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 My nostalgia means I now have a stack of outdated Thomas Guides weighing down the bottom of my bookshelf.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.
Since Monday’s post had a science themed collage for Phil’s Kick-About Number #4, I visited the archive to see about another science themed collage. I came across this one, for a William Carlos William’s poem. I laughed because I got the background image for this one – you can see the “heat” and “cold” peaking out from the lady’s shoulder – from the same source as the center image in “Mirror Neurons.” It was a science textbook from the early 60’s I got for free out of the discard pile at the library. The science in it was outdated and often overtly sexist and racist – so I cut out the best of the illustrations and art and consigned the rest to the dustbin of history.
The entirety of the poem is posted after the read more tag, along with the text of the original post and a link (which is still good, I checked) to an online archive of Williams reading his own poems.
After Tuesday’s polaroid eye doodle post, I went back into the archives to find another eye to go with it for today – and I found this collage I did for the poem “Science” by Robinson Jeffers. This is actually a revision of one of my very first posts, and I still like this revised collage better (if you’d like to compare, the original collage is below the read more tag). This one is more focused and captures the mystery I was going for better.
A little bit more about Mr. Jeffers, from the original text of my post:
“I had several science related writing deadlines this last weekend and during a bout of procrastination, I decided to revisit my illustration for the excellent and mysterious poem “Science” by Robinson Jeffers. I found I was still happy with my collage (which is not always a given when revisiting an illustration!), but decided to change the field of view in order to cast a more ethereal mood. If you’d like to see the original post with the full collage, head right over here. Mr. Jeffers led a very colorful and extremely successful poetic life – he is one of the few poets to have been on the cover of Time magazine and his face was featured posthumously on a postage stamp. The sharp decline of his popular legacy is often tied to his staunch open opposition to WWII and other viewpoints considered unpatriotic at the time. Mr. Jeffers spent most of his life in Carmel, California, and built his home and a four story tower by hand out of stone. Read the full text of “Science” here.”
I posted this originally in August 2015 and that definitely feels like more than 5 years ago! Continuing on the theme of surreal this week, these surrealist proverbs were published in 1925. Both men survived the horrors of WW1 – Paul Éluard worked at a military hospital for much of the war, where he was assigned to write letters to dead soldier’s families. He wrote up to 150 per day.
The text of my original post is below. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!
My recent “return” post about being in the desert brought this piece I did a few years ago to mind. I checked again today and didn’t find any additional information about Mr. Orr aside from a few references in contemporary books to the poem and nothing after 1920. A mystery he remains. The original text of my post is below.