Monday, September 15, 2014

Ken Pobo Re-Imagines Ernst and Carrington

Kenneth Pobo’s poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Mudfish, The Cider Press Review, The Fiddlehead, and Hawaii Review, among literary journals. His most recent collection is Placemats, published by Eastern Point Press. He teaches literature and creative writing at Widener University in Chester, PA, and in 2007 received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching. In these poems, Pobo re-imagines the work of two towering figures in Surrealist painting, Max Ernst and Leonora Carrington. The couple, who met in London in 1937, lived together in France until separated by WWII.

                                 Pastoral, Leonora Carrington, 1950


You hover above a thin white blanket.

easily bends the birch nearby
yet it standsyou envy it.  You’re

growing unable to tell human
from animal, your owl eyes,
a hand like a fox paw.  You want
the world to stay still, to stop
that endless turning—

that would mean your death,
everyone’s death.  You say let it spin,
which it does, as if trying to weave
something wonderful.

The Elephant of Celebes
Max Ernst, 1921

An elephant feeds a mirage
to a wooden floor. 
The entire Industrial Revolution

fits into the beast.  Knock
on its black shell.  It feels nothing. 
If you get eaten, you’ll relax

inside the belly.  Headless,
a woman tries to speak the poem
she wrote about loss that she told

to fish swimming overhead,
but they swim away.  An orange
remark, you crave a sunny walk

beyond a blue pergola.  The elephant
remembers a savannah
and a graham-cracker brown river. 

This is how it will beyou looking
for blue, the animal looking
for you looking for blue.    

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Burst of Poet Ellman and Painter Gottlieb's Primeval Echo

New Jersey poet Neil Ellman has twice been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart Prize, and the Rhysling Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association. His poems appear in print and online journals, anthologies, and chapbooks worldwide. His ekphrastic poetry includes nine chapbooks devoted individually to the works of Dalí, Miró, and other modern and contemporary artists. Parallels: Selected Ekphrastic Poetry, 2009-2012, is his first full-length collection available here. Ellman talks about his ekphrastic poems here.
Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) was one of the "first generation" of Abstract Expressionists. Born in New York City he studied at the Art Students League from 1920-1921 and again after he returned from travel and studies in Europe. Gottlieb was a masterful colorist and in the Burst series his use of color is crucial. He once said: “I frequently hear the question, ‘What do these images mean?’ This is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be ‘Do these images convey any emotional truth?’

(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

August sun scarring heaven’s face
the scent of burning skin
turns night to day, black to ageless red’s
barbaric burst of light—
   noon on the killing fields
       bleached black
red sun rising in the east
a blister in the sky
   without a face.

(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

First awakening
First child  
First the crawling light
   glows first
   among the suns
First black then red
   then spectral white
First an infant
   then the sun
   speaks alphabets
   in silent space
First the scrawl
   of a deity
   upon the earth’s
   as at its last
First words matter
   in the garden of
   our death.

(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

We are two brothers
two selves
two moons hovering
above the earth
perfectly aligned children
of promiscuous gods
their echoes we echo
each other’s better half
and worst
our orbits intersect
from time to time
when too-close brothers
too-soon collide
as sibling do
who envy the other’s
surpassing side.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Into the Trees with Rachel Ikins and Scott Bennett

Rachael Z. Ikins has been creating and publishing poetry and art since age 14. “I have won awards in both writing and art and published several books, including my first YA novel. I designed the cover art for all my releases.” Her books include The Complete Tales from the Edge of the Woods (2013), God Considered the Horizon (2014), Transplanted (2013), and Jones Road Chronicles (2012). 

Artist Scott Bennett lives and works in Jamesville, NY. “My “Tree Portraits” came about as a natural outgrowth of my landscape painting. I love being in the woods, and in natural places in general, and would regularly find myself standing in front of trees, looking hard at the texture and color of the bark, the wonderful shape, and telling myself that I should paint ‘that’:  The tree, and that feeling, up close. See more of his work at

Applewood Smells Sweet when Burning
For Scott 

With palette knife and tools you capture;
hot-spring-sun, after-school, racing for 
my apple tree
in Keds and shorts.

Your hands/paint sculpted broken/ 
healed elbow of branch that beckoned this child,
where my father built me a picnic/reading platform.
I lugged boxes of Scholastic books to savor
on my belly among blossoms.

Leaves unfurled, grapevines' drape
like a lavish hairnet, or living tent. 
Secrets hidden, bird nests, sour fruit, hard apples,
pears and the scent of wildness-on-wind.

Barefeet clambered high, outside, to reach for clouds.
Tin-can phone strung to Seckel pears by the fence.
Coded messages, invisible inks, left in a basket poked
into trunk's lowest knothole.
Astride a branch 3 levels higher,
I read my mail. 

Rope-swing dangled over packed-earth floor.
When I threw my head back, it looked like crazy-quilt, sun
sheen, green stained glass, abstract patterns 
and mystery chased my face, I swung up and away.

Year I turned 12, freak June tornado
sucked that apple tree from earth, roots and all.
Men sawed the broken branches for fireplace wood,
hauled away. My mother made a flower bed.

No matter what currant bushes or blackberries grew
I averted my eyes from the black iron planter
filled with marigolds on the old apple stump.
A cemetery, make no mistake.

Did you play there with me long ago,
and I've just forgotten?
Maybe friends with the boy across the street? 
How do you know my tree? I still hear gush,
rain shrieking through second floor south 
window during my mother's card party.
A cataract burst down the stairway, 
big adventure
to a child

until we discovered the victim.

A day far from childhood and magic, 
I open my email and social networking sites to find 
my tree, that stillness/sun and possibility;
afternoon, home from school, life begun.
You must have played there with me long ago.
You must have loved an apple tree, too.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bernadette McBride Feasts with Frida Kahlo and J. S. Sargent

Bernadette McBride’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies nationally, in the UK, and on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program “The Writer’s Almanac.” A former Poet Laureate of Bucks County, PA, she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, won second-place in the international Ray Bradbury Writing Award, and was twice a finalist for the Robert Fraser Poetry Award. She is the author of Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013) and Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations—an Alphabet, forthcoming in September 2014 from Aldrich Press. Visit her blog at

Fruits of the Earth
—Frida Kahlo, 1938

So much raw flesh here, Frida—
how very like you: the prickly pear
a bald head, day-old shave poking
from green skin; one corn cob stripped
of husk, scraped of kernel, its two kin
huddled, waiting. Others gaping
as though scalpeled open and left
to ooze away. The plate is crowded
with bodies who’ve lived their solo
lives, are now arranged, naked,
bulging before a gloomy sky,
the plank table’s eyes staring.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale
—John Singer Sargent, 1878

Clacking across broken shells, squishing
over the sand, baskets on their hips, bonnets
catching the glint of the day, they
bring the children, these women, teach them

the secrets of the Cancalaises—what to spy
of the sea’s leavings, to gather or give back.
Three generations here bearing custom’s
millennial weight as they cluster between blue

and more blue, ocean’s foam lingering on the shore,
vestige of the channel’s marriage to the Atlantic
—where their men have sailed, crossing
themselves as they head north in search of

a winter’s bounty. For now, the women will relish
the salty softness between the clunkity shells
—grateful to the prevenient mothers who
taught their young to carry baskets to the sea.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Poet Robert Gibbons on Caravaggio, Diego Riviera and Crowded Museums

Robert Gibbons moved to New York City in 2007 in search of his muse—Langston Hughes. He has since been featured in many NYC venues as well as in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. He has performed most recently at the Cornelia Street Café, Church of the Village, Saturn Series, Perch Café, Barnes and Noble, Stark Performances, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Poets on White, Nomad’s Choir, and Taza de Café among other venues. Gibbons has been published in Uphook Press, Three Rooms Press, Brownstone Poets Anthology, Dinner with the Muse, Cartier Street Review, Nomad’s Choir and the Palm Beach Post. He has studied with master poets Cornelius Eady, Marilyn Nelson, Kimiko Hahn, Nathalie Handal, Linda Susan Jackson, Kevin Young, and Kwame Dawes. Three Rooms Press published Close to theTree in 2012.

for Caravaggio
imagine, the suffering servant standing seaside;
his nasal Lombard accent grumbling; his scruffy
frame; his work unearthing the master’s peace;
St. John the Baptist I

creating with his hands; only producing bread
crumbs as he paints; as his angst piracy

imagine, hoping the ship carting pieces of him;
leaving traces in the bowels, snip snatches;
waves of his legacy on canvas, of time; of
history, the bitter taste hungry; tongue- twisting,
turning to see the past, the heart sickness;

imagine, him sinking, taking a lifetime to recover;
to regain, maybe four hundred years, or a century;
knowing the ascension; the martyrdom; the birth;
the death; the bereft; the disruption to his craft;

so he did not inherit gold, but his gold leaf icons;
scions of color, rather mutating browns; fusing
pinks inking in glitter; better time come forth;
this natural beauty ebbing of the ocean’s darkness;
fighting  light; struggling to believe, to see;
unforgiving; enliven this mastery; speaking
inner sanctum;

reaching beyond the grave; beyond silent congregations;
his constitution rescuing from the archaeologist;
the historian; the boring dictates of the academics;
resurrect his spirit, layering time; it is only me
it is only mine.

if I had a mirror and paint myself; exposing myself
then this direction; the wind moves this confidence
my reflection better myself, must I carry a sword
it is not my existence this feeling pittance will not survive.

the testimony against Gertrude Stein

if Schiaparelli and Prada had an impossible conversation,
then it was our wait in the Neue Galerie, so we trump
back to Demarchelier for avocado and crab on the plate;
this memorial day the heat of an overwhelming  crowd,
people pushing for place in compartments and gawking
at the multitudinous, but I rather see Rodin’s Eve
Rodin's Eve
as she shuns the camera, but continues to be slammed
by arms and big backpacks as all my energy focuses
on maintaining  space; keeping a pace with the merry-
go-round of my own interpretation; trying to appreciate,
but the docent’s eyes depreciate me in value, in places
like this, I am here with the nude women in the mirror;
there is so much to see, but there is no clearance; if only
I could travel to Paris and take a camera, maybe an
introduction to Picasso or Toulouse-Lautrec; had my limit-
check with all these vacationers, all this impatience;
left saying had visited, as I sat among the Islamic;
pitying myself felt freer with the name Durer;
the man hidden behind the bed sheets as she admires
herself; as she conspires her vanity; rather acquaint with Urs
Graf and Schongauer, the man with a hat gazing upwards,
so I finished the visitation with an Aachen and departed 
with Raphael just like Tobias.
the liberation of the peon
(for Diego Riviera)

Frida and Diego Riviera
by Frida Kahlo
it has been eighty years since the arrival
of Diego, the crowd is immense with politics;
still intense I smell the burning of the sienna,
like the sugarcane in winter;  it is brown
on canvas; we were all frozen assets;
there are frescoes covered in tarp-concealed
chips;  a way to feel the revolution
approaching, as dark as the ochre;
it was not just the pozzuoli or the almape-
Movado; its vine black-and-cobalt blue,
paints the rhythms of the American worker;
sounds of a pneumatic drill growls;
the agrarian voice of Zapata forms;
behind the mural panels the depression;
pencils in his sketchbook peasant laborers;
with babies on their hips, it is the peon
and the peonage; the scion color mirages;
my vantage points flame the inflames;
the blame blasphemy; look around for the dead, 
see Frida in her poster bed.

See Robert Gibbons read at the Brecht Forum, 2009