Friday, November 14, 2014

Poet David Wright Dines with Caravaggio

David Wright’s first poetry collection A Liturgy of Stones was pub-lished by Cascadia in 2003. His latest collection is The Small Books of Bach by Wipf & Stock. Poems have appeared in Ecotone, Image, Bluestem, and Poetry East, among others. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, and has taught in the English Department at the University of Illinois since 2006. Link to Wright’s essay “A Few Worries about Being a Poet” here. 


The Supper at Emmaus, 1601 
(above) and 1606 (below) 
by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio




Two Suppers at Emmaus by Caravaggio

The worm in the apple gnaws the fruit away,

and the dressed fowl the men have devoured

by the time Caravaggio remembers the inn-keeper
and his creased wife, the finer linens

and the pitcher as detailed as the Gospel of Luke,

and the ridiculously large ears of Cleopas.

What fierce blaze gets fired and glazed

within the tender-hearted as a stranger paints
the air with his midrash of pigment and time? 

What light layers enough shadow over years?

I am inventing this last part; the rest you could have 

read or been shown on your own:

Caravaggio once punched a drunk in the head
and saw Jesus as the man's flesh dented

beneath his fist like a warm loaf. For five years,

the stranger rose again and again in Caravaggio's eye.
  
       
In the Vernacular Gallery
Art Institute of Chicago
Country Preacher, 1860/90, 
white pine. Artist Unknown.

Hanging quilt and the gazes of the carved half-dozen

prows of ships and this preacher, upright and upholding

the opened and planed smooth Word of God in his lap,

he fixes his hollowed eyes past the book, on a particular

point of sight, devotional turn for the wooden minds

in his care. Or recollects a work song from before the war

and feels its hum in his brow and high cheeks that betray

the grain of southern white pine, deep gouges of chisel

and time. I am praying to him now, that the split in his spine

will hold. That like his arms blessed tight to his trunk, he will

keep his own counsel until the Spirit fires him alive as the free

hand and eye of the vernacular maker whose sermon he is.



Plague of ladybugs, plague of the suburbs 

Gathered in my beard, on your skin,
       in the mouths of bottles.

                               Drink down
their speckled bodies--Mexican beetle,
Asian beetle, domestic bodies--no one
       will say.
                               On my sweater,
       this one, a jewel in a vestment,
       rises away.

The several on my hands
                               I'm flinging

like orange paint from a brush--
                               these winged
               red oils, striated, enameled.

The ends of my fingers a brush--

                       Pollock with ladybugs,
                       Pollock with a canvas of sky.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Poet Grant Tarbard Imagines Kiefer, Malevich, and Galileo


Grant Tarbard lives in Essex, England. He has worn many hats as a journalist and currently serves as chief editor at The Screech Owl, a UK literary journal (http://thescreechowl.com). His poems have been widely published; WK Press will release his first collection, Yellow Wolf, later this year.

The Body Climbs a Ladder
inspired by Seraphim by Anselm Kiefer


When all that is war has taken all landscape
but insomniac miles of stone and bone


under cracked pigments of fawn
simmering with violence.



The body climbs a ladder that ends
with an eternity of Brownshirts


and a hint of an angel's wing,
hope from hopelessness.


And the sky is a seed of a uniform,
this is what the toppling body found;

the walls are painted with soil
trapped by stares and dark straw

that seem to have a physicality,
an emotional charge

that amplifies the experience
of the body's unhorsing.

The quiet leaves riot,
and the earth that runs through this land

is a body, at the bottom, head rolled away
accusingly as if the body is to say "too little, too late".



What Lies Behind A Closed Door
inspired by Black Square by Kazimir Malevich

Embrace logics absence,
beyond feeling there is void,

and what lies behind a closed door?
All objects are an abstraction


exploding in a texture
of ebony parchment,

what lies deep in this burnt paper world
within a throaty loss of gravity.

A blacked out city's light
orbits in white omission.

Kino of the geometric blur
decreased boxlike intertwining

with infinity floating in equilibrium,
a galaxy funnelled.

What lies beyond the frame?
All objects are an abstraction.

Monday

inspired by Galileo's 1616 drawings of the Moon


Dimples beholden to light,
a reflection of orange peel.

I can almost make out the face

the peak of the nose,


the shadow of the right eye
a crest of lip, a sunburnt forehead.

A gravitational monograph
within the vividness of the midnight oil,

six spherical bites, an apple that's about to fall
on the sunless grassland of a patchwork Eden.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Icebergs, Movies, and Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Drawing by Takashi Murakami/
Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.














AT THE MOVIES WITH WAKOSKI
by Matthew Dickman

Diane and I sitting in the dark

like sitting in a death you actually want,

a death you have

always wished for, looking toward

the lights of Hollywood, the long legs

of swimmers, cocktails and rum made out of water

and iodine. Earlier that day

something like twelve city blocks crumbled inside me

every time I thought of you

and how walking toward her always felt perfect

like a silver key with a red ribbon announcing

its specialness and how I would suddenly burn away
like a shot of whiskey some bride-to-be dropped

a match into. Somewhere Johnny Depp is sleeping

or turning to his right because a woman is there

and has touched his elbow with the soft cloud of her fingers,

or he’s facing the mirror and listening to all the gods

inside him begin to rage; the god of childhood and the god

of his mother, his father. Diane and I are standing

on a street corner together

in the world, after the credits, in the crushed-ice rain,

looking westward toward the dark-sunglass-

Coppertone-white-beach-heaven that waits for us and us alone.


Woman with Flowered Hat,
Roy Lichtenstein, 1963
















G.L.O.W.
by Cathy Park Hong

Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
in their spandex regalia parade the Vegas suburbs,

among spider cottoned smoke trees and foreclosed one-tracts,
half-full whirlpools spiraling
a confetti
 of limbless G.I. Joes;
the sun is at high lament, and Mountain

Fiji is barefoot, and cuts her toe on a Sudafed foil.

Mountain Fiji, you ate too many hamburguesas!

Now you have the diabetes and tonight you must

body-slam Vallerie Vendetta. Look at how

Ebony and Habana with their bedazzled eyelashes

laugh at you. You hate them.

They smoke reefers in the Tiki ballroom where sheets

of moonlit rain pour whenever Lala sings Blue Moon,

but the moon never comes, though sadness always does,

like Palestina in her hijab and her ammo camo bikini.

She’s always supposed to lose to Hadar the Brain,

who is the Good one. When you made love to Palestina,
a sob was stuck in your throat and that sob remained

in your throat, an itching nest that threatened your sinus.

You need a good cry like a good sneeze, and you keep shuddering
your face to make it come. Bahama Mama lends you sunscreen
and you smear it on your broad nose and you wave at hooting boys
whose features seem not quite formed, like God started

pinching out their noses and eyes and then left,

because he got distracted. You shrink to the size

of Thumbelina on a TV in La Jolla. She never wins.

It never comes. I am always waiting.

“Untitled” by Julie Mehretu, 2013.
Watercolor, ink, spit bite and etching on paper.





ICEBERGS, ILULISSAT
by Jean Valentine

In blue-green air & water God
you have come back for us,

to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us, & I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.

But nothing that comes now, after,
can be like before.


Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms,

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us
whoever we are then.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poems and Art from "Heart to Heart": Dove, Russell and Marisol

These poems are from Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, (2001) edited by Jan Greenberg.

A Word
That Red One, Arthur Dove, 1944
by Gary Gildner

Give me I said to those round
young faces a round word
and they looked at me
fully puzzled until finally
several cried What do you mean?

I mean I said round round
you know about round
and Oh yes they said but
give us examples!

Okay I said let’s have a
square word
square maybe
will lead us to round.

And they groaned
they groaned and they frowned
every one except one
little voice way in the back said
Toast.
Standing Buffalo, Charles M. Russell, circa 1920

The Bison Returns
by Tony Johnston

Midnight and the world so cold.
The sky is holding snow.
On the stone flank of a buried cave
an old fire-smear awakes
and walks out, down the drifted miles,
down the smothered hills.

It steps into the yard to graze
just as snow begins
falling soundless in a dream
upon the shaggy ghost.
What will I say to keep it here?
What song will I sing?

The Family, Marisol, 1962

Breaking Away from the Family
by Susan Terris

I’m there. See me in yellow? Not the short one

with no visible arms. That’s my sister.

I’m the frowning-smiling girl, eyeing the family.

See us? Sister, Sister, Mother, Baby. Then Brother, 

at his board-like best, standing in too-big overalls

trying to be Papa. We’re caught there, 

nailed and glued to a door with no house,

a door that won’t open. Only my half-laced

boots are real. The rest: flat-tinted,
an odd two dimensional, one-handed girl.

The part of met that’s broken away

has grown tall, drives a car, goes to work, lives

in a house with a real door. She’s warm

and full-fleshed and dances with boys under

a flower moon. But the splintered girl I was

keeps coming back, returns me here

to stare at Mother’s pork sausage fingers,

At her dress with its bear-claw flowers.

Overhead, black scrolls hold her and them

like curved iron bars of a jail insisting.

You may never leave

or charge or be part of any family
except this one staring helplessly outward.

Papa will not return.

Brother will not become Papa.
Baby will always be propped in Mother’s lap.
Sister will never find her arms.

The five of us will always be

the last picture Papa saw before he went,


a stiff wooden portrait left behind.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ken Pobo Re-Imagines Ernst and Carrington


Kenneth Pobo’s poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Mudfish, The Cider Press Review, The Fiddlehead, and Hawaii Review, among literary journals. His most recent collection is Placemats, published by Eastern Point Press. He teaches literature and creative writing at Widener University in Chester, PA, and in 2007 received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. In these poems, Pobo re-imagines the work of two towering figures in Surrealist painting, Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington. The couple, who met in London in 1937, lived together in France until separated by WWII.

                                 Pastoral, Leonora Carrington, 1950













PASTORAL

You hover above a thin white blanket.
Wind

easily bends the birch nearby
yet it standsyou envy it.  You’re

growing unable to tell human
from animal, your owl eyes,
a hand like a fox paw.  You want
the world to stay still, to stop
that endless turning—

that would mean your death,
everyone’s death.  You say let it spin,
which it does, as if trying to weave
something wonderful.

 
The Elephant of Celebes
Max Ernst, 1921
THE ELEPHANT OF CELEBES

An elephant feeds a mirage
to a wooden floor. 
The entire Industrial Revolution

fits into the beast.  Knock
on its black shell.  It feels nothing. 
If you get eaten, you’ll relax

inside the belly.  Headless,
a woman tries to speak the poem
she wrote about loss that she told

to fish swimming overhead,
but they swim away.  An orange
remark, you crave a sunny walk

beyond a blue pergola.  The elephant
remembers a savannah
and a graham-cracker brown river. 

This is how it will beyou looking
for blue, the animal looking
for you looking for blue.