I’ve worked at The Bookstore in Lenox, Massachusetts since at least last Wednesday.
If you get that joke, then you’ve probably been to The Bookstore where you’ve probably met owner Matthew Tannenbaum. Matt’s been in the book business for a little while now. He recounts the beginning of his career as a bookman in the chapbook-sized My Years at the Gotham Book Mart with Frances Steloff, Proprietor (on sale during business hours; come on in). He’s working on a longer memoir, so I won’t, nor for reasons of plausible deniability do I particularly want to, divulge the details—which are wild, heartbreaking, historic—suffice it to say that The Bookstore came into his care during the nation’s bicentennial year and, despite claims to the contrary, he’s been serving the people of Lenox and the greater community ever since.
The Bookstore is a New England City Lights: a thriving counterculture symbol not simply because of Matt’s connection to banned-book champion Steloff nor solely because of his own place in that continuum (e.g. the poster trumpeting Matt’s reading of Kerouac’s Dr. Sax with Michael Gizzi and Clark Coolidge, the photo of him shaking hands with Vaclav Havel) but precisely because it’s a shop stocked by a man who knows that reading a book, whether the pulpiest mass market, the most surreal love poetry, or the humblest picture book, can reveal in any person of any age limitless reservoirs of imagination, of wonder, of hope. In the E-Age, selling print books is about as countercultural an activity as you can engage in in these United States.
That’s one of the reasons, but not the only, that puts me in my car 2 ½ hours ’round-trip three days a week. On one of those three days, I usually get a compliment on the store’s selection, which has been cultivated by Matt through nearly four decades of his own literary love affairs—but is also the result of a bookman having a deep and ongoing conversation with his community. Because he loves to hear what people love to read, whether they’re old friends or new acquaintances, they in turn allow Matt to suggest books they might not otherwise consider, enlarging their own point of view. It’s buoying to observe and it happens all the time.
If you’ve read Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day, you might have seen Matt’s name before. This contemporary epic of motherhood and community was written on December 22, 1978 at 100 Main Street in Lenox, down the street and around the corner from The Bookstore. Almost everything in Lenox is down the street and around the corner. Matt appears a couple of times, but the most notable occurs near the end of Part III, on page 53 of the latest New Directions paperback (NDP876). On the preceding page, standing in the health food store, the question comes: “You think something like a book will change the world, don’t you?” The answer, in the next line: “I do, I take pleasure in taking the milk with the most cream”. A few lines later brings us to this wonderful decision:
Let’s go in to the bookstore to see Matthew Tannenbaum
The dream figure of the boy-father-mother who turns into
The recalcitrant bookseller as we do
I look over the shoulder
Of a girl flipping through the pages of a book of women’s faces
All beauties, bigger than life, black and white
Scavullo on Beauty
You study poetry and read magazines upstairs
Let me tell you
The titles of all the current books:
The Suicide Cult, The Ends of Power,
The Origin of the Brunists, Invasion of the Body Snatchers,
War and Remembrance, The Winds of War, The Dogs of War, Dog Soldiers,
Mommie Dearest, My Moby Dick, My Mother Myself, By Myself, Uncle,
Mortal Friends, Nappy Edges, Tender Miracles,
Song of Solomon, Delta of Venus, The Women’s Room,
Ladies Man, Six Men, The Water-Method Man, Watership Down,
The Night People, Shepherds of the Night, A Dream Journey,
Daniel Martin, Delmore Schwartz, Edith Wharton,
Time and Again, Better Times Than These, Centennial,
The Professor of Desire, The Honorable Schoolboy,
Heart Beat, The Third Mind, Jack’s Book,
Beasts, The Magus, The Flounder, The Fabricator,
Words of Advice, Secrets and Surprises, Dispatches,
Prelude to Terror, Full Disclosure, Final Payments,
The World of Damon Runyon, The Stories of John Cheever,
Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, Praxis,
The Annotated Shakespeare, The Last Best Hope
There are lots of beautiful things about this passage. There is no more “upstairs”—it’s now a slightly elevated section of the store with our children’s books. We don’t sell magazines; you can find a selection at Loeb’s Food Town next door, as well as newspapers. You can, however, still come and study poetry, as we’ve got an entire wall of it in the adjacent Get Lit Wine Bar, where I bartend on Friday nights, sometimes Thursday mornings.
It’s also a delightful snapshot of the publishing world in the late 1970s. One title in particular stands out: My Moby Dick by William Humphrey, a romp about a colossal trout and the fanatical angler out to hook him. It’s out of print, and we recently tracked down a used copy for someone. The Lenox connection is significant: Melville wrote Moby-Dick not but a few miles from The Bookstore at Arrowhead, on the Lenox-Pittsfield line. I pass by it every day on the way to work.
In my own decade-long career as a bookman, I’ve worked at various Borders and Barnes & Noble locations. I was the textbook manager at the Yale Bookstore. For a number of years, I was a manager at another great independent, the Northshire Bookstore, in Manchester Center, Vermont. I’ve worked for and with great people who have enriched my literary vocabulary, often in ways I never would’ve predicted. I’ve also worked for and with people who, in the end of the day, could’ve been selling hemorrhoid cream for all they cared, so long as you bought something from them.
The Bookstore is different.
Every once in a while, I’ll get a customer who, rather wistfully, goes on about how great it would be to own a bookstore. I try not to disabuse them. Those reveries of lounging around, talking literature the live-long are quickly erased when you have to deal with the day-to-day operations of unpacking, stocking, ordering, organizing the store. It never ends. But since we’re working with books, it’s a joy, and occasionally, moreso than any other bookstore I’ve worked at, we do get a chance to kick back and talk. About books, yes, but also about life. That is, after all, where the books comes from. It helps when Bookstore friends like Alice Brock, Bill Corbett, Harry Mathews, or Geoff Young stop in to say hello.
Anyone drawn to this blog is probably aware that the publishing industry is in—O clichéd phrase—a state of flux. We talk about this from time to time at The Bookstore. The conclusion we always come to is to keep doing what we’re doing, which is: to stock the best books, new and old, by the best writers from a variety of eras and styles and let great readers come find us. And they do. Every day.
Anyway, it’s too late to stop now. We don’t have every book ever printed available in the store for you to purchase. No one does, not even Amazon. But we do have a lot of great books, and there’s a good chance a few of those great books you’ve never heard of. So, like I said, come on in. I think of The Bookstore as like Ruthie in her honky-tonk lagoon.
We may not always have what you need, but we definitely have what you want.
* We always have lots of readings at The Bookstore, but one that Best American Poetry readers might be interested in is Peter Gizzi and Bernadette Mayer, Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Posted by Michael Schiavo on November 12, 2012 at 02:57 PM in Art, Book Stores, Collaborations, Dylan Watch, Food and Drink, Guest Bloggers, History, Music, Poetry Readings | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: Banned Books, Bernadette Mayer, Bookstores, Gotham Book Mart, Guest Blogger, Lenox, Matthew Tannenbaum, Michael Gizzi, Michael Schiavo, Peter Gizzi, Poetry, The Bookstore, The Bookstore in Lenox
her native Vietnam in 1975, on the last day of the evacuation of Saigon. A poet, writer,
dancer, visual artist, singer, and educator, she is the author of five books
and two chapbooks, including her book on the tango, Tango, Tangoing: Poems
& Art (the bilingual version: Tango, Tangueando: Poemas &
Dibujos). Find a complete list of titles here. Mong-Lan has won the Juniper
Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Awards, a Stegner
Fellowship at Stanford University, and a Fulbright Fellowship. She received a
Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona. Mong-Lan’s poetry has been
frequently anthologized -- in, for example, The Best American
Poetry. Visit: www.monglan.com
When I was young, it seemed logical to me that the most virtuosic performances should be the “best” music, and most worthy of my appreciation. As my tastes ran more toward classic rock than toward classical music, I was particularly an advocate of Led Zeppelin’s most fiery guitar and drum solos, or their more complex picking patterns in songs like “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Black Mountain Side”.
As I grew older, however, I began to sense deep flaws in this way of thinking, as it privileged a proposition about music over the actual aesthetic experience of music. As I began to ponder this distinction, I noticed more and more how much I could be moved by the most simple of songs.
Don’t get me wrong; I still love Led Zeppelin! But I now love realms of music that at one point seemed illogical for me to appreciate. The same goes for visual art and literature. I have grown into an attention to and profound love of the aesthetic experience of art, rather than allowing myself to be led by rationalistic a priori notions of what forms the most powerful art “should” take. I believe that only after experiencing a work of art should one attempt to identify the objective features that create the possibility of a powerful aesthetic experience. In this way, the aesthetic experience is neither entirely subjective nor entirely objective, but subjectivity and objectivity coexist—indeed, must coexist—in the aesthetic experience.
Federico García Lorca examines that mysterious quality in art (for him, most particularly in dance, music, and poetry) that lends it power to transport an audience. He calls this duende, a dark force of the earth, something other than the “muse” or the “angel,” rising from the mortal center of the artist rather than arriving from without, and many other things besides. Lorca gives an example of an old flamenco dancer at a competition:
Years ago, an eighty-year-old woman won first prize at a dance contest in Jerez de la Frontera. She was competing against beautiful women and young girls with waists supple as water, but all she did was raise her arms, throw back her head, and stamp her foot on the floor. In that gathering of muses and angels--beautiful forms and beautiful smiles--who could have won but for her moribund duende, sweeping the ground with its wings of rusty knives. -from "Play and Theory of the Duende"
She gives an utterly simple, unadorned performance—hardly even worthy to be called a dance. But her performance is so impassioned, so full of the acknowledgment of death, so full of duende, that she is awarded first prize, over all the ornate performances of her young and beautiful competitors. This is part of what I’m getting at when I talk about the experience of a work of art. The superficial features one might expect beforehand to produce a powerful aesthetic experience are not reliably the ones that actually do produce the greatest effect. It is not perfect execution or virtuosity that is the most profound aspect of art, but rather its ability to evoke the heart of the human condition, to allow us to transcend the bounds of time and mortality for a moment through the unwavering insistence on those limits. This is a mysterious power that we can experience in two arenas: art and spirituality. At heart, I suspect that these two practices are, or can be, one and the same.
This mortal passion that takes simple artistic forms has an amazing ability to endure, to retain its power to move the reader or viewer or listener, no matter how many times the work of art is revisited. This is not to say that virtuosic art or more traditionally “beautiful” art doesn’t have this same power—think of Keats’ Grecian urn: “When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe / Than ours, a friend to man…”—but it is suprising to speak of simple art this way because it seems counterintuitive to think that utter simplicity should remain powerful over time. The simple, unadorned poem or song is the most easily remembered, but because of its simplicity we might assume that its aesthetic effect would diminish over time, while more complex art would offer new layers of meaning and beauty to the searching subject. But often expressions of the most fundamental aspects of the human condition depend for their effect not on elaboration or adornment, but the opposite.
This is why, in the visual arts, I’ve grown to love Mark Rothko, whose best work is minimalistic, and yet strikes the viewer as perfect in the sense of being complete, final. In music, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is a particular favorite of mine. For the same reasons, much Eastern poetry is among the work I most cherish. In the space of a handful of syllables, a poem can resonate as deeply as—dare I say it?—an epic poem by Dante or Milton. Buson writes:
The moth alights
on the one-ton temple bell.
On a branch
a cricket, singing.
Li Po writes:
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and I,
until only the mountain remains.
We are the mirror and the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both.
We are the sweet cold water
and the jar that pours.
The Toa te Ching, in Stephen Mitchell’s sublime translation, reads:
Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
Simplicity: a door opening on the depths, a rung toward the heavens.
We're big fans of Joe Brainard and have written about him several times, most recently here. We were delighted to get an e-mail telling us of a new film about this singular artist and writer whom, we're happy to say, seems to be gaining in popularity. The film was directed by Matt Wolf and is built around archival recordings of Brainard reading from his famous memoir-poem "I Remember."
Here's what Matt Wolf has to say about his film:
I've always been a huge fan of Joe Brainard's art and writing, especially "I Remember," which is probably my favorite poem ever. When I found archival audio recordings of Joe reading the text on the online archive PennSound, I knew that I wanted to make something— to bring to life the poem, but also to tell Joe's story. I approached his best friend, the poet Ron Padgett, after reading his very moving book Joe: A Memoir, and he connected me to great photos, films, and materials to tell the story. I also interviewed Ron about his lifelong friendship with Joe from elementary school in Tulsa, Oklahoma up until Joe's death. When I was editing the film, I wanted to create a kind of conversation between Ron's recollections of Joe, and Joe's memories from the poem. I started to realize that the film wasn't just a tribute to Joe, but a film about deep friendship, and the unique bonds artists form with each other.
Many times in years past we've sought respite from New York City's steamy summer heat by hopping the ferry to Staten Island. The trip takes roughly 25 minutes, there's a breeze off the water, a stunning view of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, and, it's free!
Now there's added incentive to head to the ferry's Whitehall terminal: Telettrofono, a fascinating collaboration between award winning poet Matthea Harvey and sound artist Justin Bennett, is live on Staten Island. Visitors to Telettrofono will be guided to points along the SI waterfront while listening to a 90-minute tale about the real — and not so real — life of inventor Antonio Meucci. Here's how Matthea Harvey describes the project:
This year I worked on making a soundwalk with amazing sound artist Justin Bennett for the Guggenheim architecture program--it's going on for four weekends (starting this weekend) in Staten Island.. . The piece is called Telettrofono and it's about Antonio Meucci (who invented the telephone decades before Bell) and his mermaid wife, Esterre. Meucci was an amazing nineteenth century inventor who made a marine telephone for divers to speak with ship captains, flame-retardant paint (which he advised using on your underwear) and improved effervescent drinks, among other things. The Telettrofono tour will introduce you to his real and imagined inventions, a mermaid chorus, a preset verifiable fact mode, and the story of a mermaid who leaves the water because of her love of how things sound aboveground.
[i] “Album Zutique” Text: “The Album Zutique was a communal journal for the poets and artists with whom Rimbaud associated while living in Paris....They called themselves Zutistes, a word coined from the French exclamation “zut,” which, depending on context, can mean anything from “golly” to “damn....” Most of [Rimbaud's] poems here are parodies of the work of other poets, and many are ribald in nature.” (Wyatt Mason, from Rimbaud Complete); Image: Grace Jones, from Vamp (1986)
[ii] “Blood of a Young Girl Streaks the Altar” Text: Aeschylus, from Agamemnon; Image: Michael Spinks, from Spinks vs. Tyson, 27 June 1988
[iii] “Disorganized Rainbow” Text: Albert Ramsay, from “Bright Jewels of the Mine” (Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 207 Issue 13, September 1934); Image: Miners, from “Bright Jewels of the Mine”
[iv] “Merle in Switzerland” Text: R.F.; Image: Rivi’s eyes, from Cocaine Cowboys (2006)
[v] "Shelley" Text: R.F.; Image: Amelia Curran, from Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819)
[vi] "Take Me Away" Text: "Take Me Away" (1992), Mix Factory; Image: from Tyson
The Classics Illustrated Comics Project — Five Cartoonists
For our first-ever comics post, At Length asked five cartoonists to consider adaptation. We wrote: If you were hired by Classics Illustrated and told to choose a book—any book!—to adapt into a comic, what would it be? Why that book? What would it look like? The responses dig into the problems of transforming work from one medium to another with wit, sympathy, and just a touch of sarcasm. We’re very pleased to present new work by Kevin Cannon, Pascal Girard, Melissa Mendes, Andrea Tsurumi, and Noah Van Sciver.
For more, follow this link.
And if you remember the old Classics Illustrated comic books, the ones published by the Gibralter company, please comment here and share your recollections. I remember reading the series in order: The Three Musketeers was number one, followed by Ivanhoe, and The Count of Monte Cristo was also in the top ten. James Fennimore Cooper was superior in Classics Illustrated form, not only The Last of the Mohicans but also The Deerslayer and The Pathfinder. I owned some of the originals, those published in the 1930s or 1940s, and found them preferable -- at least in literary quality -- than their successors in the 1950s. The very covers of the comic books -- such as the picture of Edmund Dantes overjoyed at the treasure box he has unearthed -- still gladden my heart. My old collection is in an archive box somewhere. Do the words "classics illustrated" have a similar effect on anyone else? -- DL
Tom Clark's blog today features a gallery of paintings by Vermeer and such others as Pieter de Hooch, Pieter Elinga, Gabriel Metsu plus a mighty fine Fragonard from 1770 and a recent Gerhard Richter (left). Each exemplifies one of the great recurrent portraiture subjects: a girl reading. She may be reading a letter, a book of verses or hymnal, or, in Richter's pianting, a magazine that looks like Time. Totally absorbed in her reading, she is oblivious to the painter, the observer, and so we catch her at that moment of utter genuineness when she engages in a silent dialogue with a lover or with god, with a soul laid bare or with the external world, the world of commerce as represented by a Vermeer map, by Pieter de Hooch's open window, or by the newsmagazine in the hands of the blonde girl with the hoop earrings, Richter's wife, Sabine,in the 1994 painting, "Lesende" ("Reader"). -- DL
In the blue summer evenings, I will go along the paths . . . Arthur Rimbaud “Sensation.”
The pillars of Nature’s temple are alive/and sometimes yield perplexing messages . . . Charles Baudelaire “Correspondences.”
…one of those magical, closed water lilies which spring up suddenly, enveloping nothingness with their hollow whiteness, formed from untouched dreams . . . Stephane Mallarmé “The White Water Lily.”
The stunningly beautiful convergence of gardens, painting, and poetry now alive along the Monet to Mallarmé Poetry Walk at the New York Botanical Garden defies narration and invites a walk, an afternoon, several.
To walk the gardens, read the words, take in the artist’s palette, and stand before two of Monet’s rarely seen paintings is to get a sense of the rush of creative spirit and intelligence that marked the interactions of the Mardistes, painters, poets, writers and musicians who gathered regularly at Mallarmé’s Paris apartment more than 120 years ago.
This third collaboration between the Poetry Society of America and the New York Botanical Garden, following Emily Dickinson’s Garden in 2010 and the 2011 Gardens of the Alhambra featuring poems by Federico García Lorca, is a must see, with months ahead for repeat visits. The exhibit is open through October 21.
The Botanical Garden and the Poetry Walk were the setting for the Poetry Society of America’s Spring Benefit on May 23rd, which brought together poets, musicians, and friends of poetry for a tour of the exhibit and the Poetry Walk, followed by an evening of music and dinner at the newly renovated Stone Mill. Soprano Jennifer Zetlan and pianist David Shimoni performed three beautiful selections that set the words of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarmé to music by Britten, Gretchaninov, and Debussy. Actress Maria Tucci’s reading of a selection of poems from the French Symbolists gave resonant, memorable voice to verse more familiar on the page than aloud.
The impressively wide-ranging offerings as a result of this collaboration between the Poetry Society of America and the Botanical Garden include, over the course of the next five months, films, concerts, poetry readings, and children’s art activities. A new NYBG in Bloom APP allows visitors to the exhibit to toggle between the plants in Monet’s Garden and Monet’s paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A Saturday afternoon Salon Series, will feature poets reading from their favorite French poets and speaking about their influences.
A visit to Monet’s Garden offers the possibility if not certainty of an enlivening appreciation of visual and poetic beauty. Of Monet’s time, Alice Quinn writes in her essay in the exhibit catalog, “This was a moment of true apotheosis in Parisian cultural life, when so many geniuses were – as scholar Mary Ann Caws noted – ‘in a lookabout mode’.” An experience analogous to a ‘lookabout mode’ accompanies a walk down the Poetry Walk to Monet’s Garden. Poems and paintings and the impulses that sparked and inspired them are nestled within a landscape of intense beauty – colors and light play across a magnificent horticultural tableau.
A central theme of the exhibit runs through much of the wall text and is stated succinctly: for Monet, gardens were “part refuge, part motivator, part work of art”. Monet’s Garden and the Monet to Mallarmé Poetry Walk offer all three.
“Monet’s Garden” runs from Saturday through Oct. 21 at the New York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Parkway (Exit 7W) and Fordham Road, Bedford Park, the Bronx; (718) 817-8700, nybg.org.
Madge McKeithen has written about poems in several essays including those collected in her book, Blue Peninsula (FSG, 2006). She initiated the One Page Poetry Circle at the NYPL and at the Darien Library. Her work has appeared in literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, The New York Times Book Review, and Best American Essays 2011. She teaches nonfiction in the Writing Program at the New School University and writes online at www.madgemckeithen.com.
"Woodcuts are by their very nature brusque, harsh & bold," writes woodcut artist Loren Kantor. "What makes a woodcut portrait come to life are age lines, wrinkles and weathered faces."
Kantor has been posting images of his woodcuts of actors, writers, artists, family, and friends over at Woodcuttingfool for about a year. He sent me this likeness of Charles Bukowski last week and I love it, especially because of the way he's captured the weariness in Bukowski's eyes. Thank you Loren for letting us share this image with our readers. See more about Bukowski here. Read Bukowski's The Laughing Heart (a personal favorite), here.
Not today actually but next Wednesday, "The Scream" is expected to fetch $80 million at Sotheby's. Private viewings in London and New York will have preceded the big auction. It's a painting that spoke to me as a young man; it is the daddy of all shrieks from Wes Craven's to Howard Dean's; and it (and Rilke) triggered a poem I wrote back in 1972 or '73 when I had just returned to New York after two years of intelligence work in the UK and France. Daryl Hine accepted it for Poetry magazine and here it is from the December 1973 issue. Looking at the painting, caught up in all the curves and swirls,don't overlook the fact that the screamer is standing on a bridge and that there are two "normal" fellows within earshot. A lot of Norway went into this 1893 painting. A lot of manuscripts were huirled into the flames. -- DL
I have admired Jim Tyler's work ever since David gave me a Tyler broadside of his haunting poem "Dutch Interior." Tyler works quietly at his letterpress in Ithaca, New York. He sets type entirely by hand, one letter at a time, and prints on a hand-operated press, slowly, one sheet at a time, and one color at a time. The results are precise and beautiful, as you can see in the slideshow below (be sure to use the full-screen option).
Framed broadsides make terrific gifts, don't you think? You can find a complete list of Larch Tree Press broadsides here and here. Or you can write to email@example.com to ask about availability and prices.
Dwight Ripley has his first show in fifty years, at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, which he helped to found in 1949. In the little back room, where John Ashbery has shown his collages, where so many small but exquisite presentations have been offered, there are fifteen pieces hanging: letters, landscapes, four-paneled stories, illustrated poems. Ripley’s life, writes Douglas Crase in Both, his double biography of Ripley and Rupert Barnaby, lifelong partners, “was a mix of friendship, travel, enthusiasm, and incident.” The works here, chosen by gallery directors Andrew Arnot and Eric Brown and on view through March 10, engage us with all of these energies of personality, space, and time, “bright with wit and foreboding, affection, and above all, a radiant intelligence” These works—113 drawings made by Ripley between between 1946 and 1973—were stored in a footlocker for decades in the home of Douglas Crase and Frank Polach, and finally brought out by Crase, as he tells the story in the exhibition catalogue and elsewhere.
The earliest piece, from 1946, is entitled “Evolution with Mushrooms, Bud, and Pineapple” and combines ink; colored pencils in pink, olive, charcoal gray, and russet; and cut-outs collaged from what look like etchings from a sample book or dictionary. The pineapple is lushly leafy top and bottom, precise, round, and Victorian in aspect; a morel neatly tops an extended abstract laddering form, stretching out into the disk of a bittersweet-berry orange sun.
A letter from 1951 on a sheet of stationery from Wappingers Falls, New York, has a spouting whale floating in a sort of asymmetrical alembic, which rises from a curving vaselike cage. A peacock is inscribed vertically, with full-spread tail, inside the vase’s cylinder. The poem that these creatures illustrate begins with a title and two lines of Hungarian, which, as Google Translate informs me, mean something like “a whale is resting on water the color of emerald: he is very lazy.” The poem is titled “A Hímzett Hím,” “the embroidered male,” and continues:
But Mr. Peacock cannot rest:
He’s frantic for an underdressed
And madly mousy peahen.
Another drawing captures, in two tall wavering Gothic cartouches, a pair of quotations from Joan Miró’s Constellations, flanking a similar horn-shaped cartouche holding a stacked set of five rows of stained-glass windows. These three shapes stand in front of a brick wall, a chicken-wire fence, a row of thin vertical stripes with a pale green band at its foot. Over them floats the shadow of a bird on a trapeze. Something about the translucence and solidity of colored pencil is particularly satisfying when depicting the light that glows behind stained glass and that fails to penetrate through shadows.
Crase characterizes Ripley’s series of thirteen Travel Posters, from 1962, as “landscapes, but . . . so stylized, so deftly combined with text and other allusions, that even on first sight they presumed you would regard them with an attention more complex and historicized than we might give to ordinary landscape. They were, in other words, remarkably up to date." Elsewhere Crase writes that the works were “so structurally and keenly colored that each drawing . . . seemed almost to project an alternative spectrum of its own.” All thirteen were shown in 2009, at Esopus Space; seven are on view at the Tibor. I found standing in front of each landscape again rewarded me with many new appreciations, not only of details of color, but with surprises and delights of reading Ripley’s loopy calligraphy: what do these pictures say?
There’s something at once private, obsessive, and trangressive in what Ripley’s done with words in these landscapes. His images begin with a bored gradeschooler’s habit of doodling in secret at his desk with a pencil, pen, or markers, filling in the loops of cursive l’s and o’s and e’s, or the teacher’s big red letter grade on top of a page of homework: capital D’s, especially, fill in nicely, but an A or B will, too. The similarity begins with Ripley’s ballpoint-pen-inked lines, and carries through because of colored pencils. You’re not supposed to do that, are you? It’s what you do as a prisoner in class, when you’re not listening, when you’ve tuned out, when you’re obsessively somewhere else. It’s so cool that Ripley, the baby millionaire exiled to boarding school well before adolescence by his inattentive mother, remembered and valorized that desperate kid’s psychic escape strategy. My affection for his art begins with its grain of painful truth about art, which his wit wraps round with shiny adult experience.
And what escapes! The Travel Posters at the Tibor feature—what to call them? wordscapes?—of Alicante, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain; El Cabo de Gata, to the southwest down the coast; Loulé no Algarve, Portugal, on the Atlantic side of Gibralter; and Setubal, halfway up the Portuguese coast. As Crase reads it for us, the Cabo de Gata beach is neatly labeled with the proper binomial terms for its native vegetation: Cichorium spinosum, Erythrostictus punctatus, and Apteranthes gussoneana. A road upwards has Antirrhinum charidemi both lettered and growing beside it; printed on the rock is Dianthus charidemi.
For the past several years, I've been buying the Studio Hinrichs 365 Typography Calendar from Ken Night Design. The supersize version is worth the price because when it's mounted on the inside of the front door I can read it from just about anywhere in the living and dining room. Plus, it's attractive. Each edition features 12 unique typefaces - one for each month; many are not commercially available - with a brief explanation of why the font is distinctive and a biography of each type's designer.
I just removed January to expose February (above) and am disappointed that February is a short month because I'm wild about designer/artist Ward Schumaker's contribution to 2012. He came up with "Gertrude-and-Alice" while working on illustrations for “Paris France,” his book on Gertrude Stein. In keeping with his artistic style, he combined brushed letters and hand-cut paper characters. Schumaker says that he imagined that the heavy brush strokes represented the large and ebullient Gertrude Stein, while the delicate hand-cut paper pieces represented the thin and prickly Alice B. Toklas.
A quick Google search took me to Schumaker's own blog and website, where one can see more of his fine work. Some of it may look familiar; Schumaker's illustrations have appeared in many popular magazines and newspapers.
Here's an image of Gertrude Stein from "Paris France":
In a recent post, Schumaker reports that he's just landed in New York City, where he'll live for a year. Welcome!
Dwight Ripley (c) 1962
Of all the glamorous figures present at the creation of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery -- all those painters, poets, and lovers – none was more glamorous than Dwight Ripley. He “looked and acted like a handsome international playboy,” according to the gallery’s director John Myers. He was “a genius,” said Tibor de Nagy. “He’s always pinching or patting my ass,” wrote Clement Greenberg, rather proudly, to a friend.
Ripley (1908-1973) was the gallery’s patron. He was also a pioneer in the use of colored pencil when that medium was considered fit mainly for hobbyists. Peggy Guggenheim, who once called him her fiancé, showed his drawings in a group exhibition at her own legendary gallery, Art of This Century, in 1946. The filmmaker Marie Menken created a film portrait, called Dwightiana, in his honor. (Her other portraits included Mondrian, Noguchi, Warhol, and Kenneth Anger.) But Ripley’s last solo show closed in 1962, the year Pop Art triumphed in the galleries and changed the dynamics of the art world in New York.
For the remaining ten years of his life, he worked quietly at his drawing table in a renovated mansion just east of Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island. Known earlier for his prodigious appetite for alcohol, he spent his last decade sober. Each year he interrupted the solitude to join his lifetime partner, the botanist Rupert Barneby, on desert and mountain expeditions in search of rare plants for the gardens they maintained throughout their lives. One such garden, at a farmhouse they owned near Wappingers Falls, was the subject of Menken’s underground classic, Glimpse of the Garden. (See below.) When Ripley died, Barneby sold their last garden, scooped up the drawings from his partner’s final decade and stored them in a trunk. They stayed in the trunk for twenty-five years.
Because Barneby was an elderly friend of my own partner, Frank Polach, the trunk arrived eventually with his other household effects at the place Frank and I share in Pennsylvania. It was intrusive, to say the least. Annoyed, thinking ahead to the recycling center or the auction barn, I decided to open it and see what lay inside. I was up all night. One by one I removed the drawings, ranging from poster-sized landscapes down to stationery-sized sketches that had been folded and apparently mailed to friends. I say landscapes, but the drawings were so stylized, so deftly combined with text and other allusions, that even on first sight they presumed you would regard them with an attention more complex and historicized than we might give to ordinary landscape. They were, in other words, remarkably up to date.
Thirteen of these drawings, a series known as the “Travel Posters,” were shown at Esopus Space in 2009. Reviewing them, the magazine Art on Paper observed: “Apparently, Dwight Ripley knew how to keep a secret.”
On Saturday, January 28, there will be an opening reception at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery for a sampling of these once secret works. The show, up until March 10, will be Ripley’s first at his former gallery in fifty years. His friend Judith Malina, founder of the Living Theatre, reported long ago to her diary that he was “kind & hard & terrible & lovable.” His drawings won’t disagree. Does this make them worth a look? I can answer for myself that they seized my imagination as they came out of the trunk, and would not let go.
Pass much time in the company of poets—young or old, online or off—and soon enough you’ll find yourself privy to the cycles of consternation and dismay inspired by the general insignificance of poetry. Even as America counts more active poets than ever before, the art itself, or so the periodic feeling goes, has slipped beyond decadence into the hobbyish realm where civil wars are playacted for sport and chain mail is knit lovingly by hand. Already in the 1950s people were lamenting the approximation of poetry’s readership to the population producing the stuff, and today the coincidence of circles is complete. Indeed, it seems less a joke than fair plausibility that more people are writing a poem on any given day than reading one.
Of course there will always be some people eager to disprove this thesis. They will point you to the manic proliferation of MFA programs and new poetry publications and wonder how anyone in his right mind could worry. But let’s be real. The expediencies of university administration and the economics of bookbinding do not add up to the health of an art.
Besides, what looks like an ocean from inside is barely a raindrop to the world at large. Poetry lost the common reader a long time ago, if it ever had her, and from where I sit, it seems well on its way to losing the uncommon reader as well. Forget the mythical amateur—relaxing into his fireside wingback at the end of a long day of mezzanine finance or political consultancy—trading in Stevens for Steig Larsson and Snooki. Now it’s the word-workers we’re losing: the novelists, the journalists, the editors, even the graduate students of English. Time was you had to know at least a little Larkin or Lowell or Creeley to count yourself a cultured intellectual, just as older times demanded you had to keep current with opera and ballet. No more. These days we feel like we’re shouldering our share of the civilizational burden if we keep up our subscription to the New York Times and pledge yearly to NPR.
From Julianne Moore as Famous Works of Art by Marina Galperina:
Check out the shots taken by the famous fashion photographer Peter Linderbergh, side-by-side with their original inspirations, as spotted by Museum Nerd. What strikes us isn’t just the meticulous styling, strategically echoing the visuals of the original artwork with couture. Moore is doing a splendid job channeling the subjects, beaming with vigor of a glamorous “cripple” by John Currin, as if she was a Currin model frozen in a frame. You be the judge. Do these do it for you?
Click here for the rest of this fascinating story -- and side-by-side illustrations of Julianne Moore posed artfully and photographed in the manner of the models painted (or sculpted) by Schiele, Klimt, Modigliani (shown on the left), Sargent, Degas, and John Currin (shown on the right).
Above: store-bought bow and discount wrapping paper, pieced together with magic tape and love.
Yes, I know there's only five days left till Christmas, that by the time this post is completed Hanukkah is already twinkling its arrival, that some holiday shoppers are sitting smugly alongside their craftily wrapped presents, the kind with hand painted angel paper and chiffon bows and berries artfully attached.
But the Tropical Roundup is not one of these shoppers. She is on Cuban time, which technically means that while everything will get done, it will all happen in a great flurry, at the last minute, with some presents and cards assembled in the driveway outside the recipient's home. Wine will assist in these endeavors, as will cortaditos and pasteles de guayaba (both of which I'd consume twice a day if I didn't care about looking like a gourd). One does not have to be Cuban to exist in this perpetually behind (but well fortified) state. But it helps, as does living in South Florida, where "Cuban time" is as common an expression as Turn down the a.c. and Coño!
Here are a few quick gift ideas for those of us who consider Cronus a nemesis:
1. Behold the beauty to the left, a Great Gatsby tee from Out of Print Clothing, displayed prettily alongside my high school copy of the novel. My birthday, wedding anniversary, and Christmas are all within a couple of weeks of each other, so my husband is doomed to hunt for gifts for me throughout December. I assist (read: prod) him with tips, such as this shirt I'd been eyeballing for about a year now.
On its website, Out of Print states that it "celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Our products feature iconic and often out of print book covers. Some are classics, some are just curious enough to make great t-shirts, but all are striking works of art."
Indeedy. Other choice picks include Thoreau's Walden, Darwin's The Origin of Species, the mysteries of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys (The Sign of the Twisted Candles and The Mark on the Door, respectively), and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, in a festive red and white.
To browse women's, men's, and kid's shirts, visit here. If you select overnight or second-day air delivery, your prezzies will arrive before Santa does.
2. Last month I was lucky enough to read at the Miami Book Fair International and hear many fine poets, whose fine books I bought as well. I think you should buy them too, particularly from independent bookstores like Books and Books, Powell's, Politics & Prose, or whatever book shop is in your town and is battling Amazon, the real world version of the Dark Lord of the Sith.
Here's some of what I scored: Susan Briante's Utopia Minus (Ahsahta Press); Sandra Beasley's I Was the Jukebox and Gerald Stern's Everything is Burning (both from W.W. Norton); Radha Says: Last Poems by Reetika Vazirani (editors Leslie McGrath and Ravi Shankar / Drunken Boat); Seamless Matter: Thirty Stills (Rain Taxi / OHM Editions), by Ravi Shankar; and Shapes the Clouds Assume (Kattywompus Press), by Jesse Millner, offering one of the best poems I've ever read about my home state.
Why I Love Florida, by Jesse Millner
It's mostly because I'm a pantheist: like the Moguls I worship the sky, blue heaven that floats above me, like Whitman I worship each leaf of the St. Augustine grass, each blade a bright flag of this tropical world's dispostion, like Dickinson I worship the black racers along the dirt road I run most afternoons, those "narrow fellows" pouring their oily bodies into weeds that line my journey west, which is the orientation Thoreau argued for, the direction he walked each day from his shack at Walden Pond as he looked for that particular oak tree, the one whose branches filled with the music of God, which is a chorus of the natural world, a kinship with tree, flower, root, and earth, the hymn shriek of the osprey alighting from the slash pine outside my window last Saturday, yes, God in every thing, manifest in cypress dome or pine barren, in saw grass or slough, in the summer cumuli that blacken to nimbus and bring the hard rain that is itself the only true baptism, that holy hard rain, which cleanses this despoiled paradise, which roars into ditches and lakes that disperse and collect, but does not wash away our many and collective sins.
3. Poster Art from Ironforge Press! Give the music slaves in your life a chance to re-experience their rock-age, or gaze longingly at the show they missed, by purchasing concert posters from this Fort Lauderdale print shop specializing in flatstock and silk screen. Older stoners will enjoy AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Steely Dan, and Black Crowes; skillful tributes to Of Montreal, Arctic Monkeys, and Minus the Bear might appeal to the young and moustachioed set, but, really, there's no accounting for who's going to listen to what. Right now I'm listening to an Uncle Tupelo album recorded around the same time I was in elementary school (that last bit is a fatass lie).
4. Finally, Radio-Active Records is taking orders all week. This independent record store sells a sea of vinyl, along with cds, turntables, and more. Here's an interview I did a couple of years ago with owner Sean Kayes and store manager Mikey Ramirez, who offers this little known bit of vinyl lore: "If you slow down the 12-inch copy of Madonna's Into the Groove, it sounds just like David Gahan from Depeche Mode."
Because plenty of its business is conducted online, Radio-Active knows how to coddle out-of-state customers. But they've got bricks and mortar too. If you live in South Florida, stop by for a vist, as did this groovy lady, who got Jesus (and Mary Chain) while holiday shopping.
I have seven days of surprises for you. The theme of this week is gratitude, and I am most grateful for people like Chard diNiord who has edited a book on the history of post-World War II poetry in America titled, Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs (Marick, 2011). This book of interviews with seven senior American poets--Robert Bly, Lucille Clifton, Jack Gilbert, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Maxine Kumin, and Ruth Stone--and essays on Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell’s correspondence, James Wright’s poem "To the Muse," and Philip Levine’s poems "The Simple Truth" and "Call it Music," presents a view of the bold and original epoch in contemporary American poetry after 1945. In their wise and always engaging responses and commentaries, deNiord's subjects reflect candidly on their careers and the unprecedented big tent of American poetry today.
Chard is the author of four books of poetry, most recently including The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). His poems, interviews, and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Best of The Pushcart Prize, Ploughshares, Salmagundi, and of course, The Best American Poetry. He is the co-founder of the New England College MFA Program in Poetry and an associate professor of English at Providence College.
Beacause I so desperately want to spend this week giving my own view of the recent past, present, and future of some of what's "best" in American poetry, I sent Chard a few questions I had after reading these interviews and essays. In memory of Lucille Clifton and Ruth Stone, here are those questions, and here is how he so graciously responded:
Technorati Tags: Chard diNiord, Donald Hall, Elizabeth Bishop, Galway Kinnell, Jack Gilbert, James Wright Philip Levine, Jericho Brown, Lucille Clifton, Maxine Kumin, Robert Bly, Robert Lowell, Ruth Stone
Admission $10.00 will support this fascinating project by one of our most talented photographer/filmmakers. Find more information here.
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.