Friday, April 06, 2012
Program: Visual Inverse : Board of the Plymouth Guild
Program: Visual Inverse
Pairing of poetry and Art
Board of the Plymouth Guild
15 Poets interpret
15 pieces of visual art
Program Design: Terry Kole
And Jack Scully
Plymouth Center for the Arts www.plymouthguild.org
Review by Dennis Daly
Homer, the poet, conjured up with his verbal art an impossible description of Achilles’ Shield, as created by Vulcan, the visual artist, in Book 18 of The Iliad. Here is a description of characters on a panel of the shield from the translation of Alexander Pope,
Along the Street the new-made Brides are led,
With Torches flaming, to the nuptial Bed;
The Youthful Dancers in a Circle bound
To the soft Flute, and Cittern’s silver Sound:
Thro the fair Streets, the Matrons in a Row,
Stand in their Porches, and enjoy the Show.
This unbroken tradition of ekphrasis continues to this day yielding astonishing insights of one art form by the creation of another. Recently a show entitled Visual Inverse, a Pairing of Poetry and Art was held at the Plymouth Center for the Arts in Plymouth Massachusetts. A large number of lucky attendees
viewed the live performances. I and others (not so lucky, or in my case, not so smart) had to wait for this magnificent program to circulate.
Mike Amado, who died in 2008 and is the inspiration for the successful poetry venue, Poetry: The Art of Words, begins the collection with his poem, Spring Beyond the Door, which matches up with the colored photograph, “The Other Side of Winter” by Barbara Barker. His poem is traditionally descriptive, subtle and true to the photograph. Here are my favorite lines,
inches its way down the house,
roof tiles to the shingles.
icicles cage in the porch
It brings to my mind Boris Pasternak’s ice house, the lovers’ hideout, in Doctor Zhivago by way of David Lean’s movie interpretation.
Louisa Clerici’s poetic study of Jill Voelker’s drawing, “Pow Wow—One Who Sees Vision,” is a model of aesthetic empathy. Clerici’s piece almost mirrors the dense texture of Voelker’s work. The poem moves from finger painting gods to druid magic, elves, and wizards. Clerici navigates through this wondrous world with unusual adeptness, leaving us with the delightful image of the poet’s words pouring onto her page.
Violent confrontation is the technique of choice used by an unblinking Reggie Gibson in his aggressive take on the oil painting, “Southeast Ridge” by Gretchen Moran. Gibson sees teeth and vermin and razor wire and a heat swollen sky in this expressionistic painting. But Gibson also sees healing here and a hum as soft and spiritual as a prayer, and I do too.
Poet Elizabeth Hanson discovers the essence of a perfect leaf in Bill Brissette’s color photograph, “Fallen Leaf.” Hansen’s touching poem inhabits her dream-life and the leaf fallen is a gift like no other, coming directly from the gods.
Charles Harper also taps into his dream life in order to make verbal sense of Ben Pohl’s acrylic painting, “You Live Inside Their Ideas.” Like the patriarch Jacob, Harper wrestles with the incomprehensible and reaches out toward the texture of a cave wall.
In an interesting approach Lawrence Kessenich’s poem, Brief Vacation, translates Greg Kullberg’s” Block Island Wave” by way of other senses: odor and touch. Kessenich smells the memory inducing brine as
his hands submerge in dishwater. In his mind’s eye children breast the cold surf, whales spout, and sandpipers motor up the sand. All this from a inland distance, and a gifted poet.
“Arianna,” a striking oil painting by Edwina Caci, offers a formidable challenge because of its singular level of excellence. Irene Koronas, with her poem Girl, Wearing A Hat, is up to it. Koronas intersperses her spot on descriptive passages with an impressionistic study, giving the child movement and filling her out with the poet’s own hopes and desires,
…she bends to pick pebbles growing under her…
…on golden horizon her simple reply, mute, oval face
without the lace beside a tea cup…
Thomas Libby’s poem Ovaphobia takes inspiration from Kathleen Mullins Mogayzel’s drawing, “Robin Quartet” and runs with it. He writes a poem on the need for human gentleness using the provided egg metaphor. He deems gentleness essential not just for our persons, but for our posterity.
The black and white photograph, Vuitton, by Richard Mulcahy portrays a large fashion poster on a narrow brick street. Gloria Mindock, in her poem Entrapment, imagines the photograph coming alive and details some profound humor-filled aspects. Mindock speculates that the woman has no teeth and that the young woman’s comely legs might be weaponized and used to trip passersbys. A question then arises. Is the beautiful woman portrayed on the poster from a Fellini movie or a Woody Allen one?
Like an alchemist Tomas O’Leary’s poem Red Rose Tea transmutes the precious reflections in Kathy Ferrara’s watercolor of the same name into verbal gold. O’Leary’s poem becomes the internal conversation of a very astute art critic. His lines in turn crackle with wit and sparkle like crystal. I like these especially,
The ghostly ewer they’d coveted and bought
When Lady Grey’s estate went on the block.
See how the great-eared ewer’s belly holds
Spectral reduction of the teascape,
Doily to vase to solitary tea cup.
Miriam O’Neal’s relates the rules of dream-life in her poem, In case you are wondering, which interprets Terry Kole’s acrylic, pen and ink piece entitled “A Whole New World.” The drawing captures you in a fable and the poem delivers surprising insight. Consider this,
Dreams talk to one another all day
A good dream will never interrupt a nightmare.
Rene Schwiesow’s poem, Shades, fleshes out Ivy Francis’ color photograph “Missing You” with gut wrenching sadness. Schwiesow writes a love poem/ meditation on death set in winter on the ocean shore as affecting as any I’ve read in years. The starkness and the cold permeate through you as you breathe in this piece. She infuses her poem with classical images of shades and coins and, of course, the ferryman. This is really well done.
The fact that Linda Vopat’s oil painting of intersecting colored fields offers no clue as to its source and is titled “untitled” doesn’t stop poet Bert Stern for a second. His poem, Plymouth Art Show, begins wonderfully,
To each her own harbor, his meadow or hill,
this ancient oak, these fish, butterflies, sun-
rise or sunset- each scene born out of
Stern seems to be riding these colors, testing borders, and playing in the texture. His internalized aesthetics hint at the deeply spiritual while continuing to frolic. This poet loves what he does.
Susan Cook Thanas meditates on Amelia Earharts biography in her poem Amelia. She seems to use Edwina Caci’s oil painting called “Amelia Earhart” to charge up. Awe and admiration then carry her through this delightful mini-portrait.
The poem, Boat in Sea Grass After Fishing, by Sheila Twyman attaches a way of life to the color photograph “Skiff on Seagrass” offered by D. Peter Collins. The fisherman in the poem admires the cagyness of the bluefish he is unable to catch. His line is drifting with the tide, but that is not important. He is listening to a symphony of color. And, more importantly, his home awaits his return with his wife, Elsie, whom he loves.
In alated ’12 the poet Miriam Walsh transforms herself into her subject. The watercolor, “Dragon Fly Lady,” by Pat Bianco weaves this magic,
I swim, I sleep, I dream.
nourishing myself upon the black
until upon a lotus root I alight,
rising from it own dark seed.
Walsh then dreams of procreation and a “womb surfaces into the sky” and offers the art of a new creation. A fragile piece, but astounding.
I’m told that the Plymouth Center for the Arts intends to host a redo of this event sometime in the future. If you have any creative spark in your soul, go. You’ll not regret it.