Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hull and Kunitz Celebrate Bonnard and Cornell

Time to celebrate two of my favorite poets: Stanley Kunitz (1905- 2006) and Lynda Hull (1954- 1994).
Pierre Bonnard, "Bathing Woman,
Seen from the Back," 1919

Little Elegies
Lynda Hull

I don’t know if Bonnard
would have painted the scene from my window.
Five-twenty in the morning
and the black walnut with its branch of yellow leaves
curves over the rooftops of Poole Foundry
wet from rain. In the parking lot below
a nameless agitator was shot two hours ago,
stalled for a moment beneath the blue lights
of emergency, the squad cars and pulsing sirens.

Bonnard painted wholly from memory the casual gestures
of the streets, the kitchen garden at Le Cannet
seen from the window and, with what must have been
great love, his wife Marthe. I have two prints of her
on my wall, pinned together in the way the painter worked,
two or three canvases at once.

Pierre Bonnard, "The Bath," 1925
Here he’s painted a little elegy—the Midi’s
transient light yellow in this print, a standing nude.
The leg of the vanity repeats in the mirror reflecting
an armoire as if the room should divide into
a series of rooms, but it’s only an equation
for the atmosphere touching Marthe’s back,
a lock of hair escaping her chignon. Her hand,
almost shyly, is cupped before her.

Twenty years later, Marthe is in her bath
dissolving in the wash of light on tiles
ultramarine to viridian. I can complete
Lynda Hull
what the painter leaves out: his wife crushing
lavender into water, the flowering almonds
swaying in the wind outside the house.
His way of resolving the violence of time
on his wife’s body was a gentle arrest
in a churning memory of light.

he sang when he painted, eyes squinted
behind steel-framed glasses, and somehow
sitting here this fragile hour as day ignites,
it helps to watch the shadows on Marthe’s ankle,
the severe yellow arch of her foot
in its violet shoe. I can almost complete

the man’s face. It was mottled. On the wet pavement
rain made little shining rivers beneath his white hand,
the fingers curved almost shyly to his palm.
The sky grows lavender, the bricks sienna.
These colors, Bonnard said, bewilder me.

Stanley Kunitz 
The Crystal Cage (for Joseph Cornell)

To climb the belltower,
step after step,
in the grainy light,
without breathing harder:
to spy on each landing
a basket of gifts,
a snowbox of wonders:
pressed flowers, pieces
of colored glass,
a postcard from Niagara Falls,
agates, cut-outs of birds,
and dozing in the pile,
in faded mezzotint,
Child Mozart at the Clavichord.
Three days you fasted
to bring you angels:
your square-toed shoes,
friends of your plodding,
are turning weightless.
When the pear-shaped, brindled cat
who lives under the belfry
jumps into your arms
you are not surprised
by the love-look in her amber eyes,
or by the blissful secrets
she confides to you
in oval, pellucid tones.
What if the iron overhead
suddenly starts pounding?
What if, outside,
a terrible storm is raging?
What if, below,
your twisted brother is calling?
Stanley Kunitz

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Poet Judith Saunders on Mondrian and Moulene

Over the past 25 years Judith Saunders has published poetry, humor, and reviews in a wide variety of periodicals. Recently her work has appeared in The Mathematical Intelligencer, Blue Unicorn, South Carolina Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, Chiron Review, and Snowy Egret. She is the author of two prize-winning chapbook collections of poetry. A long-time resident of the Hudson River Valley, she is Professor of English at Marist College.

Mondrian’s Composition #10

Exhausted by his own geometry
in Compositions 1 through 9,
Mondrian left much undone in 10 . . .
edges missing, boundaries undrawn
. . .  color half-heartedly assigned
to scattered squares (small and few
and inconsequential).  Plainly dispirited,
he abandoned his design, walked away
from this study in unfinished business.
No doubt he meant to return, define
a subject, delineate a theme.
One day soon, perhaps, we may visit
the museum to find that Mondrian,
now rested and restored to his passion
for precision, has roused himself
to action overnight, applied himself
anew to Number 10—extending lines,
completing frames, closing up boxes
of empty space, opening big, bold windows
into worlds of red, or yellow, or blue.

(First published in Blue Unicorn)

At Dia-Beacon:  Body
Jean-Luc Moulene, 2011:  
aluminum, basalt fiber, pigment, resin

Vaguely cylindrical, eluding symmetry,
it conforms to no known shape.

It could almost be a boat or blimp.
Its bulging surface gleams, a blinding white

relieved by slicing color, brash blasts
of red and blue and orange.  It could be

the world’s largest water toy, over-inflated.
Any moment it might rise to the ceiling

of this cavernous building, seeking escape
from square-shaped blandness, the beige-on-white

monotony of Dia-Beacon, this factory-turned museum.
Clearly it doesn’t belong.  Obstreperously

psychedelic, it could be a home for hippies
when they tire of living in a yellow submarine.

Shall we paste on flower decals, salvaged
from an old VW bus, and take a trip

in this Skymobile?  It will slue from side
to side, tracing cockeyed patterns

in the air, a solar-powered strobe lamp
surveying a tie-dyed world.  If it’s

a time machine, it’s big enough
to ferry us all to the Summer of Love.

(First published in Chiron Review)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Artist Emily Patzner Tames Wallace Stevens' Blackbirds

A recent graduate of Kingston (NY) High School, Emily Patzner was the 2015 Ackerman Award Winner at the WAAM art gallery in Woodstock, NY. This fall she will be attending the Fashion Institute of Technology and majoring in fine art. Her mixed media series “6 Ways of Seeing a Blackbird” is based on the poem “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. Each piece includes one stanza from the poem, illustrated like a page in a book. Says Patzner ‘”Blackbird” was my summer project last year, and it was more of a learning process than anything else at the time. As a student, I'm always trying to challenge myself to become familiar with new media and become a more versatile artist. By using one material I'm comfortable with (in this case, colored pencils) and experimenting with one that I had never used before (stencils and spray paint), I taught myself how to fix my mistakes and just make the piece work. I think it's an important lesson: to be fearless with your work.”

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
By Wallace Stevens

Among twenty snowy mountains,   
The only moving thing   
Was the eye of the blackbird.   

I was of three minds,   
Like a tree   
In which there are three blackbirds.   

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.   
It was a small part of the pantomime.   

A man and a woman   
Are one.   
A man and a woman and a blackbird   
Are one.   

I do not know which to prefer,   
The beauty of inflections   
Or the beauty of innuendoes,   
The blackbird whistling   
Or just after.   

Icicles filled the long window   
With barbaric glass.   
The shadow of the blackbird   
Crossed it, to and fro.   
The mood   
Traced in the shadow   
An indecipherable cause.   

O thin men of Haddam,   
Why do you imagine golden birds?   
Do you not see how the blackbird   
Walks around the feet   
Of the women about you?   

I know noble accents   
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;   
But I know, too,   
That the blackbird is involved   
In what I know.   

When the blackbird flew out of sight,   
It marked the edge   
Of one of many circles.   

At the sight of blackbirds   
Flying in a green light,   
Even the bawds of euphony   
Would cry out sharply.   

He rode over Connecticut   
In a glass coach.   
Once, a fear pierced him,   
In that he mistook   
The shadow of his equipage   
For blackbirds.   

The river is moving.   
The blackbird must be flying.   

It was evening all afternoon.   
It was snowing   
And it was going to snow.   
The blackbird sat   
In the cedar-limbs.