Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Poet Neil Ellman Visits Kandinsky's "Small Worlds"

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. 

Ellman based the following poems on Wassily Kandinsky's 
1922 series of lithographs, woodcuts, and etchings called 
"Small Worlds." Kandinsky (1866-1944) was an early champion of abstract painting, known for his lyrical style and innovative theories on nonfigurative art. In his 1910 treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art, he made famous his belief that abstract colors and forms could be used to express the “inner life” of the artist. He taught this and other lessons at the Bauhaus, the historic Weimar institution that brought together artists such as Josef Albers, Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, and Piet Mondrian. In 1911 Kandinsky played a central role in organizing Der Blaue Reiter, named in part after the Russian artist’s favorite color—blue.

Small Worlds I
(after the lithograph by Wassily Kandinsky)

So tiny
their dwarf-star eyes
new worlds
in miniature
firefly sparkles
splintered glass
collect the sun—
when worlds collide
small wonder
at our wonderment
how very small
we are.

Small Worlds V
(after the lithograph by Wassily Kandinsky)

Hold these worlds
in the small of your hand
remember them
the day they were torn
from the ribs of even chance
your children, your own,
remember them
as they were, not now
having come to this
these worlds in disarray
where anarchy makes
a fool of providence
and yesterday’s trust
what future there was
has lost its faith.

Small Worlds VII
(after the woodcut by Wassily Kandinsky)

In a drop of water
infinite worlds
small galaxies walk
on primordial feet

in the silent ooze
of time
they gather in splashes
baptized by rain—

so many worlds
so little space
to swim with the gods
in creation’s wake.

Small Worlds VIII
(after the woodcut by Wassily Kandinsky)
Measure the dimensions
of our worlds
with a caliper
the distance between
the space between
our minds
and through the lens
of a microscope
calculate the beginnings
and the ends
like strangers and friends
the two of us
in our two worlds
separated by our lies—
we know no other worlds
but these.
Small Worlds IX
(after the etching/drypoint by Wassily Kandinsky)

From creation’s muddle
to these small worlds
from original sin
lost innocence
a ship in a bottle
of my own conceit
draw circles in the sky
and watch the universe recede
I circumnavigate these globes
to know my worlds again
mother and father
origin of all I have become.
An interview with Ellman here 

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