The poet Emma Lazarus may not have envisioned Twitter when she wrote the sonnet that graces the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor but it is that sonnet, The New Colossus, written in 1883, that has inspired Poets House – celebrating its 25th anniversary this year – to collaborate with the National Park Service – celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty -- on a project to create a poem comprised of tweets.
Beginning October 4th, anyone with a Twitter account who is a Poets House follower (@PoetsHouse) can tweet a single line of poetry answering the question “what does the Statue of Liberty mean to you?” Each day, Poets House will tweet a “writing prompt” such as an idea, keyword or description to help followers along and guide them in their writing process. Followers should tweet back their poetic response with the hashtag “#statuepoem.”
Poets House will collect the lines of poetry and, during the course of the subsequent two weeks, will create from them a new sonnet inspired by the statue. The new poem will be published on both the National Park Service and Poets House websites and links will be both tweeted and posted on Facebook. Poets House’s Twitter address is @poetshouse. The Statue of Liberty’s Twitter address is @StatueLibrtyNPS. More information will also be available at each of the organizations’ Facebook pages and their websites.
Emma Lazarus’s poem reads as follows:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
— Emma Lazarus, 1883
I've been slack in my letter writing because of work, which is, at the moment, attending to the sentences of others. I'm sweeping clean the muddiness of poor word choices and useless repetition, employing the foot soldiers of concise writing: grammar and punctuation. It's tedious, but I also kind of dig it. It's a lot easier to fix someone else's mistakes.
But when the work seems insurmountable, I think about what else I'd rather be doing, or, to put it another way, what might be my own kind of Ithaka, "...the island of them all" - something that I greatly desire and whose attainment is continually delayed. The promise of it keeps me going.
One of my Ithakas is riding my bicycle, a pearly white Raleigh that my husband gave me before we were married. I love it so much that I instantly named it Pegasus, and soon after bought a bike bell, which I mostly ring just to hear its thick trill. It is searing hot in South Florida at the moment, the norm in late July, but when I'm on my bicycle the temperatures seem less oppressive, as does everything else, and I get to fly around town smelling the ocean and checking out the poincianas and palms and the little green parrots that like to nest and screech in both. I feel like the me that was once a 10 year old, skinny-legged girl explorer. And I suppose she too is another kind of Ithaka.
What I'm getting at is that even though I haven't been writing you, I have still been reading and thinking. Books IV-VI are my favorites so far. I like how the mundane tasks of servants are described in painterly fashion:
And also here:
I also admire the simple, fairytale connotations of these books' titles, such as "Sweet Nymph and Open Sea," although I don't recall Kalypso being so accomodating in other prose versions I've read of this same story. Perhaps I'm mixing it up with The Iliad? Somehow I remember Kalypso as a dangerous and seductive foil, and when I came across these lines describing her lair, I could see how Odysseus might be lulled into contentment, if even for a short while.
Now I'm sitting here looking out the window, writing you, thinking about New Orleans and ignoring The Odyssey, and that poem by Donald Justice comes to mind, the one about how art casts its own light and how it can comfort us in our mortal, and thus temporary, sorrows.
If only I could find work
as free from uncertainty
as the task on Brueghel's folks
I would gladly sweat
for my boss, hay.
I would laze upon
my bed of hay.
Take a scythe to the ankles
of my enemy, hay.
Share a pear over hay.
Find a wife and roll in the hay.
March like an unworried
ant in a map of hay
with a colleague giving the report:
there is more hay, over
there, past all the hay
you see, and when
it's gone, wait
and there will come more.
Yea, only when we
are gone will hay not
be, and even then
it will still be
-- Johnny Chinnici
Thomas Devaney has this review of the outstanding Tibor de Nagy "Painters and Poets" show that closed yesterday. Left: a Larry Rivers / Frank O'Hara collaboration that no one knew existed until it was found in an attic last summer. It serves as the cover art of the must-have catlog.
Yesterday, Stacey, Leslie McGrath, and I visited the Tibor de Nagy Gallery to see the last day of the "Painters and Poets" exhibit. As we were standing there chatting, we were joined by this fellow: Lucas, the resident gallery pup.
On January 29, my husband Eugene and I drove to Albany, NY where The Albany Institute of History and Art hosted a reception to honor the life and work of our friend, the artist Bill Sullivan, who died last fall. Five of Bill’s canvases fill a gallery on the museum’s third floor near rooms with paintings by Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. We’d stopped along the way to pick up Lee Musselman, who along with Eugene and Bill's partner Jaime Manrique had worked to settle the paintings in storage and to break up the house. Sullivan's paintings will be on view at the Institute through February 27, 2011. You should go if you can; they're not to be missed.
We arrived early at the museum, a compact and airy space between Elk Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Albany. Poet, artist, and photographer Star Black had already arrived, camera in one hand, coat in the other, having joined Jaime and Bob Ward on the train from NYC. Jaime, Star, Eugene, and I crossed the snow-lined avenue over to El Mariachi for colas and cafés con leche. Star was excited to learn that Gerrit Henry’s book, The Time of the Night, would be published in April. Eugene and Jaime talked about Bill’s memorial in New York City; how many people were there—Adele Alsop all the way from Utah, Michelle Spark in from Phoenicia, Bill’s cousin Pat and her family—and how much of Bill’s life, work, and generosity the speakers had remembered. And there had been letters, too: Jacob Burkhardt had written, Michael Lally posted memories on his blog, and Bill’s very dear friend Aurora Manuel had emailed Eugene and Jaime a poem to read that night.
The gathering was organized by collector Al Roberts and by curator Tammis Groft, an authority on the Hudson River School and New York State artists, who had the idea to time a showing of Bill’s work with the current show of Hudson River School artists. An 1856 sunset view by Church hangs around one corner a few steps away:
The landscape glows with the same intense reds and yellows that Sullivan magnifies in his gorgeous Twilight at Olana, looking southward over the great estate to the four-pointed stretch of river, the same attention to detail and spectacle of scope without the calming-down effect of a mid-nineteenth-century perspective.
We wandered into the back room to see more of Bill's work: La Vida is a 1993 tropical bucolic, a dreamy sunset. It couldn’t have been more of a contrast from a painting just one year earlier—the monumental Manhattan skyline in Bill's My Night with Lorca. The river is represented by two pieces, the twilight Olana of 1990, a gift to the museum by David Kermani, and the View of Albany from Route 9J, painted the year before Bill died. Last is a brilliantly colored Niagara scene, American Falls Illuminated, from 1990.
Yesterday the Tibor de Nagy Gallery celebrated its sixtieth anniversary with a gala party and an exhibiton devoted to "Painters & Poets" -- the painters and poets the galery sponsored from the start, including the founding figures of the NY School of Poets. On the walls there were paintings by Fairfield Porter, Jane Frreilicher, Larry Rivers, Nell Blaine, and display cases contained rare copies of such vital avant-garde magazines as Locus Solus and Semi-Colon. One beautiful, recently discovered portrait of Frank O'Hara by Larry Rivers had never been shown before..It adorns the cover of the book published to mark the occasion, Painters & Poets Tibor de Nagy Gallery. lavishly illustrated, with essays by Douglas Crase and Jenni Quilter.
At the party, left to right: John Yau, Tree Swenson, Ron Padgett, and David Lehman; in the background are a Jane Freilicher still life and a Fairfield Porter portrait of Ron Padgett. photo by Anna West
They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains
the hottest blood of all, and the wildest, the most urgent.
All the whales in the wider deeps, hot are they, as they urge
on and on, and dive beneath the icebergs.
The right whales, the sperm-whales, the hammer-heads, the killers
there they blow, there they blow, hot wild white breath out of
- " Whales Weep Not ! " by D.H. Lawrence
I imagine that D.H. Lawrence mulled quite a bit over the sounds made by what he considered reflective and amorous mammals, the "inward roaring of the inner red ocean," the "dreaming with strange whale eyes wide open in the waters of the beginning and the end." There is also some sexy aquatic discourse about the "long tip," "the soft and wild clutch," and the "strong phallus," but, hey, it wouldn't be Lawrence if the pleasures of the flesh were not addressed.
However, it's phonic delights that I'm interested in, at this moment at least, particularly in the ones created by Nic Sebastian, whose own whale sounds are not the clicking, churring or warbling made by our cetacean brothers of the blue deep. Ms. Sebastian's songs, rather, are recorded and then published on her website Whale Sound, a collaboration between her pellucid voice and writers who submit poems that are accessible online, such as this one (click here for audio), by Oliver de la Paz:
The moon dangles from its severe, black cord
and packets of dew thicken the grass tips.
Everything is blue--the meadow ripe with leaves
blown from the periphery. Instinct
threads the skin of the boy as he strips, the tufts of fur
splintering through his cotton T-shirt and the deer
are startled into their sinewy gait. Hollow sounds.
A cry from the chest where the hunger lives.
The boy will enter the new world through his eye
tonight, afraid of his flushed skin. The blood
rising like the cherry-red tip of a cigarette
pulled towards the mouth with each deep breath.
But he is even more afraid of the dark space of memory--
a flash of speed, wind on his face from some dream,
and the cooled, coppery taste pressed against
his tongue and the roof of his mouth.
The wild is fierce with memory. And his ears
tilt to the soft pad of his paws against the village cobbles
and the darkened cottages whose roofs blossom
with potential accident. To be one with accident
as to be one with god. To be god is to love
the sudden solitude of night
when the sleeves of the once-body yields
to the muzzle's soft kiss and the wet nap of a licked
burr, nestled into a muddy coat. Oh, meadow, meadow.
How the moon's beautiful swell nails everything into place:
the tooth's glory plunged deep into the evening's bruise.
The throat, heavy with a hound's velvet "no."
I read this poem to myself before listening to the track. It was last October, and I was watching the light burn to gold and a horrorthon of movies, reading Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, and pretty much welcoming all that is imagined to dwell in the shadowlands. God I love autumn.
Of course, what really drew me into this poem was de la Paz's nouns and verbs, how some are monosyllabic and stranded together in staccato chords, and these produce the gait of a creature coming into his unstoppable fate and the inseparable couplets of beautiful and terrible. I could picture this boy and his stealth along the stony paths of a mountain hamlet, and I kept thinking of View of Toledo, a painting by El Greco that I might (or might not) have seen in person when I visited the Spanish city many years ago. Such an old place, filled with darkness even in daylight, which is much like El Greco's gothic landscape, and not unlike the boy's own grapple between his fear and his new found ardor for meadow, moon, and blood.
arrived in the mail today
it couldn't be
of a poet
like orange paint
in the hands
of a mailman
the year 1994
to my mailbox
without a single
a poetic translation
of atomic numbers
is a splotch
of Indian Yellow
a dot of Cobalt
-- Nicole Santalucia
There is always a destination, by Miami-based painter John Sanchez.
"One's destiny is completely personal,'' Castro says from his yellow-painted bungalow in Shenandoah, where he grows the backyard sage and star apple he uses in his practice as an Ifa priest and, also, in his poems.
This narrow leaf one hand-span
Wide contains a landscape
Pock-marked, cracked, stained tan
Like smoke. Within it figures wrapped
In dust stand fixed in sight
As if inside a rifle’s scope.
But for now they will not die
And are not killing, only shuffling
Through grasses, as light as ghosts — mild,
Becalmed. Forty years is as nothing
Here, where they linger, fastened,
Their legs disappearing
In uncut grass, their torsos thickened
By packs, canteens, by radios, guns
Pursuing their endless errand.
". . . in art, a school once established normally deteriorates as it goes on. It achieves perfection in its kind with a startling burst of energy, a gesture too quick for the historian's eye to follow. He can never explain such a movement or tell us how exactly it happened. But once it is achieved, there is the melancholy certainty of a decline. The grasped perfection does not educated and purify the taste of posterity; it debauches it. The story is the same whether we look at Samian pottery or Anglian carving, Elizabethan drama or Venetian painting. So far as there is any observable law in collective art history it is, like the law of the individual artist's life, the law not of progress but of reaction. Whether in large or in little, the equilibrium of the aesthetic life is permanently unstable."
-- R. G. Collingwood (1924)
Video by WGBH and David Grubin Productions, filmmaker Leita Luchetti, and student filmmakers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's docUWM media center. Courtesy of the Poetry Foundation.
He makes altars for the lost, a place
To pray and to question the dead,
I sit before ancestral altars
I have gazed for hours at their startled faces.
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.