A Place Called Gooseberry Inn

The gracious and cool Kyle Harvey of Fruita Pulp has provided an exhibition space for four of my poems: Chagall Sketches, Gooseberry Inn, Working in the Gap, and Beckett in Roussillon.

All four are very personal in very different ways.

Chagall Sketches did not find its form easily. It began as a much shorter poem with a reference to Chagall and the title, “The Juggler”. I shared this poem with Chris Al-Aswad who offered a needed criticism and told me that it didn’t really say anything about Chagall’s painting. A google search informed me of the Chagall painting by the same name that I had been unaware of. Oops. I took the opportunity to look at a lot of other Chagall images, and completely reworked the poem. Thank you, Chris.

Gooseberry Inn is autobiographical, both in its details and in its expression of a bricoleur/mockingbird’s aesthetic. It began with a dream that I was staying in a place of that name. The name was so specific and the large dining room with its dark wood, white bricks and multi-paneled painting was so vivid that it left me with a powerful feeling of the uncanny—the kind of feeling that can drive one to believe in strange kinds of mysticism, parallel lives or reincarnation. I’ve never wanted to recreate the painting, knowing that the real-world result would differ significantly (it looked a bit like this). If I were a fiction writer I could have asked, why Gooseberry Inn, and where? Instead I made a poem/meditation in a series of linked panels. I’m thankful to Kyle Harvey for choosing it, which is like someone seeing into my head and saying, “cool dream.”

Working in the Gap is a personal favorite. It’s a riff on the oft-repeated statement about working in the gap between art and life.* Rauschenberg (who could be very poetic in his titles) used the less poetic word “hole” in the film Painters Painting. The reference begins at 1:33 in the following excerpt:



Beckett in Roussillon tells the story (in an Ashberian pantoum) of Samuel Beckett on the run from the Nazis during WWII. For the straight story I highly recommend James Knowlson’s Damned to Fame. The facts are very inspiring. Beckett wrote the novel Watt while in exile, in very harsh conditions. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who’s read the story can still puzzle over the meaning of Waiting for Godot. Marjorie Perloff is quite articulate on this matter in her excellent essay, “In Love with Hiding”: Samuel Beckett’s War.


*The quote within the poem is cited by Calvin Tomkins in Off the Wall, Penguin Books, 1981, page 8.

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9 Responses to A Place Called Gooseberry Inn

  1. Susan Scheid says:

    but only love bending down
    will make them tall again.

    The simplicity of these lines is so powerful. And that’s only a tiny sample of the riches to be found in these poems.

    It’s good, also, to see Perloff engaged in a worthwhile mission, isn’t it?

    PS: you’ve posted the Beckett poem before, no? I feel I remember it, and am also glad to be reminded of its form.

    • I shared the Beckett poem with you privately a while back.

      Perloff has made a lot of her essays available on her website. This one is outstanding. There are one or two others on Beckett and I have no doubt they’re good too.

  2. angela says:

    Ah…booked marked this a week ago until there was time to give full attention, so glad, for what a delight, each one. I believe Gooseberry Inn and Beckett spoke to me the most for various reasons. Appreciate the dreamlike quality of Gooseberry, while Beckett transports to another time, as if we are on the run with him. As an aside, your commentary made me grab my copy of Watt and start reading (albeit slowly) – I am beginning to see his voice does not change, even in prose.

    Your writing is wonderfully versatile – I am envious.

  3. I’ll agree with others in that I found “Gooseberry Inn” to be very flavorful Mark… I think it must have been as great a pleasure to write as I found it to read…. So many things to carry the mind’s attention, from bikes on the lawn to Picasso’s forays to the flea market…. There’s something quite symbiotic in how you made all of these different thoughts collide in this poem. But I shall also agree with you: “Working in the gap” is absolutely masterful and part and parcel everything I have enjoyed about your poetry for years now. The “wearing of a body suit,” climactical to wearing rose colored glasses, and to “not cease being itself, nor you you” took me to incredible depths where only the best poetry belongs….. Quite amazing …..

  4. Brendan says:

    Congrats on the installation. Was the lead image created for one of the poems in particular, or was it meant for the four? (“Chagall Sketches” seemed most apropos to it.) It’s an interesting quartet, assembled with a, um, bricoleurish eye for the assembled, piled, and plied. The poetic, dream, aesthetic and formed, like posts of one bed perhaps. Painters like such studies, such turns of perspective, don’t they? “Chagall Sketches” is most emotionally rewarding, the long lines of “Gooseberry Inn” do have the rambling address of the dream, and agreed, “Working the Gap” does nail the nature of the toil and is consoling to the artist about what we do and don’t have to fret about. “Beckett in Roussillon” is the most crafted and referential (not a reader of Beckett, so I missed a lot), and ironic, too, as if the absurdity of the situation Beckett found himself in fleeing from the Nazis requires a style of tic-a-toc construction. Each very strong work. I tend to favor “Chagall Sketches” but really I love all of them.

    • Thanks, Brendan. The photo is of one of my pieces made out of salvaged wood. It’s an accompanying artwork, not an illustration. However, it does represent, in a different form, the approach taken and/or represented in the poems — that of bricolage. It is an autodidact’s way of using the means and materials at hand to make art. This particular piece was sort of a breakthrough in that I had found a way to make something that took time but that I could work on piecemeal, as time permitted, without worrying about destroying an organic flow.

  5. Pingback: April draws near…will you help me? | yellow house cafe

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