Hymns unsung, prayers unsaid,
I sat by the window and prayed
for forgiveness one more time;
one more time I begged.
Holding the cup of coffee in my hand,
I hoped the warmth would fill me
where your words had left me cold,
but I knew nothing could do that--
fire can burn for hours and be unfelt.
Hymns unsung, prayers unsaid,
I lay down on the empty bed, pulling
the blanket across my cheek, turning
from the window, from the sky
and the sun, praying
for some rest.
Mary Kendall lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her current work and publications can be found on her writing blog, A Poet in Time (www.apoetintime.com). She is the author of a chapbook, Erasing the Doubt (2015) and co-author of A Giving Garden (2009).
In Cézanne’s Les Grandes Baigneuses
flesh once again sings itself solid
where a sapphire river
mates with the hearing eye
Titian Tintoretto Rubens
rise again in oils
from Impressionism’s shimmer:
trees vaulting over flesh’s density
(as Baudelaire sang)
rendering poetry and painting
semblances and frères
After seven years’ labour
he leaves the work
This work is a segment of a book-length sequence of poems on Paul Cézanne to be published by Quattro Books in Toronto in Oct. 2016.
Susan McCaslin is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry and nine chapbooks. She completed her Ph.D. at UBC in 1984 and taught at Douglas College in B.C. in the English and Creative Writing Departments for twenty-three years. Most recently, Susan has published a memoir, Into the Mystic: My Years with Olga (Toronto: Inanna Press, 2014), a spiritual autobiography exploring the sixteen-years she spent as a young woman learning from Olga Park, an elderly mystic from Port Moody, British Columbia. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Disarmed Heart (Toronto: The St. Thomas Poetry Series, 2014), explores the roots of violence and peace-making in the individual, the community, and the world. Her previous volume, Demeter Goes Skydiving (2012), was short-listed for the BC Book Prize (Dorothy Livesay Award) and the first-place winner of the Alberta Book Publishing Award (Robert Kroetsch Poetry Book Award) in 2012.
I can't stop talking about mother,
for example. The way stray dogs
turn her eyes into a pool of fear,
and how at the doctor's, she reads
aloud without getting it right.
Probably fear is a text that you learn
to read better with each passing attempt.
It's like a river turning into a flood,
lonely in its seizure when amputee bridges
and wrecked boats lead nowhere
like allies in a losing battle – starvation is
a river without boys diving in summer.
And when it grows big, remember the
old man out on the sea, the sun hiding
at the tip of his harpoon, and all he tries
to read is the fear in his own eyes, as the
receding shoal of fish turn into
a station - one designed only for departures.
Aditya Shankar is an Indian English poet and flash fiction writer living in Bangalore. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Dead Snakes, Synchronized Chaos, 101 words, Hour After Happy Hour Review, CC&D, ‘Purrfect’ Poetry, Beakful, Shot Glass Journal, Earthborne, Terracotta Typewriter, and Eastern Voices anthology, among others. He is the author of a poetry chapbook ‘After Seeing’ (2006) and a poetry collection ‘Party Poopers’ (2014).
Critic Irving Sander wasn’t initially interested in art. But he happened upon a Franz Kline painting and couldn’t get it out of his mind.
Upon reflecting on how art provoked such profound and intense emotional responses, he concluded that art, in a way, “has magical powers, like a fetish, icon, or reliquary…The art object can literally bewitch the viewer. Casting a spell, it can transform him or her- that is, summon up a fresh perception of art, life and the world, and even cause the viewer to feel, think, imagine, and act in new ways…”
I too am bewitched by the captivating, mythical, mesmerizing effects of art. Indeed, this is exactly the reason I obsessively comb the Internet, pore over my library of art books, and scour galleries and museums. I got hooked on that magic.
Some art is a visceral, albeit, cheap thrill, and its rush fades fast. Other art lingers, coming up time to time in the unconscious like a spectre rising over submersion, calling like a loon over a deep lake and flashing silver light into your own dark waters.
The work of Ali Rashid seems to transcend still all of this. With a few sprinkled colours dancing on a monochromatic backdrop, the paintings might be pleasant but unassuming abstractions, perfectly decorative. But instead, somehow, they conjure Babylonian tablets and secret codes; symbology systems, ancient records and desert topographies. As if over millennia, there are wear marks and peeling textures and scratches that suggest mythologies older than time itself.
But what are they?
“Some years ago I visited a small island near the coast of Syria and there I saw walls that were, so to speak, talking to me,” wrote Wouter Welling on Rashid’s webpage. “Children had painted their own hands as signs of protection on the walls. The paintings of Ali Rashid reminded me of those walls filled with vivid signs. One doesn’t have to be able to read the signs to feel that they are bearers of meaning.”
Indeed, Rashid was born in Iraq, where the mists of time cloak the earliest human writings we know of, cuneiform code systems from Sumer.
Welling recounts Rashid telling him how his work began. Living under the savage dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and a soldier in the war against Iran, Rashid was writing in his notebook when he realized his words could put his life in danger. So he began drawing over the text, “in the process of course making the text unreadable. Layer upon layer he created later on paintings like a palimpsest, a way of adding time to the essence of the work. Rashid developed a poetic use of signs which relates him to artists such as Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró.”
“Ali's drawings are a shocking memorial to the atrocities which took place,” says writer T.J. Bruder for Underground Magazine. Rashid spent ten years in hell, a pawn of two cruel dictators. Sending artists like Rashid to fight for him was a win-win for Saddam- it put numbers on his side, but if they died, that was also victory, since freethinkers were of no use to the Ba’ath regime.
Bruder says Rashid began writing every day, poetry that documented all that he witnessed.
But, “His black and white drawings of horror were laced with poems which were abstract lines to everyone but him. Ali had come up with his own secret code, protecting him from the authorities' continuous spot checks and searches…”
This was an ingenious way of passing time, preserving history, and avoiding torture and death after controls and checkpoints. “He was now able to tell the authorities that the funny writing was just abstract creative technique, nothing else. In actuality, though, they represented his outcries of pain having to fight a cruel war…”
Ultimately, Rashid moved to the west, to the Netherlands, into safety and freedom, where he continues to create his spellbinding art. While I look through, appreciate, and forget an endless parade of paintings, Rashid’s stay with me and I return to them again and again.
I don’t feel the need to decipher them in any conscious way, and I don’t think we are meant to. The mark makings do feel like the walls of caves, whose textures are inscribed with ancient invocations from across millennia. They are transformed, however, by pure modernism, invoking and alluding to history but remaining a creative and spiritual invention of the present.
So many artists, myself included, find their practice essential to their survival. We often say, “I do it because I have to.” Perhaps Rashid’s work embodies this concept more literally than we will ever experience ourselves. As such, his intriguing abstract art is not just symbolic of redemption, but a record of it.
Lorette C. Luzajic
This essay is from Lorette C. Luzajic's Truck, a collection of art writings, and will also be included in artist Ali Rashid's forthcoming book.
something else unless means
they said not all who wander are lost,
but i'm lost, and you're lost.
the sidewalk cracks,
the moths at the lamps, and the scraps
of old showposter buried in the phonepole,
and if i never did say i love you,
i just forgot which one of us i was.
maybe we could make a bonfire tonight,
watch the shapes of our problems twist
like tv channels in the smoke.
i could meet you somewhere,
i could meet you
if you're not here now.
that firepit we found under the trestle
with claystone slabs pushed all together,
cupping the heat til the edges glow
like sleepy incense cones.
you dropped empty cans in the embers
and they curled like onionskin,
golds and rusty blues dispersing
to chalk mandalas through
carved in the slabside
like a cat's halfdisintegrated bones.
that firepit in the abandoned fieldlot
with a rotted backhoe tilted half
into the earth,
the way crumpled
papers never catch,
there's so much dew,
so you just sit there in your trampled wheat,
sit round a broken-banded headlamp
while ufo ghosts flick at the horizon
like dusty ocarina notes.
it's the way
old shroom trips remember themselves
inside your blood, in the negative space
between your nerves.
where the mist touches your skin.
sitting lost with the tall ferns
curling away from their colours in the dark,
and the way i wish we were real.
and that firepit sawn
from a old iron drum
in centennial square parkade.
you roast smokies on a radio antenna,
the red sirens tooling up the parkade ramp
never get any closer.
ochered on the concrete wall, older
burning stopsigns and chainlink,
backpacks that walk on raccoon feet,
kids with knotted twine for eyes,
and that one word UNLESS,
like a joke.
and you just look over your shoulder,
every car window's blown out,
and flowers of rye soughing
from the rusty frames.
if you'd just look over your shoulder,
if we’d find the creekbank
from two green deckchairs
bikelocked on an oak,
and pallets off the bridge.
you’ve got to dig out last time's ashes,
plant a sixpack upside down
for the kids under the creekbank
who patch their jeans with fishingline
the old six sideways,
full of mud. and
did we even meet each other
how you'd always turn
from the fire, pretend to warm
your skinny hands on the sky.
turn from the distant campflames
starring the flat concrete dark,
the latticed charcoal
planks, like someone’s
ribs left behind.
and i heard you
just keep turning
left in a maze.
follow the wall with one hand,
go left every turn.
it won’t matter
how you're lost.
unless there's no walls
in the way,
or we're both
unless i said
meet me somewhere.
Noah Wareness makes fiction and poetry by hand with scratchy black pens. He does a lot of live storytelling at DIY shows, but Meatheads is his first novel. It first circulated in the folk punk and speculative fiction communities as a handmade zine with wheatpasted cardboard covers and speaker wire for binding. He went to school for writing on the west coast, and now he lives in Toronto with some friends.
(after Alex Colville)
The figures for all their bold intent
amble out of the hand onto a brave
and patient page: all that love's
indignant dance compressed to
The rhythm of a possible human
here stripped to elementals
on the edge of outgoing breath.
The plastic arrangement of surface
is what it seems. Enough to be
informed as a particular choice
of magic. Of even light
a delicate compromise.
An earlier version of this poem appears in Penn Kemp's chapbook, EIDOLONS, White Pine Press.
London ON performance poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp is the 40th Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets and their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. As Writer-in-Residence for Western University, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. Her latest works are two anthologies for the Feminist Caucus Archives of the League of Canadian Poets and the Guild of Canadian Playwrights, to be launched at the Writers’ Summit at Harbourfront in June. Forthcoming is a new collection of poetry, Barbaric Cultural Practice and a play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris. www.mytown.ca/pennkemp
Edward Hopper and J.M.W. Turner: Two Old Men and the Sea
Two paintings of the sea by two artists. Looking at each as if we knew nothing of their creators, something of their respective dispositions is obvious right away. J.M.W. Turner's work is wild and stormy; you know he’s eccentric and passionate. Edward Hopper’s is detached and moody, angular rather than organic, with a sardonic undercurrent you can’t quite put your finger on.
The Snow Storm’s story is well known. It’s one of the most famous works by one of the most famous artists in history. Around 1842, J.M.W. was caught in a storm aboard the ship the Ariel. He allegedly asked to be tied to the mast to authentically experience man against the gods, or at the very least, man against the gales.
This might be romanticizing the Romantic painting. Without proof of the incident, there are two teams: one that upholds the anecdote as truth, and one that dismisses it as myth. I would cast my lots with Team A. It fits with the tempestuous temperament of Turner, but more importantly, it’s the exact story the painting itself tells. It’s a jewel among a multitude of masterpieces, and perhaps the wildness that sets it apart is the experiential. That artists are Method Actors is no surprise- we have a strange habit of stepping into all manner of harrowing scenarios in search of the story.
Now Hopper had a mean streak and violent temper that reared its ugly head in his relationship with his wife, but he was generally a more reticent character with rather staid emotions. His work is more introspective, more thoughtful. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Hopper painting that shows his hotheaded side. His art shows disconnection and resignation, and often melancholy, but not rage.
This particular painting from 1951 is not one of his famous works, and it’s not even one of his best. It’s as banal a picture of the sea as there ever was.
Except, it’s not. If some of Hopper’s paintings seem vaguely haunted, this one’s ghosts are palpable. Hopper gave Rooms by the Sea an alternate title in his notes- The Jumping Off Place. After discovering this darkly irreverent tidbit, a thin, icy breeze creeps into the frame.
These are only two of a trillion acts of creativity inspired by the ocean, but both are worthy of contemplation. In Turner’s, we are there at the mast, with the cold waves whipping our faces into raw meat. We are the crossroads of the elements, captive to our fate in between life and death. In Hopper’s surreal sunny calm, we’re already gone.
Lorette C. Luzajic
Founder of The Ekphrastic Review, Lorette C. Luzajic is a mixed media artist working in collage, paint, poetry, and photography. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.
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