Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Poems and Paintings by PA Artists Barbara Crooker and Claire Giblin

Poet Barbara Crooker

Poet Barbara Crooker collaborated with visual artist Claire Giblin—and 22 others—to produce works for The Handprint Identity Project: An Exchange Between Artists and Poets. Organized by sculptor Milt Friedly, the project was first exhibited in fall 2008 at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA. More about the project here.

Says Crooker: “The work that Claire and I did was "back and forth" ekphrastic work.  She painted "Jade Mountain" after my poem "Climbing the Jade Mountain," and then I wrote "Mountain" based on her painting.

Jade Mountain, acrylic, ink, pigment on paper.
Collection of Roberta McClintock, NY, NY

(filling out my son’s SSI forms)

The Chinese poets tell us
that to start an impossible journey
you must begin with small steps,
one foot in front of the other,
on the rock-hard road.  There are
no maps.  The mountain gleams
in the afternoon sun.  The load grows
increasingly heavy.  We
are tired, we are thirsty,
and we want to know
how many dusty miles remain?
The mountain is silent.
All the guidebooks are written
in an ancient language
we don’t understand.
When night overtakes us,
we lie down in a dry
Artist Claire Giblin of Millersville, PA. 
More at http://www.giblinart.com
river bed, with a stone
for a pillow.  Morning
draws her curtains.
We begin again.

After "The Jade Mountain" by Claire Giblin
For Adrianne Marcus

August, and the sun's burners are set on high,
cicadas shrieking at noon. My friend is leaving
this floating life, cancer’s dragon claws deep
in her belly.  The cold mountain lies ahead,
but there are no maps or books to guide her.
We’re all walking the same jade highway.

Barbara Crooker’s poetry collections are Radiance, winner of the Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance, winner of the Paterson Award for Literary Excellence; More; and Gold.  More at www.barbaracrooker.com.

painters and poets

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Poet Ray Greenblatt, Giotto, and Joseph Cornell

Maryland poet Ray Greenblatt's most recent collection is Leavings of the Evening (2010, Foothills Press). His ekphrastic poems are inspired by his work as a docent at Philadelphia's Rosenbach Rare Book Museum and Library, which houses 18th- and 19th-century art as well as literature, and by his membership in the Brandywine River Museum, which houses the Wyeth collections. Greenblatt organized two ekphrastic readings this year at the Wayne Art Center.
Giotto's "The Kiss"


Does it matter in an early auto in the 20s
          over nearly impossible dirt tracks
          Aldous Huxley traveled days to honor them,
          since his friend D.H. Lawrence
          had raved about the Chapel's celestial beauty?

Not too many years ago
          my friend Glenn flew from New York to view them,
          humble art student
          cadging money from his single working mom
          to see what in art folios were fantastic.
Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy
Scrovegni had the Chapel built a rascal playing at nobility lavish with love and art, then lost all his money the structure nearly razed. We pass by students eating gelato under medieval arches shadows of those buildings having etched the earth for centuries, students mostly talking about sex, food, where to find a job, Giotto included humans like them also in his universe. Not just the varied brushwork the myriad characters the years of striving, the deepest blue ceiling represents eternal night seen through heavenly eyes, Giotto worked for money to survive as well as his faith. Does it matter that afterwards in an outdoor trattoria the local wine today tastes exquisite the pasta like manna- yes, I think it does.

Cornell's "The Cockatoo"
JOSEPH CORNELL'S BOXES Had he gone too far? He saw the clouds of cobwebs drooping from rafters, the cord and bulb swung in the breeze from an unknown source or was it his fear, he scratched his gritty jaw, he now could smell the damp of the cellar no more than shadows. He stared down at the unfinished wooden box, the row of individual teeth the little heap of hair the eyeball in his palm peering up at him. No, aloneness did not have to be insanity, he spoke outloud to hear each word weighed and measured. Back to the glossy cut-outs the worthless 5 & 10 beads the innocent plastic toys. Crush that crate bury it in the cellar find the door and breathe deeply in the night just in time.

painters and poets

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Poet Bernadette McBride, Plum Brandy, and Mangoes

We'll be introducing poets new to this blog in the next few days. The first is Bernadette McBride, a former Poet Laureate of Bucks County, PA. McBride has been honored as a Pushcart Prize nominee, second-place winner of the international Ray Bradbury writing award, and both a finalist and runner-up for the Robert Fraser poetry prize. Her work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies nationally and is forthcoming in the UK. Her poetry collection Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions) is new this year. Visit her blog at bernadettemcbrideblog.wordpress.com. 

Plum Brandy
—Edouard Manet, c. 1877
I almost want to pull up a chair, ask if she
minds my joining her. Almost. I doubt I could 

abide her story; thicken my own by hers, piled on 
like mud’s dark layering on the flooded river’s bank. 

Her modest frock and (I surmise) hand-me-down hat 
seem the best she can do to keep propriety 

in check here in this bar—its late-day shadows, 
its noise a release from what she knows

is expected of her. I almost want to pull up a chair
—her hands so lovely, lips so longing. The cigarette’s 

another thing. Or is it that she’s drinking alone?
That cigarette cold, inviting a light, eyes begging 

a second glass on the table, a stranger’s mind opened 
to the heart that pines beneath her ruffled breast.

Woman With a Mango
—Paul Gauguin, 1892

Her cocoa skin, licorice hair, 
the royal-toned dress stir 

a throaty response—
like the earthen feel of toes 

buried in cool soil, the smell 
of loam an ecstasy. 

Hold her behind closed eyes,
note her smooth, brown hand

folded over the fruit—
a goddess directing the sun.

painters and poets

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Poet Anne Michaels and Painter Paula Modersohn-Becker

Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907) was a German painter and one of the most important representatives of early expressionism. In a brief career, cut short by an embolism at the age of 31, she created groundbreaking images of great intensity including a portrait of her friend and admirer Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). I quote an excerpt from poet Anne Michaels’ dramatic monologue published in Miner’s Pond (1991).


I started again; where everything starts:

at the body. Classes in life-drawing,

training my hand to see.

In Paris alone,

my family waiting for me to give up

so I could go back to being “happy.”

Every day, failure boiled up into my throat

and stayed there.
R. M. Rilke

Obsession is the sacrifice of light

to the richness of submergence.

But love is separation,

the membrane of the orange dividing itself,

the surface of silver

that turns glass into a mirror.

There’s failure in every choice.

Art emerged from silence;

silence, from one’s place in the world.

Click here to read R. M. Rilke’s tribute to Modersohn-Becker “Requiem for a Friend”