• Pauli Dutton and Kathabela Wislon.

      Pauli Dutton and Kathabela Wislon.

      An interview with artist Pauli Dutton, a fanciful and lyrical poet, performing artist, singer, dancer, and sometimes magician.

      By Kathabela Wilson

      A telescope on the poet

      Every time I see you I am impressed with your exuberance, playfulness, and how you can break into song at the least opportunity, where does this come from?

      I think this goes way back! I was raised mainly by my dad who by day was “a mild mannered engineer”(like Superman) who transformed at the drop of a hat into a magician, comedian, singer, actor, writer, poet, painter, and dancer—although he mainly tap danced he once did a can-can for the local PTA. He wore a skirt and everyone said he had great legs! He took my brother and me to rehearsals for the musicals he was in with the Long Beach Light Opera. We also painted scenery. When they needed children for walk-ons we got to be on stage. My favorite part of any performance was the finale when all the actors held hands and sang together. This was pure joy. In grade school I considered myself an artist, danced and sang about the house, and wrote plays which I had family members act out. I also tried ventriloquism with a Jerry Mahoney doll and coerced friends and neighbors to watch me perform. I also did my own version of magic–“Just turn your head a moment please.”

      A microscope on the poet

      Pauli Dutton reciting her poetry with Rick Wilson playing the flute in the background.

      Pauli Dutton reciting her poetry with Rick Wilson playing the flute in the background.

      Poetry and performance are linked strongly in your personality from early childhood. After your family influence, how did you step out on your own?

      When I was second grade, I gave my oral first book report. The tile was 100 dresses. Since I had very few clothes and often drew them like the heroine in the story, this book meant a lot to me. The thought of talking in front of the class made me very nervous. However, when I actually got up to speak I found out I loved it. This was my first taste of the thrill of performance. When I grew up, I taught small children, held other jobs, including acting and musicals, but when I finally was lured to being a librarian… my work there abounded in opportunities to be creative. I designed fliers, hosted and sometimes sang my announcement for programs on fun topics, read and sang my poetry, often when I gave a report to Town Council I would end up singing. That part of me seems to come out wherever I am.

      A compass on the poet

      How did you come to be a librarian, how did this affect your life and work?

      I had always loved libraries. When I was little my father used to take me every week to the big Long Beach Public Library to load up on books. Libraries were my haven in my teen years. I rode my bike five miles and over a tall hill to get to the closest library in Anaheim. As soon as I entered the library, I always rushed to the ladies room to wipe off the sweat, comb my hair, and calm down. Even if I weren’t riding a bike, I could never just walk in. I had to take my time, ease in since this holy place filled with great minds and ideas that seemed to be calling to me filled me with both such exhilaration and confusion. I never knew where to start or what I might be missing.

      Mapping the poet

      Pauli and her husband Dick at Halloween time.

      Pauli and her husband Dick at Halloween time.

      How has the place where you live and your travels influenced your work?

      When we married, my husband and I took a three month trip around the country. His goal was to visit every state in the Union. I wanted to see art museums. Later, we took the Eurail Pass across Europe. We visited Germany to see the Olympics plus 10 other countries in 15 days. I was thrilled to see works I had studied in my years of Art History. I visited the Louvre three times. Although we didn’t get much sleep on the trains and survived mainly on chocolate, cheese, and orange soda, we came home in superb physical condition since we often walked eight or more hours a day. Last summer we visited our daughter in Scotland, then took a cruise to the Baltic.
      Though I have delighted in and written about our travels, I’ve always loved the trees and valleys of home, and write and sing about them often.

      Pulse of the poet

      Pauli Dutton.

      Pauli Dutton.

      You have just retired after 30 years as a librarian. Your vitality and helpfulness as well as your dynamic heartfelt poems have touched the hearts of so many and I know you will continue, what else?

      I think most of my life, I may have been a bit too responsible. I too have often had two jobs and many times have not given myself time to play. I now see how important it is. Though I still feel the need to make a contribution I right now I am signed up for all kinds of fun and ready for more. I also will be doing more writing, which means lots of naps. When I write I have to escape a bit, so I lie down on our bed for a snooze. I put a notebook near my pillow and hope some ideas turn up. Napping is still my favorite way to compose!

      he danced
      by Pauli Dutton

      in shiny tapping shoes
      with a gusto that
      made you want to join him

      he painted
      a glisten surfing the waves
      red buoys with white seagulls
      ships he might skipper someday

      he laughed
      old jokes told with such zest
      your chest could not contain its
      thumping guffaws

      the singing dancing laughing man
      wielding palette and brush
      grateful to know him
      I most of all

      he was my dad



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        • Kathabela Wilson

          Kathabela Wilson is a local poet/writer/artist and musician. Her Poets Salon has become an international respected must read in the poetry world. She's the creator and host of the Pasadena-based group, “Poets on Site.”

          Colorado Boulevard is your place for enlightening events, informative news and social living for the greater Pasadena area.
          We strive to inform, educate, and work together to make a better world for all of us, locally and globally.

        • Latest posts by Kathabela Wilson

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      1. Dorothy Skiles says:

        Dear Pauli – Your narrative is delightful to read – you’ve opened your heart and I smiled all the way through the reading! Your love of performance – music, singing and dance – is a wonderful gift! And your beautiful poem, “he danced,” is a moving tribute to him!

      2. Susan Dobay says:

        I don’t have much time to visit facebook these days, but I am glad today I did see again our Dear Pauli. A little glimpse into Scenic Drive Gallery’s program in November to a surprise VARIETY SHOW where Pauli will be the #1 principal STAR, surrounded with other talented performers. Mark your calendar !!!!

      3. poetryofplace says:

        You make us smile, simply by being! Add poetry, song and your warm hearted and attentive listening and the combo is irresistible 😉 Lois

        • Pauli says:

          Dear Toti, Your sweet message warms my heart Thank you for your lovely words about my dad poem. He was a very special man. Thank you again.

        • Pauli says:

          Dear Lois,
          Thank you for your inspiring message. I always smile when I think of you.

      4. Pauli Dutton says:

        How fortunate I am to have so many wonderful people in my life! With gratitude to you all!

      5. Mindy Kittay says:

        Although I have only had the pleasure of knowing Pauli for a few months I can say that I feel like I have known her forever. What a pure and joyful person she is. Just a few minutes with Pauli is like taking a refreshing walk in the park. Her creativity and enthusiasm are catching and I hope to see her around the library – A LOT!

        • Pauli says:

          Dear Mindy,
          Than you for this lovely message. It was such a joy to work with you and see your brilliance and creativity in action! Hope to see more of you sometime soon!


      6. Susan Dobay says:

        I am very lucky and honored to call Pauli as one of my dearest friend.
        Beside the many talents she has a wonderful, heart !!!!!

      7. Maja Trochimczyk says:

        This is a remarkable series. Now I know why Pauli sings and dances so often during poetry readings. The first time was a couple of years ago at my birthday party at McGroarty Arts Center when the poets I recently met came to perform just for me and my friends and Pauli sang and danced an amusing routine. There is lots more to this poet, witty and wise, insightful and inspirational… her childhood stories and the Dad poem are priceless!

        • Pauli says:

          Dear Maja,
          Your words make me want to sing and dance again.
          What joy you bring on page and in person!

      8. Toti O'Brien says:

        Dear Pauli, you are one of those few persons everyone would wish to be! At least I do: each time I see you or hear you! I remember the poem about your dad from your voice and how much I enjoyed it – as well as I do now, reading it on paper. You passed his presence down wonderfully!

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