Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hidden Valleys, Furry Teacups, and St. Francis in Ecstasy- Happy 2017!

Joan Mitchell's, La Grande Vallee IX, 1983-84

The Hidden Valley

A bold impasto muscles in its swatch of joy,
invents an opening where she escapes
the farm chores and his daily blows.

Brush strokes stain the air orange
and amethyst, nail pollen to a martin’s nest
and immolate in rock pools of cool limestone.

White-tailed deer leap among the birches
that watch over her, red poppies lick
charred wood of an old barn, and everywhere

are relics to break a toe on—barrows netted
in burdock, wagon wheels in fallow soil.
Hooves echo in the canebrakes near granite

headstones: those dead unbridled leave
the living to hack out what is green, unsaid.
She sits urchined in summer fruit, breathes

a granary of air, cooler now
as evening settles on the leafy tops
where memory’s wind-flush sleeve is hostage.

A Furry Teacup

Remember? How can I forget?
It was a January morning so cold
it froze my nipples and we were at
Meret Oppenheim, Object (or Luncheon in Fur), 1936
the Café du Flore—Pablo, Dora, and I.
None of us had heated studios so
we needed warmth and cheering up.
Pernod helped with that and soon
we were laughing about Duchamp’s
latest prank and agreed “all art is shit.”

As we were leaving, Dora admired
my fur bracelet and Pablo said “Meret,
you could cover everything with fur,
even this cup and saucer.” We laughed,
a little tipsy. Later Breton asked me
to contribute to his exhibition.
I remembered Pablo’s remark
and thought “Why not?”

At the flea market I bought a muff
of Chinese gazelle, cut it up
and glued it to my cup and saucer.
It gave them a nice warm coat,
poor naked things. That piece eclipsed
all my paintings. No one wanted them.
So I retired. All art is shit.

Bellini’s St. Francis in Ecstasy

I thought I would be near you in the cave.
I wear the dark as comfortably as this cassock
Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Ecstasy, 1475–1480
stained with the five wounds, steeped
in all my mortal smells.

I thought here the flame burns
that melted the cliffside rocks, but no,
what burns in darkness is my emptiness,
old terrors, a mind shackled to its knives.

I begged to know your will and waited
for my second death.

You brought me a donkey that brays
at clouds, spring lambs grazing  
on wild thyme, a heron stretching
its long neck towards the water spout,
a fat rabbit tempting me to break my fast,

all calling me to join them
in the laurel-scented air, to feel
Tuscany’s hard pebbles under my bare soles,
to fill my lungs and sing you canticles of praise.

Lisa Mullenneaux is a Manhattan-based writer and the founder of this blog. When she's not writing, she teaches writing for the University of Maryland UC.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Emily Bilman Explores the Eros of Vermeer and Bronzino

Allegory with Venus and Cupid, 1545

Eros, An Allegory
after Bronzino’s Allegory with Venus and Cupid

Deceit, your hands are the tools of impunity.
You hold a honey-comb inside one palm,
A bitter scorpion-sting inside the other.
Pleasure, your child-prisoner, laughs as he scatters
Roses to Venus and Cupid in their nuptials.

Sly as a straying vixen, Deceit, you stare
Fraudulently at the erotic love scene
From your niche: your white body is born
From serpent-scales while your face of
Marble-melancholy is broken by reproaches.

A satyr and a masked nymph lie at Venus’s feet.
Old man Time and the livid female mask of Oblivion
Compete for this regal gift behind a blue silk drapery.
Pleasure and Deceit, sculpted from soft marble-flesh,
Vye, throughout, to bait and abet lust for Love.

Vermeer’s Love Letter
The Love Letter, 1669-70

There’s a sly complicity between the mistress
And her maid who gazes with pleasure 
While the lady turns to her with an anxious
Anticipation as she holds the love-letter,
The palimpsest of her lover’s passion.

He left her to sail on rich tumultuous shores.

Her painter-husband’s camera obscura 
Reproduces the scene from the slightly 
Opened door of a dark side-room littered with
A creased map while she placidly reads
His letter in the comfort of her kitchen
Suffused with a soft subdued light.

The framed painting, an intended indenture,
Feigns the fate of hand-to-hand adventure.

Dr. Emily Bilman hosts poetry meetings in her home in Geneva, Switzerland.  She earned her PhD from East Anglia University, where she taught literature; her dissertation, The Psychodynamics of Poetry, was published in 2010. Peter Lang published Modern Ekphrasis, which discusses the poetry-painting analogy from Plato to Derrida, in 2013. Two poetry collections, A Woman By A Well and Resilience are available from Matador. Her poems appear in The London Magazine, The Linnet’s Wings, Hunger Mountain, at www.ekphrastic.net, and many other journals. Read more on her website here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Neil Ellman Meets Paul Klee's "Wild Man"

A frequent contributor to P&P, New Jersey poet Neil Ellman has published more than 1,350 poems—most of which are ekphrastic—in print and online journals, anthologies, and chapbooks throughout the world.  His latest chapbook, Of Angels & Demons (Flutter Press), is an ekphrastic collection based on the works of Paul Klee. Read an interview with Ellman in which he explains his life-long fascination with writing poems about art. Click here.

The Future Man
Klee, 1933
(after the Watercolor by Paul Klee)

He will be neither man nor machine
neither illusion nor material
not a new beginning nor an end.

He will have neither passion
nor the capacity for thought—.
he will be an afterthought

Without character or a name
he will have no sense of who
or what he is

taking any form
that suits his momentary needs
without conscience or remorse.

The Future Man will be
a cipher, a fallen star
the consequence of his past.
Klee, 1922

The Wild Man

(after the watercolor by Paul Klee)

The man in the wilderness
is wilder than the trees
wilder still
than the creatures
that inhabit
the forest, moor
desert and prairie
is a man possessed
by his natural state
venom in his fangs
a rattle in his tail
the wilderness consuming
his humanity
as it retrieves
its spires and pyramids.

The Man of Confusion

(after the watercolor by Paul Klee)

Disembodied, disillusioned
Klee, 1939
by the pallor of his skin
and tremors in his hands
an aging man is easily confused
by a shadow without the sun     
and the moon without its glow

too easily bewildered
by the flight of crows and ravens
on a black-star night   
or the way a river bends
toward light

he knows the end is near
but not the reason
or the road to take
confused by creation
the dissonance of his life
and the voice of death from air.

Gaze of Silence

(after the watercolor by Paul Klee)
Gaze of Silence, 1932
In silence
eyes gaze within
and without
words and expectations
without knowing
what is there to know
but seeing, believing
the images in the clouds
as if they were real
without comment
knowing they are not
in silence
the eyes gaze
like the Sphinx
over a desolate land.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Anne Carson: Ear to the Canvas

“I mostly think of my work as a painting,” poet and scholar Anne Carson told Kevin McNeilly in 2012. “It’s not about the meaning of each individual word adding up to a proposition; it’s about the way they interact with each other as daubs of meaning, you know as impressionist colors interact, daubs of paint, and you stand back and see a story emerge from the way that the things are placed next to each other. You can also do that with language.” In fact, Carson continues to do that with language—and never more intriguingly than in her suite of poems “Hopper: Confessions” that muses on the art of Edward Hopper and fourth-century philosopher and theologian Augustine. (Men in the Off Hours, Vintage Books, 2000)

Room in Brooklyn
"Room in Brooklyn," 1932
Along the room
A gradual dazzle
Gives me that
As hours
Down my afternoon.

Let us not say time past was long, for we shall not find it.
It is no more. But let us say
time present was long,
because when it was present it was long. (Augustine, Confessions XI)

"Nighthawks," 1942

I wanted to run away with you tonight
but you are a difficult woman
the rules of you—
Past and future circle round us
       now we know more now less
            in the institute of shadows.

            On the street black as widows
       with nothing to confess
our distances found us
the rules of you—
so difficult a woman
I wanted to run away with you tonight.

Yet I say boldly that I know that if nothing passed away, time past were not.
And if nothing were coming, time future were not.
And if nothing were, time present were not.
                                                            (Augustine, Confessions XI)

"Automat," 1927

The Glove of Time by Edward Hopper

True I am but a shadow of a passenger on this planet
but my soul likes to dress in formal attire
despite the stains.
She walks through the door.
She takes off her glove.
Does she turn her head.
Does she cross her leg. That is a question.
Who is speaking.
Also a question.
All I can say is

I see no evidence of another glove.
The words are not a sentence, don't work on that.
Work on this.
It is not empty time, it is the moment
when the curtains come blowing into the room.
When the lamp is prepared.
When light hits the wall just there.
And the glove?
Now it rose up - the life she could have lived (par les soirs bleus d'été).
It so happens
paint is motionless.
But if you put your ear to the canvas you will hear
the sounds of a terribly good wheel on its way.
Somewhere someone is travelling toward you,
travelling day and night.
Bare birches flow past.
The red road drops away.
Here, you hold this:
It so happens
a good evening glove
is 22 centimeters from hem to fingertip.
This was a glove "shot in the back"
(as Godard said of his King Lear).
Listening to his daughters Lear
hoped to see their entire bodies
stretched out across their voices
like white kid.
For in what does time differ from eternity except we measure it?