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at Beat Company (you can see the other one here edit Oct 13, 2020 – link broken and removed, sadly, Beat Company is no longer active) to mark the anniversary of Allen Ginsberg’s passing on April 5th, 1997.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.”
dead center in the center of her flowers Georgia O’Keeffe
I was cleaning out a portfolio of old drawings the other day when I stumbled upon the ink lettering I did for a past post on Ann Atwood’s haiku “dead center.” Back then, I wound up using the lettering for an overlay in a digital collage (reposted at the end), but with the perspective of time, I’ve decided I really like the simplicity of the original. So I rescued it from potential recycling and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a “B-side” drawing as well!
At the time of my original post, there was almost no information on Ann Atwood online. Her haiku were listed in numerous anthologies and the poems could be found on the internet, but the poet herself was a mystery. This seems to still be the case, as I found a post (click here) from the Haiku Foundation (featuring my collage – which was another pleasant surprise!) talking about the limited information we do know and calling for anyone with more to get in touch. The post also features many more of Ms. Atwood’s beautiful haiku.
Found a stack of old Thomas Guide Map books in my father’s garage a few years ago and didn’t have the heart to throw them out (or in the recycling). They represent a less intrusive, analog type of way-finding. At least in my family, it was also a rite of passage to receive your first Thomas Guide Map book of Los Angeles County when you got your driver’s license. I fondly remember sitting in the car with high school friends and looking up a street in the massive index and having to note down the page number and grid location (“…okay, La Cienega and Centinela is page 234, G6”). My nostalgia means I now have a stack of outdated Thomas Guides weighing down the bottom of my bookshelf. I figured at least I could try to make some art with them…perfect for a highway haiku!
I went out into the desert to see the NEOWISE comet at the end of July (figured I wouldn’t be around to see it the next time in 5,000 years) and also saw a spectacular show from Jupiter and Saturn. I fell asleep before Mars rose blood red in the sky, but my friend told me about it in the morning. I’ve been thinking about Marvin Bell’s poem and my red monoprint from a couple of years ago ever since. The original post, including a little about Mr. Bell, is here.
I also did some experimentation with my old polaroid camera when I was out in the desert. This is what happens when you try to take a picture of a cactus with only car headlights for illumination:
For reference (and to alleviate the nightmarish quality of the polaroid above!), here is a nearby cactus in the early morning light:
On a side note: I am really terrible at self-promotion, so I have told exactly one other blogger-friend, but I do have an Instagram account! (@merb02 or click here) I admit when I first started on IG, it was basically a repeat of Illustrated Poetry, but from here on out, it will be new and different pieces from what I post here. So if it’s your jam, it would be great to see you on IG too.
A man wheels the plastic cow inside for the night.
True story – the specialty butcher near my house has a life-size plastic cow on wheels that is rolled out when they open and rolled inside at night when they close. The transfer print of the words was, well – let’s just say it was not what I had in mind. But somehow the piece felt complete anyway and so I am releasing it into the wild.
silver + slick legless mannequin a flash on the highway shoulder
Like most residents of Southern California, I spend a fair bit of my time commuting (although the pandemic lockdowns have cut traffic by at least half). My drive to and from work often takes me by the exit for the local landfill and it is not unusual to see items on the highway shoulder that didn’t quite make it there…
I’ve been working with small pieces of paper and doing repeated layers of transfers, glues, and textures. I’m not going for perfection in the transfer – I find it to be a meditation in accepting whatever comes as I pull the backing off.
A comment about the texture of my drawings in my last post (thank you, Jilanne!), sent me in search of more “textured” ink drawings I’ve done. I found this one in the archive and so it’s back! By the end of his life, E.E. Cummings’ political views had tracked radically rightward. This has always been out of step with his avant-garde image as a poet – even when he was alive – and his political poetry has not had the lasting popular appeal of his love poems. But this two-liner of his is pretty priceless. While I stridently disagree with his politics, I choose to pluck this political poem out of obscurity; it has a universal feel about it and a sentiment most everyone has shared.
When I dug the drawing out to scan it again, I made the discovery of a B-side I had completely forgotten about! It goes with the texture theme of this week so here it is:
I first posted the Cummings-inspired drawing in early 2016: the original post is here. Have a great (and safe) weekend!
About two weeks ago, my grandmother passed away of natural causes (not Covid-related) at 102 years old. Her funeral was held last week amongst continuing coronavirus restrictions and the pastor noted that she was born during one pandemic (the 1918 Spanish Flu) and died during another – but that this isn’t what defines her, or anyone’s life.
Since she died, I keep coming back to this poem by Carol Muske-Dukes – maybe because my grandmother lingered in a semi-conscious state for almost a week before she died, maybe because it describes so accurately how we didn’t know how to let her go. I had done this drawing as a response to the poem 4 years ago – and when I went back and looked at it last week, it felt unfinished. Now that I had a face to go with the poem, I added the details and shadows it needed. I also added the final words of the poem onto the drawing directly, to fix them there permanently.
If you’d like to read the whole poem, which was part of a series of art-poem collaborations at The New York Times Style Magazine, you can go here.