Tag Archives: poetry

Flux

by David Feingold and Michael Quaintance

“Flux” is the third in the collaboration series “Teeth is Tears,” created by artists David Feingold and Michael Quaintance. Michael writes poetry in response to David’s images. As Michael says in his bio, “Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as.” Both artists’ works are informed by their lived experience of disability.

david-feingold-flux

Flux

Flux
Nothing is initiated
No points of origin
That aren’t reflections
That aren’t responses
To
The need to please
That rests at the core of I in absentia.

Flux
The pieces move to satisfy
The assumption
The predisposition toward
Vacancy
And the relegation of person
To the ownership of the itinerant
To the ownership of the dispenser that determines design.

There is no
I—she—he
No
Me—my—or mine
Only quantity
And the relevancy of pieces
At the time that the puzzle
Is aligned to confirm the presumption and assumption.

There is no need to know
Nothing to know
It moves to confirm
To confine itself to the affirmation of confirmation
So that they
Are free
To rub the head of the dying and the dead
In celebration of their insight.

Flux
Faces within faces
Faces upon faces
Without the complexity of identity
Without the confusion of consciousness
Or the need to be conscious
That this might not be as simple as
As simple as its allowed—as it required to be.

The red is essential
Rhythmic surges
Pulsations promising continuity
Promising the continuance of continuity
Irrespective
Of the passage of time
And the gentrification
Of the periodically human landscape.

The neck is essential
The pedestal and the pivot
The pillar of vulnerability
Should the illusion need to be terminated
The foundation
On which replacements can be made If
Too much time is taken
And history takes purchase and infects the moment.

The mouth is vaginal
Receptacle and deliverance of
Utterances
Raped—ravaged and reviled
Should the “ists” fail to convulse
Rapt in the afterglow
Of their urgent need to impose their hungers
Into gaping mouths before they forget to remain silent.

Flux
Freedom through depression and repression
The careful calculation of denied
Yet essential balances
Abuse
Use
Allowance
The careful writing of the fading promises of truce.

 

david-feingold-2Artist: David Feingold

David Feingold was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1951.  Feingold works in the medium of digital art.  Much of his art is used in conjunction with his anti-stigma awareness campaigns to the lay public as well as professionals and academicians.

Feingold has a varied education and professional background, which along with his personal experience with bipolar disorder, influence much of his art: Bachelors in Art Education; Masters in Visual Design; Masters in Social Work; and a Doctorate in Disability Studies.

His work has been represented both nationally and internationally in both brick and mortar and online galleries. His ultimate purpose in creating “bipolar art” is to present the inner struggles of those with psychiatric disorders and through understanding and acceptance, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with all mental illness.

Feingold worked for 15 years as a visual designer and 15 years as a school social worker, when he had to take early retirement, due to advancing cognitive impairments stemming from a closed head injury from a hit-and-run accident in his teens. The closed head injury was the genesis of Feingold’s temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder. He resides in rural Michigan in a simple, one room dwelling, complete with a wood burning stove and a pond in the back yard. Feingold states that his home provides a perfect environment in which to produce his artwork as well as a harmonious balance and stability in light of the unpredictable challenges associated with his diagnoses of bipolar and seizure disorders.

This is Feingold’s second art collaboration. His first collaboration was with a musician/composer, whose music was informed by his own seizure activity as well as Feingold’s art imagery.

Website: www.feinart.me

 

blog-hotsauceanddill-blogspot-comArtist: Michael Quaintance

How long has “depression” been a central part of your life experience? Before answering, I need to respond to the assumptions and preconceptions that haven’t be voiced, but have proven to be inherent in this kind of question.   “Depression” (for me) is a region of sight and insight that exists outside of the constraints of belonging and the constructs of being used to set the terms and conditions of normalcy.  I also need to add that I use the term “depression” for the sake of convenience, so that you and I can begin our conversation from a shared point, even though our interpretations will differ at the outset.

So, what is depression… for you? Depression is not—depression does not—depression will not.  Is, does and will, belong to form, formality and functionality; the need to assert, discern and determine.  What you call depression, I call imposition and the limitation of the unique by mandates of compliance that have little to no tolerance for difference, or that which cannot/will not be defined.

My work, my writing is motivated by this unfinished—recently began—lifelong discussion. Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as. The gift of isolation and aloneness over the past few years, has opened doorways and pathways that I’ve only begun to discover; and in word, design.

Ex-Dancer—Actor, Bachelors in Philosophy and Performing Arts, Masters in Education, presently completing a Doctorate in Disability Studies

Blog: hotsauceanddill.blogspot.com

 

Bruise

by David Feingold and Michael Quaintance

“Bruise” is the second in the collaboration series “Teeth is Tears,” created by artists David Feingold and Michael Quaintance. Michael writes poetry in response to David’s images. As Michael says in his bio, “Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as.” Both artists’ works are informed by their lived experience of disability.

david-feingold-bruise

 

Bruise

I blend
Not because I fit
But because I’ve learned to hide
Effectively
Allowing only select orifices to seep and bleed
Select thoughts to register
On a face well hidden
Beneath a face well-rehearsed.

Versed in verse
It’s all a matter of cadence not content
How rather than what
When rather than why,
Maintained for audience
My absence of authenticity
Goes unnoticed
And I am given name, place and a seat
At the table of bones.

I have loved
An agent provoking myself
Waiting for the moment when the mask will slip
And the effluvia of my other self seeps out
Onto her—never our sheets,
While the stench of my incarceration
Softly enters her pores
suffocating, debilitating all of the dreams shared
when my role was believed and played
So effectively.

That time is gone
So many twists
So many turns
Breaking bones, stretching muscles beyond points
Of endurance,
It’s only the bleeding that oils the engine of my continuance
It’s only the bleeding that softens the impact of each step
Taken
In an effort to belong.

The question I ask myself is why
Do I
After all these years
Bother,
Knowing that I seep when I sleep
That my voice is vacant
That the blindness of my left eye will one day
Be overtaken by the insight of my right,
Why do I
Play in a field of children afraid of monsters
When I am and have always been
The monster they and I were taught to fear?

Comfortable in dark rooms
Caressed by the arms and eyes of shadow
I am
Despite the absence of a name
Someone,
Distressed and bruised
A decayed semblance of the first step taken
I am story and truth
Memory
Without the need
Beyond the mandate
To lie to myself for the sake of everyone
Anyone
Else.

Home
I have no need for lock or key
As no one wants
To come here
My laughter—my tears
A commentary that no one wants to hear.

So why then do I bother
To be, simply not to be
To be seen, knowing that I am never seen
To exit
When I know that every entrance returns me
Here?

 

david-feingold-2Artist: David Feingold

David Feingold was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1951.  Feingold works in the medium of digital art.  Much of his art is used in conjunction with his anti-stigma awareness campaigns to the lay public as well as professionals and academicians.

Feingold has a varied education and professional background, which along with his personal experience with bipolar disorder, influence much of his art: Bachelors in Art Education; Masters in Visual Design; Masters in Social Work; and a Doctorate in Disability Studies.

His work has been represented both nationally and internationally in both brick and mortar and online galleries. His ultimate purpose in creating “bipolar art” is to present the inner struggles of those with psychiatric disorders and through understanding and acceptance, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with all mental illness.

Feingold worked for 15 years as a visual designer and 15 years as a school social worker, when he had to take early retirement, due to advancing cognitive impairments stemming from a closed head injury from a hit-and-run accident in his teens. The closed head injury was the genesis of Feingold’s temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder. He resides in rural Michigan in a simple, one room dwelling, complete with a wood burning stove and a pond in the back yard. Feingold states that his home provides a perfect environment in which to produce his artwork as well as a harmonious balance and stability in light of the unpredictable challenges associated with his diagnoses of bipolar and seizure disorders.

This is Feingold’s second art collaboration. His first collaboration was with a musician/composer, whose music was informed by his own seizure activity as well as Feingold’s art imagery.

Website: www.feinart.me

 

blog-hotsauceanddill-blogspot-comArtist: Michael Quaintance

How long has “depression” been a central part of your life experience? Before answering, I need to respond to the assumptions and preconceptions that haven’t be voiced, but have proven to be inherent in this kind of question.   “Depression” (for me) is a region of sight and insight that exists outside of the constraints of belonging and the constructs of being used to set the terms and conditions of normalcy.  I also need to add that I use the term “depression” for the sake of convenience, so that you and I can begin our conversation from a shared point, even though our interpretations will differ at the outset.

So, what is depression… for you? Depression is not—depression does not—depression will not.  Is, does and will, belong to form, formality and functionality; the need to assert, discern and determine.  What you call depression, I call imposition and the limitation of the unique by mandates of compliance that have little to no tolerance for difference, or that which cannot/will not be defined.

My work, my writing is motivated by this unfinished—recently began—lifelong discussion. Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as. The gift of isolation and aloneness over the past few years, has opened doorways and pathways that I’ve only begun to discover; and in word, design.

Ex-Dancer—Actor, Bachelors in Philosophy and Performing Arts, Masters in Education, presently completing a Doctorate in Disability Studies

Blog: hotsauceanddill.blogspot.com

 

Teeth is Tears: A Collaboration Series

by David Feingold and Michael Quaintance

“Teeth is Tears” is a collaboration series between artists David Feingold and Michael Quaintance. Michael writes poetry in response to David’s images. As Michael says in his bio, “Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as.” Both artists’ works are informed by their lived experience of disability. This is the first in a series of their collaborations to appear on Creative Thresholds.

David Feingold, Seeing the Light

David Feingold, Seeing the Light

 

Teeth is Tears

The first thing you learns
Before the silence and the shame
Is the high cost of suffering and the impudence of pain
That god’s gone a-callin’
and the devil’s home to stay
That the hurt gon’ hurt forever
But you bes’ laugh hard today.

The second thing you learns
Is you a ditch for irrigation
A furrow in the fields
So all the blood run fresh and free,
Wait, with yo’ legs spread
For the plow to split you open
Pray the Lord gon keep his promise
That you be free, one day, to flee.

My daddy was a teeth man
My granddaddy too
They smiled for Mr. Charlie’s
Number one and number two,
They tilted they heads backward
While they smiled and smiled and smiled
So they tears fell back behind they thoughts
And their rage got washed to ground.

My daddy was a teeth man
My mamma cried in pain
She told him it was sorrow
But he knew that it was shame,
That everythang he loved he’d lose
Get stripped and passed away
If they saw the fire in his eyes
If the laughter turned to rage.

My daddy died a toothless man
My granddaddy did too
He never brushed the stains away
Kept proof of their abuse,
He ate the rot
Day after day, felt the grit rough on his tongue
He kept his breath rank and stale
So they breathed in what they’d done.

The first thing you learn
Before the silence and the shame
Is the high cost of suffering and the impudence of pain,
So, our niggers, keep on smiling
Niggers new and niggers old
All our bent and limp and cracked and gimped
Made to stand out in the cold.

The second thing you learn
Is those yellowed teeth, are tears
Lines of carefully coded history
Passed down through generations
And ignored
year after year.

 

david-feingold-2Artist: David Feingold

David Feingold was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1951.  Feingold works in the medium of digital art.  Much of his art is used in conjunction with his anti-stigma awareness campaigns to the lay public as well as professionals and academicians.

Feingold has a varied education and professional background, which along with his personal experience with bipolar disorder, influence much of his art: Bachelors in Art Education; Masters in Visual Design; Masters in Social Work; and a Doctorate in Disability Studies.

His work has been represented both nationally and internationally in both brick and mortar and online galleries. His ultimate purpose in creating “bipolar art” is to present the inner struggles of those with psychiatric disorders and through understanding and acceptance, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with all mental illness.

Feingold worked for 15 years as a visual designer and 15 years as a school social worker, when he had to take early retirement, due to advancing cognitive impairments stemming from a closed head injury from a hit-and-run accident in his teens. The closed head injury was the genesis of Feingold’s temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder. He resides in rural Michigan in a simple, one room dwelling, complete with a wood burning stove and a pond in the back yard. Feingold states that his home provides a perfect environment in which to produce his artwork as well as a harmonious balance and stability in light of the unpredictable challenges associated with his diagnoses of bipolar and seizure disorders.

This is Feingold’s second art collaboration. His first collaboration was with a musician/composer, whose music was informed by his own seizure activity as well as Feingold’s art imagery.

Website: www.feinart.me

 

blog-hotsauceanddill-blogspot-comArtist: Michael Quaintance

How long has “depression” been a central part of your life experience? Before answering, I need to respond to the assumptions and preconceptions that haven’t be voiced, but have proven to be inherent in this kind of question.   “Depression” (for me) is a region of sight and insight that exists outside of the constraints of belonging and the constructs of being used to set the terms and conditions of normalcy.  I also need to add that I use the term “depression” for the sake of convenience, so that you and I can begin our conversation from a shared point, even though our interpretations will differ at the outset.

So, what is depression… for you? Depression is not—depression does not—depression will not.  Is, does and will, belong to form, formality and functionality; the need to assert, discern and determine.  What you call depression, I call imposition and the limitation of the unique by mandates of compliance that have little to no tolerance for difference, or that which cannot/will not be defined.

My work, my writing is motivated by this unfinished—recently began—lifelong discussion. Feingold’s images act as doorways, as pathways to those avenues of thought and feeling that have been sequestered in the corners of my efforts to belong and be seen… as. The gift of isolation and aloneness over the past few years, has opened doorways and pathways that I’ve only begun to discover; and in word, design.

Ex-Dancer—Actor, Bachelors in Philosophy and Performing Arts, Masters in Education, presently completing a Doctorate in Disability Studies

Blog: hotsauceanddill.blogspot.com

 

Spotlight: An Interview with the creators of Year of Glad

by Melissa D. Johnston

It’s not often you’re able to get the story behind a groundbreaking collaborative artistic project, so when I got the chance to interview the artists behind “Year of Glad,” I immediately took it. “Year of Glad,” which premieres this Saturday, April 16, at Roosevelt University in Chicago, is a song cycle composed by Patrick Greene for the coloratura soprano Joelle Kross, inspired by poet Jenni B. Baker’s Erasing Infinite poems. Baker’s poems, which also provide the lyrics for “Year of Glad,” are poems formed by erasing words from each page of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  (Jenni shared her project to Creative Thresholds readers in 2014 with “Erasing Infinite Jest: Five Poetic Approaches.”)  The spirit of Wallace suffuses “Year of Glad” and the process of its creation.

Patrick, Joelle, and Jenni give a rich account of what it means to be an artist working with other artists in today’s world.  They speak of the value and freedom that constraint can bring to the act of creation, the role of love and grief in art, the joy and excitement of collaboration, the challenge and fecundity of working in many genres/media, and what inspires them in the work of David Foster Wallace. They have inspiring and wise words for all of us who hunger to create and especially for those of us who long to create with others.

Update May 13, 2016: Here is the live recording from the premiere:

 

Year of Glad - full score (1).pdf

 

 

Tell us about your journey as an artist. Who or what influenced you the most? What provides your primary source of inspiration? What aspirations do you have for the future?

PATRICK: I didn’t start “seriously” composing until I was in college; prior to that, I was primarily a singer: boy soprano, musical-theater tenor, rock-band frontman, etc. In the spring of my first undergraduate year, I heard a visiting string quartet perform Maurice Ravel’s Quartet in F Major, and the thing seriously changed my life. I’ve been writing music ever since.

I’ve always drawn inspiration from a variety of sources; poetry’s one of my favorites. I’ve set texts by Eliot, Ammons, Crane, Poe, Cummings, Sappho, you name it. Until last year, however, I (somehow) hadn’t worked with a living poet. That changed when I collaborated with W. S. Di Piero on Come Soon, You Feral Cats, a setting of poems from his recent Tombo (McSweeney’s). It was a tremendously edifying, enjoyable process, and led me to seek out a living poet for my next text-setting project – Jenni Baker.

David Foster Wallace has influenced me just as deeply as any composer. My first reading of Infinite Jest was a transformative experience, and it’s stayed with me in a very deep place ever since. I think eclecticism is a fundamental part of my aesthetic; we’re lucky to exist in a time characterized by the dissolving of barriers, and I try to incorporate that into my music wherever I can. One of the reasons I enjoy reading his work is that I feel like we share stylistic priorities: to be complex yet sincere; to be elevated yet vernacular; to be formally playful yet structurally rigorous. He’s definitely emboldened me to compose in a way that feels honest.

My chief aspiration is to continue to collaborate with interesting people on worthwhile projects, and to find new ways of challenging myself to stay artistically relevant while creating a diverse, non-duplicative body of work.

JOELLE: I started in musical theatre and choirs in elementary school and went to college for acting with minors in voice and French. But as I had more classical voice instruction and sang in opera ensembles, I began to realize that was where I wanted to be. It’s so much more comfortable in my voice, and my vocal and character types match a lot better in opera than musical theatre. The big moment was when I was studying abroad in London and joined the London Philharmonic Choir for a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection symphony and just knew classical music was it.

My inspiration comes first from the gorgeous music I get to sing and hear all the time. I’ve been especially lucky over the last year and a half to be back in grad school and surrounded by inspiration from the music, my amazing colleagues, and the incredible teachers I’m studying with.

Aspirations for the future is a timely question, since I graduate in a month! I hope to someday make my entire living from only singing. I’m not terribly picky about what form that takes – opera, concerts, choral, weddings, whatever. I may try the sort of “standard” track of getting into a young artist program apprenticeship with an opera company, then get into a better one, then get into an even better one, then “have a career,” but maybe not. A European audition tour may also be on the horizon; they have smaller opera houses there and tend to favor lighter voices like mine.

JENNI: Over time, I’ve come to discover that, for me, writing under constraint leads to greater creativity. The constraint can take various shapes – you can limit yourself to text written by others, to a specific source text, to specific letters of the alphabet, to specific concepts, to specific forms, and so on. In Erasing Infinite, I constrain myself to a single page at a time from a single source text using a single procedure (erasure). In other work, I’ve experimented with constraints made popular by the Oulipo group and played around with more conceptual approaches – for example, pulling out phrases from a podcast transcript that start with the same words –  to craft a piece. I’m always looking for new source texts and new approaches to try.

There are a lot of people dipping their toes into the experimental writing field right now. It’s easy to write under an easy constraint, and this is alluring to both writers and publishers. I’m inspired by the obsessives, the writer who construct difficult mazes they must compose their way out of. Christian Bök spent seven years writing Eunoia, a book composed of chapters written entirely of words with single vowels. Doug Nufer wrote a 200 page novel, Never Again, where he never repeats a single word. I admire that kind of focus, that singular pursuit.

I’m also very interested in how writers are leveraging the Internet to do new things with their work. I love the poetry bots, the hypertexts. Look at the companion website to Collier Nogues’ The Ground I Stand On Is Not My Ground. Cool, right? I want to do more in this space.  

 

 

 EPSON MFP imageWhat’s the story behind “Year of Glad?” How did it originate and what did the creative process look like for each of you?

JENNI: I began work on Erasing Infinite in late 2013 as an act of homage to Wallace, posting the poems as I completed them on the project’s website. All along, I hoped the project would have additional incarnations – I could see, for example, a book length manuscript, a gallery exhibit of selected prints, and erasure poetry workshops. I can truthfully say that the idea of a musical interpretation of the work never crossed my mind! In early 2015, I received an email from Patrick, proposing the idea, and I loved it from the beginning. My job at that point was to just say “yes,” and step back to allow Patrick the space for his own creative work and interpretation.  

PATRICK: Joelle mentioned that she’d like me to compose something for her recital, and I immediately said “yes” – she’s a dear friend and a terrific artist, and this project would give me a great excuse to visit Chicago. We agreed to keep our eyes open for texts to set.

Then, a few months later (March 2015, I believe), one of the DFW websites I frequent (The Howling Fantods) posted one of Jenni’s poems (“No More,” from p. 222) to Facebook. It was perfect. It “worked” as a poem on its own merits, and yet it refracted the text of this book that’d meant so much to me for so many years and afforded me the rare opportunity to look at it from a different angle. I contacted Jenni, who was extremely nice about the whole thing; ran it by Joelle, who was game enough to literally read the whole novel before her recital; and set about developing a form that I thought would work.

I think I’m inherently a narrative-driven artist, for better or worse. Even if the story isn’t immediately graspable to the audience – even if it’s just something implicit, something only I know about it – it helps me to channel my ideas and energies in the direction of communicating something. Since there’s this grand tradition of soprano-and-piano song cycles (epitomized by the German lieder of the nineteenth century), I thought it’d be fun to take this thoroughly modern material (new poetry from a relatively new work of literature set to music written in 2015-16) and stretch it over a traditional framework. So then the challenge was culling down the, like, 150 poems that I wanted to set to a manageable assemblage that’d fit into the fifteen minutes allotted to the project in Joelle’s recital.

Then it became a matter of following the flows of the poems and seeing what they wanted to sound like as music. I looked for moments of thematic crossovers and elisions, and tied them together with motivic tools that served to make the whole thing feel like a single, unified piece.

Joelle was instrumental in all of this, of course; she was workshopping much of it as I was writing it, so I was able to guide the piece based on her (very helpful) feedback.

JOELLE: I met Patrick through his wife Micah several years ago when we were auditioning and performing together in Boston – I was actually one of their bridesmaids and now I am proud to call myself the crazy spinster aunt of their son Jude, who is the coolest 2-year-old in the world. I’ve always loved Patrick’s compositions, especially his vocal writing. As I was starting my grad program I asked him if he’d be interested in composing something for my masters recital. A few months later, I got an excited 6 a.m. text from him – he had found Jenni’s poems and wanted to set them! I immediately started reading Infinite Jest with the hope of actually finishing it before the recital, and I’m proud to say I finished it just two weeks ago!

Since I sing a lot of music that was written about 150 to 300 years ago, having the chance to be involved in the actual creation of a work, as opposed to more the interpretation of it, was really exciting. Patrick knows me the person and me the voice (as a singer, it is often extremely difficult to separate the two!) really well. Then we were also in pretty constant communication about how the work was shaping up – from basic things like how long it needed to be to satisfy the recital requirement, or how tired I was going to be by the time I sing it, to more exciting discussions about finding the musical and dramatic arcs. He also asked me to pick one of Jenni’s poems for one of the central movements. And then as I worked on it, primarily with my coach, then voice teacher, then recital accompanist, I would circle back with Patrick about things like an easier way to set the text or a better place to breathe.

I find it funny to think about how music scholarship and research will change as the technology of primary sources changes. Like someday on the music library shelf next to “Collected Letters of Strauss and Hofmannsthal 1900-1916” or whatever, you’ll see “Selected Emails, Texts, and Blog Posts of Patrick Greene”. But that’s how this piece was created!

 

infinite jest coverIn an interview with Larry McCaffery in the “Review of Contemporary Fiction” (and as Jenni points out in an interview), David Foster Wallace says, “Fiction’s about what it is to be fucking human.” Is there an aspect of being human that you especially connect with in Infinite Jest? Do you believe that what Wallace says about fiction here applies to your own practice of art?

JOELLE: Absolutely. I was on a train on Christmas Day when I read the passage about American society treating anhedonia as “hip and cool,” in opposition and in fear of and in secret longing for the messiness of actually being human. I gasped and flailed at my boyfriend next to me and made him take out his earbuds and read it too. I think Wallace got it absolutely right, and I love that Patrick has updated the emotional arc of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und -Leben to include some more of that messiness. It’s one of the things I love about being a musician and a singer specifically – the human voice moves people in such a unique way among the instruments. I always try to honor the very human impulse to connect and tell stories when I sing, and not just stand onstage and make pretty sounds.

PATRICK: Going off of what Joelle said: DFW’s greatest influence on me, personally, is his taking a very strong stand against the very dark, anhedonic forces that are constantly beckoning to us. It’s so much easier to just not give a shit, you know? It’s so much simpler to live stuck in your “default settings” (as DFW beautifully articulated in This Is Water); it’s a lot easier – and sometimes a lot sexier – to just sort of assume you’re right, and that the world’s actually a pretty simple place. And the path to that sort of mindset is paved in denying yourself human, deep experiences. In Infinite Jest specifically, every one of the main (and semi-main) characters is a fully fleshed-out person. They are complex and mercurial, and they aren’t what they appear to be on their surfaces. And that’s the way we all are, right? And if we’re aware of each other’s complexities, we’re suddenly treating each other like human beings. We’re a little bit less alone.

JENNI: At the root of Wallace’s comment about “what it is to be a fucking human being” is this understanding that we are all multidimensional and complex human beings. Infinite Jest is a book about the search for happiness, and all of the sadness and self-questioning that goes along with that quest. It follows characters who alternately embrace and reject the entertainments and addictions (and addictions to entertainment) that promise relief from that sadness and self-questioning.

I think the people who really connect to Wallace (myself included) do so because they recognize these struggles in themselves. Which is not to say we’re all sad, depressed people – there’s a difference between realizing your struggles and being consumed by them. When I’m sad or anxious, I can spend an entire day sitting in the movie theater or lying on the couch binge watching entire series of shows on Netflix. Now, I’m self-aware enough to know these activities are distractions, attempts to deactivate the think, but I can still connect with the characters in the book who lack that awareness and take their entertainments too far.

Some of my poetry certainly addresses human emotions and experiences, though I wouldn’t necessarily call that my purpose or aim. If something I write makes someone think, “Yes! I feel that way too!,” that’s certainly great. But I also embrace the practice playing with language and form for its own sake. Maybe Wallace would say I’m not creating real “art,” but I’m okay with that.  

 

 

Especially for our readers who don’t know the work of David Foster Wallace or Infinite Jest, could you share the reason you chose the title “Year of Glad?”

JENNI: In Infinite Jest, Wallace conceives of a future with “subsidized time,” where corporations sponsor the year. Gone is our numerical way of numbering the years, and instead we get years like “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment” and “Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken.” Each year, the Statue of Liberty gets new accoutrements to reflect that year’s sponsor (including a giant diaper in YDAU). In the book, “Year of Glad” literally refers to the year subsidized by Glad, maker of sandwich and trash bags. It’s the first chapter of Infinite Jest and the last, sequentially, in the novel’s timeline. But it has a nice figurative ring to it, doesn’t it? A “year of glad” — who doesn’t want one of those?

PATRICK:  Exactly! I’ve always found the idea of “subsidized time” sort of hilarious, and Year of Glad in Infinite Jest is something of an annus mirabilis. Also, I’m just immensely grateful this whole shebang materialized in the first place.

JOELLE: I was just sort of along for the ride on this one! I didn’t address it in my program notes either. I kind of like that the title will mean different things to my audience whether or not they are familiar with the novel.

 

In “Year of Glad,” each of you has worked within a set of constraints as an artist—not just because it’s a collaboration but also because the nature of the work is cumulative. Each artist works within the framework(s) provided by the artist(s) before. How did you negotiate artistic freedom and creativity in relationship to the project?

JENNI: Every piece of creative work has its influences, its inspirations. With “Year of Glad,” our lineages and connections are just more exposed. I go back to what I said earlier about finding creativity in constraint – that’s so clear here with this collaboration. We were each handed something to work with, and used our own talents (writing, composing and performing) to interpret it and make it new.

Turning Infinite Jest into poetry is both an easy and challenging task. It’s easy in that the book contains a plethora of characters and voices to work with. It contains great varieties of of dialogue and description. The palette is large, so to speak. At the same time, David Foster Wallace is “Saint Dave” for many, and Infinite Jest a holy text. If I’m going to create poetry from it — an act in and of itself that some see as sacrilege — it can’t just be a poetic retelling of the book. Nobody wants to read that. So there’s a challenge to do something that’s more authentic to my experience and my voice as a poet.

As far as our “Year of Glad” work goes, I trusted Patrick to incorporate the poems into his composition as he saw fit and didn’t try to exact any influence that front. To put it another way: I wouldn’t have wanted Wallace (if he were alive) to be directing or setting parameters on what I create from Infinite Jest. So I wanted to extend Patrick that same freedom and courtesy.

PATRICK: I’m definitely in the Jenni camp on this front: I really love working within very specific constraints. Knowing there’s a “before” – Jenni’s poetry – and an “after” – Joelle’s premiere – took a ton of pressure off. I knew exactly where I fit in, and I felt relatively free to take my portion of things in whatever direction it wanted to go. I just knew that I had to completely respect two things: the words and the performance needs.

JOELLE: Being a singer and an actor for me can sometimes feel a little divorced from the creative process – I’m not actually writing the words or the music, or even with some directors, really creating my own physical or vocal interpretation of a character (I do not like those directors). As I’ve prepared this piece, and all the other music on my recital, I’ve tried to keep in mind that the singer’s interpretation is the extra dimension that gets the words and music off the page. Patrick’s score is beautifully designed, but this piece wants to be heard! It also feels empowering to know that Patrick trusts me as an artist and supports the interpretive choices I’ve made. And though he wrote it with my voice in mind, the next person who sings it will create an entirely different performance, because she will connect with it in her own unique way.

 

EPSON MFP image“Year of Glad” originated with Jenni’s erasure poetry, which was meant to be a celebration and tribute to the life of David Foster Wallace in the wake of his death. The structure of “Year of Glad” mirrors Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und –leben, a song cycle about love that ends with death and mourning. Do you believe “Year of Glad” as a whole is one of both love and mourning? Can creativity function as a practice of both?

PATRICK: Year of Glad is an ode to living life boldly and bravely. The final movement – which took literally, like, four times as long to compose as any of the others – is an exhortation of sorts: she is telling the audience, as an old woman (the piece progresses chronologically, a la Frauenliebe), what she’s learned. And what she’s learned is that a loss can be a beautiful thing, because it means you’ve found something in the first place. She’s saying we should get off our asses and trust that we’ll figure it out.

JOELLE: I think both love and mourning, which really is another form of love, are so central to the human experience that it’s tough to create something that is not related in some way to one or the other. When I think about my whole recital program, which is 60 minutes of music by six composers in four languages spanning four centuries, it’s all there – love of God, a lament for a departed loved one, maternal love, love of nature, nostalgia for a lost homeland, and above all, love of love itself. And while Schumann’s cycle ends in mourning, Patrick’s final movement pretty joyfully transcends it and celebrates a love that was worth it.

JENNI: I think Joelle has it right when she says that mourning is another form of love.  After Wallace’s passing, McSweeney’s put together a collection of reflections from those who knew him and who were impacted by his work, called “Memories of David Foster Wallace.” Read through that page: it’s all love. Also, isn’t the majority of art — in all its iterations —  about either loving a person, place or thing, or missing that person, place or thing? You love somebody, you miss somebody. You love that mountain outside your window, you reminisce about the time when you had a mountain outside your window. (You get the point.)  Indifference and ambivalence aren’t very good instigators for art.  

 

Do you have any words of wisdom for artists who want to collaborate?

JOELLE: I don’t think you can be an artist and not collaborate. The 19th century Romantic solitary genius Artist, if it ever really was a thing, is over. Contemporary lives are so connected. I think it’s really important to know yourself first – how you like to work, what you bring to the table and what your weaknesses are. Then try to find other artists who complement that, figure out what you want to say, and do it! I also have to echo Jenni’s sentiment of saying yes. Since moving to Chicago I’ve really tried to embrace the pervasive “yes and” spirit that comes from the huge improv scene here. I’ve found it a really fulfilling way to make art and to live in general.

JENNI: You’ve got to find your creative kindred. Find the people who want to make cool stuff more than they want to make money. If someone wants to charge you to use their work, or you’re charging someone to use theirs, it’s not a collaboration – it’s a business transaction.

Good collaborations should raise all boats, with everyone involved standing to benefit equally from the exchange. Patrick, Joelle and I are at relatively similar points in our respective careers, which helps. Nobody is in a position of power over another. Everybody’s intentions are good. We share in any publicity and, most of all, get to put something new out into the world. It works from all angles.

Ultimately, if you want to collaborate with people, ask. How many awesome projects go undone because one party was afraid to ask the other? Oh, and if people ask you to collaborate, say yes.

PATRICK: My best piece of advice is just do it. There is nothing to be lost in trying. If you stumble across something on the internet that hits you the right way, send that email. The worst thing that can happen – and I really mean this – is that the person who’s inspired you can’t take on the project, but is left knowing that his or her work touched somebody. The best thing that can happen is Year of Glad.

The creative world is simultaneously larger and smaller than it’s ever been. There are more artists alive and working today than have ever existed at any point in time in the history of our species, and yet we’re all just a few keystrokes away from each other. It’s amazing! And we can all complain endlessly about how the system isn’t set up to support us, but in some very tangible ways we’re actually more empowered than we’ve ever been to create awesome, lasting, relevant, multivariate art that can come together to change the world.

But these things don’t happen unless we harness the fact that we’re all out there to begin with. So just ask. Reach across that electronic threshold and make a human connection.

Thank you so much, Jenni, Patrick, and Joelle! 

Year of Glad Composition

 

Author Photo - Jenni B BakerJenni B. Baker is a poet and editor based in Bethesda, MD. She is the founder and editor-in-chief ofThe Found Poetry Review, a literary journal that publishes experimental forms of poetry including found, erasure, constraint-based and conceptual pieces. In her multi-year project, Erasing Infinite, she creates poems via erasure from David Foster Wallace’s 1,076-page text, Infinite Jest, one page at a time. Her chapbook, Comings / Goings, a collection of poems generated by applying Oulipian constrained writing techniques to Washington Post articles, was released in 2015. Her poetry has been featured in journals such as DIAGRAM, BOAAT, Quarterly West, Washington Square andLunch Ticket. For more information, stop by her website or follow her on Twitter.

Patrick GreeneA composer, singer, and sound designer, Patrick Greene (b. 1985) is a rising artist in the world of contemporary art music.

Hailed by The New York Times as a composer of “enticing” works, Mr. Greene’s music has been described as “shimmering” (New Music Box), “unearthly” (The New York Times), and constructed with “true musicality” (Boston Musical Intelligencer). Recent engagements include performances by Boston Musica Viva, the Atlanta Chamber Players, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, loadbang ensemble, Christopher Houlihan, Transient Canvas, Balletik Duo, and many others.

His theatrical sound design has been called “disturbingly real” and “memorable” (ArtsImpulse). Recent design projects include the Boston premiere of Cassie Seinuk’s Eyes Shut. Door Open. (Wax Wings Productions) and D.W. Gregory’s Radium Girls (Flat Earth Theatre).

Patrick’s abstractEXTRACTION won the 2010 Rapido! New England Competition (and took the Audience Prize at National Finals in 2011). In 2014, he was Guest Composer at the inaugural Birmingham New Music Festival, and, in 2015, his My Dearest Friend earned a C7Prize as a “Recommended Work.” Most recently, the St. Botolph Club Foundation selected Patrick for the 2015 Emerging Artist Award.

Mr. Greene earned his MM degree in Composition from The Boston Conservatory in May 2010, where he studied with Andy Vores and Dalit Warshaw. He graduated with a BA in Music from Trinity College in 2007, as a student of Gerald Moshell, Douglas Bruce Johnson, and John Rose.

Patrick is a member of the Society for Music Theory, the American Composers’ Forum, CompositionToday.com, and the Society of Composers, Inc. He is also a founding member of the Fifth Floor Collective and the Equilibrium Concert Series.

He lives with his wife (the actress Micah Greene) and son in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where he serves on the town’s Cultural Council.

Joelle KrossJoelle Kross, coloratura soprano, is currently pursuing an MM in Voice Performance at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where she studies with Judith Haddon. Praised as “a vocal knockout” (Hub Review) and “petite, spritely, and utterly delightful in every scene” (Theater Mirror), Joelle has performed extensively in the opera and musical theatre communities in her hometown of Boston. She has appeared with Boston Midsummer Opera, MetroWest Opera, Lyric Stage, Gloucester Stage, Wheelock Family Theatre, Hanover Theatre, and Reagle Music Theatre. Recent opera roles include Le Feu/Le Rossignol inL’enfant et les sortilèges, Amore in L’incoronazione di Poppea, and the Fairy Maiden in the world premiere of Heidi Joosten’s chamber opera Connla and the Fairy Maiden. She is thrilled to present the premiere of Patrick Greene’s song cycle Year of Glad, with settings of erasure poetry by Jenni B. Baker from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

Conversations

by K.D. Rose

K.D. would like to thank the incredible artist George RedHawk (DarkAngel0ne on social media) for permission to combine her words with his art.

What Belongs to You

11710106_10206580347082460_696082622_n

KD Rose What Belongs to You WORDS only

Slide1

 

Ethereal

Gif animation by DarkAngelOne

 

Rides in the car
loosening in the still light,
running like a deer through God’s house.
Skywalker.
Mindbender.
A leap into the glimmering.
Traveler.
One with something like air and water but neither.
Feels like music.

 

KD Rose Ethereal

 

Futures

He stands in the doorway
ecstatic in the book of the sun,
thinks he bought me,
so I offer him fare trade−
the luxury of commerce
on a wet night of uncertain weather.
We unbutton the horizon.

 

The Tall in the Small

You will never be a stone in the sky.

With both hands dancing,
you will nurse wild forests,
seek matter uneven,
holy antennas reaching,
footlights for the blind,
living candlelit lives
while ghosts rail with bad advice.

You are the naked light.

 

KD RoseK. D. Rose is a poet and author who has books published in multiple genres. Her newest release is The Brevity of Twit. K. D.’s poetry has been published in Candlelit Journal, the Voices Project, and showcased in the Tophat Raven Art and Literary Magazine. Her poetry has also been accepted for publication in The Stray Branch Fall/Winter 2016 issue. K. D.’s book, Inside Sorrow, won the Readers Favorite 2013 International Silver Medal for Poetry.

My Father Walking, and Twenty-Four Other Things

by William Michaelian

Am I truly limited by my senses, or are they, too, imagined? Can I prove my own existence? Is such proof desirable, or even necessary? What of my childhood, and everything else I am in the habit of believing I remember? Is memory a thing of the present? Is it a story told, and then countless times retold, changing and continuing of its own volition and accord? Drawing and writing; waking and dreaming; fiction and reality; life and death — I simply feel no need to know where, or if, one ends and the other begins. Does that make me strange? And yet what is strangeness, but the very delight of a beautiful, unaccountable world, ever the more vivid once we have learned to let it go?

 

Going Home

Going Home

 

By firmly gripping a pencil in grade school and beyond, I developed a callous on the middle finger of my right hand. It’s still there, to the left and just below the nail, despite the fact that I’ve been typing almost exclusively for decades.

When I was small, my father found a clump of white asparagus growing in the vineyard. He dug it out and planted it by our house well. It fed us faithfully each spring.

I remember my father
walking on the hard dirt avenue
at the end of the vineyard
rows behind our
house,

the cuffs turned up
on his jeans, the dust and sticks
and weeds, his impatient
stride, having to run
to stay beside
him

that hot July when I was four
and he was thirty-seven,

but I don’t recall our destination,
or what he did when we
arrived, what I said,

or his reply.

Once, on a hot summer evening, I aimed a BB gun at our old wooden basketball goal and fired. The shot bounced back and hit me in the forehead. I fished it out of the dust and put it in my pocket. I don’t remember what I did after that.

When I was about ten, I took nine snails from the irrigation ditch that ran alongside the east end of our farm and put them in the aquarium on top of my chest of drawers. A few weeks later, the aquarium was teeming with snails.

My first car was a bicycle. My first bicycle was a scooter. My first scooter was a tricycle. My first bus ride was in a dusty red wagon.

One night, my mother’s Aunt Mildred took out her teeth and showed them to me.

In the kitchen during a family get-together, with my mother looking on, I ate a piece of uncooked marinated lamb intended for shish kebab. It tasted good and I didn’t feel ill at all, but I never did it again.

We grew all of our tomatoes back then, and bought all of our onions and parsley.

Same as now, there were stars in those days that had no need of names.

If I were a lizard on a woodpile, I would still be able to write, but I would do it differently.

If I were a pumpkin on a vine, I would want to face east so I could watch the sun rise.

If I were a faithful old hound, my name would be Bill.

Late one night, driving home with some friends from the mountains, I pulled off the road, stopped the car, and told everyone to get out and look at the stars. They did, in amazed silence. I wonder if they remember that now.

I still feel thrilled when I find a marble.

Back in his heyday, Willie Mays lived near my cousin’s house in San Francisco. We rang his doorbell. No one answered.

My father used to chase them when he was a kid, but I myself have never seen a roadrunner.

The first thing I smoked was a nickel cigar.

To this day, I feel funny referring to myself as a man. A man was always someone older, someone responsible. My father and grandfather were men. I am still a boy.

I cannot blow my nose using my right hand. It has to be the left.

I always tie my left shoe first.

I kick with my left foot.

The first poem I remember reading is “O Captain! My Captain!”

When I first started piano lessons, I used to sing with every note. The teacher told my mother I had perfect pitch.

There are some things I will never write about. That, too, is how you will know me.

 

William Michaelian is an American writer, artist, and poet. His most recent book is the Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition of his first novel, A Listening Thing. He lives in Salem, Oregon.

Website: http://www.william-michaelian.com

A Tribute to Walt Pascoe: Savage Uncertainties On The Road Home Reprise

Walt PascoeOn December 21, 2015–Winter Solstice, the day with the longest night of the year–a dear friend and an extraordinary human being said goodbye to life on earth. His name is Walt Pascoe and many of you know of his very human, honest, luminescent, and soaring artwork–artwork that matches his spirit completely. Many of you also knew the man himself–and, if so, feel the loss keenly.

Walt wrote an essay, accompanied by artwork, for Creative Thresholds three years ago–it ran December 21, 2012 (this is uncanny, perhaps fitting)–about his struggle with colon cancer. A searing, poignant, and brutally honest account of his experience. I’m choosing to run it again in honor of this amazing human being and friend.

We miss you, Walt.

Melissa
Curator/editor

Savage Uncertainties On The Road Home

by Walt Pascoe

And but so yeah.

Having recovered nicely from the insult of surgery to resect 10 inches of my large intestine, I was more or less happily bobbing back up to the surface of my murky little emotional pond. It had been disappointing to learn that cancer cells were already frolicking around my lymph system like unruly children, and that the tender wisdom of western medical modalities dictated a course of prophylactic chemo. But after a brief time for contemplation and acceptance I’d come to terms with “stage 3” and prepared myself accordingly. There was the relatively minor surgery to insert a semi-permanent, sub-cutaneous port in my chest for easy access to a major artery, and the inevitable institutional waltz w/ the doctors office and insurance company to pre-approve this gold-plated poisoning. And finally a couple more visits to the various scan-masters for more complete head to thigh reconnoitering of my tender corpus, in order to be doubly sure there were no other cancerous redoubts hidden under a rock somewhere. All this transpired in a relatively compressed time-frame, the doctors and staff proceeding w/ an admirable, if not entirely reassuring, sense of professional urgency. And so it came to pass that my oncologist only received the latest reports the night before I showed up to begin chemo infusions.

The six-month course of chemo for my particular cancer goes by the vaguely militaristic sounding acronym FOLFOX. Essentially it involves kicking back in the coolest recliner you’ve ever seen while various anti-nausea meds and the main chemical arsenal are deployed sequentially for a few hours. (What is it with all the battle metaphors?) One of the meds is more effective if administered in small bursts over 46 hours, so before you’re allowed to leave a pump is hooked up to your port and you wear this home. Its a robust little programmable squirt machine that looks more or less like the FedEx guys’ scanner, and you get to wear it on a belt around your waist or over your shoulder. So much for any shred of sartorial hipness I might have been clinging to in the waning years of middle age semi-decrepitude. On the bright side, the pump makes a rhythmic clicking sound which, while lying on the bed next to me at night, is not without a certain comforting intimacy…

“Incantations on the Road Home” 48”x64” Graphite on gessoed panel

“Incantations on the Road Home” 48”x64” Graphite on gessoed panel

Wait… what?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Turns out there was in fact a further metastasis. Stage 4. Another decent sized tumor wrapped around a bronchial tube near the entry point into my left lung, snuggly nestled next to my heart; a weirdly poetic location given the stressful mid-life transitions I’d been enduring of late, but one that rendered it inoperable. So a second biotherapy (a monoclonal antibody called Avastin) was added to the FOLFOX chemo regimen, all to be administered over a 6 month period…

“Raven Gets In” 48”x60” Oil on canvas

“Raven Gets In” 48”x60” Oil on canvas

“I always put lime on the people I kill. Wait… are you calling 911?” ~ Drunk guy in a Mexican restaurant, as related by my friend Melissa Johnston.

And so it seems that cancer has created the mother of all liminal spaces in my life. And it is from this strangely pregnant territory that I peer out into the… I want to say abyss… but like so many words now it seems inadequate, overused, and worked to within an inch of its word-ly life by the incessant hype culture hum we wallow in. The title of some crappy movie, complete with cross-licensed plastic action figures free w/ your next Happy Meal. And seriously, how many of us ever reach beyond the tremulous shadow of the concept and endeavors to actually process this deep down inside our whirring, buzzing lizard-brains? It crouches at the center of your chest like a cold rock, pulling you down through the turbid water more effectively than the finest cement shoes. Who the heck would want to go there voluntarily? Who…

“Fatal Shore” 48”x64” Acrylic on canvas

“Fatal Shore” 48”x64” Acrylic on canvas

Blaise Pascal wrote in “Pensées,” “We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”

It’s amazing how emotions flow just like weather.

I can go along doing what I think of as “well”: feeling optimistic, comfortable being alone, celebrating the liminal, accepting the transitory nature of things, handling the chemo, sensing health and wholeness on a walk in Whites Woods, meditating, reading, feeling a measured enthusiasm for the future w/o treating the present like just something to be got through, the master of silver linings, counting my blessings, deeply grateful for the love and support of my friends and family, acquaintances at the Post Office saying “hey, you look great”, relieved by the fact that I haven’t yet assumed the grayish-blue pallor of the wasting.

And then there will be this slow creeping intimation of unease, like a little darkening on the horizon. Just a few clouds on an otherwise sunny day…

Stillness and solitude in White’s Woods, Litchfield

Stillness and solitude in White’s Woods, Litchfield

Willem DeKooning referred to himself as a “slipping glimpser”.

As the storm gathers and starts to darken my interior landscape I can feel the slipping; the accumulation of tension in my heart and body. Fear, longing, and worry… a somatic ache that fluidly transmutes into a profound and painful spiritual dread if not checked quickly by some distraction. This is where it gets tricky being alone. It is so much easier to distract yourself from it when you are with other people. Just ignore and bury it in the cosmopolitan joy of human culture and friendship. Or loose yourself engineering a life.

“[…] almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of ‘psst’ that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer. ”
~ David Foster Wallace in “Infinite Jest”.

I guess this terror has always been present, and is for every human being. We do with it what we will. Tune it out. Turn it into art or literature. Transmogrify the brutal fact of our inevitable decay into infinite varieties of work and the illusion of progress. Am I thinking too much?! This is not always true. There are times when laughter and joy come in solitude and I can revel in it. But the laughter is hardened and forced when you are filled w/ grief at the prospect of loosing all you love… threatened in such an immediate, tangible way… I’m attached to my attachments! A lousy Buddhist if ever there was one! It’s amazing how I can go along feeling buoyant about the possibility of remission… and oh the delirious possibility of “durable remission”, held out there like the most seductive of outcomes. And then just tank for awhile… fall into the dark… gazing up into a night sky perversely ornamented with PET scan constellations of cancerous cells awash in radioactively tagged glucose, collaged all over my chest and neck, blinking out an inscrutable code… exhausted from the grasping after some more universal, ever-present , capital “L” Love. God. Some hopeful bulwark against the immensity of the void surrounding my fearful and trembling self. A glimpse perhaps…

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~ Wendell Berry ~

(Collected Poems)

And so it goes. Alone with the Alone. It is a choice. A pseudo-monastic exile, punctuated by genuinely caring and helpful visits from my loved ones and the logistics of the chemo rhythm. Simone Weil said “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”…

"Exile Study No.4 ~ Perdita" ink and graphite on paper, 22"x 30",

“Exile Study No.4 ~ Perdita” ink and graphite on paper, 22″x 30″

And what exactly is it that I am attending to now?

Seeking Now through mindful solitude. That word, though: seeking! Seeking itself one of the most seductive of attachments. After the briefest foray into the silence, I flee back into the endless loop of intellectual and aesthetic dialogue w/ the dead. With those I’ve chosen to valorize as artistic mentors for 30 years: David Smith and Charles Olson. And into the radiating web of endlessly fascinating threads that fan out from their volcanic productions. Back into yet another painting or drawing, searching searching searching, always searching… wading through a rich but terrifying uncertainty…

“The Secret Life of Wind” 48”x64” graphite on gessoed panel

“The Secret Life of Wind” 48”x64” graphite on gessoed panel

“Sometimes when I start a sculpture, I begin with only a realized part, the rest is travel to be unfolded much in the order of a dream. The conflict for realization is what makes art not its certainty, nor its technique or material.”
–David Smith

In Alex Stein and Yahia Lababidi’s wonderful conversation, “The Artist as Mystic”, Yahia quotes Heidegger: “Longing is the agony of the nearness of the distant.” This resonates now. Not just a little! The words vibrate in my chest as if I were standing alongside a huge, beautifully wrought bell being rung. Small pieces of the rock crouching there begin to fall…

“The Chain of Memory is Resurrection I” 30”x40” graphite and acrylic on bristol board

“The Chain of Memory is Resurrection I” 30”x40” graphite and acrylic on bristol board

 

Writer and artist: Walt Pascoe

Please check out more of Walt’s art at http://www.waltpascoe.com/.

Transformations (After Anne Sexton)

By Jessica E. Prescott

conversation

conversation

 

lights

lights

 

food hawk

food hawk

 

charlotte

charlotte

 

charlotte 3

charlotte 3

 

trolley

trolley

 

 low country greener

low country

 

south cack bridge

south cack bridge

 

 lake norman

lake norman

 

trek

trek

 

H Poem

H Poem

 

there's this old man

there’s this old man

 

Sky

Under One Sky

 

Collage

Collage

 

Jessica Era PrescottArtist: Jessica Era Prescott

Jessica is a chess teacher by trade, an observer by practice, and a hedgehog by design. She cycles, recycles, is currently reading the history of the American short story, bakes occasional challah bread, edits accidentally, tinkers on the mandolin, write poems, takes pictures of clouds, curates & liaisons between artists & community, teaches little humans how to be big ones, & mothers a thoughtful, three-year-old boy. Her chess book and details of her chess world on FB & overthechessboard.com.

Website: http://www.jessicaeprescott.com/

Instagram: @madzetetic

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/j.era.martin

Email: j.era.prescott@gmail.com

 

Call Me Down the Rain, Part 2

Robert Rhodes, ' This was written by hand so you can feel it next to your heart (3).' Ink and acrylic on Arches paper.

Robert Rhodes, ‘ This was written by hand so you can feel it next to your heart (3).’ Ink and acrylic on Arches paper.

 

This post is part 2 in the series “Call Me Down the Rain” (the first post is here).

Preface:

This series first unfolded during the first week of July, 2015, when I posted “Call Me Down the Rain” on my Facebook page as a response to another round of attacks by Boko Haram in Jos and other locations in northern Nigeria. Poet j.lewis responded with a poem, and it became a conversation, with poet amu nnadi contacting me to add his poem “we fled jos” to the sequence. Poet and artist Robert Rhodes gave us permission to use one of his paintings as an accompaniment, and we are grateful to Creative Thresholds for bringing this conversation to wider audience.

–Laura M Kaminski, July 2015

 

drought

the air stands still and watches
as thirsty clouds drift, looking for water
an ocean, a river, or a lake perhaps
in whose familiar smile they will rekindle passion
in whose fevered shivering and chattering
they will find enough fetish for tears
enough shadow on bleached faces for refreshing

but the baked earth is too hard hearted
to stir the wind into this ritual of remembrance
leaves lie inert, their souls drained of humour
so they lie about, without language or memory
that can tell day, the high priest, how cowries
lost their voice and potency to the sun

here and there trees lean into themselves
eating their last memories, the last harvest
their hair is wispy weak, like a malnourished child’s
a few empty nests tell of stilled tweets
and all the fairweather friends who pressed the block button
and went seeking other friendlier walls,
their lean branches are spread out in supplication
begging for friendship or a drop of water
in which lie the translucence of rebirth

like a herd of starving cattle
burdened by humps of thirsty anecdotes
days come and go, panting, swallowing air
seeking like the clouds
a waterhole in which it can dip
the head of this angry sun
so clouds may cry with relief
so all the leaves may wipe their brow
and smile again, the air sighing,
so all the birds that migrated may return
and it is a new season

amu nnadi
a field of echoes
2015

==

how far to jos

there are no more guides
no one who will walk with me
past bloody fields
along the dusty highway
to j-town so
i make my way
alone

stranger to this country
but not to violence
the callous killings
for any or no reason
that leave us gaping
grasping at any hope
that someone we know
will have been spared
and we flee
if not in body
then in spirit
seeking peace
seeking hope

the burden of so much death
is heavy on my soul
and the miles are hard
on my feet
on my heart
i dare not stop
i cannot stop remembering
the faces in the news
the childless father
the motherless child
the stunned survivors

i stumble, fall, and
a graying man approaches
cautiously extends
one hand to help me up
the other busy
with a begging bowl
i try to fill with water
fill instead with tears
as he offers a quiet
blessing on my journey

he knows, he says
how far it is
to jos

j.lewis

==

this road is earth

i am this road
that goes on and on
gathering memories
as vehicles, wreckage and tar,
on both sides trees stand
taciturn, entranced
having journeyed from afar
to stand by the arena of roadsides
and watch all of life speed past
with loud presumptuous noises

sometimes you would see them
shake their leaves in disbelief
their blood white sap of shock
at how easily time and moments
and their diverse seasons
and lost lessons fly past
or crash into a crushed heap
of aborted journeys

i do not begin
where the first word is uttered
nor end, just because
before me
a hill rises as a full stop
or before us a river lays her traps
of drowned dreams
euphoric with ripples, bounding
with waves, boundless

i become a ship laden with memorials
or a gull travelling the expanse
buoyed by air and the currents
crying with my plaintive poems
of the vastness of earth and spirit
and how we do not end
when we find land again
or a branch of eternity

for we are this road
we neither begin nor end
when for us dawns break
our wings break, hearts break
or mud breaks our fall,
and with yearning and purity
earth breaks her silence
with eulogies of blood and wind

amu nnadi
a field of echoes
2015

==

funeral dance

we write as though
bagpipes were calling
scraping their tunes along
seacliffs and moors, calling
come,
come join the minor key–
turn slowly together
to mourn this latest
life gone out

we do not answer instantly
but let the sad notes linger
hollowing our hearts
until the walls are paper-thin
and we hold our breath
against the danger
that they may tear through
bleed us, drain us
dry as the clay
of this shallow grave

we begin a low droning
hymn of humankind
step closer to hear
the contrapuntal verses
of pain, tears, and hope
letting the unfettered
feet of each line
form their own impromptu
funeral dance

j.lewis

==

let this be enough

this is what is given us:
we sing despite chapped lips,
write despite the tears that drip and thin
the ink, attempt to rinse away
the grief that thickly chokes our words

this is what is given us:
our feet move slowly
as if the only destination
left is an exit, not an entrance
and we stumble as we dance

this is what is given us
so let this be enough:
we fashion the drum we will play
for God and practice, even when
we do not see the stars

–Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)

 

About the Poets:

j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the difficulty and joy of human interactions, sometimes drawing inspiration from his decades of experience in healthcare. When he is not writing, composing, or diagnosing, he is likely on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in California.

amu nnadi is a philosopher who describes himself as a lover of love and the elements. He insists on writing poetry without capital letters and full stops, declaring that poetry is life itself and is the spirit of God working through humanity to extend creation and enrich life. As he says: “life is a seamless stream of many commas but no stops. Poetry is bigger in all estimation than man.” Recent collections include ‘ihejuruonu’ and ‘through the window of a sandcastle’. He is currently working on ‘a field of echoes’, due for publication in 2015.

Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing and an occasional contributor to Via Negativa. Recent collections include And Yes, I Dance and Considering Luminescence; she is currently working on Dance Here.

Robert Rhodes is a poet and artist. We are grateful to him for allowing us to use his artwork as an accompaniment for this series. The painting is titled: ‘ This was written by hand so you can feel it next to your heart (3).’ Ink and acrylic on Arches paper.

 

 

Call Me Down The Rain

Robert Rhodes, ‘Night map (1) so we can always find the way to one another.’ Acrylic, gouache and pencil on Arches paper.

Robert Rhodes, ‘Night map (1) so we can always find the way to one another.’ Acrylic, gouache and pencil on Arches paper.

 

Preface:

This series unfolded during the first week of July, 2015, when I posted “Call Me Down the Rain” on my Facebook page as a response to another round of attacks by Boko Haram in Jos and other locations in northern Nigeria. Poet j.lewis responded with a poem, and it became a conversation, with poet amu nnadi contacting me to add his poem “we fled jos” to the sequence. Poet and artist Robert Rhodes gave us permission to use one of his paintings as an accompaniment, and we are grateful to Creative Thresholds for bringing this conversation to wider audience.
–Laura M Kaminski, July 2015

 

Call Me Down the Rain

work-song honoring those attempting to return home to territory reclaimed from Boko Haram

I must dance a circle
bring the monsoon
call me down the rain

pray like someone greedy
give me give me give
more than my share

of this year’s water
bring it bring it bring
the water, carry me the river

call me down the rain
and flood the plateau, bring
rags and buckets to me

you will find me on
my knees and scrubbing
more than red dust

more than harmattan,
I must scrub the northland
clean down to the bedrock

how can we return
to farm and village, how
can we plant new crops

in this earth from which
we’ve lifted the broken
bodies of kin and country

washed them, taken them,
them all, to mourn and bury?
how can we till land

charred from bomb-blasts,
how can we plant when
we keep finding bullet-

casings in the soil?
our lips will not permit
yam and cassava grown

in blood-soaked dirt
to cross them, our bodies
will refuse such tainted

nourishment. no. you
must carry the Benue
here, bring bring me

water, call me down
the rain so I can first
scrub the stains

of blood and bitterness,
scrub until there’s
nothing left but dancing

here, until the stain is
gone from memory,
from sole and soul —
call me down the rain

–Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba)
(first published in Synchronized Chaos, forthcoming in Dance Here, 2015)

 

response to rain

.
news footage and online video
carefully avoided to skip the tears
i only see him in my mind
where she painted his struggling plea
knees in the red sand, bleeding
for every friend and countryman
pulled down, laid down too soon
.
i see the rain clouds forming
sense sentinal drops, then deluge
as nature bends to help him purge
the unnatural evil that claws
at everything, everyone he knows
.
i see his upturned face
wet with the thundering gift
grief and faith and gratitude
mixed in his tears, in the rain
and i cry with him, for him
for a county i don’t know
for brothers and sisters unmet
for the violence in my own streets
ceaseless, senseless death
wondering if there will be
enough rain to cleanse us all
.
j.lewis
7/4/2015

 

Laura to J.Lewis, 04-July-2015: Blessings on you and on your house.

Sometimes simple phrases are a prompt for a poem. When Laura said “Blessings on you and on your house,” I knew I wanted to respond in kind. Here is my response poem:

poem of blessing

your words flow in my thoughts
and in my veins, as though
you were my natural sister
not a stranger with a pen
who cuts me rapier wide
with every new description
of overwhelming sorrow
of overpowering joy

you are in my heart, my head
as familiar as the ones
around my supper table
around the hasty coffins
we have both seen filled
weeping for the silent days
empty of their laughter
empty of their love

your pain rolls down my face
until i cannot tell if
these are your tears or mine
your stories or my memories
and i know without pause
that knowing you, reading you
fills me with a fervent hope
for better tomorrows

and so i call a blessing down
as one might call the rain
on fields of drought
a blessing on your head
and on your house

j.lewis
7/4/2015

 

gathering blessings

with heartfelt thanks for two recent poems from James E Lewis, “response to rain” and “poem of blessing” — another mourning for Jos, 07-07-2015

it rains. i stand beneath these
lemon-gems, sunflowers two meters
tall, heads bent in grief above
me. drops slip down the yellow

petals of their cheeks to drench
my hair. my own body seems too
small, unable to create enough

tears for me to weep, insufficient
reservoir to handle all the news
of dying. oh, jos! i cannot cry
enough to rinse away the vision

of so many bodies stretched out
side to side, lives now stilled
wrapped head to toe in fabric,

small rectangles of paper placed
on each, weighted with a rock.
as messages arrive, i dance
the passage of those known to me,

and weep. my friend, lend me
your tears, that we may honour
known and unknown both, may wrap

and cover each of these still
bodies. many are now the last
ones of their bloodlines, have
no other family to mourn them.

lend me your tears that none
of these are left to make their
final passage without the tears
of kin to bless their way. jos!
my heart is hollowed, a begging
bowl, i hold it out to gather
blessings, catch the rain.

–Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba), 07-July-2015
(forthcoming in Dance Here, 2015)

 

we fled jos

for laura m kaminski (halima ayuba)

we fled jos when the catapult was merely hot
sending down hail, and katako was a purgatory
caught between heaven and hell, between
what was dreamed and the singeing of stones

the long walks to faringada at dawn, to share
those balls of peas, like green bullets, and carrots
sharpened as flints and dagas, the grey potatoes
and those cabbages hiding inside fold upon fold

memories and fading innocence of a thinning city
taught us how to turn casual strolls into a never
ending escape, the screams burning haram holes
into backs too scarred to fall into a trap forged

for pillars of salt, that lose their taste to hate;
today, laura, those stones have become bullets
they flower into thunder, bury their fiery heads
in soft flesh, and explode into flicking forked tongues

of despair, ceasing the heart of man and city
ah! jos grows too hot for warmth and embrace;
but how can we flee what festers in our hearts?
how can the heart not burn, our eyes not sing
when in us jos lives as city and lost companion?

how can we flee the love of its calm days, its
apple weather made for joy, sowed within us
which now fruit into acres and acres of kind
memories, as if once more faringada receives

all her broken farmers, with their wares of life?
how do you bury those picnic afternoons upon
shere hills, where man and cloud slept together
where the air, stoked and resolved, lustily sang
and all stirred leaves, and our thumping hearts

danced, and in the distance, like a fallen devotee
jos lay with her open arteries, invoking a mad god?
how can you truly flee what cannot leave you
for in our different places now, with stricken pens

we hold in ink the grief of love that coagulates
as blood, memoirs of our city, sad memories
of what dies, so poets can shed their singing
epitaphs, like this, with blood and angry stones

–amu nnadi, 07-07-2015
(forthcoming in ‘a field of echoes’, 2015)

 

About the Poets:

j.lewis is an internationally published poet, musician, and nurse practitioner. His poetry and music reflect the difficulty and joy of human interactions, sometimes drawing inspiration from his decades of experience in healthcare. When he is not writing, composing, or diagnosing, he is likely on a kayak, exploring and photographing the waterways near his home in California.

amu nnadi is a philosopher who describes himself as a lover of love and the elements. He insists on writing poetry without capital letters and full stops, declaring that poetry is life itself and is the spirit of God working through humanity to extend creation and enrich life. As he says: “life is a seamless stream of many commas but no stops. Poetry is bigger in all estimation than man.” Recent collections include ‘ihejuruonu’ and ‘through the window of a sandcastle’. He is currently working on ‘a field of echoes’, due for publication in 2015.

Laura M Kaminski (Halima Ayuba) grew up in northern Nigeria, went to school in New Orleans, and currently lives in rural Missouri. She is an Associate Editor at Right Hand Pointing and an occasional contributor to Via Negativa. Recent collections include And Yes, I Dance and Considering Luminescence; she is currently working on Dance Here.

Robert Rhodes is a poet and artist. We are grateful to him for allowing us to use his artwork as an accompaniment for this series. The painting is titled: ‘Night map (1) so we can always find the way to one another.’ Acrylic, gouache and pencil on Arches paper.

 

%d bloggers like this: