All work is work in progress. Never finished. Brought to a close. Ready for fashion. Finis. Ready to beginnan. Again. How to? Cover up. Conceal the old. Bury. Build over. Incomplete. Partial, patchy: imperfect.
Water based oils on canvas: 40″ x 30″ x 1&3/4″.
“You are the light
of the world.
set upon a hill
cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
Not to mention something you’ve put up online. What’s posted online can’t be deleted or hidden. That is the poet’s dilemma, who craves publication but still has changes, or will have. But that is only a matter or problem of print. Oral poetry, or song, allows, invites, indeed wants variations. Covers. Over time, cities get covered up. The earth rises, and falls.
I assumed the Queen Mob’s Teahouse poetry editor position back in April, taking over from Erik Kennedy, Queen Mob’s second poetry editor, from May, 2015, who followed Laura A. Warman. The gig is volunteer work, of course, as befits any true poetic enterprise.
I first put up, on April 19, three poems by Jax NTP. It was then the idea came to me to use my own paintings as the header images over the poet’s work. I was struck by Jax NTP’s atmospheric, impressionistic poetry. The poems are packed with energetic images changing with the speed of “Highway 61 Revisited”:
“there’s a giant temple on hazard and new hope streetfrom “how to pivot when you’re paralyzed,” by Jax NTP
blue reptile and green mazing skeletons, keepers of time
how long can you sit there with the pain before you try to fix it?”
And I had just finished a painting, the impressions of which, the symbols within, the colors, the shapes, I thought might complement Jax NTP’s poetry. I don’t mean to suggest any of the paintings necessarily align with the poetry in any literal way. In any case, I continued to look for images within my collection of painting pic selfies for complementary impressions.
Reading and reflecting on Jessica Sequeira’s poems, and later looking for a painting to go with the posting on QMT, I again felt the suggestion with impressions that seems the essence of poetry, particularly of poetical delight:
“The heavens have promised rain for so many days.from “Eastern Variations, style of Ikkyū Sōjun,” by Jessica Sequeira
I think of waiting for torrents from the white sky.
But it might be a long time. Or this could be a dream.
Taking your hand, I guide it below, to my cloud.”
I selected for Jessica’s poems a painting from last year, “City on a Hill,” a large painting that had taken some time to complete. Again, the setting of the poems and the painting seemed harmonious:
“lakes shine like mirrors
reflecting tall mountains
rainfalls are unpredictable
innocent changes in the divine mood
birds sing into great holy spaces
the wind whistles its reply
icy glaciers plunge towards skyfrom “My South,” by Jessica Sequeira
green valleys dive into earth”
I had taken numerous pics of “City on a Hill” when a work in progress in the basement studio:
And I used an early draft of “City on a Hill” to go with Ashen Venema’s poetry:
I sit still, watch him thin the oilfrom “My Painter,” by Ashen Venema
and restore his long gone love
on canvas, standing in
as the young skin
by the window, sunlit among
lilies, fresh cut, and Persian rugs
casually flung across seats.
Well, the setting of Ashen’s “My Painter,” “sunlit among / lilies,” doesn’t quite align with the basement studio, though things are there too “casually flung.”
All my paintings I eventually give away, to family, friends, colleagues, who show an interest and enthusiasm. “City on a Hill” is hanging in my daughter’s den, looking out upon the backyard. The light in the room is perfect. I just want or hope the paintings have a life outside my basement, where, as Ashen puts it in “My Painter”:
“A blaze of light rims his white hair
from under his thick swirl of brows
black humour hides, and surprise”
After all the work on a painting, which isn’t really work, of course, but play, like the work of much poetry, we just might find a true work of art in what we’ve mostly ignored, in the mess we left behind. That tablecloth, for example, now that’s a work of art!
Geomicrobiologists now claim life underground exceeds in size, diversity, and span life above ground. What is life? It might be easier to simply say Earth is alive, all of it, including the rocks. And does extraterrestrial life exist? Well, we exist, we think. It now appears planets are living beings. Universe is alive. And that’s not counting the ghosts.
According to scientist Karen Lloyd, quoted in The Guardian: “The strangest thing for me is that some organisms can exist for millennia. They are metabolically active but in stasis, with less energy than we thought possible of supporting life.” That describes a teacher I had in high school.
Meanwhile, in the basement studio, located at the intersection of above and below ground, I’ve continued to work on cutout paintings. The photos below detail the evolution of a recent graffito work:
Portlanders love to sit out. At sidewalk cafes, outside pubs, in their yards or drives. On porches, decks, balconies. In parks. On special occasions, neighbors will close their street to cars so they can sit out in the middle of the block at improvised tables in whatever chairs seem to turn up. The atmosphere of a street closed to cars turns surreal in these times. Maybe because it rains six months out of the year, Portlanders don’t take the perfect evening for a sit out for granted, but they’ll even sit out in the rain, huddled beneath coats and blankets around a fire pit or under overhead standing outdoor electric heaters.
The current painting in progress is tentatively titled, “Sitting Out.” It’s 3 feet by 5 feet, stretched canvas. I’ve used acrylics, oils, and oil pastels, applied with brush, palette knife, or directly out of the tube. The grandgirls have been involved in this painting as well. Chloe is responsible for the bottom left, raspberries at the top of a green hill, ZZ for the sky and bottom right umbrella and blue chair seated with a red figure. Layer upon layer. Things get covered up. Sometimes it’s a mistake to cover something over, but you keep working. A canvas of this size is not inexpensive, but we got this one used at a garage sale for $5. We painted over the old painting, but ZZ wanted to keep some existing red roses in the bottom right hand corner, so we tried to preserve those.
Our studio, such as it is, is located in the basement:
The grandgirls are back in school now, and I’m working on the sit out painting in the basement alone. Last night I added the black umbrella outline with the broken stretchers pointing upward in the middle left. Had the girls been there, they would have booed this change. I need to figure out a way to cover it up without ruining the horizon line below it, which tops Chloe’s field.
Below are two pics of Portlanders sitting out on the sidewalk and in the street corral of a corner restaurant:
And we’ll close with this pic of a sit out zone in an unused portion of a driveway, Ollie waiting patiently to be taken for a ride:
On the table a yellow
fuzzy pink peach
as verbless as
the bibelots all
in nice rows of yore
CODA: wind upon wind wave upon wave cloud upon cloud grass upon grass leaf upon leaf sail upon sail hill upon hill cove around cove cliff upon cliff square upon square camp upon camp town upon town city upon city state upon state…wind upon wind wave upon wave cloud upon cloud cove around cove