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THE BOOK OF GENESIS, REVISED
FOR AMERICAN INDIAN HISTORY
by John Smelcer
In the beginning,
after forming the earth from the void
God said, “Let there be light”
and so there was
And God saw that this was good
so he divided light from darkness
and water from land;
and then one day God created Indians
and he saw that they were good
and he loved them for a really long time,
but then he must have got mad at them
because they didn’t speak English or something
so he whispered in the ear of Christopher Columbus
to show the way for white people
who came to claim the land for themselves,
and God said unto them,
“From this day on you shall have dominion over Indians,”
which was kind of the same thing he told Adam
about the animals that creeped and crawled
and so it was
and so it was
and so it was
And God saw that this was good
so when he returned from a paid vacation in Rome
God said, “Let Indians be slaves to the Whites”
and so they were the first slaves to toil in the New World
but then the Whites ran out of Indians
so they imported Black people from far away
and that is all that people would remember
forever and ever, amen
And God knew that this was good
so he told White people to go west and multiply
and he said unto them,
“Let there be colonization,”
and so there was
and from his words sprang colonialism
who begat expansionism
who begat broken treaties
who begat assimilation
who begat disease
who begat wars
who begat genocide
Then one day after he made the dodo extinct
God decided that Indians needed exercise
so he created The Trail of Tears
and then he told the Whites to kill all the buffalo
so that Indians would become vegetarians
and so it was
and so it was
and so it was
After he got over a bad cold or something
God looked around and saw that Whites
were like locusts and they needed more land
to build condos and housing developments,
gas stations and convenience stores,
shopping malls and parking lots,
so he said, “Let there be reservations”
and lo they came into being
and from his words sprang dislocation
who begat racism
who begat poverty
who begat alcoholism
who begat depression
who begat suicide
who begat genocide
And God knew that this was good
so he created the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and land allotments and unscrupulous land embezzlers
and boarding schools where Indian children
were taught to forget what it means to be Indian,
then he created HUD Housing and commodity cheese,
rez dogs and bingo halls, casinos and
The Church of Infinite Confusion
And on the last day God returned from Wal-Mart
and the Mega-Mall and the cineplex
and he saw that Indians were no more upon the land
and he knew that this was a good thing
so he created the Lazy Boy and the remote control
and TV westerns and pay-per-view
and the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians,
and from his comfortable reclining throne
God looked out across the land he had created
and he saw that it was good
and he called it America which means
“Place where Indians once roamed”
and so it was
and so it was
and so it was
About the poet: Poet John Smelcer has been associate publisher at Rosebud Magazine for two decades.
Back in the late 1990s, Rosebud twice published the amazing art of R. Crumb. In 2009, Crumb published The Book of Genesis Illustrated (W. W. Norton), in many ways a masterpiece. For years, John’s “Genesis” poem has been taught in a course on genocide at the Open University of Israel. When John asked Crumb to collaborate on this project, the answer was a resounding yes. Just seemed like a perfect fit. The only other poet Crumb collaborated with was Charles Bukowski. Smelcer is a contributing editor to Ragazine. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
R. Crumb illustration excerpted from The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb. Copyright 2009 by Robert Crumb. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
March 1, 2014 Comments Off on John Smelcer/R. Crumb
Breakfast with Blanche
We are breakfasting with the usual trio: Blanche, Sludge and Ted. Susan is my “Significant Other”, or more practically, SO. The SO and I motored down to Key West from St. Pete, early Saturday morning, Christmas week. On Sunday, we are joined by our traditional Christmas week breakfast club, comprised of Susan and myself, and Ted, Blanche and Sludge, all three of whom are birds, and all of whom show up for the festivities every year. We are celebrating the Holidays together for the third straight year. Sludge, the newest member of our club, is back for year number two. There’s a diverse spread, with something for everyone; we have leftover yellowtail snapper from yesterday’s lunch at the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island, fresh Tangerine Juice from Yellow Bank Groves in Largo, and a perfect Comice pear, sliced at its peak of flavor and aroma, which lasts for approximately one hour before it declines. I have a croissant from the French bakery on Duvall, and Cuban coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen, down on the docks. The SO is having a slice of gluten-free bread she brought from St. Pete. Blanche, Sludge and Ted are dining on crumbs scattered on the balcony floor, as per usual. We are all merry, and enjoying the Christmas decorations on the boats below us in the marina.
I should introduce the honored guests. Ted is Canadian, in Key West for his annual vacation. He is a warbler by trade, roughly the size of a standard cosmetic cotton ball, and interprets my morning whistle toward the coconut palms in front of the balcony as his personal invitation to join the breakfast club each morning. Blanche and Sludge are local Key West pigeons of good families. Blanche has celebrated Christmas with us for at least three years, perhaps four. She’s beautifully distinctive. Of her eight toenails, three are white, as are most of her feathers, and three of her toenails are jet black. Her eyes have black pupils, surrounded by cadmium yellow irises, and ringed by a clear, bright orange. There are a few random, red/brown feathers on her lower back. She and Ted arrive a few seconds after I whistle for them, and Sludge, Blanche’s second-year SO, arrives seconds later. Sludge is unlovely by my standards, but he’s Blanche’s Prince Charming. He’s the same color as dirty, big-city sidewalk snow, beady-eyed and grimy. Ted, on the other hand is always immaculately attired, dapper, with a gray-green/yellow back, and dark bars on his thumbnail-sized, buff-colored breast. If I haven’t whistled him in, he chips from the coconut palm to remind me that he has arrived, and is awaiting invitation. As soon as I do whistle, he flits over to the railing, and looks down to verify that his breakfast has been served. Usually, he cocks his head, and regards me with baffled interest: what kind of huge, ugly and deformed bird am I?
I can whistle, at least, and I have spilled crumbs for him. He shrugs, and drops to the tiled floor with his tablemates, Blanche and Sludge. They ignore each other, and eat with speed and gusto, as is their way. Ted is always the first to excuse himself, and returns to the nearby palms to hunt for bugs, I suspect for the kids’ breakfasts.
Susan has walked to the French bakery for my morning croissant, and stopped at the Cuban Coffee Queen to bring back a café au lait for herself, and a double colada for me. I’ve set the patio table, warmed the leftover snapper fillets and poured the juice. Her brought-from-home gluten-free bread was in the toaster, ready to go down. On her return, I’d shake out the crumbs in the pastry bag onto the balcony for our three guests, all of whom arrive promptly, bringing appetites. When Ted leaves, he’s usually gone for a while, but Blanche and Sludge are fairly likely to follow us into the timeshare living room, and perch on the lampshade, like Poe’s raven. We shoo them out, but they’ll walk right back inside, unless we close the door, or seat ourselves on the balcony to keep them company. In the latter scenario, they settle down on the tile, near us, and wait for more food, very patiently.
From the balcony, we watch some of the semi-tame tarpon cruise slowly through the open water in the marina below, looking for a hand-out of left-over bait from the fishermen tied up to the dock or filleting fish at the cleaning tables nearby. The roving Key West cats, all named, snooze in the sun, or sit impatiently under the fish tables. Each of them seem to know that they will be fed their scraps in turn, and there are no arguments between them as slivers of raw fish are distributed to them by the fish cleaners, ministering to the faithful.
There is a sharp-shinned hawk perched on the mast of one of the larger boats in the marina, also looking for dining opportunities. He looks at, then ignores the breakfast club guests. Ted is too small to bother eating, and Blanche and Sludge too large to consider, when there are right-sized mourning doves in abundant supply nearby. After surveying the options in our immediate vicinity, the hawk flaps aloft, and then soars away, seeking breakfast elsewhere.
After breakfast, we close the doors to the balcony, and go for a stroll down Duvall Street. It’s sunny and mid-seventies: the people we pass on the sidewalks are cheerful, and as glad to be there as we are, but Key West offers plenty of traps for the unwary. A week there suffices for us. Two weeks is a bit too long, at least for me. There are bars on almost every corner, it seems, and plenty of folks who appear to have stayed in Key West just a little too long for their own good, hovering in the shadows. Early walks take you past ragged people sorting through the trash cans along the street, periodically extracting a half-eaten sandwich or an unemptied cup. Homeless people congregate in the out-of-the-way spots, here and there, and ask for spare change, smokes or your take-home bag. I suspect that Paradise isn’t all that far from hell, if either actually exist, and Key West might just be that spot, if it does.
About the author:
Bill Dixon is a contributing columnist to Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.
November 6, 2014 Comments Off on From the Edge/Bill Dixon
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
Translations by Flavia Cosma
A poem is missing
it is there somewhere under your hand
but you don’t feel it
you only guess it
as a matter of fact you are guessing its maternal
all hopes throng round it
all angers, all kicks,
it accepts all, endures all,
doesn’t give anything back,
fiercely jealous of its virtual treasures
it leaves you always on the threshold
your mind haggard
your eyes roving
your ears asleep
begging for some alms
now and then, it throws in your direction
a few crumbs
Un poème manque
il est là quelque part sous la main
mais tu ne le sens pas
tu le devines seulement
en fait tu devines son absence
tous les espoirs s’y fourrent
tous les désespoirs
toutes les colères toutes les joies
il reçoit tout supporte tout
ne te rend rien
jaloux de ses trésors virtuels
te laisse toujours au seuil
mendiant ta pitance
parfois il te jette
If we were to die in each other’s arms
we need to remember the suffering
that united us
let’s savour it with inextinguishable
during this brief instant
let’s us satiate
in its untamed fragrance
in its fleshy
feast our eyes
in its profound
let’s submerge ourselves in it forever
as in the happiest
a hell that nothing will ever replace
and no paradise could redeem
our salvation will be eternal
in your total annihilation by me
in my annihilation by you
glimmer of an universe never born
dreamt of by no God
and whose presence
would be known solely to us
we, the ones consummated by it
Si nous mourons dans les bras l’un de l’autre
rappelons-nous la souffrance
qui nous a unis
goûtons-la avec une rage
le temps d’un instant
de sa fragrance indomptable
de sa frugalité
de sa chair
plongeons-y pour toujours
comme dans un enfer
que rien jamais ne peut remplacer
qu’aucun paradis ne rachète
notre salut sera éternel
dans l’anéantissement de moi par toi
de toi par moi
lueur d’un univers non né
rêvé d’aucun dieu
dont nous seulement
savons la présence
qui nous consomme
At the limits
of the senses
against his face
breathing suspended into void
the eyes blinded
the body left behind, jagged,
no more thinking
in the proximity of the final
engaged by this death
that fulfils me
I’d say even after
it enters my insides
and I am joining in from the outside
as in a reversed well
whose bottom is my heart
contre sa face
souffle suspendu au vide
par le noir
déchiquètements de corps derrière
depuis toujours et tous les jours
voisinage de l’ultime
avec une surprise
prise avec la mort
qui me remplit
dirais-je même que l’après
est rentré dedans
et je viens du dehors
comme dans un puits inversé
dont le fond est mon cœur
A Wizard in Transit
To write is to die
to pass blood
to dismember ourselves alive
this is not something for poker players
one doesn’t bluff
with playing-cards that one doesn’t have
one doesn’t hide duplicates
under the sleeves
come and see
stretched out on a dissecting table
look for his soul
amid lost words
amid his entrails
exposed in front of people
just to serve as a lesson
for the unruly
come closer and read
at the mercy of a wizard
Un devin de passage
Écrire c’est mourir
pisser du sang
se dépecer vivant
ce n’est pas pour les joueurs
on ne bluffe pas
avec des cartes qu’on n’a pas
on ne cache pas de doublets
dans les manches
gisant sur la table de dissection
cherchez son âme
dans des mots perdus
parmi ses entrailles
exposées au peuple
pour servir de leçon
venez y lire
au gré d’un devin
About the poet:
Born in Romania, Dana Shishmanian has been living and working in France since 1983. She has published poems in many magazines, anthologies, and four personal collections (2008, 2011, 2014, the last one forthcoming). She has also contributed, as a translator, to the recent collection of Ara Alexandre Shishmanian, Fenêtre avec esseulement (Harmattan, July 2014).
The four poems translated here are excerpts from the volume Plongeon intime (Intimate Diving), published at Editions du Cygne in February 2014.
About the translator:
Flavia Cosma http://www.flaviacosma.com is an award-winning Romanian-born Canadian poet, author and translator residing in Toronto, Canada. Flavia has published twenty-four books of poetry, a novel, a travel memoir and five children’s books. She is the Director of the International Writers’ and Artists’ Residency, Val David, Quebec, Canada, and of The International Biannual Poetry and Arts Festivals of Val-David. http://www.flaviacosma.com/Val_David.html
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Walter Gurbo, Drawing Room
August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Dana Shishmanian/Poetry
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Ten Years & Counting …
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They say there are 8 million stories in the Naked City. Some days it seems like every one of those 8 million stories is being told in an independent magazine, on stage, in a zine on the web, in a TV show or movie theater, distributed on a broadsheet, voiced in a spoken word performance in a poetry bar, or even — emulating Speakers’ Corner in London — shouted out by someone standing on a soap box in Times Square. Not to be forgotten are the Mimes, whose actions speak louder than words. An artist acquaintance recently explained her paintings as an attempt to portray the noise she hears all around her every day, that anxiety-inducing clamor that seems almost sub-atomic, in that it carries on even when the screaming stops. This issue of Ragazine cuts through some of that noise, at the same time it contributes to it. Kind of like an air conditioner that cools the room you’re in, while it heats the air outside. A thermoelectric device that sparks a creative fire, even while you’re chilling out.
Now here’s this issue’s mix — in no particular order. It’s ALL GOOD… Enjoy!
* Short Fiction: Jason Allen puts love on the block;
* Art: Hawk Alfredson takes a classical background and puts it to work in surreal explanations of an inner life. Find out what makes Hawk tick in an interview and gallery of some of his favorite work;
* Musician and Theremin master Eric Ross interviews himself on the extraordinary and groundbreaking video artistry of his late wife and long-time collaborator, Mary Ross;
* The We Are You Project International traveling art exhibit goes to Colorado, and takes along a few new artists;
* Photography: Mia Hanson spent years living in the Hotel Chelsea with her husband Hawk Alfredson; now the couple live in Washington Heights, and she’s still taking photographs of superstars. See what’s behind the lens in an interview with the photographer and a gallery of her images;
* Stephen Verona, filmmaker, photographer, artist, writer and world traveler. Verona can’t be accused of sitting still, unless it’s at one of his favorite restaurants. Next project: Compare and Contrast China, Then and Now!
* Contributing editor John Smelcer cuts to the quick with his take on “We Are Still Here,” or, “How American Indian Literature Re-visions the American Indian Experience in American History.” A must read for all “red-blooded Americans”.
* Poetry: A terrific mix of poets and reviews of poetry and poetry volumes. Emil Fishcer reviews Paul Sohar’s translation of In Contemporary Tense, the most recent collection from Sandor Kanyadi, considered by some to be Hungary’s greatest living poet. True to our mission of publishing both established and emerging talent, you’ll also find the poetry of Chloe Marisa, Daniel Rehinhold, Carlton Fisher and Dana Shishmanian.
* Books & Reviews: Something a little different here are capsule reviews of three chapbooks by Robert Joe Stout, and back to “normal” are studied reviews of four books, not all of which were published last week… Reviewers and books include: Kathryn Levy’s This Is For Life, by Jorge Rodriguez, who also reviews Micah Towery’s Whale of Desire. Matthew Ray examines ethics in The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran, by Sigrid Fry-Revere. and William Taylor Jr. reviews A. D. Winans’ In the Pink.
* Creative Nonfiction: “In Breathing Underwater,” Mark Montgomery marks the time he spent growing up, trying to get to know his father, and staying alive.
* Columns: Jim Palombo takes a careful look at the Common Core curriculum and the direction of post-secondary education; Stephen Poleskie in his “Now and Then” has at it with an episodic look back at life in NYC in the ’60s; Mark Levy keeps himself awake with a Casual Observer‘s take on napping; and Bill Dixon goes to the edge reflecting on suicides he has known. Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret, On Location” in France interviews artist Valentin Magaro. And Barbara Rosenthal reviews the work of Allison Berkoy.
* Music: Fred Roberts opens doors to other worlds with reviews of new music groups playing in Hamburg‘s underground. The piece includes a few lines from one of the more memorable tunes of the summer in Germany, one that got the group’s catchy video banned from YouTube. Not to worry, we’ve got the Vimeo Link.
* Memoir: Artist-Writer-Sailor and world traveler Helene Gaillet has provided Chapter 42 of her memoir, I Was A War Child.mother’s art gallery, and her private decision to secretly provide safe haven for a French Jew who eventually chose to go his own way.
* News, Haps, Snaps, Short Takes & Events: Check out these pages for updates on recent happenings and upcoming events. Updated at random, so don’t ignore….
* And don’t forget our illustrators, those artists and photographers whose works help tell our stories. Thanks as always to Walter Gurbo, Edmond Rinnooy-Kan, Jonathan Kelham, Angela White and Lynda Barretto. For more about the editors who help bring you this zine every couple of months, see ABOUT US, where you’ll also find links to the websites of the artists who contribute to our “headers”. It’s a great group of people who work hard to make this an entertaining and visual treat.
* We’re running a Fall Fundraiser to keep our program in the air … Contribute if you can; want to if you can’t….
Thanks for reading … and spread the word.
— Mike Foldes, Founder/Managing Editor
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Ten Years & Counting …
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The Old World Order
While many of us are watching the World Cup or enjoying the first real days of summer – or in the Southern Hemisphere anticipating the coming snow of winter in the mountains – the Old World Order appears again to be gaining ground. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central America, and in the United States itself … the list goes on. And on. One would think that peaceful co-existence would have made headway by now, in the broadest sense, but no one is holding his/her breath that will happen anytime soon – at least not without intervention by external forces – and we all know how effective that is. While the seemingly endless cycle of senseless human activity continues, there are a few people feverishly working outside the fray to understand the underlying cause of Conflict, and to artistically express both frustration with current events and wonder at the amazing accomplishments that come about despite the resistive drag of conflict on progress and harmony.
Whether or not you agree with this premise, we trust you’ll find the latest Ragazine.CC articles will provide grist for the mental mill where these and other ideas are constantly at play. From the photo essay and interview with “war” photojournalist Jonathan Alpeyrie, who provides an alternative view on Ukraine, to a review of the recently released “Writing of Blue Highways,” by John Smelcer, to the art of Robert Soffian, there’s just enough in this issue to keep you reading and on your toes until our next issue in September. Stay tuned…
Thanks for reading … and spread the word.
Mike Foldes, Founder/Managing Editor
We need your help…
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CONTACT: EDITOR@RAGAZINE.CC …
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Ten Years & Counting …
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Winter, Spring, Sum…
OK, the plan was to take the summer off and figure out what we’re going to do next, and how. Then all this stuff starts coming in that we didn’t expect and that couldn’t wait until September to be published. Time sensitive, and all… So “Voila!” Special Issue. Easy … and a very good collection it is, at that…
* Photo editor Chuck Haupt’s collection of images from England, where he’s been since January;
* Miklos Horvath’s Coverage of the European Parliament in Strasborg, it’s last gathering before elections in May;
* Columnist Bill Dixon’s first article since a brush with death last winter;
* An interview with historical fiction author Jeanne Mackin and review of her latest book, “The Beautiful American,” publishing date: June 2014;
* A review by Fred Roberts of Hamburg’s regional battle of the bands, where three out of four contenders moved on to the German “nationals”;
* Artist-Author-Aviator Steve Poleskie, who provides a worrisome answer to the question, “Do you know who’s in your cockpit?”
* A review of Marc Vincen’s recently published collection of poems, “Beautiful Rush,” by Larissa Shmaillo.
* A short triptych and photo essay by The Camel Saloon barkeep and high plains drifter Russell Streur on a trip to Wyoming.
* A bio on the late artist Pamela Brown Roberts, and the group organizing an exhibition of works by lesser known artists who “died too young;”
* And, reflections on the passing of time and life at end of an era, in the article “Kumaon is Dead, Long Live Kumaon,” by batik artist and writer, Jonathan Evans.
Thanks for reading …
Mike Foldes, Founder/Managing Editor
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Ten Years & Counting …
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SOS: It’s a Jungle Out There
(but we’re good with that)
If you haven’t seen Ragazine before, “Welcome.” If you have, then “Welcome back.” Either way, this issue’s collection of articles, images, poems, and stories won’t disappoint. From discourses on the politics of “Deep State,” to the art of Dorothea Rockburne and the photography of Ralph Gibson, to the poetry of John Smelcer illustrated by R. Crumb, to an exploration of the logging regions of Amazonian Brazil, to the “Moveable Feast” of Ernest Hemingway, there’s food for thought on every page.
As an independent e-zine, we compete with thousands of other zines, blogs and websites for your time and attention. And we really appreciate when we get it! Your page clicks, likes, tweets, retweets, pins and good old-fashioned word of mouth are key to growing Ragazine. And to keep us fueled for another ten years. We know not everyone is in a position to contribute financial support, but it’s an easy step, and free, to spread the word. You do that for us; we’ll keep doing “this” for you.
Thanks for reading …
Mike Foldes, Founder/Managing Editor
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Ralph Gibson: The modern master of monochrome photography, shares his thoughts on the medium and one of its greatest tools, the Leica MONO camera, used to produce the images in his new book, aptly titled, “MONO.” With Mike Foldes.
Dorothea Rockburne: One of the foremost abstract artists of the 20th Century — and now the 21st — talks about her inspiration, motivation, and “the work”. With Charles Hayes; photographs by Guenter Knop.
John Cage: This previously unpublished interview took place 30 years ago as part of a series Charles Hayes launched to identify key components of the creative processes, in particular factors inhibiting creative and artistic productivity. Cage and Rockburne were at Black Mountain College together in the ’50s, so it seemed purposeful to run her and Cage’s interviews “side by side” in the same issue. With Charles Hayes.
Paul B. Roth: Bitter Oleander Press stands as one of the guardians of independent book publishing. In an age when the small press industry and its plethora of startups struggles against giants of print and internet, Roth’s The Bitter Oleander journal continues to weather the storm. With Alan Britt.
On Location, France: Contributing editor Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret offers up two interviews, the first with Swiss-born artist Alexandra Navratil, and the second with Austrian Barbara Ellmerer. See what’s happening in their parts of the world.
Amazonian Water World by Robert “Bob” Walker: As creative nonfiction editor Prof. Leslie Heywood writes in Submission Guidelines, “Ragazine’s creative non-fiction section brings together the kind of writing I like most: grounded, compelling first-person narration set in a concrete time and place that reflects thematically some way on the human relation to the natural world and the ways we’ve transformed that world, and in the process, transformed ourselves.” Walker’s narrative on the effects of loggers and logging in Brazil’s Amazon region perfectly conforms to this ideal.
DEEP STATE: Two Views
In the twin posts of this Politics edition, Jim Palombo presents a provocative premise in his “Deep State” article. This is accompanied by a commentary from Henry Giroux who has his own take on the “deep state” concern. Coming from somewhat different perspectives, the two pieces provide engaging and informative thoughts on what should be considered a most disturbing situation.
ART: Two Moveable Feasts
FOOD, ART & HEMINGWAY: Artist, writer and Hemingway scholar Raul Villarreal writes about Hemingway’s love of food and place, especially as it relates to his life in Cuba, and his love for Finca Vigia, the great writer’s retreat near Havana. Villarreal’s article is followed by a summary of “The Moveable Feast” exhibit at the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., curated by the author, Dr. Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D. With galleries of art from the exhibit.
DARSHAN: Contributing music editor Fred Roberts reflects on the music and influence of “Darshan,” and the strange coincidence in meeting its creator, Patrick McMahon, in Cincinnati.
EVERLY BROTHERS: Music writer/Contributer Jeff Edstrom provides a 20-20 hindsight review of the unforgettable Everly Brothers reunion concert at Royal Albert Hall in London, in 1983.
Commented judge Sheree Renée Thomas on Speculative Fiction Contest runner-up Ely Azure’s “NEVER. GIVE. YOU. UP.”: “Moving but creepy adopted monster/baby/zombie? (I) don’t usually care for zombie tales, but this family’s attempt to adopt and become parents during a biological epidemic was compelling.”
Award-winning author Paul West’s “Hurled Into Eternity” achieves stark reality in the dark world of life in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation.
John Smelcer’s poem, THE BOOK OF GENESIS, REVISED FOR AMERICAN INDIAN HISTORY, appears with an illustration by R. Crumb from Crumb’s “The Book of Genesis Illustrated.” Smelcer’s poem “Genesis” has been taught in a course on genocide at the Open University of Israel. Completing the quadratic are poems from Adele Kenny, Dana Jaye Cadman and Martin Willitts, Jr.
Everyone needs a laugh, even though it might take a minute to figure out what’s funny. With this in mind, we trust you’ll enjoy the latest entry to our wry comedic offerings: Gou-gou World, the brainchild of artist Edmond Rinooy-Kan. Kan explains Gou-gou’s history best, and to start out, there’s a page with pix from Gou-gou’s latest adventures…
Walter Gurbo, whose Drawing Room panels appear on Ragazine’s Welcome Page, and sometimes appear on other pages, suggested a fund-raising contest where writers submit a flash fiction story to go along with one of his drawings. The entry fee is just five bucks. Winner takes home a third of the entry fees received for that issue. Submission guidelines appear on the “WRITING ROOM” post. The first contest illustration appears here (and there):
And while you’re looking through various articles in the zine, you’ll likely run across two other illustrators: Jonathan Kelham and Lynda Barretto. Enjoy the hunt.
BOOKS & REVIEWS:
Photo editor Chuck Haupt’s “the PHOTOGRAPHY spot” features “City of Shadows,” photographs from the Sydney, Australia, police department during a period in the city’s history when “select” men and women under arrest were routinely allowed to help compose their own “mug shots.” More than 2500 of these “special photographs” were taken between 1910 and 1930, providing the grist for this most unusual historical record. … And there are more ….
Barbara Rosenthal reviews A Dirt Road Hangs from the Sky, poems by Claudia Serea, and Cherise Wyneken reviews Jester, Grace Marie Graton’s latest book of poems. Miriam O’Neal reviews Mary Szybist’s award-winning Incarnadine; Diana Manole explores the poems of Flavia Cosma in On Paths Known to No One; and Grayson Del Faro reviews the novel by Rick Whitaker, An HONEST GHOST.
Artist/Author/Professor Steve Poleskie joins Ragazine as the contributing columnist of “Now & Then,” reflections on his life and career in the worlds of art and academe. Join Poleskie as he writes in a most engaging style about NYC gangsters, Andy Warhol, the Mercury Riders motorcycle gang, and more.
From the Edge: Bill Dixon allows recent life-changing experiences to color-in parts of his past, lending understanding to a father-son relationship perhaps stronger in retrospect than it was in life.
Galanty Tweets: The glib and popular sociologist shares recent reflections about life, love, hate and things between, in these, a collection of his recent favorite – and favorited – tweets.
Casual Observer: Mark Levy was one of the first contributors (and pro bono legal adviser) to Ragazine.cc. In this, Ragazine’s 2nd 10th Anniversary Issue, Levy cogitates on what a decade means, and brings it all to the table in his usual casual and empathetic fashion.
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Diamonds — and Not In the Rough:
As this issue’s cover attests, we’ve had a varied and colorful history graphically presented for the past five years by Ragazine‘s photography and contributing editor, Chuck Haupt. Chuck not only designs covers and edits “the PHOTOGRAPHY spot”, he also produces the art used in the email blasts we send out two or three times during the two months between issues.
A high-resolution poster of this issue’s “cover featuring covers” (V10N2) is our way of saying thanks for a contribution of US $30.00 or more. Includes shipping and handling in North America ($40.00 outside North America).
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Thanks for a Great Ten Years
This issue of Ragazine.CC is the first of our tenth year of online publishing. It contains a wealth of material from around the world. Literally. Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Brazil, the United States, Mexico…. We think that’s just one of the things that makes us a little bit different from the enormity of other online and print publications available today. The variety of material we publish reflects not only diversity of humanity, but also the diversity of interests of those people who inhabit the planet — and who work on or contribute to Ragazine. The family tree of our contributors runs along the right side of this page, on the About Us page, and in the growing number of readers, known and unknown, to all of whom we owe a huge debt of Gratitude.
And while V10N1 begins our 10th year, watch for V10N2, the real anniversary issue (coming in March) that promises to offer one of the finest collections of material on the web. Eclectic content for a global audience …. Thanks for reading!
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Twitter: Follow @ragazinecc
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The final week of October marked the final days and passing of two notable characters of the 20th and 21st Centuries. As with all remarkable characters of any time and place, their names may not be remembered one hundred or two hundred years from now (I believe in this case they will), but the effects of their lives will be long felt. The two people of whom I write are Deborah Turbeville and Lou Reed. I never met either one of them, but I readily remember what I felt the first time I looked at one of Turbeville’s photographs that atypically captured a spectacular blend of sex and death – so mesmerizing I never forgot the images or her name. I got the same powerful impression when I first heard, then played and replayed Reed’s “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” produced by Andy Warhol. Couldn’t get enough of it then, and some days still can’t. Without a doubt, they left us with something that stirs the soul… and who could ask for more.
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What else? In the column to the left, you’ll find the standing Pages. Beneath them, the latest posts of all the stuff of which we’re made.
In a separate piece examining Brazil’s contemporary art and culture, Professor Dinah P. Guimaraens posts a review of the country’s transformation from a post-colonial agrarian society to a member of the global socio-politico-economic community. The concern being, what about the past, what about the people? What is happening in this transcultural event that many fear will change the face of the nation forever – and not necessarily for the better? Art editor Jose Rodeiro provides an overview in News/Haps/Snaps of the ongoing exhibit of New Jersey landscapes at Drumthwacket, the New Jersey home of Governor and Mrs. Chris Christie.
Regular columnists humorist Galanty Miller, gay life writer Mircea Filimon and adventurer Bill Dixon are back with their various takes on life in earth’s ether, joined by JH Mae who brings us the ruralist’s view from New York state’s North Country.
Music editor Jeff Katz, taking a break from writing a book, takes aim at the annoying behavior of a free spirit run amok at a small-venue concert. Contributing music editor Fred Roberts, in “Soundscene Europe ” and “World Out of Control,” gets behind Felix Kubin, Mary Ocher and Gustav, and goes deeper into the black hearts of men with a timely retrospective of “Decoder,” the 1984 German film inspired by the writings of William S. Burroughs with an equally dark sound track by Soft Cell and Einstürzende Neubauten.
Politics editor Jim Palombo poses a series of rhetorical questions you can answer on your own time about where we as Americans are on the scales of justice, equality, and other civic concerns, including the degree of critical thinking that takes place – or doesn’t – in our everyday lives. He also points to several organizations that are currently at work trying to improve our civic understanding and public dialogue prospects.
On the literary side, poets Nicole Broadhurst and Teresa Sutton bear witness to events very often beyond their control; Alex Straaik blends fact and fiction reflecting on the whereabouts of a long-lost friend who took the other fork in the road; and Michel Collins takes us to a western desert where a team of young anthropologists discovers how wide the divide between digital and analog. John Smelcer offers up two pieces, one a poem written years ago with Ted Hughes over a couple of drinks in an English pub, illustrated for this occasion by Micah Clarke, and a memoir recounting how his acquaintance with the famed Irish poet Seamus Heaney got off to a shaky start.
A raft of book reviews includes “Ekphrastia Gone Wild,” “The Natural History of Asphalt,” “Poised in Flight,” “Coffee House of Confessions” and “Strange Borderlands.” Thanks to Reviews editor Alan Britt for recruiting the able talents of Silvia Scheibli, David Fraser, Miriam O’Neal and Boris Dralyuk.
On the visual side: An interview with Gabriel Navar, and galleries of recent work reflecting the worldwide obsession with smart phones, add another dimension to the West Coast art scene… Particularly gratifying: Rod Serling, and “The Masks.” Then there’s photographer Jennifer Georgescu, whose “Sand, Stones, Dead Leaves & Bone #13” is one of many images that swim in the river of nature’s chaos. the Photography Spot features images from a new book by Belgian Photographer Marc Lagrange; contributing writer/photographer Ginger Liu interviews ex-rocker Andy Summers about his life on the road as a photographer; and from place to place you’ll find the work of Walter Gurbo, Lynda Barreto and Jonathan Kelham. Bottoms up!
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Speculative Fiction by People of Color Contest
We are very thankful to the writers who entered our Speculative Fiction by People of Color contest, and offer our sincere congratulations to the winner and runners up, whose stories will be critiqued by our final judge, Sheree Renée Thomas, announced on or about December 1st, and will appear in Ragazine.CC in 2014.
Best wishes for the holidays, whatever holidays they might be in your part of the world.
Thanks for reading… spread the word.
— Mike F.
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Twitter: Follow @ragazinecc
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What to do “After the Fall”?
Our friend Nick Buglaj is in Idaho this week, trekking at 10,000 feet. Most of the rest of the world’s population is living somewhere between sea level and, oh, maybe 1000′ above it. Max. I didn’t get that figure from Wikipedia. I made it up. But from all I’ve learned over the years about population centers and their proximity to the sea, it’s true. So what do we all do when the seas begin to rise? Head inland, of course. Which leads to the next question, how many humans can live on the head of a pin — or a Himalayan peak?
Forty years ago a couple of pals hiked Glacier National Park. There were still glaciers then. I was driving around this week with a business friend. We stopped for a brief look at Taughannock Falls in Tompkins County near Ithaca in upstate New York. Taughannock has the highest vertical drop of any water fall in the Northeast – at 215 feet, 33 feet higher than Niagara. The geological history map reports the area was under a mile of ice just a hundred thousand years ago (or so). Goes to show the phenomenon of global warming is nothing new — it’s just accelerating now, helped along by humanity’s varying needs for power and light, without which this web site wouldn’t be possible. I’d like to be able to say, “Don’t worry about it,” but that’s not entirely true. Just have to consider the alternatives. That’s a bit of what journalist Tom Wilber does in his recap of President Obama’s visit in August to Binghamton University, and the controversy over fracking.
The cover of this issue perfectly meets the coming season. We had several choices to make and settled on Tom Bovo’s simple, yet elegant photograph depicting what happens to a leaf when it falls. In this series, the photographer gives leaves an afterlife worth living. Some of the other choices were a collage by photo editor Chuck Haupt from the art works to be displayed at the Ponce, Puerto Rico, exhibition Past, Present, Pa’lante # 2, and a sunrise image taken by Cheryl Carter-Price in Maine that is part of the current exhibition at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, CO. All three pieces are excerpts from features that appear in this issue of Ragazine.CC. We hope and trust you’ll take the time to see and read who and what are behind their respective curtains.
Thanks to the many talented people whose contributions to Ragazine.CC make worthwhile the effort to bring it all together, among them: Poets Christopher Phelps, Dante Di Stefano, Edie Angelo and Oliver Rice, and in translation by Flavia Cosma, Luis Raul Calvo; steadfast columnists Mark Levy (Casual Observer), Jim Palombo (politics), Galanty Miller (Re-Tweets) and Bill Dixon (From the Edge); music reviewers Jeff Katz (music editor) and Fred Roberts (contributing editor, music); and, creative nonfiction writers Jaron Serven and Cris Mazza. Behind the curtains, Leslie Heywood (CNF editor), Joe Weil (fiction editor) and Emily Vogel (poetry editor). And where you find them, illustrator/cartoonists Walter Gurbo, Jonathan Kelham, Lynda Barreto and Benoit Jammes. Roberts, by the way, also contributed a review of “Berlin! Berlin!,” translations of Kurt Tucholsky’s “Dispatches from the Weimar Republic.” If you have any interest in politics and positions leading up to WWII, this should get you interested in reading these translations of Tucholsky’s heroic essays that led to him being driven out of pre-war Germany.
Other new books on review include “2057,” “Figures of My Century,” “Silvertone,” “Parabola Dreams” and “The Fellowship,” while contributing editor John Smelcer takes a critical look back at Jean Toomer’s “Cane.” Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret reviews artist Annette Messager’s “La Tortures Volontaires,” a collection of images that explores “the frontiers between art and marketing.” Behind the curtain: Books and Reviews editor Alan Britt, and the reviewers themselves: Smelcer, Abigail Smoot, Miriam O’Neal and Matthew Hoffman.
The Past, Present, Pa’lante # 2 exhibit preview by contributing art editor Dr. Jose Rodeiro with an assist from photo archivist Christie Devereaux explains how the modern day La Ruche gallery in Union City, New Jersey, got it’s name, and provides brief bios of curator Robert Rosado and the many artists whose works are included in the exhibit in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Comments, questions and suggestions are always welcome, so post them at will. Find an error? Let us know and Monique Gagnon or I will make it right…
Thanks for reading.
– Mike Foldes
Thanks to all who entered Ragazine’s
Speculative Fiction by People of Color
writing contest. Winner and runners up
will be announced in December.
WALTER GURBO’S DRAWING ROOM
Twitter: Follow @ragazinecc
Summer reading …
Take us to the beach (or Else)
And while you’re in Oakland
Check out the WAYPI
Mel Ramos, “Catwoman,” Lithograph, 2010
Pretoria, South Africa. September. Join the Conversation as artists, writers, politicians, diplomats and others congregate in Pretoria to discuss an agenda that could mean keeping humankind alive for another 1,000 years. Or more. Afro-American artist Ben Jones will exhibit his series, “Evolution, Revolution,” at this ground-breaking world gathering, and in this issue we present both an art critique of Jones’ work by art editor Jose Rodeiro, and Rodeiro’s interview with the artist with photos by Christie Devereaux.
Joao Pessoa, Brazil. July. With the best interests of the people in mind, politics editor Jim Palombo excerpts information from the upcoming program, “The Economy of the Workers” conference. Jim comments on the concept of “work” from his own experience, and includes the program notes to provide the backdrop for a discussion that is mushrooming from the bottom up about differentials that experiments in Capitalism and Democracy must come to terms with in an increasingly globalized world.
Nocturnes: On the matter of Darkness in Art. A studied overview and motif for the current show at the Therese A. Mahoney Art Gallery, College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, N.J., by curator and art history professor Dr. Virginia Butera.
Music: A unique presentation of recent work from New York musician David Gaita, with excerpts from the score of his Veterans’ Day Parade for String Quartet, and a video outtake of the piece performed by a string quartet at the Eastman School of Music, in Rochester, N.Y.
More Music: Fred Roberts from Germany on the Dream Syndicate; Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret from France, on Elainie Lillios. Photography: An interview with and gallery of photos by, our cover art photographer Dina Litovsky; and, the Photo Editor’s Choice, a selection of work from Chris Anthony.
Poets: Can’t live without them … Kate Sweeney, Tim Suermondt & Hal Sirowitz
Fiction: Kevin Carey’s “Lucky Day” … when the sun shines…
Creative Nonfiction: Alex Holmes’ “114” … there’s no way like the highway…
Columns — holding up the house: Bill Dixon/From the Edge; Mircea Filimon/Gay Life; Mark Levy/Casual Observer; Galanty Miller’s Re-Tweets.
More Art: Shades of Phillipe Mohlitz — A trip to the studio/apartment/studio of artist-curator Gloria Duque, with Jorge Alberto Perez! It’s not easy to capture what Gloria’s life and work is all about, but Jorge’s done a great job – and that’s why we asked if we could re-run his story, which first appeared in the newsletter of the Camera Club of New York. Seeing is believing.
Books & Reviews: Alan Britt and Abigail Smoot review Eclectic Coffee Spots in Puget Sound; Seven American Deaths and Disasters; Words the Interrupted Speak, and Flies and Monkeys.
For a short take on what’s going on in the world of medicine, check out the report on M Sedlof’s recent visit to the annual SAGES conference. SAGES is the acronym for Society of Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons. You did want to know more about that, right?
And, keep a keen eye out for Walter Gurbo, Bennoit Jammes, Jonathan Kelman and Lynda Barreto. They’re all in here somewhere.
FICTION CONTEST DEADLINE EXTENDED
The first Ragazine.CC Fundraiser-Writing Contest deadline is extended to September 20. The theme of this event, “Best Speculative Fiction by a Person of Color written in 2013,” is meant to bring attention to this under-served genre, and we trust you’ll find the winning entries provide fascinating encounters with other worlds. Complete background on the contest, including its origins by fiction editor Joe Weil; a bio of the final judge, speculative fiction editor and author Sheree Renée Thomas; and, full contest guidelines, can be found on the “Contest” page.
Thanks for reading!
— Mike Foldes
Twitter: Follow @ragazinecc
In this issue
Another side of the coin …
We sometimes hear about renaissance men, but it’s less often we can appreciate them in their lifetimes. So it is with great pleasure we profile George Nelson Preston, a New York City native son who traces his lineage farther back than almost any of us can to the 18th Century. A septuagentarian man who plays baseball with unabashed enthusiasm, who ceremonially and effectually presides over the Ghanian tribe to which he claims the deepest roots, whose studio on the lower east side of Manhattan in the ’60s hosted the greatest poets, artists and writers of the latter half of the 20th Century. And more… Preston has been called a National Treasure, and to know more about him, as you will discover in this in-depth profile by author-photographer Petra Richterova, will convince you of no less.
News from the sidelines, and inside baseball …
Music editor Jeff Katz is taking a sabbatical to write a book about the 1981 baseball season and strike …. Qualifications: Jeff not only is a baseball fan, but also mayor of Cooperstown, N.Y., home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He has great access to research materials. And people who really care about The Game. Fred Roberts, On Location in Germany, has picked up the ball, so to speak, with a look at a David Bowie redux exhibit on the artist-musician’s years in Berlin, and reviews of au courant European music groups.
Lynda Barreto, who contributed “The Litchfields” cartoon/illustrations for a couple of years a few years ago, is back with a new series she’s managed to produce between turns as a barrister in her café in Naples, FL. She and Benoit Jammes join Walter Gurbo and Jonathan Kelham with illustrations on ‘gray pages’ and other suitable locations to inject a change of pace into our cyberpages.
Contributing art editor Jose Rodeiro , with photographer Christie Devereaux, take readers on another art odyssey, this time to ancient Greece and Rome and “Art of the Mediterranean.” Midori Yoshimoto interviews artist Babs Reingold, whose latest series “The Last Tree” speaks to the unnatural decimation of the natural environment.
An e-interview with Sebastian Łuczywo by photo editor Chuck Haupt reveals the passion that drove the Polish photographer to pursue his art and craft. Brent Williamson, aka Teknari, is back in Ragazine with Whatever Comes, a showcase of large images on tempered glass created using his own film and plates in a unique photographic process. Ellen Jantzen returns with a series titled Compressing Reality produced by blending a series of shots ‘taken in the moment,’ into a moment. Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy share their ultra-high resolution images of nature; unfortunately, you won’t be able to see them here as they and others do when properly presented, but you’ll certainly get the idea. Rounding out “photography” is “Photo Editor’s Choice,” vibrant images from some of Sweden’s top photographers.
Contributing editor Ginger Liu, On Location/LA, interviews videographers Enrico Tomaselli and Francesca Fini. Video posts include works from Fini, Cecelia Chapman, Steve Johnson and Jeff Crouch. Tomaselli is project director of The Project 100×100=900, which celebrates the 50th anniversary in 2013 of Video Art. One hundred video artists from around the world are invited to participate; each will produce a video artwork inspired by one of the previous 100 years, with an international exhibit to follow.
Politics editor Jim Palombo extemporizes from his winter residence in San Miguel Allende on re-thinking Karl Marx. In this latest chapter of his ongoing analysis of “Is it Capitalism, or is it Democracy,” Palombo looks at the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and how they relate to America’s economic, social and military presence in the modern world.
Contributing editor (Latin in America) Lilvia Soto reviews Eulogy for a Brown Angel, by Lucha Corpi, “a murder mystery set against the background of the Chicano civil rights march of August 29, 1970.” Books editor Alan Britt reviews Lost Arts, by Leslie Heywood, Ragazine‘s creative nonfiction editor. Britt writes that what you will find in Lost Arts is “a hands-on, often literal, bare-bones diction that is occasionally peppered with the right dose of metaphor.”
Poet and professor Silvia Scheibli reviews Duane Locke’s The First Decade, a collection of poems the reviewer describes as “a book that takes its readers day by day through the pantheistic, sacred landscape of the imagination into a new and exciting linguistic reality and also constructs a broader picture of the callous and inhumane treatment society perpetrates on itself through menial self-deceptions and unmistakable denials.”
John Smelcer,Tom Sorci, Dave Bonga, andTrudell Guerue remember author/friend Michael Dorris. Dorris (1945-1997) was the award-winning author of numerous books, mostly about the Native American experience, including his popular novel, A Yellow Raft on Blue Water (1987).
In Sarah Odishoo‘s creative nonfiction piece, “The Projectionist: Show Me,” the author grapples with the existential balancing acts of love and life. Thaddeaus Rutkowski, in his fiction piece “Out of Fashion,” examines reasons why one might not want to declare as an artiste.
On the poetry front, poets Emily Vogel and Lisa Flowers take a look at each other’s work in two analytical essays that reflect each woman’s approach to her own poetics, as well as an understanding of the other’s. Reviews and analysis aside, we trust you’ll appreciate and enjoy the work of poets Abby Murray, Paige Gittelman and Andy Doyle.
Holding up the roof …
Mircea Filimon,Gay Life: Ponders the contradictory roles religion plays, and the influence it has, on being gay.
Bill Dixon, From the Edge: Delights in not sharing oddities of the English language, preferring instead to keep a beer-drinking friend a friend. Dixon, by the way, recently underwent quadruple bypass surgery and isn’t back, yet, to his old habits… or haunts. That should be something to write about.
Scott “Galanty Miller, Re-Tweets. The professor rants in short form about peeves, pecadilloes and personal favorites, among them, Sean Connery.
Fiction Contest …
Ragazine.CC ‘s fiction contest is under way! We are offering $1000.00 first place prize for the best speculative fiction story written by a person of color in 2013. Complete information on the contest, including its origin with fiction editor Joe Weil; a bio of the final judge, speculative fiction author Sheree Renée Thomas; and, contest guidelines, can be found on the “Contest” page.
Thanks for reading!
— Mike Foldes
Twitter: Follow @ragazinecc
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On with the show!
Let’s start with the anonymous aphorism, “Time stands still for no one,” that familiar and inclusive declaration of the transitory nature of being. Simply put, 2012 is over, long live 2013…
Not too soon to say good-bye, either …. floods, fire, famine, war, wanton murder, plague… Six Horsemen, and an Apocalypse that didn’t happen.
So, on with the show, and a good one it is, including: John Smelcer‘s memoir of times shared with John Updike; images from the portfolio of Rahi Rezvani (cover image, above), accompanied by an interview with the photographer; poetry from Elizabeth Anderson, Tom Bair, John Bellinger, Molly Goldblatt, and an interview with poet David Ray. Art content features a retrospective of the work of Mary-Ellen Campbell, and Jose Rodeiro’s Art History romp from Ireland to Italy and back again. Politics editor Jim Palombo mixes it up with art in an overview by Martin Rosenberg of Polish posters produced under Communist regimes.
Music Editor Jeff Katz provides his annual roundup of the year’s 10 Best — meaning, most listened to music in 2012, not just FROM 2012 (Yes, there are seismic shifts in that list from year to year), and a review of Graham Parker‘s “Three Chords Good.” Fred Roberts brings back Berlin, circa 1980s, and Eric Schafer chafes at those who disrespect Rolling Stones from days of yore.
Jonathan Evans recounts in “Legend of a Gone World” time spent with the inimitable Peter One, foremost photographer of Moroccan kif culture, along with images from Peter’s 1975 postcard booklet, “The Kif Smoker.”Bill Dixon answers a wake up call in New Orleans’ Latin Quarter at dawn. Robert Scotellaro provides a couple of short takes on the fiction front. C. Goodison kicks with her story, “Wolf at the Door.”
Don’t miss regular features: Galanty Miller’s Re-Tweets; Mark Levy’s Casual Observer, “Life’s a Gamble,” and pictures from the wall of Walter Gurbo’s “Drawing Room.” Sci-Fi’s on the menu of Alan Britt’s selections for review. If you want to find out what events may be happening in your part of the world, or elsewhere, have a look at our EVENTS page. And, from time to time, check out short takes about our readers and contributors that appear in “News, Haps & Snaps.”
We regretfully say good-bye to Metta Sama, our fiction editor for the last few years, whose final selections for Ragazine appear this issue. She’s done a great job and we’ll miss her steadfast effort to identify the best new short fiction writing of the day as she moves on to more teaching, writing and the tribulations of making a real living.
Thanks for reading!
Walter Gurbo’s Drawing Room
Ragazine.CC/We Are You Fundraiser Tickets:
Feb 23, 2013, Maysles Cinema, NYC, NY
4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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We are where we’re at …
but we won’t be forever
“Ragazine is a collaboration of emerging and established artists, writers, poets, musicians, photographers, travelers and interested others, with a goal to promote an eclectic selection of subject matter to an international audience.”
You may have read that sentence before; it runs near the bottom of every Welcome page.
The zine that began eight years ago to share the art, poetry and photography of a small circle of friends now generates growing interest and increasing support from hundreds of contributors and thousands of readers around the world. You might say we’re reaching our target audience. Except for the fact that many in our target audience are themselves targets of another sort. For any number of reasons, from political or military repression, to ethnic and religious prejudice, to social norms and economic disparity, they are denied access to open forums where they can bring their ideas to light and flourish.
What better way, then, than to close out our eighth year of publication with a diverse selection of material that reflects how we are dealing on myriad fronts with challenges to human progress and enlightenment in the 21st Century. In early October, we published “The Levant Exhibition,” a mid-issue post of one of many papers presented at a recent symposium in the United Arab Emirates examining “aspects associated with orientalist art creativity in Levant,” and dealing “with the most prominent features and historical eras related to orientalist arts,” including “aesthetics, the approach and the printing techniques of the orientalist paintings.” The exhibit, borrowing heavily from the collection of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, a member of the UAE supreme council and ruler of Sharjah, presents western artists’ perceptions of the region, principally in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Many of the images hearken back to what some might recall seeing as children in illustrated editions of The Arabian Nights – where, it seems, too many of us learned our history lessons. Mohammad Mahdy Hemaida’s paper was selected because it seemed more objective about the artwork, and carried fewer political undertones, than some of the other presentations.
The article remains live, residing in the current issue alongside an impressive scholarly review of three “Fertile Crescent” exhibitions in a cross-disciplinary art project on display now in Princeton and New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Politics, Society and Sexuality in Middle Eastern Art,” by professor Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph. D., is an educated look at the art produced by women from or associated with cultures where the social and political fabric binds them in ways that deny opportunities to freely depict frustrations, realities, hopes and dreams. It’s unlikely this breakout exhibition will ever hang in the same halls as art of the Levant.
Some time ago we had the good fortune to connect with We Are You Project. WAYP is an international organization based in New Jersey publicizing contributions of Hispanics to American art, culture, education and the economy, and by their example fighting the anti-immigrant fervor that simmers today in this country. To this end, we’ve shared work of WAYP artists and poets, and have planned a joint Ragazine.CC and WAYP fundraiser at the Maysles Cinema in New York City(POSTPONED due to Sandy; Rain Dates to be announced). We hope you’ll join us.
For a clearer understanding of what many Hispanic-Americans feel and face living in America today, read Professor Lilvia Soto’s insightful message to a Latino audience on a U.S. college campus that holds as true today as it did when delivered in 2009. Then, continue on to her translation of Mexican poet Alberto Blanco’s poem, “The Undocumented.” Blanco, one of the most recognized contemporary Latin American poets, received the Octavio Paz Poetry Award in 2001.
Photographer Karen Miranda, who lives in Queens, New York, collaborates with native communities and with her relatives as subjects of her photography projects. She has worked with the Mandaeans from Iraq and Iran living in Sweden and Detroit, Waoranis in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Andes Mountains, and for a brief period with the Mam in Guatemala. Her intimate portraits tell a tale of their own, but you’ll learn a bit more about her approach in our interview.
Tice Lerner’s debut exhibit last summer at the Anthony Brunelli Gallery in Binghamton, N.Y., placed him prominently on the stage of photographers whose works embody both empathy and contrast with an outside world not of his subjects’ own making. Lerner, an engineer by training, captures neighborhood denizens in a once-thriving upstate city striving to remake itself. His photo on this month’s cover (above) is an invitation to see and know more about what makes him, and his approach to photography, unique.
Photographer Steve Bromberg has spent enough time in China to know his way around a bit more than most. His camera reveals a nation of contrasts as it struggles with change, and the scars that struggle leaves as the country transitions from an agrarian Communist to industrial Capitalist power.
Artist Stephanie Rond’s subtly provocative works focus largely on distrust. The “Dick and Jane,” storybook-type illustrations incorporate clues to a world populated by wolves in men’s and boys’ clothing. Active in the Columbus, Ohio, arts community, Rond is also curator of the miniature s.Dot Gallery.
Jack Zipes discusses “Why Fairy Tales Stick,” with Ragazine contributing editor John Smelcer. Zipes, a foremost scholar of the fairy tale, postulates “that the most important stories in a culture become memes, “which evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins proposed in his book The Selfish Gene (1976)…” If you like fairy tales, or wonder where they come from and why some persist where others don’t, you’ll certainly remember this conversation.
In an artful essay, author and Nobel Prize for Literature runner-up Paul West wakes the unconscious mind with a literary foray into the writings of Samuel Beckett. West ventures to examine the short stories of Texts with a critic’s evincing eye and ear. Commenting on a passage in “Assumption,” he writes, “Something rippling evokes muscle and, as always in Beckett, a better mind than the mind on show makes the whole thing irresistible.” We trust you’re up to it.
Creative nonfiction editor Leslie Heywood says her selection for this issue, “The Sleep Scale,” commanded the rapt attention of other students in her class at Binghamton University when read aloud by its author Cecil Jordan. Read it to yourself. Read it aloud. Be advised: Not a cure for insomnia.
Fiction editor Metta Sama delivers a piece from Alison Meyers titled “Pest Control” that focuses on the continuing divides between haves and have nots, whites and people of color, the privileged and those who work for them. Live a few snippets of their lives; see what the other sides see of each other. Reflect.
Poetry editor Emily Vogel provides selections from poets Phil Boiarski, Devin McMicken and Nicholas Wilsey. Boiarski’s been writing and publishing for more than forty years; McMicken’s first public reading took place in early October. Wilsey DJs a poetry-focused radio show.
Alan Britt joins the Ragazine team as Books/Reviews editor. The Books section will move from a Page to a Post, which can be dated and saved for archiving. In his initial offering, Britt reviews three volumes from Split Oak Press, and includes Paul Sohar’s examination of The New Arcana by John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris. Find out more about Alan Britt in “About Us.”
Music editor Jeff Katz examines the “music listening and buying experience” as it relates to The Internet Radio Fairness Act. The bill aims to “lower the royalty rate that Internet radio stations like Pandora pay from over 50% of total revenues, to the less onerous 7ish% of revenues that satellite titans like SiriusXM pay, or even the cable rate of 15%.” Asks Katz, “It’s all about fairness, no?” Also on Katz’s agenda: Reviews of Bob Dylan’s latest, Tempest, and The Once and Future Carpenter from the Avett Brothers.
Politics editor Jim Palombo discusses education and empowerment in the modern age, where the notion of a healthy society comes into play. Under-education and a desensitized environment, Palombo contends, contribute to an “unhealthy state of affairs.” Jumping from that to “Part II,” Palombo comments on what’s being said about the subject on the campaign trail to Election 2012. Add to that contributor Doug Bond’s satirical overview of the Last Minute October Surprises coming our way, and you have a wide-screen advantage over the next guy.
Casual Observer Mark Levy casts a jaundiced eye at too-real developments in high-def television technology; Galanty Miller begins his collection of Re-tweets with, “The richest man in the world has something in common with the poorest man in the world; they both want to be richer.” And throughout, the illustrations of Nadja Asghar and Walter Gurbo.
Enjoy. As always, thanks for reading!
– Mike Foldes
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If you can’t make Money …
If you can’t Make Money, Make Art. If you can’t Make Art, Make Money – and spend it on Art. The arts may not be able to lift everyone out of poverty, but they do have the power to lift the spirits of rich and poor alike. A good enough reason to keep our shoulders to the wheel.
Karl Polanyi was one of the most influential economists and social thinkers of the last century. His work, widely read and recognized throughout the world, is largely unknown in the United States. When Politics Editor Jim Palombo discovered that Polanyi’s daughter, Prof. Kari Polanyi Levitt, is living in Canada, he reached out for an interview. Prof. Levitt, in her own teachings and writings, is carrying on her father’s legacy, and the two professors share that and some of their own critical thinking here.
Nikolai Buglaj is more interested in capturing the essence of an idea than in fame and fortune. In this regard, he has few peers. Art Editor Dr. José Rodeiro and artist Christie Devereaux interview Buglaj; and, in an accompanying article “The Artist Who Refuses to Show,” Rodeiro examines Buglaj’s work and its historical value as “art for art’s sake.”
Jeff Katz moves beyond the sound stage to share the joy of watching his autistic son Nate achieve a personal best with an art exhibit in Soho earlier this year. Katz’s memoir of that event is aptly titled, “Really, It Was A Miracle.” Elsewhere, Katz jumps back into his role as Ragazine’s music editor with a variety pack of short takes on old favorites and recent discoveries. Also on the music front, Eric Schafer, back in the States for some physical therapy and R&R after several years working in Viet Nam, writes up some of his own “I wish…” covers of favorite tunes from the not-so-olden days.
Photography features this issue include, as always, Chuck Haupt’s “The Photography Spot” – individual photos with explanations from the do-ers about motivation and origins. This post is about the resilience of boys, no matter where they come from. In addition, photographer Todd Smith takes us to the shore and more from the ’70s to today, in a “compare and contrast” visual essay about changing times.
Poetry: There’s plenty to choose from: Lauren Tursellino, Samantha Zighelboim, J. Barret Wolf and Simone Kearney; an interview with poet-author Klaus Gerken, publisher of the literary journal Ygdrasil; a review by Paul Sohar of poet Alan Britt’s Alone with the Terrible Universe; and a look back at the convergence of art, poetry and architecture at 1WTC Visitor Center the day the building became the tallest in NYC.
From author Christopher Panzner, an American in Paris, comes “A Tati Moment,” an entertaining oblique excerpted from his first collection titled SLOW. (In my mind, Georges Seurat paints Marcel Marceau or the Little Tramp.)
Sarah Silbert’s “Mondays Can Seem Like Sundays,” is a mother’s reflections on raising a family in rural Vermont. Silbert strives to maintain the will to preserve the events, large and small, that help her maintain her own identity, even while it further entwines with those of her loved ones.
If you didn’t get ’em while they’re hot, catch Galanty Miller‘s retweets, featuring the wit and wisdom of Prospero. For example, I think it’s unfair that it’s so hard for aging actresses in Hollywood to find good roles in the Transformers movies. And before you stop laughing, tune in to Mark Levy’s Casual Observer as he looks at life through a jaundiced eye. Kind of like Nadja, who did the illustration for Mark’s column. Or our friend Walter, here…
Happy autumnal equinox, and …
Thanks for reading!
V8N4 July-August 2012
We haven’t come a long way, baby
June 29/30, Endwell
Pick a topic. Any topic. Write about it without injecting yourself into it. Write about anything else, but not … You. Make a list: Politics, culture, art, war, peace, food, hunger… recognizing opposites begins to come easily, a cheap way to make the list longer with little extra effort. Stop there. Begin again. A month goes by. And then another. Openings, closings, travel for business, travel for fun, travel for no other reason than to get from there to somewhere else. Or here. “Outside the beltway.” “West of the Hudson…” In touch with realities. Each powerful word carries with it a visage, a comprehensive, multi-dimensional emotional package of what is (fill in the blank), for example, CULTURE: So much of what Politicians debate and the Media presents should go without saying. Yet it’s part of Our Culture to be zealously fractious.
So every couple of months the contributors and editors of Ragazine bring at least some of it back together under one e-cover. We’re especially proud with this issue to provide the vehicle for reintroducing Walter Gurbo’s “Drawing Room” to a surreality-starved world. Gurbo returns with Drawing Room after an hiatus that followed his 12-year tenure contributing panels to the village Voice. His work appeared in Ragazine simultaneously with a show at Anthony Brunelli Gallery in Binghamton last year. You can recap at: http://old.ragazine.cc/2011/08/walter-gurbo/
Other recent additions to the crew – you already may have seen or read their work – include: Dr. José Rodeiro (Art); Monique Gagnon German (Copy Editor); Rhonda Branca (Flag Waver, until she has time for something more); Scott “Galanty” Miller (Columnist/re-Tweeter-ist); and Nadja Asghar (Illustrator). Metta Sama, our fiction editor for the past few years, is stepping down. She tried to quit once before, but we wouldn’t let her. Metta’s selections will run through the January-February 2013 issue. We wish her well in her new ventures, and the chances are good you’ll be hearing from or about her here again. Joe Weil will be picking up as fiction editor where Metta leaves off – with the March-April 2013 issue. Joe, a long-time Ragazine supporter, was poetry editor early on and we’re glad to have him back in this new role. You can read more about them all in About Us.
What in store with V8N4? Where to begin?
* An interview with Cuban artist Raul Villarreal, who co-authored a book with his father Rene Villarreal, major domo at Ernest Hemingway‘s Finca Vigia estate outside Havana. Villarreal’s paintings embody the culture and sentiment of the disenfranchised who left the island nation after Fidel Castro rose to power. The article appears as Hemingway scholars recall the author on his birthday, July 21, 1899.
* Poets Chelsie Malyszek; Alfred Corn; Melissa Schwalm and Nicole Santalucia appear along with a review of Maria Mazziotti Gillan‘s forthcoming “The Place I Call Home” by poetry editor Emily Vogel.
* Politics editor James Palombo offers a snapshot of Harlem from a visit to the Maysles Theater for presentations of Stain – Changing Lives After Incarceration, and “OWS,” a series of shorts on the Occupy movement.
* On the side of Art, we have an interview with collage artist-photographer Marcin Owczarek, whose piece, “Consumption,” leads this page. Owczarek’s work intrigues and mystifies at once. And get ready for a leap of faith with José Rodeiro‘s exuberant review and analysis of Christie Devereaux’s latest show, which opened at The Treasure Room Gallery in New York at the end of June. Find out what drove Devereaux to make ART in an accompanying interview.
* The Fiction roster lists Rosebud Ben-Oni‘s short story, “As the Twig Is Bent,” and flash fiction from Hermine Pinson, “The Cat and Mouse and the Shoe.” Creative Nonfiction by Paul Sohar, “Worm Dialog,” recounts an endurance run on a trans-Atlantic flight with a fellow traveler who thinks he’s identified the leading actors in the space-time continuum.
* Photography highlights include an interview with French photographer Pierre Corratge. Corratge practiced medicine for 30 years before turning his energies full time to the camera. Find opposite points of view in interviews and galleries from DJ Pierce and Dennis Maitland; and, find out what ticks in “the Photo Editor’s Choice,” selections by Chuck Haupt with “the story” behind each piece from the photographers.
* On the Humorous side, read what Mark Levy in Casual Observer has to say about “Bobs”, and be bitten by the satire of Galanty Miller‘s re-Tweets.
* Did someone say “Music“? If you’ve been following our friend Jeff Katz‘s articles, you know he has wide-ranging tastes and angles. This issue he sets up a bunch of friends to go toe-to-toe on “Beach Boys vs Beatles,” while Fred Roberts puts into words the rapture he felt listening to singer-songwriter Maia Vidal in a Barcelona bistro.
* Finally, a visit to Haiti to teach batik takes Jonathan and Beth Evans to Gonaives. There the travelers find themselves face-to-face with a culture unlike any other, as they bring their art to a community where it just might take root and grow.
Thanks for reading!
− Mike Foldes
Volume 8, Number 3, May-June 2012
I’ve had some strange dreams lately, and not a few had to do with Ragazine. Indirectly, of course, but somewhere in those thoughts, twisted like brambles in a centurion hedge, the trail led back to the Rag. Because that’s where the creativity is. Look at the work represented in these cyberpages, most obviously, perhaps, the Art and Photography, because for those of us with eyes that can see, the visuals are an immediate challenge to fathom, if not believe. The Poetry, the Fiction, the Creative Nonfiction, Music Reviews, Political Commentary and other literary bytes are harder to comprehend; they have to be taken in word by word, line by line, page by page. Only by diving deeper into the heart of these ideas can one hope to grasp their meanings. Reading, however, takes time and concentration, two things too often in short supply. We trust this issue of Ragazine will awaken your inner self, derail the Daily You long enough for the Real You to resurface — without a slap in the head from Larry, Curly or Moe.
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Art-heavy, we are, and internationally so. Briton John Tierney‘s paintings have been likened to David Hockney and Edward Hopper, but he retains his own unique style in bringing scenes to life on canvas. In an interview, the retired criminology professor discusses his work, ”nature vs nurture,” and whether he would travel the same road the same way again.
“Three Hot Brazilian Artists” – Priscila De Carvalho, Duda Penteado and Gersony Silva – are introduced to Ragazine readers in an article by Dr. Jose Rodeiro that includes galleries showcasing the work of each. The artists and the article’s author have been instrumental in promoting WE ARE YOU Project International, furthering the cause of equal rights and immigration reform as it affects the growing Latino community in the United States (http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/04/we-are-you-project/).
Canadian Xavier Landry savages contemporary society with the same sharp wit as Lenny Bruce, only on canvas. In an interview, Landry explains how current events, fast food and historical personages figure into his world of Cabbage Patch Kids grown-up. Perhaps as fitting to say, “What Alice didn’t find when she fell down the rabbit hole….”
Danish-American artist Hanne H7L‘s surrealist imagery will teach you not to crack your knuckles. In an interview, H7L talks about her methods, her vision — including the complex layering of photographic images in ghostly procession – and her artistic influences, among them Henry Buhl and Yoko Ono.
The curative power of art is found in an article from Rose Robin about the recently popularized Mexican fishing village of La Paz, Mexico. Development in La Paz has displaced many of the original residents. Robin organized Painting Pirates to give impoverished children a positive outlet in otherwise bleak lives, imbuing them and their families with hope for better days ahead.
Rounding out the this issue’s art assemblage is the work of Tuten Hiromi Sakurai, aka Tuten, whose vibrant expressionist paintings resonate wildly, at the same time they break with what we in the West might see as Japanese painting tradition.
Poetry editor Emily Vogel has selected the work of five poets for this issue: Monique Gagnon German, Kathleen Keough, George Moore, Juan Soler and Barbara Sue Mink Spalding. Great coincidence that with so much poetry as National Poetry Month winds down, we’re also showcasing an Anti-Poetry-Month essay by Charles Bernstein on the News & Haps page. It’s a good bet this essay will appear yearly in April (somewhere) as surely as a letter to Virginia appears on editorial pages in newspapers across America at Christmas time.
Creative nonfiction editor Leslie Heywood brings to the fore thoughtful stories by Carol Sanford and Alexis Paige that explore finding the perfect “Now” in the perceived wilderness of rural America. Fiction from Beth Couture traces the path of curious girls and the risk one of them takes that carelessly puts a man’s life on the line. Fiction editorMetta Sama comments, “Hot damn! This is a great story. Creepy. Desperate. Sad. Honest. Familiar. Reminds me, in parts, of the wickedness Alice Munroe can write out.”
In our regular features, Politics editor Jim Palombo, who spent the winter in San Miguel Allende, points to environmental concerns that should be forefront (even if they’re not) at the upcoming G20 meeting in Mexico. Music editor and Cooperstown’s new mayor Jeff Katz reviews Blue Cheer, CWB and Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball. Casual Observer Mark Levy returns with a positive take on getting older… sage advice on saving from a new Floridian. Welcome to illustrator Nadja Asghar, whose work appears as one of our rotating headers, and ‘inside’. Last but not least by any means, as you can see when you browse our pages, Photo editor Chuck Haupt has selected five memorable images with photographer statements for this issue’s the PHOTOGRAPHY Spot.
Ragazine.CC. Miss it and miss out.
Thanks for reading!
− Mike Foldes
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Volume 8, Number 2, March-April 2012
Let’s hope the worst is over with the GOP Presidential primaries. This is not a political statement. Just the sad fact that so much money is being wasted by also-rans. They’d likely win more votes by contributing the millions they receive in SuperPAC money to help satisfy global needs for food, clothing, education, shelter and medicine. Instead, in the relentless pursuit of a seat at the table with Really Big Poobas, the most resilient candidates settle for a sustained diet of rubber chicken dinners, the style and class of sweater vests, and vain efforts to seat themselves a little closer to their makers, both in heaven and on earth. Why are these losers still in the race? What did Newt do for that special someone in his life to contribute millions to a campaign going nowhere? What will happen to the treasure chests when the dust settles and it’s time to regroup until the next campaign? Go into treasury funds?
It’s a sad day for America when “freedom for all” gives way to parochial interests. But that’s what 2012 is shaping up to be. Now on to more satisfying things.
There’s a load of great stuff in this issue of Ragazine, including much better fiction than I offer, from professor and artist Steve Poleski; creative nonfiction from Jennie Case exploring community gardens; the inimitable cityscapes in the photography of Martin Stavars; and an incredible look into Mumbai’s dhobhi ghat from Adeel Halim, street photographer extraordinaire, whose photograph of Mumbai’s open laundry tops the Welcome page .
Politics Editor Jim Palombo takes a more serious and encompassing look at the political scene in his “Primer to the Primaries – and Beyond.” With a clarifying review difficult to locate anywhere, Jim presents political, economic and social considerations which in turn affect concerns around the globe. This unusual piece will definitely speak to bettering your ideological acumen, which in these turbulent times, is something to be looking towards.
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the death of author John Gardner, Joel Gardner discusses his father’s work with contributing editor John Smelcer. Poetry offerings include work from Claudia Serea, Alan Britt, Carol Dine, Evan Hansen, and poems from 14-year-old Carly Gove. We round things out with a meditation jointly composed by Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso and Smelcer, and illustrated by Micah Farritor.
Music editor Jeff Katz offers his usual eclectic mix of reviews and opinion turning his practiced eye on the Avett Brothers, the classics of the Jet Set, and his own favorite first tracks of debut albums.
Tara Dervla deconstructs the painting Hips Don’t Lie, from José Rodeiro, art professor at New Jersey City University; contributing editor Miklós Horváth interviews the worldly performance and visual artist Murray Gaylard; and John Kelly exalts in The Art Museum, a recent release from Phaidon publishing. Indigenous art lovers will appreciate Images from Injalak, a project of the indigenous people of Australia working with Melbourne-based artist and printmaker Andrew Sinclair, with an informed introduction by Marguerite Brown, exhibition curator.
I can’t think of a better way to slide into spring and away from the cacophony of current events than to spend a little more time with us than usual. As for those of you in Southern Hemispheric temperate climes, it’s time for tea and honey.
Thanks for reading!
− Mike Foldes
Material that appears in ragazine.cc is copyright the contributor, unless otherwise indicated. Additional Copyright information is available on the SUBMISSIONS Page. All rights reserved.
Volume 8, Number 1, January-February 2012
Reader’s Challenge Issue
Fun Food For Thought
Civil society in America is evolving faster than anywhere else in the world. The Middle East, China, Africa, South America will catch up and possibly surpass us well before the end of this century in total economic output, but by then the rules of civil society will have changed dramatically. The economic and even political rules America and the world play by today have roots in the 19th Century. The developing world is doing what we have been doing for 150 years or more, and in some ways doing it better. But better is not going to be good enough. By the time the developing nations catch up, one would hope we will have further evolved into a society that breaks down barriers between humanity, technology and bureaucracy so that corporations — as governments — no longer are regarded as “persons”, but as constructs devised by people to realize human goals — and nothing more.
We hear a lot of complaints these days about what people don’t get in the way of intellectual stimulation from newspapers, magazines, or television news shows. “You give us twenty-two minutes and we’ll give you the world,” proclaims the most listened to station in the nation, and that’s great when you’re driving to work in the morning, but not if you want to begin to understand the “Whys” and “Hows” behind the “Whats”. Happily, and in a completely random fashion, this issue of Ragazine.CC brings together a banquet of food for thought about relational changes taking place in the biosphere. We call it the “Reader’s Challenge Issue,” because you’re going to have to read a lot — and think about it — to see how it all fits together.
A good starting point would be Eleanor Goldfield‘s article about the “Move to Amend” effort in Los Angeles that resolves that corporations should not enjoy “personhood”. Follow that with Scott “Galanty” Miller‘s piece based on his sociology class lectures − a discourse on how corporations, the internet, and technology in general, drain the individual of empathy, sympathy and, in turn, humanity, turning them, he laments, into “F**king A**holes”.
After these, you might want to dive into politics editor Jim Palombo‘s follow-up report on his visit as Ragazine envoy to the Rhodes Forum in Rhodes, Greece, where delegates from around the globe shared their world views on political, economic and social issues of the day. Jim also weighs in the OWS crowd. Not enough? Flay yourself further reading a moderated interview by Rosebud Magazine publisher and Binghamton University professor John Smelcer with Donald Pease, of Dartmouth University, and Robyn Wiegman of Duke University, as they discuss the present state and direction of American Studies.
Garnish this with dynamic portfolios from photographer Olaf Heine; the surrealistic comic bookish fine art of Fernando “Pulpo” Hereñu; fiction from Ann Bogle; Bengali poetry in the original and in translation from Masud Khan; poems by American poets Gail Fishman, Gillian Brall, Myron Ernst and Dwyer Jones; music reviewer Jeff Katz‘s annual TOP TEN Not-All-New picks from 2011; Mark Levy‘s “Casual Observer,” and more.
Just look inside to find it.
Thanks for reading!
− Mike Foldes
Volume 7 Number 6, Nov-Dec 2011
Occupying Wall Street
(This is not a potlatch)
The periodic redistribution of wealth by some Northwest Coast native American tribes is a great example of what was done at one time to ensure that everyone got an equal chance at a better life. Those “who have” were called upon to give much of it away. The same was expected of others in following years, as they managed to amass material wealth. The honors went to those who gave away the most. What one accumulated was shared, a reminder we share the earth. It was called potlatch.
The 99% sitting in at Zuccotti Park are not asking that the 1% give everything away; they’re asking for long-overdue reform of what is euphemistically called a profession, but which in Christ’s time would have been called something worse than “money changer”. It’s one thing to invest one’s own drachma in a venture, on-going or new, and another to skim the cream then spill the milk. That mark of greed coating the lip of the fat cats is a slap in the face to anyone who’s lost a job in the last five years, or who just graduated from college and can’t find one, or who’s working two or three jobs to make ends meet, where one used to be more than enough.
It’s too late to say that if all the money spent in the past ten years on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and misspent by investment banks and brokerages on Wall Street and other financial centers around the world, were invested more wisely in education, health care, infrastructure and the humanities, we wouldn’t be living in this sad state of affairs. And it hasn’t stopped, as shown by recent charges against former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, who allegedly bled MF Global of hundreds of millions of investors’ dollars. Since we are against the wall, it’s up to us — and the 1% in power who have a conscience — to help clean up the mess. Not the petty mess some point to as the “fault” of a group of urban campers, but the mess the financial and political ruling classes made tripping over themselves to feed at the brimming Wall Street trough. Photos from Occupy Wall Street appear here: http://old.ragazine.cc/hot-shots/
* * *
We’ve got another astounding issue covering subjects and events as diverse as the work of Dale Grimshaw, whose painting “Mr. Hyde” is the cover of this issue, to the overlooked beauty of the Pakistani countryside in a travel piece by Zaira R. Sheikh, to the photography and haiku of Sean Lotman. If you like poetry, you’ll love the work of the five other poets in this issue, Lyn Lifshin, Bianca Stone, Esta Fischer, Pamela Uschuk and Ann E. Michael. In the realm of creative nonfiction, Joe Weil writes of “Fishing in a Filthy River,” and its undertow of memories, while Kimberly Dark recounts her unique acquaintance with Greybeard, a down-to-earth neighbor in Hawaii.
Music editor Jeff Katz recounts the “Sad Journey of Gene Clark”; Beth Timmins, resident writer with Giffords Circus, gives a peek under skirt of the Big Top; Mark Levy, back after taking a break during which he moved to Boynton Beach, Florida, from Binghamton, New York, delivers his “Casual Observer” column, and his “Feeding the Starving Artist” pro bono legal series with a look at the new Patent and Trademark law.
Politics editor Jim Palombo gives an overview of his preparations for the annual Rhodes Conference in Rhodes, Greece. Jim, as an envoy from Ragazine, was one of only a few Americans at the event, which he plans to report on in our January issue.
Maile Colbert‘s “Letter to the Editor” ponders capital punishment with subtle eloquence; Sridala Swami’s short short stories will stay with you much longer than the time it takes to read them. And don’t miss Anthony Haden-Guest’s cartoon panel, hidden somewhere in the gray matter within these e-pages. If you’re looking for something to do, check out the Events page for ideas about places and events where you’re likely to find like-minded Ragazine readers.
Thanks for reading… And thanks especially for passing it on!
— Mike Foldes
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September-October 2011, Volume 7, Number 5
Back to Basics
This issue’s cover art comes compliments of Walter Gurbo. If you were in New York back in the day, and read The Village Voice, you’ll remember Gurbo’s “Drawing Room”, superb panels of surrealistic images surrounded by sexed-up ads on the tabloid’s back cover. Always new. Always sure to stretch the imagination beyond the bounds of decorum. See for yourself in our recap of July’s retrospective at the Brunelli Gallery in Binghamton, New York.
Politics editor Jim Palombo interviews singer-songwriter Eleanor Goldfield, founder and lead singer in the band Rooftop Revolutionaries. Palombo explores and Goldfield explains with refreshing intellect how she reconciles making money and making change in a convulsing world.
John Smelcer offers an intriguing memoir of his acquaintance with Britain’s then poet laureate, Ted Hughes, and a subsequent friendship with Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s son,Nick. Smelcer includes a poem co-written by him and Ted Hughes as a bar “game” more enduring than darts.
Don Ruben, lawyer and long-time friend of Ragazine, interviews Drug Policy Alliance’s Tamar Todd on obstacles to legalizing medical marijuana nationwide, including conflicts with federal law in states that have already legalized it, and President Obama’s failure to follow through on pre-election hints he would work to decriminalize the herb.
Adding food for thought to the article on DPA, we’re pleased to offer the first of four panels contributed to Ragazine by noted author and cartoonist Anthony Haden-Guest.Subsequent panels will appear in the next few issues, where you will find them strategically placed to challenge your senses of self and humor.
Music editor Jeff Katz hooks up, so to speak, with Eilen Jewell, at the Oneonta Theater in Oneonta, New York, where the “turbocharged kewpie doll” and her band played in August to a country-loving crowd.
Welcome – in some cases, welcome back – to poets Hal Sirowitz, John Richard Smith,Laura Close; to poet-photographer Jeanpaul Ferro, short fiction author Carlo Matos, and collage artist Joseph Bowman. And if you have a few minutes more, check out the books and reviews, and Zaira Rahman’s Islamabad tripper’s diary. Special thanks to Hala Salah Eldin Hussein who filed a story on the situation “on the ground” in Cairo, Egypt, that posted in mid-August.
Kudos to the editors and contributors who help bring Ragazine to the stage every couple of months, and to the thousands of readers who give us the motivation to labor on again and again, year after year… We trust you’ll find plenty to enjoy!
Thanks for passing it on.
– Mike Foldes
Welcome: July-August 2011, Vol. 7 No. 4
- The Good, the Bad …
and the Way It Is
Welcome: May-June 2011, Vol. 7 No. 3
Sometimes, the less said, the better. Tempting it is to let the statement stand alone. But that would would be to overlook the hard work and contributions so many people have made along the way to get us to this May-June issue of Ragazine, and the start of the summer reading season. With that in mind, take us to the beach on your e-reader, tablet or laptop…
- An interview with NYC artist Karen Gunderson and a gallery of her black paintings;
the photography of Slovenian photographer Janez Vlachy, whose photo is on this issue’s cover;
an interview with veteran Hollywood Cartoonist Herb Moore, and an introduction to his new series, “Duffy MacTaggart, Scotland’s Greatest Golf Teacher”;
A report from Pakistan by Zaira Rahman on the unsettling deaths and lynching of two boys in the wrong place at the wrong time, and their family’s quest for Justice;
interviews with, and poetry from, acclaimed poets Maria Mazziotti Gillan and Lyn Lifshin, and additional poetry from Steve Oldford, Svea Barrett and Emily Kagan Trenchard;
Chris Mackowski’s account of a winter trip to the barrens of his native Maine;
fiction by John Palen and Eric Bennett;
a video trailer for a film by Eliane Lima, and a profile of the filmmaker;
and, all the regular sections: Music comment and reviews by Jeff Katz; free legal advice in “Feeding the Starving Artist” by Mark Levy, who also writes “Casual Observer”; the value of education in “Politics”, from editor Jim Palombo and contributor Frank Gaydos; and more…
Volume 7, No. 2.5
© Guenter Knop
What in the World …
Earthquakes, tsunamis, meltdowns, no-fly zones … you’d think the world would be a better place, but hard as we try, there’s always something standing in the way.
Perhaps that’s why the articles in this interim issue of Ragazine, our first attempt after seven years of bi-monthly issues to produce a monthly, are as divergent as they are — our attempt to bring things together in the face of greater odds. And, as interesting (yeah, we know, that’s subjective. So here’s the Challenge: Read on, and decide for yourself).
Here’s what we’ve got: A street-level, local report from Egypt covering not menacing tanks or burning cars, but graffiti on the walls of Cairorecounting the effort and pronouncing the people’s victory over tyranny (Hala Salah Eldin Hussein); a Pakistani reviewer’s take on Dobi Ghat, a Bollywood indie film that took honors in film fests around the world for its look at the effects of caste on four main characters (Zaira Rahman); poetry by Martin Willitts, Jr.; a Land Art installation by an American artist (Jody Joyner) working on the grounds ofSoekershof, a botanical paradise in southwest South Africa; life studies of women by a German-born artist (Guenter Knop) who makes his home in New York City; the translation of an excerpt from aRomanian novel, along with the original language text (Daniel Dragomirescu); an interview with the Alaskan writer some have called “a modern-day Jack London” (John Smelcer); an interview with photographer Michael Eastman, whose unmatched images of Havana capture the color and life of the city and its history (as he does all of his subjects) with surreal accuracy; a look at Ghanathrough the eyes of two travelers (Roscoe Betsill & Steven Keith) who came back to the States with a far different understanding of the country than they went away with.
Speaking of understanding: An American ex-pat group is forming in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, to educate Americans in particular to what their real place is in this world…. Talk about an uphill climb.
As if that’s not enough, reach inside for Jeff Katz’s remembrance of singer/songwriter Marvin Gaye; book reviews; the foodie’s Kitchen Caravan; and thePHOTOGRAPHYspots (Albert Dorsa/translation page & Chuck Haupt/politics page).
Comments, by the way, are much appreciated. Don’t be shy. Let us have it, good, bad or indifferent. We thrive on feedback. And please, ”Pass it on ….”
Thanks for reading!
Volume 7, No. 2
“The Millinery Studio”, Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 20″, 2010
Amy Kollar Anderson
So much to see, so little time …
Science Fiction turned to fact in February when an IBM supercomputer named “Watson”visited upon earth, defeating two heralded champions in a “Jeopardy” smack down decades in the making. We’re not running an article on this noteworthy event, but it says here Watson, named after the company’s founder Thomas J. Watson, will be among the finalists (if not the Chosen One) in Time‘s Person of the Year award selection come December. What makes this all the more special, in a way, is that Ragazine publishes from the Greater Binghamton area of Upstate New York — home of IBM (aka, International Business Machines), and once the stomping grounds of “Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling. The area always has been culturally and socially influenced by a mixture of science fantasy and fiction. You might say, we’ll believe anything, even that a tsunami of peaceful revolution could irrigate the monarchies and dictatorships of the Arab world, re-making it as a cradle of shared prosperity and humanistic reason. So, let it be known, “Another King is dead. All hail the Thing.”
Of course, there comes a time in everyone’s life when a little fantasy will do you good. Sometimes even better. Fortunately for us, the talented Amy Kollar Anderson came to the rescue, as you’ll see from a thorough look at her work in the galleries embedded in these pages. And for those of you with short attention spans, check out Amy’s captivating time-lapse video that condenses 50 hours of painting into less than three minutes, backed by the music of Dayton, Ohio, super-group Ape the Ghost.
The horizon doesn’t end there. Check out Ellen Janten‘s photographic essay “Losing Reality; Reality of Loss — 2011”, an exploration of the diaphanous layers between the free-standing worlds that separate life and memory. Internationally recognized architect and artist, Michael Jantzen, Ellen’s husband and model for many of the images in her work, shares his visions for The Sounds of the Sun Pavilion, a curvilinear approach to sustainable living in which solar energy powers a community where there’s literally music in the air.
Other visual delights include the work of John Dobbs, whose recent show at ACA Galleries in New York City closed in February, but you can get a taste of it here. Elizabeth Cohen returned from a recent trip to Gallup, New Mexico, with a packet of cell-phone photos, and an accompanying essay about an Old West indulged by sentiment and confused by age. If you can accept there is sometimes poetry in the subtlety of photographs, see Ida Musemic‘s images that appear following John F. Buckley‘s poem. And don’t be surprised if you find a few more images bringing color to otherwise gray pages in thePHOTOGRAPHYspot, strategically placed by photo editor Chuck Haupt.
Literary complements include short fiction by Ian Williams; an excerpt from R. J. Dent‘s recently published translation (with the French original) of The Songs of Maldoror, fittingly accompanied by an other-worldly portrait of Salvador Dali by contributing photographer Valerie Brown; and poetry from some of the best emerging and established poets working today, including Buckley, Ann Clark, Micah Towery, Katie Hogan and Florence Weinberger.
Music editor Jeff Katz takes a look at the documentary “LennonNYC”, and sings praises for the library of great releases from Sundazed Music. And while you’re online, have a look at Jeff’s site, “Maybe Baby….”
Politics editor Jim Palombo and guest contributor Professor Randall Sheldenexamine the escalation of force used in the ongoing, increasingly costly (in both lives and money) drug war between the United States and Mexico, leaving even the most jaded among us to question, “Is it worth the price?”
In Feeding the Starving Artist, Mark Levy, an intellectual property lawyer, providespro bono advice for wedding and events photographers to protect themselves and their clients against one another, and sometimes even from the guests. Levy, also Ragazine’s Casual Observer, offers his take on moving up to modern appliances — he’d take a washing machine over a washboard anytime.
If you, or someone you know, has work that will fit Ragazine’s eclectic collection of creative content, see and share our submission guidelines. We’re always looking for new artists, illustrators, writers, musicians, poets, travelers, thinkers and others, to collaborate with. It’s a great way to know, and get to know… Likewise, if you have events you’d like to publicize, share the news by adding a comment on the Events page. Keep it short and sweet: Time, Date, Place, Description, Contact Info; nothing more than 45 days in advance, please. As always, Comments are welcome on any or all of our pages; shed a little light while we stumble around in editorial darkness.
For those of us up North, Spring is on the way. For you south of the Equator, well, good luck with that, too!
Thanks for reading.
Ragazine, updated approximately six times a year, is a collaboration of emerging and established artists, writers, poets, musicians, photographers, travelers and interested others, with a goal to promote an eclectic selection of subject matter to an international audience.
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Volume 7, No. 1
Dancing with Dragons
Putting out a magazine is like dancing with dragons and letting go genies…. You struggle to pull things together without knowing what kind of animal you’ll deliver until the things – the issues — are out of the bottle. We’re doing our best to see that what you take the time to look at and read in Ragazine will add something measurably more memorable to your day than the daily dose of dumbed down pablum delivered by mainstream media to a mind-numbed populous. Let us know if it’s not and we’ll kick ourselves in the shins, scream “Sakai,” and pay homage to the gods of wind feces (snow), until we get it right.
For those of you ready to dive in now, there’s plenty to break your fall:
The Ragazine cover this month is contributed by New York photographer Gabrielle Revere, whose work reveals the youth and beauty of a new generation. An interview with Revere shows she’s well aware not everyone in the world is so lucky. Our associated galleries include shots from her documentary series, “I only have eyes for you,” which captures the ice-cold irony of the beauty of children living in the midst of oft-neglected poverty.
Photographer Josephine Close explores the world of the psyche in the shadows, a journey into what lies within and beyond the visual field one sees through the camera’s eye, what evolves in the darkroom (or on the computer), and comes to life in the print. Close, in her own words, undertakes the pursuit in “… seeking to illuminate the magic in my life.”
On other fronts: A surreal love story from Stephen O’Connor/Fiction; Michael Parish’s Vignettes/Creative Nonfiction,, which CNF editor Leslie Heywood describes as a “series of vignettes on our strange contemporary relationship with the natural world. There’s the poetry of John F. Buckley, Anne Babson and John Richard Smith; Jeff Katz’s unusually broad Top Ten music picks of 2010; Mark Levy’s eye on life as theCasual Observer, and his pro bono legal advice column for creative types in Feeding the Starving Artist.
From deep in the heart of Mexico, San Miguel Allende to be exact, politics editor Jim Palombo and guest contributor Horace Whittlesey comment on the effects of modern day prohibition and the unfulfilled promise of California’s recently defeated Proposition 19.
There’s more, of course, including illustrations, book reviews, a couple of events that caught our eyes, and more. … Such As —
Water, from Cecelia Chapman’s Video series
This is the first video we’ve run in Ragazine, but we’ll have more, soon. We are looking for original short videos (approx. 2 minutes) that have not been posted elsewhere, but we’ll sometimes take them if they have. They’ll run in a window on Ragazine, without redirects to other sites, but we will include the videographer’s site references with the piece. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as attachments, with a still from the video.
So, while we close out 2010 dancing with dragons, and let the genie out of the bottle with VOLUME 7 Number 1, we wish you a healthy and progressive new year.
As always, thanks for reading.
— Mike Foldes
Shop the Ragazine store: http://old.ragazine.cc/support-ragazine/
Volume 6, No. 6
The Art of Being Modern
- Hello, again. Thanks for coming back. We know it’s not easy to take a few minutes out of a busy day for an “arts’ breather,’ but we’re glad you did.
- The beauty of the web is also the spider at its center, that being people’s ability to spin whatever yarn they like and put it out in cyberspace. Everybody gets a shot. It used to be there were so few people with sites that it was a small community, many of whom knew one another, often righteously so. That community has grown so that now we’re not just a city, not just a nation, and each site has become one in a million. Or more likely, one in a few hundred million. The web, like the universe, is expanding exponentially, and it’s our challenge to keep up.
- The New York Times newspaper is a great example of meeting that challenge. The gray lady may not be at her best these days, circulation and advertising revenue-wise, but she hasn’t lost her touch with news, features, reviews, opinion and leading edge journalism. Say what you want, but take a Sunday morning and afternoon off to read the Times cover to cover (if you can) and you’ll see what I mean. Don’t just take it for granted, because of the paper’s reputation, or because it’s been quoted from or talked about in news and movies since you were two. Read it once cover to cover and deny you’re less of a person than you were hours before when you picked it up — all two or three kilograms! (Sorry, tree people.)
- I used to work for a newspaper conglomerate that published News Lite. The managers of the empire knew that busy people didn’t have time, and many didn’t have the interest — to read anything “in depth”. And in order to deliver bite-sized morsels of information people could digest, they peeled the onion until there was little left to eat. Reading theTimes on Sunday is like going to a farmer’s market in September. Two-page spreads on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who too few Americans really know about, and fewer understand. Interviews with Centenarians who too often are passed over in favor of attention to youth culture. Articles on youth and growing up in America, the cost of education, and the more exorbitant costs of not having it. Political coverage by international correspondents who live and work close to the ground they cover. And, of course, so much more.No paper, of course, is perfect, and I’m in no position to tear wings from the dragon. But so much of what we see and hear on the web these days is a mirror of what the least-common-denominator print publishing offerings give us, that it’s a blessing the Times is still with us — and a sad fact of life that so many other great papers have died, not all of them with their boots on.
- This issue of Ragazine has a lot to offer, too. We’re not just a Sunday read; we’re here two months at a time, and it’s OK to come back — again and again, we hope — until you’ve read us “cover to cover”. Poetry, art, interviews, photography, fiction, creative non-fiction, music, reviews, travel and more, from around the world.
November-December 2010 brings you the photographic series by Aline Smithson, taken of her mother in a variety of poses, including the one at the top of this page; poems by Hannah Greenberg; Farsi poetry by ex-pat Iranian poet Ali Abdolrezaei in the original and in translation by Abol Froushan; an interview with Belgian-American artist Amy Swartelé; fiction by Paul Lisicky and Sarah Sarai; music columns byJeff Katz; a take on illegal immigration by politics editor Jim Palombo and guest writer Robert Murray Davis; a story of reconciliation with the harsh reality of a child’s death in creative non-fiction by James Benton; the Casual Observer followed byScott Hardin’s pane;our legal advice column for creative types, Feeding the Starving Artist; and, from Colorado, Art & About, where Jonathan Evans explores a bit of the blues.
There’s more, of course, but you’ll have to find it. And again, thanks for reading!
Volume 6, No. 5
- ©Albert Watson
Taking the best shot yet
Welcome to another killer issue of ragazine.cc.
Photographer Albert Watson, in an interview at his NYC studio, discusses aspects of his craft, the evolution of his career, the equipment he uses to produce his prints, and more. Referred to byPhoto District News as “one of the most influential photographers of all time,” Watson generously allowed ragazine.cc to reprint an extensive portfolio of images, many of which you’ll no doubt recognize from the covers and pages of Vogue, Rolling Stone and Harper’s Bazaar. Showing no sign of slowing down, Watson has two book collections coming out this fall from PQ Blackwell publishing company, a solo show in Chelsea opening in October, and more than one project in the works.
Sara Ellison Lewis tells what it’s like for her to be a photo stylist in New York. Brookly-based sculptor Miya Ando explains what it means to her “to do good” in the world, a task that merely begins with making art. The cast and crew at Spool MFG, a gallery-performance space in Johnson City, New York, share part of their group’s latest production,Ampersand, a collage-like assemblage of history, poetry and art.
In Music, Jeff Katz reviews the latest musical offering from Eli “Paperboy” Reed, and looks back on 30 years of Paul Simon’s “One Trick Pony“. Jonathan Evansremembers Bob Marley a full 19 years after the reggae legend’s death. And, in Politics, San Miguel Allende, Mexico-based writer Lou Christine recounts his impressions of a 2007 trip to Havana that ring true even today.
On the literary front, there’s the Poetry of Emily Vogel, Tony Gruenewald, J.P. Smelcer and Rob Mustard; the Creative Non Fiction (CNF) of Marissa Fielstein, Fiction from Mira Martin Parker and Jessie Carty; a book review of Ted Greenwald’s 2008 volume “3″ by Kayleigh Wanzer, and the wry commentary of our Casual Observer Mark Levy. Levy also weighs in this month withShaun Vavra, offering legal advice in “Feeding the Starving Artist” — “Wait, Wasn’t That My Substantially Similar Idea?”
Rounding things out is the new strip from editorial cartoonist Jeff Hardin, whose first appearance in ragazine.cc anchors the Casual Observer.
If all that’s not funky enough for you, we’ll just have to keep trying.
Thanks for reading!
August 26, 2014 No Comments
by Janice Yu Cheng
The majority of the events detailed in this story take place in Taipei, Taiwan, during the country’s most opulent years as one of the four Asian Dragons. The narrator eventually leaves Taiwan to attend college in New York, where she writes these letters.
– Leslie Heywood, CNF Ed.
1. Dear Mom,
You said that when you were pregnant with me, you dreamt of lotus flowers and calligraphy ink, and you knew I would be a girl.
“You were trouble from the beginning,” you said, a wrinkle of laughter by the corners of your eyes. “I spent the last trimester in bed because you were upside down, and the doctor said I should stay still. For three months! So I took maternity leave, went to Blockbuster and rented movies by the shelf. Then I sat in bed and watched them one by one until the day of the C-section.”
Over the three months, you put on weight and developed a fondness for Woody Allen, both of which you have kept to this day. You lived with your grandmother in your own apartment in Taipei, and she took care of you. You weren’t on speaking terms with your mother because you had divorced her politest and wealthiest son-in-law.
“Didn’t Grandma try to stop you when you told her you wanted a divorce?” I asked.
You ran a hand through your fine hair, always kept at chin-length because too much hair was a hassle. “She didn’t know. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my sisters.”
“But don’t you need witnesses?”
“They didn’t have to be present, just their signatures on the papers. I faked your aunts’ signatures, filled out the rest of the form, and then dragged your father’s ass to city hall.”
I gaped. “And Daddy just went along with you?” It was difficult to imagine five feet four of you dragging my six-foot father anywhere he didn’t want to go.
The corner of your mouth lifted in a pinched smile. “When it was over and we got out of the city hall building, I wanted to kick him down the stairs. I don’t know why, it was something that I just had to do. So I lifted my leg and kicked at his backside, totally overextended, and fell down the steps with him.”
I laughed so hard I wheezed, the pillow I was holding squashed to a lump in my arms. You uncrossed your legs and stretched them out on the bed where we sat, and stared over my shoulder into the past, still smiling that little smile. “In retrospect, it was probably pretty dangerous,” you added, “since at the time I was three months pregnant with you.”
I was eighteen when you decided to tell me all this, the story of what happened between you and Dad. Everyone in the family steered clear on the topic, so I had been forced to improvise and assemble the story myself, using little bits and pieces I picked up from random conversations. With my imagination, the history between you and Dad resembled a script for Days of Our Lives more than anything else. Large inheritances, evil mother in laws and spurned childhood lovers, the works. Now that I was eighteen, you judged that I should be old enough to finally handle The Truth.
“So if Aunt Jean or Aunt Tina ever decide to tell the officials that the signatures were fake,” I asked, “the divorce never legally happened, and you and Dad would technically still be married?”
You tilted your head a bit and nodded. “Technically.”
That’s so screwed up, I wanted to say, but held my tongue because I knew there was more and I wanted to soak it all up, this behind-the-scenes portion of my existence.
2. Dear Mom,
When I was a baby, you published a book called 13 Letters, a compilation of letters you wrote to Dad chronicling the decade you spent together. After you told me the Truth when I was eighteen, I hunted down a copy of the book in the corner of an old shelf in Grandma’s house and asked you meekly if I could read it. You ran a finger down the spine of the small paperback and said, “Just don’t let your father see it.” So I tucked it inside my backpack and took it on the plane with me to go back to New York and freshman year in college. I started reading as soon as I buckled into my seat, and was finished by the time the flight attendants had served all the drinks and packets of cashews.
It was strange enough to be holding a piece of literature that my mother had written. It was even more uncomfortable to be inside your head. You rarely talked about yourself unless I was persistent with asking. When you were young, Grandma used to pick the lock of your desk drawer so she could read your diary, and you raised me to understand that a breach of privacy was, after murder and unkindness, the worst thing people could do.
Your father had penned the foreword to 13 Letters. “I never really know what my eldest daughter is up to,” Grandpa wrote, and I could hear his rumbly, tobacco-raspy voice, “but I am often told of her remarkable talents and achievements. This book is testament to not only that, but also to the wonderful spontaneity that makes up the core of her nature, as none of us knew she was writing this book until it was about to be published.” Sitting there on the plane, I wondered if Grandma also refused to talk to you when the book first came out. Grandma hated spontaneity.
The first letter was a love note. You called Dad your best friend and soul mate, and declared, “We are going to be together forever.” This was the beginning of your story, and the part that I am most familiar with. You met Dad at the advertising company where you both worked, after you quit being a flight attendant with Taiwan’s biggest airline. The names in the book were changed, of course; for yourself you used a meaningless Chinese phonetic transliteration of your English name, Michelle, but you called Dad Mungshen, which meant “one promise, one lifetime.”
The second letter described the story of the Oxford man.
When Dad laid eyes on you and decided you were going to date, you already had a boyfriend. He was a kind, soft-spoken man who worked in a prestigious architectural firm, and was soon headed to Oxford on full scholarship for a doctorate. He taught you how to appreciate true dark roast, and listen to classical music. I imagined you and him sitting in a café drinking Colombian coffee, the scene seeped in Brahms and Cezanne and the sepia tone of the early 80s. I imagined you in a white pleated skirt down to the floor and an oversized sweater, an outfit borrowed from a college photo I’ve seen of you. I imagined the Oxford man explaining the strains of the orchestra and the subtle key changes while squeezing your shoulder. I imagined your hands cradling the coffee cup, the polite smile you held in place because you were there for the music and not the man.
Dad showed up at a coffee date just like this when you rejected his initial advances. He showed up at the café, sat down at your table, and proceeded to give the Oxford man a comprehensive list of reasons why he was not a proper boyfriend for you. Anyone would have thought the situation ridiculous and the Oxford man fumbled through arguments, but at this point Dad was making six figures in media and communications and could talk a person out of their pants in public. The Oxford man paled with every passing minute.
“I didn’t say a word,” you wrote in the letter, addressing my father. “I just kept sitting there next to you, and that was what finally broke his back, I think. It was you and I together and then him alone on the other side of that table. I think I was already a little in love with you then, even if I didn’t know it yet.”
When the Oxford man had run out of counterarguments and napkins to wipe the sweat from his forehead, he pulled out his ace. “I plan on marrying Michelle,” he declared, looking straight into my father’s eyes. “I can support her if she comes to England with me, and we will get married as soon as I finish my studies.”
My father smoothed an invisible wrinkle from the pant leg of his suit, and smiled. “What a terrible idea,” he said.
The meeting ended several minutes later, when the Oxford man stood up and excused himself from your life forever. “Funny thing is,” you said to me when I asked you about this incident after reading it, “he immigrated to America after he got his Ph.D. So if I had married him, you wouldn’t have been born in Taiwan at all.”
The book had thirteen letters, but they were all yours and I never knew if Daddy ever wrote back. You also never told me if you actually sent the letters or not. Maybe you were wrestling with yourself and put it down into words as a way to end all the fighting. Maybe assembling the story on paper gave you something of your own, something you could keep tucked away in a locked drawer.
3. Dear Mom,
Thank you for telling me about the borderline personality disorder. For a long time now I’ve known that something was bothering you, that there was a reason behind all the sleeping and the mood swings that flickered on and off like a broken lamp. My research tells me usually the symptoms of BPD become prominent in a person’s early to mid twenties, which, I think, was the case with you. In your mid twenties you were promoted and became one of the youngest female managing editors in Taiwan. You would have lunch with a senator for an interview and then have afternoon tea with his wife. You were several years into dating my father then, who was also climbing the administrative ladder in the company. Both of you had money to burn, and the BPD wasted no time in manifesting itself in your reckless spending habits. You walked into stores like Chanel and Tiffany and was immediately greeted with employees who knew not only your name but also your favorite drink.
“We were both so young then,” you told me. “We thought spending money was the only way to show that you appreciated something, or someone.”
The BPD meant not only did you spend like a queen, you had unrealistic demands for the world. Friends and family tread carefully around you, as if you were the center of a mine field. Dad soon tired of handing over half his paycheck for extravagant dinners and throw pillows, and began to spend less and less time at home. You couldn’t figure out why, so you went out and bought more throw pillows and china to match. After you married, Dad’s two children from his deceased first wife officially became your responsibility. You did not understand children, especially ones that were already six and nine years old, so you looked after them the way your own mother looked after you, with strict rules and a broom. You were never very acquainted with housework, and the BPD made it nearly impossible. Your sister-in-law watched with narrowed eyes as you ruined yet another one of Father’s suits.
By this time you were approaching 30 and Dad had already met the Japanese lady.
“Everyone at the company knew,” you said, shaking your head. You grabbed and twisted a fistful of the blanket on your lap, let it go, then grabbed it again. “He didn’t exactly keep it secret, but I was so focused on making money and spending money that I never noticed. Every one at the office knew he was cheating on me with the new sales manager from Japan. People saw her leaving with him in his car and then arriving with him in the morning. I should have seen it coming, really. Neither of us were the same people who started a relationship together years ago.”
“Why won’t you come home?” you wrote in Letter #7. “This is the second weekend you’ve spent in Japan this month. Your secretary says that you are going to Hawaii next week. Are you taking her with you? What about me, your wife? Where should I go?”
You told me once that dating Dad was not unlike dating a genie from a magic lamp. Your every wish was his command. He drove you to and picked you up from work and shopping trips every day. He took you to the best restaurants in town and pulled out your chair for you. You needed to only look at a purse before it was yours. “He was everything a girl could hope for,” you said. “But he couldn’t ever make up his mind. He wanted a slice of every cake, and when he could only have one, he ran. He wanted to be with both her and me. Well, when we both got pregnant, he couldn’t run anymore.”
Desperate to keep up appearances and, I think, not really knowing what to do with the two children he already had, my father implored both women to abort. He would pay for everything, he promised.
When you told me this, you studied me closely for a reaction. I didn’t bother to hide my astonishment. My father adored all his children. When I was growing up, Dad stopped by to see me every day, and willingly took care of every single one of my expenses, from a pacifier to four years in a college overseas. I never had cause to doubt that he loved me; to know that in the beginning he had not wanted me was close to unimaginable.
“What did you say to him?” I asked.
You had that pinched smile again. “I said hell no. You were the only good thing that came out of that marriage, I knew it then as clearly as I know it now. I was going to have my baby, and nothing was going to stop me.”
The same could not be said for the Japanese lady. As the mistress, she had to play her hand carefully, and what she did resulted in Letter #11.
“Your mistress called me today,” you wrote to Dad. I imagine you were so furious that the tip of your pen stabbed tiny holes in the paper. “She said to meet her for coffee, and I said, why not. Isn’t it funny your mistress confronted me before you did? So I met her for coffee and I am so tired of playing a game with no rules, I asked her what she honestly wanted, and you know what she said? She folded her hands in her lap and said, ‘I want to be his wife.’ I asked her was it so her baby would be legitimate, and she said no, she already had an abortion. She did it because you promised her on your knees that you would never have anything to do with me or my baby – our baby – again. You’re pathetic, you know that? You didn’t even get on your knees when you proposed to me. That was when I decided I’m leaving you. This will be my last letter as your wife. Good fucking bye.”
I think you handled it well, Mom. I probably would have stabbed her in the eye with a cappuccino spoon.
4. Dear Mom,
It was 10AM in the hospital room, the day of the C-section. You shed you baggy maternity clothes, moving slow and exhausted like a caterpillar that stripped itself of its cocoon only to discover it was still a caterpillar. You did not tell Dad you were there. Your sister wrapped you in a splash of blue that was the patient’s gown and wheeled you into the surgery room. Your sister was a nurse at the hospital and you took some comfort in having her there, but mostly you were just nervous. My aunt is the first member of the family to hold me when I gulped my first breath of air. She peered at me over the white medical facemask and I promptly peed all over her scrubs.
Dad arrived at the hospital after I had been deposited in the room with all the other babies. He hadn’t wanted to come, hadn’t seen or talked to you for several weeks. He was making headway in convincing his family to let him marry the Japanese lady. He didn’t have to worry so much; he always got his way in the end.
Grandma met him by the elevators outside the maternity ward. As he followed her down the hallway he started to feel dizzy; the walls there were painted a very light mauve, and the smell of baby powder made his palms sweat. His leather shoes ricocheted on the limestone floor like cracks of a gun and he was afraid the sound would hurt the babies somehow. Grandma rounded a corner and there it was, the baby room with the big display window, spotless despite the amount of family pressed up against it.
Grandma pointed to the cot where I lay, a tiny bundle of pink. “There she is. Seven pounds.” My father stepped up to the windowpane and looked down into the crib. I was awake, and looked back.
“It was love at first sight,” my grandmother told me later when I was much older. “Nothing could keep him away after that. He came every day and insisted on feeding you himself. Baby gifts poured in like a flood.” She sighed. “Which is why I don’t understand how he’s still with that Japanese woman. She will never let you into their life.”
This was true. Dad married his mistress six months after I was born, but he still came to see me almost every day, put me into my half-brother and sister’s arms so they could fall in love with me too. His new wife refused to leave her family in Japan and move to Taiwan, so Dad flew to Tokyo every month to spend a week with her and she came to Taipei for every major holiday. More than twenty years passed in this fashion. This arrangement made it easy for Dad to visit me, but you always detested it. There were no photos of me in my father’s house, and all traces of me had to be wiped clean after I spent the weekend. Dad erased me from his phone every time he flew into Japan, just in case his wife decided to go through it. I couldn’t add my brother or sister on any social media, lest the Japanese lady found me through connections. When my sister became engaged, I was forbidden to attend the wedding ceremony because she would be there.
“Is he crazy?” you said when I told you this. “So you can never go to any family function? What happens when your brother gets married, too? What happens when your grandmother or – heaven forbid – your father gets sick and has to be hospitalized, are they going to ban you from visiting the hospital?” You were so angry you picked up the phone to yell at my father, and I retreated to my room because I knew there was nothing anyone could do. 13 Letters was twenty years ago now and my father was still pretending to honor a promise he had never intended to keep.
5. Dear Mom,
When I told you about Dad’s falling out with his wife, you didn’t seem as surprised or angry as I thought you would. You just stirred your tea and sighed heavily into it. Dad and I were walking back from the movie theater, I said, when his phone rang. The way he shrank away from me told me it was the Japanese lady, and I fell a few steps behind so he could talk to her. I was 20 years old and used to keeping quiet wherever the Japanese lady was concerned. When the conversation was over, Dad tucked the phone back into his pocket and we resumed our life.
“Thing was,” I said, pausing for effect, “she called him using Skype, and you know how Daddy doesn’t really know how to use touchscreens. He thought he’d hung up, but he didn’t, so she was still on the line.” She listened to us walking home, listened to our chatter about the weather. She listened to my father’s hand fishing for keys in the other pocket, listened to the metallic swing of the front gate, the whirring hum of the elevator. When she heard my father say, “I’m going to the bathroom,” she hung up. Ten minutes later she called again.
Less than thirty seconds in, my father’s eyes were bright with hysteria. He gestured for me to go to my sister’s empty bedroom, but even there with the door closed I could hear him yelling.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “There’s nobody here, just me, I’m alone at home – I don’t know who you think you heard – when I say there’s nobody here, I mean there’s nobody here.”
His voice was high with panic, not his usual charismatic drawl. “I know she’s there,” the Japanese lady said, her voice unnaturally loud like her mouth was pressed flat against the receiver. “I heard everything. I know you’re seeing her – that woman’s daughter – I know you’ve been lying to me!”
“What part of nobody’s here don’t you understand?” my father exclaimed. “I told you, I was alone.”
“I’m not an idiot,” she spat back. “You know what, fine, if you’re really alone, I want you to say that you only have two children. Say ‘I only have two children,’ loud and clear. Shouldn’t be a problem because it’s the truth, and if you’re completely alone, right?”
My father hung up on her.
I spent the rest of that night watching him crumble. Slumped over one side of the couch, he revisited each line of the conversation a dozen times, assembling and reassembling the broken pieces of his marriage to try and form a bigger picture that just wasn’t there. I had never seen him so miserable. His two lives, the one he had with his wife and the one he shared with me, had been so meticulously kept apart. With a single Skype call they had collided with the force of a supernova.
“I’m so sorry,” he said into his hands. “I know I’ve put you through a lot because of this – the phone calls, your sister’s engagement, everything else – but know that I love you, daughter. I tried my best to do what I thought was right.”
“I love you, too, Dad.” I didn’t know what else to say. I hated the Japanese lady when I was young, would hang up on my father whenever he mentioned her and imagine elaborate scenarios for her villainous demise. As I grew older, Japan felt galaxies away, and her existence mattered less and less compared to my own life. Now the old resentment rose in a sinister simmer, and I hated her irrationality, her meanness, this woman who I had never met but wielded so much control over those I loved most.
“It’s almost over,” my father said. “I just have get you through college, and everything will be over. You’ll be an adult and you won’t need financial support from me and she’ll finally be OK with everything.”
When I told you this, Mom, you snorted and turned to make another cup of tea. “Like hell she will,” you said. “She hasn’t been able to conceive since that abortion. You are the child that she couldn’t give your father. She would throw herself in front of a bus before she would lay eyes on you.”
I put my head on my arms and tried to digest everything. Though she refused to have anything to do with me, she had dutifully become stepmother to my brother and sister, who had both been sent separately to live with her in Japan for several years in order to learn the language. She must have wanted to have her own children, and my father wouldn’t have opposed. Could something really have gone wrong with the abortion?
You looked at me and the sadness in your eyes was a quiet roaring. “You know how fiercely your father and I both love you?” you asked gently.
“Of course I do,” I said, and it was the truth.
6. Dear Mom,
When you and Dad started dating, one of your husband-hunting girlfriends dragged you to a fortuneteller. You sat there examining a hangnail while your friend and the medium pored over celestial charts. Forty-five tedious minutes later your friend knew she must travel overseas to find her destined soul mate, and it was your turn.
“Can’t we just go?” you pleaded.
“It’s about time you think about your future,” your friend insisted, pulling you up by the elbow and ushering you into her seat. “C’mon, the session’s on me. What are you going to do with all these relationships? Maybe this time it’s the one.”
You wanted to argue that you didn’t believe in The One, that you’ve had a dozen relationships so far and still hadn’t determined what The One really meant. You wanted to argue that it shouldn’t be as easy as looking at stars, but your friend was already giving the fortuneteller your birthday, and so you submitted to hearing your fate.
The fortuneteller’s skin was dark and stretched tight over his cheekbones. His fingers angled like spider legs, the nail on his left pinky a good two inches longer than the rest. He specialized in birth charts and communicating with the dead, and was famous, which meant one forty-five minute session was as expensive as an hour with a lawyer. He shook a fat bamboo tube full of fortune sticks to shuffle them. The flat sticks inside swirled around and clattered like the patter of rain. Then he handed you the tube.
“Ask your question, then shake it until you feel ready,” he intoned, his voice wispy like the incense smoke that made your eyes itch.
You stared at the dark, smooth surface of the tube in your hands. “Tell me about my past lives,” you said. Your friend beside you opened her mouth, but it was already too late, you had already started shaking the tube, sending your fate rolling round and round inside. You felt triumphant, because whatever the fortuneteller had to say was already in the past, done and over with, and you wouldn’t have to find out anything about the future you didn’t want to. You put the tube back on the desk between you and the fortuneteller, and he pulled the top off and gestured for you to pick three out of the wooden sticks inside. You drew them out at random. They looked like Popsicle sticks, with numbers etched on one end. The fortuneteller laid them on top of your birth chart, and interlaced his spider leg fingers.
“Hundreds of years ago,” he said, “in your very first lifetime, you were a fox.”
Sitting across from him, the same age as I am right now, you blinked.
“The man you are with right now,” the famous fortuneteller continued, citing my father’s birth date correctly without being told, “is an old acquaintance of yours. When you were a fox, he was a hunter from the local village, and he accidentally shot you one day while hunting big game. He appealed to the gods to forgive him for an unnecessary killing, and the gods decided he must spend seven lifetimes in repentance. During these lifetimes he and the fox would be reborn as different people but will always become lovers, and the hunter would always be indebted in some way to the fox, and never be able to deny you anything.”
Seeing as how you were still speechless, your friend asked, “So which lifetime is this?”
“You are close to the end,” the fortuneteller said. “Fate binds you to this man, and he will always feel compelled to fulfill your wishes. You will never be rid of each other.”
You have no patience for something so fickle as fortunetelling, but I have always been curious about the idea of dipping into the past and divining the future. It’s true that Dad can never deny you anything, money or divorce or a child. If you and Dad have been reborn as inevitable lovers for seven lifetimes, I wonder if I have always been your child?
Last night I told you how much you were starting to act like Grandma because I knew it would hurt. When you were young Grandma hired all sorts of tutors to groom you into the perfect daughter, and that only pushed you to grow in the complete opposite direction, finally to leave the country all together. “I will get sick,” you said to me last night, “I will get insomnia if you tell me I’m anything like your grandmother. I will kill myself.”
“I was joking,” I said, but you knew it was a lie. BPD isn’t strictly hereditary but there is more than a hint of Grandma’s brand of ferocity in your mood swings. You were afraid of turning out just like your mother, and I was the same.
Letter #13 begins with you dressing me to go to the nanny’s. Officially a single parent, you slid back into work right after giving birth. Your job paid lucratively but the hours were long. You moved your grandmother into your apartment to take care of food and chores, and found a nanny who would let me live with her four days a week. You spent weekends waltzing around the city with me in a stroller, dropped me off first thing Monday morning.
“Yu hates going to the nanny,” you wrote to my father. “It always takes close to an hour to get her outside the door. The nanny told me she only recognizes Friday because it’s the day I come for her. I don’t know how she is so attached when I barely see her throughout the week. She looks too much like you.”
The older I grew the more obvious it was that I took after Dad in both appearance and temperament, and you knew it wouldn’t do.
“Last night Yu threw a temper tantrum when I tried to give her a bath,” you wrote. “I dunked my head underwater and stayed still until she learned about death. Supportive as you have been as her father, it’s just me and her now. She has to learn that.”
When the gods bound the hunter to the fox, did they include a child? Will the three of us never be rid of each other?
8. Dear Mom,
I’m sorry I haven’t been answering your calls lately. I promise that most of the time it was because I was busy.
I used to tell you everything. You knew the names of all my friends and their relationship statuses. You knew the details of every quarrel and dramatic episode. Now that I’m in college seven thousand miles away, it’s harder to keep you updated. By the end of the day I find myself with only enough energy to relate the most important things to you, and even then it was the abridged versions. The rest, I thought, I could handle myself.
This is why when I finally told you my boyfriend of three years wanted to marry me, it was almost a full month after it had happened. The shock had worn off by then and I tried to pretend it happened recently, but I think you could tell. You could always tell.
“What did you say to him?” you asked. Your voice was even and undisturbed, a trait you developed ever since you became a family and marriage counselor several years ago.
I shrugged even though I knew you could not see. “Nothing, really. I think I thanked him and told him it meant a lot. Which it did, obviously.”
“Obviously,” you said.
“I think he’s afraid I wouldn’t be able to find a job after I graduate,” I continued. “Then I’ll have to leave America. He said he doesn’t want to let me go.”
“Of course he doesn’t, you’re quite a catch,” you said. There was the sound of the balcony door sliding, and I knew you were stepping out for a cigarette. “You’re the catch.”
I shrugged again. “Maybe. I don’t think I’ll do it, even if I don’t find a job. I’m only 22. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us. But if we do stay together for a couple more years without any problems, I don’t think I’d object to marrying him then.”
“Your father will probably protest.”
“He doesn’t have to know.”
There was a second of silence, during which my body flamed then froze over at the realization of what I had just said. Then you gave a short, breathless bark that was meant to be a laugh. “You would get married without telling your father? You? Our daughter would get married without telling us? Our daughter – ”
“I meant he doesn’t have to know at first,” I said. “My sister got married when she was almost thirty, I can wait until I’m close to that age before I tell him.”
“You’re an adult now,” you said, laughing in earnest, “so you can do whatever you deem appropriate. But know this: If you let me know, I will tell your father everything. I will never keep a secret from him. The time for that has passed. No more secrets between the three of us.”
It was my turn to be silent, as I thought about all that has come between us in the past few years. The amount of money I spent and hurriedly covered up by working overtime, the difficulties I had talking to people, the amazing places I traveled to, the pregnancy scare. All things that I still keep in a locked drawer, but on paper because this way I will know that they happened, they happened. You’d think after lifetimes of practice we would be better at talking to each other, better at figuring out our lives without gods and fortunetellers.
But for better or for worse, this lifetime is not yet over. You still dream of kicking life in the rear but end up falling, and I am there with you. Dad and the Japanese lady are back on speaking terms but the frequency of his visits to Tokyo has fallen, and he often comes back more tired than when he left. I am there with him. I stand at the cusp of graduation and the start of my own life. I would ask the gods for their blessing, but there is no truth stronger than making mistakes that are your own.
I have to go for now, Mom, but we’ll talk soon – I know. You’ll call me.
P.S. – I love you.
About the author:
Janice Yu Cheng grew up in Taiwan, Michigan, and New York. She is a creative writing graduate from Binghamton University.
January 5, 2014 Comments Off on Janice Yu Cheng/CNF
Thukral & Tagra, Science, Mystery and Magic II (superman), 2011
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India’s Art Rising Again
It took two decades, individual initiatives, and an art market boom for Indian contemporary art to finally find its place in the sun.
by Shreya Ray
On the southern edge of New Delhi lies the satellite city of Gurgaon. Once a mass of agricultural land (gaon means village in Hindi), and now the country’s third-richest city, the story of Gurgaon encapsulates several other stories. It tells for instance, of the transformation of a stuttering socialist economy to ‘Asian tiger’; the mall-studded utopia alongside sprawl of slums, telltale to India’s rising inequalities. Gurgaon is the story of decentralization – no longer does power and privilege reside only within the inherited bungalows of central and south Delhi, the noveau riche can buy his way into Gurgaon’s glitzy high-rises. Gurgaon is the story of the outsider who made it big.
Gurgaon echoes the journey of contemporary art. Once confined and crumbling in the city’s power and geographical centre — the culture ministries, fine-art centric art academies – art found new language and resurrection only in the city’s far reaches. With success, came status and the art that was once in the margins, was now in the spotlight.
Fittingly, Gurgaon is home to some of the biggest entities of contemporary Indian art – the country’s first contemporary art museum, and some of its biggest stars. One such entity is GurgaonOne, a towering structure positioned between Old Gurgaon Road – the rundown rustic ancestor to Gurgaon — and Maruti Udyog, the factory of Suzuki, the Japanese car manufacturer that came to India in the early ’90s. Dusty on the outside, and shiny on the inside, this architectural edifice of New India, is also the “office-cum-thinking space” of artist duo Thukral and Tagra, the youngest artists to have taken the world of Indian contemporary art by storm.
Dressed in fitted suits – one all-purple and one white with Jodhpur trousers – Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra reflect on how the position of their building says so much about their art, and indeed the current state of Indian contemporary reality. “The references to pre-liberalised India, the Maruti Suzuki showroom (which represents the start of a new era in the country), and the plush building itself, is the perfect place for us,” says Tagra, through his trademark gold-rimmed glasses.
The office interiors are similarly balanced between this old, changing, and changed India: subtle grey walls, venetian blinds, and wooden flooring, adorned by colourful and quirky artwork by the duo: there’s a wry comment on India’s population problem, tiny cell-phones – a reminder of jet-setting urban India — etched on the wooden floors. When you sit down, you are greeted by the good old Indian beverage: the milky, light brown chai.
It’s been a busy last week for the duo – first an opening of their exhibition ‘Longing for Tomorrow’ at the residence of the German Ambassador in Delhi, followed by a family function in his hometown of Jallandhar, for Thukral. “The two evenings were such contrasting affairs – in one we were being celebrated, in the other, I was asked by an uncle what I did. I’m an artist, I said. “But how do you earn an income?” said my uncle.
From V10N1, Shreya Ray, Art in India, Arken Installation
Thukral and Tagra, portrait[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/tandt/thumbs/thumbs_arken_escape.jpg]00Thukral and Tagra
Thukral & Tagra installation at Arken[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/tandt/thumbs/thumbs_anders-sune-berg-august-2012-096.jpg]10Thukral and Tagra
Thukral & Tagra installation at Arken, detail[img src=http://old.ragazine.cc/wp-content/flagallery/tandt/thumbs/thumbs_2012-arken_escape_airlines_10.jpg]00Thukral and Tagra
Thukral & Tagra installation at Arken
Last seen, Thukral & Tagra exhibited at the India Today show at Arken Museum in Copenhagen, and before that Centre Pompidou in Paris, Mori Museum in Tokyo, Kennedy Centre in Washington, as well as the Basel Art Fair in 2012. But instead of being offended by his uncle’s question, Thukral recounts the episode with a chuckle, for this innocuous query posed by his uncle, is an essential piece of the India puzzle, a key concern in the work of Thukral and Tagra. Constantly tapping into the interplay between old and new, and the constantly changing definitions of India and Indian, is what informs the work of Thukral & Tagra.
In Longing for Tomorrow, for instance, they use the elitist brand of Meissen Porcelain from Germany trademarked with their brand of irreverence. They married the exquisite pieces of traditional German craftsmanship with Indian imagery with decidedly pop overtones. Every corner of the ambassador’s home has been “infected,” to borrow a word from the official event press release.
A few months ago, Arken Museum in Copenhagen had been similarly infected with their immersive installation. “Centred on the theme of migration, the entire gallery including carpets, chairs, artwork on the walls, pinball machines, and an iPad app were all playing on the notion of migration,” says Thukral. The traditional Punjabi motif of the ‘phulkari’ woven into the carpet mimicked the patterns of an aircraft carrier to evoke the scores of Indians from the Punjabi community migrating to foreign shores. “The entire gallery was a cross between a pinball arcade and an airplane machine,” says Tagra. The pinball, he says, stands simultaneously for, an antiquated machine, as well as young Indians, bouncing around the globe, constantly being pushed in different directions, be it tradition, modernity, religion, or family.
“Art is always a reflection of its times,” says artist Subodh Gupta. “Renaissance Art was evidence of that time. Similarly, the art of today is a representative of people’s lives, times, and artists work as a reaction to that life,” says Gupta, seated on the second floor of his massive studio in Gurgaon.
Subodh Gupta, Untitled (Pot), 2004, Oil on canvas; 168×229 cm
Gupta, one of the biggest names in contemporary art, pays homage to the life of ordinary India using everyday objects like kitchen utensils to form spectacular installations. The utensils remain a recurring ingredient in his works, referencing at once India’s changing economy, the link between rural and urban, (steel tiffin carriers are extremely popular in the takeaway lunch industry, herein also lies a comment on class dichotomy with the tiffin guys serving people in air-conditioned offices).
“These were objects our generation grew up on – now, hardly any kitchen features steel utensils, in fact in urban kitchens, steel utensils have made way for corel and china,” he says. “My work addresses the mundane, but the mundane is an important signifier of its times,” says Gupta, whose personal journey from Khagaul to Gurgaon, echoes that of contemporary art, from periphery to centre. Gupta’s works have flown off international auction shelves – Across Seven Seas sold in 2006 for Rs 4.5 crore, Sunday Lunch sold in 2008 for Rs 1.86 crore, Untitled, a sculpture of family on Vespa sold by Sotheby’s in 2007 for Rs 1.11 crore.
* (A crore is a unit in the Indian measuring system. A crore is represented by ONE followed by 7 zeroes, which is: 1,00,00,000. This translates to 10 Million.(10,000,000). [Wikipedia]. Thus, 1.11 crore/rupees is worth about $178,000.00 US.)
The year was 1999. Much before he became the name that people dropped, Subodh Gupta was a struggling young artist from Khagaul, Bihar, trying to make way in India’s capital. At a workshop for emerging artists in Modinagar, an industrial town on the outskirts of Delhi, Gupta did a performance piece. Smearing mud and cow-dung all over his naked body, he laid down on the ground. The work was reference to his childhood and identity as a Bihari; it was also as well a play on the ideas of pollution and purity — cow dung is considered sacred in Hindu religion and is ubiquitous to the rural Indian landscape (although in urban India — which has shaken off many of its traditions — it is hardly something you would smear on your body).
This was the second-ever workshop for the artist-led Khoj International Artists Association which Gupta, along with 10 colleagues – including artists Bharti Kher (also Gupta’s wife), Anita Dube, Manisha Parekh and curator, now Director, Pooja Sood – had founded in 1997.
The India of the 1990s was a very different place, says Sood. The country had just liberalized in 1991, and globalization, and its allies consumerism and communication were at nascent stages of development. The idea of art itself was very different. “Painting and sculpture were big; at a public debate, the noted painter Anjolie Ela Menon had dismissed the idea of installation art,” says Pooja Sood. “Encounters with international art were limited to exhibitions brought in by the cultural arms of foreign embassies or the Indian Council for Cultural Relations; opportunities to travel abroad came only via personal invitations or scholarships offered by the Inlaks Foundation and Charles Wallace Trust. Public museums were apathetic and the few commercial galleries that existed, extremely conservative. The spotlight was not on India. We felt ‘third world’, isolated, on the periphery,” says Sood, a few weeks after Khoj turned 15, in March 2013.
Khoj was set up as an “experimental art lab” — as founder member Anita Dube describes in the first Khoj catalogue — a place where Indian artists began interacting, and where they could dialogue with artists from the sub-continent, and the rest of the globe. There was also special emphasis on establishing a dialogue amongst third-world artists. Some of Khoj’s earliest workshops had a Japanese artist Fuji Hiroshi spending a week cleaning a sewer to enable goldfish to live, the Cuban artist Tania Bruguera collecting the workshop’s used teabags to make comments on memory and history, or India’s Sheba Chhachhi resurrecting personal stories of abandoned mill workers in Modinagar; Anita Dube’s work on human bones creating a crisis of belief for the Australian indigenous artist Fiona Foley, or the South African artist David Koloane’s paintings contrasting his experience with apartheid. “In these workshops, stereotypes were challenged and cultural differences pried open,” says Sood. The art historian Kavita Singh wrote about Khoj: ‘Outside the market, beyond and before it, Khoj and other artists’ networks set up in the past ten years in India have been a crucially important part of the experience of globalisation in Indian art.’ In the years since, Khoj graduated from its workshop space from the outskirts of the city, to an office-studio space in another peripheral space: the Khirkee extension in south Delhi. Although located in the elite hub of the city, Khirkee itself is inhabited by working class and lower-income migrant groups.
Around the same time as Khoj was unearthing new artistic languages, three media practitioners were also out on similar quests. Monica Narula, Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Jeebesh Bagchi – formed the Raqs Media Collective in 1992 at a time “the idea of the artist was beginning to get examined,” says Narula. “It was by the late ’90s that it began to be extended to include wider aspirations, disciplines and media. We ourselves were trying to understand these shifts. With the advent of the internet and of new media art, the conditions of the production of art work came in for serious dissection,” says Narula. Raqs has explored themes of urban experience, the idea of creativity, the narratives of history in their work, over visual, text, sound and architectural media.
By the early 2000s, the experiments of the ’90s were beginning to pay off. The installation – which according to Tagra, even until a few years ago people didn’t respond to, very much the outsider in the world of art – was becoming the new buzzword. Photography came into its own as an art form, as did video. There was also the beginning of performance art in India. “Artists of this generation had succeeded in taking Indian art out of its ‘fine art’ category, into a ‘visual art’ culture, says art historian and curator Alka Pande.
India was changing, and the idea of India was changing. “No longer were we about the exotic, the sensual, no longer were we synonymous with 10-handed Durgas (a goddess),” adds Pande. The Raqs Media Collective, also around this time, began to receive invitations to participate in conferences, workshops and master classes in new media. “The decade from 2000 onwards was a very important one for contemporary art and culture in India. Initiatives like Sarai (the programme run by Raqs), like Khoj, and in the wake of our early interventions at Sarai, other groups, collectives, publications and coalitions in different places like CAMP in Mumbai, Periferry in Guwahati, Maraa and Jagah in Bangalore changed the scene in significant ways. All of these were done without the support of the state or the market, by leveraging grants, mainly from international foundations and networks. This created the climate of openness and experimentation that we see the Indian Art Scene benefitting from today,” says Bagchi, Raqs. In the years following Raqs has showed works in Documenta, the Venice Biennale; as well as co-curated of Manifesta 7, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art which took place in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy in the summer of 2008.
A scene from “Four Looped Videos. India Art Fair, 2012, Delhi (Solo booth, Project 88)”
Suddenly, Indian art was no longer relegated to the South-Asian section of international galleries, it was occupying central space in international art circles, says Pande. In 2002, Pande along with curator Gavin Djantis helped put up the The Tree from the Seed, the first-ever exhibition of Indian contemporary art in Europe, at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo featuring artists who in the years to come would become big-names in the world of Indian contemporary art: such as Subodh Gupta, Bharti Kher, Jitish Kallat, Reena Kallat, Anita Dube, Hema Upadhyay. In 2003, the Louis Vuitton flagship show in Paris opened with an exhibition called Indian Summer. In 2004, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth organized Edge of Desire: Recent Art in India, a show of 37 artists encompassing various media. In 2006 Tate Britain started UBS Openings: Saturday Live Mumbai, putting together performances and visuals celebrating India’s vibrant metropolis of Mumbai . In 2007, America joined the club with two big shows of Indian contemporary art in the United States: Public Places, Private Spaces: Contemporary Photography and Video Art in India curated by Gayatri Sinha, at The Newark Museum; and Tiger by the Tail!: Women Artists of India Transforming Culture, at Brandeis University.
This period also coincided with the boom in the art market and art was now being seen as the best investment. “People would buy an artwork work one day, and sell it the next for a killing,” says Pande. Being associated with monetary success also did lots for the status of art and artist.
The periphery found itself at the centre of attention. And in this era, India was found having entered the era of conceptual art and the politics of production. “The artist did not have to make any of his artwork himself or herself, he merely supervised it,” adds Pande.
The Evolution of Praxis
February 2013 might well be the most important month in the contemporary art calendar of India: the country’s first-ever biennale, Kochi-Muziris, in the southern-Indian port town of Kochi is in progress, as is the 5th edition of the India Art Fair. It’s day-two of the art fair and the Speakers Forum, a private ‘invites-only’ enclosure, has a panel discussion in progress. Five artists are discussing ‘Art as Self Realisation – Praxis in an Age of Flux’: the Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, along with the local artists – photographer Dayanita Singh, Sheela Gowda, Anita Dubey, along with the biggest star in the contemporary art constellation: Subodh Gupta.
When Gupta takes to the stage, he points to a screen next to him. The picture on the screen is that of his installation displayed at the three-month long Kochi-Muziris Biennale. An enormous boat carrying dusty utensils, lanterns, an old television set, is suspended on a set of wooden stilts, in continuation of his preoccupation with ordinary objects. Gupta talks about the actual assembling of the piece, and the number of collaborators such a massive structure demanded. The discussion turns to the importance of collaborators, although Gowda makes the point that perhaps collaborators may not be the right word to use for the people who are essentially executors of your idea, cogs in the wheel of a machine driven by the artist.
Gupta’s Kerala boat sculpture exhibited at Kochi-Muziris Biennale
The debate of the word aside, all artists acknowledge the use of collaborators/assistants on their work. For instance, Thukral and Tagra’s work at Arken involved having locally-woven carpets, locally-sourced chairs, an iPad app, all of which were outsourced and their task was that of assembling each of these units into a piece of art. Raqs’ solo show The Great Bare Mat and Constellation”at the Isabella Garden Museum in 2012 Fall had a piece called Drawings of a Conversation – a physical representation of the conversations the three have with each other – a web of lines woven into a carpet by three women in Bulgaria. Pande cites the book The Art of Not Making (2011) by Michael Petry on artists outsourcing production, which mentions Gupta.
In the 1980s, when the artist Vivaan Sundaram — possibly the only one of his generation — started conceptual art, nobody else was doing it, says Pande. “But with increased interaction with international art marked the beginnings of conceptual art in India,” she says. Furthermore, a dialogue with international art has become common occurrence now. Atul Dodiya’s paintings reference Russian constructivists and Picasso, Jitish Kallat’s date paintings echo works of the Japanese artist Onk Wara, and Gupta famously pegged the “Damien Hurst of Delhi” by the Guardian, UK, in 2010 made ‘Et tu Duchamp’, a sculptural take on Duchamp’s mustachioed Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q., made in 1919.
Bharti Kher’s latest solo show in Delhi in Janurary 2013- Bind the Dream State to Your Waking Life—has as its centerpiece, with the same title, a wooden staircase pierced through by two wheels, which says Kher, reminds her of Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. “In her piece, both the staircase and the wheels signify movement, but the wheels also interfere with the fluidity of time.” This sort of tension created by contradiction is a favourite trope used by Kher. For the same show she did a set of sculptures called Portraits of Memory, gestural sculptures showing sari-clad women dancing or gesturing – the fluid and translucent sari fabric against the immobility of the sculpture. Kher draws inspiration from the French-American artist Louise Bourgeouis who subverted traditional feminine imagery in her works. Two gigantic mirror works, from her latest show, show shattered mirrors smothered in bindis. The bindi – a dot of colour worn by South-Asian women to symbolize fertility – used by Kher initially as a mere experiment, over time acquired became synonymous with Kher’s work, and is now used by her to reference her own work. This piece too uses the idea of contradiction – the destroyed mirrors, symbolizing bad luck and domestic violence, versus the bindi, almost the maternal, healing touch.
Although now known for these installations that are simultaneously stunning and sinister, Kher started out as a painter trained in London. Only upon moving to India, experimenting over the years, did she increasingly get fascinated by the immense potential of material. Kher’s studio in Gurgaon is where she keeps collecting everything from tea-cups, egg-shells, mirrors and more. “Each artwork is a combination of an ongoing thought, and perhaps some material that is around, but there is no clear answer here. The studio is like a great kitchen in which several things are on the boil at the same time. You plan to make something, but discover there’s fresh vegetable that needs to be used – at the moment for instance, I have just remembered that I have some great clay I need to use fast,” she says.
Individuals vs Institutions
“It’s an interesting time to be an artist in India today – as it has been since its liberalization – yet in terms of institutional support, there is nothing,” says Kher. It’s only this year that the country had its first biennale, and this too, like Khoj, and some of contemporary art world’s most exciting initiatives, was started by an individual, not institutions. “And it had a few glitches here and there, but the art world came out in full support, it was almost as though they were saying we are here because this biennale needs to happen. It reminded me very much of the first Khoj workshop,” she adds.
While government institutions still treat contemporary art as a step-child – there is no museum dedicated to contemporary art in the country unlike Shanghai and Beijing which have about ten each, says Gupta – it is private initiatives that have fostered its growth. In 2008, Anupam and Lekha Poddar opened up their personal collection of contemporary art to the public.
Called the Devi Art Foundation, this is the closest the country has got to a contemporary art museum. The red-brick building situated in the premises of a corporate office – its neighbouring buildings mostly godowns and offices – is the first physical space designed to foster conversations and ideas about contemporary art. “Our hope as a non-profit art space is to allow for ideas and works to grow, unbounded by commercial limitations; an art institution that encourages new ideas and works to be realized and shown, outside the scope of what the market dictates. Every vibrant art culture needs institutions and spaces that nurture this freedom,” says Anupam Poddar. Every year, Devi hosts two exhibitions, alongside a host of talks and lectures, engaging artists, curators, critics, and connoisseurs. In 2010, Kiran Nadar, another private collector, opened the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, with one branch in a south Delhi mall, and another in Noida, east of Delhi.
Simultaneously, a host of commercial galleries showcasing edgy, contemporary art have begun to open up in Lado Sarai, an urban village on the southern edge of Delhi. Lado Sarai- a narrow dusty lane dotted with art galleries– is Delhi’s up-and-coming arts district. After liberalization, the one economic episode that has affected the art world – for the better – is the economic downturn,” says Bhavna Kakar, Founder-Director of Latitude 28, one of the first galleries in Lado Sarai. “Once the economic crisis hit the West, the international art market started looking East, because this was one of the few places people had the money,” says Kakar, who is also Editor-in-Chief of TAKE on Art magazine. To cash in on the interest in India, Kakar, along with other gallerists in the district organize an annual event called the “Lado Sarai Art Night” in which galleries open shows in one evening, with collectors, tourists, artists and art lovers turning the tiny lane a frenzy of activity. This year, Latitude 28 celebrated Art Night with a show on Pakistani contemporary art, at a time when political tensions were rife between India and Pakistan.
Avinash Kumar, “Boys at Food”
The margin is an interesting metaphor to use in context of contemporary artists as margins are what they seem to be constantly playing with. Avinash Kumar, a designer and visual artist says that instead of canvas or colour, his medium is a night-club or discotheque. Combining food and fashion, music and technology Kumar stared the visual art collective called BLOT (Basic Love of Things), and started producing art works as a background to electronic music. Kumar also started the Unbox Festival in Delhi, a festival premised on the idea of creative explosion and collaboration in contemporary art and design. “The idea of Unbox is to meet other people who feel the same way about the nature of art. Art is no longer one-dimensional, it is multi-disciplinary,” he says.
Raqs Media Collective’s curatorial venture in September 2012 was also on similar lines. The nine-month long Sarai Reader 09 – an intriguing concept in which the process of an exhibition coming into being is itself the exhibition – had mathematicians, writers, musicians and theatre persons, doubling up as contemporary artists. Divided into four three-month long chapters – each chapter being a point of departure for a newer set of artistic interventions – the exhibition saw participation by artists living in London, Mexico city and Delhi, says Poddar.
The themes covered include migration, urban life, digitization, and of course, Gurgaon. One of the pieces called Cybermohalla Hub (CMH) is a building prototype covering 3×6 m area is structured entirely by rectangular frames and made in collaboration with Frankfurt-based artists Nikolaus Hirsch and Michel Muller. The CMH is a reference to resettlement neighborhoods in the city like Gheora in north-west Delhi and the size of government plots offered (3×6 m): resettlement neighborhoods becoming a presence in a city that is increasingly pushing out its working class population to the margins. Further interventions have all added to the structure: its contents and its exterior. “The idea was primarily to encourage creation and critical thinking about contemporary art. Typically most shows are centred on a theme – this was contemporary art for the sake of contemporary art,” says Sengupta, Raqs. This was also a way of getting ordinary people drawn into the contemporary art dialogue.
In contrast to Raqs approach to creating an environment conducive for dialogue on contemporary art, is that of Thukral and Tagra. “The common man in India doesn’t really care about art or galleries, they just want to go into a mall, and they want to shop,” says Tagra. Which is why, Thukral & Tagra’s intervention on the subject has been rather simple: take art to the mall. Although a vast chunk of their work plays with brands and commercial images, in 2012, they made a dinosaur made of commodities for a collector in the southern city of Chennai, displayed at Phoenix Market City mall. “The dinosaur stands for many things at once – in 20 years, these commodities will be extinct as newer things will keep coming, therefore today’s mall is almost tomorrow’s museum. Then, the museum itself is a dying institution. The lines between mall and museum are blurred, as are art and commodity,” says Tagra. When the work had been installed, the typical Indian-mall scenario played out there: hundreds of people gawking at the structure, incredulous and yet posing with their cell-phone cameras.
Commodity-hungry consumers had no choice but to devour art because there was no escape. When the periphery becomes powerful enough, the centre gets drawn to it, so much so, that you won’t be able to tell the two apart.
(First published in Norwegian for Aftenposten K, June 2013).
About the author:
Shreya Ray is a New Delhi-based writer. She has spent most of the past five years writing about art and culture. In April 2013, she quit her job with Mint, and is fully engaged freelancing. Her website is: shreyaray.wordpress.com; you can reach her at email@example.com.
January 1, 2014 Comments Off on On Location/India’s Art Boom
* * * **
Evolution F*d Your S* Up!!
(in voice of Samuel L. Jackson 😉
are certain illnesses that require
air, lots of it.
Barbara Guest, “Roses”
I don’t want you in my bed. I don’t want to write this. I don’t want you
in my bed. I don’t want you in the soft sheets: the road’s crushed
angel wings. I don’t want your head on the pillow-Case of satin or
Cotton, stuffed with the feathers of geese, I do not wish to see your
At the foot of my bed. I don’t want you in the living room or office
Step Back from The Island of Capri, & the Mona Lisa
I don’t want you in the second room, With my uncle in it. I don’t want
you near the threshold of my door. I don’t want you
In my bathroom: the light’s burned out. I don’t want you in the kitchen
where the dog turned over his water-bowl, & the streams became rusty
alluvial plains on the swelling linoleum. I don’t want you on the swollen
Porch the color of my grandmother’s hair. Not on the first landing, or
any turning of the stair. Not in the dirt yard, full of the shit
we have yet to collect. Not on the concrete run by the general of ants—
not on the sagging Lower porches nor in any crawlspace under the
long mausoleum of Mack the cat, Spiders, rats, & snakes. I Do Not
want you underneath the Chinaberry as it’s now past Spring-time, &
You missed its inimitable grey mixed behind the lavender,
froth Gods recall, (it’s their hair)
& the hard poisoned suns all in a cherry-bunch. I don’t want you
under the screaming jet or satellite. I don’t want you Around
the perimeters of my house: it’s a castle, & the moat is environs
Hostile. I do not want you at the gate. I don’t want you in the road.
I don’t want you in the sidewalks fronting the road. I don’t want you
in the road behind the house. Hell, I don’t want you in my city. But
it’s not my city—- so, I say, come not to the yard,
Nor present the asinine unassailability to the broadcast
rumor of scrub ‘neath whining escarpments ajar. I don’t want you
On the roof or in the core of the Old
Step out the light-bulb
Flirt with the fish Swim up a wire. I do not want you on any celestial
Surface, either planetary, The Sun, or the Moon—- I don’t want you
in a meadow. Or on the sea. Or anywhere tenderly… I don’t want you
In The Back of a pink Cadillac, or a yellow Taxi. I don’t want you
on the L. I don’t want you in the crown of the Statue of Liberty,
or Rockefeller Center. I will not abide you In the jungle. I don’t want
you at a half-way house or in a bathroom at the Ritz. I don’t want you
On Long Island & I don’t want you in Zanzibar. I don’t want you to
beat me at Monopoly I don’t want to (boxing “clang’) go to Istanbul
I don’t like Nice I simply do not want you, Either
on the beaches of Any Hometown I dreamed
I might have a claim to, & I Certainly Don’t want you in any Eternity
Where I might meet you, Your Apparitional Approach—-
Appear at no Bay-sides, E-Bay, Walk no green, eschew the picturesque
Quit the diner, cancel your dinner Reservations
Opt Out of the helicopter ride & the free-fall over all that’s Western,
Un-hire all the Clueless guides, I don’t want you in the Officer’s Suite
I don’t want you in the Oval office I Don’t Want You at any camp,
be it with the M.I.C or Girl Scouts—- Leave
my Casino, this is My Private Island, I own the Cemeteries
& the Parks—- I do not Want you on my street, invading my Vatican,
Or any party to my Nation—– stay out the mother fucking Libraries,
by the way, Ease out the Back Door of all cafes, vacate the offices
lining Main Street Remove Yourself from the seat you were not assigned
The church doors are locked. Need I Remind You
The Manger’s bombed.
You are not the lamentable beast toppling from The Empire State.
And the zeroing planes…..I don’t want you in the speed of their bullets.
I don’t want you
in Death’s Boat—- the wood’s slats vomiting vistas of the salt-sea—- I
Hope Never to meet you in any Marine ‘Life’, Minute-men minutia’s
Endeavor to Traverse the Universe. Get Off of my spaceship.
The Tunnel of Love’s Ride Is Sunk in the wake. Do not hazard
the swiss cheese moons with me please. Coal miners & the operators
of Power plants along with their Employees all chime We do not want
you in our tunnels—- the ones that are charcoal wrinkles—- Keep your
Marbles’ singing. Extract
Yorself At any monuments, tourist attractions too, booths, ribbons,
Elevators, trolleys & pie’s foot-paths, bike rails or routes, trams,
Concessions’ corn-dogs’ lighting stores, laundromats, & especially,
—-parking lots—–. All taboo. Please abstain from Walmarts,
Walgreens, Supermarkets, etc. NO AIRPORTS.
I don’t want you in my bed ever again. I don’t want you
near to my lips. I don’t want you Outside on the roof, or cameo’d
in the weather balloon, newspaper, in Parliament, in Congress, at the
I don’t want you at the Capitoline or on the Prairie. No DNKY. No
Horses trotting—- either in blued uniform Or for bridle-spiked sight-
Seeing: No sand. No foam. No wave. No ices. No ice-cream. No
Sunshine. No coffee. No playground no swing. Sans wa wa.
I do not want you. I do not want you at the end of the rainbow. Hear?
I don’t want you in the grocery aisle, either to pick up photographs or
Pharmaceuticals, I don’t want you at the bank or in a disco. Fuck
Saturday matinees. Fuck the popcorn & the candy & soda counter
Keep all your Christines at the Drive-In; pull in your Marlins alone &
forever mount them isolated. Gleam, I don’t want you anywhere
near the environs of Katmandu or Shangri-La. If you touch a monk
I’ll bill you. Pack your things & retire from the monastery, please.
Evacuate the bomb-shelter, the repast, The sabbatical, all & every
synagogue making sweet Earth’s face. Leave the face of the Earth.
Not even its waves, or its fabled stars, or all its imagined horizons
will or could house you now. Vomit the wolf. Take off the mask &
Reveal the Hog. Let the corridors of your eyes’ glitter-mirrors be
a lullaby: Get off the wings of the crow. Move out the rose. Step Off
of my cloud.
Go blind in the marrow.
Come up out of the Marianas. Stop twirling on Everest. Creep
out Cheops, hide under a metal Crotch that leaves nothing
to the imagination~~ I don’t hear you in the seashell, you’re not
Under the crayon-canyon’d rocks, the refrigerator that wouldn’t Open
from inside—-. O, it’s not you
In the freezer, your knees ain’t up to concrete, your nose isn’t Under-
Ground of Refuse.
Put it in the sack to return to horizontality. Wait for the train, track.
Pick the molten tar & feathers off you Peel I don’t want you waiting
for me at Amtrak I don’t want your hide on any stretch of concrete
If seen on a dirt road—–. I don’t want you on any mother fucking
escalators either. Or in underground Shelters, obviously. Hospitals are
Off Limits. All fast-food joints, Greyhounds barreling down
3 A.M. highways. I want you off of this ride bebe….. Don’t Touch
my meal. That water’s not yours. This is not your neighborhood. This
is not your Strip mall. This is not your anything. You are not yours.
You are essentially, as I’ve been trying to tell you all along, the
Offspring of a Raper of Infants.
Stay off the interstate. Stay off the blue roads. Avoid Two-
lane highways. Beware the roar
Of the off-road singular. Meadows will evaporate you.
Fields are not your destiny. Beaches shatter you.
The galaxy itself calls you unregisterable.
Drums are not an Echo for you any more, nor any cognizance
Of ‘nymph’ ‘star’ ‘wood’ ‘water’ ‘town’ “word”—-
you are not even the appellation of ghost.
Gems may have Luster but they will never recall your eyes.
Boughs may bow in blossom but not for any of yours.
Or thine: cities will become metropolises, the planets will be
One front, one font, but that archival avalanche Has Been
Burned Out your eyes, Wander & sing, rejoicing, oh lost
Lamb of the Kingdom.
Of the Kingdom’s Veldt. Cherry trees in Spring.
For I, for one, do not, & never did, want, nor desire you—-
not in the school-room, the spireless church-yards, Locker-room, War-
Room, porno, surfing, parachuting (why not) or the hour
I’ll ride you out of every camp, collapse your warrens. Get out
of the Fucking tree. Take a hike & shake it off. I don’t want to find you
in a grain of sand. And I want you to sit on Damascus steel. So……..
Go, you’re excommunicated from the Legionnaires. You
Are not the crunchy worm at the bottom of the bottle. You
Are not the tear in my beer. You are not the wild Mustang. You
Are not the shift, as if underwater, Of the shook unicorn’s mane…….
You’re no McCall’s, no macaw, no Legislative Body no tablets that
staved Off anything, quinine or otherwise Get Away
from all the Animals God has seen fit to grace the globe with Out
from under you—
And there’s no work here for you —-
you’re blacklisted Blackballed. You’re done, kaput, eat your fingers
With the bread. Kiss a mirror, or the back of your hand. If you try
2 book a flight you’ll be grounded. Get out/Off
of my negative. Go sleep in yon slaughter house. Eat cow-punch. Eat
the dial Whose shadow is a stone. Sup that horizon. Become a cocktail.
Make a foam of life-preservers. Wanna mint? But Wipe
your state Off the license plate in the shark’s gut. Cram chalk.
Use the cork wisely. I don’t want you in Toledo. You are miscast.
The buffet, the dance-line, No one will put their Hands on your hips—-
Trumpets..!! You are in none of the photographs.
There is no note of your reservation
Resignation, Birth certificate? Parents? Children? Spouse? Gender?
Sexual preference? Religion? Nationality? You are not a coconut.
You are, however, a sprout. There are twin leaves no one Will ever
hear, because the Universe is a dungeon, for the frogs of your hopes.
Forever eradicate the memory of shoes from your Cognizance.
Your bones will meet the earth, NOT lackadaisically from NOW
ON. No backpackers. No stevedores, no captains, no dancers,
No help. And long-haired freaky people….. We’ve got somebody 2
Wash the dishes. Put it down. Put it away. And the zoo—- the zoo
Ain’t no place for you. You cannot lay in a flag nor on a lily, spool.
Don’t just show up. And please, don’t be for the love of Christ Early
& if you want to survive tomorrow if it’s the last thing you do my
friend do not at all costs whatever The fuck happens Show up
unfashionably Late. And being on time is extremely boring. Please exit
the SUV. Let some other poor son Of a gun rent that No-Account trailer
whose deed’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Stay down
Of the wind, Flood. All eddies, streams, tides, the diurnal Swell
Of the universal in Music—-. Get out the kids’ books Don’t “Pop Up”.
All we have to eat here are foils. Packaging. We will learn to digest
these too. Our eyes will be opened. But, quite frankly, you’re simply
not allowed the sound of the train. Whoo Whooo
I don’t want you by my side. I want you to suck on catfish Skulls
for the rest of your miserable life. Bask Under the Arches. The throne
Is extinguished. The cataracts whose vibrancy narrows, calls Out
burnished auras of candles, cathedrals, sports’ stadiums, Alien dams.
In short, Fuck You. The ribald streets Will drag you tied to vehicles
to the station. Orca bait, with the fruit-ripe eyes beaks like. You Think
I’m kidding? They drag live dogs from meat hooks through the sea.
Distance yourself from the shining Off my hairnet. Shove
your paycheck. Let your victuals be nasal spray & goats’ kidneys.
Shove a Barbie doll up your ____……. lick my A-____ Lost waiter
Of Flasks. Do a task. Don’t ask. Wipe my ass. Fling the bole, of all
That’s Sold, or “been told”….. something new something old
Something nibbled something shoaled
Just drop dead. Sew up your shit-hole, dye some hot bath,
Inhale a few fumes, take a razor to your pecker. Cut off both ears
& mail them To Yourself. Wear my underwear over your nose-holes.
Train your pets
To use the toilet. Buy us a bra of diamonds, PLEASE. You Know What
the poop-pool sign reads. Your fashion is blasé. Your mien a rotunda—-.
Delectable crown corn-coloured of choice nibblets……
Bring me your statuesque aggrandizement of figures.
I don’t want you! Not your hat, your thumbs, your tooth.
Not a lock, a Look—- no photo, no
Legacy’s sway—- not the ambrosial swell of rot. And get your tail Out
of Norway. Prince of the Canadas sneers alway Always Your Way,
little fey. Rut crust. Fever-Bloom; Crap-clad,
you’ll shoulder the Liposuctioned fat of mavens.
Billow Them about your Waste, baleen Of stiff lips, Buoying
the carcass of your shade.
Eat the nails of hoovered & Wing-ed things.
Devour your own ghost. Stick your own foot in it up to the ankle—-
you can do it!!! O Yoga!
Get outta my hut, this ain’t your yurtz. The lips of my fathers Have
become bounded To toothless jaws. What whets the prying
Of antelopes crying. You are not worth the dust of this moon,
Or its craters, its concave priapism, basins who forever suggest water—-
Eternally your slippers are mongrels’ crowns, the chattels’ idyll.
Whip the plate out from under your jaws’ saliva.
The long myth of sleep has crashed into your cached breasts’ nipples.
The nuzzler is steep. Ding-dong.
You made me a craft of Global constituencies.
Up-end the Brass Instruments of your Great Deep.
And if I hear a peep—–
Bangkok & Tripoli.
A dire expunging.
The faith flits out the froth in me…..
Connect at the Beluga-beleaguered sure-line, bellisimoed architect of
The feminine has ambition without taint.
I don’t want you in the Sub-Sahara. The Morse means flee the bark.
De-coderof entrails. Emerge
Rung after rung out your Slum, out that pylon barge you Call
A sea-home! The Bridge
Squats like a camel. Let it lie over you as the ribs of your eyes
Close-to. Hear the screech
Of metal. Let the fog-horn be cows’ plaintive moos.
Assail the Golden Port with your lying
& encounter the gridded girdled past Parthenon’s of deeper sleep,
so softly silent & waiting Right Out
the corner of your eye in the ameliorated diamonds’ blur
Read a book & construct a trap For Honey.
You don’t want to win a big oven, as your Beau can shove you in’t.
Lay out w/out an SPF.
All the invasive species are protected except you.
Pick up the Crumbs.
Put them in your Jaws Like A Squirrel. Let
the ransacked seeds grow out of the slaughter. Withdraw & sign
Your Own Death-Warrant. Make a skull-cup of the Anti-Christ. Pull
Out Of the Buchenvalds of this World. Eat the hot titties off a tank.
We’ll arrest you if you keep dancing like that—-
All surf-boards, lozenges of cocoa-butter, & twists—-
there are 50 ways to leave
your lover! You are not behind the white eyeballs of the Senator.
Evacuate Immediately: Vamoosel. Sigh-a-Nora.
GET GET GET GET OUT OUT OUT OUT.
But the fur of the rat abhors you.
Extinct mammals gather To celebrate
your demise! Somebody burns blankets at your funeral.
You are let go.
This is a SIGNAL
From on High, rehearsing the sky’s pledge of great pictures.
Just imagine it as the widest Flat-screen TV you’ve ever seen.
I’ve been to that planet. And many others. And I am assured
YOU are NOT welcome! They do not want you
on the plastic-grass Doormat with the two cute little Daisies
In the upper corner Where the stamp should be.
They don’t want you
to stick it into the bike’s basket. If you show up
at the Easter ‘Egg’ Hunt God Save You.
Every time you moved to a new house—-
Recall your explorations? THAT never happened. You are not the waif
of the corridors, regardless of sex…. Exit the cupboards. Exit the EXIT
sign, green or red. Exit Christmas. Exit cookies. Exit sprinkles. Exit
You have vanished from the vaults…..
You may no longer imbibe parfums. The Orange Blossoms—-
their maze—– buzzing, humming—- Will attack you to death.
Stung perforce strong-footed Dance.
Whose sinews belong to the Laborer.
Mask of deeds, Damask & Osiris, salt-Mines, Cypress—- eat the
Coach & let the Western be. The bruised Mustang in the gutter of thee
Glue-house with the mangled tongue disinherited you a long time ago.
The pregnant, starved gut. What lights on the shoulders of the carcass?
Place, you are not wanted in wax, in tallow-light, moon-bright, hedge-
Shaded & grove induced, clearing brought—- the purse’s Empty.
The clinic has seen everybody they can see today. The bridge is up &
you will have to wait your turn. The light at the intersection.
The distance between here & K-PAX. Ah, my American Beauty.
Let this be a song of your transcendence. Not an ungovernable outcome
Of Law. Vinegar & sap—– I am your house & I don’t want you!
Not the rings on your fingers or the smell of your scalp—-
an oil that can’t be described—- not the cataract’ eyes. The imploded
Catamaran. The man-made island. The restaurant Booth, the skipping
to the Loo. The place where the sun doesn’t shine. Pull out
the plane’s fuselage, Hoist the jock-strap so the crickets quiet stand a foot
From the locomotive at night a serpentine wailing. Then RUN
Into the neighborhoods with your plastic tourniquet of beer
I don’t want you in the parade of moths. Your float’s disqualified.
You’ve been tagged. The yo-delayer of yodeling falls on deaf ears.
The woodsman simply did not give a shit.
It’s cattle-call closing-time at the Maul. We are making your Beef-
Patties Right Now. The hair-dryer & the curling-iron grin. Barbed-wire—-
Fake eyelashes. The blinds can’t see you. I was hushed to the heights—-
Well, profligacy ain’t necessarily profit— & I’ve got a long way to go, Baby.
About the poet:
Nicole Broadhurst’s work appears on-line & in audio in Drunken Boat’s
Mudlark, Elimae, Spiral Orb, Mangrove & The Miami Herald, among others.
Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize she was awarded The Eve of St.
Agnes Award by Negative Capability, & is continuing decades-long
work on her tome Souvenir.
Haight Mail was written out as-is in that parabolic fit of pique, save for
punctuation, form & an interim of light sleep.
November 2, 2013 Comments Off on Nicole Broadhurst/Poetry
Babs Reingold’s The Last Tree exhibit
A conversation with
& “The Last Tree”
With Dr. Midori Yoshimoto, Ph.D.
Artist Babs Reingold is about to complete her most ambitious project to date, which will be unveiled for a solo exhibition at the ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery in New York City this summer (May 4– June 28, 2013; reception May 10, artist talk May 22). The Last Tree will be a monumental installation of 193 tree stump sculptures encased in metal pails, placed in a grid formation to fill the gallery space. The number of stumps corresponds to that of the countries in the world, namely, those members of the United Nations. One large tree rises from the grid, as a symbol of the “last tree” which is in danger of its extinction from the earth. Accompanying video projections and sounds will caution the seriousness of environmental destruction by humanity.
Last January, the author (the curator of the exhibition) had an opportunity to visit Reingold’s studio in St. Petersburg, Florida, and was informed of the conceptual plan of The Last Tree. Several months later, the author also visited Reingolds’ studio in Bayonne, New Jersey, and saw the work in progress – “The Last Tree” and several prototypes of small stumps. Over the course of a year, the artist produced numerous stumps at a steady pace in preparation for the exhibition. During my most recent visit, I asked her about the project in detail, its background, inspirations, and her future aspirations. (For the artist’s brief biography, please see the bottom of this article.)
Midori Yoshimoto (Y hereafter): This is one of your most ambitious projects to date, isn’t it? How long has it taken you to materialize this into a tangible project?
Reingold (R hereafter): First off, I consider “The Last Tree” on par with an earlier installation called “Hung Out in the Projects.” That project had all the elements of “The Last Tree” plus a major scaffold for viewing. It was a bear to complete, much like The Last Tree. To the question of ‘how long’ on this installation, I heard Jared Diamond speak at USF Tampa in 2006 on the collapse of societies. It started me thinking about some kind of environmental installation, but tucked away as I worked on other projects. Poverty was the forefront of my work in that period and “The Last Tree” did not blossom as an idea until 2008. I did a small drawing of an installation idea in my sketchbook in October of that year. I must confess I had not read his book at that time, but I did later.
Y: You’re talking about anthropologist Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005). In your installation statement, you cite his words “What do you imagine the Easter Islander was thinking when he chopped down the last tree?” as the direct inspiration for this project. Have you been interested in environmental issues for long?
R: During Mr Diamond’s lecture; that statement about the ‘last tree’ obviously resonated in me. Before that lecture, I was always interested in the environment in practical ways: recycling, organic foods, sensitivity to the use of natural resources, conserving of nature in national parks, these types of interests. Katrina in 2005 really affected me and pushed the environment in the foreground of my thinking — its effect upon the poorer population of New Orleans, our government’s poor response. That disaster crystallized into my sphere of interest, which has always been how human beings interact within a context, within a framework of time… and circumstances. Aging, for example, and how it affects a woman’s identity and her sense of self. Poverty and its hold on an entire population in the richest country in the world. The environment became another concern as Katrina and then Jared Diamond’s lectures on the Collapse of Societies — his illumination of climate change and our failure to adapt to environmental issues as two of the primary concerns — they got the juices flowing. “The Last Tree” installation, although directly related to our pressing environmental concerns, really harks back to my search of how mortals, me, you, interact within a given environment over time. Because, what is the environment? It’s nature and it’s humans and their interaction over time. “The Last Tree” is really a vision of a holocaust of sorts, humans destroying a vital part of themselves. When you think about it, the files of the stumps in the 193 pails, row upon row, resemble a historical battlefield where all that is visible are the rows of crosses silent over the graves.
Babs Reingold / The Last Tree
Y: Your analogy of “The Last Tree” to the holocaust and battlefield is striking. Now that you mentioned it, the installation does seem to resemble a graveyard as well. Is this work, then, intended as a cautionary requiem for the humanity, which has committed self-destructive acts in the past and will continue in the future?
R: Excellent insight. And to answer your question, in a word, yes.
Y: Although it’s not directly related to Diamond’s book, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred after the publication of the book. How do you see a connection between the historical incident in the 19th century and the recent manmade disaster?
R: The connection between the two disasters, man and by man, I mean all of us, man is destroying himself, whether it’s scalping an island or fouling a Gulf. I had started the large drawing before the spill – toward the end of 2009, and finished early in 2010. Ironically enough, in April of that year, I had a meeting with the director of the Tampa museum about “The Last Tree” project. It was a day or two after the oil spill and that topic, heavy on our minds, was a major player in our discussion. The oil spill confirmed my project and spurred me along.
Y: Previously, you’ve addressed the issue of poverty through your works, such as, “Hung Out in the Projects” (2010), shown at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Do they relate to your current interest in environmental issues?
R: All environmental issues relate to one another; they cannot be isolated. The Gulf spill is an example of another Jared Diamond statement: “By now the meaning of Easter Island … should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small.” Let me enlarge upon what I said earlier: The environment is what we exist in… and how we exist in it. How different is environmental destruction to the wreckage of humans trapped in a poverty situation? I have no trouble connecting the two. Both are enormous challenges that we — you, me, artists, writers, our schools, our religions, our legislators, our president, our Supreme Court, you name it — we have to face these challenges. We are the richest nation in the world and our greed, our self-interest prevent obvious obstacles from being overcome. My installations address these obstacles, and hopefully, in some small way, move people to a deeper understanding and action.
Y: I’ve witnessed some parts of your labor-intensive process of making each tree stump. You first stain silk organza with rust and teas, dry it, and, cut it into shapes, and sew those parts with strings and threads. Then, you stiffen the fabric and stuff them with human hair. When they are shaped like stumps, you embellish some patterns and details on them. As the result, they look like small creatures with lives of their own. How did you come up with an idea of making a tree stump out of hair and fabric?
R: Good, I get to talk about being an artist. Although we discuss issues vital to society, to me as an artist they are not intellectual, academic. They are visceral. They play around in my, what the psychologists call the unconscious mind. I do not want to invoke prehistoric Surrealist tenets here or poke into post-this-or-that theory, better to say, intuitive or instinctive reasoning or processes occur within me and are really not available to self-analysis. While objects evolve from these instinctive roots, the history of art comes into play… the sensibilities of artists, again over time, that all-important mark in our lives and past lives. Materials, patterns, colors come into being, formed from years of museum and gallery visits, of talking with other artists and looking at a lot of work. I think back to when President Obama said: “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” The remark was taken out of context, of course, and became controversial. He prefaced that remark by saying that somebody helped you along the way, the American system helped you and allowed you to prosper – and so on. I feel the same way about my art career. I’ve worked very hard as an artist, but I know that all the artists around me, all the art before, has informed me, again, not in an academic or intellectual way, but underneath, sneaky almost.
From this vantage point, objects are formed, and yes, the process is real, whether a brush mark, a video image, a stitch on a fabric. Yet, before the real, the idea of marking a tree stump out of hair and fabric is an unfolding of my years of being an artist, of using stains on fabric to symbolize the scars on our skins, to using stuffed and stained fabric objects to hang from clotheslines to symbolize the wreckage of a human condition. For example, hair carries our DNA, which exists long after our death. The use of hair in The Last Tree installation exemplifies a human condition that exists even when an environment is destroyed.
Y: Hair creeps out many people. Do you intentionally want to repulse the audience?
R: Yes, I want to both repulse and attract. It’s the push and pull of hair that entices me, the ying-yang. Throughout history, hair has served as a mark of beauty, primarily with women, but also with men. It is a keepsake secreted into a locket or jewelry or pressed into a Bible or diary. Conversely, hair is repulsive. Consider the tendril on a dinner plate. What better than hair to represent a range of human conditions?
Detail from Question Of Beauty
Y: I heard that hair used to be considered precious before the modern age. Victorian women would save their own hair to make wigs, even jewelry, and mourning wreaths. Hair served as a tangible remembrance of someone. Somewhere along the modernization, we’ve lost the sense of considering hair precious, haven’t we? Is treating hair as one’s memento crucial to your work?
R: I am drawn to its polar opposition – the gorgeous head of hair equated to the wad plugging the drain. It’s a way of exploring the attraction-repulsion dynamic in many ways, one of which is of the unsullied beauty and innocence of youth, and what enduring implies in this context. I’ve kept my own bounty of hair, collecting it on a daily basis since 1998. I began forming it into doodles each day beginning in 2005. It became a diary, calligraphy of hair loss and subsequently, a loss of beauty, and then with the forming of the doodles, an aesthetic transformation, a new kind of beauty. This use of hair – as beauty lost and found – has been a major thesis in my work over the past ten years or so. In one exhibit at the Jersey City Museum, I displayed a large triptych where a year’s worth of hair doodles – 365 of them — were hand stitched over the same three blown-up photographs of me as an young child fading over time (see fig: Reingold_QuesOfBeauty). Women who had lost their hair through cancer treatments were deeply affected by the work, its capacity to transform hair loss into an aesthetic statement. I hope the use of hair as a symbol of humanity in the Last Tree installation has the same reaction with viewers.
Hair remains for me a most powerful medium, both metaphorically and literally. It contains our complete DNA and lives beyond our death. Adrian Piper in her piece “What will become of me,” has willed her hair (collected since 1985) to MOMA for this purpose.
Y: I was surprised to learn that you were primarily a painter until about 1995 when you encountered Eva Hesse’s work. Her wax-covered fabric hanging pieces are comparable to your “Hung Out to Dry” series, but yours have clearer social content, referencing to clotheslines ubiquitously found in the projects. Over the last eighteen years, how do you see your sculptural works developed, differently from Hesse’s, Louis Bourgeois, or even Mona Hatoum, all of whom you acknowledge as inspirations?
R: I should mention that it was not only Eva Hesse, but several other significant artists such as Ana Mendieta — she used many different mediums to focus on a variety of themes, feminism, life, death, and place. Petah Coyne is another. She was doing sculptural works with mud, sticks and wax. The mud and sticks pieces, her first big show in 1987 at the Sculpture Center, set her career in motion. I did not visit that show but saw her second show of wax chandeliers at Jack Shainman’s. It blew me away and I continue to follow her work. There are others – Tunga, an artist from Brazil. He experiments a lot with different mediums. Still another is Leonardo Drew, a sculptor who uses a 3-D grid projected from the wall in amazing ways. I realized all the work I was drawn to is sculptural or sculpture-like. These artists led me to rethink my direction and to experiment with a variety of materials. Eva Hesse was just the beginning. I believe I discovered her earlier than 1995, now that I think about it, coming upon her Fiberglas™ work just out of grad school. The others you name, Mona Hatoum and Louis Bourgeois, continue to impact me. Earlier in grad school, Elizabeth Murray inspired me to think of objects jutting from the canvas. I started to experiment in 1989 with fiberglass and projecting objects from the canvas and objects on the floor. I believe all these influences, too numerous to mention, are simply that, influences. I don’t think my work looks like any of their work. After years of being immersed in the art world milieu, I believe all artists strive for a singular voice. Whether they succeed or not is up to history to judge.
Y: Critics might see the elements of Surrealism in your work, in a sense that inanimate objects take on animate quality. Do you place your work in the legacy of Surrealism?
R: As I previously indicated, I think an artist is in debt to former art movements. I don’t put my work into the legacy of Surrealism. Though there are elements of my work that may have the feeling of a surrealist influence – the biomorphic shapes, inanimate objects taking on animate qualities – the connection ends there. I don’t consider myself a Surrealist.
Y: You’ve mentioned the importance of balancing the poetic and theoretical in your work. In case of The Last Tree, if the theoretical comes from the underlying concept of the environmental destruction, does the poetic come from the visceral use of organic materials?
R: That question kind of throws me. I listen to other artists come forth with these lovely articulate statements and I say, ‘Boy, I wish I said that.’ What I see is a balance between the socio-political and formal or aesthetic makeup of the work. The environment places the issue in my sight, then that instinctive jumble within me starts working on it. I like your use of poetic for what I consider the latter musing — the instinctive workings. Perhaps a visceral gut reaction comes forth as a poetic quality. I hope in the end result that my work elicits passionate reactions and not just theoretical contemplation.
Y: What are you thinking of creating next?
R: Two projects are in the works. One is “Hair Nests,” a continuation of the series on beauty and aging. It consists of twelve large drawings of trees each with a lone tree branch protruding from the drawing with one nest configured from a month of my hair loss. The nests will be larger than I originally anticipated for I’ve noticed more hair loss during a period in 2012 when I was ill. The second is “Luna Window,” which is part of my series on poverty. These are fabric ladder pieces set into crumbling windows, broadly stated, an attempt at escape from poverty. It is scheduled to open in September 2013 at AC Institute in Chelsea, NY.
Venezuela-born American Artist Babs Reingold creates alternate ambiguities with her wall art and installations. Current focuses are beauty, poverty and the environment.
Works from the “Beauty Series” are the more recent showings, including “I Have A Secret Wish,” University of Alabama’s Visual Arts Gallery and in 2011, the “Pulp” exhibit at Beta Pictoris Maus Contemporary Art, Birmingham AL. In Fall 2011, she created a special work for Miyako Yoshinaga Art Prospects in Chelsea for the “Till All is Green” Exhibition Benefit for Children Affected by the earthquake in Japan. Two works are in permanent museum collections, the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, Florida, and Newark Art Museum. The latter was chosen after she exhibited in the New Jersey Arts Annual.
Her wall art and a major installation, “Hung Out In The Projects,” earned a 2010 State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship. Poverty is personal and long-lived. Ms Reingold spent two-and-a-half years in a public housing project as a teenager. Her recent exhibits on this theme include the “Hung Out…” installation at the Morean Art Center, St. Petersburg; “Flesh Art,” Jersey City University, New Jersey; “Robes,” College of St Elizabeth, New Jersey, and “Media Mix: 4x” at Art Lot, Brooklyn, New York.
She has also exhibited during the past several years at the Art Center of Sarasota and Greene Gallery. Sarasota, Florida; Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers, New Jersey; Middlesex College, Edison, New Jersey, The Studio at 620, St Petersburg. Solo shows include galleries in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Savannah, Buffalo, and St. Petersburg; museum shows in Jersey City, Buffalo, Tampa, and Newark. She has works in countless private collections, including Savannah College of Art and Design.
Among other awards are three from Whitney curator Barbara Haskell, a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and patron awards from Michael Auping and Doug Schultz while they were respectively Curator and Director of the Albright-Knox Art Museum. Among her curatorial activities, Ms Reingold co-curated with Grace Roselli, a show at Franklin Furnace in Manhattan, titled “Voyeur’s Delight,” which motivated religious picketing at the White House.
Ms Reingold received a MFA from SUNY-Buffalo and BFA degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She has studios in the greater New York area and St. Petersburg.
About the Author:
Midori Yoshimoto is associate professor of art history and gallery director at New Jersey City University, who specializes in post-1945 Japanese art and its global intersections. Her publications include: Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York (Rutgers Univ. Press, 2005); entries in Yes Yoko Ono (Japan Society, 2000); an essay in Yayoi Kusama (Centre Pompidou, 2011); “From Space to Environment: The Origins of Kankyō and the Emergence of Intermedia Art in Japan” in College Art Association’s Art Journal (2008); and an essay in Gutai: “Splendid Playground” (Guggenheim, 2013). She guest-edited an issue on “Women and Fluxus” for the Women and Performance journal (Rutledge, 2009) and another special issue on “Expo ’70 and Japanese Art” for the Review of Japanese Culture and Society (Josai University, 2012). Yoshimoto has also served as a lecturer at the Museum of Modern Art, New York since 2004.
You may view more images of “The Last Tree” by Babs Reingold on her website: www.babsreingold.com
ISE Foundation: www.isefoundation.org
April 27, 2013 Comments Off on Babs Reingold/Artist Interview
Butterfly the Table Crack
having people over
butterfly the table crack
make a bridge across the crick
cut the path
invite the guests
pro’ly not comin’
climbin’ back into bed now
would love a massage
but thanks for the choice
I have so few
love your scent
and crumbling building
will bring buckwheat
with apotropaic sauce
it’s just a vehicle
for the ginger
to settle her stomach
after working all day
in the sewer
with toxic plastic
I think I’ve thrown
the troll off my track
just have to shake the twigs out of my hair
squeeze into new jeans
slip on a top
remember that summer day
the light poured through the window
and seemed to freeze time
the day I photographed
your yellow body
looking forward to
attack by black bear
tick and coyote
all afternoon bees in the reeds
keep guests from the bridge
‘til at twilight
under a noctilucent cloud
they manage to cross
doors fly open
the fort bright and hot
Qué plus one
trailing the hems of their capes
through moonlit leaves
navigating the night with goggles and clocks
electronics woven into their brown bustiers
detecting tree limb and mushroom
We will adopt a horse, they think
and give her all our love
a horse can see in the dark
can show us the future
a troll in a truck
with a movable light
comes rushing down the lane
scattering guests into the woods
like altruistic gazelle
they leap to attract attention
all of a sudden with a crack
the searchlight goes out
leaving guests in the semi-dark
frolicking like antelope
in platform pumps
and lots of industrial
takes the time-space
to play in the meadow
with her bonobo
Firefly and Star
in an apron
of silver thread
to shield her seed
finds a hiding place
in the brush by an ephemeral pool
comes out to skims stones
her aroma smoke and coconut
splaying bare feet as she walks
the birthday person
in fin de siècle homespun
like a ragged orphan from Indochine
Georgia came late
after all the walks were over
in a manga boy blouse
with colors that transition
when they touch warm skin
brought a present
when she said thank you
Georgia pointed to her lips
she likes to watch the words
dance across the paper
she had to scrunch up the first few pages
kick over the writing table
About the poet:
Andy Doyle facilitated the Ithaca poetry slam at Juna’s in Ithaca for many years, competing five times in the Nationals, twice making the semi-finals. His brush with fame came when the bouncer at CBGB’s mistook him for Taylor Mali’s father. He still performs at the poetry open mic on the second Friday of every month at 6 p.m. at The Shop on 312 E. Seneca St. in Ithaca, NY. Last month he almost got to read at Barnes and Noble with a Pushcart prize winner, but they strangely stopped the event, as if someone spotted him and said, “Wait! That bald guy with the bad shave, that’s Slamtractor!” When he is not wandering aimlessly over ruined landscapes, he makes very slim books and slips them to you. If you want the illuminated, paper slip-book of this work, send 2 dollars to 1510 Altay Road, Rock Stream, NY 14878.
April 27, 2013 Comments Off on Andy Doyle/Poetry
Native American Classics:
Graphic Classics Series Volume 24
Review by Alan Britt
Editors Tom Pomplun, John E. Smelcer and Joseph Bruchac have produced a wonderful book in Native American Classics: Graphics Classics Volume 24, the latest in an illustrated classics series of books designed “to create books that are enjoyable for adults, yet accessible to children ages twelve and up.” The historical texts in this book are entertaining and educational. This newest production, like other books in the series, is beautifully adorned cover to cover with colorful illustrations serving as backdrops for texts by modern and contemporary Native American writers. The list of authors is an impressive mix of 19th-century through 21st-century Native American poets and storytellers that includes Zitkala-Sa, Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), E. Pauline Johnson, Alex Posey, Simon Pokagon, Handsome Lake, Bertrand N.O. Walker, Buffalo Bird Woman, Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja), John Rollin Ridge (Cheesquatalawny), plus a host of other talented writers. The list of illustrators is equally impressive and includes Bahe Whitethorne, Jr., Jim McMunn, Andrea Grant, Marty Two Bulls Sr., Murv Jacob, Weshoyot Alvitre, Toby Cypress, John Findley, along with other talented illustrators.
The texts comprise a rich variety of storytelling. For example, there is on the one hand the serious tale “On Wolf Mountain” by Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohiyesa), adapted by Joseph Bruchac, and beautifully illustrated by Robby McMurtry, which tells the tale of how a wolf pack, known as the Mayala Clan of Gray Wolves, were “driven away from their den on account of their depredations upon the only paleface in the Big Horn Valley.” Fortunately, the wolves happen upon a Lakota village and are befriended by the “Red Hunters.” According to Ohiyesa’s story, the paleface lifestyle of sheepherding and cattle ranching is unnatural to the landscape and proves to be potentially ruinous to the lives of both wolves and Lakotas. As the narrative recounts the struggle between the native wolves and intruder palefaces, one cannot help but detect the parallel genocide that Native Americans endured after the European invasion of North America. On the lighter side, there’s “The Story of Itsikamahidish and the Wild Potato,” Buffalo Bird Woman’s story adapted by Tom Pomplun and handsomely illustrated by Pat N. Lewis, which recounts the tale of Itsikamahidish, who, in the form of a gluttonous coyote, happens upon a serendipitous pile of wild potatoes. One potato warns Itsikamahidish that potatoes, while nutritious, also cause one to experience a copious amount of gas. Unimpressed with the potato’s warning Itsikamahidish eats his fill and proceeds on his merry way to visit his sweetheart while emitting “poots” of gas along the way. Eventually, Itsikamahidish’s gas “poots” become so powerful they begin lifting Itsikamahidish off the ground, only to have him return to earth with a painful thud. The soft moral of the story is that gluttony can get you into trouble, so the next time a potato offers you advice, better pay attention!
All texts are presented in comics form designed to stimulate and delight both adult and adolescent imaginations. Series Publisher, Tom Pomplun, puts it this way: “The Graphic Classics series presents the works of great authors in comics adaptations and heavily-illustrated text . . . adaptations are written at an adult level, and utilize as much of the author’s original language as possible.” One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, Native American Classics, due for release March 2013, is already on my gift list, along with several other books in the unique Graphics Classics series. Suffice it to say that the reproduction of texts and illustrations in this book are vibrant and colorful. This beautifully printed and bound book is highly recommended for personal pleasure as well as gifts for adults, plus sons, daughters, nephews and nieces who love to be educated and entertained at the same time.
Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 24 (ISBN #978-0-9825630-6-9)
144 pages, 7” x 10”, paperback, full color ($17.95)
Distributed by Diamond Book Distributors
Tom Pomplun, Publisher
Native American Classics,
Graphic Classics Volume Twenty-Four, 2013
By Dale Seeds
This soon to be released collection of Native American stories rendered in the graphic novel/comic book format features a synthesis of Native American traditional stories transcribed on or before the 20th century with the work of contemporary comic/graphic novel artists. The majority of the artists include in this collection are Native American. We tend to think of the graphic novel as a new creation, embedded in popular culture, cheaply produced for a mass audience no longer interested in wading through a conventional book. However, storytelling with words and pictures, something graphic novels certainly do, is not a new phenomenon. Cave art in Europe and indigenous petroglyphs in Australia, and North and South America all figure from 40,000 to 30,000 years old. In both the ancient and the modern, the narrative unfolds through a series of sequential visual images, much the way traditional stories develop through verbal imagery.
So why not a marriage between Native American storytelling and the graphic novel? Sounds logical. Didn’t Frank Miller take the stories of Herodotus and turn them into The 500? The history of contact between Euro-American and Native peoples in addition to the complex relationship between oral traditions, culture and spiritual beliefs suggests caution. How do we, some of us as outsiders to the culture, discuss these works? What qualities do we look for? What responsibilities are inherent in the creation of an anthology such as this? A watershed moment in the development of indigenous comic art occurred with the 2009 exhibit, Comic Art Indigene exhibit at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Subsequently, the exhibit toured The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, and The Rockwell Museum of Western Arts in Corning, NY. This exhibit demonstrated a strong indigenous presence within the emerging and often marginalized literary form of the graphic novel. Native artists are often attracted to the sequential format of the graphic novel, appropriating the western comic form to both tell traditional stories and create new culturally specific narratives. (Chavarria)
As marginalized literary formats, the comic book and graphic novel have a certain appeal to indigenous peoples, they can be mass produced and shared and present a visually exciting way to tell cultural stories through pictures. “exhibit curator Antonio Chavarria stated, adding, “Comics are just another way to tell stories, they are a narrative art form that reinforces the beliefs and symbols of a people and a place.
Native scholars suggest, however, that care must be taken. Stories in indigenous cultures are more than entertainment. They are the means by which the origin, cautionary, and hero stories, along with tribal history and values are maintained and transmitted. They have often been described as “sacred texts” Many of them, particularly in the Northwest and Alaska are considered clan or tribal property. Unauthorized use or misuse can be offensive and in many ways perpetuates the colonial paradigm.
In discussing Native American Classics, we might first assume that Native stories expressed in comic format strive to subvert the Euro-American settler narrative to produce an alternate narrative that reflects the Native experience and worldview. For example, we might first ask, does the graphic format reclaim or deconstruct stereotypes such as those that harken back to dime novels and serial westerns? Karl May’s Old Shatterhand stories provide us a vivid example. Do they reassemble the stereotypes to debunk the original stereotypical characters and tropes such as Marty Two Bull’s characters, Frybread Man and Mr. Diabetes, or his selection in this anthology, Wildcat Bill? Similarly, does the adaptation of graphic styles resurrect traditional heroes or create new ones like those in Tribal Force illustrated by Ryan Huna Smith. This collection, with stories by Jon Proudstar, was the first Native American authored comic book featuring Native American superheroes. Finally, and perhaps most critical and difficult to discuss, is this hybridization of traditional stories in graphic form successful in the ways in which the text and the serial illustrations combine to tell the story in a dynamic, perhaps symbiotic way? Conversely, does the traditional story and graphic illustration need to resemble each other, or can they exist in some sort of juxtaposition and still work? Finally, is it respectful, does it embody at least some of the functions of traditional story telling? Does it create a new voice or reach a new audience?
Native American Classics is based on the worthy notion to connect with the often marginalized and nascent Native American Literature of the mid and late 19th century. This literature, with virtually no models, was under the surveillance of white editors, who published only what was deemed as appropriate or compatible with Euro-American perceptions of Native peoples. These perceptions viewed Native peoples alternately as noble savages, bloodthirsty killers or tragic vanishing or vanished victims. For many of the original texts included in Native American Classics, the cultural traditions and concerns of their native authors were carefully, and at times, discreetly expressed. With Native American Classics, the addition of the serial visual images accompanying the text has the potential to change our understanding of these stories.
The original authors and their stories included in Native American Classics represent that early wave of writers, who struggled to survive creatively and break through in print. Many of them were of mixed blood, or had considerable contact with missionaries, and boarding schools, including the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Others attended colleges and universities. These experiences shaped and often confined their works. The written expressions of the prose, the predictable rhyme patterns of some of the poetry and the guarded ways in which the Native worldview is expressed might seem dated to us today. They do, however represent the realities of a people being forced through assimilation to shift from a rich, sustaining oral culture to a written culture in an unfamiliar language. For example, we might find ourselves uncomfortable with the apparent rejection of traditional spiritual practices as suggested by the text in Zitlala-Sa’s “The Soft-Hearted Sioux” particularly in the description of the Medicine Man, (“ His long strides I have never forgot . . . they seemed to me then as the uncanny gait of eternal death.” Perhaps more problematic is the captive/abduction narrative of John Rollin Ridge’s “The Stolen White Girl,” with its noble savage Romantic stereotype, mildly erotic Victorian language and stilted rhyme scheme. The choice of illustration style here is not quite clear, perhaps to defuse the narrative into an innocent love story? Carlos Montezuma’s 1916 poem “Changing is not Vanishing” is one exception however, which anticipates a later 20th century Native viewpoint. The illustration by Arigon Starr reinforces this, suggesting strength and optimism through a progression of images from a woman in traditional dress to a young man with a digital music player.
Visually, Native American Classics represents a wide variety of narratives and graphic styles from various tribal groups and artists. Randy Keedah’s cover art resonates as an almost lovingly appropriation of the color and realism of Charles M. Russell and Fredric Remington and seems like a consistent aesthetic with other covers in the Graphic Classic Series from Eureka Productions. A more thematic cover choice might have been the image of Raven by Michael Nicoll Yahgulannas. This image, from the author and creator of Haida Manga, presents a contemporary riff on Raven stealing daylight and spreading it to the world. In this image, we see Raven transformed, as a Picasso meets – traditional form-line art trickster holding a cell phone with a copy of Native American Classics firmly clenched in his beak. For me, at least, this visual image embodies the cultural juxtapositions a collection such as this could aspire to. It also would be nice to see more of Tribal Force’s creator Ryan Huna Smith’s work. Other works pay homage to comic creators such as Marvel’s Stan Lee and Frank Miller (“The Soft-Hearted Sioux,” “The Thunders’ Nest,” “The Hunter and Medicine Legend,” and “The Cattle Thief.” Similarly, Marty Two Bull’s short and pointedly hilarious “Wildcat Bill” recalls Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural.
The illustrative style of Robby McMurtry’s “On Wolf Mountain,” is especially successful. With its spare colors and loose, inked images, it looks as if it were created by a 19th century artist sitting on the high prairie with a sketch book and paint box. The magical vibrant colors and ink of Afua Richardson in “Anoska Nimiwina” create dynamic visual characters that do not rely on stereotyped visual images of Native people. Her use of loose swirling colors and ink to animate the scenes is almost cinematic. The text boxes and dialogue bubbles effectively differentiate between narration and dramatic dialog. The story also includes the character of a native scholar (writer) transcribing the traditional story that is unfolding for the reader. This insertion makes us aware of the processes by which oral stories come into written form. This self-reflexivity also reflects on the process of “transcribing” this very story into the graphic form contained in this anthology.
“The Middleman,” which is stylistically reminiscent of Chic Young’s Blondie comic series, juxtaposes innocent and playful images with the very devious and fraudulent practices in which unscrupulous land speculators took advantage of the Dawes or Allotment Act to bilk Native people out of their government assigned allotments. Text boxes at the bottom help to clear this up for the reader. However, this might have been more effective as a Forward. Perhaps a minor quibble, other selections in Native American Classics might have benefited from some inserted information to help place the pieces in a cultural and historical context. Information on the author, date, tribal affiliation, and some background on the origin of the story and its importance could be very helpful to the reader here, particularly those new to Native American literature. Much of this information is, however, found at the end of the collection.
Native American Classics includes strong, heroic women characters in “Anoska Nimiwina” and “The Cattle Thief.” Equally important, the grandmother in “The Prehistoric Race” serves as the Ouendot (Wyandot) narrator and tradition bearer. For example, in the beginning of the narrative she introduces herself as a member of the Big Turtle Clan so as to connect herself and her grandson to a story from which their clan is named. This would also seem culturally appropriate since women held important governing positions in traditional Wyandot culture. The use of the Grandmother’s written dialect contrasts with the standard English of the animal characters and the grandson. It works as a device to separate the characters, however, one could argue she comes off as less articulate, and the text is a bit slow to read due to its phonetic spelling. The story telling narrator function is also a strong visual presence as the character of Charles Eastman in “On Wolf Mountain” and is alluded to in the previously mentioned example of the Native transcriber in “Anoska Nimiwina.” Women authors are present in the contributions of Zitkala-Sa, Mary Bird Woman, and E. Pauline Johnson, and illustrators Weshoyot Alvitre, Andrea Grant, Arigon Starr, Afua Richardson, and Tara Audbert.
The spiritual connection between animals and humans is represented again by “On Wolf Mountain,” “The Hunter and the Medicine Legend,” and “Two Wolves”; traditional heroes in “The Thunder’s Nest” and “Anoska Nimiwina.”
Humor is an important and necessary tradition in Native American stories and two examples in Native American Classics provide contrasting approaches. “The Story of Itsikamahidsh and the Wild Potatoes” by Buffalo Bird Woman is a Coyote style cautionary tale, broadly comic with a touch of flatulent humor, about the danger of eating wild potatoes. It utilizes a visual style that reminds one of the early Walt Disney or Hanna Barbara cartoons. Marty Two Bulls’ illustrations for Alex Posey’s “Wildcat Bill” almost literally turn the stereotype of the cigar store Indian on its head with comic and appropriately just results. Combining these 19th and early 20th century narratives with colorful, at times bold, and perhaps brash visual expressions produces a dynamic hybridization. (Chavarria) The success of this synthesis is clearest in the stories where the written text of the narrative is accurately and respectfully presented within the comic/graphic novel format and that this reflects the Native values and worldview of the author. Likewise, we need to be open to the possibility that a traditional story and its graphic visual expression might exist in tension with each other, and that this might also be a successful collaboration. “The Middleman,” for example, moves in this direction. Finally, the visual inclusion of a Native story teller within the frames of the story is an important reminder that these stories owe their origin to the traditional performance practices of storytelling, which have been responsible for the transmission of traditional knowledge and culture for thousands of years.
On a personal note, my favorites are “On Wolf Mountain,” “Wildcat Bill” and especially “Two Wolves.” This last story is particularly successful for its tight, sparse dialogue, and the illustration style of John Findley. He combines great attention to detail and technical mastery of the media with an uncanny ability to create visual characters that convey a sense of emotional depth as well as the spiritual connection between the man and wolf. Maybe I’m just sentimental, but there was something emotionally satisfying about the ending of the story. It also provides a strong conclusion to the collection.
The anthology may not be perfect, but it does accomplish a number of things. First, it provides an opportunity for Native artists to connect their work to traditional stories in ways that are culturally meaningful. This connection to traditional stories also gives their work a visibility beyond the graphic novel/comic genre. In one way or another, all the stories in the collection provide readers with places to start a meaningful dialogue about Native American literature, particularly in an environment such as a classroom. Finally, the coexistence of verbal, written, and visual expressions of traditional stories sheds light on an indigenous culture and the ways in which it evolves through time in search of its own voices. This is perhaps the greatest contribution of a collection such as Native American Classics.
Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 24 (ISBN #978-0-9825630-6-9)
Edited by Tom Pomplun with associate editors John E. Smelcer and Joseph Bruchac
144 pages, 7” x 10”, paperback, full color ($17.95)
Distributed by Diamond Book Distributors
Tom Pomplun, Publisher
Chavarria, Antonio. 2012. Exhibit curator notes. Rockwell Museum of Western Art. 28 Jan. 2013.
About the author:
Dale E. Seeds is Professor of Theatre in the Department of Theater and Dance at the College of Wooster,Wooster, Ohio, teaching courses in design , Native American Performance and Indigenous film. His work has been published in Theatre Crafts, Drama Review, and MELUS. In addition to his work at Wooster, his design credits include work for The Abbey theatre of Dublin Ireland, The University of Alaska , Fairbanks and the Dead White Zombies performance group of Dallas, Texas.
Poets’ Guide to America
Review by Alan Britt
John F. Buckley and Martin Ott recently published Poets’ Guide to America, a poetry book “on the states, cities, and the strange places of the United States (and even some of its overseas possessions).” Here’s the thing – they wrote these poems together. That is, each poem was written in part by Buckley and in part by Ott. In Buckley’s words, “Beginning in May 2009, Martin and I began playing what we call ‘poetic volleyball,’ a form of exquisite corpse in which we took turns writing a couple of lines of verse, back and forth, until we had a poem. And then two poems. And then, finally, fifty.”
Is this co-op approach to poetry becoming a trend? We recently reviewed The New Arcana written by John Amen and Daniel Y. Harris, a mostly poetry but sometimes multi-genre, neo-Dadaist book that pushes the boundaries of what most folks expect to see from a volume of poetry. A couple years back Andrei Codrescu and Ruxandra Cesereanu released their remarkable Forgiven Submarine, their “story of a difficult love, from the first signs of tenderness through a life-and-death battle, to a reconciliation made necessary by wisdom,” poetry collaboration. It’s well known Dada poets and artists collaborated often, sometimes on the same stage at the Cabaret Voltaire.
So, this collaboration thing isn’t altogether new, but in this case it does, in the words of Tony Barnstone, “create a great conflagration of vignettes and voyages, characters and crisis, traversing or dissecting America in all its nutty hubris, with miracles at the Dairy Queen, Navy SEALS diving for Godzilla’s eggs, an igloo constructed of Schlitz Malt Liquor cartons, a patchwork country inhabited by vegetable princes and chupacabra kings.” Poets’ Guide to America is comprised of fifty poems, 95% of which are neatly laid out in two, three, four, five or six line stanzas, thus, satisfying the MFA code of quasi-structure. The book often exudes a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into the diverse landscape of America and often in a tone that mimics playful narrators offering up historic tidbits of Delaware, Pittsburgh, Georgia, Boston, St. Louis, Manhattan, Omaha, etc. One jocular poem, “A Tale of Two Portlands,” opens with an allusion to Dickens:
It was the best of lines, it was the worst
of lines. Or so she said the next morning
when our search for her missing underwear
led us to grind to halts and hollers on a beige
antique rug, our newest arena. Where we
whiled away another damp hour, another
stray occasion. We shared the wetness:
toothbrushes, plumbing, childhood tales . . .
Structured as poetry but written in whimsical prosaic style, this book isn’t Howard Zinn’s “true history of America.” What it is, however, is a romp with Buckley and Ott creating their own band of Merry Pranksters combing all corners of the United States. Their poems offer a witty and well sculpted peek into the details that separate Motown from Miami, Daytona Beach from Indianapolis, Los Angeles from Roanoke. Occasionally poignant but mostly improvisational, Poet’s Guide to America provides an enjoyable jaunt throughout the great experiment known as the United States. This mostly lighthearted book is witty and enjoyable. The next time you hop Amtrak or Greyhound to visit your aunt in Atlanta, your mother in West Palm Beach, or your poet buddies in Ann Arbor, take this book along. By the time you arrive at your destination, it’ll feel like you’re returning home.
It takes a steady hand to operate a Cadillac without
power steering and a heart like a crusted nut, he said
without letting the smoke in his craw twitch one bit.
A man should never own a car worth more than
his house, his wife said before following her rusted
catalytic converter of a boyfriend to Appalachia.
Now the strikers’ wives stockpile Kroger’s in the back
of his double-wide, preparing for the possibility, one
more half-willing spasm of labor as contracts turn brown
As the tar on his walls darkening from pure American
tobacco. Sometimes he drives to Windsor to take
a piss, and gives strays rides to see Joe Louis pump
his fist, explaining how Detroit smacked the Nazis
where it hurt and the supreme temptations of
hometown soul got all his girls talking about grit.
(from “Slowdown in Motown”)
Poets’ Guide to America (ISBN #978-1-936767-16-8)
110 pages, 7” x 8½”, paperback, ($14.95)
Brooklyn Arts Press
Review by Alan Britt
Lots of praise for John F. Buckley’s Sky Sandwiches. Those familiar with Buckley’s sardonic, quasi-autobiographical poetry are not surprised by the following accolades: “I love when his youth comes off the page, and I get to relive a Michigan childhood.” (John Brantingham); “Buckley is a well-traveled Bukowski. . . .He explores diners in Michigan, final yard sales and crushed Californian dreams.” (T. Anders Carson); “Here, McMansions, disappointed family members, Walmarts, malt liquor, Blondie, convents, shit tonsils, classrooms, ex-porn stars, mean fertility specialists, and hot sauce melt into an addictive and irresistible Kool-Aid that leaves us panting for more.” (Alexandra Mattraw). An imaginative travelogue heavily punctuated with autobiographical details characterizes this lively book. The poems are packed with seductive details that, as several of the book’s blurbs indicate, invite the reader inside the poems without hesitation. One easily relates to Buckley’s almost stream of conscious journeys to his geographic and psychic haunts that are littered with an amazing variety of details:
He told them garum tasted most like Filipino patis, more so
than nuoc mam or Chinese fish paste. He liked ice cream,
MMA matches, posters with kittens, and American Idol.
He once became enraged and defensive when they laughed
at him for rubbing vanilla Haagen-Dazs on his toe wound―
“Is that Roman folk medicine, ‘Roam-oo-leh’?” Bastards!
Fine! You get dragged to twenty-first-century Livermore!
It’s confusing! The ice-cream helps, all aches subsiding.
They wouldn’t give him a concubine, so he had made do.
* * *
Watch him fret in his Boy Scout sleeping bag, dreaming
of Italy and cyclotrons, restless, feeling like an unlucky coin
flipped in the air between someone else’s finger and thumb.
Buckley’s language moves at the speed of imagination, that is, it’s delightfully unpredictable. Once Buckley’s launches into his frenetic voice, he could end up anywhere, at a family reunion in “At the Reunion,” revisiting late adolescence in Windsor, Ontario, in “A Promise,” or entering the psychic zone in “Anybody Can live on the Moon.” I say get a good grip on whatever hat you happen to be wearing; otherwise, the verbal tailwind produced in these poems could leave you breathless and straining for balance. But how delightful to be rocking in a verbal tornado that plucks you right out of mundane existence and deposits you somewhere light-years from Kansas.
Let’s make believe we’re elsewhere.
Let’s keep an even keel in the waters of our mind―
a smooth gliding in a taut canvas canoe
on a lake of placid equanimity―
not caught in the crosshairs of status and mishap,
an escape artist locked in an opulent corner office
after swallowing the key.
Let’s not listen to Ram Dass. Let’s not be here now
in the man’s office for the anticipated meeting,
the avuncular pomp due to recent circumstances,
the canning of the human pickle.
Let’s not discuss the events leading up to this moment:
a divorce, a stubborn repetition of nightcvaps,
a morning kiking-in of windows,
a request to deposit one’s stink away from
the chaperoned students, first temporarily, then permanently.
Sky Sandwiches (ISBN #978-1-937536-32-9)
97 pages, 6” x 9”, paperback, ($15.00)
Anaphora Literary Press
* * * * *
March 2, 2013 Comments Off on Books: Native American Classics
After the Banquet…
An Invitation to Aristocracy
(ed. note: The following speech by Lilvia Soto, as she writes in her prelude, was presented to a Latino audience on a U.S. college campus in 2009, but its messages apply to all humanity. We trust you’ll reflect on it as a forward-looking call to responsible global citizenship as it was meant to be for the young people to whom it was presented three years ago.)
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of La Casa Latina: The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Hispanic Excellence, on Friday, September 25, 2009
In August 2004, I went to live in Mexico, the country of my birth. When I moved there, I was afraid. Afraid that they would say to me: “Gringa, go home.” After all, I had left when I was 15, had gone back only for short vacations, and everybody I had known while growing up had died. But, nobody asked to see my birth certificate. No one asked me to prove that I am Mexican. They welcomed me with open arms. They opened their homes, their families, and their literary circles and invited me in. Mexico has one of the busiest, most vibrant literary scenes in the world, and I have been welcomed into it.
With distance, one gains perspective. Living in another culture during the last five years has allowed me to do a comparative analysis of this one. In spite of the poverty, the drug violence, and the corruption, I have found Mexican society more peaceful than this one. Mexico has not started a war of choice or invaded another country. The average Mexican, the man with a 5th grade education, who never reads a book, is smarter than the average American. If you ask this typical man, a hard-hat worker in a maquila making 500 pesos a week, or a ranch hand who can barely sign his name, about the United States, he will tell you that this country is ruled by corporations and that it invaded Iraq for oil. This average José is not fooled about Mexican society either. He is aware of social injustice and corruption in government. Mexicans are by nature skeptical. They don’t believe the myths about their history or the hype about their superiority. And they don’t devote their energy to hating others. They don’t hate immigrants. There are many American expatriates, some working illegally, living in Mexico, but nobody is racially profiling them, hunting them down, or building private, for-profit prisons to hold them. Whenever I come back to the United States, and turn on the TV, I have to turn it off immediately. The noise, the name-calling, the demands for revenge or punitive measures, the fear of gays, immigrants, the old, the uninsured, the ones who wear turbans, or tunics, or a beard, seem to come right through the screen. The hatred is deafening. I wish I could tell you a fairy tale, but I cannot. I believe you are inheriting a very sick society. I believe with Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Morris Berman, Chris Hedges, and others, that we are living through the final phase of the American Empire. It makes me sad, especially for you, the young. But having said all of this, I also say that giving up is not an option, and that you have a vital role to play in this final phase–the role of the conscientious objector, the objector to endless war, foreign invasions, torture-dispensing American-run black-hole prisons in foreign lands, run-away greed, pollution, hunger, lack of medical insurance, watered-down education, mindless entertainment, racial profiling, hate crimes, and cruelty of any kind.
On September 1st 2009, The New York Times published The University’s Crisis of Purpose by Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard and former professor of history and Director of the Women’s Studies Program here at Penn. It was published in “Crossroads,” a series of essays that is trying to examine changes in the collective American experience.
According to Dr. Faust, modern universities are faced with almost irreconcilable demands. They must be practical and at the same time, transcendent. They must assist in the solving of immediate national needs and simultaneously pursue knowledge for its own sake. They must add value, and question values. Dr. Faust asks us to remember that universities should be about more than prosperity. Human beings need more than jobs. They need a historical sense and the freedom and imagination to search for meaning for their individual lives and for the life of their society. Unlike other institutions in the world, universities should embrace and nurture the critical perspectives that look beyond the present. They should be society’s critic and conscience. They should produce doubt that is often inconvenient, as well as knowledge. They should raise the questions that are necessary to a healthy society. If they are to fulfill their transcendent mission, universities should have breadth and depth of vision, and they should be messy and creative places, filled with a polyphony of voices.
I hope that when Dr. Faust talks about the need people have to search for meaning for the life of their society, she means more than their local or national society. I hope she means that people have the need to search for meaning for human society. There are artists and cultural critics today who, like Morris Berman (Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire) believe that America is entering a dark age and its final phase as an empire. If it was never smart to have an ethnocentric view of the world, and if we accept that that limited view is partially responsible for the twilight of this culture, then it makes sense to say that today, more than myopic, it would be suicidal to hold American society as our only horizon.
“You carry all of civilization in your veins, and it is important that everybody learn and that you never forget that you are not new-comers to the American continent, to history, or to the realms of art, culture, and ideas. You have countless treasures hanging from the branches of the tree that grows in the garden of your multicultural house.”
My mission is to remind you that you, as Latinos, own some of the most important voices of the polyphony of this and any university, of this country, of the world, because as the heirs of many ancient civilizations, you are in a unique position to offer perspectives that go beyond the limited frontiers of this time and this place. Your ancestors are the Celts, the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Hebrews, the Romans, the Visigoths, and the Moors that for centuries intermarried in the Iberian Peninsula and produced the 15th Century explorers who came to this continent and married the Yoruba and the Mandingo from Africa, the Tainos and the Caribes from the Caribbean, the Incas from Peru and Bolivia, the Toltecs and the Aztecs from Mexico, the Mayans from Yucatan, Guatemala and Honduras, to produce the Latin American mestizos who came North and married each other or the English-Americans, the Italian-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the Polish-Americans, the African-Americans, and the native Americans to produce you–the Latinos of the United States. Each of these old, inseparable, indistinguishable strands has come together to produce each of you–a unique and very special genetic and cultural mix. You carry all of civilization in your veins, and it is important that everybody learn and that you never forget that you are not new-comers to the American continent, to history, or to the realms of art, culture, and ideas. You have countless treasures hanging from the branches of the tree that grows in the garden of your multicultural house.
You belong here. You are entitled to sit at the table and partake of the banquet of modern civilization. Some of its most succulent dishes were prepared by your ancestors. And don’t forget that everybody sits around the circumference, for there are no more centers. Unfortunately, you are also going to have to partake of the bitter leftovers of the banquet of the civilization that turned, while we were fighting over the crumbs, post-modern.
As Latinos, you have in front of you dazzling opportunities and daunting challenges. I want to remind you that every privilege implies an obligation. You have the opportunity to influence the world by getting a world-class education. You have the obligation to accept the challenge, to strive for excellence in everything you do, to be role models for your brothers and sisters, for all the Latinos who are not going to have the same opportunities. But beware. It can be tempting for anybody, especially for members of a minority group, to accept appointments into the halls of power, where they will be expected to serve the unbridled ambitions of others and to follow unethical orders. You have the obligation to become role models in the manner of César Chávez or Sonia Sotomayor. In the worst-case scenario, she will write many minority opinions, and if one or two more judges retire, then her vote can have a real impact on the future. If not, her only constituent is her own conscience, and her only obligation, to leave a record of those conscience-guided decisions for posterity. Do not become role models in the manner of Alberto González or General Ricardo Sánchez of Abu Ghraib infamy. Latinos have no need of that kind of notoriety. Do not be seduced by evil that poses as official power. Your obligation as Latinos is to become thoughtful, principled, visionary, often obscure, leaders–a civilizing force for an age that is entering darkness. Strive not for economic, political, or military power, but for moral authority.
Because you carry in your genes such a rich mixture of ancient civilizations, you have the obligation to make your voices heard in the polyphony of this university, of this country, of the world. You must use your distinctive voices with their deep historical sense to question the assumptions of American society. You must use your critical perspectives to be this country’s conscience, to raise the questions that are necessary for a peaceful humanity and a healthy planet. You must speak, and you must remember that, as Martin Luther King said, “the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”
As multicultural human beings, you, more than others, have the possibility of having your views of the world transcend your indigenous cultures, to develop habits of critical thought about received opinion and a questioning attitude about all assumptions, and to have an attitude of humility, for you know that human culture is non-hierarchical, that it is a culture of interdependent cultures and a tradition of cross-fertilizing traditions, and that the weave of your own cultural heritage is made up of many strands. As you gain in your appreciation of the depth, complexity, and richness of other ways of thinking and being, you begin to realize that the other is not your enemy, that she is your interlocutor, your complement, and your memory, for without her you would suffer from amnesia and self-mutilation. As multicultural human beings you know that you must love, filled with wonder, what you don’t know, that you must recognize yourselves in the difference, and feel reverence for all life.
As the group of young people closest to my heart, I want you to remember that reality is multiple; the universe, a constant flux; education, a life-long process; imagination, the twin of intelligence, and that to live an ethical and meaningful life means to live with ambiguity and contradictions, to strive for interdependence, to arrive at synergistic solutions, and to embrace the other. Above all, to embrace the other, always learning from her, enlarging the human possibility. As the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe says: “Whatever you are is never enough. You must find a way to accept something, however small, from the other to make you whole and to save you from the mortal sin of righteousness and extremism” (Anthills of the Savannah).
Finally, I want to encourage you to be aristocrats. For this, I follow the definition of E. M. Forster, the British novelist, who in his 1939 essay “What I Believe,” (Two Cheers for Democracy) says:
I believe in aristocracy, . . . Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.
[ . . . . ]
On they go – an invincible army, yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen, the Best People – all the words that describe them are false, and all attempts to organize them fail. Again and again Authority, seeing their value, has tried to net them and to utilize them as the Egyptian Priesthood or the Christian Church or the Chinese Civil Service or the Group Movement, or some other worthy stunt. But they slip through the net and are gone; when the door is shut, they are no longer in the room; their temple, as one of them remarked, is the holiness of the Heart’s affections, and their kingdom, though they never possess it, is the wide-open world.
So, my dear, dear, Latino students, be aristocrats. Be aristocrats of the spirit. Be sensitive, considerate, and plucky, and slip through the net. Your kingdom is the wide-open world.
 In 2010 I moved back to Arizona. I still receive invitations to participate in poetry festivals all over the country, and they still publish me in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies.
About the author:
Lilvia Soto. Chihuahua, México, 1939. Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literature from Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. She has taught Latin American and Latino literatura at Harvard and other American universities. She was the co-founder and first director of La Casa Latina: the University of Pennsylvania Center for Hispanic Excellence. She was the Resident Director of a Study Abroad Program for students from Cornell, Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania in Sevilla, Spain. She has participated in numerous international literary conventions and festivals in Spain, Mexico, and the United States. She has published poetry, short fiction, literary criticism, and literary translations in journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Venezuela. She has an English-language manuscript of poems about the American Iraq wars and another English-language collection of poems that dialogue with Iraqi poems. She has also completed an English-Spanish collection about language and her experience living in Spain. She is currently working on a bilingual collection about her return to Mexico in 2004, where she lived for six years, and the recovery of cultural and familial roots. She has published essays and given lectures on Spanish, Spanish-American, and Chicano writers (Leopoldo Alas [Clarín], Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, José Emilio Pacheco, Alejo Carpentier, Fernando del Paso, Salvador Elizondo, Guadalupe Villaseñor, Laura Esquivel, Lucha Corpi), as well as on the history of the U.S.-Mexico border, the culture of Hispanics in the U.S., and the poetry of Chicana writers. As a consultant she offers Spanish-English translations and workshops on intercultural communications. Her translation of a poem by the Mexican poet Alberto Blanco appears in this issue of Ragazine.CC. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
October 28, 2012 Comments Off on Lilvia Soto/Latin in America
Tennis Mice | Walter Gurbo
Whenever Anika tried to picture the men in their houses doing ordinary, everyday things, she came up blank. In early January, one or two of them might pass around Christmas postcards depicting pale offspring — a boy and a girl apiece. A smiling plump or skinny bottle-blond wife wearing a sweater embellished with a green wreath or red and brown reindeer made of thick yarn posed behind them, hands resting protectively on the children’s scrawny shoulders. Every so often, a blurred Polaroid of a birthday boy pedaling a plastic Big Wheel appeared. Mostly, though, the eight doubles players behaved as if no one had any claims on them. The Fernwood Tennis Club, neglected and under-subscribed, was their castle.
This Tuesday night, as usual, they sprawled on flimsy rattan chairs after finishing their matches, the wide-screen television blaring a basketball game from across the room. After laundering sweaty towels, vacuuming the locker room’s indoor-outdoor carpet and clearing up empty beer cans and crumbled corn chips in the small lounge on dozens of Tuesday nights like this one, Anika had memorized the stink of the men’s socks and the disorder of their gym bags. The eight teammates seemed to her like messy children who, upon discovering that their parents have left town for the weekend, grow giddy with their own freedom to misbehave. It was, she surmised, this single-minded dedication to their own pleasure — loud conversations on which she was forced to eavesdrop and their obliviousness to closing time — that prevented her from seeing them as grownups, capable of dignity or grief.
Tonight the topic of conversation was pest control. The small one with light brown hair feathered around his delicate, pink face announced his successful campaign against ladybugs. He’d been battling an infestation in his split-level for weeks.
“Killing lady bugs . . . isn’t that supposed to be bad luck, or something?” ventured Brian. Anika could remember Brian’s name because he was team captain, responsible for calling in the team roster every Friday. Even over the telephone his voice was loud and manly, the enthusiastic bark of a high school quarterback. He also was occasionally helpful, picking up empties and tossing them overhand into the trash. “Slam dunk!” he’d cheer, each time a can ricocheted in the big rubber barrel with a dull thunk. He ignored the recycling bin.
“Yeah, well, maybe if it’s just one lady bug. But hell, there were hundreds of these suckers. And in my house!”
“So, what’d you do? How’d you get rid of them?”
Feathered Hair paused. “Scorched earth,” he enunciated slowly. He waited, then amplified. “Pure, scorched earth.”
The men tipped back in their chairs. Everything in the room, except the TV, went quiet as they simultaneously took long pulls on their beer and contemplated their companion’s prowess.
“Hey, Larry.” The one wearing a Red Sox baseball cap with the brim bent down the center broke the reverie. “Remember that super-bad situation you had with those friggin’ squirrels in your attic?”
“Yeah, wasn’t that a bitch? Talk about scorched earth.” Larry sipped reflectively for a minute.
“Hey, you guys know what my brother-in-law says about squirrels?”
My brother-in-law says…″ he broke off, chuckling, then recovered. “Well, he has a theory. He says, with squirrels, you got to go for the direct hit. Then circle back and hit them again. Possibly a third time. ‘Cause squirrels? Even when you think they’re dead, even if they probably are dead, they’re so stupid, they don’t know they’re dead. They’re just as likely to get right back up and try crossing the road all over again.”
Around 9:30, after she’d pulled the last load from the dryer and folded the towels neatly into thirds, Anika thought, Maybe I’ll call Phil, or he’ll call me. Talking to Phil broke up the night. By now, everyone except the eight pals had gone home. Customers had stopped calling to reserve playing time or complain about their bills. Anika had finished dragging the great, clay-laden broom across the courts and brushed all the lines. Phil was the one pro at the club she talked to. During the day he’d stop by the counter just to shoot the shit or ask her to tally up his receipts. He stored months of paperwork in a recycled business envelope that had seen better days and kept an impressive roll of tens and twenties in his warm-up pants pocket. His deep voice rumbled out from his chest in a faint sing-song, soothing and dreamlike, even when the topic was as mundane as signing up courts for next week’s tournament. Last week, Anika’d had to stop him from sending $200 in cash through the mail to his daughter who played Number Two for Florida State on a tennis scholarship.
“Don’t you know that postal workers rip open fat, card-shaped envelopes, just looking for money?” she warned him.
“See, that’s why I need you to be my wife,” Phil half-joked. “Someone to look out for me.”
Tonight was a night that Phil felt like talking. He didn’t announce himself when Anika picked up the phone after the second ring, simply started the conversation in mid-paragraph, as if expecting her to read his thoughts, know his private grievances by heart. He rehearsed a mythical confrontation with Steve, the club’s absentee owner.
“I’ve got the wrong complexion,” Phil summed up, after running down all the reasons why Steve should fire the head pro and hire him as his replacement, but in the end, would do neither.
“Ha!” He ended his diatribe with a mirthless sound. Phil, she guessed, had lost more than his share of battles in his 58 years.
When he gathered up his racquets at the end of the day, Phil sometimes would announce the particulars of his evening meal, saying, “I’m going home to make myself some nice Island food — fried fish, okra, spicy rice.” Anika could picture him in his apartment as daylight faded from the windows. She saw him moving about a compact, tidy kitchen the size of her own, silently preparing a solitary supper. Phil once told her that he collected vanilla candles of different sizes and shapes and lit them in the evening to fill his rooms with a scent of the tropics.
Anika wondered what he was like as a child growing up in Jamaica. She tried to imagine a miniature, innocent version of this self-reliant man. Who took care of little Phil, taught him things? How did he come to play tennis and believe in it with the fierceness of a revivalist preacher? Anika often would look out the wall-length picture window that separated the lounge from Court One and watch Phil running drills. He’d stand in front of the baseline, methodically hitting balls from his hand to the striving teenagers or earnest middle-aged ladies on the other side of the net.
From a distance, his motions looked cool and languorous, like those of a young man thoughtlessly in love with the infallibility of his own limbs. Up close, two deep lines on either side of his down-turned mouth made his face look weary beneath the dark blue baseball cap he always wore.
One day Anika teased, “Hey Phil, what’s underneath your cap?” and he unexpectedly removed it, running long fingers over a smooth scalp.
“You like bald-headed men?” he asked.
Anika shrugged her shoulders and turned away quickly. “They’re okay.” Now she wanted him to cover up. Exposed like this, Phil was less tennis coach and more man. Seeing his flawless head made her stomach tighten. She did not want this power over him, this easy ability to make him show himself to her.
Tonight’s talk of ladybugs and squirrels put Anika in mind of a science show — Discovery or Nova — she’d watched on TV last week. An expert said that the human race has the intelligence and resources to survive an ice age, but that virtually all other species would perish. The scientist explained that lower species are interdependent; only mankind can live alone. This was how evolution, survival of the fittest, occurred — not gradually or incrementally, but in response to catastrophic extinctions of vast proportions. Cataclysm.
What would this brave new world be like? Anika pictured living inside an immense, climate-controlled plastic bubble, sheltered from wind and the frozen whiteness outside. She imagined waking up to manmade sounds — automobile traffic, clock radios and the first showers of the day. No bird calls, no barking dogs. “I could manage,” she told herself. “I wouldn’t be lonely.”
Earlier today, she had walked to the park a few blocks from her third-floor efficiency. This was her ritual four or five times a week — circling the paths, clearing her mind before boarding the noon bus out to the end of the city line, a mile’s trek from the tennis club. Usually she carried a walkman in a fanny pack around her waist and listened to Van Morrison or Muddy Waters.
Today, though, she traveled without music, just looked and listened as she strode down sidewalks and crossed three intersections. Her route never varied. It took her past a four-story brick townhouse with a basement apartment. Two front windows looked out onto a postage stamp yard where someone had built a tiny animal sanctuary. Bird feeders and a birdbath anchored in a raised flower bed attracted pigeons and squirrels that competed for seeds and crumbs.
Today she lingered to watch the puff-chested, self-important birds chase skinny squirrels away from their meal. The squirrels pretended to be intimidated, scurrying under a rhododendron or racing up the branches of a catalpa. Within seconds, they were right back, nervously trying to steal a small portion. Was this a game, or the rudiments of survival? The animals seemed to have reached a kind of understanding, one that eluded her, but was nonetheless entertaining. As she stood watching their antics, she glanced up and saw a white-haired man gazing out over a green banker’s lamp and a computer screen from behind the windows. Briefly, she locked eyes with him. He nodded his head once, acknowledging their shared pleasure.
As usual, Anika arrived at the club ten minutes early; taking the 12:30 bus would make her 20 minutes late. She switched on the display case lights that the first shift had ignored, dumped hours-old coffee and decaf from the carafes, and put on two new pots to brew. She wet a sponge and ran it across the sticky kitchenette counter, picking up spilled grains of sugar and instant cocoa powder from hastily opened foil packets. She restocked the refrigerator with bottles of spring water and yellow and blue Gatorade. Then she stowed her backpack behind the desk and punched in.
“Hey, Tricia,” she greeted the pony tailed teenager who worked the counter on Tuesdays. “Anything I should know?”
“Not really. Oh, yeah, Steve said to make telemarketing calls to new homeowners after six o’clock. You know, the ones in the Yankee Flyer.” Trish handed her a copy of the local weekly, its ink smeared pages folded back to the real estate section.
Okay, Anika told herself, this still beats being trapped in a glass cubicle, inhaling exhaust fumes all day. She wanted to forget the months she’d worked at Harry’s Fast ‘n’ Good in the bowels of the city’s busiest parking garage. Though she’d never followed through, to console herself, she used to fantasize shouting out to the harried drive-through commuters, “The Belgian waffle mix is made from plastic!” Or, “That oily corn dog you just ordered is three weeks old!”
“The cash register balance?” she called to Tricia’s back as the girl picked up her gym bag and racquet and headed over to play on the hardtops in Building Two.
“The troops are getting real close to Baghdad,” a player from the Tuesday Night team announced to the room. A bulletin about Operation Iraqi Freedom crawled across the bottom of the basketball game the men were tuned to. Most of them ignored the screen except when the commentator’s voice reached a fever pitch, signaling a stunning move or a controversial foul. Only the dark haired, youngish one in Buddy Holly glasses had turned his chair squarely toward the set. Anika held out some faint hope for Buddy; his thick lenses made him look nerdy and sort of smart. She wondered what he would say next.
“So what do you guys think about Iraq?” He stopped speaking abruptly, as if holding his breath. He waited for someone else to set the tone.
“Man, I tell you, if Bush liberates Iraq, he’ll go down in history as the president who brought democracy to the Middle East,” Brian volunteered.
Several others nodded sagely, assenting silently. If anyone disagreed with Brian’s pronouncement, he wasn’t saying. Anika bit her lower lip and walked down to Court Two to retrieve forgotten balls and a navy blue sweatshirt left crumpled on a metal folding chair.
As she bent down to pick up a soiled, balled-up Band Aid from the court, Anika thought of her Aunt Dora. She wondered how far she, herself, had come from her great aunt’s life. Dora had landed at Ellis Island alone, a teenage peasant girl who didn’t know a word of English and was barely literate in Yiddish. She found work in a sweatshop in New York’s garment district and boarded in a rooming house. She used to wake herself up before dawn each day, attuned to the shifts in light outside her window. A sudden absence of concentrated illumination when the nearby streetlight went out at 5 a.m. was her alarm clock. Dora worked 14-hour days for months, until one winter morning, her exhausted body refused to acknowledge the street light’s change. When she arrived at work late, breathless and panicked, the boss fired her on the spot. No second chances. There would be an endless stream of young women to take her place at the hat trimming station.
Anika first heard this story as a very little girl, and memorized it as if it were her own. It haunted her to think of her aunt’s terror and loss. Dora had run wildly down the streets, hatless and coatless, after the boss let her go. Kind relatives saw her, gathered her up into their tenement, stripped off her clothes and put her into a tub of warm water. Her life was not over, after all. What about the women and children of Baghdad, Anika wondered. Who would save them?
The men were leaving at last. Through the picture window she saw them shouldering tennis bags and mouthing their goodbyes. She glanced up at the hands of the big school-room clock mounted on the wall by Court One. Good, 10:35. She would have time to cash out and pick up the last of the potato chip bags and empties before locking up and hauling the full garbage bags out to the dumpster. Walking fast, she could just catch the last bus of the night.
As impatient as she’d been for the end of her shift, now that the club was finally emptying, disappointment washed over her. Shadows cast from the lights above Courts One and Two lay like a muddy hand across the dim far courts. Overhead, squeaky fans in need of grease and attention paddled the silent air. Errant puffs of green fuzz from beat-up tennis balls moved lightly in the corners. Anika could smell old sweat and spilled beer.
How is it possible, she wondered, that people look into each other’s eyes every week — transact business, exchange pleasantries — yet seem only to circle each other’s lives. Take Phil, the topic of this week’s scuttlebutt. A newcomer had overstayed his court time. He’d been using the ball machine, and at quarter past the hour, balls lay scattered all around the court. Phil was indignant when he told Anika about the incident the next day.
“I finally walked out onto the court. I told him, ‘Hey, man, you were supposed to be off fifteen minutes ago. I got a lesson to give.’ ”
Now Phil was going to have to start late and collect only half his fee.
“A white guy,” Anika stated flatly when Phil told her what happened next.
“He gives me this ‘Who the hell are you?’ look. Then he tries to hand me the hopper, like I’m supposed to pick up his mess! Then he starts yelling about how he’s a friend of Steve, and how Steve is going to hear about this.”
No one was surprised when Steve made Phil telephone the next day and apologize. Steve was an asshole. Still, no one—not the Tuesday Night boys, not the Net Profts Ladies Team Phil coached— stuck up for him. Everyone gossiped behind his back while pretending to his face that nothing had happened. In the blink of an eye, Phil had gone from venerable pro to a stranger’s lackey.
Anika made a final sweep through the lounge, straightening chairs and Windexing the glass coffee table. Colin Powell’s face appeared on the TV just as she started to turn it off. He was fielding questions with authority, as if to say, Count on us, the men in power, to conduct the war that nobody asked for, the war that nobody wants. We’ll say who gets to win, who must die.
She switched off the television, walked to the control panel behind the counter and flipped down the light switches. Courts One and Two went black. She took one last look around, assuring herself that everything was in its place for tomorrow’s Early Bird players. Tomorrow, everything would start over again. Anika would fume aloud about Powell’s betrayal of the common people, and Phil would smirk and say, “Why are you surprised? Powell sold out the day he said ‘yes’ to a rich white man who’s never done an honest day’s work in his life.”
“Phil, you are so cynical,” she would answer, knowing he was right, but not wanting to believe that the world was this hard-hearted. They would not talk about what Steve had made Phil do, or that nobody had defended him.
Tomorrow, Anika would note fresh mouse droppings behind the stiff, green vinyl curtains that served as backstops for miss-hit balls. She and Phil would speculate on how many field mice had escaped the cold and come inside to feast on human leftovers during the night—the odd cheese crumb caught in a Nabs cellophane packet, sugary liquid on the top of an open coke can. Anika would leave a block printed note in Steve’s in-basket for the umpteenth time: MICE IN BUILDING. Nothing would happen. She and Phil would laugh together about how poorly the club’s management provided for its workers, but how handsomely its members provided for the small creatures of the field.
About the author:
Alison Meyers’ poems have appeared in Caduceus, Common Ground Review, Connecticut Review, Freshwater Reviewand Urhalpool. Her work will be included in the forthcoming anthology Blazes All Across the Sky: Writers Respond to the Poetry of Joni Mitchell. Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she has served as Executive Director of Cave Canem Foundation, Brooklyn, NY since 2006. Previously, she directed the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, a multi-faceted program of Hill-Stead Museum, CT, where she concurrently served as Director of Marketing & Communications.
She can be contacted at: email@example.com
October 28, 2012 Comments Off on Alison Meyers / Fiction
Uh-Oh, Those Summer Nights
(I’ll Tell You More About Two of Them)
By Jeff Katz
Ithaca, N.Y., June 19 – It was fitting that the State Theater was a pressure cooker, because Fiona Apple was burning. On a night that was 90 degrees outside and about 150 degrees inside, artist and audience were a sweating melting soup. It made for a powerfully tasty dish. Apple was everything that night – gangly and graceful, weird and sweet, sexy and awkward. Her dancing was a convulsive series of wind milling arms and spastically flailing legs. Her voice ranged from trilling highs to Lennon-like primal therapy screams. She was as sexually magnetic as a Homeric siren and as hopelessly vulnerable as a little girl lost in a supermarket aisle crying for her mother. That’s a lot for one person in one show, but it all worked in spades and her performance was the stuff of legend. Her command at the piano, on fewer songs than one would have expected, was dominating. When she sang “fucking go,” in “Get Gone,” it was electrifying. The first time I heard that, on When the Pawn… , I was stunned at the rawness of it. Fiona is nothing if not an exposed nerve.
Her breakup songs are terrifying. As a guy, I can tell you that her willingness and enthusiasm in exposing the flaws and frailties of her exes scares the shit out of me. Man, you do not want to break up with that girl! The new album, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, is off the charts brilliant and she represented it well, playing most of the new cuts. Stranger than even a standard run of the mill Fiona Apple album (as if there was such a creation), the new offering comes with Native-American chanting, oddball word choices like ”periphery,” and self-harmonies that sound like Morticia Addams’ sister Ophelia. Idler Wheel may not be as much fun as her others and is at times a very tough listen, but it’s the best album of the year to date. Nothing else comes close. And, for one night in Ithaca, Fiona Apple put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Cooperstown, N.Y., July 28 – Brewery Ommegang, located on the outskirts of Cooperstown, produces fabulously good Belgian ales. Because of them I’ve had more beer in my 9 years living in Cooperstown than I did in all my years before. Ommegang has added a café, which is top notch, and this year, has gone full blown into music – Cake, Death Cab for Cutie, Lyle Lovett, Darius Rucker and Bon Iver. But foremost on the list was Wilco. I opened our house to all my Binghamton alum pals who wanted to go to the show and we were pretty filled up, with seven friends coming from as far as Chicago.
Wilco did not disappoint, but first a bit about Lee Ranaldo. Ranaldo opened the show with an immensely satisfying and solid set of tunes worthy of a founding member of Sonic Youth. I forget who had told me that Lee also went to Binghamton. I was standing by the security railing, still a front row kinda guy, waiting for Wilco when I felt a tap. “Are you the Mayor of Cooperstown?” I turned. It was Lee. I was dumbstruck. “Yeah, I am.” “I’m Lee Ranaldo. I just played. Did you go to Binghamton?” “Yeah, I’m here with a bunch of people from Binghamton too.” We had a pleasant chat. Lee was Class of ’78, six years earlier than me. He said he’d love to visit Cooperstown with his kids, I gave him my card and, who knows, a budding friendship may have been formed. I couldn’t figure out how he became aware of my presence until my friend, Ben, told me he was talking with Lee and told him the Mayor of Cooperstown was both present and a fellow SUNY-B student and pointed my way. For the rest of the night I was a minor in-crowd celebrity, having spoken to the great Ranaldo.
Wilco kicked ass as expected. A great set list, 25 tunes strong, that kept the crowd going through an early downpour. Nels Cline’s sputtering short phrase solo in “Impossible Germany” was a real highlight. Leader Jeff Tweedy was quirkily charming, as usual. He explained why we were the best crowd to date: we stood through the rain, kept a positive attitude, were a little tipsy and sang along. All other audiences on the tour were now dead to him. That was until the audience proved itself to be rhythmically challenged. After a botched group hand clap, Tweedy noted our poor time keeping, but commended us for laughing about it. “Most audiences get offended if you tease them. ‘Oh, my stars and garters’,” he mock-protested. Lots of fun, lots of laughs.
And then there’s … happenstance:
Our esteemed founder Mike Foldes lets me do whatever I want. I like that about him. He never tells me I’m dwelling too much on the arcane, or that maybe an article about how to properly file your records is, well, a tad obsessive-compulsive. No, he leaves me be. That’s not to say he won’t gently suggest I listen to a particular artist. I take that in stride. He’s no George Steinbrenner ordering me to fill my lineup card according to his whims. Usually I have mixed feelings about what I hear and, even when I like something, I never seem to find an angle that makes it worth writing about.
Then I downloaded Melt Alaska’s latest EP, and, I do declare, I was won over. Matthew Lohan and Alexander Richichi are a recently formed duo that nailed it with their five song debut. It’s folky, singer-songwritery, and fits into a nice tradition, reminiscent at times of ex-Byrd Chris Hillman’s solo work, but without the banjo blue grass sound. It’s spare to be sure; acoustic all the way, guitar, bass, not much else. The lack of instrumentation and occasional Radiohead-like vocals won me over from the opening, “Crumbled Empire,” to the close, “Lemon Verbena” (which has a most enjoyable harmony). Very good stuff.
Their website, http://meltalaskamusic.com/, says there’s a full-length album coming in August. More on that in a later issue.
…and don’t forget
Having proved his worth with that suggestion, I figured Mike was on a roll and I most willingly went to Daisy Jopling’s website. With the exciting burst of violin and beat box amidst a wash of orchestration, (the song that greets you at the cyber-door is “Winter” from 2009’s Key to the Classics) I was intrigued. This is not what I usually go for, but it’s a nice sort of rock/classical hybrid, ELO without the pop sound. Upon further investigation, I found Daisy’s straight takes on classical equally riveting. Daisy’s not new. She’s played Royal Albert Hall (when she was 14), and has recorded since the ‘90s. But she is new to me and I dare to say, to you, too. Her website is like a child’s pop-up book. Take a visit. http://www.daisyjopling.com/
or, “dance floor music” from:
Shoot the Lobster Recordings
Here’s how Grayson Revoir describes the first two tracks, the ones he produced, from Shoot the Lobster Recordings, the new release from the label of the same name: “’Spackle’ is like sharp cheddar; ‘Get Stolen’ sweats like Monterey Jack in the sun.”
Here’s how I describe them: “Spackle” is a dark throbbing headache, but hypnotic and enjoyable. “Get Stolen” is similar to the first track except for extended water gurgling sounds that made me want to pee. I don’t know what the cheese references mean. I don’t detect much dairy here.
The third track, “One on All Times (walk track)”, was produced by Max McFerren. He describes it thusly: “I want this track to sound like a Mobile tank yacht with Panorama Bar on the top floor. Like rust under an electron microscope; ethereal and hard at the same time; smoky but not weed. This song is the devil’s dance. I want it to rattle your bones.”
Do all dance floor producers make up for the sameness of the style with extra imagery and hyperbole? I guess. McFerren’s tune had distinguishing marks, some verbal intonations and a bit of a New Order-y beat.
I’m not a dancer; I can barely shuffle around these days, but I imagine these songs work in the proper club setting, strobes flashing, appropriate amounts of Ecstasy ingested. In that context, Shoot the Lobster Recordings is a resounding success.
STLR’s inaugural release is currently available for digital download at:
12” LPs of the recordings, pressed on 150g vinyl, are forthcoming.
— Jeff Katz is music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
August 25, 2012 Comments Off on Summer Nights and Happenstance/Music
The Voice of Ygdrasil
by Mike Foldes
The following interview began as a quick question on Facebook and developed into an e-mail dialog.
How did you happen to start the (Ygdrasil) Journal?
K.G.) Thank you for your interest. From the Facebook site:
“The genesis of Ygdrasil is Clayton Eshleman’s 60/70s magazine Caterpillar. I experimented with proto version in the 70s and 80s. But they never went anywhere. The on-line version came into being after my two explosive years a moderator of several on-line Poetry Networks between 1990 and 1993. After they were shut down because of their controversial content, Paul Lauda, myself, Evan Light and Igal Koshevoy (later Pedro Sena – son of Jorge Sena – national Poet of Portugal joined) decided to create our own network (by 1993 carried through the BBS system by more than 23 countries world-wide). In the spring of 1993 I created Ygdrasil and Igal put us on the internet one year later, and the rest is history – so they say.
Over the years we have had many important writers and Poets associated with the magazine (Martin Zurla – director of the Rand Theatre in New York; Michael Collings – Dean of Literature at Pepperdine University; Oswald LeWinter – Poet, whom T.S. Eliot called the greatest Poet of the 20th Century; Mois Benarroch – one of the finest Israeli poets and editor of our Spanish issues; Jack R. Wesdorp – one of the finest American poets in the tradition of Ezra Pound and John Berrymann, and many more in the background – Clayton Eshleman, Maria Jacketti, Jorge Etchevarry and of course not to down play the importance of Heather Ferguson who has been an inspiration ever since I met her in 2003 and who introduced me to the Ottawa literary scene and who has edited several Ottawa issues over the years).
While I may be the publisher and editor, none of this I could have been done alone. Ygdrasil is International in scope, and delights in helping emerging poets find a voice, and of course also showcasing more established poets. We have published Poetry, Plays, Short Stories, essays, and even one or two novels. Since 2000, Ygdrasil has been archived monthly by the Library Archives Canada – indeed, it is not just the magazine that is archived but the whole site. Which means any books published in the Book Rack are also archived, along with any photographs and Art work the site features. I hope this provides a bit more information and highlights the dedication of the people and writers who support this project.
Q) Klaus, what was the controversial content that got your program shut down?
A) The use of the F word mostly. And the occasional poem about sex. A few political poems also got them going. When I took over the conference, only quality, not censorship was on my mind.
Q) May we turn this into an interview for Ragazine?
A) If you like.
There also is this interview which gives a bit more detail. If you have specific questions, just ask. I’ll see if I can answer them for you.
Q) I read through the interview in artvilla… what is it that you had to unlearn from Pound, and why, then, would you send students back to him to ‘learn’? And then, would you have them unlearn, too?
A) I had to unlearn first being intimidated by him, then to stop imitating him, then to start learning from him. Pound is somewhat like Sgt Pepper, first you are in awe, then you try to emulate and then, once you distance yourself you can get behind the music and really understand what is happening. Pound had that very same effect for me. You have to get outside the woods to see the forest.
Q) Would you say you had to unlearn Dylan, Ochs, Cohen, in somewhat the same way?
A) No, they spoke to me on a different level. I wasn’t out to become a singer / songwriter, I needed to be a poet. I could listen to Dylan and revel in his magical imagery; I needed to understand Pound – it was intrinsic in finding my own voice. While Dylan, Ochs, etc., may have opened my mind, I studied Pound and Eliot on a much higher level. Cohen, of course, was a much different experience since I first read him as a poet. And yes, he did infiltrate my psyche in all the wrong ways. I was caught up in his aura, as I suppose everyone was in those days. But he influenced my own songs, not my poetry. I could live with that. I could not live with Pound’s voice dictating my poetry though, so I had to shake him off to eventually be able to learn from him.
Q) What do you think is new in the literary styles and thought being expressed today in poetry and song? art?
A) I am really not interested in “literary styles” as I evaluate each work for itself. I have seen, and still see, too much bad poetry put forward as this new style and that. It means nothing.
Q) Who or what should younger writers be taking into account when they sit down to write? Are there big poems that have yet to be written?
A) Be true to themselves. I can have no better advice than to quote Andre Gide: “Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings.”
As to “big poems” yet to be written? Of course there are. And there will be. Whether mainstream publishers will be interest is another matter. Ygdrasil certainly does not shy away from “big poems”, “Rose Lucinde” by Jack Wesdorp, “Joie De Vivre” by Henry Avignon and “The Organ Grinder” by Chris Watts, being just a few recent examples. I still consider “The Teachings of Baraka” by Mois Benarroch the first great poem of the 21st century. And of course Jack Wesdorp is known for his epic poems, ten of which have already appeared in Ygdrasil. And in the July issue of Ygdrasil we have just published the first five sections of Michael Annis’ ” from psyche, this labi’a’(star)te”, an ongoing project.
Q) x. j. kennedy declined to offer a poem to ragazine.cc because the poetry he found here is not the structured type of “rimed and metrical stuff” he writes. Actually, we publish all kinds of work, tight and loose, so to speak. What’s your take on structure, i.e., rhyme and metre?
A) I have no problem whatsoever with “rimed and metrical stuff” as long as it meets the criteria of a good poem. Jack Wesdorp only writes in structured rhyme and it brings an added dimension to his poems. But that is only because he has the vocabulary to pull it off. Rhyme for the sake of rhyme has no useful purpose. Now, metre can be an endless debate. I find all good “free verse” has an internal “structured metre”, a flow, based on breath and accent. Prose broken into lines is not poetry, however pretty it might be.
Q) Where do you think the most vibrant poetry and inventive literature is coming from these days, and why?
A) It comes from everywhere. One just has to be open to it. Too many journals restrict themselves with themes or types. I don’t subscribe to that. I like to be surprised. If someone can come up with something that I have not read or experienced before then I am delighted! And that pertains to poets who submit the same thing over and over again. You progress. I love publishing young writers who have potential. They bring something new to the game. But if they haven’t advanced the next time they submit, they will have no place in Ygdrasil. I need to see something happening. The reader needs to see something happening. The next poem may be a faltering, but if it’s a good faltering I am all the more delighted. The web, open mic venues, it’s everywhere, but, you also need to get through the muck to get to the gems, and then you have to recognise them. Even something that pleases might not be worth the effort where the advancement of good poetry is concerned. If I can’t perceive the person in the poem, I can’t perceive the poem in the person. True originality is exuded, not copied.
Q) Can you tell us a bit about the cats of Parliament Hill?
A) I first discovered the cats in 2001 and began helping Rene Chartrand in 2002. They are a true Canadian Treasure. As far as we can tell, cats were utilized in Parliament until the mid 1950s for rodent control. After that they were replaced by chemicals and were fed by various employees on the Hill until Irene Desormeaux fed them in the area where the colony is now established. When Irene died, Rene Chartrand took over and built permanent shelters to house the cats. In 2004 Brian Caines and I put together a volunteer support team to help Rene (now in his 90s). I did the weekend and holiday shifts. Rene retired in 2008 and I retired because of a chronic bad back in 2010. The cats are famous all over the world, and thousands of tourists come to see them each year.
Don Nixon has written a book called “The Other Side of the Hill” with a chapter dedicated to the cats. The book is available at Lulu.com. There is even a Facebook page, The Cats of Parliament Hill, dedicated to them.
Q) Is there anything you would add to this short interview that we may not already have covered?
A) We can leave it at that.
Q) Thank you, Klaus.
A) Thank you!
* * * * *
The following are by Klaus Gerken, including extracts from “A Night With Yoric,” “an Epic series of poems now about 35 thousand lines (and growing), encompassing my own world from birth to death and everything learned between.”
The morning rain settles the light dust
on the road to Wei city
Green is the colour
of the new willows – green
Again I urge you to drink
One more cup of wine with me
For When you leave Yang pass
no old friends will follow.
Wang Wei (c 750)
Trs. Klaus J. Gerken
31 July 2010
From A Night With Yoric I_4
from wild oats
shamans and kings
the bread is broken
and the wine spilled
and a crumbling painting
on a wall miraculously spared
by bombs dropped randomly
there is no chalice
a loaf of bread
and the hand
pointing to the sky
a definitive gesture
of definitive authority
Michelangelo has God
‘s finger almost touching Adam’s
dark clouds billowing
a conception in a storm
not in peace
has a finger pointing
to the sky
to the Universe?
to something we can’t comprehend?
is there a key?
a path to follow leads us where?
some scrap of parchment?
some sign chiselled in stone?
what authority does this gesture represent?
who’s authority granted / claim?
perhaps Quazimodo knows his madness
condemned for claiming honour
by daring to touch beauty
through his ugliness
the crowds like romans
want a show
appease their hunger for the
bloodlust in them
a far far better thing
than old women knitting
this is society in stability
always complain about the violence
as long as it’s them
it’s a business
else control the mob
and sell stuff by the side
make some cash
fleece the poor
the rich are never touched
but when they are
they lose nothing
or do they?
I doubt the rich
get threatened of over a 38 dollar phone bill
payment late…even though the company
makes money on the late charges…
there is them
and there is us
so it stands
but maybe not
the mountain may not crumble
but sure a lot of avalanches
keep the fleece at bay
Where are Hera, Zeuz and Artemis today?
untouchable on their mountain
or untouchable in our minds?
From A Night With Yoric IV_1
4 A.M, Thoughts…(after being up all night)
Nothing’s real, it’s all made up,
We are just the rim around a coffee cup.
I know there is an answer,
Just don’t know what it is;
If you help me through the evening,
I’ll betray you with a kiss.
So life is pretty normal,
The spring is mighty hot,
We are proud to slay the dragon
In a dirty parking lot.
When they find us in the morning
It’s too late to see the stars
That formed upon our eyelids
In a carousel of art.
20 March 2012
You say: I’ll explore other lands,
And conquer other seas foretold,
To find a city that confides
A better life for me to hold!
Yet all my struggling here compounds
The destiny that I have found:
My heart (so like a watchman’s lamp)
Surrounds itself with this grave’s damp.
How long, I ask, with subdued pride
Must my old ghost herein reside?
I look around, as far as I can see,
Surveying life’s insufferability:
The structure of my life’s relay
Is darkness, mildew, and decay,
Where I have wasted many years
Walking into empty tears.
But don’t believe it: you’ll not go
To other lands, or seas you know!
The city pulls you to your knees,
And you will struggle in the same
Streets that gather life’s disease.
Greeting neighbours by their name
And waking each and every morn
In the same structures you were born.
Instead of leaving you’ll return
Without a shred of hope to burn,
To build that boat you’ve striven for
To carry you away once more.
You are interned, is there no hope?
You always did the best to cope –
And through a window, closed too soon,
The world is mastered from your room.
Translation: 23/05/86 by Klaus J. Gerken
* * *
In 1971 a critic said to me
If you die now
I can make you the greatest poet
Who ever lived
I said I have
No intention of
Dying He said
You will never
* * * * *
Read more in Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts, at http://www.synapse.net/kgerken/
* * * * *
August 25, 2012 1 Comment