“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.

Approaching Storm_Maurice.Prendergast . . . 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

Happy viewing!

 

Lifting the dead

When I switched from squats to deadlifts a few weeks ago, I have to admit I was a little sad to give away one metaphor–carrying myself out of a burning building–for that of another–lifting the dead. But I got over it pretty quick, metaphorically at least.

And I could say that my efforts are wrapped around notions of becoming a new, better, stronger person by disposing of that old, “dead” self. I could say that with every lift I’m fighting off the terrors of a bleak, immobile future. I could say that weight lifting allows me to lift away a yolk of self-doubt and emerge, 82.5 pounds later with superpower insight and unwavering badassness. But that’s not the case at all.

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You won’t believe me, but I do it for words.

Squat: to “thrust down with force,” (modern English) from the Old French, “esquatir” (to flatten) by way of Latin “cogere” (compel).  Crush, crouch in hiding.

The origin of “deadlift” apparently dates back to the Roman empire, to soldiers lifting the dead off the battlefield.  A literal origin, we could say.

Lift: from Old Norse “lypta” (“upper room, sky air”) and Middle English “luft” (“air, sky, heaven”).

And also this: Dead:  of water, “still, standing,” from Proto-Germanic.

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I do it because poetry is strong and words matter. So, this too:

Fitness

On a good day the bar is clear, cage
empty, uncluttered. On a good day
I have to stack my own black disks
and clip them tight. One solitary
bough waits for me to strap it onto
my back and climb the mountain
of steel and circumstance.

I brace, measure my grip, shoulders
strong and lithe, and command muscle
to contract. No chalk, no gloves, no talk,
no audience of men, no breath besides
this one. In the mirror I see her,
the one who devours concrete,
chase the past away with stinging arrows.

Why We Walk

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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

New Release

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.

Birdsongs

Having forgotten
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
like debris
in a wind tunnel.

the chaos of tumbling

Hold steady . . .  find your still point . . . get used to letting go . . .

I was pleased to by honored recently by the Hamden Arts Commission and the Hamden Symphony Orchestra for my poem “Circumstance.” The poem won second place in the first ever poetry award co-sponsored by both organizations. Also featured during the orchestra’s spring concert were fellow poets Meri Haray and Laura Alshul and the winners of the Young Musicians Concerto Competition. Listen:

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Photo by Huie Dinwiddie on Pexels.com

I’m also trying out my new voice, mostly recovered from vocal cord paralysis. Work in progress.

Poems for Snow and Spring

I can’t believe it’s already day 12 with Tupelo Press and my 30/30 project. Have you been keeping up with all 96 poems? That’s 96 poems (8 poets for March x 12 days, so far. . . ) and more to come.

Follow us into spring. Tomorrow promises more snow. Find the poems inspired by these pictures. Sponsorships and donations still welcome! While you’re feeling generous, order a copy of The Comet’s Tail: A Memoir of No Memory  Because writing matters and so does supporting those who bring it to you, get yourself a tee shirt and Stay Wild!

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First Day of Class

Prototype

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.

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Inconceivable

Perforations

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acorns spackle a plot
of grass, denting the earth
with such humble perforations

not one is destined to rootand

and yet their collective persistence,
their uniform, haphazard conglomerating
whets the fertile expanse
of the damp and formless ground

so many puncture wounds—

nature’s indeterminate
guarantee against finality

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Gratitude

Gratitude

 

If we could have read the moon’s face
through the falling snow
that night we drove into its absent shadow,
it would have told us that the cold
sometimes melts things, too.
The train station, under hazy yellow lights,
fills with travelers arriving for Christmas.
We drive home with our father,
a faint smile crooked in the low end of his mouth.
Because the road hides so much,
more than once, Dad mentions black ice
the way he’d repeat an argument
until we understood. But when the car,
spins momentarily toward the guard rail,
he anchors us—and we are held
by his steadiness, which, for so many years,
we mistook for other things—
discipline, scolding, but mostly anger.
It’s time now to take this lesson
and file it safely under black ice,
reluctant blessings, how our father,
silver haired and breathing slowly,
saves his children’s lives yet again.

A poem from Four Blue Eggs, images from London

Wellspring House

Last August, I spent three wonderful days at the Wellspring House in Ashfield MA. I’m grateful to have had the space, time, solitude and solace, which allowed me to finish the manuscript for Reconnaissance. IMG_5450

Geranium

or geraniums, depending
on if I call it by the number of stalk –three –)
or by its potted home: –one – white enamel
ridged like waterfall rocks)
is deciding
whether it is coming or going.
Likely, someone has turned
the thinnest frond
toward the light
of open window; someone has filled
the pot with too much water.

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The Phillis Wheatley Room

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