Sunday, October 29, 2017

Rebecca Wolff, Sina Queyras and Cole Swenson

The Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org) is an amazing resource for poets and poetry readers on the web. A search on "ekphrasis" pulled up this month's featured work by Rebecca Wolff, Sina Queyras, and Cole Swenson.


After Ekphrasis

Octopus Kisses, image of a petrie dish,
anonymous
by Sina Queyras

A found dish. Shallow and sweet.
A little around the edges.
A lacking in the middle.
Several lines converging where all begins.
A dark beginning, a convergence.
Something yearning for fin.
Something escaping depth.
Crevice of light.
Green memory of fish bones.
Equating something with or without toes.
In a moment, air. 
Ekphrastic
by Rebecca Wolff
 
Untitled (Medici Princess) 
Joseph Cornell
there are some things up there
uptown

I want to see

I want to see    I'm going to look at that and see

I want to go up and see

that show. That show

I went to see, I went to see.

There are some things up

there   uptown

I want to

look at that and see. I'm going to see

what I look. What I look at, when I look, vessel,

I stood to see. I went to stand to look

to see. Venturing further I went outside myself to look
at that wall. It fed! There was a box inside that was not blank, I saw it.
It was really different from an aura, the thing had

colors, the thing was talking

to itself. And spoke

to me, not incidentally.

Source: One Morning— (Wave Books, 2015)

Cole Swensen, "What to Do Besides Describe it: Ekphrasis that Ignores the Subject"
(presented at Conceptual Poetry and Its Others Conference, University of Arizona, Tucson, 2008. Summarized by Kenneth Goldsmith. 


Cole Swensen began by stating: "In attempting to get beyond the 'emotions recollected in tranquility' paradigm, which is what it seems to me conceptual poetry in its widest sense is trying to do, I've been increasingly drawn to models of poetry as revealing something about the way we think and even expanding our perspectives or patterns of thought."

She then introduced the concept of ekphrasis and the theories of Semir Zeki, a scientist who argued that the visual arts, particularly painting, train us to see constants and to gradually develop overall perceptual constancy. Swensen wondered what the implications and parallels in poetry might be. She commented that in the visual fields, the ways in which we're asked to see and to "read" haven't changed all that much, based as they are on a primary figure/ground relationship. What has changed, she argues, is subject matter. 

Swensen argues that "Increasingly, the visual arts and some poetry have worked to distill subject matter so that core structural elements and their dynamics are laid bare or at least made much more apparent. but it seems that the visual arts have been more successful at this than poetry, and in part, it's because, after a very promising start, epitomized by Gertrude Stein, who recognized that there was something to be gained in translating cubism's geometric and perspectival shifts into writing, poetry took a turn which confused distillation with simplification, turning precisely away from that which would expose underlying dynamics apparent through rhythm, echo, juxtaposition, etc. and toward simpler language, where 'simpler' was understood to be both 'clearer' and 'truer,'" with the result being poetic language dominated by subject matter, by information. Swensen posited that ekphrasis as a tool can help poetry by historically analyzing how the visual arts have accomplished this. 

She concluded with a lengthy participatory group discussion looking a numerous works of modernist visual art to show how a unifying principle between very different subjects could be seen as similar. She asked the audience to "think about how, in each case, subject matter has been modified, compromised, distilled in order to let the dynamics become a little more apparent."
Available at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2008/06/conceptual-poetics-cole-swensen)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

In Memoriam: John Ashbery

John Ashbery (1927-2017) is recognized as one of our greatest poets. He won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Yale Younger Poets Prize, Bollingen Prize, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Griffin International Award, as well as a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. Ashbery’s first book, Some Trees, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956. The competition was judged by W. H. Auden, who famously confessed later that he hadn’t understood a word of the winning manuscript. Ashbery published a spate of successful and influential collections in the 1960s and ‘70s, including The Tennis Court Oath (1962), The Double Dream of Spring (1970), Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) and Houseboat Days (1977). Up until his death on September 3rd, the poet continued to publish and win awards. 

Many critics describe Ashbery’s poems as a “verbal canvas,” weighing the importance of the poet’s art criticism in France during the 1950s and ‘60s, and in New York for magazines like New York and the Partisan Review. “Modern art was the first and most powerful influence on Ashbery,” according to Helen McNeil in the Times Literary Supplement, especially the vigor and inventiveness of Abstract Expressionism. (credit: poetryfoundation.org)

Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, a portion of which we reproduce here, won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, an unprecedented triple-crown in the literary world. Essentially, a meditation on Francesco Parmigianino’s painting "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" (1524), the narrative poem showcases the influence of visual art on Ashbery’s style, as well as introducing one of his major subjects: the nature of creativity, particularly as it applies to the writing of poetry. 


Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
by John Ashbery

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect
What it advertises. A few leaded panes, old beams,
Fur, pleated muslin, a coral ring run together
In a movement supporting the face, which swims
Toward and away like the hand
Except that it is in repose. It is what is
Sequestered. Vasari says, “Francesco one day set himself
To take his own portrait, looking at himself from that purpose
In a convex mirror, such as is used by barbers . . .
He accordingly caused a ball of wood to be made
By a turner, and having divided it in half and
Brought it to the size of the mirror, he set himself
With great art to copy all that he saw in the glass,”
Chiefly his reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection, of which the portrait
Is the reflection once removed.
The glass chose to reflect only what he saw
Which was enough for his purpose: his image
Glazed, embalmed, projected at a 180-degree angle.
The time of day or the density of the light
Adhering to the face keeps it
Lively and intact in a recurring wave
Of arrival. The soul establishes itself.
But how far can it swim out through the eyes
And still return safely to its nest?

Hear Ashbery reading “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” Click here.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Kisses, Sea Shells, and Dora Maar

Portrait of Dora Maar
            — Pablo Picasso, 1937

Perhaps it’s not half bad to be split
down the middle, one eye watching across a bridge

of nose at the other, evincing the artfulness
of faces. This is as up-close as it gets 

to plumbing deep through non-symmetrical windows 
to the fickle soul. A chance to gaze 

from the same side of the mirror: at once
a smile’s hint and hooded skepticism. One eye’s 

dark lashes strike out like talons at the soft egg 
of the other, coddled one day, pierced the next, 

the way the egg must allow the peck; 
the eye, light.   


The Kiss
            — Gustav Klimt, 1908-1909

Wreathed in laurels and cloaked in geometry, 
he bends, as men will, to roundness. 

She bends to earth, arrayed in curves of color, 
blue-flowered hair, gold-shawled ankles

as though her way dwells in air, all zephyr 
and sun, yet rooted as a garden, toes gripped 

to grounding, body tasting body, 
its sweetness and its sweat.



Bernadette McBride is author of three full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which is Whatever Measure of Light (Aldrich Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in the UK, Canada, numerous U.S journals and anthologies, and on PRI’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor. A former Pennsylvania Poet Laureate for Bucks County, she is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has won several awards. She is a college English professor, serves as poetry co-editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal, and welcomes your visit at bernadettemcbrideblog.wordpress.com


"Shell Fragment" by Nancy Canyon











The Sea Shell

by Marin Sorescu
Translated by Michael Hamburger

I have hidden inside a sea shell
but forgotten in which.

Now daily I dive,
filtering the sea through my fingers,
to find myself.
Sometimes I think 
a giant fish has swallowed me.
Looking for it everywhere I want to make sure
it will get me completely.

The sea-bed attracts me, and
I’m repelled by millions
of sea shells that all look alike.
Help, I am one of them.
If only I knew, which.

How often I’ve gone straight up
to one of them, saying: That’s me.
Only, when I prised it open
it was empty.


Nancy Canyon's paintings are published online, in print journals, and as book covers. She can be found daily working on her art in the Morgan Block Artist Studios in Historic Fairhaven, WA. She shows in Bellingham, Edmonds, Seattle, and Spokane.  See more of her work at http://canyonwriter.blogspot.com and www.nancycanyon.com.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Krassner Without Pollock: "What Beast Must I Adore?"

Ready to rejoice? Women of Abstract Expressionism (Yale University Press, 2016) is a long overdue survey of the contributions of female artists to the movement that flourished in New York and San Francisco in the 1940s and ‘50s, the first movement that artists could claim was uniquely American. What I love about this book, besides the full-color plate illustrations, are the biographies of more than 40 artists, most of whom I didn’t know. In addition to the better-known Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell, we discover the work of Michael (Corinne) West (1908-1991), Ethel Schwabacher (1903-1984), Anne Ryan (1889-1954), Deborah Remington (1930-2010), Bernice Bing (1936-1998),and many more. Talented painters, like Lee Krassner and Elaine de Kooning, struggled to get recognition on their own merits after their husbands—Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, became famous. As Krassner once remarked, “I daresay that a great deal of my so-called position or lack of position, whichever you want to call it, in the official art world is based on the association with Pollock. It is almost impossible to deal with me without…Pollock.” (Art Talk: Conversations with 15 Women Artists, Harper-Collins, 1975) 

So here’s a tip of the chapeau, to the painter who drew inspiration from Arthur Rimbaud’s lines in A Season in Hell, lines that Krassner had pinned to her studio wall.

   To whom shall I hire myself out?  What beast must I adore?
   What holy image is attacked?  What hearts shall I break?
What lie must I maintain?  In what blood tread?

Lee Krassner, "What Beast Must I Adore?" 1961
Lee Krassner, Self-Portrait, 1930
Lee Krassner, Igor, 1943
Milkweed, 1955
Imperative, 1976

Friday, June 16, 2017

Kate McGloughlin's "Requiem for Ashokan"


The Ashokan Reservoir, Shokan, NY

My people were forced to leave their land and the beautiful farm and gristmill they owned to make room for the reservoir that was needed to provide drinking water for the other half of my family, who came to New York from Ireland with the thirsty multitude that descended here in an enormous wave.

I knew my great grandmother, Bessie Bishop Davis, and I can tell you she never got over the loss. She was 98 when she died and was still pissed that they “stole her home”.  So, how can a place that holds this much grief be a place that provides an equal measure of peace and inspiration to so many people?  There’s more to it than the ever-changing aesthetic hit of mountain, water, and sky. I think the story, itself an elegy, lays a thick layer of beauty-born-of-tragedy on this place, and I’m sure that’s the real thing that people respond to when they visit the Ashokan Reservoir.

Kate McGloughlin, painter and printmaker

I
There she was in a nest of driftwood, bleached
Far downstream and ripped from her rightful place
Vessel and provider

White and swollen, sideways and mistreated 
Off her blocks and useless 
No other from her tribe to lay eyes on
No nod of reassurance or familiar 

II
Cruel edges of noon, sharp focus
Glaring reflection, no ripple
Stillness only, bearing witness
Of this incarnation 
Adrift, no hope of return

III
In the tired hour, pushing
Tossing about on white horses
Made by the northeast wind on water
Rock gently, displaced mother
Waiting to be claimed

IV
The moon knows her longing
Light blue and holding 
The old trees loosed by the same
Rage of nature, gnarled and bared
By another turn of the sun

Emptied
It's fullness emptied by drought and thirst
Weathered shards of lost wood drifts,
Nesting on the shoreline,
Fishing boats as eggs
Held close in safety
Where water meets earth
Light breaks the calm surface
That belies the century old loss
Uncovers history, ourstory 

The traces of past mark the
Place where their hearts were left behind
Aching for their own long ago
Dragging feet, trudging out 

Spitting bitter and salt
Tears mix with the sweat
Feel the heft of dead family
Rising from earth to the new
Eternal rest
Reservoir Sketches
I
Coal skuttle dropped
In thin air, chunks flying east
In winter, form a transient V

II
Upended brooms
Jab skyward from the snow
Afternoon light warms their wiry selves




Maggie's Water

Here in this place without right water
The white of his collar never quite white
And Willie sick again at his stomach

They had so much at home, always,
Every day from the sky and the
Bog, thick with it
Never more than a quick drop in the well
To collect more to carry in 

And that brook, I remember—
I hear it in my dreams,
Drowned only by a memory of the roaring sea
I never knew it would be the water
At home that I would long for

And the mention of thirst—
Quench, then numb me 
The Thirst inside me too great
To quell from this tap

I ache for home and the knowing,
Here in the crowd, I'm hated
For nothing, really, just being other

As I wither, will these children
Know the ripping away it took
To give them a better life?

These Apple Trees?
Yes, they have value
My grandfather planted them
To feed us
To prepare us for later
Something to sell
Something to sweeten
Something to eat and remember him by

Fourteen acres of Pippins
And Vanderveers and others
I now care for, 
My turn to climb and prune, 
Debug and harvest -
Generations have witnessed the transformation
Every full turn of the sun

The slaying of these trees—
Tender blossoms in May
Growing offspring in Summer
Ripe fruit in September
Quiet nubs in Winter—
Hastens my own Winter, 
Withers my own growing,
My roots also torn, 
Grubbed, then burned


Artist’s Statement
Requiem for Ashokan began to materialize in September 2016, during an intensive, seven-day drawing and painting residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA. It continued at another 10-day drawing and printmaking residency at the Artists Association of Nantucket in February 2017, and was completed at home in The Graphics Shop at the Woodstock School of Art in Woodstock, NY, and at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, NY.

At each place I had the good fortune to collaborate with other fine artists, namely, Patti FitzMaurice and Mary Emery, and to finish the handmade book with Chris Petrone. This work is imbued with their spirit. Both residencies were offered to me to complete a personal project that tells the story of loss surrounding the devastation my ancestors endured during the creation of the Ashokan Reservoir, and was spurred on by long talks and walks at the Ashokan with author Gail Straub. The generosity and visionary spirit of each of these artists helped make this work possible.

Requiem is being exhibited at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum in June 2017, and includes written text, a handmade artist's book, and audio files narrating both sides of the story from both sides of my family—the settlers and the immigrants. The invaluable role these art institutions play in bringing work to fruition cannot be overstated, and I will remain grateful to each for its contribution. Read more about the exhibit here.

Painter and printmaker Kate McGloughlin lives and maintains a studio in Olivebridge, NY, near the site of the Ashokan Reservoir. During her 25-year career, she has exhibited worldwide in many notable galleries and four museums. McGloughlin is president of the Board of Directors of the Woodstock School of Art, where she teaches printmaking, landscape painting, and directs the newly renovated Printmaking Studio. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a BFA in Drawing and Painting and studied printmaking with Robert Angeloch and others. As co-founder of Destination Arts Creative Workshops, she travels and paints all over the world. McGloughlin is the youngest artist represented in the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum’s permanent collection.