Heroin, 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.”
To smash the simple atom All mankind was intent. Now any day The atom may Return the compliment.
John Sapiro and I began our email correspondence about this little poem and the history of the atomic age a few months ago, before the early August anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but amidst the early chaos of the pandemic. It seemed almost ridiculous to be talking about yet another threat to worldwide health, peace, and humanity — and yet, it was the mood of the day. I couldn’t find an exact date for Ethel Jacobson’s poem, although it is in a book I have that has a copyright date of 1952. And so our conversation centered mostly around the cold war of the 1950s and 60s but veered around widely. We talked about the physicist Richard Feynman and his “One Sentence” — the sentence he composed that could be left behind to restart all of science and technology in the event of complete cataclysm (i.e. nuclear annihilation).
“…all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.” – Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
I had planned to print Feynman’s entire sentence on my collage, but as I set up the transfer print, it felt wrong. It was too optimistic, too clinical, too exact for what I was feeling. I kept pulling away words and phrases until I was left with this one word; then I was satisfied.
We worked on our pieces in parallel and this is the result! Please stop by his blog (click here!) to see more of his unique combinations and recombinations of music, art, poetry, and video.
Lastly, my tiny paragraph of self-promotion at the end here:
Have doggedly kept up with the writing exercises from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the craft — latest entry (here it is!) is on POV and my very very short story called “The Mountain Lion Killing.” Also, I have an IG, come on over to @merb02 to say hi and see different haiku and monoprints and some desert photography.
Heroin, cancer – nothing could stop your prayer: a saint of music.
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 here on Illustrated Poetry before – in an illustration of the poem In Memoriam John Coltrane by Michael Stillman. I’ve posted it below (or click here to go to the original post from 2014). Have a great weekend!
When I tour the Illustrated Poetry archives, I usually find myself in “revision and update” mode; like with any draft, time gives me fresh eyes to see my old posts. But occasionally I come across a published post and think, “no revision necessary, I would do it exactly that way again.” That is a pretty good feeling (rare as it is!), and so I’d like to re-post one that earned such an accolade.
As I mentioned a year ago, this trim quatrain has become the lasting legacy of poet, activist, and educator Sarah N. Cleghorn (1876 – 1959). She devoted her life to working for numerous causes and published a great deal, but the continued fame of The Golf Links has led her to be most closely associated with the movement to end child labor in the United States. Published over one hundred years ago, this poem feels firmly rooted in the past; however, in many parts of the world child labor is a current and ongoing problem. Perhaps this mighty little poem still has work to do…Photograph and composition by me.
Sung Po-jen’s illustrated book of poetry, Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, was published in 1238 in China, making it the very earliest example of an art book. This masterpiece would have been lost entirely if not for a single copy of the 1261 edition that survived the Mongol conquests. This copy spent the next 600 years passed and sold privately from artist to scholar to collector until its importance was finally recognized in the late 1800’s. Drawing (ink on paper) and composition by me, translation by Red Pine.
Henry Treece was a published poet before World War II, so it is fitting he documented his experience as an intelligence officer in the Royal Air Force (from 1941 – 1946) in poetry as well. He wrote In The Third Year Of War from the center of a conflagration for which he could see no end. We have the benefit of history to know that in ~ 1944 the end of the war was indeed coming, but it does not lessen the despair we feel coming from his poem. After the war Mr. Treece focused on fiction and is primarily remembered today for his historical fiction novels for children. Mixed media collage and composition by me. To read the entire poem, click the “read more” button or scroll down.
The painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) wrote this quatrain on his own sculpture Night, which is one of several masterpieces of his decorating the Medici Tomb in Florence. With most of the popular emphasis on Michelangelo’s sculpture and painting, I often forget that he was also a prolific poet, writing hundreds of sonnets and epigrams. But this short poem particularly struck me because of its self-reflective ekphrastic theme. For a photograph of Night, a different translation of this poem, and an interesting discussion about an attribute of the statue that has, shall we say, attracted attention through the centuries, click here.
I’m continuing my no-erase policy and experimenting with some textured cardboard and paint. This time it meant I wound up with two illustrations! To see the other one scroll down or click the “Read More” button. Poem by Michelangelo Buonarroti, translated by William Wordsworth, painting and composition by me. Have a wonderful weekend! (more…)
It is strange for me to think of William Carlos Williams as being undiscovered or overshadowed: his poetry certainly keeps up with all of the other titans of poetry in every anthology I come across. And yet, during his lifetime, his work was consistently overpowered by his contemporary T.S. Eliot. It would be the Beat poets who would “discover” and elevate him and his work – although the appreciation was apparently not mutual (my thanks to Matt over at Beat.Company for that lead!). I have been strongly drawn to working in collage for WCW poems these last few weeks – collage and composition by me.
Robert Hayden probably knew a thing or two about cold winter mornings, having grown up in Detroit in the early part of last century. He published his first poetry book at 27 and later went on to become the first African-American appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States. You can read the full text of the poem here. Photograph (of Aristide Maillol’s statue Mountain), lettering, and composition by me. Have a good week!
Chances are that a counting-out rhyme is one of the first poems you ever learned by heart – “eeny, meeny, miny, mo…” is the version most common in American English, but there is one in almost every language. It has been hypothesized that this series of nonsense sounds and syllables are the remains of an ancient traditional counting system, mentioned often in connection with shepherds keeping track of sheep, although the hard evidence for this is a bit thin. One of the properties of counting-out rhymes is that they are constantly changing and evolving as a childhood game of selection and chance, so writing them down and fixing them is almost an exercise in futility. The version above is listed as being of Scottish origin, recorded as early as 1891 – although counting-out rhymes as a category are much older than that, perhaps by hundreds of years. For an interesting article on this in The Paris Review, click here. Photograph and composition by me. Have a great weekend!