Author: Marcy Erb

m lewis redford’s Castrated

black and white and brown collage of a large machine overlaid with the words of M Lewis Redford's poem "castrated"

I have been a fan of m lewis redford’s poetry (and follower of his WordPress blog) for at least 5 or 6 years now – wow, time flies! He posted his poem “Castrated” in early 2015, right around the same time the movie about Alan Turning – “The Imitation Game” – came out in the U.S. and I was really struck by his poem about Turing. I did an illustration for it back then (you can see his post about that HERE or go the end of this post).

I’ve been thinking about his poem recently for a number of reasons – one is a history poem post I am working on for later this week. Since I couldn’t get the poem out of my head, I decided to try another illustration of it using some of my more recent transfer and collage techniques. Plus it was a great excuse to spend time again with redford’s poetry and website! For this attempt I wanted something more mechanical, more “flawed machine.” The format was smaller, so I didn’t get the whole poem on there. To read the complete poem, see my original illustration below the “read more” tag or visit his post.

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Draw Deep

collage of black and white parachutes over a blue ink background with a scrambled letter haiku

Draw deep
the wave
buoy now

It’s been one of those weeks – extra busy at work and extra things to do for my kid’s school and then extra life things (i.e. I finally sat down and worked through my ballot, with all the dozens of initiatives and local offices, and got that turned in today! Please everyone who is able, VOTE!). And then the little time I had leftover for art got eaten up by some mishaps (ever had a cat sit on your collage and some of the pieces stick to her butt?) and really bad blurry iPhone photography (maybe I do need a new phone?). But here we are! It’s Friday and we made it through another week. One good thing that happened this week is that I rediscovered a book on Surrealist techniques on my bookshelf and decided to let the spirit of the surrealists influence my haiku for today. I started by applying some cut out letters pulled at random from an envelope to this card before I pulled the transfer print. The word that stuck out to me was “buoy” and so I built a jumbled up poem around it. Reflects my jumbled up week pretty well, I think.

Everyone stay safe and healthy and sane and have a good weekend!

A Supermarket in California – Ginsberg

IMG_2927

What thoughts I have of you, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets
under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon…
Allen Ginsberg (1926 – 1997)

Some of the illustration boards that I cut up for my Popo Postcard Festival cards included the practice and palette boards for this painting I did a few years ago. Thus, I was inspired to dig it out of the IP archive! Don’t worry, the painting itself didn’t get the hatchet – it is one my few completed acrylic paintings that I still really like. The text of the original post from 2016 is below:

“This painting was one of two that I did for Matthias over at Beat Company (you can see the other one here edit Oct 13, 2020 – link broken and removed, sadly, Beat Company is no longer active) to mark the anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s passing on April 5th, 1997. The inspiration for the piece was the footnote to Howl and a photograph of Ginsberg as a young man in Berkeley, California. When Matthias didn’t wind up using this painting for the anniversary post, I decided to post it here on Illustrated Poetry – but the more I looked at it, the more I realized it reminded me of the opening lines of A Supermarket in California. It is one of those cases where the art knows more than I do! You can read the entire text of A Supermarket in California here. Painting, acrylic on illustration board, by me. Have a wonderful week!”

Popo Postcard Project

Edit (Saturday, Oct 10) – the livestream is over – thank you for all the support and love. The benefit raised $2200.00 to be split between the San Diego Blood Bank and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Amazing! The link to DJ Wyntre Mysteria’s twitch page is still active and there are videos of some of the livestream, if you missed the real time action.

First off – the livestream benefit in honor of my dear friend Tiran – who is battling AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) is happening RIGHT NOW (until 11 pm PST tonight)!! You can tune in at any time and donations are fabulous, but not required – your support and encouragement is fabulous too! As you can see in the screenshot, they’ve already raised over $1600.00!

screen shot of the Barakah livestream on twtich
acrylic painting in red, orange, and purple hues of a mouth and chin

Back in August, I participated in the POPO August POetry POstcard Festival and had a blast with it. I think I got the email from Kerfe encouraging me to sign up about an hour before the deadline and I signed up with mere minutes to spare in the middle of July. I committed to sending one postcard a day every day in August to 31 strangers from around the world (although 95% in my group were U.S. addresses). There is a lot of freedom on the type of card – I received both handmade and commercially produced – and also for the poetry on the back. The guidance for the poetry was for it to be inspired by the epistle form.

I decided to cut up old illustration board I had to make my cards – I went by measurement for the cards and let the image that resulted on the back be random. Not every card was a masterpiece, but I liked the effect.

The epistle I wrote on the back of the card above:

“’What you have given me is, of course, elegy: the red-shouldered hawk is among these scattering partridges, flustered at…’ Eavar Boland from On the Gift of the The Birds of America

The sharp shinned hawk is but a teenager, he hops clumsily from eucalyptus to eucalyptus; we see him learning to fly over the bulldozers and water trucks, bursts of wings to stay alight.”

This one read: “’A Rip in the Fabric of Interstellar Dreams’ – I’m still drinking my coffee so I don’t immediately understand the journalist is talking about a radio telescope in Puerto Rico; I imagine a great tear in space, the loss of so many to a tiny virus, compressing space-time”

“I saved my father’s butterfly collection and hung them in my own house not knowing a thing about them. This morning the light caught the Great Blue Hookwing, blue dappled wings like headlights in the rain”

I didn’t wind up getting 31 cards from other participants: sadly there seemed to be quite a few problems with the USPS and cards were returned or lost. But I did receive almost 20 cards and they were beautiful! I learned a lot too and definitely plan on participating next year.


I will be posting a few more cards/epistles I did on Instagram as well!

We interrupt this blog feed…

transfer print of table of contents for astronomy textbook overlaid with flecks of paint

This is going to be a little different than my usual art and/or poetry posts (although I did include some mail art above that I worked on this weekend!):

At the beginning of September a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Tiran and I have been friends for over 25 years. We grew up together, went to college together and although our lives and careers took us different places all over the country, somehow we have ended up in the San Diego area together in the last couple years and it has been wonderful to reconnect.

Befitting the word “acute” in the name, the timeline of his illness went like this: I spoke with him one Sunday by phone and everything was fine – he was healthy, going to work the next day, and we had a good conversation – by the following Sunday, he called me to tell me he was in the ICU. He could barely breathe and his prognosis was dire. He was calling to say goodbye in case he was unable to have that conversation later. I was floored by how fast this leveled him and left him near death. It was another shock in a year of shocks. And we have 88 days left in 2020 for more to go wrong happen!

Luckily, he was able to start treatment and he moved out of the ICU after a few days. His prognosis is improved as of now. But he is still battling AML in the shadow of COVID-19. He is unable to have any visitors at all and the hospital is a very lonely place in the best of times. He has no immune system to speak of in a time and place all we can think of is our immune systems.

Despite this – despite having their lives blown apart by AML and on top of the disruptions and job losses caused by COVID – my friend and his partner have responded in a really positive way. They have organized a benefit livestream to raise money for the San Diego Blood Bank and the Leukemia and Lymphoma society in Tiran’s honor. Tiran’s partner is a local DJ who spins gothic and industrial music under the name DJ Wyntre Mysteria and he has organized DJs from around the world to play for this benefit that will livestream on Twitch for 29 continuous hours, on October 8th and 9th.

Now, maybe gothic and industrial music is not your jam and maybe you aren’t sure about this whole Twitch thing (isn’t it just for people playing videogames? you ask. I thought the same thing – but no! I just recently learned there is a whole live music/DJ culture on there), but I hope you will check it out. You don’t need an account to tune in and you can join at any time during the 29 hours from the comfort of your home and time zone. You never know, you may discover something new – a new DJ or song or even genre of music.  Even if you aren’t able to donate (and lord knows times are tough for people), having folks tune in is encouragement too.

In a time when everyone seems to be circling the wagons, I’ve been heartened that my friends’ response to their own tragedy has been to reach out and help others. It is a breath of fresh air in these stifling times.

Information on the event provided by DJ Wyntre Mysteria is below. The link to the livestream on Twitch is: twitch.tv/djwyntremysteria

He can also be found on Instagram: @wyntremysteria

Please stay safe and well (I don’t need any more surprises in 2020)!

poster for benefit livestream of gothic and industrial music called Barakah
  • list of DJs participating in the livestream

The Kick-About #11 ‘Trappist 1e’ — Red’s Kingdom

An amazing range of responses to this prompt! I am totally blown away. I encourage you to put on your best sci-fi/space music and scroll through and enjoy.

By way of a preface to this week’s Kick-About, some info courtesy of Judy Watson: “TRAPPIST-1e is one of the most potentially habitable exoplanets discovered so far. Your descendants may be living there one day. It is similar to the size of Earth and closely orbits a dwarf star named TRAPPIST-1 which is not as hot or bright as our sun. One side of TRAPPIST-1e faces permanently towards its host star, so the other side is in perpetual darkness. But apparently the best real estate would be the sliver of space between the eternally light and the eternally dark sides – the terminator line where temperatures may even be a cosy 0 °C (32 °F).”

The Kick-About #11 ‘Trappist 1e’ — Red’s Kingdom

Trappist-1e Home Lithography

grid of nine monographs of planets in neon colors

I was really excited when Phil contacted me in early September and asked me to choose the next Kick-About theme. I bandied about a few ideas in my head before finally settling on the Trappist-1e exoplanet that was discovered just a couple of years ago. I remember when they announced the discovery of the planets that are orbiting the Trappist 1 star: a group of friends and I had a whole conversation about them while on a long training run. The planets Trappist-1e, -1f, and -1g fall in the habitable zone of the Trappist 1 star and they all have very short “years.” Trappist-1e has a year that is only 6.099 Earth days long. If humans were ever to settle on another planet with such a drastically different orbit, would we change the way we measure time? Years? Would it change the way we consider aging?

The prompt:

Artist rendering from wikipedia of the Trappist 1e exoplanet
Text box describing the discovery of the Trappist-1e exoplanet

For this Kick-About, I returned to making monoprints in the same vein as I did for the Alice Neel prompt from the Kick-About #5. I wanted something spontaneous and bursting with energy. I sat down and calculated how many Trappist-1e years I would be now and it was humbling to say the least: I am 2,307 Trappist-1e years old. The other two numbers represent my Earth ages: 38 years old, having spent 14,072 days orbiting our star. We don’t actually know what Trappist-1e looks like (the picture in the prompt is an artist’s rendering), so I let my imagination run wild making planets on the inking plate.

A few closeups of my favorites from the grid:

There were some monographs that didn’t make it into the grid – one is below – I plan to post the other “outtakes” on Instagram in the next few days. I am very excited to see what everyone came up with for the Kick-About #11, which will be up tomorrow!

monograph of black abstract planet with green edges

Failed Experiments

fragmented failed transfer print on

I promised some failed experiments today and so I present two recent ones that just didn’t turn out. Although taking the extra effort to photograph these and prepare this post has endeared them to me more than I expected. I find myself looking at the photographs and slowly, partly redeeming them…so “Perpetual Little Particles” came about because I had just purchased some Light Pumice Gel at the art store and my first transfer with it went flawlessly (that one became a postcard that was posted on IG on Wednesday, actually). In my excitement, I tried another bigger transfer – and I’m not sure if I applied the medium too thickly or what, but it came apart as I pulled the plastic sheet away. But I can say the Light Pumice Gel gives the texture that it promises on the tub and it reminds me of fine sand at the beach.

closeup of failed transfer on blue painted background

This next one was a case of handling the piece too much. The initial transfer of a photograph of the author James Baldwin went perfectly – I was thrilled with how it looked over the foil backing. And so, if one transfer was good, more must be better! I wound up having a gummy mess with the different media applied too thickly. I’ve considered sanding down the gummed up areas to see if that will salvage the piece and seeing it again for the post has reinvigorated my will to do that.

failed transfer print of author James Baldwin over gold foil
closeup of a failed transfer of a photograph of author James Baldwin

The birth of John Coltrane, September 23, 1926

JohnColtraneBirth.jpgHeroin, cancer – 
nothing could stop your prayer:
a saint of music. 

Happy Autumn Equinox! I hope everyone is staying safe and sane in these crazy times.  I was looking through the Illustrated Poetry archives and discovered I don’t have a good equinox post, but I do have a past post about John Coltrane’s birthday.  I am one day early – his birthday was September 23, 1926 – but I think that is okay.

From the original post: “The history haiku for today is to honor the birth of the legendary jazz musician John Coltrane (1926 – 1967). He struggled with addiction as a young man, and sadly, his career was cut short by liver cancer at the age of 40, but he had an outsized impact on jazz and music in general. Especially towards the end of his life, he believed his music had a spiritual dimension, one that transcended any particular religion and tended towards a universalism.

John Coltrane has made an appearance on Illustrated Poetry before – in an illustration of the poem In Memoriam John Coltrane by Michael Stillman. I’ve posted it below.”
MemoriamJohnColtrane

being repelling moving apart

three brown ink wash faces with black ink outlines transfer printed words overlay
brown ink wash square with black outline face and word "Being"
closeup of middle ink wash square face with "repelling" transfer printed on top
right hand ink wash square face with "moving apart" transfer printed over

Posting another mini-art experiment that turned out better than I expected – doing some ink washes and drawings before overlaying the transfer print. There is a part of me that feels I should also post some failed experiments – because that is the unvarnished truth: many don’t turn out. These days, because of all the transfer printing I’m doing, the transfer fails completely or pulls off the under-layers or dries really weird.

I think about the highly edited nature of social media and the illusion it gives of perfection – but then the other side of my brain is just so happy when something works that it says “No, but show that one! Blargh on the ones in the recycle bin!” So, just know that the truth is that experiments fail as often as they work (and if we shift to science, please know that 90% or more of experiments in the lab fail) and next week I’ll pluck up some courage to post some failures too!