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.