from Sweet-Voiced [Mutilated] Papyrus
for George Schneeman
feminine art controversy? do not spray
we’re regressing here in the manner of social and civil rights
never go homeless into the void
deep in time things are done out of contrariness
cast away pretense, charm the winds of Thrace
speech! speech! before the angry mob
& a clamor for pride
dreamed in the Greek dream I gave birth to a snake
and had a laugh with the other damsels
wanted the ones who were feminists to cheer
but they didn’t (did I?) get the joke
I was their school teacher……………………………………………………..
pencil over my ear
woman’s work is never shunned
the pudenda chronicles
look up to see the pillaging Zeus?
can you spin? will you be scanned?
are you mad?
groves & shrines, dance around my course description
what is the art of our love?
he went thinking, the shes kept circling the
liberated hearth, escaped into the streets
memory, meanwhile, kept steady
and standing on the soapbox heads
nose: in profile
hairline: reconstitute for the fabricant
fin de siècle decadence
I mean the last go-round
was she pure?
waiting for a future society to take over
hermeneutics for everyone……………..
lens of rescue
did we miss the absentee ballot procedure?
Hetairia! my friends
welcome to the symposium
and sing all night because we are all suppliants here
she is not an island of paypals
where beauty is set apart and purchased
gaze: masked identity
Runes, fragments and the odd moments and gestures and fissures of cultural artifacts of the past are ever generative in my poetry. How they relate to language and the body is always an exploration. Lines come together as the images assume composite yet fluid identities suggesting, in this case, parts of the hieratic female body.
On one occasion while visiting my literary archive at the Hatcher Graduate Library in Ann Arbor I watched skilled and scholarly librarians gently repair a recently acquired “mutilated” papyrus. Neglect, weather, age, war, other abuse? It triggered a suite of poems that eventually morphed into this one. I see this serial poem as montaged to reclaim and recreate a viable presence – a visible body, which is also a kind of archive – on the page.
I had already thought about a visual collaboration with the artist Pamela Lawton whose work I have long admired. Visualizing the project in black and white with her inimitable drawing line, I invited her into this project. This seemed the perfect match.
Pamela in her “Educator” role at the Metropolitan Museum has access to a range of cultural artifacts and outstanding masterpieces of all times and place and her recent work has been reflecting some of this visual input, as well as the machinations of her own expansive imagination.
I presented Pamela initially with my first drafts and then went on to respond to her responses to my texts. Things evolved in a playful back and forth mode, and when we presented the work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art live in the galleries with some of the pieces she had worked from, I felt the further dynamic of performance enter into the mix. I think of our collaboration as an interactive project in many ways, of a process that that will continue into the future with a sense of discourse, reclamation, and intervention.
When collaborating, my peripheral vision expands, taking in others’ perspectives. This leads to spontaneous, unexpected and uncensored creative responses. This encounter with the “other”, this potential for empathy, occurs for me when working with poets, in a direct way, and also when I work from a motif, such as architecture or statuary. It also happens when interacting with other artists’ works, such as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where, as an educator there, I have a glimpse into the world view of, say, a Renaissance tapestry designer, or a Buddhist sculptor.
All of this and more came together in working with Anne Waldman, whose poetry and writings and performances I had long-admired. When she asked me to work with her on this project, I was intrigued and overwhelmed by the serially fragmented fragments, on artistic, historic and corporeal levels. Among the oblique antiquities and modern muses, the textual layers elicted countless possibilities, leading to my making a connection between her writing and the overwhelming array of art within the museum. Her writing in hand, I allowed the voice of her poem and the language of the art at the Met to speak to me obliquely, sub-consciously, and made many artworks in front of statues, stele, and more. When the idea to present it as a performance arose, then our collaboration took on a new level, and we exchanged writing and art (mine and the Met’s) to shape it as both a visual and oral piece. Within this new way of working, the possibilities are rich, and we are looking forward to new iterations.