Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Poet Emily Strauss on Parker's "Anti-Mass" and Habjouqa's "Taxi Driver"

Cornelia Parker, Anti-Mass, 2005. Charcoal retrieved from a church destroyed by arson, Alabama USA

Heaven Suspended
“Fires struck five predominantly black churches last week....”
New York Times, July 1, 2015

shards of burned wood
falling, lightening among the snags
of long ago and this year's fires too,
the sky in pieces, falling, hung motionless
fragments of black stars
the air among them lazily pushing
the sky away, bits slowly spinning,
heavy rain of charcoal,
thick rain of charred cinders
dark rain of catastrophe
the walls in flames, they duck
from falling timbers, mice running
away, the pond shining fire,
frogs trapped, dragonflies ashen
carapaces, the sky black and red,
watching eyes fixed
in between, lament
another black church burning

Cornelia Parker 
Born in 1956, Cornelia Parker is a London-based sculptor and installation artist. For Thirty Pieces of Silver (1989), she flattened a collection of silver-plated objects, including musical instruments, teapots, candlesticks and cutlery, under a steamroller, leaving them "robbed of their third dimension." Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) involved blowing up a garden shed. Later came work as diverse as The Maybe (1995) featuring the actor Tilda Swinton lying in a glass case; a melted silver dollar drawn into wire so thin it was as long as the Empire State Building is tall; the wrapping of Rodin's The Kiss in a mile of string; a video of Parker interviewing Noam Chomsky. 

Taxi Driver at the Beach: Gaza Strip. © Tanya Habjouqa, 
photograph from her series Women of Gaza (2009) 

Calm over the seas today, no bombs—
faded, battered, almost yellow car parked
on the sand, husband, wife, married daughter
and children sit on flimsy plastic chairs
by the open hatchback eating a picnic,
the women's heads scarved, the waves tame
beneath a blue sky trailing cottony clouds,
light breeze riffles, a pleasant Friday's
rest, family outing with potato salad,
flat bread, cold chicken— a day's peace
without air strikes, rockets, check points,
broken houses, a day at the beach beside the old
taxi, innocent chatter, a gull scolding, no blood.

Tomorrow will return to normal— roadside
landmine will destroy the taxi, the driver.
Tanya Habjouqa

Tanya Habjouqa was born in Jordan and educated in Texas. 
Her photographs focus on gender, and social and human rights in the Middle East. In 2014 she won a World Press Award for her series “Occupied Pleasures,” in which she documents many of the ludicrous moments of everyday life that the 47-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem has created. Habjouqa is a founding member of the Rawiya photo collective, the first all-female photo collective of the Middle East. Her work has been widely exhibited, and her series "Women of Gaza" was acquired by the Boston Museum of Fine Art in 2013.  Read more on her website: http://www.tanyahabjouqa.com

Poet Emily Strauss earned an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 250 of her poems appear in a variety of online venues and print anthologies in the U.S. and abroad. The natural world is generally her framework; she also considers the stories of people and places around her and personal histories. She is a semi-retired teacher living in California.