Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Burst of Poet Ellman and Painter Gottlieb's Primeval Echo

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 available here. Ellman talks about his ekphrastic poems here.
Adolph Gottlieb (1903-1974) was one of the "first generation" of Abstract Expressionists. Born in New York City he studied at the Art Students League from 1920-1921 and again after he returned from travel and studies in Europe. Gottlieb was a masterful colorist and in the Burst series his use of color is crucial. He once said: “I frequently hear the question, ‘What do these images mean?’ This is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be ‘Do these images convey any emotional truth?’


Burst
(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

August sun scarring heaven’s face
the scent of burning skin
turns night to day, black to ageless red’s
barbaric burst of light—
   noon on the killing fields
       bleached black
red sun rising in the east
a blister in the sky
   without a face.

Primeval
(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

First awakening
First child  
First the crawling light
   glows first
   among the suns
First black then red
   then spectral white
First an infant
   then the sun
   speaks alphabets
   in silent space
First the scrawl
   of a deity
   upon the earth’s
   beginning
   as at its last
First words matter
   in the garden of
   our death.

Echo
(after the painting by Adolph Gottlieb)

We are two brothers
two selves
two moons hovering
above the earth
perfectly aligned children
of promiscuous gods
their echoes we echo
each other’s better half
and worst
our orbits intersect
from time to time
when too-close brothers
too-soon collide
as sibling do
who envy the other’s
surpassing side.

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