Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Frank O'Hara by Alice Neel

Interior (with Jane)

By Frank O'Hara

The eagerness of objects to
be what we are afraid to do

cannot help but move us Is
this willingness to be a motive

in us what we reject? The
really stupid things, I mean

a can of coffee, a 35 cent ear
ring, a handful of hair, what

do these things do to us? We
come into the room, the windows

are empty, the sun is weak
and slippery on the ice And a

sob comes, simply because it is
coldest of the things we know

Monday, April 23, 2007


My own interest in looking at and writing from the visual arts is greatly enriched when I work with youngsters, currently a group of fourth graders. Together with their art and language arts teachers, I helped students look at a recent exhibition at a nearby museum and then the kids made poems and visual art pieces based on their interpretations of the exhibition, which was called "Tools as Art: The Hechinger Collection."
Last week the kids' sculptures and paintings were hung in the museum and in 2 weeks there will be a poetry reading. The visual pieces were incredible. Full of energy and imagination. They'd used all kinds of visual and verbal puns and metaphors to re-envision the idea of tools.
I love this piece, titled "The Persistence of Rulers." Aren't all of our lives conscribed some how by various kinds of rules and rulers? An astute little kid. His use of Dali and Dali's commentary on time is also smart. I like how he glued his own image into this appropriation.
Makes me want to be 10 again. But I wasn't that precocious.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wash Out

After Closing Luigi Cremona's Projective Geometry

I don't know how the clouds out here
survived. Points are so perfect that
if you believe in them enough
they prick. Each point will leave
a tiny bruise. And lines are sharp.
The pure ones cut you like the starched
edges of grass-blades, it smarts,
though the wound's too fine to see.
In bristles, they can nearly chafe you
raw. Even here, outdoors, as I stagger
and blink, swamped in this hot mess
of light and sticky shadow, that black
and white headache won't go away.
The points cling in stains, I can't
get rid of them. The vestige
of a line is running furtively along
the street. And the letter A prime
still glows in the midst of the elm
tree, while the Principle of Duality
has just flown up and alighted
with those sparrows on the wires.
I can hardly walk, it's underwater,
it's all a jungle here. The leaves flash
their bellies, swimming and wriggling
along in unison, they gobble everything.
The best-trimmed lawns glitter
with chaos like smashed glass. The light's
like acid. You can feel it working
mildly on your skin. The more acid
in the light the more I like it.
I'm going to take a bath in it, splash
this stuff up into my eyes and rub
until the swelling goes away,
then dive in over my head and
soak myself for as long as it takes
to make the dazzle of the last hard
point dissolve in space.

ByJonathan Holden

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Stormy Weather

I wanted to learn to read ancient Greek at one time. Bought some books. Looked for courses, a teacher. Reading Anne Carson's translation of four plays by Euripides brings that old desire back. Partly because as I read the plays in her book, "Grief Lessons," I can't help but wonder how much of what I'm hearing is Carson and how much Euripides. This is an old story in translation. Just the other day, before the storm brought five inches of rain and kept me inside all Sunday, I was out walking and listening to a poetry reading on my iPod. The poet was reading a bunch of versions of the opening stanza of The Inferno -- translations from across decades. From Chapman to Heaney. Oh, it was marvelous to listen to the same verse rendered over and over. The familiar "midway" or "at the midpoint" and the dark woods or forest. Each rendition contained Dante's voice as well as that of the translator. So at night as I'm reading and falling asleep to Hekabe or Hippolytos, I hear lines throughout Carson's translation that sound so Carsonish, as if lifted from one of her poems. Like encountering one of her children. It's still raining here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Good bye Sol

Sol LeWitt died Sunday( 1928-2007).
In a letter to artist Eva Hesse, he wrote:
Stop it and just DO. Try and tickle
something inside you,
your 'weird humor.'

You belong in the most secret part of it.

Loopy Doopy, Box 1999

That notion of art-making and tickling is kind of wonderful, especially when I think about LeWitt's work, which seems so controlled, so much about order. That's why I'm drawn to him. Like Martin, he used a grid as an organizing form. He also used words. And in reading some of the titles listed in the obit, I think of Wallace Stevens.
Listen to these: "Loopy Doopy (Red and Purple),"
"Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value,"
"Run I-IV." I hear "The Emperor of Ice Cream," and "The Man on the Dump."

Just last month I was looking at his wall drawings at Dia: Beacon, copying his directions in my notebook and thinking that though they appeared dry there was an appealing whackiness to them, particularly when broken into lines. Ordered whackiness.

I'm needing some ordered whackiness these days.
That's spring talk for where's the warmth.
This morning on the way to the bus stop, it was below freezing. G said it smells like it's going to rain, and it was true. Like a spring rain storm was brewing under the hard frozen ground. The weather is out of order. That's why I railed at the universe yesterday morning, why the computer's hard drive crashed, why S can't find work. I miss mud season, want the peepers to come back and sing all night.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


The Great System of Perfect Color

Blue. Purple. Scarlet deep
with gold [revealed] on [Sinai]
by [GOD] as [noblest]
Others chiefly green
with white & black
used in points of small mass
to relieve blank color

Byzantine flung repetitions

Could we trade length of dress?
Paint unpredicted folds where thigh
opens outward, joints resist
(large blank surfaces)

-four horizontally (lambs,
too) in doorway-noting
nature's tendency
to circle where heat lifts

Gesture of damp gnawing grief

Forgotten twice,
twice refusal of
of ludicrous, cumbrous sheep grief
sheep leaned as men gnawing
flocking terminal lines vertical
Lines, no draperies, broad masses
arm held stiff to pale colors
leaked in vertical bands
Bands continuing,

continuing to

-Kathleen Fraser

For some reason blogger won't let me add spacing to this poem.
Thus the 3 words Fraser sends on over to the right margin--grief, gnawing, vertical--
get stuck in with the other words in the line.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu*
By Dick Barnes

Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were hundreds of years old.
They flew over Galilee. Hui Tzu said,
"There goes another country boy."
"Country boy my ass," said Chuang Tzu,
"you just watch him crucifly away
up to the sky." Hui Tzu said, "You mean
crucify, not crucifly: crucify,
you asshole." Chuang Tzu said,
"Excuse me if you are mistaken."

*Author's note: It is possible that Chuang Tzu--eponymous author of the Taoist classic, the Chuang Tzu Book--is a fiction. Hui Tzu, on the other hand, is a verifiable historical personage...The most famous story about (the pair) is this.
One day as they were walking across a dam on the Hao River, Chuang Tzu
"Look at them little fish darting around. That's what they really enjoy."

"You're not a fish, how do you know what they enjoy?"
"You're not me, how do you know whether I know or not?"
"I may not be you but you're a fish even less, and that proves my point."
"Let's go back to your original question . You asked how I know what the fish enjoy.

Your question implies you knew I knew what they enjoy.
The answer is: I know it by walking alone on this here dam."

Mark Rothko, Untitled 1969

Thursday, April 5, 2007

On Recrudescence

Today the swamp maples finally blushed, first shade
of their spring hue, the brush of red
that hints at the regeneration
of green and I recalled
it's April, despite the flurries,
so I dug out Lorca.

Somnambule Ballad

Green, how much I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship upon the sea
and the horse in the mountain.
With the shadow on her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
and eyes of cold silver.
Green, how much I want you green.
Beneath the gypsy moon,
all things look at her
but she cannot see them.

Green, how much I want you green.
Great stars of white frost
come with the fish of darkness
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs the wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the mountain, a filching cat,
bristles its bitter aloes.
But who will come? And from where?
She lingers on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
dreaming of the bitter sea.

Romance Sonambulo

Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verde ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montana.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella suena en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fria plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la estan mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.

Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha
vienan con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduno,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
Pero quien vendra? Y por donde...?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
sonando en la mar amarga.