Posts from — August 2014
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By Jason Allen
Here we got a woman not an ordinary woman she’s a woman with extraordinary looks and a personality to match and she reads all kinds of books and it says here that you won’t be disappointed in the sack, no she’ll leave you stunned and amazed and you’ll profess your love to her even though you’re still in a daze and she can cook and she likes dogs and even though she doesn’t know yet if she wants any of her own she likes kids, and she’s good with ‘em and she’s kind and she has a sense of humor and she knows what’s going on in the world and people say she’s got a sharp mind and just look at those eyes gentlemen those majestic lovely eyes guys she’s more than a pretty face you know don’t you know she’s the only one you’ll ever want you’re one true love, hey can I hear an opening bid can I hear a thousand who will gimme a thousand and we have a thousand from the smart man in the back can I hear two who will gimme two who will go to two thousand there’s two can I hear three yesiree there’s three, now fellas don’t let this one pass you by she’s the one of your dreams even more than I could describe she’s a diamond in the rough and one in a million at the same time ain’t she fine, can I get ten thousand who will say ten thousand, and there we have it we have ten thousand to the gentleman right up front, ten thousand going once going twice and—sold! to the man with the odd smile, and take her hand sir, and I now pronounce you husband and wife.
Hey! Okay we’re gonna keep moving and it’s your turn ladies to bid on our next item up here, bring him up now and try to settle down now ladies so we can get this man hitched as quickly as we can and we’ll start the bidding at a thousand for his muscles and the soap-opera jaw-line alone, and he’s not a felon and he sings in the shower and he’ll bring you flowers when it’s not even your birthday or your anniversary and there we have a thousand we have a thousand how about two, two from the well-proportioned woman in blue and you ladies out there is she gonna be the one who wants him most or will he unpack his bags tonight with another one of you who’s really ready to invest in love and there’s three we have three thousand from the sweet young vixen who ain’t fixin’ to wait until it’s too late to find a man who can break rocks with his bare hands but also writes love letters and poems with your name as the title and let me tell you he’ll wind you up like a yo-yo and unravel you from the inside out and dangle you from the palm of his hand and dance the tango in more ways than one and you’ll be the object of his undivided attention and so let’s see who’s ready for love and prepared to slap down the credit card to prove it, can I hear ten thousand who will gimme ten thousand for a lifetime fairytale that’s for sale right here and now, and there’s ten do we have another bidder, it’s ten, ten again to the woman in red, ten thousand once, twice, three times—sold! and now clasp hands, and by the power vested in me I now pronounce you husband and wife, and now seal the deal with a kiss.
About the author:
Jason Allen has an MFA from Pacific University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in creative writing at Binghamton University, where he is an editor for Harpur Palate. His work has been published or is forthcoming in: Passages North, Paterson Literary Review, Contemporary American Voices, The Molotov Cocktail, Oregon Literary Review, Spilt Infinitive, and other venues. He hopes to one day meet Tom Waits and buy him a cup of coffee.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Jason Allen/Fiction
The Universal Poet
Review of Sándor Kányádi’s poetry volume
“In Contemporary Tense”
by Emil Fischer
Book Review: “In Contemporary Tense” by Sándor Kányádi, poetry translated from the Hungarian by Paul Sohar, introduction by the translator.
Published by Irodalmi Jelen (Romania) and Iniquity Press (David Roskos, POB 906, Island Heights, NJ 08732, USA), 2013.
Hard cover, full color, 6X9, 342 pages; USBN: 1-877968-49-8
Available on amazon.com or the publisher, $19.50.
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It’s unusual to have a little-known poet introduced in a densely packed 300-plus page tome, but Sándor Kányádi, the prominent Hungarian poet, is not entirely a newcomer to the English-speaking world; “Dancing Embers,” a neat selection of his best-loved poems, was published by Twisted Spoon Press in 2002 to critical acclaim, and the present volume lists four pages of magazine and anthology acknowledgements. Thus, his name may resonate with many lovers of poetry.
György Faludy, a contemporary compatriot poet, yielded the title of “the best living Hungarian poet” to Kányádi; anyone interested in modern Hungarian poetry need only pick up this volume and keep sampling it, the way poetry is best enjoyed. Daunting as the sheer amount of material may seem at first, in Paul Sohar’s translation, the lines come in a natural flow whether in conventional form or in free verse or a unique blend of both. The poet’s eclecticism guarantees a great variety of approaches and styles; never a dull moment, never a hackneyed metaphor, never a theme not worth exploring. The poems added to the 2002 selection are of the same high quality and interest and include several longer late works not yet available at that time. Nitpickers may question the inclusion of two or three pages of ditties from story books. Skip them if you don’t want to stoop to children’s level, but don’t miss the longer tale, “The Curious Moon;” it can be read as sci-fi full of social significance and political parody. Such interpretation would rarely be amiss anywhere in this volume.
One more thing about the length of the book: the collection is couched in additional prose material, mostly commentary and elucidation but the incisive introduction by the translator should be especially helpful to readers not familiar with Hungarian literature, and it’s not very often that even such ancillary material is credited with prior publication. Almost all poems bear a date and even footnotes where absolutely necessary – the language barrier is not the only one to be overcome in translation.
With these caveats out of the way let’s look at the contents. We see poets coming from Eastern Europe in two preconceived models: either the rustic native talent full of natural wisdom and contemptuous of western decadence or the cunning intellectual sophisticate filled with irony and enamored of western decadence. Neither of these notions applies to Kányádi – or else they both do. He came from a poor peasant family and had a barefoot childhood in a small village of Transylvania, but his subsidized boarding school education catapulted his mind into the wider world of ideas very early on. By the time he finished college with a teacher’s certificate he was a recognized poet and got a job as a magazine editor, living in a major city of Transylvania. But images of country life remained iconic in his poetry and hardscrabble existence determinative of his sensibilities.
The stubble was so cruel to my feet
(their burning even night rest couldn’t treat).
So often I stopped stumbling just to cry,
lizards had a better fate than I.
At least a bird, a butterfly or a bee,
but it was a pilot I most wanted to be.
My pitcher was so easy to destroy,
yet always I remained a waterboy.
(From “The Waterboy”, p.91)
Sounds a little old-fashioned? While Kanyadi has pursued formal poetry all his life he has not hesitated to venture into free style when the poem demanded it like in the eponymous poem:
I fear him
you fear him
we fear him
you fear him
This works better in the original, because Hungarian conjugation incorporates not only the pronoun but some indication of the object in the verb. The poem is dated from the ’80s, before the regime change, from the era of Ceaucescu dictatorship, a deadly combination of strict communism and even stricter Romanian nationalism that forced the Hungarian poet into either silence or subterfuge in his poetry. In any case, in a situation much too complicated for the waterboy to retain his identity; by this time it had the city sophisticate indelibly superimposed on it, just as the Rumanian citizenship was stamped on the ethnic Hungarian and the communist ideology on the liberal. With all these dualities stretching the poet in different directions it’s no wonder he remained very eclectic in his poetry, using conventional forms and free verse with equal skill and most often in the service of a cause. Number one being the survival of his ethnic minority which he saw ensured only by building bridges to the majority Rumanian population through their poets. He did not only translate their works into Hungarian but dedicated numerous poems to them.
he set the potholes of the sidewalk
to music with his melodious gait
he made a downpour loosen its strings
and the brightest rainbow replicate
(From “My Friend Aurel Gurghianu”, p.257)
In addition, he seeks to better the situation of his people by agitating for the survival of ethnic minorities all over the world; thus he is a cosmopolitan nationalist, feeling kinship with minority cultures condemned to extinction:
down in mexico or far
up north in a Vancouver park
where I saw how natives are
apt to sit around and daze
at the last flickerings of hope
hands dropped on their knees they hold
with us the same end of the rope
I was in those distant lands
so sad and shocked to realize
how our vacant gaze had turned
us into Indians with eyes
that a funeral could’ve hewn
on a sunday afternoon
(From “Oil Print” p. 225)
But enough of Kányádi the polemicist; let’s see how he stacks up as a poet, how he uses his craft, what if anything special he has to offer. His ability to combine images with social issues in a creative way is well demonstrated by the above quotes. However, his best virtue lies in the way he can thread a narrative in a long poem with propulsive force and yet in a deceptively simple and direct language, and this cannot be illustrated; one has to pick up the book to appreciate the magic by which he can compel the reader to follow him in a forest of words page after page. Another unique feature of his long poems is the amalgam of styles he puts together, sometimes even a pastiche of poems quoted in Romanian, French and German. Yet the divergent pieces hang together, echoing and reinforcing one another. The most notable of these long poems is “All Soul’s Day in Vienna:”
They will braid you too some day
in a wreath with pomp replete
but the world will feel as cold and
strange as this Vienna street
In the whitewashed cathedral of
the augustine order I got to pass
an evening with my back against a pillar
listening to mozart’s requiem mass
The opus magnum of his later years, “Mane and Skull”, was written against the background of the Balkan wars of the ’90s that sorely tried the poet’s faith in mankind and in god but also inspired some of his most fervent lines:
You piously hide your face
behind the mounds of our sins
leaving us without a clue
you trespass oh lord by using us
to do your trespassing for you
In “Heretic Telegrams” Kányádi presents a chapbook of poems about poetry and Eastern Europe inspired by his meeting in Rotterdam with Zbigniew Herbert, the noted Polish poet, in 1988; some of his most experimental approaches are demonstrated therein. In addition, he is a master of his own version of the sonnet that utilizes the shorter Hungarian tetrameter lines; he has a number of updated Aesop fable and historical events cast in that form. Whatever the subject or the form his language is always poetic and his metaphors are breathlessly fresh:
Vacant barnyard, vacant hut:
the sadness of church bells
with the tongue torn out.
(“Fall”, p. 69)
And his descriptions are always vivid, merciless in their precision; here is how he brings his aging father to life on the page:
Skin and bone,
Face worn down to skull.
Time whittled to a pin.
(“A Song Choking up on Itself”, p.82)
The enthusiasm of this review is partially due to the translation. Paul Sohar has succeeded in giving us Kányádi in fluid and modern English translation. Even the formal poems have the natural flow of the language; they are never rhyme driven, never twisted out of shape by inversions or other nineteenth century tricks of the trade. The large number of prior publications also attest to the quality of his work; this is the fifth publication of his “All Souls’ Day” and in its fifth version. Most modern translators do not bother with reproducing formal poetry, but Sohar meticulously retains stanzas and line length. He sometimes thins out the rhymes but retains enough to show the form; often he changes “aabb” scheme to “abcb,” which is sufficient to evoke the feel of the original. What he gives us in this book is not a prosaic synopsis of each poem but an English version of it. This is a must read for anyone interested in Eastern European literature – or just good poetry from anywhere.
About the reviewer:
Emil Fischer is a closet writer not by design but by the laws of the literary market place. He has written an unpublished novel and his diary is full of poems. Or scribblings he privately calls poetry. Lately he’s had a few poems published in Buckle &, Chiron, To Topos, Visions International, etc., and a book review in Orbis.
Paul Sohar received the 2014 Irodalmi Jelen Translation Prize for “In Contemporary Tense”, a volume of poems by Sandor Kanyadi (a prominent Romanian-Hungarian poet) in his English translation, available from Iniquity Press (2013) via Amazon.com. You can read more of Sohar’s work and translations here:
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on In Contemporary Tense/Book Review
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Editor’s note: Moving deftly between a teenaged boy’s perspective and a more mature point of view, Mark Montgomery’s “Breathing Underwater” presents a funny and poignant account of a boy’s relationship with his father, and the high jinks and wilderness adventures that define it. The story shows how our most vivid memories are often sparked by the natural world and our interactions with others within it, and the ways a life-and-death experience can shape both those memories and our later selves.
– Leslie Heywood, Editor, Creative Nonfiction
by Mark Montgomery
In 1977, after divorcing my mother, Pop flies to Santiago, Chile. There, he buys two thoroughbred racehorses and perms his hair. Returning, he spends much of the next two years in LA — the fast-lane of thoroughbred-owner society in California. In time, he invites me to join his So-Cal horse racing society, pulling me out of school, so I can join him for long weekends at Hollywood Park or Santa Anita. I meet trainers and jockeys and grooms and exercise riders. I meet professional horse-players with nicknames like Bigbird and D-Double. I meet Telly Savalas—TV’s Kojak, the lollipop sucking tough cop and fellow horse owner, who says, “Hey, Kid,” and winks at me. I learn to handicap races. The Daily Racing Form, or “DRF” to those in Pop’s new circle, becomes my bible. Pop and I sleep in motels and eat all our meals in restaurant bars or coffee shops with other horse-players, who teach me about parlays and exactas and how to play liar’s poker. We get up at 5:00 am to watch certain horses train. Pop takes scrupulous notes, a habit I’m quick to mimic.
I decide I want to be a jockey, but Hector Palma, Pop’s horse trainer, shakes his head, assessing my career as he might a foal. “Too big,” he says. “He’d never make Bug weight.” “Bug” is short for “Bug Boy,” a term for apprentice jockeys whose weight must stay below 105 pounds to give their mounts an edge. The other problem is the minute I touch a horse, my eyes start to itch and I sneeze and wheeze and cough. Hector says I’m allergic to the horse dander. He’s seen it before. To prove him wrong, I volunteer to work for him one Saturday, “no charge,” I tell him. “Any job you need done.”
I spend my first day on the job shoveling out stalls and brushing horses. By lunchtime both of my eyes are swollen shut and I can’t breath. I feel anxious, claustrophobic, like I’m trying to breathe underwater. Hector finds me slumped in the corner of a stall wheezing. An hour later I’m in the emergency room, where a nurse administers steroids to open my constricted lungs. My fleeting dream of rounding the clubhouse turn 15 lengths back, and piloting Pop’s prize filly through traffic down the stretch, comes to an abrupt and asthmatic halt.
Pop’s career in horse racing is cut equally short. He has some successes — one of his mares wins a few races — but soon the bills start piling up and injuries to the horses set things back. Then, the feed costs, medical bills, and constant travel all take a toll. Pop sells the horses, returns his efforts to his neglected transmission shops, and sets his sights elsewhere. For me, this feels not only like the end of my brief ride in the fast-lane, but the end of whatever connection I have with my father. After he sells the horses, I don’t see him for months at a time. My school work is hopeless. I’m in the 9th grade and I’m cutting every chance I get, and failing every subject except for drama.
Meanwhile, my father, who becomes an overnight expert in every new hobby he takes up, adds scuba diving to his latest list. And, like all of his other pursuits, I’m his support team. He approaches me with the idea, telling me he’s already signed us up for a scuba class, then hands me an exercise booklet and a bunch of complex diagrams and charts. To a soon-to-be ninth-grade dropout who never passed pre-algebra, the pictures look like cut up intestines. “It’s only an eight-week course,” he says. “We’ll train in an indoor pool, but it ends with an open-water dive in the Monterey Bay! Plus, there’s a special trip planned for anyone who finishes near the top of the class.”
“Top of the class, Pop? Really?”
“Sure, Kid. If you put your mind to it, you’ll ace this stuff. It’ll be a breeze.”
Despite my utter failures in school, Pop has an unwavering confidence in my scholastic abilities. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been his devoted companion. When my older brothers grew tired of his excursions — all the research and exhaustive preparations — I remained glued to his hip, passing him a wrench or researching how to properly suck the venom from a fresh snake bite. Before he moved out of our house, I used to camp out in a sleeping bag on the living room floor and wait for him to come home from work. He was always late, yet the moment I heard his car idling in the driveway, I’d race to the garage to fling open the door to greet him. Then, I’d make his favorite cocktail— vodka and tonic with two limes. He’d sip it while he warmed up the plate my mom left for him, and tell me about his plans for our next adventure.
Now, a few years into adolescence, I am a less faithful version of the boy who slept at the back door. These days, my father doesn’t live here anymore, and I’m rarely home at night myself. As for allegiances, I feel less like my father’s son and more like another one of his hobbies. So, this scuba thing gives me pause. But above all of that, I’m just not crazy about the thought of underwater breathing. It sounds like my horse allergy all over again.
But the thought of not doing something with my father has never occurred to me. I flip through the booklet and look for photographs among all the tables and graphs. Nothing. Not even a cool picture of a shark. I feign enthusiasm. It’s not that I don’t like the ocean or swimming. I love the beach. What bothers me is it sounds like a lot of studying — all these dive-tables and exercises. I’d dropped out of high school the year before. Didn’t Pop get that I was a lousy student? Plus, it’s not like we live in the tropics. The water is freezing. I’m skinny and I get cold easily, especially my hands and feet. I still have nightmares about the long mornings I spent duck hunting, standing in ankle deep water in a duck blind out on a levee in the delta, surrounded by cattails and marsh boles that stuck out of the water like tossed spears. Pop would repeatedly blow into his duck-call, while I sat shivering. For several hours, I barely looked up. I hummed to myself and gripped my loaded 20-gauge shotgun between my knees, praying for an excuse to break the monotony and fire it. Such memories thwart my enthusiasm for scuba. The North Coast of California is cold and murky, far from the bathwater, crystal blue I’ve seen in Jacques Cousteau’s underwater world.
After the first class and well before any one of us has gotten wet, my father buys enough gear to equip him on a two-month diving excursion — wetsuit, mask, snorkel, fins, spear guns, extra spears with special tips — tips designed to stun the fish upon entering its brain, to lessen its will to fight, he tells me. He buys waterproof bags and buoyancy devices, breath regulators and weight belts. All this gear only adds to my initial distaste for the sport. The tanks and weight-belt alone must double my 115 lbs.
“How are we supposed to carry all this stuff?” I say.
“Don’t worry, Kid. Everything is lighter underwater. They talk about it in the first chapter. You did read the first chapter, right? Our next class is tomorrow night.”
“Oh, sure. Chapter one.”
Actually, I did read some of it, particularly the part that warned against surfacing too quickly. That apparently causes air to enter your blood, which makes the brain, like, explode.
Our next dive class begins with a round-table introduction during which we share why we’ve chosen the course, as well as our past experiences diving. During this session, I notice two things about the class and my father. One, the class consists mainly of divorcees, roughly my father’s age and predominately female, so regardless of any declared motive (adventure, father-son bonding), he is clearly looking for some action. Two, my father stretches the truth — a lot! During his self-introduction he speaks of his extensive dive travels up and down the California Coast and Mexico, as well as some shadowy hints about dive excursions he’d taken while in the service. I know my father has done a little abalone diving, but this is the first I’ve heard of deep-diving along the Oregon Coast, lobster diving in the Sea of Cortez, or cave-diving in Honduras.
The morning of our first open-water dive starts at 4:00 AM. As soon as Pop wakes me I add “too early” to the growing list of reasons why I hate scuba. The morning is dark and cool. I’m still wearing my clothes from the night before, the ones I slept in: cut-off jeans and the forest-green cardigan my mother bought for my eighth-grade yearbook picture. I walk to the driveway, where I hear an engine idling. The night sky is black and starless. I shiver, cold and hung-over and sleep deprived. I’m nauseous and feel achy, like my skin’s turned inside out. Standing on the van’s rear tire, my Uncle Rich— another Pop devotee— cinches down some gear to the roof rack, a Marlboro in his lips. “Mornin’, Nephew,” he mumbles, eyeing me. He always has nicknames for people. He’s the only one I know who gets away with calling my father by his birth name, Grover. He usually calls me “Nephew” or “Snake,” sometimes “Snake-in-the-Grass.” All depends on context and mood.
“Did you sleep in that getup?” My uncle says. He steps down and walks toward me, takes a long drag and inhales deeply. “That’s a cute sweater, Shark-bait, but you might want to put some shoes on.” I scowl and look down at my feet, head back inside, annoyed. “Hurry it up!” He shakes his head and laughs. “Our captain is on a tight schedule. And we’re burnin’ daylight!”
I sprawl out on the floor in the back of the van and sleep. When I wake it is to the sound of downshifting and the high-rpm strain of the van’s engine. We are crossing the Santa Cruz Mountains, its tight banking turns and switchbacks tossing me back and forth, like a whiskey keg in a ship’s hull.
“I think I’m going to be carsick,” I say.
“What’s that?” Pop calls out, eyeing the rear view.
“Can you pull over? I’m going to get sick.”
“Just come up here where you can see the road. You’ll be fine.”
I stumble to the front of the van and sit on the cooler between my father and someone I’ve never met and don’t remember picking up. “What happened to Uncle Rich?” I say to the stranger.
“He’s driving the El Camino, Pop says. “We made the switch while you were crashed out.”
“You alright?” the man says. He has wire-framed glasses and a beard. He looks like he’s from Berkeley, a graduate student, a professor maybe. He’s a big man. “You must be Snake. I’m Doug,” he says, not bothering to extend a hand, keeping his distance, like he’s afraid I might just puke after all. He watches me for a moment until a little smile widens from the center of his beard — his lips a sea anemone just before you touch it.
“Hi,” I say, and reach out my shaky hand. “Are you a diver too?”
“Yeah, I’ve been diving for a year now, but eventually I want to get certified to be an instructor, so I go along and observe the classes. And I don’t have an outfit like your dad here. We’ve been talking about a trip to Baja, maybe buying a Zodiac together.”
“Zodiac? Like the serial killer?” He forces a short laugh, not sure what to make of me.
“No, it’s a dive boat, an inflatable dive boat. Don’t you watch Jacques Cousteau?”
I stumble toward the back of the van and collapse on a pile of wetsuits, hoping to disappear among them. I hear him laugh again, as I pull my body into a fist, an anemone contracting.
We arrive at the harbor in Monterey just as the day breaks. It is cold, with a ripple of wind and a thick, thick blanket of fog. I feel like I’m already under water. The air is all mist and salt and gas fume. I hear gulls and barking seals and a fog horn.
Uncle Rich guides Pop as he backs down the boat ramp. Doug stands in the water with his pants rolled up and disconnects the boat, and then guides it with a lead rope to the public dock, like a horse to its stall. There, we join our classmates, and the instructor tells us the plan: upon anchoring in the designated area, we are to descend as a group to the bottom, roughly 20 feet, where we will line up and perform for him each of the outlined tasks —buoyancy-device inflating, mask clearing, emergency gear removal and ascent.
Because we have our own boat and gear, Pop has the instructor convinced he’s a Master Diver, so we head out to the designated area first. Joining us in our boat are two women, Jennie and Jackie. Jackie is maybe 22, from our class. She has a small, athletic frame, like a runner, and a pretty face with a doe-like expression. She giggles a lot, especially when she’s with Pop. They were partners during most of the pool dives, which caught me off guard since I was his “Lil Partner” and all. My Dive-Buddy, by default, was my Uncle Rich.
It’s a short ride to our training area. We anchor, and within minutes, the other boat arrives and we start our exercises. The water is murky and cold, and my wetsuit is baggy, so the cold water pools up all along my neck and lower back. Other than that it’s uneventful. There’s not much to see; we can hardly see each other. The instructor has to practically get in my face to observe my maneuvers. His eyes look unnaturally wide magnified behind the mask. It’s like being scrutinized by a curious seal. The most I can make out, besides the shadowy figures of our fellow divers, is the occasional hazy outline of a fish. Any fantasy I had about a blue and exotic world at the bottom of the sea has been erased. It is more like swimming in a blender. The group examination ends in 15 minutes and we all surface as certified scuba divers.
On the surface, the instructor tells us that, since most of us still have plenty of air left in our tanks, we’ll ride over to the reefs and do a dive there. He promises the water will be clearer and sea-life more vibrant. Pop motors our crew behind the instructor’s boat. The first boat stops and drops anchor. Pop, however, passes the first group with a wave and continues down the reef-line. “Why aren’t we stopping?” I ask.
“There’ll be lots more to see down a ways.”
“Aren’t we going with the rest of the class?” I ask.
“No. We’re close enough. It’s too shallow and overfished there,” he says, pointing back at the group. “Trust me, we’ll have more to see and spear where we’re going.”
“Spear? This is our first dive. Shouldn’t we stay together? Don’t we have to do, like, class stuff?”
“That’s why we have Doug. He can observe us. It’ll help him with his certification, and we can go it alone. Win-win.”
“Don’t argue with Captain Ahab,” my uncle says.
“But the class is over there.” I point back toward the other boat, so much closer to the harbor, to dry land. I begin to seriously regret not reading our textbook, and that I copied Pop’s homework in order to pass all of the written tests.
Pop speeds up and the cool, wet air makes me shiver. I hold my knees and try to hide my shaking from the others, especially the women. They appear to be excited by our captain’s rogue plan.
Pop stops the boat. Doug tosses out the anchor.
“This is where the big fish feed.” He lifts the rear-seat cushion and pulls out a four-foot long spear-gun, the end of which has a three-prong “stunner” tip.
Great, I think, now we’re spear-fishing. I’m cold and just want to go back to van and sleep and soak in that post-dive hot-tub everyone keeps talking about. The place is spooky. The kelp sits on the surface of the water in thickets like a forest of tentacles, yellow and jaundiced, like seasick seaweed.
Pop and the girls jump off one side of the boat making big flipper splashes. They descend. My uncle, Doug, and I jump from the other side. Doug leads us away from the kelp bed, and we descend. Right away, my mood brightens. This place is a mayor upgrade from our first dive spot. We can actually see each other, and the reef is colorful and fish abundant. Some of the fish are huge. We reach the bottom, which my depth-gauge tells me is 30 feet below the surface. We all give the thumbs up, check our air gauges, and inflate our buoyancy packs until we can float comfortably. We swim around the reef. My uncle points out several rock cod and some abalone. Doug points out the spiky sea urchins that blanket the reef and then at their sharp needles. He wags his finger back and forth in front of us in a gesture that says, “Warning, do not touch these.”
We swim on. I’m hoping to see one of those leopard sharks the instructor told us about. “They like it out in the kelp where they can feed,” he said. “They’re harmless. Two or three feet, tops.” Harmless is fine with me. It would be cool to tell Brian that I saw a shark.
Several minutes later Doug stops and turns to us. Something is wrong. He shows us his air gauge. He’s low. He shakes a thumb up and down, deliberately, toward the surface, which means, “I am going to surface.” We return his signal with “okay” shaped fingers, and he begins his ascent. My uncle and I carry on, circling the reef. I’m trying to think of another hand signal to use. I like these scuba-signs. I like showing off this new underwater language.
After a few more minutes I get tired. My breath starts to labor and I feel my throat tighten. I’m swimming hard, so I stop and try to relax. This doesn’t help. I just sink, so I have to kick harder. My uncle is several yards ahead of me swimming away. I look at my air gauge. It reads that I still have a quarter tank, but I’m sucking hard on my regulator now and getting little more than tiny spurts of oxygen. I can’t breathe. I fish for my backup regulator but it’s somewhere behind me and I can’t reach it.
If this were to happen to me today, an image of my children would pop into my mind, maybe pushing my daughter on a tire-swing, or pitching batting practice to my son in the backyard on a July afternoon. But in that instant, I instead think about a movie I once saw about an underwater breath-holding champion, a free-diver who would swim some 200 feet down, holding his breath for over 7 minutes. While training for the world record, he convinces himself that, since humans once lived in the watery womb, their bodies must be able to breathe there. It’s just a matter of getting the body to remember, he theorizes. Maybe, I instantly hope, my body will remember too, discover an ancient gill somewhere in its evolutionary roots; but my body, the amnesiac, is suffocating, and in the next instant I go from underwater breathing to underwater screaming.
I kick hard for the surface but I feel heavy, I get nowhere. I panic. I start to squirm, and my throat screams still louder for my uncle. Finally, he turns. I flail my arms and kick and writhe and make throat cutting motions with my hand. He looks curious, but then soon understands that this is underwater language for, “I am out of fucking air!” He swims to me and pushes his buddy regulator into my mouth. I grasp it with both hands and suck hard. He says something with his throat and waves his hands up and down in front of me, which either means, easy Snake, relax, or he is praying to Mecca.
After several deep breaths, I slow down, loosen a little. My uncle looks at my air gauge and then puts my regulator in his mouth and tries to breathe, nothing. I shrug “Who knows,” while he looks over my equipment. He finds the problem. Besides being out of air, my buoyancy-compensator is deflated, which is why I keep sinking. A leak, we later discover. He gestures for me to surface, slowly (thumb-up, then hands up-down), and then takes a hold of me and begins to fill his own BC. We ascend as partners, dive buddies, both of us breathing easy.
As we approach the surface we begin to ascend too quickly, which is something even a student who only looks at the photographs knows is dangerous. My uncle pulls me close, kowtows his free hand for me to relax, slow down. Then he releases some of the air from his BC and we slowly kick.
We break the surface, two corks released from deep water, and bob there for a moment gulping air. The first thing I notice is the boat in the distance. I see figures standing. My uncle releases me and swims for the boat, calling out to them. I kick hard but struggle to stay afloat, like I’m chained to the reef. Each surge of water covers me. As my uncle reaches the boat, I realize we have forgotten about the deflated buoyancy pack. I try to take it off, just ditch it the way I had done so many times in the practice pool, but my body is a bed of kelp, tangled in straps and hoses. My back and shoulders burn. The pressure against the back of my neck and temples intensifies as I hold my breath, dip under the surface and then — in a flurry of kicking — I rise again. I release the air from my lungs in spurts, and then sink back down.
I taste salt and blood — my tongue, I think. My arms and legs are tired. I feel like I’m climbing an underwater ladder. My finned feet are bags of sand, my arms, the dull blades of a fan. I am an old Packard abandoned in a quarry pond. All of the empty spaces inside me begin to fill. The air swims away from my bones to form underwater skeletons.
It is warm below the surface.
During one of our classes the instructor told us about an abalone diver who became tangled in a kelp forest and couldn’t surface for air. He was free-diving — no airtank — so he had to think fast. Apparently, the thick stalks of kelp have air inside them. Knowing this, the resourceful diver removed his dive-knife from its ankle holster, cut a slit into the kelp and sucked a lungful of air from it. This gave him the breath he needed to collect himself, use his tool to cut himself free and ascend. I think of this as I sink. But while stories come to me in a flash, I can do no more than flail and kick and hope that some phantom bubble will lift me to the surface.
Then I see a big splash in the water and a cloud of red and blue moving toward me. It’s Pop, his bright new wetsuit like a lit fuse. He reaches me and yanks me upward, pushing something into my mouth. It’s the mouthpiece of my snorkel, but I panic and yank it out, taking with it my mask. I can see the elongated faces of the divers peering down from the edge of the boat. Another splash. Then another. Pop jambs his own regulator into my mouth, but I toss it, spin away from him, and go under again. This time I feel myself sinking hard, just wanting the struggle to end. I fall deeper. All I can sense are my underwater screams. No bright lights or tunnels or fields of grain, just the siren pull of the reefy bottom, inviting me into its black jaws.
My father grips one of my arms and the back of my neck like a mother cat. He’s choking me, commanding me to be still, stay calm. I pant hard, until Doug and my uncle arrive with inflated packs. I clamber on top and take in mouthfuls of dry air. Pop holds my arms so I won’t go back under. Then he swims me to the boat, rescued.
Later that night, at the after-dive party, Pop tells everyone the story. His version emphasizes the heroic rescue and how I had submerged three times and that he knew that the last time would be my final breath. As dramatic as he makes it sound, this is actually not far from the truth. In that moment before he pulled me up, I sensed that, while I had given up, he would not. He would have found a mouthful of air, a scrap of kelp, or the memory of a gill in his effort to save me. His composure, always impressive, was made even more so in contrast with my own desperate floundering.
But I don’t tell it quite that way to others. As the evening wears on, I begin spinning the story too. People come up to me asking me what happened, and each time, with every re-telling, the equipment fails more drastically, I get held under longer, sink deeper, the water becomes murkier and my head grows light and fuzzy. Soon, I start believing this new version. I tell it again and again, until it becomes true.
After the dive party we return to the motel room we rented. We planned to make another dive or two in the morning, but my equipment failures and near drowning has changed things. The new plan is to get up, have breakfast, and return home. This plan sounds fine to me.
My uncle and I arrive to the room alone. I feel tired from the day and drunk from the sips of wine I stole at dinner. We both collapse on separate beds still dressed. I turn on the TV to distract me from the spinning bed. My uncle opens a beer and lights a cigarette. I hadn’t seen my father for several hours, since just after we ate. I turn to my uncle.
“Where’d Pop go?” I ask.
“He got his own room.”
“Why, we’ve got two beds. I can sleep with him.” My uncle takes a long drink from his beer and sets it on the nightstand.
“He’s in there screwin’ that kid, Jackie,” he says.
My uncle stuffs out his cigarette in the nightstand ashtray. I don’t say anything. I just stare at the TV for awhile, and then get up to change the channel. I sit back on the edge of the bed. My uncle sits up and swings his feet to the floor, facing me.
“Sorry, Nephew. I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t have put it like that. I know you’ve been through a lot today.”
“So have you,” I say.
“Your father and his fucking adventures.”
“Crazy,” I say.
My uncle sighs and pulls a fresh Marlboro from its box. “That was a close call, Sharkbait.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Uncle Rich?”
“I’m glad you were there. Glad you were my dive buddy.”
“No problem, Snake-in-the-Grass. And I really am sorry for putting it like that.”
“I don’t care. Let him do what he wants. It’s no big deal.”
I try to sound convincing, but I know it comes out a mixture of envy and disgust and longing.
About the author:
Originally from Northern California, Mark Montgomery now lives in Central New York, where he teaches in the English Department at Cayuga Community College. He has a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. His poems, essays and stories often focus on father-son interactions and how particular activities in the natural world (surfing scuba, hunting, trekking) shape those relationships.
About the illustrator:
Angela White is a fine artist whose work is featured in both corporate and private collections. Working from her studio at Washington ArtWorks in Maryland, she has exhibited her encaustic and mixed media paintings across the DC metropolitan area as well as in New York and Washington state during her 30-year career. Her work can be found at her website www.angelawhiteart.com.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Breathing Underwater/Creative Nonfiction
“Mary Ross – Video Artist”
Interview with Eric Ross
The late MARY ROSS was a fine art photographer and visual artist. In 1975, she began using video and computers to produce still images on film, one of the first fine art photographers to do so. Her images provide some of the earliest examples of the convergence of photography, video and computer technology. Recognized as a pioneer of digital photography, her photographs and video art have been featured in hundreds of multimedia performances she has produced in collaboration with composer/performer Eric Ross. She exhibited extensively at galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan. Her photographs are in private collections and in the permanent collections of the Kunsthaus, Zurich; International Polaroid Collection; Herbert Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University; King’s Library, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the Lincoln Center Library Dance Collection. Her archive is at the Rose Goldsen archive for New Media Art at Cornell University and at LIMA in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
ERIC ROSS, musician/composer. Ross has presented concerts of his music at Lincoln Center (NYC), Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Disney Redcat Center (LA), Newport Jazz, and Berlin, Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others worldwide. He performs on guitar, keyboards and is a Master of the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments. The New York Times calls his music “a unique blend of classical, jazz, serial and avant-garde.” He began playing the Theremin in 1975, and has performed on radio, film and TV. Since 1976, with his wife Mary Ross, he has presented multimedia performances with video, music and dance. Recent projects include an Ultimedia Concept program at UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum, Spain; Residenz Palace, Wurzburg; Bauhaus- Dessau, Germany; and Casada Musica, Portugal. He was a friend of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and electronics pioneer Robert Moog. In 1991, he met and played for the inventor of the Theremin, Professor Lev Termen.
Q) How did your multimedia Pieces develop?
A) Mary and I started working together in the 1970s. In 1976, we first used live and pre-recorded video in my Songs for Synthesized Soprano (Op. 19). There was immediate synergistic energy to our combined work. Mary wrote, “In 1977, I began to use video in live multimedia performances in collaboration with my husband, composer/performer Eric Ross. At first I used live video cameras in closed circuit installations during performances of his original electronic and acoustic music compositions. Two or three video cameras were mounted on tripods and focused on him as he performed, inside the piano, and I manipulated video camera imagery with a glass prism. The results were displayed on two color TV monitors which faced the audience. Since then, I have produced pre-recorded videotapes and now DVDs which are designed, composed and edited to his music. These tapes, with accompanying video stills and digital images, have been displayed and projected as he performed concerts of his music worldwide. I wanted to create a parallel in the music to the video which would reflect and comment upon the action in different, distant and often remote ways. I like to set up contrasts with the music and images on the screen – fast when slow, bright when dark, dense when sparse – to create unexpected relationships and meanings. Eric’s music has led me deeper into this non-literal, non-narrative form. Musically there are specific themes for some parts and other sections open to improvisation. In performance, the music and the emotional relationship to the video, which is fixed, is ever-changing depending upon time, place and mood.”
By the 1980s, we were performing our pieces in major venues in the US and Europe. We worked with the space and equipment situations available. We performed in big rooms like the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Berlin, Montreux and Pori Jazz Festivals as well as smaller, more intimate rooms like the mirrored ICC in Belgium, the Munch Museum in Oslo and loft spaces in NYC.
Mary’s work evolved steadily. She was a darkroom printer in black-and-white and color film, and in other media including gum bichromate, silkscreen, and Polaroid. She saw video processing as an extension of the technical possibilities of print-making, or an “electronic darkroom.” She included slide dissolves and video during this period. She said, “The video synthesizer functioned as a type of electronic darkroom. My own slides, negatives, prints, movie film and videotapes provided source material.” At a certain point, technique and aesthetic merged and became intuitive.
In interviews we were asked, “Which came first: the music or the video?” Usually, we would work simultaneously and at a certain point of progress, would come together for editing sessions. From that point on, we would stay in close collaboration. Mary preferred to edit to my music – I would give her track to edit to, and then I would orchestrate the final versions for “mixdown.” Other times she would work alone on a piece until it was nearly complete and then I would compose music to it. We were open to different approaches and each piece shaped up differently. Our works were never experimental – Mary and I knew exactly what we were after in each piece and worked hard to get it right.
MARY ROSS V10N5
Mary Ross photo gallery. Goes with Eric Ross Interview on Mary Ross.
Eric Ross on Theremin in Germany. Mary Ross.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/mary-ross-v10n5/thumbs/thumbs_figure-w-bicycle-11.jpg]60Figure With Bicycle. Mary Ross.
Figure With Bicycle. Mary Ross.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/mary-ross-v10n5/thumbs/thumbs_inner-child-6-1-23-2011.jpg]30Inner Child. Mary Ross.
Inner Child. Mary Ross.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/mary-ross-v10n5/thumbs/thumbs_mary-at-her-computer-2011.jpg]30Mary at her computer.
Mary at her computer.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/mary-ross-v10n5/thumbs/thumbs_triptych-6-17-2011.jpg]20Triptych, 6-17-2011. Mary Ross.
Triptych, 6-17-2011. Mary Ross.
Q) Were there artists she was influenced by?
A) Mary knew the great European and American painters, the classic black-and-white photographers and all kinds of visual references. She was commissioned by universities to photograph art galleries and museums across the USA and EU. Thus, she was familiar with the works of the major artists as well as many other painters, graphic and visual artists, photographers, sculptors, etc. She had a “photographic memory” regarding images. She never forgot a picture and could recall names, places and details of photos or prints she had seen from decades before. Joseph Buemi, a classic black-and-white photographer, gave her occasional help and some darkroom tips and the two remained good friends despite their work being very different. She kept in contact with a network of video and film makers and was aware of work and tech developments in her field. She was an avid reader, writer and prose editor. All of these things formed background to her own work. She never wanted to be copy artist, a clone or from the “scuola de” style artist. She always sought her own identity and vision in art.
Q) What were the themes of her work?
A) The major themes that Mary worked on all her life included: People Real and Abstract; Dance; Self-Portraits; and Imaginary Landscapes. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for her work with dancers. She was very aware of “negative space,” the spaces between things. Most of her images fit into these categories, although she would take a photo of any subject if it pleased her.
Q) Did she storyboard her videos?
A) Almost never. She improvised in the camera, in the studio, and in her editing, mixing and finished work. She knew what she was after, recognized what she actually had, and went with the work where it took her. Because of her great visual memory, she could find and combine edits from materials that were perhaps years or miles apart. She could work on different sections, or from the inside out, to shape the materials. It was a process as well as a product. Mary knew what she wanted in the final print. I don’t think anyone else could have predicted from the source material, or even mid-stream, how the final images would look.
Q) What was her working method?
A) Mary was constantly shooting, editing, evaluating, filing, re-evaluating and re-editing. She shot a lot of film and later digital images, but she was often a one-shot picture-taker. Even her video shots were mostly single-takes. Editing was her forte. She edited herself – always selecting, refining and mixing. Sometimes she liked to let the computer make random mixes, putting together images like musicians “jamming,” and then remix that. Her final edits were always carefully chosen. Mary seldom took the first version of a shot. If she liked something, she would keep working it, sometimes over the course of years, changing things minutely or entirely – adding, subtracting, changing in different media, etc. She liked to work on many projects at the same time and this helped to “cross-pollinate” her ideas.
Q) What were your last collaborations?
A) Mary and I created dozen or so works for video and music. By our last pieces, the Blvd Reconstructie (Op. 54) and Rimn Vornl (Op. 37, 2011 Edition), she had a real sense of the architecture of her time-based art on the micro, middle, and macro levels. She used her own autobiographic materials as a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother, a cancer patient and an artist, with concert footage, travel, dance, human abstractions, family, friends, black-and-white stills, Cibachrome color prints, super 8mm films, gum bichromate prints, silkscreens, Polaroids, watercolors, distressed images, images with text, hand-drawn and hand-colored prints – everything relevant to her life – all in the mix. Ideas that she had worked on during her entire career came together and were interwoven in these last pieces.
Q) How do you see Mary’s artistic development?
A) I think all of the elements of her vision were present early on. She refined her vision by focusing in on the ideas that she loved and that would convey her artistic objectives. She acquired technical mastery over her tools as well, and these tools (home computers, video cameras, etc.) became simpler and more easily accessible over time. In the early years this was not always the case, but she had always “worked with what she had,” or as she might say, “fought with what she had.” Mary had periods of time that were real growth spurts and others that seemed fallow where she did many different things but were in fact “in developmental” stages ready for the next artistic endeavor. She stayed true to her art and her last works were a combination of her ideas with many layers of energy going on, both simplifying and gaining in complexity.
Q) Why do you think her is work important?
A) Mary had an aptitude for getting a great shot or sequence of shots that spoke to the viewer on different levels of interpretation. She said, “The images create a narrative that can be supplied by the viewer’s imagination.” Her mixing of imagery was precise, yet free, strong and beautiful. Her vision was unique from a woman’s point of view without being self-consciously so. Her sense of composition and drama within a shot was enhanced by an expressionist palette, which makes her images even more striking. There is a timeless quality about her work. Some figures in her shots seem to be floating or in suspended animation. Her work was never totally “abstract.” She said, “The human form is a recurring motif…along with many images of dance. Though often abstracted, my photographs and videos usually contain recognizable elements. In recent work, I continue to explore abstract renditions of the human form in imaginary landscapes.”
In some of her pieces, there is a calmness and quiet of infinite spaces, where time seems suspended and there is an air of tranquility. In others, she deliberately introduced chaos, noise, glitches and other random elements to create a sense of real and unreal; there is movement, the action is in flux, and she went for the vital significant energy of the moment. She liked to capture energy, mood, setting, characters, time and place. She was not fascinated by technology for its own sake – she was interested in the human aspects of art and art-making.
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c.MMXIV. Tyava Music. BMI. Used with permission.
Eric and Mary Ross Ultimedia Concert
$12 general/$10 students & seniors
Advance tickets available at: CornellCinemaTickets.com
Friday, September 12th at 7:00pm
A special electronic music performance with composer and master thereminist Eric Ross and his Avant Ensemble, including Trevor Pinch (Moog Synths), Peter Rothbart (EWI), John Snyder (theremin, digeridoo, waterphone), and Joseph Perkins (bass). The evening will feature music on the theremin, as well as Analog and digital synths, guitars, percussion and electronic wind instruments, and will be accompanied visually with work by the late video/computer artist Mary Ross, whose work will be deposited in Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. The event is cosponsored with the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series and the History Center of Tompkins County.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Mary Ross/Video Artist
We Are Still Here:
How American Indian Literature
Re–visions the American Indian Experience
in American History
by John Smelcer
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On my office door is a poster of Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog. The caption below his image reads, “We Are Still Here.” While American Indian literature of the past several decades has been about many things, it singularly hails with triumphant resolve that we are still here. Across Native America – and there are hundreds of federally recognized tribes – we struggle to maintain our own unique cultures. But it’s not easy. The clash of two cultures over hundreds of years has taken its toll. The old and the new are frequently inseparable, the lines blurred.
Early novels of the Native American Renaissance (I use the term simply to signal the wider availability of Native writing in mainstream literature), such as N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1969), James Welch’s Winter in the Blood (1974) and his haunting The Death of James Loney (1979), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977), were about returning home, not merely to a geographic place, though that is paramount, but also to a cultural center of gravity – an Indian center where the American model of the rugged individual standing alone is supplanted by the indigenous sense of the self as part of a community. Everything we see or hear in media tells us that we must want something else and to be something else and somewhere else. We are pulled between two worlds, yet we are sometimes unable to fully embrace either. The literature was and is often about not belonging and the immense pressure of marginalization. Where do I belong? Where is my home? How do I fit in? Characters struggle with trying to become whole (and sometimes they fail). Among all the loss suffered by Native America – loss of customs, ritual, myth, religion, and especially of language – perhaps the most important loss has been the loss of self, as Leslie Marmon Silko writes in Ceremony:
But the world had become tangled with Europeans names: the names of rivers, the hills, the names of animals and plants – all of creation suddenly had two names: an Indian name and a white name. Christianity separated the people from themselves; it tried to crush the single clan name, encouraging each person to stand alone, because Jesus Christ would save only the individual soul. (68)
In the decades since those first mainstream writers, many Indian (for that is what we call ourselves) writers go so far as to re–imagine history. Abraham Lincoln once wrote that “history is not history unless it is the truth.” In attempting to tell the Indian side of American history, many Indian writers try to re–vision the history of America, not revisionism but a re–visioning – a re–seeing – of history, a history of America that includes Indians and the Indian perspective.
And history is due for an overhaul.
I recently picked up a new children’s picture book about the westward expansion of pioneers as they rolled across the plains states hauling everything they owned in their wagons. Although the book illustrated their hardships (e.g. repairing busted wood–rimmed wheels, being stuck in blizzards, fending off starvation in sometimes gruesome ways, and so forth), it never once mentioned the American Indians they encountered (and eventually displaced) along the way. One gets the discomforting sense that America is trying to rewrite the painful parts of history for new generations by writing the American Indian experience out of the picture.
Consider, too, these iconic images of nationalism. The trope of Custer valiantly fending off thousands of Indians, his long golden hair blowing in the wind, demands a clearer image. In cowardice, Custer wore his hair short during cavalry patrols of the Black Hills for fear of being scalped should he fall in battle. He also wore buckskins, concealing his rank insignia, so as to avoid being targeted as an officer. So, too, the trope of George Washington as a boy always telling the truth on his way to paragoned manhood might be replaced with a new, more “historical” image. Washington rose rapidly through the ranks to general almost entirely on his success during the Indian Wars. He helped open and tame the northeastern frontiers of the New World for Europeans by killing the indigenous people who already lived there – men, women, elderly, and children alike. Does such a history blacken America’s patriotic eye? Most likely, but not irreparably. But if we are to realize fully and completely the history of America, the real history as Lincoln suggested, we must acknowledge the whole picture, the true picture, not just the tidy parts we choose to honor in our filtered history books.
Contemporary American Indian literature attempts to dispel stereotypes and romantic notions that forever “fix” Indians in the past – adorned in buckskins and feathers and red bandanas – as something that was, replacing them with the reality of American Indians living in America in the 21st century, both on and off the reservation. The project of many contemporary Indian writers is to portray honestly and bluntly the context of those issues, triumphs, and crises that define who we are. Oftentimes, the literature is sardonic, searing, and witty as is the best satirical writing of Jonathan Swift. The following poems are from my full–length poetry manuscript Indian Giver, which includes an introduction by my late friend and mentor James Welch.
THE INCOMPLETE & UNAUTHORIZED
DEFINITION OF AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURE
“Indian” is not a derogatory word.
It’s what we call ourselves. We claim it.
Not all Indians wear long black hair
or faded red bandanas.
I’ve never seen a Red Man.
Percentage of people who say they are part Cherokee: 50%
Percentage who claim to have an anonymous
great–grandmother who was a Cherokee princess: 100%
Percentage of actual Cherokee princesses in history: 0%
Percentage of the Cherokee Nation compared to the
number of all other recognized tribes in America 0.2%
Percentage of Americans who are enrolled Indians
according to the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs: 0.67%
Fiction by Indians outsells poetry by Indians,
yet poetry is the language of sorrow and heartbreak.
All Indians speak poetry.
No Indian has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
This is the mathematical formula for deciphering
meaning in Native American poetry:
Where a represents anger and s represents sorrow,
let P represent poetry and t represent the duration
(time) of marginalization.
Thus, P = t(a + s)2
Indian writers shouldn’t drive sports cars.
I traded my yellow Porsche for a pick–up truck
with a quarter million miles
and a rifle rack in the rear window.
Not all Indians come from Horse Cultures.
Not all Indians ride horses.
I’ve only been on a horse once and it threw me.
Writing by Indians should contain dogs.
Many Indian writers have had at least
one of their dogs run over by a pick–up truck
with a rifle hanging in the rear window.
History is written by the victors.
Indians didn’t always lose the battles.
Don’t believe everything you’ve ever read
or watched on television.
John Wayne’s real name was Marion, but directors figured
Marion the Cowboy couldn’t defeat Indians.
Columbus didn’t really discover America
the way you think he did.
The Navajo Nation is as big as Nebraska.
Bingo is Indian Social Security.
Federal enrollment is how the government
counts Indians to predict when we will be extinct.
Not all Indians are enrolled. I am enrolled.
Enrollment doesn’t mean anything.
There are 500 tribes in America. No individual speaks
for all of them, barely even for a single clan or tribe.
Some bigshot Indian writers think they speak for everyone.
Does an illiterate white shoe salesman in Idaho speak for you?
American universities teach American Indian literature
but hire almost no Indian writers at all.
White professors who have never seen a reservation
teach American Indian literature
even when there’s an Indian writer on faculty
because it’s trendy.
Some Indians go to tribal colleges
Where they are taught by white teachers
who want to be Indian. New Age white women
have sex with Indian men so they can become Indian.
You can’t become Indian by proximity.
America loves the Indian–sounding names of places,
but they don’t want Indians to live there.
It gives them a sense of connection to a land
upon which they have little history of their own.
Sometimes a sweat lodge is just a sweat lodge.
Some American sports teams are named for Indians.
There should be an Indian baseball team called
the Cherokee Crucified Christs complete with
a bleeding team mascot nailed to a wooden cross.
Would that hurt your sensibilities?
All Indians aren’t proud and defiant.
When I do something right, my Indian uncle
tells me I’ve earned an eagle feather.
Only Indians can own eagle feathers.
Nearly all published Indian writing is in English.
Almost no Indian writer speaks their Indian language.
Fewer yet can write in it.
Sii cetsiin koht’aene kenaege’, tsin’aen.
Indian children love to dance Indian–style
but they don’t understand a word the elders sing.
Indian boys love to beat Indian drums
while Indian girls sway in moving circles.
The hearts of Indian boys are tight–stretched drums.
The hearts of Indian girls are beautiful sad songs.
The government decimated bison
so that Indians would become vegetarians.
The government killed wild horses
so that Indian spirits would break.
The government sent Indian children to boarding schools
so they would forget being Indian. Missionaries built
The Church of Infinite Confusion so Indians would
forget being Indian.
I forget what I was trying to say.
British writers don’t have to write about Shakespeare.
French writers don’t have to write about Baudelaire.
Blacks don’t always have to write about slavery.
Indian writers don’t have to write about being Indian
or about dogs killed by trucks with gun racks
on reservations while fancy dancing,
wearing eagle feathers, and beating drums
while mouthing words to songs they do not know.
Audiences at readings by Indians are almost always white.
Many urban Indians write about life on the reservation
even when they’ve never lived on one because it sells better
than writing about going to Starbucks after shopping at the Gap.
Few Indians have Indian–sounding names. Non–Indians pretending
to be Indians adopt name like “Runs–Beside–Spotted–Ponies,”
‘Walks–With–Wolves,” or “Elk Cloud.”
A publisher once asked me to change my name
to a hyphenated one with a preposition and a spirit animal.
I asked, “How about ‘Johnny Fakes–His–Name–on–a–Weasel’?”
All Indian writers aren’t spiritually attuned to Nature.
Most are fearful of getting lost in the woods.
Some Indians write out of anger and despair.
All Indian writers are not angry and depressed.
Native America is drowning in a sea of alcohol.
Indians commit suicide ten times more often than whites.
Day after day, our hearts are turned into cemeteries.
The impoverished state of our lives is not self–inflicted.
Most Indian writers are mixed–blood
who hate the term “Half–Breed.”
I am the son of a half–breed father.
I am an outcast. Even my shadow
tries to hide its face in shame.
In 1492, two Indians stumble upon a billboard
in the middle of a clearing with the words:
Coming soon. America!
“What does it say?” asks the first Indian.
“I don’t know,” says the second, scratching his head.
“But I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with us.”
THE ALTERNATE HISTORY OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Lester Has–Some–Books builds a time machine
in his uncle’s garage and sets it to the day
Columbus discovers America.
Quickly, with the masts of three ships
lurching on the horizon, he sets up a big sign
on the beach:
WELCOME TO SPAIN!
Columbus spies the sign from the bay,
scratches his head, and orders all three ships
to turn around and head back out to sea.
DUKE SKYTHUNDER TRIES
A JEDI MIND TRICK ON
This is not the land you were looking for.
HOW TO MAKE BLUE RIBBON
INDIAN FRY BREAD
“Indians could spend their whole lives
looking for the perfect piece of fry bread.”
– Sherman Alexie, Reservation Blues
In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients:
Three cups of flour made from the ashes of failed Indian dreams
One cup of water made from the tears of Indian mothers
A pinch of salt, first thrown into open wounds of Indian fathers
Drop the rolled and molded dough into a pan of oil
hot enough to incinerate every Indian future
Remove fry bread when both sides turn brown and blistered
Thomas Two Fists
whittled a guitar from a tree
that had fallen during a storm
and killed a shaman. He carved
the tuning pegs from the bones
of a white buffalo.
he used the long gray hair of
old Indian mothers who had lost
their children and grandchildren
to alcohol and drunk driving.
Two Fists travelled from
reservation to reservation
and powwow to powwow
singing the blues.
Wherever he went,
Indians wrapped themselves in old blankets,
dreamed of forgotten homes and wept
dreamed of forgotten homes and wept.
INDIAN TIME MACHINE
invents a time machine in his sweat lodge.
So, he sets it back to Little Bighorn
with a video camera and tapes everything.
Then he invites the whole damn reservation
to watch the movie. Everyone’s eating popcorn and laughing.
It’s really something. You should see it.
Everything’s in color and there are these close–ups.
Here’s the part where Custer sends in the cavalry
catching the Indians off guard.
Oh, and here’s where three thousand Indians
chase them up a hill and whups their ass.
Duke Sky Thunder sits on his Indian motorcycle at a stoplight in Albuquerque
wearing a red bandana and a T–shirt
that screams Indian Pride,
Crazy Horse painted on the gas tank
and a license plate that reads INJIN.
A pickup truck with two Rednecks pulls alongside.
The closer dude leans out the window and hollers,
“I hate you sonabitches!”
The second dude with really bad teeth yells,
“Why don’t you go back wherever you came from?”
When the light turns green, Sky Thunder grins and shouts,
“Right back at ya!” and peels away –
his long black hair whipping in the wind like a stallion’s mane,
the smoke signal from his tailpipe rising like a finger.
About the author:
John Smelcer is a tribally and federally enrolled member of the Ahtna Tribe of Alaska and a member of Tazlina Village Traditional Council. In the mid–to–late 1990s, he was the executive director of the Ahtna Heritage Foundation, where he produced a dictionary of his language for which Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker provided forewords. He is the author of 45 books, most in Native American Studies. With Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), John co–edited Native American Classics (2013), a graphic anthology of 19th and early 20th century American Indian literature. He is a contributing editor to Ragazine.CC. Learn more at www.johnsmelcer.com
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Indian Life & Literature/John Smelcer
Icon for an Unknown Religion | Oil on Canvas | 39″ x 33″ | 1999
* * *
But Not Sublime
with Mike Foldes
If to describe Hawk Alfredson’s paintings as dreamlike goes without saying, why did I bother? Because they’re his dreams, not yours. To those of us simultaneously inside and outside this Swedish-American painter’s world, the images reach far and wide, as far back as Scandinavian and European legend, as far forward as tomorrow when an understanding and appreciation of his craft and skill blend seamlessly with the work itself. Easily recognizable are the armored knights and stone castles, but why then mix that into a visual cacaphony occasionally interrupted by the cold calm of river stones and embellished vortices. These images derive from a wide-ranging portfolio of influences the artist says often come to him at the threshhold of wakefulness. It is this “awakening” we are fortunate to observe in Alfredson’s art.
Alfredson was born in Orebro, Sweden in 1960. He arrived to New York City in 1995. From 2001 to 2010, he and his wife, photographer Mia Hanson, were residents of the Hotel Chelsea, where his work was commonly seen in staircases and hallways. He was interviewed by Abel Ferrara in “Chelsea On The Rocks”, and many of those paintings can be seen throughout the film. Hawk and Mia moved to Washington Heights; the hotel closed in 2012. Neither of them has a studio at the moment; Hawk paints in a small area on the floor in the apartment, and Mia works where the jobs take her. Each has numerous commercial pieces to his/her credit, including book and album covers, magazine covers and advertising.
* * *
Ragazine: What was your work like as a child, and how long did it take for you to actually develop drawing skills?
Hawk Alfredson: I just returned from Sweden two months ago and in my mother’s attic I found an old suitcase filled with childhood & teenage drawings. Early on, I remember it was in school at about age six or seven years when I realized that I was more advanced at drawing than the other kids my age and I really enjoyed doing it. Every year in school thereafter the teachers would pin my work up on the wall and the other children would crowd around to look at my work. Relating to this somehow, I’ve believed in reincarnation since I was 16, and feel today that I must have been an artist in one or several of my life-times. I guess it took a couple hundred years or many more to develop my skills, but I finally believe that I have become in this life the artist that I was always striving to be.
Q) Did you receive a lot of encouragement from your family? Were they interested in your art, or did they direct to other pursuits?
A) My father was a hobby painter and my mother and I spent a lot of time drawing and painting watercolors together when I was very young. When I was around the age of six, I vaguely remember watching a documentary about artists and realized then that this was to be my path…my calling. When I was seven or eight years old I announced to my parents that I wanted to be an artist after previously wanting to be an archaeologist. It was at this time that I finished my first oil painting, a black & white whale jumping out of the ocean. My father helped guide me through this. I remember thinking how much more difficult it was to paint well than it was to draw. It was a bit intimidating so I went back to drawing on my own for a couple years. Throughout school my teachers would often encourage my artistic skills to the point that it became natural for me to expect that I would move north to Stockholm to attend art school after finishing my compulsory education. And so this is what I did when I was 16. I left my small village in the south of Sweden and never returned.
Tight Antic II | Oil on Canvas | 59″ x 79″ | 1992-2007
Q) Your paintings remind me of Albrecht Dürer; perhaps that’s the Old World influence some reviewers have spoken about in your work. Was that an evolutionary or conscious process to arrive at that point?
A) I was never interested in artists who basically just throw some paint on a canvas & then smear it out with a broom or something. I’m always drawn to painters that work with a skillful technique. Because of this, very few contemporary artists really affect me. Visiting the great classical museums of the world, you come across great older works that share a commonality: technique. However, sometimes a painter might have “it” but they might fall short on technique. Technique in general isn’t everything. Many times the most important quality an artist must have is a life experience that comes across lucidly upon the canvas. I enjoy being surprised by work like this even more. As Dali once said, “An artist must have hands that are guided by an angel,” or words to that effect.
Q) With which of the classical surrealists did you or do you most closely identify?
A) Back when I was in art school in Stockholm in the late ’70s, it was Dali and Magritte. Today, Magritte doesn’t do much for me anymore, but Dali’s strongest work (from the ‘50s and ‘60s) is still fascinating on many levels.
While in art school I traveled all throughout Europe. And in my early 20s I had a very profound experience in Paris when I saw a Giacometti painting. It totally mesmerized me, and put me in a ghostly, dreamlike hypnotic state of mind where time and space disappeared. No other painter has ever managed to do this to me. What is absolutely unbelievable to me is that he is better known for his sculptures.
V10N5 Hawk Alfredson
Hawk Alfredson Paintings, V10N5
Soaraurora[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_these-senses-never-sleep.jpg]160These Senses Never Sleep
These Senses Never Sleep[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_a-dim-immortality.jpg]150A Dim Immortality
A Dim Immortality[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_lost-world.jpg]150Lost World
Lost World[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_icon-for-an-unknown-religion_72dpi.jpg]170Icon for an Unknown Religion
Icon for an Unknown Religion[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_fungicide.jpg]150Zen Window
Zen Window[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_chance-meeting.jpg]110Chance Meeting with Circlings
Chance Meeting with Circlings[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_stebuklingas-drugelis.jpg]110
Stebuklingas Drugelis[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_the-dragons-mreath.jpg]120The Dragon's Mreath
The Dragon's Mreath[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5-hawk-alfredson/thumbs/thumbs_the-preposterous-proposal.jpg]80The Presposterous Propos
The Presposterous Proposal
Q) How much a part does music play in the formulation of your work?
A) Music of all kinds has always influenced me. If I hadn’t become an artist, I probably would have found my way creating weird, uncategorizable music. The past years I don’t listen to music very often while I paint. I’ve found it to be too distracting, especially if there’s lyrics. However, if I do listen, it’s usually ambient music. The painting process needs total focus. Sometimes I get into a deep space within and nothing is of a distraction. It takes a good run of a couple days of intense work to get there, though. Generally, I’ve noticed the surrounding cacophonous noises of NYC are enough of a distraction and take the place of music. Paintings are sensitive objects. I believe they act as mystical recording devices soaking up the surrounding energy and music of their environment. If anyone can hear music seeping through my paintings, which some have said they can, then it’s most likely from all the sound energy involved in the painting process.
Q: I would imagine any artist coming to NY trying to make it in this scene would have great dreams, and unfortunately not everyone can make a living at it…. Who is your dealer now, and what would you say to someone just coming to New York who’s looking to make that kind of connection?
A: This question is actually quite complex. Basically, things have changed dramatically in NYC since I first got here in 1995. For instance, back then I had a show going on every day of the year for the first two years I was here. I would hop from one show opportunity to the next. The underground art scene was vital and still alive in the 90’s, especially in the East Village. And SoHo was of course going strong with established galleries. The neighborhood wasn’t overrun with fashion boutiques and aggressively competitive rents. These days, it seems artists have no place in a city that is desperate to make money simply to feed a machine. It’s an entirely different situation for the young artist coming to NYC now. For success, the young artist depends on an art establishment that is open to fresh ideas and is capable of taking a chance on an unproven talent. This is not the NYC we have post 9/11.
Q: Who are your current dealers?
A: I have kept an affiliation with my private art dealer in Stockholm since 1994. His name is Jan Linder. Here in the states, I’m represented by Limner Gallery in Hudson, New York. I also work closely with a couple other private art dealers here in New York City.
Q: How did you meet your wife, Mia?
A: We met at a gallery in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1997. I was having a solo show there and she walked in one day when I wasn’t around and took a good look at all the paintings hanging from floor to ceiling. She was immediately hooked and tracked me down. A couple years later we were living together in Stockholm. A Swedish journalist wrote about our meeting: “It was love before first sight. Mia felt Hawk’s presence, his language, yes his entire being just through studying the detailed paintings.”
Q: Your N.Y. history includes a long stint living at the Chelsea Hotel. In an artistic sense, I can only imagine it was a creatively communal experience. While you grew and prospered there, would you agree, “It’s not for everyone”?
A: Nine years at the Hotel is very difficult to put into a nutshell. We had insane neighbors sometimes. One actually accused me of painting her breasts when I had never even seen her naked… ever! I had a couple of my “Circling” paintings hanging in the 4th floor corridor where we both lived and she complained to the management that I was painting her breasts. The “Circling” paintings I had started long before I ever met her and honestly, I don’t even associate them with any part of the human form at all. For all of those nine years I had paintings hanging in the staircase, as well. Also in the lobby and in a few V.I.P. rooms. There were over 50 paintings of mine displayed in the Hotel. It was an amazing and very unique situation. The owner of the Hotel, Stanley Bard, encouraged me to hang as many paintings as I wished throughout the Hotel. And so I did. Unexpectedly, I noticed it wasn’t too long after I started hanging my oil paintings in the open spaces in the staircase that other resident artists did so, as well. There were some few paintings throughout the 10 floors of the staircase before Mia and I moved in – this was in 2001 – but it was sparse and uninspiring to be honest.
Q: Do you have any shows coming up?
A: I have work showing at Minerva Gallery, however outside of this I’m pretty open right now. I’m interested to hear from anyone who has an offer!
Q: Anything you would like to tell our readers that you always hoped someone would ask about but never did?
A: Verbal communication is not something I usually put a lot of effort into when it comes to my own artistic process. You will never see me giving a lecture or teaching a class on the subject of art. It’s difficult to talk about the intuitive artistic process so I’m glad I haven’t needed to delve into that too deeply here. To be honest, the more time advances, the more reticent I feel toward verbalizing my art. What I can say about my artistic process is that I am always hunting for the mysterious while I paint. When I begin a painting I have no definitive destination. Rather, while I work I encourage subliminal ideas and cosmic forces to collaborate with the process. In any case, I’d like to circle back to one of my favorite quotes from any artist- it’s from Jean Cocteau: “An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.”
For more images, see www.hawkalfredson.com, and facebook:
To purchase a copy of Alfredson’s book, click on this link:
* * *
About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This interview was conducted via email between February and May 2014.
* * *
August 29, 2014 1 Comment
Ida & Disa, photo by Mia Hanson
* * *
Hotel Chelsea Girl
Artful existence lets the light shine in
with Mike Foldes
Mia Hanson is one of those photographers who seems to sense the aura that surrounds her subjects, and then seeks to capture it with her camera. While many of her images are portraits, what separates her from so many portrait photographers is her ability to go beyond the mechanics of finding a location, setting up lights and filters, and pushing the shutter release. It’s evident she’s looking for more and finding it. No “same old, same old” there. A California native who grew up taking the daily dose of sunshine for granted and then living in the narrow canyons and uncertain weather of New York, Hanson’s experienced eye readily goes to light and shadow – principally light, as seen in the connectedness of Ida and Disa, the pale fluidity of “Victorian Kiss,” and even the sky seen through a matrix of bare limbs.
Hanson’s credits include a number of album, magazine, and book covers, as well as extensive work in fashion photography and commissioned portraiture. Some of her experiences living in the illustrious Hotel Chelsea are documented in an interview that took place in 2006, three years before the hotel closed. Hanson lives with her artist husband Hawk Alfredson, whom she met in 1997. They live in Washington Heights, New York City. An interview with Alfredson, and a gallery of his paintings, appears here:
* * *
Ragazine: To begin with, how did you happen to move into the Hotel Chelsea?
Mia Hanson: Hawk and I met in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in 1997- four years before we moved into the Hotel. We lived in Sweden two years after we met and decided to come back to NYC in 2001 since we soon missed the charged energy of the city. For our homecoming week, we decided to try out being Hotel Chelsea guests since we hadn’t nailed down an apartment of our own yet. It took about a day for me to realize that I didn’t want to live anywhere else in NYC but the Hotel.
Everyone we knew just assumed this wasn’t possible since we had little money and knew not a soul in the building. But I grew attached to the place quickly and knew the Hotel wanted us there. It’s a sentient building. Everyone who lives there will agree with this. If the building doesn’t like you, you will be driven mad. After the firm decision that the Hotel would be our new home, it was obvious that the next step would be to talk to owner and operations manager Stanley Bard. “Talk to Stanley about it”- that was the catch-all phrase for everything Hotel Chelsea. One day we made an appointment to show Stanley our respective art portfolios and he then immediately showed us a couple rooms from which we chose #421- located on the north-facing side, with the balconies out front. Then, we may have spoken briefly about monthly rent…and before we knew it we had the keys and were hanging up Hawk’s paintings sporadically on all 10 floors wherever there was open wall space to be found!
© 2003 Barbra Walker
Hawk & Mia, Room 421, Hotel Chelsea
Q: What was it like when you first moved in?
A: Day One kind of felt like all the Hotel days to me which was generally friendly, with an overall upbeat busy energy to the place, bordering on the chaotic at times. Even if there was a Hotel resident on the 9th floor and you lived on the 4th…they were still your neighbor in every regard. We got to closely know so many of the people who lived there and we still keep in touch with many. Everyone had a unique and diverse story. Film composers, fashion photographers, musicians, even a trans-gender cabaret performer, a U.N. associate diplomat and a kabuki knife-wielding expressionist painter!
Mia Hanson Photography, V10 N5
Victorian Kiss, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_balance-by-mia-hanson_72dpi.jpg]120
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_hawk-kungens-slott-stockholm.jpg]120Hawk Alfredson, Kungens Slott, Stockholm
Hawk Alfredson, Kungens Slott, Stockholm, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_eva-ii_72dpi.jpg]150
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_lea-rodger.jpg]120Lea Rodger
Lea Rodger, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_ida-disa.jpg]120Ida & Disa
Ida & Disa, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_ida-and-disa_72dpi.jpg]120
[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_ida-disa-iii.jpg]100Ida & Disa III
Ida & Disa III, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_terezka-up-close-a.jpg]120Terezka Up Close
Terezka Up Close, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_terezka-the-bethrothed-shrew_0.jpg]180Terezka the Betrothed Shrew
Terezka the Betrothed Shrew, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_mia22-hawk.jpg]160Hawk Alfredson
Hawk Alfredson, in character[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_eva-rhino.jpg]230Eva Rhino
Eva Rhino, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_disturbance-central-park-image-by-mia-hanson.jpg]160Disturbance Central Park
Disturbance Central Park, image by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_bettina-09.jpg]140Bettina 09
Bettina 09, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_jennica6.jpg]80Jennica 6
Jennica 6, photo by Mia Hanson[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/v10n5miahanson/thumbs/thumbs_tranquility-central-park-image-by-mia-hanson.jpg]90Tranquility
Tranquility, Central Park image by Mia Hanson
All images copyright Mia Hanson. Used with permission.
Q: How did the Hotel affect your photographic work?
A: There were two scenic aspects of the Hotel that I really liked to work with. The Hotel’s top floor skylight and the rooftop private garden that belonged to an eccentric cabaret raconteur for many years. The sun energizes me creatively and I like to work with it. While growing up in California, I took varying degrees of sunlight for granted most times and created photo shoots that utilized theatrical lighting both indoors and out as a way of separating myself from the sun-loving culture. It didn’t take long to realize that my most poetic images were photographed outside, in nature, utilizing sun and shadow. While at the Hotel I realized that the sun is my best creative partner. My photographs really started to feel more sensual and personal because of this, I believe.
Terezka, Hotel Chelsea rooftop, 2004, photo by Mia Hanson
Q: What do you look for through the lens when setting up a portrait?
A: I try to find the soul of the person in front of me. I try to find the essence of what makes them unique.
Q: Do you approach different people in different ways during a shoot?
A: Yes, every person requires a different approach. Not only are they entering my visual world but I am being allowed to enter theirs as well. Usually, this requires delicacy. Some I approach carefully if I know they are usually reticent with exposing themselves intimately either physically or emotionally. Others I can play with freely and guide them into uncomfortable positions. It all depends on what a person might be looking for while being photographed. The person in front of the camera has needs and goals for the shoot, too.
Q: What has been Hawk’s influence on you as a person and photographer? Can you imagine how your life and career would have evolved if you had not met?
A: We have been together now for 17 years and he has definitely helped to develop and sharpen my creative eye in many ways. We like to play a game of observation sometimes. He will ask me to study a newly finished canvas. Then a day later he will put a singular dot of paint somewhere unexpected and I must find where he placed it. (Hawk comments: She almost always find it, or if I change the colour in an area, or change the shape of something, even if it’s very subtle… she’ll usually finds it.)
Q: If you were able to work with any photographer living or dead, who would it be, and why?
A: First I would take the living. French fine-art photographer Sarah Moon, for example, or Italian Paolo Roversi. I feel these two photographers greatly exemplify the achievement of the elegant, mysterious and the sublime when photographing a person. They always maintain a fierce standard of authenticity while continuing to mystify their audience in beautiful ways.
To go back in time and visit the era of Weimar Germany through the lense of Baron Adolph De Meyer would be unforgettable. Sarah Moon has looked closely at De Meyers work, I believe.
The iconographic ideal of the feminine woman is represented by De Meyer and Moon with great ethereal glamour. Sarah Moon was a fashion model in the ’60s and became an influential fashion photographer by the mid-’70s. She’s known for bringing the “gamine-look” (of the turn-of-the-century) back into style with the pale-faced make-up, shadowy eyes and red doll-like lips. De Meyer was a homosexual man living and working in Germany at a time when being gay was a death-sentence for many; invalids and homosexuals were targeted for death camps in the ’30s along with people of of Jewish descent. I think both Moon and De Meyer are/were searching for their idealized feminine self with every photograph taken.
Q: The feminine form is well represented in your work…?
A: Most likely this can be attributed to the former situation. A search for the idealized feminine self. Now that I am in my mid-40’s, that search has narrowed to simply include a poetic representation of the idealized feminine self. I’m not searching for the mysteries of femininity any longer. There’s a wider angle to the “Unknown” as we mature. Can any camera capture this? That is a realm worth exploring.
Q: What camera equipment do you shoot with?
A: For my personal work, I shoot film. The cameras I have that accept film are a Mamiya (twin lense) that was purchased in Sweden by Hawk’s father in the 1950s. Also, I like working with the lenseless Holga camera – for it’s uncomplicated poetic nature.
The camera is just the groundwork of a photograph. The photographer from there must establish a sense of his or her own presence in the choice of diffusion lenses or diffusion materials as well as printing techniques.
Q: What is the best professional advice you have ever received as a photographer?
A: The best piece of advice took me nearly 20 years to assimilate and it came from a prominent gallery owner in Los Angeles, who only now I recognize as a wise man. The advice was to understand myself as a photographer who methodically works for the long-term to develop meaningful work. At the time I was 25 years old and had moved to NYC from San Francisco to continue my photographic studies while simultaneously landing commercial work. I took his words to be cryptic and unhelpful. But in retrospect, I am living the life he told me I would have. And it’s not a bad life at all. I set my own pace. I follow my own path.
Hawk Alfredson’s page can be seen here:
* * *
About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
This interview was conducted via email between February and July 2014.
* * *
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Mia Hanson, Photographer/Interview
Surprised in a Paris Galley | Paris, France | 2000
* * *
Life’s Work Not Over Yet
* * *
A quick look at Stephen Verona’s website and you soon find out you’re standing on the front porch of an archival history of 20th Century art, film, video, advertising, and more. From his groundbreaking film “Lords of Flatbush”, which propelled Verona to heights seen by few filmmakers, to his tenure as one of Madison Avenue’s advertising “Mad Men,” to an invitation to the Vatican in 2009 for Pope Benedict’s Address to Artists held in the Sistine Chapel, Verona not only made his mark, but has lived to see it recognized and appreciated. Verona’s creative drive remains alive and well even today, as he works to find funding for a documentary film that contrasts the poor, agrarian China he visited and photographed in 1980 with the thriving world class industrial and commercial setting of 2014.
We trust you’ll find his work here and on other websites to be worth investigating, and representative of the effort and attention to the human condition you can expect to see when MAO to NOW finally comes to a theater near you.
Stephen Verona / Photography
"Andy Warhol - The Signing" 1977 Los Angeles Number 1 of an edition of 20 is in the permanent collection of the Getty Museum.[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_duck-days.jpg]40
"Duck Days" Sun Valley, Idaho 2005[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_roy-lichtenstein.jpg]30
"Roy Lichtenstein" Los Angeles, California 1977[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_gassed.jpg]40
"Gassed" Pasadena, California 2006[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_cardinal-spellman.jpg]50
"Cardinal Spellman & the Archdiocese of New York" New York 1965<br />[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_checking-details.jpg]40
"Checking Details" Hong Kong, China 2007[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_the-meat-sniffer.jpg]50
"The Meat Sniffer" Paris, France 1970[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_woman-informing-herself.jpg]30
"A Woman Informing Herself" Cairo, Egypt 1989[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_mad-man.jpg]30
"Mad Man #1" New York 1972[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_alone-in-leningrad.jpg]40
"Alone in Leningrad" Leningrad, Russia 1988[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_roman-chariots.jpg]20
"Roman Chariots" Rome, Italy 2002[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_bored-buddhists-of-bhutan.jpg]30
"Bored Buddhists of Bhutan" Thimpu, Bhutan 2000[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_smoking-in-marrakesh.jpg]20
"Smoking in Marrakech" Marrakech, Morocco 1986[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_angkor-wat-2.jpg]20
"Angkor Wat" Angkor Wat, Cambodia 2000[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_dye-seller-of-kathmandu.jpg]30
"Dye Seller of Kathmandu" Kathmandu, Nepal 2000<br />[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_greeting-in-kathmandu-copy.jpg]30
"Greetings in Kathmandu" Kathmandu, Nepal 2000[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_holy-man-of-kathmandu.jpg]30
"Holy Man of Kathmandu" Kathmandu, Nepal 2000<br />[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-photography/thumbs/thumbs_3-barbers-no-waiting.jpg]30
"Three Barbers at Your Service" Montreal, Canada 1965
Stephen Verona / Paintings
CURLED UP IN CADEQUES |36” X 48” | 1988[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_girls-of-grimaud.jpg]10
GIRLS OF GRIMAUD | 31” X 25” |1981[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_louvre-light-11-79.jpg]10
LOUVRE LIGHT | 40” X 60” | 1979[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_man-and-his-angry-dog.jpg]00
MAN WITH HIS ANGRY DOG | 29” X 36” | 1981<br />[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_good-ole-boys.jpg]00
GOOD OLE BOYS OF SORGES |14” X 40” | 1996<br />[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_lovers-in-the-louvre.jpg]00
LOVERS IN THE LOUVRE | 31” X 47” | 1994[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_monks-making-mandala.jpg]00
MONKS MAKING MANDALA | 24” X 36” | 2006[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_gossip-at-the-beauty-shop.jpg]00
GOSSIP AT THE BEAUTY SHOP |40” X 40” | 1980[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_shanghai-sunset.jpg]10
SHANGHAI SUNSET | 48” X 72” | 1981[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_style-grace-in-motion.jpg]30
STYLE & GRACE IN MOTION | 36” X 48” |1984[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/stephen-verona-paintings/thumbs/thumbs_the-meat-sniffer-8-79.jpg]10
THE MEAT SNIFFER | 36” X 48" | 1979
All images copyright Stephen Verona. Used with permission.
A brief exchange with Stephen Verona
with Mike Foldes
Q) Who would you like to have worked with in film or on stage, but never had the chance to do so?
A) Then Marlon Brando, now Meryl Streep.
Q) What painter’s work do you like most, or an artist/teacher has influenced your art the most?
A) Picasso, Warhol, Rembrandt – How’s that for eclectic.
Q) Which of the arts do you think can best address politics?
A) Can? I think film has the potential, but hasn’t made a major statement because the Studios are still part of the giant complex that frowns on individual voices. That would leave posters as they seem to always creep into our lives and I believe shed some influence on our thinking. I don’t think of painting when I think of political statements. Although Picasso’s “Guernica” was a monumental exception. Even if that was more War than Politics.
Q) What is the next major project for Stephen Verona?
A) In 1980 I was in China to prepare for a movie that sadly never happened. I wish to return to photograph and video the changes for a traveling exhibit I now title: “MAO to NOW.” I wish to produce a coffee table picture book as well as a photo exhibit and video.
Q) What’s your favorite restaurant in LA?
A) As a foodie, that’s more difficult. We love Chinois on Main, but Mr. Chows in Beverly Hills is probably our favorite. We eat there regularly and I have since they opened in London and then New York and Beverly Hills. It’s hard to find a place in three cities that you know will always satisfy your taste buds. I used to have my table at the old Ma Maison where Wolfgang Puck started before Spago. I even painted the image for their menu as did David Hockney and Francois Gilot (Picasso’s Mistress). Good company.
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GOSSIP AT THE BEAUTY SHOP | 40” X 40” | 1980
Up Next: “MAO to NOW”
“In 1980 I went to China to work on what was to be the first American/Chinese Co-Production of a motion picture since WWII. Sadly the film was never made. The good news was that I was able take lots of photos. When I returned home I spent the next year painting, drawing and printing the photos. What I wish to do now is to return and capture those extraordinary changes. Then to produce a traveling exhibit as well as a Video and coffee table photographic book.”
— Stephen Verona
Find out more about Verona’s project: http://youtu.be/KMizZLblNYw
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About the interviewer:
Michael Foldes is founder and managing editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
The preceding miniview was conducted via email in July 2014.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on STEPHEN VERONA / Photography
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Photo: A scene at Club Golem
When I look back at all the events I’ve seen in Hamburg in the past year I feel the awe expressed by the replicant Roy in “Blade Runner” just before he expires:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”
I’ve never journeyed through the galaxy, but I’ve taken the s-bahn to places like the Golden Pudel Club, a Hanseatic version of CBGB, and across from the Fischmarkt, that venue called Golem, with its secret doorway behind a wall of antiquarian books, down to a crypt and subterranean cinema. Or Hasenschaukel in St. Pauli with its unbelievably rich repertoire of events, not to mention a dozen other tiny venues all within a five minutes’ walk from the Reeperbahn but nevertheless entirely unknown to the waves of tourists one leaves behind in the main street. The real secret in Hamburg is HFBK, the University of Fine Arts, with its end of semester parties, a broiling fusion of exhibits, music and performance art. These are the places in Hamburg where I’ve collected my most memorable cultural impressions.
Artist-musician Tellavision (Fee Kürten) sounds like Björk on quaaludes. She weaves dreamscapes out of loops and samples, increasing their complexity with a fine sense of balance and detail until one is hopelessly captivated. It’s like waking up into an aural hall of mirrors behind the usual realm of sleep. One leaves the self behind and follows the alluring voice and sounds into a seductive infinity. Her voice is deep and soulful and would be right at home singing a blues standard, yet here it is exploring the surreal. There’s a strong positive quality about her music, as if she were a sorceress of sound casting white spells of mystery and wonder. These are my impressions after seeing her perform twice and listening to her albums.
Fee is a student at HFBK. My first time seeing her perform was at Golem this February, as part of a larger program Stimmen (Voices). Students of Felix Kubin presented their audio projects, an evening of fascinating sound experiments, lectures and demonstrations. The program concluded with a short set by Fee. I was astonished at the intricate and layered wall of sound she conjured out of nowhere. Afterwards I explored more of her music, well-represented at bandcamp. I started with Music on Canvas and We Love the Omniscient Narrator adding them to my loves. I learned she played often in underground clubs in Poland, where she is enthusiastically received. Concerts in Hamburg are scarce, but I finally saw her perform again at an art exhibit, in a darkened cellar below the main activity, standing before the projection of an abstract painting of hers. The empty basement filled quickly after she began playing. It seemed unplanned, but she gave us an encore, her own interpretation of the 1963 Ronettes’ number Be My Baby. That was greatness.
Some while ago Fee sent copies of her first album Music on Canvas into the world and heard back from the label Feeding Tube Records in Northampton, MA, which released it on vinyl last year. In September she begins a visit in Boston including plans to tour with ZEBU! Her newest album, Funnel Walk, will surely be a part of that. It continues where her previous releases left off, a surreal nightscape with sounds of shadows dancing festively, and always her engaging voice guiding the listener to secret corners of imagination.
October 14th @ Retirement Home @ SoPro, Northampton/MA
October 19th @ Whitehaus, 10 Seaverns Ave., JP/Boston/MA
November 8th @ Hassle Fest Extension, Aeronaut Brewery, 12am-ish, 14 Tyler St, Somerville, MA 02143
November 18th @ Midway Cafe with BATHAUS and BLK BX
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Schnipo Schranke are two sweet girls singing about sex. There’s more too it than that, of course, but when they came to Hamburg this January it was quietly, under most everyone’s radar. Last summer (2013) they played three concerts, opening for Nuclear Raped Fuck Bomb and HGicht, with Rocko Schamoni credited as having discovered them. Now they shared a bill with Mary Ocher at the Golden Pudel Club. I had never heard of Schnipo Schranke before, so had a look at their Youtube channel to find several undiscovered gems: Mein Leben als Imperator (My Life as Imperator), a hip-hop rap of Star Wars meets street wit. A love song to Harry Potter that winds up taking him to bed. And a song about fuck buddies (Fickbuddy). Schnipo Schranke are like the Fugs, Tom Lehrer and your favorite 1960s’ girl band rolled into one.
The set at Pudel Club began with Fritzi Ernst on drums (and flute) and Daniela Reis on keyboard – halfway through the set they switched places. The texts were well-written, dealt openly with sexuality and were hard as hell for a non-native speaker of German to follow, at least on first listen. My favorite song of the night was Cluburlaub, a song about an “extremely enriching” vacation experience. Bits and pieces from the lyrics: my psychiatrist killed himself last week, booked a ticket to Panama, self-service ha! – everything is brought to me, flat-rate at the cocktail bar, vodka and soda, gangbang with the tour guides, topless at the cocktail bar, naked at the cocktail bar, and so on. My other favorite, Intensiv was played in the style of an early rock and roll ballad with lines like “Baby, dein Sperma schmeckt so intensiv” and “Küss mich da wo die Sonne nicht scheint” which I leave for the interested scholar to translate. Describing more of the relationship (my translation) “come in my arms / come in my mouth” and the end of the story, “I was so in love with you, you were so into me.” Outrageous, ironic, but kernels of truth. That describes their texts.
At that time they didn’t have a cd or record with them. They apparently hadn’t recorded anything at all except their Youtube videos. In April a song of theirs appeared on the label Staatsakt, on the Keine Bewegung sampler. Their contribution was Pisse (Piss), a standout breakup song which become a sensation over the summer. Most of the album reviews singled out that particular song. The alternative Internet station Reboot.fm played it twice in a row on one of their broadcasts. No one can listen to it just once! The song is remarkable for the unbelievable rhymes and for putting to words what no band has ever done, a breakup as viewed through the nuances of oral sex. The official video for Pisse was banned on Youtube and had to be moved to Vimeo (see links below).
Their next concert in Hamburg was in June at the small bar Strandgutfischer in St. Pauli, by invitation of the owner. Word of mouth and Facebook filled the entire venue.Two weeks later they appeared at Golem before another full, enthusiastic house, including an introduction by Rough Trade artist Frau Kraushaar. Triumphant gigs, each of them. By this time they had a set of self-made EPs along with them, with individual polaroid photos and three songs, Pisse / Schranke, and a different, completely unknown demo on each. I have four of them by now. One of the demos was Vorhang (When the curtain goes up), about the “first time,” in quite a number of variations, yet sounding so innocent. The first lines:
When the curtain rises, the first time always hurts a little
When the curtain rises, there’s no turning back, because it’s too late
And when it’s happened, you start to write songs, shine with that certain glow
Hey, it’s totally normal the first time
It hasn’t happened yet, but today I’ll say goodbye to my virginity…
As the ultimate subversive prank this song must be smuggled into a purity ball for that special father-daughter dance. Musically it fits perfectly, and afterwards if someone listening understands German the story would go viral. I feel certain that Schnipo Schranke will continue to take the underground cultural scene by storm, even if mainstream radio never plays a single song of theirs.
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Katherina Messer is a woman of dark personas. Known also as SKEWOLF, Miss Anthropy, or Werewolf Sucker she is an artist-filmmaker who studied at the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design as well as HFBK in Hamburg. A few years ago I somehow landed on the mailing list for her Misanthropy Lounge events in which she DJed a varying range of genres such as punk, grindcore, black metal, death metal, industrial, military pop, wave, noise and neofolk, and more. The accompanying posters were terrifying as they were titillating. Skinned corpses in passionate embrace, crucifixion art, bloody ejaculations along with occasional self-portraits blurred and defaced.
One day Katharina’s mail announced a live concert of her band THERNST, a contraction of “The Ernst” also a play on words with the German word for earnestness or severity. Not knowing entirely what to expect, I went. The concert was held at HFBK during one of the semester parties, in a fairly large lecture hall. Purple-green hues projected onto a screen behind the band painted an eerie mood. The first number set the pace of the band. Rumba Oma (Rumba Grandmother) – electronic, primal and minimalistic, swirls of Neue Deutsche Welle, noise, industrial and death wave. The lyrics could have been an homage to a song by Palais Schaumburg which repeated calls of “Telefon, Blumenhalter” over and over.
Katharina was dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and a deadpan expression, operating the controls. Next to her stood bandmate Taeckgo Goldt on keyboard, like a robot out of Kraftwerk. Patrick Baumeister delivered vocals that morphed from emotional detachment into a manic extreme. Another number Ping Pong Match – Tennis Turnier was wonderfully audacious, a funeral march played in the style of the early computer tennis games. Hundewelpen auf Ebay (Puppy dogs in Ebay) was equally audacious, with yelping dog samples, and strangely sweet.
As the evening progressed, the combination of low key music, irreal lighting and serious personas developed into a powerful mesmerizing force. Students began projecting shadows and shapes onto the screen, contributing a sense of of de-evolution, of dissolving into the noise. Towards the end of the concert Stefanie discarded her emotionless veneer and vivaciously shouted into the audience, “You want more?” She went on to play the keyboard with her entire body. This was as underground as it gets, music for the dark caverns of Hamburg, where oblivion is master.
THERNST has played subsequent concerts around Hamburg, including at B Movie and coming up in September at Nachtasyl. See them if you have the chance.
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
Photos by Fred Roberts, except Thernst, by Thernst.
August 29, 2014 4 Comments
Re: The Common Core
by Jim Palombo
I just recently made a drive from central Mexico to upstate New York – most likely the last time a trip of this nature will happen for me. In any event, there were plenty of stops and starts along the way and certainly no shortage of thoughts that occurred as the miles passed. In short, one can’t help but fall into a reflective state as places and faces go by.
The day following my arrival in New York, I was reading the Sunday New York Times and was struck by a piece titled, “Common Core, Through the Eyes of a 9 Year Old,” by Javier Hernandez. It was an excellent review of the new curriculum effort for secondary students, one primarily aimed at increasing their critical thinking skills through a modified series of math, English and social studies courses. As an educator myself, I could readily attest to the need for such an effort. Unfortunately, what seemed to be happening more than anything else was a significant amount of frustration and anxiety among the students, teachers and parents involved, particularly in regards to the amount of testing occurring that was meant to measure both the students’ progress and the Core design itself. In brief, and despite the fact that the problem of improving our future citizens’ thinking skills demands a great deal of “work in progress” patience, it seems the initiative is already receiving a failing grade.
Now you might be wondering what my cross-countries’ drive has to do with the reading of this article? Well, the connection is that in reading the article, and still in somewhat of a haze from my mini-odyssey, I started to visualize the Common Core effort in terms of a vehicle, one being driven by “thinking tools” through the chaotic countryside that is American education. Of course along the way, and much like my trip, there would be a myriad of experiences in the offing. In this instance, one would encounter teachers and administrators at both secondary and post-secondary levels, some of whom are well-versed in critical thinking but many who are not. And there would also be the parents, some who are well-versed in critical thinking, but many who are not. And then there would be the overall “general public,” who show no hesitancy in offering opinions at a moment’s notice, yet who also fall into the same “many who are not” category in terms of critical thinking. And finally, there would be the numerous educational and governmental agencies, most of which seem to be suffering from their own gap in clear thinking while continually trying to justify the significance of their existence. In essence, then, this imaginary trip by the Common Core vehicle would be uncovering a slew of “thinking related” shortcomings that reached well beyond the substance of what was actually at focus – shortcomings that coincidentally could well be tied to the frustration, anxiety and impatience being exhibited.
With this image in mind, I began to consider other like journeys, i.e., if similar “vehicles of thought” were driven along other institutional highways, like down the roads of our justice system, or social service processes, or the government, or the military, or the media. They would surely encounter much the same result: people/agencies being upset based on their own shortcomings; people/agencies feeling attacked by something new they really aren’t sure about/comfortable with – in essence people/agencies struggling with doing something (or not doing it) that would make them “think.” In other words, and as the Common Core initiative is doing with the educational process, the systems would be being exposed in more ways than anticipated.
Although I found these parallel thoughts intriguing, I may not have chosen to write about them in an article. However, the next day there happened to be a related piece in the Albany Times-Union, titled “Returning to the beginning for Common Core” by Fred Lebrun. Mr. Lebrun’s focus was on re-examining the pitfalls of the Core effort, especially the rush to put the program into effect in New York. It seemed, especially for the public, that what was occurring in the State provided validation for the assumption that the entire initiative was ill-fated and poorly planned.
The article was well written but, a bit like the New York Times’ piece, it didn’t seem to go far enough in terms of referencing how deep the problems at hand might run, or that a particular “work in progress” patience would be required, or as important, how we might have gotten into the situation in the first place, i.e., what were the motivating factors that fueled our distraction from things like critical thinking and reinforcing our citizenship skills? And this brought me back to again considering not only the Common Core “drive” but also the essence of what the other “vehicles of thinking” trips might uncover.
So the two articles gave rise to this article whose point is that in considering the Common Core initiative, one must be aware that there is simply more to consider. In this light the Common Core experience can be seen as bringing to the surface how change, particularly when addressing deep-rooted issues, should always be considered a long term effort, one that will be riddled with hurdles and one that will be painstakingly intensive and time-consuming. After all, it took us a long time to get where we are today.
And we must keep in mind that the educational arena is not our only area of concern. Despite many well-intentioned efforts most of our social infrastructure (including the public, non-profit and private sectors) is decaying, sagging under the weight of bloated bureaucracies, bloated egos and bloated paychecks, the inconsistencies of policies and procedures, the effects of under or misdirected worker education, and under served clients. And, as with Common Core, we must be willing to absorb the re-tooling tasks, taking special care in not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, especially as it may not be clear as to the substance of either.
As a “last but not least” thought, there remains another important consideration. It appears that with all the problems on our collective table, problems that most of us elders have been part of creating (and continue to perpetuate) we tend at many turns to try to hold the least responsible party responsible for the difficulties we are now facing – the children. In other words it appears that we like to point to them while saying that it’s their turn to take on the concerns of the world. And this is usually done without the requisite acknowledgement of the mess that we have put them in. This of course makes little sense to them, and it also opens the door for them to ask us directly, if by nothing more than intuition, what exactly we have been doing in terms of addressing our own lack of critical thinking skills – the lack of which is much more a part of what’s on our country’s problem-table than are the tests now sitting in front of them.
**The article following Mr. Hernandez’s piece in the New York Times deserves attention. It is titled “Graduates Cautioned: Don’t Shut Out Opposing Views” by Richard Perez-Pena and it highlights several commencement speeches made at the graduations from several of our country’s post-secondary institutions. In short, the speeches all seem to underscore the notion that “thinking,” both on emotional and intelligence levels, is a point of particular importance, something that seems to have gotten lost along our collective way. Comments suggest the need for tolerance of ideas, openness, not being afraid to fail in thinking or in action, in taking a stand and even getting in trouble – all within the context of reaching toward purposes larger than individual gain. So, as with the Common Core initiative, and consistent with what the young college graduates are now facing, the suggestion seems to be that “more” will be required to contend, given what the world has now become. And, hopefully for the better, and hopefully with our legitimate help, they will be up to the task of thinking through what this “more” will actually be. And this certainly spells a special kind of fuel for the “vehicles of thinking” that will need to hit the road on the daunting effort’s behalf.
About the author:
Jim Palombo is politics editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Politics/Jim Palombo
This Is for Life:
Kathryn Levy’s Disquieting Reports
Review by Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles
Book Title: Reports; Type: Poetry
New Rivers Press, 2013
ISBN #: 978-0-89823-286-8 9 ($14.95)
83 pages; 6″ x 9″
The semi-divine, for some of us, alchemist of language and sentiment, Rainer Maria Rilke, once advised 19-year-old fledgling poet, Franz Kappus, that “nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism.” I take his memorable exhortation to mind as I pick up Kathryn Levy’s newly published second book of poems Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013) and reflect on some of the strange pleasures I found in “art” as showcased in it.
First of all, the volume is slim enough to seem non-threatening when you first see or pick it up. It is also a brief eighty pages of similarly slim, down-the-left-margin-running poems. Its cover is as evocative a cover for a book of poems as I believe any could and should be. And how apropos these initial, superficial observations seem! for in its four-part span, various themes will be tried after: here loneliness, there rage; here love, there the indiscriminate, indistinct sweepings in and out of random indecision or death—or, which is worse (a poem in Reports assures us), even paralysis, a state that takes many forms. The book works as lure. It invites, then beautifully unsettles.
Indeed, Levy’s poems in Reports seem to provide a need as well as create a demand for the book’s well-chosen title, for what is experienced in these poems is the result of intense witnessing, of personal or shared elations, of personal or shared shocks. Many of the poems take hold of a reader and run him/her through a sort of psychic gauntlet, one that is as strangely ravishing as it is intensely frightening.
Four poems from Reports that illustrate what I have tried to phrase adequately are: “In the Place in the Woods”, “Wedding”, “A Wonderful Life” and “Exposed to the Winds.” Each of these briskly paced pieces called out for specific attention, shocking me awake (with harrowing surprise) as did a few other pieces in this disquieting second collection I will not be able to get to at present.
Disquieting is no hyperbole. Levy’s “In the Place in the Woods” proves this from beginning to end. Here is a narrative dilemma, lyrically elided, presenting a child, a woman, a blind man, a not clarified “they” in a sort of “selva oscura” where “the shooting continues.” As if Levy had ripped this poem’s situation right out of our now too-routine for this type of crime headlines, a child “clutches/ rage in his fists” and:
his gun at the sky and
the trees those leaves
the birds who keep flying
for he believes “they/ have to be taught”:
I can’t see
anymore – so I have to hang
onto this gun…
Words like shooting, begs, blind, closet, bends, pounding, clutches, tumbles, explosion, murder, rage, sacrificed, refusing, pokes, hang, gun possess us in unremitting sequence from the first line to the last until we have become every character in the tragic “In the Place in the Woods.” We become the enraged child, the woman who tries to stop and comfort him, the blind man who hides, even the trees, leaves and birds at one remove from their exit. We become, too, the undisclosed “they” − those who witness, those who move on as if “uncaring,” those who must “be taught.” This poem’s great strength, if brevity and pacing are put after, is its inconclusive finger-pointing. Who is at fault for setting innocence to rage? Who is its victim?
Levy’s “Wedding,” a second poem from Reports, moves us from blind rage to a marital celebration. In this also lyrically elided poem, the poet conjures up a common scene – a wedding. Here there is song and dance and ritual “patterns”—here, too, these give way to “the ground/ slipping beneath us” as we are whisked by emotion and metaphor to this startling comparison:
….like watching your wake
as the boat presses
into the wind the sails
swell the hand grasps
the powerful tiller − this
could lead us to death −
for a marriage contract is, in faith and legality, a risk – a departure into deeper, unpredictable waters. And here again the poet “grasps” for grounding and possibly control by locking in on the minister who witnesses, but who also places “hands upon hands” and declares, “…This/ is for life -” Are we at a celebration or arrived at another kind of “wake”? The reader is given no easy or conclusive answer. A marital vow, after all, promises no sureties. By this point readers of Reports can be left feeling as if they had begun a poem by George Oppen or Louise Gluck and arrived somewhere else entirely. Its four times depicted “flowers” seem to conceal more than they decorate.
Who reads to be startled? Who takes his/her time to enact and/or join a poet in such inconclusive witnessing? Perhaps readers who demand, like Levy, that poetry take them to the breath-taking edge, daringly – with nothing freely given or mapped out before or after. Thus “A Wonderful Life,” also in Reports, flashes on and off, and, like a bolt of lightning, dazzles and singes. It begins innocently enough with laughing and “a party at/ Christmas time.” The speaker in the poem ventures to a store and is unable to decide on what to purchase. Why the confusion? Is there nothing left? Is the money at hand too little? Why the anxiety that leads to “Tearing/ the dollars to pieces”? Levy changes voice for pictorial dilemma as economic collapse is considered and distant, Scrooge-like “men with the gold/ bars in their pockets” are judged, even as they are shown:
laughing at a dinner, mumbling at the bedside
of another friend who is dying – and
gripping the bars as tightly as they can…
A line further we read: “In/ this world you have to survive.” Clear accusation also does not assuage in Reports. Instead readers are made to ask, “For What?…For/ what?”
Kathryn Levy’s Reports is a collection of truly risky psychical dilemmas survived; the strange power of the whole, as in its parts, is its brave gleaning into the multifaceted nature of what is ultimately, in our moral-hungry world, termed beautiful or meaningful. Like “Exposed to the Winds,” one of its final poems, asks, “will the storms ever stop?…./….did you think the storms were the worst of night?” The paralyzing answer is “rush through these halls/ to find/ even one sound// they are all gone.” So are clever or tender words to appraise this book of poems. Whoever reads it can either hide in an actual or metaphorical closet like the blind man mentioned earlier or else rise to witness, report.
About Kathryn Levy:
Kathryn Levy is the author of the poetry collections, Reports (New Rivers Press, 2013) and Losing the Moon (Canio’s Editions, 2006), as well as The Nutcracker Teacher Resource Guide (NYC Ballet Education Department, 1996), a guide to poetry instruction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including Slate, Cimarron Review, Hanging Loose, Provincetown Arts, The Seattle Review, The Minnesota Review, The Southampton Review, and the Manhattan Poetry Review, among others, as well as the anthologies The Light of City and Sea, We Begin Here: Poems for Palestine and Lebanon, and Adventures in the Spirit. She has received numerous writing fellowships, including awards from Yaddo, the Blue Mountain Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation. Levy was founding director of The Poetry Exchange and the New York City Ballet Poetry Project, two poetry-in-the-schools organizations. She divides her time between Sag Harbor and New York City.
Kathryn Levy’s website for more information: http://kathryn-levy.com
Kathryn Levy’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the reviewer:
Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles is currently a high school teacher and former adjunct professor of writing and literature at Miami-Dade College and St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing graduate of Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles is a poet, literary critic, translator, plus enthusiastic advocate for peace-making via ecological and spiritual renewal.
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Whale of Desire, a Jacob’s Wrestle
Review by Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles
Whale of Desire, by Micah Towery; Cat In the Sun Press, 2013
ISBN/EAN13: 099115231X (9780991152315) ($12.00)
76 pages; US Trade Paper, 5.5″ x 8.5″, English, B&W
….What unlike things must meet and mate;
A flame to melt—a wind to freeze;
Sad patience—joyous energies;
Humility—yet pride and scorn;
Instinct and study; love and hate;
Audacity—reverence. These must mate,
And fuse with Jacob’s mystic heart,
To wrestle with the angel—Art.
-Herman Melville, from “Art”
I recently read Micah Towery’s first book of poems Whale of Desire (Cat in the Sun Press 2014) and came away from the experience thinking of two key figures: Jacob and Herman Melville. Jacob, of biblical renown, came easily to mind due to the uneasy wrestle between the personal and spiritual observed in the poems of Whale of Desire, moreover, because of how Towery attempts to keep these many times dual strains immediate, arresting, fortifying, even while establishing a name for himself. I thought also of Herman Melville, not only because he and his work are alluded to directly and indirectly in the volume, but because Melville’s lines above, taken from his poem/credo “Art,” neatly summarize, for me, the best of what is to be found in Micah Towery’s Whale of Desire, that is, a poet’s wrestle to have the material and transcendental fuse.
That many of the poems in Whale of Desire conjure up a poet/Jacob can be quickly seen in the personal and spiritual “wrestlings with the angel” that turn into poems like “Hunter (Seraph)” and “Moth (Psalm 39).” In “Hunter (Seraph)” readers come across a man (the poet?) who:
self to staunch the lode
out in a cold brume and sags
around him, high in the tree,
where he and his body hang,
in hopes that once today
he’ll spear a searching ray
into some chest –
after which he’ll lay his able back
down and rest…”
Readers are further told that the end of this “staunch” effort, which also mirrors the Passion of Christ and perhaps even the subsequent piercing of his side, is that “searching ray”, which is among “the first/ fruits of them that sleep.” But a “searching ray” to understand himself, others, the divine? For sure all three, but mostly the divine one being addressed as both giver and destroyer of beauty in “Moth (Psalm 39)” where a reader overhears how the divine one snatches:
… away another’s beauty
in gloating silence, leaves us bleached,
belly-up whales on the sand’s ecru…
while a few lines later the same man/moth complains, “Not even a bone to gnaw at when I’m hungry?”, which question leads to the bitter-sweet:
… your beauty
is a bitter sponge of lye you lift up daily
to my mouth, while you consume
me with the blows of your hand – my beauty,
a moth, feeding, still hungry.”
The fusion of actions described above become a startling transformation or revelation, like many others in this book, that brings to mind the Suffering Servant Christ, St. John of the Cross’s moth in “Super Flumina Babylonis” or from Book One (Desire and Detachment) from his Dark Night of the Soul, John Donne’s hammer and anvil in “Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God,” several meditations in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Wreck of the Deutschland” and Leda of William Butler Yeats’ “Leda and the Swan,” a startling revelation or transformation which is uneasily arrived at suddenly, finally, which is “the point” of such a redeeming, though we are not told this directly, struggle.
Two other Jacob’s wrestle lyrics of power and refreshed, even fortifying imagery are “Prologue” and “On The Refrain Taken From An Old Hymn.” In “Prologue” readers are told quite literally that a “hammer was the face of God” and several lines later “But man tired/ seeing his own face in the face of the hammer, when he met/ the hammer in the cool of the morning,/ every morning,” lines which lead to a wholly original and surprising conclusion. “On The Refrain Taken From An Old Hymn,” the poem that closes this book, the poet tells his soul “Be still” no less than ten times in a poem of twenty three lines and he tells it to be so with deeply sensed and down-to-earth catalogued images like the “condensation on a beer glass,” “my father deep in reading contemplation/ or when napping/ or thick stained glass” or the “way my mother draws blood from her patients.” Whale of Desire closes with ten be stills, but, of course, we come to sense this cannot and will not be so, hence an ongoing wrestling and its tripartite consolation: transformation, revelation, poetry.
Indeed among the highest felicities of Towery’s first book is the rarity of coming across an American writer of any age, male or female, especially one with Christian leanings, who can wrest and share such spiritual grandeur in mostly formal poetry without turning it into the one-scent pleases all potpourri of prevalent consumerist pseudo-mysticism or without rapping one over the head with hand-me-down, splintery ruler platitudes. While Micah Towery’s Whale of Desire also brilliantly engages more day-to-day coming-of-age themes, among them growing up, work, the experiential souvenirs of travel, falling in love, plus a young man’s trying to make sense of things, which more directly honor material pursuits, I revel in the fact that I am left “feeding, still hungry” by the spiritual honesty and mystical questing of this first book. I am tempted to refer loosely to two more figures Whale of Desire made me recall as I close, figures who could lead to another topic completely, Jonah and Jack Kerouac. Those who know these two prophetic figures and who go on to read Whale of Desire will know how, so far, Micah Towery’s trajectory seems to mirror and simultaneously deviate from these figures and their studied, much talked about paths.
About the author:
Micah Towery helps run thethepoetry.com and teaches at Indiana University – South Bend.
About the Reviewer:
Jorge L. Rodriguez-Miralles is currently a high school teacher and former adjunct professor of writing and literature at Miami-Dade College and St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. He is also an MFA in Creative Writing graduate of Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. Jorge Rodriguez-Miralles is a poet, literary critic, translator, plus enthusiastic advocate for peace-making via ecological and spiritual renewal.
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* * *
The Kidney Sellers:
A Journey of Discovery in Iran
Review by Matthew Ray
The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran
by Sigrid Fry-Revere, Carolina Academic Press, 2014
ISBN 978-1-55507-635-4 Hardback $35, 254 pages
A post from Bioethics International on the bioethics.net blog[i] from October 2013 acknowledged, “Paying living donors for their kidneys would reduce the number of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients on dialysis and transplant wait lists, and save the healthcare system money.” What this post does not state is that doing so also has the potential to vastly improve the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people. With this idea at the fore, Drs. Fry-Revere and Bastani recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with donees, donors, administrators, and overseers of the Iranian system from throughout the country. Upon their return to the United States, Dr. Fry-Revere’s interns at the Center for Ethical Solutions[ii] began translating the many hours of footage and compiling this information into usable data to garner insight about the Iranian system.
Whereas Dr. Fry-Revere admits that she initially intended to publish this information as a manuscript, the nature of her findings changed that portrayal into one of discourse. She gives an honest reflection about her pre-conceived notions before and during her trip, and lays out those preconceptions throughout the book as they become applicable. This presentation lends itself well to gaining an understanding of how the country’s religious and social dogmas direct the mechanism of transplantation, as well as how we as a predominantly Western audience may check our preconceptions while grappling with understanding the book. Many of the facets of a system espoused as “altruistic” must necessarily discuss socio-political mores of the system in question. Since Iran is a predominantly Muslim country and seemingly devoid of much “Western” influence, the format as a book telling the story intertwined with an expose of the system aids in understanding how Drs. Fry-Revere and Bastani came to their conclusions about the nature and scope of the Iranian system, in addition to its benefits and shortcomings.
The author provide continuous discourse with strong, yet hopeful, condemnation for the US system of organ transplantation. To quote,
“The United States should be ashamed to be outdone by a country like Iran. This is not to suggest that what Iranian has done is flawless. The Iranians should be more proactive about informed consent and provide life-long health insurance for donors, and [since the systems are regionally governed] some are lacking in the financial and medical resources necessary to make any form of organ-procurement system work. It also would improve the Iranian system if they could find a way to take the bargaining out of living-kidney donation, perhaps by raising the government contribution to the going rate of four or five million tomans [approximately US $50,000, when adjusted for purchasing power parity and the benefits received by donors] so fewer donors will haggle for more, and fewer will feel cheated or undervalued. The United States, on the other hand, could introduce compensated living-kidney donation without facing most of the problems Iran has faced. Unlike Iran, informed consent is already part of the U.S. medical and social ethos, and administratively, paying donors instead of paying for dialysis would be an easy transition.[iii]”
While arguing that neither the American nor Iranian systems are perfect, the author makes powerful, and compelling, recommendations to aid in our plight facing the shortage of adequate transplantable organs. Given the gravity both in lost quality of life and in financial mismanagement, it seems that our system could greatly benefit from some of their insight. If we can learn from mistakes made, and adapt our policies to allow for the possibility of compensated donation, then the understanding Dr. Fry-Revere has brought back from Iran could be used to greatly change the way we approach transplantation, and for the better.
End Stage Renal Disease presents an immensely problematic issue in modern medicine. If we can alleviate some of the bottleneck to advancing our stance on the issue of compensated altruistic living-donor organ transplantation, we can begin to reshape the system of management of these complicated patients. The Kidney Sellers details a compelling account of not only how we can benefit from the lessons learned in Iran, it also gives us the opportunity to use this information to benefit many, many people in the process.
 I say this as a Westerner who has been to the Middle-east on vacation, but never to Iran, and never having lived in a totalitarian state. I do not have any firsthand experience with the country, and much of my understanding comes from the published news-media and in discussion with acquaintances about the area.
 See discussions about the possibility of adapting a compensated living-donor organ transplantation program in the United States for more insight into the debate.
 I say this as a Westerner who has been to the Middle-east on vacation, but never to Iran, and never having lived in a totalitarian state. I do not have any firsthand experience with the country, and much of my understanding comes from the published news-media and in discussion with acquaintances about the area.
[i] bioethics.net. 2013/10/paying-kidney-donors-can-save-help-patients/)
[iii] Kidney Sellers, pp. 291
i Kidney Sellers, pp.7
ii Kidney Sellers, pp.8
About the reviewer:
Mat Ray has an MA in Bioethics from NYU, and is in his last year of medical school at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. He plans to become a full-spectrum family physician and work with the National Health Services Corps to provide medical services to people in medically under-served communities in the Northwestern regions of the US. He has worked with the Center for Ethical Solutions since 2009 as an intern, and was promoted to scholar in 2010. His interests include understanding how decisions affect quality of life outcomes, and how those surrounding the medical course for death and dying can be better implemented to ensure a peaceful and fulfilling end to life.
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In the Pink
by William Taylor, Jr.
In the Pink, by A. D. Winans
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 8, 2014)
ISBN-10: 149475455X ; ISBN-13: 978-1494754556
English, 156 pages, 6″ x 9″
Fittingly enough, I read most of In the Pink, A.D. Winans’ first collection of short stories, in the heart of the San Francisco’s Financial District while on my lunch break. I sat on a stone bench on Market Street in the midst of a busy afternoon. I ate my sandwich and watched the people bustling past, imagining any number of them as characters from Winans’ colorful stories. Today’s San Francisco has gone through some changes since the incarnation captured in Winans’ tales, but if you dig beneath the surface a bit, you realize most of the difference is superficial. A city is always in flux, but the people on the streets are its heart, and they tend not to change overmuch. The drunks, the junkies and the crazies crash and rush about me as I eat my lunch, their curses and laughter ringing in my ears.
The majority of In the Pink’s stories take place in San Francisco during the 1960s and 70s and appear in roughly chronological order. In the first few stories the protagonist appears as a young boy just experiencing puberty and all that goes along with it. Later we follow him through his young adulthood while serving overseas in Panama, then back to San Francisco as he eases into middle age.
As the title suggests, the common theme in the collection, other than the city of San Francisco itself, is sexual experience, in all its glory and horror. In the first story, the narrator is a young man on the edge of puberty, experiencing the wonders of sexual awakening through spending some quality time with his boyhood friend’s stepsister in the backyard tree house. The experience is humorously awkward though ultimately educational for the narrator, who eventually walks home with the understanding that everything, somehow, had changed.
During the stories set in Panama and eventually back in San Francisco, the sexual encounters remain less than blissful, and have the ring of hard-won truth about them. Winans doesn’t flinch from the messiness of human relations. Throughout the book we encounter a variety of people, many of them seeking some kind of answer in sex and generally finding only more confusion. After detailing his first true sexual experience (with a two dollar street whore) the narrator concludes “The whole thing took less than thirty seconds and left me feeling as badly as I have ever felt in my life.” But the seeker remains undaunted, and moves on to the next bar room, the next bedroom. By the end of the collection, we’ve encountered enough prostitutes, drunks and just plain crazy folk to populate a Bukowski novel.
And there is certainly a Bukowski influence in these stories. Winans and Bukowski were friends who corresponded for years, and during the 1970s, Winans published Bukowski’s work extensively through his Second Coming Press. In the two men’s work you can feel a similar take on the absurdity of the lives of the down and out. While Bukowski chronicled it in the streets, bars and skid row rooms of Los Angeles, Winans did the same in the City by the Bay. The specter of Bukowski even makes a brief appearance in one of the more fantastical stories in the collection: The narrator is spending a harrowing evening with a woman who may or may not be a witch who may or may not possess the power to turn men into living dildos. As he attempts a hasty retreat, the woman tells him, “You know, I once had a poet named Bukowski, but he escaped.”
The other writer that immediately comes to mind when reading Winans’ work is Jack Micheline, whose writing Winans has longtime championed. Fittingly enough, and quite by accident, the last book I read before Winans’ was a collection of stories by Micheline, published by Second Coming Press. Like Winans’, Micheline’s book chronicles the horror and the joy of the lives of artists, bohemians and other outcasts on the fringe of society as they live their chaotic lives in San Francisco. Micheline’s work shone with an empathy for the mad, the poets, the dreamers and the outcasts. Winans’ stories come at you from a similar place. Like Winans, Micheline revealed the soul of San Francisco through the eyes of the downtrodden and lost in his poetry and stories, and through them you can experience the city one again as it was when it was a more hospitable place for poets, artists and others not particularly adept at making the rent. As well as being entertaining tales in their own right, the stories in In the Pink also make good reading for students of the cultural history of San Francisco and the Bay Area.
While upon the surface some of the stories in the collection might appear samey (narrator drinks in a bar and ends up having an unsettling sexual encounter with someone he meets there), the characters and situations encountered are diverse enough to make each story a unique experience. The book is branded fiction, but it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that the majority of the pieces are largely autobiographical. In Roses Trapped in Cubes of Ice, one of the early stories made up of a powerful collage of images from various moments of a life, the narrator incriminates his grandmother for the fact of his becoming a writer: “She bought me my first typewriter, and told me to become a writer. I don’t know whether to thank or curse her. All I ever wanted to do was retire.” In my mind, I hear these words coming, in perfect dead-pan fashion, from Winans’ own mouth while sipping a beer somewhere in the Mission neighborhood which, along with North Beach, provides the settings for many of the stories in the collection.
Like much of Bukowski’s work, Winans’ stories are crafted with simple and effective unadorned prose. The unmistakeable music of spoken language flows through these stories. From beginning to end, In the Pink is a solid, entertaining read that manages, with a unique voice, to capture the spirit and the people of a San Francisco that doesn’t quite exist anymore. Or maybe does, if you know the right neighborhoods.
About the Reviewer:
William Taylor Jr. is a Pushcart Prize nominated poet. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and a cat named Trouble. His work has been widely published in the small press and across the internet in such publications as Poesy, Anthills and The Chiron Review. He is the author of several chapbooks and his latest books are So Much Is Burning (sunnyoutside, 2006) and Words For Songs Never Written, (Centennial Press, 2007).
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on 4 Good Books
At 3 Rue des Saints Pères on the Left Bank, Maman became a renowned art dealer during and after the war. She was heartbroken when she had to sell the gallery in 1946 when we moved to Larchmont, New York.
* * *
* * * * *
PARIS ART GALLERY
At the end of summer 1941, having left us in Brittany under the kind auspices of the Mother Superior and her flock of devoted nuns, my parents continued to live in occupied Paris in du Plessix’s grandiose apartment on the third floor of 6 Rue de Longchamps, facing the quiet sloping street in the front and the busy courtyard in the back.
Maids and cooks would dump their garbage in dark gray bins and take time out to chat, their voices echoing around the walls past the sixth floor up to the clouds. Rubbing their chafed hands on rough cotton aprons, they complained about everything, compared notes about their employers, commiserated about their own families far away in the country, and then went back to their jobs.
Free of children or housekeeping responsibilities since Arthur and Léontine took care of everything, my parents enjoyed a lot less pressure and even some measure of quality of life. While still complicated, provisioning requirements were minimal for just the four of them and so much easier in this quartier. Whatever came on the table satisfied them easily.
Often they rode their bikes over to see Bon Papa at Rue de la Trémoille, where Hortense surpassed herself in turning bland ingredients into delicious concoctions. Balancing leftovers on handlebars, my parents returned home quickly by the small streets before curfew.
Nonetheless, Maman was miserable knowing that to avoid a repeat performance of the terrible winter of 1940, her children had to stay put. Only thirty-seven years old, Maman began to think she should acquire some kind of occupation. Paris was at half-mast yet safe in so many ways that there must be some work she would find fulfilling. She had learned much running the show in Mimizan, surely there was someone, something, where she could apply her savoir faire to some benefit. With many empty days and nights she grew restless, especially as Papa was away on business much of the time. When he was there, she was as impassioned as she had been in the first days of their marriage; the strength of their love was so profound it couldn’t be plumbed or punctured.
On weekends when Paris was somnolent and Papa wasn’t working, they whipped around on bicycles in the deserted city that was practically free of motorized traffic. They loved ferreting through semidark antique shops and art galleries on the Left Bank. Wobbling on their bikes around the small cobbled streets of the old quartiers one Saturday, they stumbled on a sign A Vendre (For Sale) posted discreetly in the bottom corner of the window of a small gallery. They stopped and, hands cupped on the window to shield the glare, they saw misshapen piles of artworks strewn around a somewhat dilapidated shop. Stepping back, looking up through years of dirt, they saw a dark green sign with gold lettering: Galerie André, 3 Rue des Saints Pères. They looked at each other, entered the gloomy space, and unknowingly changed the course of their lives.
The weary proprietor showed signs of frustration as he described his situation. His story was no different than many others’. His mistress had been in charge, but she had died a few months back. He was leery of hiring anyone new. He still went to a boring day job as a bank clerk on weekdays, so could open only on Saturdays.
Maman started to daydream.
This man confided to my parents that he would gladly sell the gallery and retire if he could only find a buyer. He talked about the stock he had accumulated for the past thirty years. More than three thousand drawings, etchings, prints, and lithographs were asleep in cardboard portfolios, with prices that seemed ridiculously low. There were piles of these resting against the walls, on tables, on the desk, in the back room, haphazardly placed in such a way as to make it impossible to even sell one if he wanted to. In other words, the place was a shambles and needed an entire makeover.
Maman’s excitement grew as they began to look through some of the pictures. There was artwork of every kind, from the worst to the best.
“Who would be interested in this kind of business at a time like this?” he complained.
His question hit her like a lightning bolt. It was her eureka moment, and from that day on she could talk about nothing else. She was convinced that this forlorn art gallery was the perfect remedy to pull her out of her loneliness, and she made it clear to Papa that she would use her own money to acquire it.
The following Saturday morning, on their bikes from Rue de Longchamps to Rue des Saints Pères, through the Trocadéro, along the right bank of the Seine, flying over the Pont des Arts, my parents covered the two miles in record time, fueled by resolution. Breathless and flushed, they sat down with the owner to get more details and to inquire about his terms.
The owner was taken by surprise. He never expected to see that eager young couple again. He never even asked why my parents were interested, or what background in art had led them to want his gallery. Making a fast deal was foremost on his mind. He presented an irresistible bargain with very reasonable terms. He was anxious to retire. He needed only a little capital to help cushion his bachelor life-style, unencumbered by family or children. He wanted 100,000 francs for the business, including the lease transfer, and 50,000 for his stock.
Ever the wary executive, Papa had reservations about the value of the stock, which looked like a mess, even though the asking price was ridiculously low. He rummaged through some of it again and agreed to buy the whole lot at 40 percent off the list price. To his surprise, this turned out to be quite a bit more than the original asking price but, without haggling, he paid the required sum.
Maman was ecstatic. Right in the middle of the war she became the proud owner of an art gallery a few steps from the Seine, on the Left Bank of Paris, which cost her all of 400,000 francs ($4,000 at the time), an inconceivable deal.
Maman couldn’t believe her luck. Her mind veered quickly from somber news of the war and worries about the children, which were always tormenting her, and turned her focus to her gallery. She quickly hired a couple of day workers from the neighborhood and, with an innate sense of creativity, gave the place a modern, clean, and stylish look. Having never signed a check in her life, and with not the slightest notion of accounting, she went headlong into the ownership of a business and, somehow, succeeded brilliantly.
Her first working tool was an eraser. She carefully removed prices marked on works of art and increased them appreciably. Without revealing her new calling, she found out what their current values might be by visiting other galleries. She said that often she didn’t even erase a number but would just add a zero at the end, or even two. She had a genius for switching from etchings and lithographs to paintings and aquarelles, discovering young painters and changing her exhibitions often so she could expect a bigger turnover.
At 10 Avenue de Messine, in the prestigious eighth arrondissement, was a renowned dealer, Louis Carré, who had founded a first-class gallery in 1938. Known for representing and exhibiting modern masters — Gris, Klee, Matisse, Calder, Léger, Delaunay, Kupka, and Picasso — Carré also showed the works of Jean Bazaine, Maurice Estève, Charles Lapicque, and Jacques Villon, lesser known artists at the time. He was considered one of the great Parisian art dealers. Papa knew him well from handling difficult requests for deliveries of special papers.
Just a few months earlier, Carré wanted to print a limited edition of lithographs by Raoul Dufy on rare and hard-to-get art paper that Papa had been able to procure. As a way of thanking him, Carré offered to put Maman in touch with promising painters who did not yet deserve their consecration with an exhibit in his own gallery. She launched a few, while making her own discoveries: Dubuffet, who was to become very famous, Jean Dufy, the brother of Raoul, whose following was growing steadily, and several others. These artists became the beacon that brought fame to the Galerie André before long.
In those days, some Parisians had quite a bit of disposable money but had trouble finding safe ways to spend it. In a time of war, spending on luxuries was highly distasteful and suspect. Artworks and jewelry were considered safe private investments. If you had the means to find food first, often on the black market that was thriving behind the back of the Germans, then you could luxuriate in an oil painting or a diamond bracelet and keep them hidden easily. Maman was an expert at keeping secrets and, being a dealer, had every right to strap a painting to her bicycle to drop it off “somewhere,” no questions asked. Her books showed sales to names like Smith, Brown, and Jones.
In the back of the gallery, beyond the ground floor space open to the public, was a little office leading to a toilet and, beyond, a closed door. A tiny stairwell behind this door led six steps up to a small loft and bath, with only one window on the courtyard, therefore very dark. Maman fixed it up very simply with a desk, a chair, an armchair, a swing-arm lamp for both, a single bed, and, to break up the monotony, a colorful Moroccan rug. Except for the rug, it was just like a monastery room. Her intention was to be able to sleep there should she work too late to ride her bike home after curfew and to save time commuting back and forth when Papa was away.
But this room wasn’t to be her cocoon of safety. One day soon after she opened her doors, a tall, stooped, skinny man walked in with some paintings under his arm. He was dejected, tattered, and looked gaunt and desperate.
“Madame,” he said, “help me. Please…”
Moving him away from the front door toward the back of the gallery, she let him line up his paintings against the wall, while he said, “I will give you these…” His voice quavered and his eyes were alarmed and weary like a frightened animal. Maman was at once repelled and touched by his condition while very attracted to his art.
“And your name is?”
“Non, I don’t have a name anymore. I have no family.” He trailed off.
“Are you hungry?” Maman asked maternally. The haggard young man paused for a moment, then quickly nodded, his head down, looking at the floor.
“Please, sit down,” Maman said softly, pointing to the back office. The young man hesitated, his eyes darting back and forth in fear and suspicion.
He finally lifted his head up and looked at Maman.
“It’s OK. You’re safe here. You can trust me,” she said. The young artist finally followed her back to the office. He winced when Maman turned on the light. She turned it off with a sigh.
“Perhaps it’s best to keep the light off. Eyes are everywhere these days,” Maman said and nodded to the desk chair. He slowly sat down, heaving a sigh of relief as if he’d been standing for years.
“I’ll be right back,” she said, walking to the front of the gallery, drawing the nightshades, and locking the doors. She hesitated, it was still early, someone might question her closing at this time, but then she firmly flipped the sign to read FERMÉ on the street side and glided back to her unexpected guest. She quickly sliced some bread and a small wedge of cheese, adding half a tomato. She walked the small plate back to him.
“It’s not much, but…” she began to say when the young man quickly grabbed it and began to devour the food ravenously, licking it from his soot-crusted fingers.
“Merci, ah, merci Madame,” he repeated, muffled by mouthfuls of bread and cheese. The sight of him so helpless strengthened Maman’s resolve to help him.
She learned he was a Polish Jew on the run from the army and from the Gestapo, a target for raids by German soldiers and French police. She asked again but he wouldn’t give her his name, said it was too dangerous, had lost track of his family. She feared the repercussions that could befall our family if she helped him; she could be shot on the spot if discovered. She knew she should just give him some money for the paintings and let him out in the street. She had relatives who were prisoners of war at that very moment and thought of them. He looked so forlorn and lonely, her mind whirling with apprehensions, but eventually her decision was made though it went against the tide of safety.
All his answers to her questions were no. No food, no room, no money, no relatives, no one. He was truly a fugitive with nothing. She gave him some money for the paintings, which she deemed were quite good, and in an act of folly and faith, she also offered him the studio as a hidden shelter. He moved in with not much more than what he was wearing on his back and slept for hours that first day. She told me much later how his presence elated and scared her to the same degree, like having an illicit affair. But once embarked on saving him, she could never change her mind.
Little by little, her life took on an unusual rhythm of exhilaration and anxiety. Strict rules were set for his safety. She showed him an emergency exit through the courtyard and instructed him, “You must never go out in the street. If you smoke, blow it out the window but keep the shade down so people around the courtyard can’t see you from their windows. Don’t smoke when there are servants in the courtyard, they would notice right away and set off an alarm thinking it might be a fire. If you need something, you must write a note and slip it out under the door. You must never come out unless I knock on the door.” They established a knock-knock code. He spoke good French and that was helpful. He readily agreed to all her conditions; with her he felt safe for the first time in months.
Maman’s exhilaration at saving a life was tremendous, but her anxiety intensified. She was hiding a Jew from both the Germans and her husband, who she knew would harshly reprove her. She snitched some cigarettes from Papa as they were found only on the black market and sold only to men. She brought food to the artist that he would consume cold and return the plate immaculate, as if he had licked off every last crumb. She scoured the occasional church jumble sale for a sweater, a shirt, underwear, a pair of pants, to make him more comfortable.
Thus she fell into an unusual pattern of running the gallery up front, dealing with her artists, new friends, visitors, making sales, going to openings, becoming a successful Parisian art dealer, and, on the darker side, making sure her fugitive was alive, comfortable, entertained with newspapers and magazines, while patiently waiting for deliverance.
This fragile relationship held steady for almost a year, from the fall of 1941 to July 1942, without any mishaps. This was a miracle considering his close quarters, her multitude of activities, and raids for Jews in every corner of the city. No one ever denounced him because no one ever knew of his existence.
While Papa worked hard at the office, he was relieved that Maman thrived at Galerie André, until the day he found her filching cigarettes and she confessed about the perilous arrangement with the painter. He was infuriated about her dangerous position. How she ever got the nerve to hide a Polish Jewish painter escaping from the claws of the Nazis he’d never know. The thought of how she wavered for months before telling him enraged him. Years later, Papa admitted that part of him always knew that Maman had more courage and heart than he would ever know. But then, faced with a fait accompli, he had to accept the poor man’s presence while his concerns about the situation kept him from ever broaching the subject.
Papa simply refused to talk about him, fearing the echo of his voice might carry to the nearest Nazi, who would arrest them. It was impossible to think of the consequences that would have befallen Maman, the family, their children, should she have been caught by a patrol canvassing the streets. Papa would describe the situation later with disdain draped in so much love and pride for Maman’s bravery. He said she had a beauty of spirit and a certain presence of character that he could not transcend while it always seemed to protect her.
Without warning, this precarious balance was shattered one day in July, when the artist was attracted by an advertisement in one of the old newspapers scattered on his floor. Men’s shoes were on sale at a very advantageous price only a few blocks away. The money from selling his paintings was burning in his pocket and cramps were hurting his feet. These shoes had to be his. Exactly in the way I had been drawn to that mushroom bollard, he couldn’t help himself. He stared and stared at those shoes in print and eventually succumbed to their appeal.
Maman had not arrived yet that morning. He broke the rules. He left through the emergency exit and, quickly crossing the courtyard, turned south down the street toward Boulevard St. Germain. His collar turned up, his hat down on his face, he tried to make himself invisible. But transparency is intangible; just like magic, it disappears.
His tall, lanky body was visible to anyone nearby. His luck turned when a French police patrol, always on the lookout for fugitives, stopped him.
“Are your papers in order?” they asked.
He could not show any papers and was arrested. He had gone out just when raids were more intense than usual that July as there was a quota to fill for arresting Jews. Nazis strictly supervised the French police in various districts of Paris, during which more than four thousand stateless and foreign Jews were arrested that month. Even more devastating was the fact that he was reading an old newspaper. Had he had a more current issue, he would have known about the intensified raids and certainly would have stayed in his hideout.
Somehow Maman got word he was being held in the internment camp of Drancy, in a northeastern suburb of Paris. Built by the government in the late 1930s, this camp of dreadful high-rise residential apartment buildings was poetically called “The Silent City.” The Germans had requisitioned it in 1940, thrown out all the residents, mostly poor blue-collar workers, and set it up as a detention center to hold “undesirables” until their deportation. Without Papa’s knowledge, again, Maman took the grave risk of going on her bicycle to bring the artist some care packages— not just once, but twice. Soon he was deported to Auschwitz and was never heard from again.
Maman was lucky and blessed to avoid any kind of retribution from the police. The artist never denounced her and, bit by bit, with gloom in her heart, she erased all traces of his existence, keeping only one of his paintings for herself. On the order of Papa, unimaginably upset at her for placing the safety of a stranger over the family, she followed the trend of all Paris and closed down the gallery to come to Saint-Servan for the month of August.
By September the whole thing had blown over. Keeping his memory in her heart, Maman carried on as if this interlude had never happened. The Galerie André was for her an excellent occupation, a full-time job, a fascinating learning curve, and the center of her life while we children were under safe care elsewhere. With a very low overhead, she brought in an excellent increase in revenue for the household. A year later, at the end of 1943, she was proud to prove to Papa, statements in hand, that her profits had that year surpassed his income.
They sold the gallery after the war for 3.5 million francs to a Madame Ducret, who knew nothing about art and shortly had to let it go to an expert, who soon restored its reputation under the name of Galerie Framont. That storefront has retained its clean-cut prewar appearance that, with an occasional coat of paint, looks exactly as it did when Maman owned it.
About the author:
Hélène Gaillet de Neergaard is a self-taught photographer and artist born in France and raised in Larchmont and New York City. Her passion for photography developed early when she used her babysitting money to purchase her first camera at the age of 14. After successful careers in advertising and public relations, she was able to go freelance and turned to professional photography in her mid-thirties. In a field where she quickly excelled, it didn’t take her long to leap over boundaries in her ability to explore beyond the limits of cameras and films.
Her photographic archives have been acquired by the HILLWOOD ART MUSEUM on the C. W. POST CAMPUS of LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY which exhibited a retrospective of her work September to December 2008. She is also painting in watercolors and acrylics, creates conceptual art pieces and writes books on various subjects. She lives in New York City and Naples, Florida.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on I Was A War Child/Helene Gaillet
Some do it all at once
but I lost my pearl teeth
one by one.
Mom was there
a fragmented moon
with her face half-eaten,
dismantling the blonde forsythia
till the branches stood
barren and brown. We sat,
cupping the dead teeth in my palm,
my pupils unlocked
and opened to the red-worn sky,
under a quiet, tight-lipped sun,
for Dad was never there.
Such a sullen grave
for my baby teeth.
But I knew, vapor or ghost,
what I had known all along.
Once combed together
into wholeness; a worthy simulation,
the sun and the moon were gone.
The moon has kept its skin this month
No brown petal, leaking spot
Cracked in half, have you
Seeped between my cavity?
I will breed fish bones.
Sadly threaded filaments
Cannot. Pupa or imago
Beating sweet against me?
Free particle! Ride frictionless
Dead beak, round eye, crushed wing
Cavern blue and
Spider webs revived
I alone survived.
I never said anything
about whale songs,
but already, waves lower
my head into the lap
of the sea.
I didn’t see you,
the lush green fish-eyes,
shudders, breathes foam
to fill my throat.
Fifteen and floating
skin putrid and bulging,
I lay mangled,
sandy knees, dead
from the sea.
I need everyone to please
just stop looking at me.
About the poet:
Chloe Marisa Blog is currently studying as an English major at Binghamton University. She is deeply inspired by the works of Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and Richard Siken. This is her first publication.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Chloe Marisa Blog/Poetry
The Break Up
On the 11th of April snow came,
something we should be used to by now
after years of living in northern New York,
but we still remain shocked at the way
winter can hang on with a death grip
which never seems to slip from our throats,
the way in which what should be green,
thriving, fertile ground can be blanketed
in white, even after tulips have begun
to poke their heads above the surface of gardens
and as red breasted robins hop tentatively
through frozen piles of slush. Winter
is a long-term lover, the kind that doesn’t
go away, even after you’ve said, “We need
some time off.” Winter, instead, wants to
cuddle closer together, and bangs on the door
at three in the morning, shaking the house
with its insistence. When you tell it you need
more than time off and that it really needs to
get its shit out of the drawer in the bedroom
and go find something else to do,
winter tells its friends you’re getting married
and buys invitations. Finally, when it’s
gone on too long, and you get the
restraining order, that last blizzard comes,
and you think, for certain, that winter is going
to kill you before it leaves, but it doesn’t, and
it goes away quietly, and spring sponges at
the wounds winter left behind, reminds you
there are good reasons to still live here too,
and then hands you into summer’s warm
and loving arms, and you are rocked to sleep,
until you wake up to find fall is over
and winter has you in bed again,
but you almost missed it, didn’t you?
M and Joe at City Hall
It was supposed to be a secret,
but no one keeps secrets in this town,
and the cameramen are waiting for us—
the building is under siege,
flash bulbs like small bombs.
I’m not you, mama,
not you at all,
and not that other daughter
you barely raised
who never knew her father’s name.
My children will know
his name is Joe,
with his baseball mitts in a glass case
and his trophies waiting to be dusted.
No mama, I’m not you.
But everybody wants to see,
wants to crowd around the chamber.
The desks are empty,
the halls filled,
and the judge says we need the license,
but no one is there to type it.
“Miss Monroe, Miss Monroe,
how will it feel to be Mrs. DiMaggio?”
But he stands just a little in front of me,
as though I need to be protected—
Oh Joe, dear boy,
the camera is my father.
Who else could give me away?
The clerk is running from floor to floor,
but the women have gathered in the vestibule,
line the stairways,
have parted for us in the main hallway
leading to the chamber,
and he doesn’t know how to type,
has never considered it man’s work.
“Oh Joe, oh Joe DiMaggio,
are you excited to be Mr. Monroe?”
And his arm suddenly gets a little stiff,
pulls back from me, from my smile.
It’s just the roll of laughter
following the lightning of the joke
that makes him lean into me again.
From room to room and floor to floor,
the clerk finds only empty desks,
blank license in hand,
the flashbulbs pop and shine,
someone says something to Joe
about another home run,
as though I was just the score.
The ghost of Norma Jeane
dressed in the tatters of her old wedding gown,
stands where my bridesmaid should be,
but I turn my back on her past.
Joe is impatient, shifts from foot to foot,
but the judge says he needs the license—
but it’s just a piece of paper,
just a few names,
just one more artifact
to prove I’m not you, mama.
Suicide Threat #?
Don’t kill yourself, old man,
just because little brother has rebelled,
taken off down the road
in the middle of the fight,
turning his back on you
and walking away to
Walking away at a pace
you apparently felt you couldn’t match.
Don’t kill yourself, old man,
sitting in the living room chair,
shotgun in hand,
demanding someone bring you the bullets
that your wife has hidden in a safe place,
bottom lip puckered out
like a toddler whose been told no once again.
I answered my phone,
I’ll bring him back.
Don’t kill yourself, old man,
I found him strolling casually
just past the creek in the lowlands,
heading toward Grandma’s house,
forty miles away,
face calm, he said, “Oh hey,”
when I pulled the car up beside him,
told him to get in,
brought him home for you to stare hard at him
until he finally went up, alone, to his room,
while you sniffled and sobbed and said nothing.
Don’t kill yourself, old man,
just because it’s happening with the second son,
a back turned on the roadway
leaving you behind,
the same way I did when the choice
was to run or break,
when I realized I was my own parent
and not yours.
Remember how you didn’t follow me either?
But now I ran your errand for you,
fetched this one back home,
to see what it would have been like
if I had turned around and come back.
You’re oh so quiet,
and I can see now
that I never had to run away—
could have escaped just as easily
Don’t kill yourself, old man.
Give me the gun.
Let me do it for you.
About the poet:
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Carlton Fisher/Poetry
THE OYSTERS IN PARIS
These white chrysanthemums smell like Paris
in November of 1928
the weather has been mild
the drive from Barcelona
had not been unpleasant
though the absinthe bottle
broke in the trunk
and ruined not only your lace dress
but the promise of several sleep-filled nights.
The sun will set in half an hour
so we have stopped for an aperitif
before going for oysters
at the little place by the market
where we used to go before the war.
You are nervous because your mother
is in the sanitarium again in Zurich
and your father when he’s drunk
tells the doctors they’re Germans
and still can’t be trusted.
I am content however
because there is almost half a bottle of absinthe
still in our cellar
the hotel in Barcelona was not bad
and the oysters in Paris
are still as good as they were before the war.
THE LAST TRAIN TO TULSA
To the sound morning rain and tambourines
you come softly
like a sampan leaving Bannock
It is August
and your goddess
is on vacation,
gone to St. Remy
for the month.
You are hungry
and your roof leaks
but you only speak
of St. Augustine
and that funky bar
outside of Ketchum, Idaho.
Do they serve cheese sandwiches
on the moon
you want to ask me
but you don’t.
Instead you trace the outline
on my stomach
with your finger,
a little to the left
of my navel
just below my last rib.
I know that in September
you will leave me,
that your goddess
will be home,
suntanned and frisky.
You will take
the last train to Tulsa
while I’m sleeping,
dreaming of Crete,
afternoons on the Libyan sea,
eating red snapper,
on the promise of rain.
ONE GREEN CANDLE
On this morning of the first snow in seven days
I think of your breakfasts in New Mexico,
the loaves of home-baked bread,
the warm pots of Irish tea,
and always of the eggs fried in fresh butter
just the way your father liked them
over once the edges lightly browned.
This summer will end
our second cycle of nine years,
nine years since we said goodbye
on the highway North of Taos,
and before that nine years
since you left the old farm on Fishing Creek
and I wonder are you still in Santa Fe
with your hair like rivers of honey
falling to your waist?
Do you still travel alone to the Rio Grande,
sleep like an Aztec Warrior,
flat on your back
both hands clenched
your arms at your side?
Did you learn to bathe
with your lovers
light one green candle
and rub their skins like leather
with the lather of your rose-colored soaps?
I am thirty now
and I’ve danced upon the Mississippi
arm wrestled with the devil once
in a cheap hotel in Tulsa
a Gideon Bible on the nightstand
somewhere on the second floor.
And you have grown past forty
baking bread, brewing tea, frying eggs
in fresh butter
wondering if the work
you thought you were meant to do
was already done a long time ago.
About the poet:
Daniel Reinhold was born in Allentown, PA. He has lived in Baltimore, MD; Ithaca, NY; and now lives near New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of the Antioch University Los Angeles MFA Creative Writing program. He is a recipient of a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship for poetry. He has been published in The Painted Bride Quarterly, Samisdat, Axe Factory Review, and H_NGM_N. He was the poetry editor for LunchTicket. He now works as an acrylic and encaustic painter. He is obsessed with rhinos, Gatorade, and the promise of rain.
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Daniel Reinhold/Poetry