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?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Poet Neil Ellman Meets Paul Klee at a "Fateful Hour"

Fateful Hour at Quarter to Twelve

Eleven o’clock, waiting    
Paul Klee, Fateful Hour at Quarter to Twelve, 1922
Godot in the park, waiting
eleven thirty-five
then forty and forty-five
minutes crawl
like millipedes
on a wall
between tomorrow
and now, still waiting
at this late hour
the coming
of the dragon
in the guise of a child
with the face of an angel
but serpent inside
with fifteen minutes left
to the end of world
as we know it
in the stillness of the morning
as fate had ordained it
at the end of the day
and the end of time.

Adam and Little Eve
Paul Klee, Adam and Little Eve, 1921 

Big Adam, full of himself
with all his ribs and teeth intact
the first of his kind
the first of men
without a woman to call his own
he wanders alone in his garden
picking petals from a rose
with no one to receive them
but himself
he looks as little as a worker bee
sipping nectar from a star.


Coming from a single rib
she must have been a little thing
as little as a hummingbird
so little she could barely speak
above a whisper in the wind
but Eve, the child of a child of God,
is bigger than she looks
the first of her kind
born from a stubborn bone
to rule the world alone.

Botanical Laboratory
Paul Klee, Botanical Laboratory, 1946
In my laboratory
I grew a rose
that could not die
immortal on the vine
as if I were a friend
who would understand
its secret life
how it  would live
through centuries
watching other flowers fade
to know the loneliness
of the setting sun
and sagging of its leaves
nor could it propagate
and watch its children grow—
how sad the rose
that only knows
the solitude of life

eternal on the vine.

A frequent contributor, New Jersey poet Neil Ellman has published more than 1,200 poems, many of which are ekphrastic, in print and online journals, anthologies, and chapbooks throughout the world. His latest chapbook, Mind Over Matta (Flutter Press, 2015), is based on the works of the Chilean abstract-surrealist, Roberto Matta Echaurren.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poet Robert DiLallo on "The Death of Marc Chagall"

Le Cirque Bleu, 1950, oil on canvas
Trenton Local
(The Death of Marc Chagall)

Tonight Chagall is dead
and a raised train races
through the Jersey ruins,
through ghostly mill rows,
Eastern Orthodox churches
with their squat bowl tops
and hawk-nosed pastors
who soup on beef, onions
and well-brined cabbage.
Rough through Newark
the 6:10 lurches.

Your couples in love and
winging fiddlers are left
in the broken world,
brief replies, perfect colors
falling like stars from heaven,
like snow, transparent upon
Le soleil de Paris, 1977, color lithograph
the shake roofs, striking
against the finite and foolish.
Warm mules rise from labor,
lift high their whispering heads.
confront the snarling pit.
How your home here
will miss you.

Goodnight the youth you had.
Goodnight the cobbled terror
and goodnight Europe
of the antique roving bands.
Goodnight, highest Jew
of higher view, brown-bag man
with angel hands.
How much will you miss
your home here?

Sunset, a raging purple wound
in the toxic Jersey sky:
Newark, hoof and nail town,
a weeping place where
a country has gone and bled.
Tonight, Chagall is dead.
Romeo et Juliette, 1964, color lithograph
Robert DiLallo has published poetry primarily in the US and Italy, although some of his poems have been translated into Japanese. A native New Yorker, DiLallo once lived in Edgar A. Poe's house in The Bronx for five years as writer-in-residence. He is the founder of the magazine “Italian Food, Wine and Travel” and worked as a journalist and as a copywriter and creative director in advertising before moving to central Texas. Now he lives on a large cattle ranch and lists his occupation as “cowboy."

Marc Z. Chagall was born Moishe Shagal in 1887 in Liozna, near Vitebsk, Russia. When he moved to Paris to study art, he experienced modernism's "golden age," synthesizing Cubism, Symbolism, Fauvism, and later Surrealism. Yet throughout these phases of his style he remained, as art historian Michael J. Lewis insists, “most emphatically a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk." "When Matisse dies," Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, "Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is." Chagall died in France in 1985.