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 " 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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Poet Ray Greenblatt Savors Très Riches Heures

Pennsylvania poet Ray Greenblatt proves his versatility as an ekphrastic scribe by finding inspiration in two French masterpieces: a 14th-century manuscript and a Le Corbusier-designed apartment building.

The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is the most famous, and possibly the best surviving, example of French Gothic manuscript illumination. It is a book of hours, that is a collection of prayers to be said at the canonical hours, and was created between 1412 and 1416 for the royal bibliophile and patron John, Duke of Berry, by the Limbourg brothers. When the three painters and their sponsor died in 1416, possibly victims of the plague, the manuscript was left unfinished. An anonymous painter, who many art historians believe was Barthélemy d'Eyck, further embellished the book in the 1440s. From 1485 to 1489, it was brought to its present state by the painter Jean Colombe on behalf of the Duke of Savoy. Acquired by the Duc d'Aumale in 1856, the book is now MS 65 in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

In the city of Marseilles, residents of La Cité Radieuse can boast of living in an architectural wonder and a UNESCO World Heritage site, designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the late 1940s. 

The Book of Hours for the Duc de Berry

No babe lying in a manger
no man hanging on a cross

not in a book lying on a library carrel
but in a frame hanging on a wall
like a window, and
we are peering into

a very packed and busy chamber
to honor the Duc
noblemen and priests jammed around
a heavily laden refectory table 
with bread, wine, braces of baked birds in pies
à la Brueghel
dog like slobs in Hogarth
strange bulges in clothing
upon further study, subtle sword hilts
brilliant reds of crushed cochineal
highlighted by dabs and pats of gilt

out a window in the background
soft green hills of Chantilly
the Duc's troops standing ready

shimmering lapis lazuli overhead
with the Goat meeting the Water-bearer
as a New Year begins
and the wheel turns once again.

Corbusier Apartment House

in the highest style
nothing plumb
no corners to hide in
no safety of banisters
i'm in a lopsided melon

i climb the corridor
slide into the living room
shades of lemon
unmatched furnishings that match
at this mad hatter party
huge oval window protruding eyeball
in darkness
i feel my way around the walls
till i meet myself again

i rush outside and stare
it feels like indigestion
it looks like it's about to burst

Ray Greenblatt is an editor on the Schuylkill Valley Journal and teaches a poetry course at Temple University. He organized two ekphrastic readings at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne. PA. His latest book is Twenty Years on Graysheep Bay (Sunstone Press).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Artist Claire Giblin on Borges and Max's Kansas City

Adam Cast Forth, based on the poem by 
Jorge Luis Borges, © 2016, acrylic, 
gold leaf, mica, on canvas 60" H x 48" W 
available for purchase
Adam Cast Forth by Jorge Luis Borges
(The Self and the Other, 1964)

The Garden was it real or was it dream?
Slow, in the hazy light, I have been asking,
Almost as a comfort, if the past
Belonging to this now unhappy Adam
Was nothing but a magic fantasy
Of that God I dreamed. Now it is imprecise
In memory, that lucid paradise,
But I know it exists and will persist
Though not for me. The unforgiving earth
Is my addiction, and the incestuous wars
Of Cains and Abels and their progeny.
Nevertheless, it means much to have loved
To have been happy, to have laid my hand on
The living Garden, even for one day.

(The original Spanish) 

¿Hubo un Jardín o fue el Jardín un sueño?
Lento en la vaga luz, me he preguntado,
casi como un consuelo, si el pasado
de que este Adán, hoy mísero, era dueño,

no fue sino una mágica impostura
de aquel Dios que soñé. Ya es impreciso
en la memoria el claro Paraíso,
pero yo sé que existe y que perdura,

aunque no para mí. La terca tierra
es mi castigo y la incestuosa guerra
de Caínes y Abeles y su cría.

Y, sin embargo, es mucho haber amado,
haber sido feliz, haber tocado
el viviente Jardín, siquiera un día.

Artist’s statement about her self-portrait: Midnight at Max’s, ©2014, Claire Giblin

This piece is an homage to Andy Warhol. I wanted to use a celebrity photo for this screen, but wasn’t going to step on another artist’s copyright. So I settled on a selfie, which appropriately defines our techno age. The digital photo silkscreen is printed on canvas with ink, acrylic and “diamond dust.” Around the canvas edges are names of people who hung at Max’s Kansas City when I was there. Just a girl from the boroughs, dancing on the fringe.

In the late 60s and early 70s, Andy was at Max’s Kansas City almost every night. Max’s was the hangout for the biggest names in the New York School. In the back room, after midnight, Andy sat at a round table. The Factory was at Union Square and east 16th, a block away. My friends and I went to Max’s almost every night. Like many other underground places in the City, the scene didn’t start until midnight. The music upstairs was accessible only by going through the door where “Chester” was stationed—a large man with long dark hair and a quiet nature—on a stool at the foot of the stairs. Most nights he let us in. 

All the freaks and regulars were there. Holly Woodlawn dancing in a fishnet (with nothing else on). Candy Darling doing her flirty, bossy, mashing. The nights when there was no live music (Jeff Beck and the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Phil Ochs, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, etc.), the first song that played was always “Gimme Shelter” by the Stones, and absolutely no one could stay seated. The vibe was electric... modern.... young. The scene was live with an anything-can-and-usually-does-happen air. The pair of Irish Wolfhounds were regulars. A white horse with a naked rider was a visitor. After 1970 there was a shift in the world, and in the arts, and by 1974 Max’s had closed. Andy moved his studio a third time, and the wave moved out to sea.

Artist Claire Giblin is based in Millersville, PA. Her visual art is much influenced by poetry. See, for example, her collaboration with poet Barbara Crooker in 2013 here. She is the recipient of national and regional art awards, and is listed in Who’s Who in the Arts, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who of American Women. Giblin was honored as 2003 “Woman of the Year” by the Women’s Center at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. Her work is in national and international corporate, museum, and private collections. Giblin has taught in her studio, at workshops, and at Franklin & Marshall College (adjunct) in curriculum. She is former co-owner and Director of Pfenninger Gallery in Lancaster City. She is former Curator of Exhibitions at the Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin & Marshall College, where she has taught introductory painting and workshops in professional practices, and facilitated a weekly life-drawing studio.

More of Claire’s art and exhibit information can be seen on her website 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Love Letter from Italy- De Chiricos and More

The Disquieting Muses.jpg

We honor the Center for Italian Modern Art's (CIMA) De Chirico exhibit in Manhattan, as well as the city of Rome (where I am writing this) and Florence. Enjoy!

Villanelle: Two de Chiricos by Mark Strand

1. The Disquieting Muses

Boredom sets in first, and then despair.
One tries to brush it off. It only grows.
Something about the silence of the square.

Something is wrong; something about the air,
Its color; about the light, the way it glows.
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.

The muses in their fluted evening wear,
Their faces blank, might lead one to suppose
Something about the silence of the square.

Something about the buildings standing there.
But no, they have no purpose but to pose.
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.

What happens after that, one doesn’t care.
What brought one here- the desire to compose.
Something about the silence of the square.

Or something else, of which one’s not aware,
Life itself, perhaps- who really knows?
Boredom sets in first, and then despair.
Something about the silence of the square.

The Philosopher's Conquest

2. The Philosopher's Conquest

This melancholy moment will remain,
So, too, the oracle beyond the gate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

Somewhere to the south a Duke is slain,
A war is won. Here, it is too late.
This melancholy moment will remain.

Here, an autumn evening without rain,
Two artichokes abandoned on a crate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

Is this another scene of childhood pain?
Why do the clockhands say 1:28?
This melancholy moment will remain.

The green and yellow light of love's domain
Falls upon the joylessness of fate,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

The things our vision wills us to contain,
The life of objects, their unbearable weight.
This melancholy moment will remain,
And always the tower, the boat, the distant train.

For the Blind Man in the Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence
by Jeffrey Thomson
Our stories can only carry us so far. I know
there are layers beneath the layers and
you haven’t asked but I would describe
a fresco not even finished in the workshop,
discovered beneath damaged plaster here
in the Scuola del Cuoio. A simple Madonna
and child marked off with a draftsman’s
patience, a sketch of faces each etched
with a different kind of cross. Evidence
of a man working out art’s proportions
like a map in the sand: golden mean in
the plaster and articulation balanced
between the bridge in the distance
for scale and the sketched-in step-child
abandoned almost in the foreground,
clutching at the mother’s skirts—all
the necessary work that gets covered over
in the finish, smoothed out and blessed
with plaster and color, that blinding light

cast by the angelic child, mother adoring.  

Image result for piazza di spagna

Piazza di Espagna, Early Morning

by Richard Wilbur

I can’t forget How she stood at the top of that long marble stair Amazed, and then with a sleepy pirouette Went dancing slowly down to the fountain-quieted square; Nothing upon her face But some impersonal loneliness,- not then a girl But as it were a reverie of the place, A called-for falling glide and whirl; As when a leaf, petal, or thin chip Is drawn to the falls of a pool and, circling a moment above it, Rides on over the lip- Perfectly beautiful, perfectly ignorant of it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Nightfishing" with poet Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Gjertrud Schnackenberg was born in 1953 in Tacoma, Washington. She began writing poetry as a student at Mount Holyoke College and, as an undergraduate, twice won the Glascock Award for Poetry. Her first two collections, Portraits and Elegies (1982) and The Lamplit Answer (1985), confirmed her early promise. In 2000, Schnackenberg’s Supernatural Love: Poems 1973–1992 was released as well as the book-length poem The Throne of Labdacus, a retelling of the Oedipus myth from the points of view of Apollo and a slave. The latter won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry. The poet’s sixth collection, Heavenly Questions (2011) won the Griffin International Poetry Prize. 

Schnackenberg’s many honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute. She is the recipient of the Rome Prize and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She currently lives in Boston.

The following Schnackenberg poem challenges our notion of ekphrasis because the image is not, as in most art poems, a celebrated work, but the clock in the speaker’s kitchen. A planter’s clock is reproduced to show the various elements she mentions.


The kitchen's old-fashioned planter's clock portrays
A smiling moon as it dips down below
Two hemispheres, stars numberless as days,
And peas, tomatoes, onions, as they grow
Under that happy sky; but though the sands
Of time put on this vegetable disguise,
The clock covers its face with long, thin hands.
Another smiling moon begins to rise.

We drift in the small rowboat an hour before
Morning begins, the lake weeds grown so long
They touch the surface, tangling in an oar.
You've brought coffee, cigars, and me along.
You sit still, like a monument in a hall,
Watching for trout. A bat slices the air
Near us, I shriek, you look at me, that's all,
One long sobering look, a smile everywhere
But on your mouth. The mighty hills shriek back.
You turn back to the hake, chuckle, and clamp
Your teeth on your cigar. We watch the black
Water together. Our tennis shoes are damp.
Something moves on your thoughtful face, recedes.
Here, for the first time ever, I see how,
Just as a fish lurks deep in water weeds,
A thought of death will lurk deep down, will show
One eye, then quietly disappear in you.
It's time to go. Above the hills I see
The faint moon slowly dipping out of view,
Sea of Tranquillity, Sea of Serenity,
Ocean of Storms... You start to row, the boat
Skimming the lake where light begins to spread.
You stop the oars, midair. We twirl and float.

I'm in the kitchen. You are three days dead.
A smiling moon rises on fertile ground,
White stars and vegetables. The sky is blue.
Clock hands sweep by it all, they twirl around,
Pushing me, oarless, from the shore of you.