Saturday, April 23, 2016

Joan Snyder's Poem-Paintings

Happy Birthday, Joan Snyder, born April 16, 1940, in Highland Park, NJ. Watching a slideshow of the painter's life and work at the School of Visual Arts recently, I realized how often she incorporates text in her works on paper and canvas. Here are a few of her poem-paintings and the sources of the poems she used.
Ah Sunflower! 1994-95
 Ah Sun-flower! weary of time, 
Who countest the steps of the Sun: 
Seeking after that sweet golden clime 
Where the traveller’s journey is done. 

Where the Youth pined away with desire, 
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow: 
Arise from their graves and aspire, 
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Wm. Blake
See What a Life, 2010
"See what a life the gods have given us, set round with pain and pleasure. It is too strange for sorrow; it is too strange for joy." HD Thoreau

Love's Deep Grapes, 1984
"I saw stones weep. There is a sadness in things apart from connected with human suffering."
Virgil, The Aeneid
Joan Snyder

Friday, April 8, 2016

Robert Rhodes and Steve Klepetar Experiment with Fire and Ice

Sunset with frost, Monica’s front window
After the painting by Robert Rhodes

This could be how the world began, heat and frost:
a molten land between the two, where first flesh
quickened and a giant rose in the great gap.
Then the gods brought him down, split his skull
and made the vault of sky from the upper dome.
His body became the earth, his blood the rivers
and the seas. His bones became mountains,
his crushed teeth boulders and stones and pebbles
and sand. One gray eye lit on fire and became the sun;
one stayed milky cold and was the moon.
Wolves chased them across the sky. From his hair
the gods wove trees, whole forests guarded
by ravens and owls. The maggots on his flesh
they made into us, who delve and plow, and build;
struggle and war, conquer and destroy; paint and sing
and make up stories against the coming time when
seas boil and the flaming sword burns everything to ash.

Walking on the Ice in Buchanan Park
After the painting by Robert Rhodes

Rushes and reeds by the frozen lake,
olive shadows rise like bruises
on the ice. So quiet here, cold and still
in February’s dim light. Earth sleeps
beneath our feet. We speak in hushed
voices, afraid to startle this placid winter
scene with brittle sounds. You speak
of your dreams, how your mother
came to you with hollow eyes, held out
a loaf of her bitter dark bread. “Eat this,”
she said, her voice a rustling of dead leaves
in a snowy field , “and remember the names
I brushed hard across your face.”
You woke to a flash of lightning that tore
green tears from your eyes, your mind
flaming to orange and red, the only
dazed and  unquiet thing in this ghostly calm.

Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared widely, and several of his poems have been nominatedfor the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto and The Li Bo Poems, both from Flutter Press.

Robert Rhodes grew up in the Mississippi River delta region of eastern Arkansas, near Memphis, TN, and now lives in Lancaster, PAHe has painted since he was 12, and for nearly 20 years was a newspaper journalist. He has published three poetry chapbooks and the 2009 nonfiction book Nightwatch: Alone on the Prairie with the Hutterites. About these recent paintings he says: "Sunset with Frost (2016) is oil on board. Walking on the Ice (2015) is acrylic on paper."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Poet Neil Ellman: Triumphant Trees and Misplaced Faces

Triumph of the Tree
(Ele D’Artagnon, nĂ© Michele Lombardi-Toscanini)
When the past is prologue to itself
and the gutter rats and voles
have by their right inherited the earth
for their brief moment in the light

when the builders are gone
and the buildings emptied of
their keepsakes, furniture
and souls

when life crawls back to the sea
from which it came
and then dissolves as it once was
when the earth was young

the triumph of the tree
with an apple waiting to be picked
shall be complete.

Misplaced my face and dropped my eyes
and feeling somewhat empty
 (Debra Hampton, drawing)

I misplaced my face in a closet full
of old shoes, shirts and sweaters
nowhere to be found
perhaps intentionally to forget
what I last saw in the mirror on the wall
perhaps by accident
the way I lost my hearing from a fall.

Leering too hard or not at all
I also dropped my eyes
and they rolled into the gutter
and through the sewer grate
never to be seen or see again.

I’m feeling somewhat empty now
much like a taxidermist’s fish
having lost my heart and lungs
my pancreas and brain
as well my bearings in this troubled life
when too much is made of normalcy
and having all your parts.

Before My Birth
(Hans Arp, collage)

Before my birth
the wonder of darkness
filled my veins
and coursed through
transparent skin
and unformed bones
a river without a source
without, like me,  a name
or reason to be born
before the silence
of my dreams
could turn to sound
and dark to light
as I knew, somehow,
in the helix of my mind
they would.
The History of Her Life Written
Across Her Face
 (Margo Humphrey, lithograph)

In the furrows of her brow
the arch of her lips
in the history written
like hieroglyphs across her face
she remains enigmatic,
Cleopatra, a goddess,
a mystery inside
to the after-world
that barely knew her name.
In a face
a riddle.
in a mouth
an alphabet
without the words
to answer
the questions        
scratched upon
a pharaoh’s face.

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