American Art – Part I of V: Ken Goldman
A Poem for Today
“Measuring the Distance to Oklahoma”
By Laura Da’
Driving past Vantage:
damp sign proclaiming ginkgo fossils
and iron sculpture of wild horses on the ridge.
At the turn of the last century,
Cayuse ponies were bred with European draft horses.
A leaner, tougher work animal for the logging fields.
Trumpeter swans stitch
the sallow slab of sky.
Two birds swap point position
to cut the air’s polarity.
Path that pulls the taste
of mixed blood into my mouth.
and I am three weeks pregnant. I drive
and the Columbia loosens
my dad’s easy silence.
He talks about his grandfather:
star musician of the Haskell Indian School Marching Band,
telegraph operator, rodeo cowboy?
Tracking his family across
three states to hunt for big game
dead within a week of my birth;
I am told
he looked at a Polaroid
and proclaimed me an angry little Indian.
Late August in a post-depression labor camp
in the Mojave desert.
My dad was born; he might have been premature,
covered with dark hair and sick enough to die?
Terraced sun shower wading through the cloudbank.
Recollection becomes embrace?
At twenty-nine weeks,
the doctor’s chart advises me—
my child is two and a half pounds, like a Chinese cabbage.
Blinking heavy eyes and fluttering his newly formed lashes.
My hair still damp from swimming laps.
severe headaches, excessive nausea, a change in reflexes.
Feel of the doctor’s hand pushing me back onto the table.
In the hospital, I ask for books.
Posters from old rodeos.
A photo of a Mimbres pot
from southern New Mexico
black and white line figures—
a woman dusting corn pollen over a baby’s head
during a naming ceremony.
with the skins incised with hymns and verses
as a portent against death in childbirth.
injected daily and nightly
in a slow abdominal arc
incising my skin
like a creation spiral; my hope apple.
Say splitting the rails of the body
to lay down a fence
between harm and one’s young.
Terraced sun shower wading through the cloudbank.
My son at ten months
staring calmly at morning stars
during his naming.
The faint trail of corn pollen suspended
in his fine, dark hair.
The Pulitzer Prize – I of V: Edna Ferber
“A closed mind is a dying mind.” – Edna Ferber, American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and recipient of the 1925 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (for “So Big”), who died 16 April 1968.
Some quotes from the work of Edna Ferber:
“Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle.”
“Big doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sunflowers aren’t better than violets.”
“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.”
“I never go to weddings. Waste of time. Person can get married a dozen times. Lots of folks do. Family like ours, know everybody in the state of Texas and around outside, why, you could spend your life going to weddings. But a funeral, that’s different. You only die once.”
“Whoever said love conquers all was a fool. Because almost everything conquers love – or tries to.”
“Any piece of furniture, I don’t care how beautiful it is, has got to be lived with, and kicked about, and rubbed down, and mistreated…and repolished, and knocked around and dusted and sat on or slept in or eaten off of before it develops its real character.”
“Some day I’ll probably marry a horny-handed son of a toil, and if I do it’ll be the horny hands that will win me. If you want to know, I like ’em with their scars on them. There’s something about a man who has fought for it – I don’t know what it is – a look in his eye – the feel of his hand. He needn’t have been successful – thought he probably would be. I don’t know. I’m not very good at this analysis stuff. I know he – well, you haven’t a mark on you. Not a mark. You quit being an architect, or whatever it was, because architecture was an uphill disheartening job at the time. I don’t say that you should have kept on. For all I know you were a bum architect. But if you had kept on – if you had loved it enough to keep on – fighting, and struggling, and sticking it out – why, that fight would show in your face to-day – in your eyes and your jaw and your hands and in your way of standing and walking and sitting and talking. Listen. I’m not critcizing you. But you’re all smooth. I like ’em bumpy.”
“Then there were long, lazy summer afternoons when there was nothing to do but read. And dream. And watch the town go by to supper. I think that is why our great men and women so often have sprung from small towns, or villages. They have had time to dream in their adolescence. No cars to catch, no matinees, no city streets, none of the teeming, empty, energy-consuming occupations of the city child. Little that is competitive, much that is unconsciously absorbed at the most impressionable period, long evenings for reading, long afternoons in the fields or woods.”
Fancies in Springtime: Brian Switek
“Even now, the world’s metamorphosis continues. It’s at a rate that’s practically impossible to detect with our own eyes, but it’s happening. The scale of a human life – measured by the speed of Internet updates or the crawl of a working day – is ill suited to fit the dynamic nature of our planet and the fantastic organisms that continue to evolve here.”
A Second Poem for Today
By Dick Allen
I’ve always worried about you—the man or woman
at the piano bench,
night after night receiving only such applause
as the singer allows: ‘a warm hand please,
for my accompanist.’ At concerts,
as I watch your fingers on the keys,
and how swiftly, how excellently
you turn sheet music pages,
track the singer’s notes, cover the singer’s flaws,
I worry about whole lifetimes,
lived in the shadows of reflected fame;
but then the singer’s voice dies
and there are just your last piano notes,
not resentful at all,
carrying us to the end, into those heartfelt cheers
that spring up in little patches from a thrilled audience
like sudden wildflowers bobbing in a rain
of steady clapping. And I’m on my feet, also,
clapping and cheering for the singer, yes,
but, I think, partially likewise for you
half-turned toward us, balanced on your black bench,
modest, utterly well-rehearsed,
still playing the part you’ve made yours.
The Pulitzer Prize – Part II of V: Sam Shepard
16 April 1979 – Sam Shepard wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Buried Child.”
“You can’t force a thing to grow. You can’t interfere with it. It’s all hidden. It’s all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong enough. Strong enough to break the earth even. It’s a miracle.” – from “Buried Child”
American Art – Part II of V: D. J. Hall
Fancies in Springtime: Barry Lopez
16 April 1984 – Mary Oliver wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for “American Primitive.”
“In Blackwater Woods”
Look, the trees
their own bodies
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
the long tapers
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
A Third Poem for Today
“The Old Liberators”
By Robert Hedin
Of all the people in the mornings at the mall,
it’s the old liberators I like best,
those veterans of the Bulge, Anzio, or Monte Cassino
I see lost in Automotive or back in Home Repair,
bored among the paints and power tools.
Or the really old ones, the ones who are going fast,
who keep dozing off in the little orchards
of shade under the distant skylights.
All around, from one bright rack to another,
their wives stride big as generals,
their handbags bulging like ripe fruit.
They are almost all gone now,
and with them they are taking the flak
and fire storms, the names of the old bombing runs.
Each day a little more of their memory goes out,
darkens the way a house darkens,
its rooms quietly filling with evening,
until nothing but the wind lifts the lace curtains,
the wind bearing through the empty rooms
the rich far off scent of gardens
where just now, this morning,
light is falling on the wild philodendrons.
Fancies in Springtime: Neil deGrasse Tyson
“We embark on this quest not from a simple desire, but from a mandate of our species to search for our place in the cosmos. The quest is old, not new. And has garnered the attention of thinkers great and small, across time and across culture. What we have discovered, the poets have known all along.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part IV of V: Peter Taylor
16 April 1987 – Peter Taylor wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Summons to Memphis.”
“I had relived all the wrongs done me by my father, even those he had unwittingly done and those he had done merely in order to enable himself to go ahead with his own life. …I knew that after first protecting Father from my sisters, I must then convert the two middle-aged women to my own views on forgetting wrongs done them by their parents. …Our prerogative was to forget the wrongs done us in our youth and childhood, in order to know ourselves truly grown up. My new insight seemed a great light casting its rays everywhere.” – from “Summons to Memphis”
American Art – Part III of V: Linda Christensen
Here is one critic describing the artistry of painter Linda Christensen: “Since the early 1990s, Linda Christensen has chosen to depict female figures in transitions of movement and repose. Developing her own personal language over years of influence from the Bay Area Abstract and Figurative traditions, Christensen has confidently refined her own inner vision to reach a place of clarity and national significance with her painting.”
Fancies in Springtime: Ali Benjamin
“There are so many things to be scared of in this world: blooms of jellies. A sixth extinction. A middle school dance. But maybe we can stop feeling so afraid. Maybe instead of feeling like a mote of dust, we can remember that all the creatures on this earth are made from stardust.
And we are the only ones who get to know it.”
The Pulitzer Prize – Part V of V: August Wilson
16 April 1987 – August Wilson wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Fences.”
“Don’t you think I ever wanted other things? Don’t you think I had dreams and hopes? What about my life? What about me. Don’t you think it ever crossed my mind to want to know other men? That I wanted to lay up somewhere and forget about my responsibilities? That I wanted someone to make me laugh so I could feel good? You not the only one who’s got wants and needs. But I held on to you, Troy. I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams…and I buried them inside you. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom.” – from “Fences”
British Art – Part I of II: Patrick Palmer
Artist Statement: “Whilst an element of realism is important, I try to move beyond artistic convention and avoid an image that is too predictable. Realism is not enough – what you take away and what you add to what you see are what transform a picture into art.
I believe that the viewer wants to see a degree of draughtsmanship from an artist but they deserve more than this. I aspire to make my pictures to touch people personally and to be considered works of beauty.”
Fancies in Springtime: Ansel Adams
“Along the coast the sea roars, and inland the mountains roar – the roaring at the center, like a distant clap of thunder.” – Kawabata Yasunari, Japanese novelist, short story writer, and recipient of the 1968 Nobel Prize for Literature “for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind,” who died 16 April 1972.
Kawabata Yasunari titled his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech “Japan, The Beautiful, and Myself,” and it is a concise elaboration of Japanese culture, aesthetics, and artistry – at least in their aristocratic expressions.
Fancies in Springtime: K.L. Toth
British Art – Part II of II: Agnes Toth
Artist Statement: “Dichotomy is the main feature of my practice; my work is equally precise and detailed, but also fractured, unfinished and deconstructed. A type of manipulation, where the painting is abstract and realistic at the same time. My aim is to be able to create anything within the framework of painting, to find a path where there are no constrains and limitations in terms of representation.
In my paintings appearance of the contrast between existing and invisible is linked to the conceptual matters of nature, existence and human cognition. The standard set of rules are dissolved by the fragments and the partial forms, layers. The shapes develop organically, as observed in nature.
My area of research is slow processes, private spaces, human behaviour, existence, incompleteness, reconstruction, fragmentation, reinterpretation and denial.”
From the American History Archives – Part I of II: Wilbur Wright
“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air.” – Wilbur Wright, American inventor, aviation pioneer, and, with his brother Orville, credited with building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, who was born 16 April 1867.
American Art – Part IV of V: Lovell Birge Harrison
“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” – Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent movie era, who was born 16 April 1889.
Some quotes from the work of Charlie Chaplin:
“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.”
“A man’s true character comes out when he’s drunk.”
“I don’t believe that the public knows what it wants; this is the conclusion that I have drawn from my career.”
“To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!”
“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”
“Life could be wonderful if people would leave you alone.”
“I do not have much patience with a thing of beauty that must be explained to be understood. If it does need additional interpretation by someone other than the creator, then I question whether it has fulfilled its purpose.”
“We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery.”
“Man as an individual is a genius. But men in the mass form the headless monster, a great, brutish idiot that goes where prodded.”
“What do you want a meaning for? Life is a desire, not a meaning.”
“I thought I would dress in baggy pants, big shoes, a cane and a derby hat -everything a contradiction: the pants baggy, the coat tight, the hat small and the shoes large.”
“All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.”
“Despair is a narcotic. It lulls the mind into indifference.”
“In the end, everything is a gag.”
Fancies in Springtime: Wallace Stevens
A Fourth Poem for Today
By John Maloney
They’re heading home with their lights on, dust and wood glue,
yellow dome lights on their metallic long beds: 250s, 2500s—
as much overtime as you want, deadline, dotted line, dazed
through the last few hours, dried primer on their knuckles,
sawdust calf-high on their jeans, scraped boots, the rough
plumbing and electric in, way ahead of the game except for
the check, such a clutter of cans and iced-tea bottles, napkins,
coffee cups, paper plates on the front seat floor with cords
and saws, tired above the eyes, back of the beyond, thirsty.
There’s a parade of them through the two-lane highways,
proudest on their way home, the first turn out of the jobsite,
the first song with the belt off, pure breath of being alone
for now, for now the insight of a full and answerable man.
No one can take away the contentment of the first few miles
and they know they can’t describe it, the black and purple sky.
“The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” – Anatole France, French poet, journalist, novelist, and recipient of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Literature “in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament,” who was born 16 April 1844.
Some quotes from the work of Anatole France:
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
“Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.”
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.
“To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.”
“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.”
“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of the mind for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards.”
“We have never heard the devil’s side of the story, God wrote all the book.”
“If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”
“Of all sexual aberrations, chastity is the strangest.”
“Stupidity is far more dangerous than evil, for evil takes a break from time to time, stupidity does not.”
“It is human nature to think wisely and act in an absurd fashion.”
“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.”
“Time deals gently only with those who take it gently.”
“A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance.”
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”
“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.”
“The books that everybody admires are those that nobody reads.”
“If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.”
“The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.”
Fancies in Springtime: John Steinbeck
“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like — how people looked and walked and smelled even. The memory of odors is very rich.”
From the American History Archives Part II of II: Natural Bridges National Monument
16 April 1908 – President Theodore Roosevelt signs a bill establishing Natural Bridges National Monument.
Fancies in Springtime: Haruki Murakami
“Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, as an individual human being, is slowly being unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one’s own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the physical self. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, and cut it’s way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.”
A Fifth Poem for Today
By James Lenfestey
A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.
Fancies in Springtime: Amit Ray
“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, French political thinker, historian, and author of “Democracy in America,” who died 16 April 1859:
In addition to “Democracy in America,” students of American history and cultural character should also read “Tocqueville on America after 1840: Letters and Other Writings,” edited and translated by Aurelian Craiutu and Jeremy Jennings. In the words of one critic, “The book points out a clear shift in emphasis especially after 1852 and documents Tocqueville’s growing disenchantment with America, triggered by such issues as political corruption, slavery, expansionism, and the encroachment of the economic sphere upon the political.”
Some quotes from the work of Alexis de Tocqueville:
“There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult – to begin a war and to end it.”
“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”
“As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?
“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
“Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”
“When the taste for physical gratifications among them has grown more rapidly than their education . . . the time will come when men are carried away and lose all self-restraint . . . .It is not necessary to do violence to such a people in order to strip them of the rights they enjoy; they themselves willingly loosen their hold. . . .they neglect their chief business which is to remain their own masters.”
“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”
“It is indeed difficult to imagine how men who have entirely renounced the habit of managing their own affairs could be successful in choosing those who ought to lead them. It is impossible to believe that a liberal, energetic, and wise government can ever emerge from the ballots of a nation of servants.”
“History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.”
“I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.”
Back from the Territory – Art: Rie Munoz (Part III)
Artist Statement: “My artwork can best be described as expressionism. The term applies to work that rejects camera snapshot realism, and instead, expresses emotion by distortion and strong colors. My paintings reflect an interest in the day-to-day activities of Alaskans such as fishing, berry picking, children at play, crabbing, and whaling. I am also fascinated with the legends of Alaska’s Native people. While I find much to paint around Juneau, most of my material comes from sketching trips taken to the far corners of Alaska. I’ve taught school on King Island in the Bering Sea, traveled and sketched almost every community in Alaska.”
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
Fancies in Springtime: Lawrence Durrell
“It is a pity indeed to travel and not get this essential sense of landscape values. You do not need a sixth sense for it. It is there if you just close your eyes and breathe softly through your nose; you will hear the whispered message, for all landscapes ask the same question in the same whisper. ‘I am watching you — are you watching yourself in me?’ Most travelers hurry too much…the great thing is to try and travel with the eyes of the spirit wide open, and not to much factual information. To tune in, without reverence, idly — but with real inward attention. It is to be had for the feeling…you can extract the essence of a place once you know how. If you just get as still as a needle, you’ll be there.”
By Don Lechay
We never saw the ghost, though he was there—
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn’t care.
Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,
if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn’t care
to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there
in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn’t care,
Fancies in Springtime: Rebecca Solnit
“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity — culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.”
American Art – Part V of V: Julie Warren
In the words of one writer, Julie Warren graduated from Michigan State University with a BFA. She is a painter, printmaker, photographer, and graphic designer.”