Friday, June 16, 2017

Kate McGloughlin's "Requiem for Ashokan"


The Ashokan Reservoir, Shokan, NY

My people were forced to leave their land and the beautiful farm and gristmill they owned to make room for the reservoir that was needed to provide drinking water for the other half of my family, who came to New York from Ireland with the thirsty multitude that descended here in an enormous wave.

I knew my great grandmother, Bessie Bishop Davis, and I can tell you she never got over the loss. She was 98 when she died and was still pissed that they “stole her home”.  So, how can a place that holds this much grief be a place that provides an equal measure of peace and inspiration to so many people?  There’s more to it than the ever-changing aesthetic hit of mountain, water, and sky. I think the story, itself an elegy, lays a thick layer of beauty-born-of-tragedy on this place, and I’m sure that’s the real thing that people respond to when they visit the Ashokan Reservoir.

Kate McGloughlin, painter and printmaker

I
There she was in a nest of driftwood, bleached
Far downstream and ripped from her rightful place
Vessel and provider

White and swollen, sideways and mistreated 
Off her blocks and useless 
No other from her tribe to lay eyes on
No nod of reassurance or familiar 

II
Cruel edges of noon, sharp focus
Glaring reflection, no ripple
Stillness only, bearing witness
Of this incarnation 
Adrift, no hope of return

III
In the tired hour, pushing
Tossing about on white horses
Made by the northeast wind on water
Rock gently, displaced mother
Waiting to be claimed

IV
The moon knows her longing
Light blue and holding 
The old trees loosed by the same
Rage of nature, gnarled and bared
By another turn of the sun

Emptied
It's fullness emptied by drought and thirst
Weathered shards of lost wood drifts,
Nesting on the shoreline,
Fishing boats as eggs
Held close in safety
Where water meets earth
Light breaks the calm surface
That belies the century old loss
Uncovers history, ourstory 

The traces of past mark the
Place where their hearts were left behind
Aching for their own long ago
Dragging feet, trudging out 

Spitting bitter and salt
Tears mix with the sweat
Feel the heft of dead family
Rising from earth to the new
Eternal rest
Reservoir Sketches
I
Coal skuttle dropped
In thin air, chunks flying east
In winter, form a transient V

II
Upended brooms
Jab skyward from the snow
Afternoon light warms their wiry selves




Maggie's Water

Here in this place without right water
The white of his collar never quite white
And Willie sick again at his stomach

They had so much at home, always,
Every day from the sky and the
Bog, thick with it
Never more than a quick drop in the well
To collect more to carry in 

And that brook, I remember—
I hear it in my dreams,
Drowned only by a memory of the roaring sea
I never knew it would be the water
At home that I would long for

And the mention of thirst—
Quench, then numb me 
The Thirst inside me too great
To quell from this tap

I ache for home and the knowing,
Here in the crowd, I'm hated
For nothing, really, just being other

As I wither, will these children
Know the ripping away it took
To give them a better life?

These Apple Trees?
Yes, they have value
My grandfather planted them
To feed us
To prepare us for later
Something to sell
Something to sweeten
Something to eat and remember him by

Fourteen acres of Pippins
And Vanderveers and others
I now care for, 
My turn to climb and prune, 
Debug and harvest -
Generations have witnessed the transformation
Every full turn of the sun

The slaying of these trees—
Tender blossoms in May
Growing offspring in Summer
Ripe fruit in September
Quiet nubs in Winter—
Hastens my own Winter, 
Withers my own growing,
My roots also torn, 
Grubbed, then burned


Artist’s Statement
Requiem for Ashokan began to materialize in September 2016, during an intensive, seven-day drawing and painting residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. It continued at another 10-day drawing and printmaking residency at the Artists Association of Nantucket in February 2017, and was completed at home in The Graphics Shop at the Woodstock School of Art in Woodstock, NY, and at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY.

At each place I had the good fortune to collaborate with other fine artists, namely, Patti FitzMaurice and Mary Emery, and to finish the handmade book with Chris Petrone. This work is imbued with their spirit. Both residencies were offered to me to complete a personal project that tells the story of loss surrounding the devastation my ancestors endured during the creation of the Ashokan Reservoir, and was spurred on by long talks and walks at the Ashokan with author Gail Straub. The generosity and visionary spirit of each of these artists helped make this work possible.

Requiem is being exhibited at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum in June 2017, and includes written text, a handmade artist's book, and audio files narrating both sides of the story from both sides of my family—the settlers and the immigrants. The invaluable role these art institutions play in bringing work to fruition cannot be overstated, and I will remain grateful to each for its contribution. Read more about the exhibit here.

Painter and printmaker Kate McGloughlin lives and maintains a studio in Olivebridge, NY, near the site of the Ashokan Reservoir. During her 25-year career, she has exhibited worldwide in many notable galleries and four museums. McGloughlin is president of the Board of Directors of the Woodstock School of Art, where she teaches printmaking, landscape painting, and directs the newly renovated Printmaking Studio. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a BFA in Drawing and Painting and studied printmaking with Robert Angeloch and others. As co-founder of Destination Arts Creative Workshops, she travels and paints all over the world. McGloughlin is the youngest artist represented in the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s permanent collection.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Happy Birthday, Gwendolyn Brooks!


We celebrate the birthday, June 7th,  of one of our most distinguished poets, Gwendolyn Brooks. She would have been 100 years young. Born in Topeka, KS, she grew up in Chicago and published her first poem at 13. Brooks was the winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for her collection Annie Allen, the first African American to win that award. Throughout her career she received many more honors, such as being named Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress in 1985, having her image on a US postage stamp, and being presented with the 1995 National Medal of Arts. Her characters were often drawn from the inner city life that Brooks knew well. She once said, "I lived in a small second-floor apartment at the corner, and I could look first on one side and then the other. There was my material.” So let’s celebrate the woman who wrote: "I am interested in telling my particular truth as I have seen it." 



Primer for Blacks
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Blackness 
The Emancipation Approximation
 (Scene #18)
, Kara Walker,
 1999-2000.
is a title, 
is a preoccupation, 
is a commitment Blacks 
are to comprehend— 
and in which you are 
to perceive your Glory. 

The conscious shout 
of all that is white is 
“It’s Great to be white.” 
The conscious shout 
of the slack in Black is 
"It's Great to be white." 
Thus all that is white 
has white strength and yours. 

The word Black 
has geographic power, 
pulls everybody in: 
Blacks here— 
Blacks there— 
Blacks wherever they may be. 
And remember, you Blacks, what they told you— 
remember your Education: 
“one Drop—one Drop 
maketh a brand new Black.” 
         Oh mighty Drop. 
______And because they have given us kindly 
so many more of our people 

Blackness 
stretches over the land. 
Blackness— 
the Black of it, 
the rust-red of it, 
the milk and cream of it, 
the tan and yellow-tan of it, 
the deep-brown middle-brown high-brown of it, 
the “olive” and ochre of it— 
Blackness 
marches on. 

The huge, the pungent object of our prime out-ride 
is to Comprehend, 
to salute and to Love the fact that we are Black, 
which is our “ultimate Reality,” 
which is the lone ground 
from which our meaningful metamorphosis, 
from which our prosperous staccato, 
group or individual, can rise. 

Self-shriveled Blacks. 
Begin with gaunt and marvelous concession: 
YOU are our costume and our fundamental bone. 
       
      All of you— 
      you COLORED ones, 
      you NEGRO ones, 
those of you who proudly cry 
      “I’m half INDian”— 
      those of you who proudly screech 
      “I’VE got the blood of George WASHington in MY veins” 
      ALL of you— 
            you proper Blacks, 
      you half-Blacks, 
      you wish-I-weren’t Blacks, 
      Niggeroes and Niggerenes. 

      You.


Hear Gwendolyn Brooks read "We Real Cool."

Ajitto, Robert Maplethorppe, 1981    
The Whips That Striped the Backs of Slaves
by Levi Mericle

The whips that striped the backs of slaves so millionaire masas could feel fulfilled.

How dare we?

The policemen’s club and pepper spray that mocked the actions of the Civil Rights Act 
by making a mockery of flesh and blood.

How dare we?

I want you to take a knife and run it across the palm of your hand 
and tell me that the black person sitting next to you bleeds differently.

How dare we?

This isn’t about just listening to the police
but it’s about the police being justified beyond what justifies a race.

It’s as if our gun is pointed to the preference of skin color
more than a preface of a crime.

How dare we?

Time places a border between our differences, I know.
You may try to make yourself think and believe that we are much improved

And yes that’s true.

But until you can look at the black man your daughter’s about to marry
without your stomach churning,
you have no right telling me black lives matter.

Until you’ll let your young white son date a little black girl in middle school
don’t you dare tell me we are different.

It has nothing to do with time,
it has nothing to do with “LIVES MATTER”
it has to do with you removing the bigoted sunglasses you’ve been wearing.

Because when I walk outside I see a bright blue sky
and a pitch black night,

I see a rainbow when it rains
And people living and breathing in our world.

Because black lives matter.

So can you just lower your weapon of hostility and recreate your heart to listen with your eyes.

And don’t scrutinize.

Until you can erase all the past from your mind
and see the lives right here,
right now as equals,

don’t tell me we are different.

Levi J. Mericle is a poet/spoken-word artist, lyricist, and fiction writer from Tucumcari, NM. His work has appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines and journals, such as Black Heart Magazine, Apricity Magazine, Mused, Flash Fiction Magazine, eFiction India, Awakenings Review, and the University of Madrid’s literary journal. He is an advocate for human rights and for the anti-bullying movement.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Poet Robert Klein Engler Visits Marsden Hartley

Since our blog was mentioned in a public talk this week at New York’s Met Breuer, we feel it’s only fair to plug its current stunning exhibit “Marsden Hartley’s Maine.” And what better complement than Robert Klein Engler’s poetic tribute to the painter’s life and artistic gifts.

Seeing Again a Painting by Marsden Hartley
at the Terra Museum
Marsden Hartley, Painting No. 50, 1914-15

The wind of music swings open a gate.
An arc of hand draws the line and bow,
then a touch to dampen the timpani.
The name of his lover rides to heaven
held high by the hum of violins.
Such is the sigh when flesh unfolds.

The artist outlines chevrons in black,
all the while imagining his lover’s face.
There is so much he wants to show him
as horns echo the dance of armies.
Paint a red arrow flying to yellow wings.
One sore heals another.

The New World draws out the old
when he sulks below the lamps of Paris.
A lame warrior from birth, he is one
who gains the hour by a sketch.
Stay away. His lips taste of tobacco.
Forget the jigsaw years, just build a day.

The gray hulls of battleships move
like a brush through murky turpentine.
Gunners sight their shells by eye.
An artist learns to aim at another heart
with the viscous scope of oil.
We are all fisherman who haul up bones.

These mark the confines of his world:
a rocky coast in Maine, the weave of linen,
pallets of mute desire, and a bottomless
draw when men move into shadows.
“If he is part of me, how can he go away?”
All ages are equal by the wound of love.

Time and desire. The itch of melodies.
The other word for loneliness is ice.
To sing when the snow falls is to weep.
He painted a code for their names
and read it like music. The color lingers,
then a blank silence like looking at the sun.

(First published in Chicago Literary Map, 2013)

Yellow Star, print by Robert Klein Engler

Marsden Hartley In Love.

The struggle with paint is the struggle with desire.
His witness ends up a portrait in Galley 265, but
is something beyond an image the way his clouds
are like stones above the breast of hills and a badge
of red sky is sacrificial blood. The eye goes out
to earth, to the storms of nature, when it will not
tell how perishable are limbs, how distant is our
father, how the teeth of the sea chews up drowned
men or insignias of war eat epaulets and arms.

Even with his skill to tell of what he's lost, it's not
enough to bring one back, it's only oil on cardboard.
The paint is as thick as skin, the brush draws lines
like fingers tracing a nipple. Oriental empires come
and go, but not the hero of Maine. When he is old
he will wear a heavy, black coat with the lonesome
weight of hope. His broad-rim hat casts a shadow
by his eyes. Outside, knots of tourists talk and talk.
The traffic sign on Wabash Street blinks, "Walk."



Robert Klein Engler lives in happy exile in Omaha, Nebraska, and sometimes New Orleans. He is a writer and artist. Robert holds degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana and the University of Chicago Divinity School. He has received Illinois Arts Council awards for his poetry. Google his name to find his writing on the Internet. Michael Morgan, writing in the Comstock Review, says that Robert Klein Engler "...is a poet of the first rank,” whereas Andrew Huff writes in Gaper's Block  that Engler's writing is, “a sublime banquet of bullshit."

Read an interview with Engler here