Burke woman gathers light with her art
By Christine Cestaro
The Burke Connection
From the outside, it looks like your typical Burke Centre townhouse – no more
than 15 years old, aluminum sided and nestled within a row of similar homes in
the Commons subdivision.
Once indoors, you can’t help but immediately notice how the similarities end
with the light brown carpeting and beige walls.
Standing in the doorway, a visitor is inundated with greenery from the aerial
view of the large, leafy plants positioned on the edge of a loft amidst stuffed
animals of the jungle and African wild, who seem to be peering down at you.
At ground level, end tables and curio cabinets serve dual functions as furniture
and display stands – home to hundreds of colorful artifacts and crafted pieces
from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru. Wreaths, hand-woven rugs, wooden
pipe instruments and guitars line the perimeter of each room, creating the
aesthetic and cultural atmosphere you might expect to find in one of those
walk-through Smithsonian exhibits. It’s amazing.
And then, there’s the art.
Framed color is everywhere. There’s Indian art in the living room and African
art along the staircase. More can be found in the bathroom, done in the same
styles that continue throughout the house and created by the homeowner, Carolyn
Her paintings are so abundant that Kreiter-Foronda has run out of wall space.
She keeps dozens more in her basement laundry room. Her works, usually painted
on large canvases, are easily discernible from the others because of the “pour
painting” technique Kreiter-Foronda uses, derived from the “action paintings” of
the late Jackson Pollock.
She literally pours mixed paint onto canvas, and, orchestrates the expansion of
the poured colors as a composer creates his concerto, spotlighting one musician
with a solo, but then blending him into the rest of the symphony with perfect
harmony. Yellow may stand brightly alone in one spot, but then visually
transgress into green as it slides across the canvas into turquoise.
In addition to the paintings, there are her metal sculptures. In addition to the
sculptures, there’s her training as a concert pianist. In addition to the music,
there’s her latest book of poetry, “Gathering Light.”
“With any art,” she said, “if you can think creatively, I think you can do it.”
Kreiter-Foronda said the name of her book was taken from her George Mason
University doctoral dissertation, “Gathering Light: A Poet’s Approach to Poetry
“I thought I was gathering knowledge,” she said, “gathering truth, gathering
Much like the interior décor of her house, many of Kreiter-Foronda’s poems’
subjects are based on the South American Indian heritage (her husband, Patricio,
is a native) and are described in terms of color and light:
“The sun is kind/to her as she walks home, her black/overcoat turning blue, her
gray hair/violet, her brown shoes red,” she wrote in the poem, “The Old Woman
In “Among the Ruins of Puca Pucara, Peru,” Kreiter-Foronda uses similar imagery
for a dancing shepherdess: “Stone terraces brighten/her wavering shadow. Blue,
the color/of air so pure in these mountains/that silver does not tarnish./Nor do
the reds, yellows, greens/of her gathered skirt lose/their shine in the azure
By coincidence, Kreiter-Foronda said she just discovered that her mother
Lucile’s name means “light.” Lucile Kreiter, she added, was key to her
development as an artist and writer. Kreiter-Foronda and her older sister,
Betsy, were raised learning crafts from their mother. Kreiter-Foronda admitted
she also was a “closet poet” as a little girl and loved to write and draw in her
Today, the 47-year-old Renaissance woman teaches English and creative writing at
West Springfield High School, where she began her teaching career in 1969.
“I really like watching people grow,” she said. “There’s nothing more satisfying
than being with the students. They’re so into life and into living.”
Kreiter-Foronda and her husband, Patricio (a veterinarian in the Burke Village
Center and a talented painter in his own right), have spent much of their free
time traveling and exploring the cultures of South America.
“I wanted to show some of the Indian life that is so deceptively simple but yet
rich in spirit,” Kreiter-Foronda said of her work and travel experience.
Right now, Kreiter-Foronda is learning Spanish while her husband perfects his
English. She said she hopes to some day write and translate children’s tales
from Spanish to English, and have her husband help with the translations and
“We’re big dreamers,” she said. “Without your dreams, there’s no future.”
(posted with permission from The Burke Connection)
Mason Alumna Is New Virginia Poet Laureate
June 30, 2006
By Colleen Kearney Rich, The
Poet Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda admits that she doesn’t know how to be retired, and
it doesn’t look like things will be slowing down for her anytime soon.
Photo courtesy Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda
Gov. Timothy Kaine appointed Kreiter-Foronda to the post of Virginia poet
laureate, and she will travel to Richmond next week to be sworn in.
Kreiter-Foronda spent 31 years working with Fairfax County Public Schools in a
number of capacities before retiring with her husband, Patricio, to a home on
the water in Middlesex County. For years she taught at West Springfield High
School while taking course after course at George Mason part-time.
“I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree in literature, but they kept adding
new courses and degree programs, and I kept taking them,” she says. As a result,
Kreiter-Foronda holds three graduate degrees from Mason. She earned her master
of education in 1973 and her master of arts in English in 1979.
“Then one of my good friends told me about [poet] Peter Klappert and said I had
to take a class with him,” she says. “It changed my life. I truly consider him
Kreiter-Foronda enrolled in Mason’s first doctoral program, working toward a
doctor of arts in education. Because of the earlier course work for her M.Ed.
she was able to devote more of her class time to her writing, working with
Klappert and a number of award-winning poets.
“It was such an exciting time at the university,” she says. “They were bringing
in big names writers from across the country.” Some of the writers she got to
study with while at Mason include Donald Justice, Margaret Atwood, Maxine Kumin
In 1983, Kreiter-Foronda was awarded the very first doctoral degree given by the
university. “It was a wonderful occasion,” she says of her commencement.
Kreiter-Foronda is still tickled by the fact that she shares a milestone with
her alma mater and shows up on university timelines, most recently in the Mason
Since that time, she has published four books of poetry, “Contrary Visions,”
“Gathering Light,” “Death Comes Riding” and "Greatest Hits.” Her work has
appeared widely in magazines and journals, including Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner
and Antioch Review.
She is a also sculptor and painter, combining her love of poetry with the visual
arts by conducting art-inspired writing workshops for teachers and the general
public in museums and galleries such as the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in
She credits her abilities as a writing instructor to the time she spent with the
Northern Virginia Writing Project, working with its founders Chris Thaiss and
Don Gallehr. Kreiter-Foronda attended the NVWP’s first summer institute in 1978.
“Chris and Don have shared their expertise with so many appreciative teachers.”
Kreiter-Foronda is currently helping edit an instructional guide to accompany a
DVD on Virginia Poet Laureates from 1996-2004 and has established a
Poetry-in-the-Schools Program through the Poetry Society of Virginia to promote
poetry at all instructional levels. In 1992, she was named a Virginia cultural
laureate for her contributions to American literature.
Kreiter-Foronda also feels strongly about helping other writers. In every
presentation or reading she gives, she makes an effort to mention other poets,
read their work and share copies of their books with the audience.
“I love teaching. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with others and talk
about the things I love,” she says. “I see this appointment as an invaluable
opportunity to promote poetry on a large scale.”
Posted with link with Author's permission