317-923-3617 for gallery hours. See a slideshow of Denis Kelly’s photographs at


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