Saturday, July 28, 2012

Barbara Guest, Artist and Poet, 1920-2006

Barbara Guest’s poetry is suffused with references to painting, her education as a writer inextricable from Abstract Expressionism as created in New York during the 1950s and ’60s by, among others, her friends Mary Abbott, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Tuttle, and June Felter. Her articles in ArtNews and Art in America were published as Dürer in the Window, Reflexions on Art. Her Collected Poems was published in 2008.
Here is a sample from “Quilts”:


Reality could be their tassel

and Reality is there, that’s what I

    think about a quilt

it’s Reality, and it satisfied

    Rauschenberg . . .

they gave a dimension to a pattern

weaving in and out in streams

that’s Reality.

Her poem “The Nude” references a drawing by Warren Brandt:
As the swan entered Leda

so the actual timing of an artist’s

     abrupt gesture

Is supernatural despite interferences

of local ornamental mundaneity,

The supernatural contacts ecstasy


in a guise of nudism.

The artist borrows mannerism and


he is free to copy, the other world is


Guest collaborated with artists on many books:
I Ching, with Sheila Isham, 1969, Mourlot Art Editions, Paris, France, 
Musicality, with June Felter, 1988. Kelsey St. Press

The Nude, Warren Brandt, Art Editions, New York,1989

The Altos, with artist Richard Tuttle, Hank Hine Publisher, San Francisco, 1993

Stripped Tales, with artist Anne Dunn, Kelsey St. Berkeley, California, 1995

Strings, with artist Ann Slacik, Paris, France, 1999

The Luminous, with artist Jane Moorman, Palo Alto, California, 1999

Symbiosis, with artist Laurie Reid, Whitney Museum, New York City, 2000, and Kelsey St. Press, 2000.

Her collages were used to illustrate her poetry books.

Here is an essay on ekphrasis in Guest’s poems by Rachel Blau DuPlessis

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