Door to Everything

Galleries know there is a certain type of painting that sells, and every gallery has one or two artists whose work isn’t exciting or edgy but are kept on because it is nice to know there will be enough income to pay the water bill every month. The average buyer doesn’t want five mason jars glued to a steel beam containing all the artist’s body hair collected over the span of four years. Most want something to hang over their new Italian couch or in blank space in the foyer by the stairs. Claire made these paintings. Still lifes mostly, acrylic or oil, heavy brush strokes and bright colors with an expert play of shadow and light. They had enough artistic flourish to give the proper amount of expressionist feeling, but not so much that despair might leak from the canvas into the comfortable rooms of a buyer’s brownstone.

Dream Logic: The Art of Ten Contemporary Surrealists

Once in a dream I sat reclined in an old-fashioned dentist’s chair at the center of an empty stage illuminated by a single white spotlight. Over my right shoulder, a kangaroo in a surgical mask, its eyes large and brown, with glamorous lashes, held in its five-fingered paw a whirling drill. An audience dressed in fine Victorian evening wear shouted “Bravo” as the kangaroo filled my molar with gold. While many theories have tried to explain the phenomenon of dreams—that they represent a dramatization of personal concerns, a processing of intense emotions, a rehearsal for threatening situations, or, most recently, random neural activity—I woke with a feeling of pure pleasure, delighting in the power of my imagination to stage a comic surrealist tableau. Nietzsche wrote, “The wonderful illusions of the world of dreams, in the creation of which each man behaves as a real artist, are the premise of every kind of visual art.” The absurdist drama staged by my unconscious mind reminds me of the crucial role of dreams in the formation of some the most interesting art of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Stage Pictures: Jo Mielziner and the Art of Set Design

“Literalism has no place in theater.”

—Jo Mielziner

 

NOTES FOR THE DESIGNER

The set is the bed-sitting-room of a plantation home in the Mississippi Delta. It is along an upstairs gallery which probably runs around the entire house: it has two pairs of very wide doors opening onto the gallery, showing white balustrades against a fair summer sky that fades into dusk and night during the course of the play which occupies precisely the time of its performance excepting, of course, the fifteen minutes of intermission.

One or Several Mothers

After installing my mother at the facility, we drove home in shock. My father sat in the passenger seat scratching his unshaven chin and spoke about the threat of rain in the cadence of a hypnotized weatherman. Our shock doubled or, I suppose, quadrupled, when we found her at home in her white chair, looking out the picture window as if nothing unusual had happened. The weather had turned. The sky was as blue as her good eye.

“Mama,” I said, “how did you get here? What are you doing?”

On Chickens, Children, and Fascism

Before I got baby chicks, I attended chicken class at Wardell’s Feed and Pet, a few miles down the highway. Eric, the chicken class teacher, sold me a brooder. If you don’t know, a brooder is a kind of substitute mother hen: it’s a box with a heat lamp and a feeder and waterer. The chicks live in it until they’re eight weeks old and ready to move outside to the coop. It’s obvious to me why a substitute mother is called a brooder. Motherhood for me is characterized by an ongoing sense of worry and inadequacy. My own mother was not much more than a source of heat who offered food and water (and some personality issues), alongside a rigid and authoritarian perspective, and because of that, I have a conflicted relationship with caretaking and motherhood, which is to say a perpetual feeling of anxiety about my failures as a mother alongside the moral quagmire of how much power a parent wields over a child. Still, I filled the brooder with pine shavings and added feed and water dispensers and a thermometer. Then I bought seven little cheeping chicks and set them in the brooder on the second day of their lives.

Defensible Space

Sometimes Ned Parrish dreams that his ex-wife has come back and lives out of his converted office and greets him in the hallway like an apologetic stranger. Their daughter, Julie, celebrates and rearranges the house, and Ned accepts it because her joy outweighs his qualms. After the dream, he wakes in a mood, stranded with little to say.

Poetry: Carol D. Guerrero-Murphy

Spring Teatime, 4 o’clock 

We sit in the west courtyard. We chat about the times we have nearly died over our long lifetimes. Death is a tossed stone. Memory is a pool. The melanoma incident. The two bloody births. The numerous fatal car accidents mitigated or avoided. The angioplasty. Open-heart surgeries. Several resistant staph infections. Three muggings at gunpoint. My estranged husband’s attack with axe. We omit our dire childhood diseases, too long ago for consideration.

Radical Research and the Scientific Method: Tracking a New Trajectory through Four Recent Poetry Collections

Bradfield, Elizabeth. Toward Antarctica. Boreal Books, 2019. 160 pp. $19.95, paper.

Lee, Ed Bok. Mitochondrial Night. Coffee House Press, 2019. 88 pp. $16.95, paper.

Wahmanholm, Claire. Wilder. Milkweed Editions, 2019. 96 pp. $16.00, paper.

Roripaugh, Lee Ann. tsunami v. the fukushima 50. Milkweed Editions, 2019. 120 pp. $16.00, paper.

 

When Muriel Rukeyser’s 1938 classic The Book of the Dead was re-issued in 2018, edited and with a new introduction by Catherine Venerable Moore, it became clear that a major, though under-discussed, Modernist innovation was docupoetics. While many readers struggle to understand how certain racist, anti-Semitic, and Fascist writers could be considered so essential for so long, contemporary poets are finding influence in less canonized poets of the twentieth century whose docupoetic aesthetics are proving to be powerfully resonant for the present historical moment.

Poetry: Luisa Muradyan

My Favorite YouTube Channel

think Beetlejuice without Michael Keaton

but with one hundred Geena Davises

dressed in floral nightgowns

 

think absolute freedom

 

standing in a house

of haunted women

 

listen to the music

 

furniture moving

without explanation

 

in this video

you can clearly see

the outline of a face

in the fireplace

Poetry: Kathryn Hunt

What Is to Be Done?
        for S. Reddick, 1976
I’ll answer your question now, the one you
asked that evening we sat in your room,
the hot plate you never used, not even
for coffee, windows filmed with the dust
of voices that reached us years later.
The river was weeds. The sentinel towers
of the canneries and sawmills that crowded
its banks. The river glossed with pronouncements
of dread. The graveyard hours you stood on
the peach line, the polished corrugated
light, women and men in white aprons
roaming through warehouses, trailing the sun.