My husband Paul and I are having dinner at a local Indian restaurant, drinking our oversized Flying Horse beer and eating our eggplant with tamarind. “Name ten poets you care most about,” he says. He never asks me things like that nor do I think that way. I start to answer – this one, that one, no this one, no. Dante definitely. Sappho for sure. I have to think about his unusual request – why was he asking anyway? - so I mull it over for a few days, then hand him a list. I stick with my long-time-ago favorites. He looks it over, then asks, what are your favorite lines of each of them? Again, days pass. Again, I hand him a list. I heard wind flaking sapphire. Mais ou sont les neiges d’antan? Holy! Holy! Holy!
Paul’s a painter. He never said why he wanted this information. A few weeks later he tells me that he has been working on a new painting – did I want to come see it at his studio? And there’s another Indian restaurant of the ground floor of his studio building, so that means another Indian lunch
Here’s what he made from that list! The large painting is called Words Inside My Wife’s Head. Note how it is color-coded! His name is Paul Graubard.
Tacked on a wall in his studio is a copy of Frank O’Hara’s poem WHY I AM NOT A PAINTER which I had recently given him.
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words., not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.
Jeffrey Harrison wrote a longish poem, ALICE NEEL’S SOIREE after going to a Neel exhibit, in which he pictures a party she threw. She’s naked almost until the end, as are lots of people there including Frank O’Hara.
….Alice waddles through the room, holding
a paintbrush like a wand, or as if
she were the non-chalant conductor
of this human symphony.
“She’s put on a blue dress: “I was beginning
to feel like so much meat,” she says
to a woman wearing nothing
but a huge blue hat and pink panties.
“But you of course are a glorious creature.”
his nose in profile like a small cliff, unmistakable,
his eyes wide in a blue trance and the lilacs
behind him seeming to crown his head,
and I rush over to him as to an old friend….
Old friends all close and far, poets and painters and a whole lot of love for my long list of favorites.