Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Congratulations to Boston's New Poet Laureate -- And a Poem

Congratulations to Danielle Legros Georges

Poem for the Poorest Country In the Western Hemisphere

Oh poorest country, this is not your name.

You should be called beacon, and flame,

almond and bougainvillea, garden

and green mountain, villa and hut,

little girl with red ribbons in her hair,

books-under-arm, charmed by the light

of morning, charcoal seller in black skirt,

encircled by dead trees.

You, country, are the businessman

and the eager young man, the grandfather

at the gate, at the crossroads

with the flashlight, with the light,

with the light.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Poet Inducted Into the Hall of Achievement. Yay, Madeline!

Madeline Defrees celebrates her 90th birthday at Elliott Bay with chocolate cake
I remember this special event very well. Many of her friends, fans,  former students, and an early publisher of hers all came out to speak about what an important influence Madeline had been on them---both as a hard-working dedicated poet and a woman ahead of her time.

This morning I found a video made last year when Madeline Defrees was inducted into the University of Oregon's Hall of Achievement. The video is yet to be published publicly though you can watch it here. The photographs of Defrees as a child, a habited nun, and a smiling woman on the beach hold me captive.
This new web site set-up by Madeline's literary executor, Anne McDuffie, is a great gift to lovers of Defrees' work near and far.

Here is one of my favorite poems. One that shows that her work is deserving of a wider audience.

Still Life

The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
Robert Frost, “The Oven Bird”

After your letter arrived I left the oven on
all night and never once 

put my head in it. After your letter arrived 

I let one foot follow the other 

through the better part of the day. 

Your letter lay on the kitchen table by the paring
knife on the stoneware plate with the apple core 

like a Dutch still life restored to its muted color. 

To contiue reading this poem click here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Carol Sawyer - Photographer, Filmmaker, Performance Artist, Singer and Impressive All Around Person

Natalie Brettschneider leaves for Paris, 1913
I am both excited and a bit apprehensive about sharing the work of Carol Sawyer here. She is my very new and first "live" collaborator. Our relationship began on the internet when I searched for information on Hannah Maynard and 19th century photography in Canada. Her intelligence and generosity were easily apparent. I thanked her for her help with the Victorians and moved on.

A year later while cleaning out old emails, I read again Carol's take on 19th century woman artists and decided to see if she was an academic or museum curator. Her expertise and attention to my questions had lead me to that incorrect assumption. She never mentioned that she was an award winning photographer in her own right. More information this spring on our collaboration.

Here is an artist we are certain to see more of. If you are in the Vancouver area, see Sawyers upcoming exhibit, Study for Shadow Puppet, at Republic Gallery. Note: the photographs here of Natalie Brettschneider are a construction from Sawyer's own imagination, painstakingly researched and presented in a gallery show as a kind of cultural anthropology and critique.

From Carol Sawyer's upcoming show at Republic Gallery

This performance was before Natalie's scholarship to study in Paris 

In a later photograph, "Natalie Brettschneider Performs Feather Hat."

"Natalie Brettschneider Performs African Mask"

               And this image, "Natalie Brettschneider Performs Foxglove;" look at her fingers!

Finally, "The Last Known Photograph of Natalie Brettschneider"

I would love to rename this one "Natalie Brettschneider  Performs Rhubarb Mask."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Happy Birthday to Ms. Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility – (466)


I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Imaginative Past (Walter Cronkite and Iguanas)

Is she really that old?
I'm pretty sure I was born in the wrong era although I whole-heartedly believe in spell check and on-line research so maybe our era is actually the best of many worlds. Last week, I wrote a preview for my essay on nostalgia and today it was published by the Tahoma Literary Review.

I'm amazed at how much thinking it took to write. Does that make sense?

The concept of nostalgia often gets a bad wrap. It's reputation suffers from images of overstuffed curio shops and elderly men with antique cars that only drive them on Sunday afternoons. Nothing wrong with these things but I wanted to look into the nature of nostalgia. I hope you like it.

The Imaginative Past, by Susan Rich

I love the word nostalgia for its host of vowels; it’s formal lingering on the tongue that enacts a kind of longing. I love the concept of a simpler time although I can hardly believe in it.

My poem “Sunday Afternoon Retrospect” is an ode to an idealized past filled with pickle barrels, typewriter bells, and milkmen. A time of Sunday afternoons when my father and I walked along Haymarket Square for Italian ices – blue – our favorite. It was a time when I could still explore my neighborhood streets any hour of the day or night and feel brave, rather than afraid.

Adolescence seemed as if it would last forever. And then, suddenly,

click here to continue reading...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tonight I Am in Love With Glass

What is it about wine glasses  - or - three vessels for verses

This could go on all night...

Egyptian perfume bottles

Something in the way that they are photographed

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Another New Art Girl Crush: Claude Cahoun and Marcel Moore

These women's lives were too wild and too intricate for me to yet fathom. They were step-sisters, photographers, poets, painters, political artists and lovers. And that really doesn't begin to cover it. Again, why don't we know their work in the United States? Or perhaps I'm the only one left out.

Here's one piece of their story. They lived on Jersey in the Chanel Islands and photographed the Nazi soldiers landing on the beach. They then spent four years (until they were caught, imprisoned, and sentenced to death) creating anti-Hitler propaganda and distributing it to the soldiers. Their death sentence was eventually pardoned and they were released on May 9, 1945 during the liberation of the island.

Andre and Jacqueline Breton photographed by Claude Cahoun

Friday, December 5, 2014

Leonora Carrington ~ My New Crush

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) is fascinating not only for her masterful art work but for her crazy life history (including escaping Nazis and her parents plan for an insane asylum).  A powerful figure in the Surrealist movement, she was also an early Feminist. Most of all, she was her own person.

This painting shows hectic wallpaper with images of black and white people joined together. The chair sports a black tail and blue monarch butterflies are flying from the tablecloth. I love the golden orb in the center of the painting as well as the white rose crying from the ceiling. There is bread and fruit;  two glasses full of wine. It is a still life that is anything but still.

True, this isn't the type of painting I'm usually drawn to (whatever that is) but what attracts me here is the highly energetic mix of humor and serious mystical study. I believe in this artist; the visions that Carrington show here are somehow "proven" by the intense level of work. I can't pretend to understand her but I do know that I am moved by these images.

Many years ago I came across Leonora Carrington's paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland. There was a show there that claimed her as "the Celtic Surrealist" as her mother was Irish and she used Catholic and Celtic imagery in her paintings. I wondered then, as now, why she is not better known in the United States --- she lived a short time both in NYC and Chicago.

Somehow I think this is about to change.

Mrs. Moorehead's Alchemical Kitchen