Check out Brainwaves Video Anthology on You Tube. Take advantage of the filmmaker Bob Greenberg’s hard work, and browse a diverse anthology of videos featuring writers and thinkers from across the spectrum of literature and culture.
“To bring out the fine points of a good picture.”
“To bring out the fine points of a good picture.”
Such was the idea put forth by painter (and frame maker) Charles Prendergast in explaining his theory of crafting frames. Recently, I had the chance to learn about Charles, and his better-known brother Maurice, at the New Britain Museum of American Art and to experience their collaborations. My feature article “The Painting and Its Frame” explores the relationship between the image and frame. You can find the full text at Woven Tail Press. Here is Maurice’s Approaching Storm framed by Charles’s wood frame with gilding and paint.
. . . Often my museum experience brings me to artists who have completely abandoned the frame—whether it’s painters whose raw canvas stands on its own or sculptures and installations where the boundaries are figurative.” Read More
Tears come down wet
Tears come down wet, whether in fear, grief, delight, or gratitude.
Read my latest essay, “Failing Feet and Finger Lakes” in the autumn issue of Fired Up! Creative Expression for Challenging Times.
My poem, “Lucifer Falls, New York,” was also inspired by the gorges and trailheads near Cayuga Lake. What’s the connection between poetry and prose? Read more about the lines between them in my essay from Re-Imagining.
Like war planes, a crowd
of raptors scull through the blank
and cloudless sky. One
after another, they stream
over the open paddock
of midsummer green, advance
toward a still and speechless
line of trees. Their portents
reach the forest’s door; needles
of pine brace between hard clay
and treachery. The bone black jaw
of a red-bellied snake ruins
a toad’s last chance for escape.
He is in the middle of it now,
like the fawn whose femur lay
furloughed in the gorge,
trespassing on the slick ink
of river-smoothed black rocks.
“Lucifer Falls, New York” appears in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications. This collection and my memoir The Comet’s Tail are both available wherever books are sold, especially at Homebound’s online store. Support Indie Presses and shop Small Business Saturday.
Why We Walk
Byron and Shelley
As we trudged along the varied paths
of the Highland Way you did not let go
to cry, though legs ached with pain
and skewed nerves slipped out of place
screaming for you to stop.
Our last night before we go home,
I read Trelawny’s Recollections
of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron:
Percy’s funeral muddies my mind,
but I cannot unhinge the sable-eyed rival
or the torture of a lame and disfigured foot
that shamed Byron all his days. How skilled
we are at pushing our deformities into
the deepest alcove then turning away from them,
lest they outpace and overcome us.
A red-haired boy—more than a boy—
a young man—travels with us
on the flight back home. His father
who is grey and wears glasses
accompanies him. I see that the boy
is blind, and think he is—how
to say this kindly—lame of mind,
though as I watch him and his father
pace back to their seats, I see that he is
purely sightless, and I feel cruel for thinking
it was something more. All this time
I thought that it was me we were walking for,
the mess upon me and the volume of days
yet unwritten tensing with uncertainty,
smudged with hieroglyphs of caned figures
and the imposing arc of wheels.
Waiting out the rain in Philadelphia
my head slumped in exhaustion, your legs
extended in a futile stretch, I grasp
what it was we were really walking for:
the German girls whom we’ll not see again;
for Gerry, our sturdy guardian, agile as a buoy,
flecks of white in his hair and a harness of years
on his back; for the moments between the rain;
what every boy’s blindness wants to possess;
for Byron’s feet and the contents of Shelley’s coat pockets
washed up on a shore we haven’t yet visited
and may not ever walk upon.
The poem appears in Reconnaissance, published in 2017 by Homebound Publications. Louis Édouard Fournier, The Cremation of Percy Bysshe Shelley, oil on canvas, Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Invitation to Stillness
It’s been over twenty-five years since I wrote these lines:
The doctors invited me to be still.
Then the X-ray revealed
one of van Gogh’s sunflowers
dying inside me, just beneath my ribs.
Not enough sun, they said,
prescribed antibiotics and suggested
lemon juice to ease the pain.
A few of the remedies worked; stillness came, then awakening. Just beneath my ribs, the sunflower lives, and so does the everpresent need to be still, to suggest bright petals and brave possibilities. Thanks, Vincent for this yellow.
Find the complete poem in Reconnaissance and more about doctors and prescriptions and journeys of other sorts in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memoir.
Just released, the first episode of The Vanguard Podcast featuring writers David K. Leff, Katherine Hauswirth, and me, along with musician Lys Guillorn. Join these conversations at the Forefront of Creativity with hosts L.M. Browning and Kelly Kancyr.
See also The Vanguard Podcast to subscribe (or listen on iTunes, YouTube, and more).
This episode includes a conversation between me and L.M Browning about my poetry, teaching, my inspiration for writing, and finding my way into prose. My essay “Giving Up the Choke Hold” is a tangent to The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory, so I’m excited the podcast is available now. Both start at about the 19-minute mark.
Here’s a poem from Reconnaissance to celebrate The Vanguard Podcast’s release.
what a line looks like
on a page, I unwrap
a notebook and tune
to Charlie Parker. If I Should
Lose You, wait for the record,
metal now and shiny,
to hiccup into
its grooves. Scattered
over an unseen stave of five
parallel lines, the blue
narcotic notes from
a saxophone scatter
in a wind tunnel.
the paraphrase of a quail egg
After Inspecting Brassaï’s Graffiti
At Musée d’Art Moderne
I notice the construct of silhouetted
stick figures juxtaposed above a door;
one’s triangular body tells me
to go into a different salle. There,
I find another version of graffiti
on the door in front of me as I sit down.
This is not art someone has written.
My bladder agrees, but against this angst
and all treachery of the world’s turmoil
another has revolted: Yes it is—
Art is what you make of it. Such words
delight me at first; they affect such openness,
pretend pluralism, and compel acceptance
of every sapling of discontent that arises
at seeing paint spread like entrails on the floor.
What you make of it . . . as if anyone could
wake and slither into anarchy and come out
with the paraphrase of a quail egg. I go out
and back to the exhibits, back to the violence
and spectacle of color and form. Seeking out
other dimensions, I walk into a room wrapped
in giant spools of gray, industrial felt.
At the end of one hall, a sculpture in straw
creates the illusion of an airplane; a thousand
pairs of scissors spear its shape. Art is
what you make of it? I need to go back:
digging into my bag and finding a pen
I scratch the last two words into blackness.
The poem is featured in Reconnaissance, published by Homebound Publications. For a signed copy (and free shipping), click the side menu and find “Purchase Signed Copies.”
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PechaKucha 20×20 Bridgeport Vol. 1
I have to admit that before the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport Connecticut invited storytellers to participate in their first PechaKucha night, I had no idea what PechaKucha was. It’s simple to describe: a slide show of 20 slides which progress through 20-second intervals–so a story in 6 minutes and 40 seconds. More than the slideshow, PechaKucha is an opportunity to gather with others and share. Developed by an architecture firm in Japan, PechaKucha translates loosely into “chit-chat” in Japanese. It’s taken off worldwide and the U.S. is starting to catch up.
I was happy to participate as the Barnum Museum hosted its first (of many) PechaKucha nights earlier this month (May 9). I told the story of how writing helped me recover from a coma–a story that I share in more depth in The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory.
Annotating the Self: Writing and Recovery (or click the image below)
I’ll be at Byrd’s Books again on Sunday, June 3rd for a Book Talk about The Comet’s Tail. Support your local independent bookstore and join us.
The Perils of Bedtime Reading
With A Brief History of Time occupying the top spot of my pile of bedside books, I’ve had space and time on my mind lately. So, four poems (small input, I know) toward a unified theory of the universe.
The Sky’s Version of Truth
So what about the laziness
of light, taking its sweet old time
getting to the eye. The sky
having no reason to be false
teaches memory, a peek
of what old people must have seen:
Cassiopeia learning to dance, Orion
earning his bow, Taurus deciding
to charge. A navigator’s dream.
What the eye catches is an old light.
What we rely on most is thriftiness.
Whatever speed it takes,
the open road is just dotted lines
a tree’s last goodbye to summer,
just lament. It’s a different kind
of blindness—seeing too much
seeing with the heart, light alone
or a blade of grass.
Loving the blindness, the eye sees a pattern:
the round dome of sky,
the traffic of night, ad infinitum.
Connect the dots the sky is saying.
I see a banjo, the spokes of a wheel,
the claw of a crow catching me. Maybe
a duck-billed platypus playing the trumpet.
I can almost hear a star’s last sigh.
Perhaps legacy is spelled out
the way memory returns to you
so many years later: you remember
the leaves, the rain, the sound
of a breath stopping three rooms away.
The summer after the diagnosis
we visited their beach house on the Cape,
taking the route through those warped
highways, drawbridges, and rotaries
made for delirium.
What to talk about with my mother’s friends
but the growth of children and the palace
of sea breeze, while the bug zapper
murdered hordes of bugs. What to say
of radiation treatment? What to say
of closure, that our meeting here
is the beginning of goodbye.
That night I met neighborhood kids,
joined them for bonfire and beers,
and dreamt of snakes.
After the First Kiss
Venus enters the fourth chamber,
meanders like a comet
through the claret landscape.
Finding it pleasantly blood filled,
she maroons and takes in the scope,
settles where the black holes leading
to outer galaxies close and open
mechanically, leaving no light.
Reclining with the boon of ancient history
pulsing like a red giant around her,
it’s no wonder she feels safe here
in the calibrated darkness. It is time,
she thinks, to postulate the theory,
time to introduce a little magic
into this hollow topography.
And with the red shift, she exits
taking with her tales of time travel
and the red fire of oxygen.
Slipping past the mouth’s gate,
she exchanges the good air and leaves
the secrets of human love.
While Constellations Sleep
I press my lips against your cheek,
brush a loose strand from your head,
and fold into midnight blue slumber.
Night watches over its sleepyheads
as a dim light trickles between the slant
of the curtains—perhaps the moon,
perhaps a lonely streetlight peeking in,
searching for companions to embrace.
The kittens tiptoe in, waking me to gaze
silently out the window. But I cannot see
the stars tonight; Orion’s belt brightens
someone’s sky beyond the clouds, beyond
the glossy shell of New Haven’s bubble of light.
The dippers are out of reach, the dragon
has slowed his brutal tail, resting above
the horizon. But I see the constellations
of your face even as you sleep. Wishing
to rescue light from the galaxies you dream,
I trace the pattern of your eyelashes and
telescope into the nebula of your love.
First Day of Class
Bless the first day of class
with its confined clutter. Notebooks
stacked and piled like sculptures
that say to the first lesson, I am ready
for you to feed me. Catapult us
into the realms of academia.
Picture chimpanzees swallowing
pineapple-white sheets in open cages.
Get your hands dirty, I tell them,
love the pages, the print, smell it
and remember papyrus. Break
the spine, hold it up to the light:
tell me who you are, author, tell
me your secrets; help me make sense
of your world. Transmogrify.
Cave dwellers, hierophants—make friends
with the exclamation point, bond
with the asterisk. Play with dirt.
Play with dirty words.