To Franz Kline
(1910-1962, American abstract expressionist)
From Pennsylvania coal fields you learned early,
life often belts us with black and white
passions, like lessons, stark and harsh.
You thought large, in huge calligraphy,
painting horizontal fists of pigment
like trusses and spiked bump stocks.
Your art howls,
wants to brawl, be noticed,
like you…unwanted, orphaned.
Your wife posed for you
in a rocking chair, like Whistler’s mother,
before madness laid its claim.
This melding of positive and negative -
blank canvas crosshatched with thick black swaths.
Frank O’Hara called that action.
There, also, though,
an element, vulnerable, human,
caged/protected, by a firm carapace.
Jeanette Willert, former Associate Professor of English Education at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY and Director of the Western New York Writing Project, served as Vice-President of the Alabama State Poetry Society. She was honoured as their 2018 Poet of the Year. Her chapbook Appalachia, Amour won the Morris Chapbook Award (2017), Her poems appeared recently in Goat’s Milk, WINK and Libretto and, Crosswinds Poetry journals and the 2020 Anthology of Appalachian Writer (Vol. 12). Her first poetry book, it was never Eden, will be published later this year.
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