the ether swirled behind her eyes “It’s a girl,” the midwife said lamplight flickered in the window the new mother smiled, “My daughter will count the stars, call them each by name one by one.”
My history poem today is in honor of the birth of Annie Jump Cannon on December 11, 1863. Ms. Cannon became famous as an astronomer who pioneered the Harvard Classification System for stellar bodies – a system that is still in use today. She was also a pioneer for women at Harvard and in astronomy. She manually classified an astounding 350,000 stars in her lifetime – a number that is still a record. Her career in astronomy lasted more than 40 years and later included numerous honorary doctorate degrees from top universities – often from universities that didn’t admit women in the 1880’s when she was attending college. The Annie Jump Cannon Award is still presented by the American Astronomical Society each year to an outstanding early career female astronomer.
I wish everyone a good weekend – stay safe and healthy out there!
On a street light at the highway 8 interchange an osprey perches
This was one of those transfer prints that didn’t go as planned – as goes so much of life these days – but I have committed to posting the highway haiku, no matter how the transfers turn out, so here it is! I’ve decided that the sparse transfer of the words reflects the oh-so-brief glimpses I’ve gotten of this osprey perched on a highway light. It’s actually the first osprey I’ve seen in the wild here and thankfully they are distinctive and easy to identify, otherwise there’d be no hope for me to say what species of bird it was as I speed around this interchange at 60 mph!
Another unexpected thing that happened this week was that a short creative non-fiction piece I submitted to the Ekphrastic Review was accepted! My thanks to Lorette Luzajic and the editors at the Ekphrastic Review. Head on overHEREto check out my “21 Thoughts on Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans” as well as all the other creative responses to Warhol’s iconic image of a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.
Camille Pissarro Visits Charlotte Amalie for the Last Time
The hills have more houses and there are no more clipper ships the roads curl like smoke from the missing jungle But the sand in the synagogue is the same and my memory of the people the ebony lady with her water jug she still smiles at me descending the hill with her hand on her hip
The impressionist painter Camille Pissarro died this day in 1903 – he is not only famous as an artist in his own right, but he was also known as the “dean of Impressionist painters.” He mentored and inspired almost every Impressionist name you can think of – Cézanne, Gauguin, Renior, Seurat, and van Gogh. But one thing I learned about him for my history poem (I guess if I’m not writing haikus, I shouldn’t call them history haikus anymore!), was that he was born to a Jewish family in Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas, in the Danish West Indies. This is now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. I had always associated Pissarro with France and the French countryside, so it was fascinating to read about his early life and works in the Caribbean. I visited the U.S. Virgin Islands about seven years ago and toured the synagogue in Charlotte Amalie – it is the oldest synagogue in the U.S. and the second oldest in the western hemisphere. One of the most unique features of the building is that the floor inside is overlaid with a thick layer of sand. The reason given on our tour was that the sand is in remembrance of the persecution of Jews during the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal – the sand muffled the sound of worship in secret synagogues.
The post I am working on for Friday to mark the death of Camille Pissarro in 1903 reminded me of this post I did six and half years ago. I took the photograph in the hallway of an old converted house in Cambridge, MA – I was helping a friend of mine move out of the attic apartment. The light was just like that, pouring through a circular window at top of the stairs. Mueller’s poem came almost immediately to mind; this post is still one of my favorite very early ones from my blog. To read Mueller’s whole poem, go here.
On a foggy evening, a black-bristle boar said to the old poet, “In some forests, a rooting pig will find metal shards, more skulls than soil, or – at the last – a thin rusted tube.” The grandfather boar huffed, “Poof! He is a crater in the woods.” He eyed the path over Mal Paso Mountain. “I told you this world is a terrible place.”
Today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. Unfortunately, the name doesn’t roll off the tongue and neither does its U.N. abbreviation – IDPEEWAC – so some calendars call it World Day to Protect the Environment in War. Before looking at the historical events for November 6th, I’d never heard of this observance, but it is a topic that has long interested me. Quite by accident, about 20 years ago, I’d stumbled across and purchased Donovan Webster’s excellent book Aftermath: The Remnants of War at a remainder sale at a local bookstore. His book deals primarily with what war leaves behind: landmines, unexploded ordinance, and mass graves. These remnants leave vast swaths of land around the globe unusable and dangerous for generations – possibly forever, until they are cleared. This does not even touch on such things as intentional water contamination, arson, or deforestation that occur during wars.
My poem was inspired by Robinson Jeffers’ poem “The Stars Go Over the Lonely Ocean.” You can read his poem here at Poetry Magazine (scroll down halfway to find the start of the poem). Jeffers was deeply concerned about environmental destruction as well as a staunch opponent of the U.S. entering WWII. In the 1940’s these were extremely unpopular stances and Jeffers lost friends, public standing, and professional opportunities due to his opinions. Jeffers died in 1962, long before IDPEEWAC was declared in 2001, but I think he might have appreciated a day devoted to the considerable overlap between war and environmental destruction.
A black maw in a blacker sea “your life for my secrets” It said and three boys answered Two stayed with the secrets in the deep One swam and swam and swam a tattered book under his arm.
I’ve been yearning to do some more history inspired haiku, so I finally sat down with a calendar and got to it! The event for today that I chose didn’t wind up inspiring a haiku, but something a little longer.
On October 30, 1942, the German U-boat 559 was fatally damaged in a British naval attack and forced to surface. The surviving German crew abandoned ship – but left behind their naval cypher code books and naval 4-rotor Enigma encryption machine. In a decision that would prove invaluable to the Allies, they also neglected to open the sea vents to scuttle the ship. Three British sailor boarded the floundering U-boat and seized the cryptographic materials: only one, Tommy Brown, made it out alive with the German secrets. Due to lying about his age to enlist, Mr. Brown became one of the youngest men to be awarded the George Medal for bravery.
The materials Mr. Brown rescued from the sinking U-boat would help the cryptologists at Bletchley Park – including Alan Turing, the subject of my post on Wednesday – finally break the U-boat specific 4-rotor Enigma encryption and bolstered Allied defenses in the Atlantic against the devastating U-boat attacks.
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.
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!
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 Californiahere. Painting, acrylic on illustration board, by me. Have a wonderful week!”
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.”