Monday, September 18, 2017

VESALIUS (2 MONTHS)


Detail of "Vesalius (2 Months)" by Troy's Work Table.

Sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, and charcoal on 12" x 12" concrete board.

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Rest in peace.

MELVILLE: A NOVEL


"In 1849, when Melville returned to America after a short stay in England, he had a strange item in his baggage. It was an embalmed head...but it was his own."
—Opening two lines of Melville: A Novel by Jean Giono

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I am so looking forward to reading this short novel about Herman Melville. I've only read these two opening lines and I am hooked.

Apparently, it started life as a preface to the first French translation of Moby-Dick, but then swam off into what is now this short novel.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

POETRY and the BIBLE

I'm just going to leave this right here for myself—a "syllabus" of sources for an upcoming class I'm teaching.

The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible by Sarah Ruden, especially "Poetry in the Bible: The Living Word of Everything and Nothing."

Poetry, Language, Thought by Martin Heidegger, especially "What Are Poets For?"

The Humiliation of the Word by Jacques Ellul. Page 46. "Poetry needs to be spoken." + "The same process applies to religious writing."

The New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics by Lewis Turco.

The Great Poems of the Bible: A Reader's Companion with New Translations by James L. Kugel, especially "Psalm 23 • And Obscure as That Heaven of the Jews."

Poets on the Psalms, edited by Lynn Domina, especially "Psalm 23" by Catherine Sasanov and "I Shall Not Want: The Twenty-third Psalm Comes to Cleveland, Ohio" by David Citino.

"Psalm XXIII" from Radio Sky by Norman Dubie.

"David singt vor Saul / David Sings Before Saul" from New Poems [1907] by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

POETRY


The July/August (left) and September (right) 2017 issues of Poetry magazine.

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Poetry magazine has been firing on all cylinders lately.

First, the design of the covers for the July/August 2017 and September 2017 issues by Alexander Knowlton and Pentagram is wonderful. I love the different typefaces used for the POETRY lettering on the July/August issue and the minimalist "nested" typeface and color scheme used on the black background of the September issue.

Secondly, the editorial staff of Poetry are seeking out and serving up some of the best contemporary poetry.

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The July/August 2017 issue features Asian American Poets, many of whom I already read and know and many of whom were new to me. The issue opens with Aimee Nezhukumatathil's wonderful "Sea Church" and keeps going strong until it closes with Li-Young Lee's epic "Changing Places in the Fire" and the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's "Culture Lab Manifesto" and accompanying "Culture Lab" images and artwork.

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As of this writing, my favorite poem in the July/August 2017 issue is "On Visiting the Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens" by Khaty Xiong. I see, sense, and hear transformation, fragility, vulnerability, motherhood, a shifting of perspective—and all of it layered and confused and yet somehow concrete.

Listen to these beautiful lines:
As in a fever the boy runs back & does not see / the white morpho the way I must see it: / my personal moon stone-ripe in this foreign corner, / mother as fauna forever — inhuman & gazing.

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My September 2017 issue just arrived in the mail today, so I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'm especially looking forward to poems by Atsuro Riley, Patricia Lockwood, Joy Harjo, and Terrance Hayes.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

CONVERGENCES



On Saturday, August 12, 2017, my friend Dave and I got together for lunch, conversation, and to visit King's Books. While perusing the poetry shelves at King's Books, I stumbled upon Radio Sky by Norman Dubie and Crow by Ted Hughes.

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Years ago, I was working on a series of poems that featured Fox and Crow from the fables of Aesop. Each poem was a "comic strip" of sorts, consisting of three short sections or "panels." Each panel was filled with violence and/or death. Fox, Crow, or both were usually dead by the end. Even if they didn't die there was plenty of mischief.

A friend asked me if I had ever read Crow by Ted Hughes. I had not. At that time, I still didn't. I didn't want any associations of my Crow with that of the Crow of Hughes. I already had Aesop's Crow in my head, as well as my Crow, so I didn't need another.

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But that was then. Now seemed a good time to delve into the tales of this Crow. There was distance from poems long written and released.

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What appears on The Dark Mountain Project blog on Thursday, August 17, 2017? An essay by Mat Osmond about the poems of Ted Hughes and the illustrations of Leonard Baskin as found in Crow. Yes, the very book I had just picked up a few days prior was now the subject of "In Other Tongues: An Underswell of Divination."

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On Sunday, August 20, 2017, I'm having a conversation with my uncle at a family gathering. The talk is of trees and how they communicate with one another. My uncle asks me if I've read The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. I have not, but I have read about the chemical communication of bananas with one antoher as they decay, and I've written a poem about the same. I have also learned recently about research on tomato plants and how they communicate with another through a fibrous fungal network in the soil, which acts as a sort of "internet" or information web for these plants.

As my uncle and I talk, I know that I will be locating a copy of The Hidden Life of Trees and end up reading it.

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My uncle also tells me about his special connection to yew trees. He talks about the amount of DNA that humans share with yew trees. He tells me about the various yew branches he has found throughout Tacoma and how he has been carving those branches. He tells me where yew trees are located in Tacoma and the surrounding communities of Pierce County.

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The next day, Monday, August 21, 2017, I'm on The Dark Mountain Project website again and there is a new post. What is it? Another "In Other Tongues" essay. This time it is "Conjuring Yew Trees and Mountains" by Christos Galanis.

The essay features a couple of people who are able to communicate with yew trees, similar to my uncle's experience.

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These Dark Mountain "echoes" of conversations and experiences I had just prior to their posts remind me of Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler. I'm not sure how these juxtapositions happen sometimes, but they did. I'm learning to be better about recognizing them and accepting them for the gifts that they are.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

OCTOPUS as HARLEQUIN


"Octopus as Harlequin (after Picasso)" by Troy's Work Table.

Sidewalk chalk, charcoal pencil, chalk pastels, acrylic.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

FAUVIST FOREST


"Fauvist Forest" by Troy's Work Table

Sidewalk chalk, charcoal, and chalk pastels on sidewalk in Puyallup's Pioneer Park as part of Art Downtown's "Chalk the Walk."

Friday, August 11, 2017

SERAPH


"Seraph" by Troy's Work Table. A companion to "Shift."


Sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, and charcoal on concrete wall and sidewalk at Frost Park.

Monday, August 07, 2017

PILLAR


"Pillar" by Troy's Work Table.

Sidewalk chalk and charcoal on 12" x 24" concrete board.

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There are three "divine" beings who are "nightmare" "characters" from my childhood. The three of them "haunt" me. It is likely that I have conflated them in my imagination. Or, alternately, they have converged, in some sense, in my inner world.

(The many quotation marks set off beings that are not necessarily equal, but perhaps have provided me equal amounts of terror throughout my life, for various reasons.)

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The first being is the God of the Old Testament. And it is this being that provides the chalk "painting" with its title. I think of the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night, which was leading the Israelites throughout the desert. But the relationship was holy and tense and tentative, the latter mostly because the people lacked the proper faith to trust in this God and his manifestations.

Additionally, I think of the fourth figure in the furnace fire with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. Christians like to get a bit sloppy with the story and insist that it is Jesus made known to the the three men. I like to think that this figure is a manifestation of God, but I don't need this person to be the Word, the Son, the Christ.

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The second being is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos of H. P. Lovecraft's weird fiction, who has "risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries." I think of his thousand manifestations of madness and how he pursued me when I was an impressionable young reader of horror. I see him as the "swarthy, slender, and sinister" man who "looked like a Pharaoh" so that I don't have to imagine his otherworldly, non-Euclidean, extradimensional forms.

But the "human" avatar is plenty nightmarish on its own.

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The third being is Randall Flagg, the dark man of Stephen King's The Stand. I don't watch film or television series versions of Flagg because he is both very concrete in my mind and very fleeting. I see him as King described him: walking the freeway in his "sharp-toed cowboy boots" and "faded, pegged jeans and a denim jacket," the latter adorned with the many buttons he has placed there. I see him as a man of no age, as well as a man with no face. I see him as silhouette, as shadow, as darkness, as void, as abyss.

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There is a piece of me that wonders if Lovecraft was drawing upon Yahweh and other gods of the ancient Middle East for Nyarlathotep. There is a piece of me that wonders if King was drawing upon Nyarlathotep for Flagg.

Even if neither Lovecraft nor King is searching back and echoing what has come before, those echoes and juxtapositions still resonate for me, right or wrong as they may be.

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Which is all a long way of saying that the dark charcoal figure in the pillar of flame above is a mixture-manifestation of those three. I see one as good, one as "neutral-indifferent," and one as evil. Yet they are gathered together and presented as one in some deep place in my dreamscape. They are nightmarish because they are so other, so supernatural, so different.

And each of them has appeared in my life again for different reasons. The first because of a death and having to turn to one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament: (the same) God appearing before the prophet Elijah and giving him his mission. The second because of a couple of stories and poems I'm working on, and the weird fiction that inspires them. The third because of the film version of The Dark Tower being released, which includes Matthew McConaughey as a manifestation of Flagg.

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Then, for whatever reason, I saw the forms of "Fungal Forest" underlying this figure and the chalk piece emerged. It was quick and raw in its creation. And, fortunately, it is now out on concrete and out of my head.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SHIFT


Details of "Shift" by Troy's Work Table.


Art as grief therapy. Art as process. Art as ritual.


Sidewalk chalk, chalk pastels, charcoal, and a spot of motor oil on 13' x 4' "found" concrete.