Thursday, May 24, 2012

Maya Angelou's "And Still I Rise"

Painting by Danielle C. McManus to honor
National Poetry Week. See her blog

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Philip Guston's “East Coker:T.S.E.”

Excerpt from A Critical Study of Philip Guston by Dore Ashton”
“But none of these heads was as alarming, as shudderingly uttered as the head of the dying T. S. Eliot in the painting East Coker: T.S.E. In its gray-pink pallor, this head with its map of suffering, its Buddha ears, its final immobility, conjures the poem—the dung and death Eliot speaks of in The Four Quartets. Guston perfectly parallels the mood of dry despair Eliot created in both "Burnt Norton" and "East Coker." He offers the genesis of his own thought in the painting. He tells us a secret about his entire oeuvre and the first line of "East Coker" holds the key: "In my beginning is my end…" Eliot's head on its stony ellipse of a pillow is a keenly alive but dying head. The eyes are widened, looking upward, and the mind is at work but terribly aware of the failing light. It is yet another reminder from Guston of the impossibility and yet the possibility of his art as a painter.

Elizabeth Bishop's Paintings

“…How I wish I’d been a painter…that must really be the best profession – none of this fiddling around with words…” poet Elizabeth Bishop
Excerpt from Tibor de Nagi exhibit of Bishop's work, January 2012:
“One hundred years since her birth, and just over thirty years since her death, Bishop is now considered among the most important American poets of the Twentieth Century. Until now, the one facet of her life that has not been explored fully is the transformative role that the visual arts played in her creative output over her lifetime. Bishop made her own art, mostly in the form of intimate watercolors, gouaches, and drawings. She collected art during her years in Brazil, and was also given (and acquired) pieces by her family and closest artist friends. Like her poems, her own artworks possess an unpretentious earthiness combined with an acute eye for detail of everyday life. She made her art quietly, privately, and gave many of them away to friends over the years. The works in this exhibition were all in her collection at the time of her death.”

Exchanging Hats: Elizabeth Bishop Paintings” is a book edited by William Benton. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tibor de Nagy Exhibit, 2011

In 2011 the Manhattan Tibor de Nagy Gallery mounted a widely popular exhibit of the collaboration among New York poets (John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch) and their friends Jane Freulicher, Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, and others. The exhibit catalog is in its second printing.

Excerpt: "The show features paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Alfred Leslie, Trevor Winkfield, Nell Blaine, Joe Brainard, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, Jane Freilicher and Fairfield Porter; poetry collections published by the gallery’s imprint, Tibor de Nagy Editions, and featuring work by Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, John Ashbery, Barbara Guest and others, with illustrations by Tibor de Nagy artists; photographs and films by Rudy Burckhardt; letters, announcement cards and other ephemera; and archival photographs of leading cultural figures of the day by John Gruen and Fred McDarrah."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hilda Morley: A Painter's Poet

HILDA MORLEY (9/19/19 - 3/23/98) was born Hilda Auerbach to Russian Jewish parents in New York City. She wrote poetry from an early age, corresponded with Yeats and met with H.D. in London when she was in her 20s. In 1945 she married the painter Eugene Morley in Manhattan and became immersed in abstract expressionism, which had a lasting effect on her poetry. In 1952 she married the German composer Stefan Wolpe and the two taught at Black Mountain College for four years. Besides Wolpe, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and the poet Wong May influenced Morley to embrace open construction and to use spacing for dramatic effect. About her work she wrote: "The poem of organic form molds its phrasing and spacing to conform to the pressures of the poetic content." Many of Morley's poems are directly inspired by works of art.

For more on Morley, link to Brian Conniff on Morley, The Poetry Foundation on Morleyand Erika Duncan on Morley. 
Constance Olson and Hilda Morley
 at Black Mountain College, circa 1952

Marriage of Painting and Poetry

Excerpt from a new work "Painting and Poetry," available here. 

The Marriage of Poetry and Painting
        In his essay “The Relations between Poetry and Painting,” Wallace Stevens supposes that “it would be possible to study poetry by studying painting or that one could become a painter after one had become a poet, not to speak of carrying on in both métiers at once, with the economy of genius, as Blake did.”[1] Stevens is recapitulating Horace, the Roman poet who insisted in his Ars Poetica (c. 13 BC) “ut pictura poesis” or “as is painting, so is poetry.” Certainly the two are wedded in the minds of Rilke (Letters on Cezanne, 1907), Baudelaire and, more recently, John Ashbery and Barbara Guest.

Kindred Spirits by Asher Durand
            Kindred Spirits (1849), a painting by the Hudson River School artist Asher Durand, depicts Thomas Cole and his poet friend William Cullen Bryant contemplating the beauty of the Catskill Mountains, a region Cole immortalized on canvas. In New York City during the 1950s and ‘60s, poets and painters collaborated, consoled each other, and cheered each other on. Poet James Schuyler was profoundly affected “by the floods of paint in whose crashing surf we all scramble.”[2] What could be more celebratory than the paintings Joan Mitchell created from poems by Frank O’Hara (Ode to Joy, To the Harbormaster) or Wallace Stevens (Hemlock)?
            Poets and painters continue to cross-pollinate. Here are a few of their offspring: W. D. Snodgrass’ Matisse: Red Studio; May Swenson’s The Tall Figures of Giacometti; Allen Ginsberg’s Cezanne’s Ports; W. C. Williams’ Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, The Hunters in the Snow, and many more; X. J. Kennedy’s Nude Descending a Staircase; W.H. Auden’s Musée des Beaux Arts; John Berryman’s Winter Landscape; Paul Engle’s Venus and the Lute Player; Derek Mahon’s Courtyards in Delft and others; and Randall Jarrell’s The Bronze David of Donatello.

[1] The Necessary Angel, New York: Vintage Books, 1951, p. 160. 
[2] Quoted in Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter by Patricia Albers, New York: A.A. Knopf, 2011, p. 201.