Monday, October 20, 2014

Poet Grant Tarbard Imagines Kiefer, Malevich, and Galileo

Grant Tarbard lives in Essex, England. He has worn many hats as a journalist and currently serves as chief editor at The Screech Owl, a UK literary journal ( His poems have been widely published; WK Press will release his first collection, Yellow Wolf, later this year.

The Body Climbs a Ladder
inspired by Seraphim by Anselm Kiefer

When all that is war has taken all landscape
but insomniac miles of stone and bone

under cracked pigments of fawn
simmering with violence.

The body climbs a ladder that ends
with an eternity of Brownshirts

and a hint of an angel's wing,
hope from hopelessness.

And the sky is a seed of a uniform,
this is what the toppling body found;

the walls are painted with soil
trapped by stares and dark straw

that seem to have a physicality,
an emotional charge

that amplifies the experience
of the body's unhorsing.

The quiet leaves riot,
and the earth that runs through this land

is a body, at the bottom, head rolled away
accusingly as if the body is to say "too little, too late".

What Lies Behind A Closed Door
inspired by Black Square by Kazimir Malevich

Embrace logics absence,
beyond feeling there is void,

and what lies behind a closed door?
All objects are an abstraction

exploding in a texture
of ebony parchment,

what lies deep in this burnt paper world
within a throaty loss of gravity.

A blacked out city's light
orbits in white omission.

Kino of the geometric blur
decreased boxlike intertwining

with infinity floating in equilibrium,
a galaxy funnelled.

What lies beyond the frame?
All objects are an abstraction.


inspired by Galileo's 1616 drawings of the Moon

Dimples beholden to light,
a reflection of orange peel.

I can almost make out the face

the peak of the nose,

the shadow of the right eye
a crest of lip, a sunburnt forehead.

A gravitational monograph
within the vividness of the midnight oil,

six spherical bites, an apple that's about to fall
on the sunless grassland of a patchwork Eden.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Icebergs, Movies, and Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Drawing by Takashi Murakami/
Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

by Matthew Dickman

Diane and I sitting in the dark

like sitting in a death you actually want,

a death you have

always wished for, looking toward

the lights of Hollywood, the long legs

of swimmers, cocktails and rum made out of water

and iodine. Earlier that day

something like twelve city blocks crumbled inside me

every time I thought of you

and how walking toward her always felt perfect

like a silver key with a red ribbon announcing

its specialness and how I would suddenly burn away
like a shot of whiskey some bride-to-be dropped

a match into. Somewhere Johnny Depp is sleeping

or turning to his right because a woman is there

and has touched his elbow with the soft cloud of her fingers,

or he’s facing the mirror and listening to all the gods

inside him begin to rage; the god of childhood and the god

of his mother, his father. Diane and I are standing

on a street corner together

in the world, after the credits, in the crushed-ice rain,

looking westward toward the dark-sunglass-

Coppertone-white-beach-heaven that waits for us and us alone.

Woman with Flowered Hat,
Roy Lichtenstein, 1963

by Cathy Park Hong

Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling
in their spandex regalia parade the Vegas suburbs,

among spider cottoned smoke trees and foreclosed one-tracts,
half-full whirlpools spiraling
a confetti
 of limbless G.I. Joes;
the sun is at high lament, and Mountain

Fiji is barefoot, and cuts her toe on a Sudafed foil.

Mountain Fiji, you ate too many hamburguesas!

Now you have the diabetes and tonight you must

body-slam Vallerie Vendetta. Look at how

Ebony and Habana with their bedazzled eyelashes

laugh at you. You hate them.

They smoke reefers in the Tiki ballroom where sheets

of moonlit rain pour whenever Lala sings Blue Moon,

but the moon never comes, though sadness always does,

like Palestina in her hijab and her ammo camo bikini.

She’s always supposed to lose to Hadar the Brain,

who is the Good one. When you made love to Palestina,
a sob was stuck in your throat and that sob remained

in your throat, an itching nest that threatened your sinus.

You need a good cry like a good sneeze, and you keep shuddering
your face to make it come. Bahama Mama lends you sunscreen
and you smear it on your broad nose and you wave at hooting boys
whose features seem not quite formed, like God started

pinching out their noses and eyes and then left,

because he got distracted. You shrink to the size

of Thumbelina on a TV in La Jolla. She never wins.

It never comes. I am always waiting.

“Untitled” by Julie Mehretu, 2013.
Watercolor, ink, spit bite and etching on paper.

by Jean Valentine

In blue-green air & water God
you have come back for us,

to our fiberglass boat.

You have come back for us, & I’m afraid.
(But you never left.)

Great sadness at harms.

But nothing that comes now, after,
can be like before.

Even when the icebergs are gone, and the millions of suns

have burnt themselves out of your arms,

your arms of burnt air,
you are with us
whoever we are then.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poems and Art from "Heart to Heart": Dove, Russell and Marisol

These poems are from Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art, (2001) edited by Jan Greenberg.

A Word
That Red One, Arthur Dove, 1944
by Gary Gildner

Give me I said to those round
young faces a round word
and they looked at me
fully puzzled until finally
several cried What do you mean?

I mean I said round round
you know about round
and Oh yes they said but
give us examples!

Okay I said let’s have a
square word
square maybe
will lead us to round.

And they groaned
they groaned and they frowned
every one except one
little voice way in the back said
Standing Buffalo, Charles M. Russell, circa 1920

The Bison Returns
by Tony Johnston

Midnight and the world so cold.
The sky is holding snow.
On the stone flank of a buried cave
an old fire-smear awakes
and walks out, down the drifted miles,
down the smothered hills.

It steps into the yard to graze
just as snow begins
falling soundless in a dream
upon the shaggy ghost.
What will I say to keep it here?
What song will I sing?

The Family, Marisol, 1962

Breaking Away from the Family
by Susan Terris

I’m there. See me in yellow? Not the short one

with no visible arms. That’s my sister.

I’m the frowning-smiling girl, eyeing the family.

See us? Sister, Sister, Mother, Baby. Then Brother, 

at his board-like best, standing in too-big overalls

trying to be Papa. We’re caught there, 

nailed and glued to a door with no house,

a door that won’t open. Only my half-laced

boots are real. The rest: flat-tinted,
an odd two dimensional, one-handed girl.

The part of met that’s broken away

has grown tall, drives a car, goes to work, lives

in a house with a real door. She’s warm

and full-fleshed and dances with boys under

a flower moon. But the splintered girl I was

keeps coming back, returns me here

to stare at Mother’s pork sausage fingers,

At her dress with its bear-claw flowers.

Overhead, black scrolls hold her and them

like curved iron bars of a jail insisting.

You may never leave

or charge or be part of any family
except this one staring helplessly outward.

Papa will not return.

Brother will not become Papa.
Baby will always be propped in Mother’s lap.
Sister will never find her arms.

The five of us will always be

the last picture Papa saw before he went,

a stiff wooden portrait left behind.

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.