About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis (susanlewis.net) is the editor of Posit (positjournal.com) and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom, winner of the 2017 Washington Prize, Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in such places as The Awl, Berkeley Poetry Review, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Cimarron, Gargoyle, The Journal, New American Writing, The New Orleans Review, Prelude, Raritan, Seneca Review, So to Speak, Verse, Verse Daily, and VOLT.

Judith Henry

—click on any image to enlarge—

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Artist’s Statement

For almost 50 years I have created conceptual multimedia artworks exploring the friction between our interior lives and public selves. I have secretly observed, listened to, photographed, filmed and recorded strangers in public places while remaining largely invisible. When using myself as subject, I have appeared masked or hidden, as in several recent series.

After graduating Carnegie Mellon, I moved to New York from the suburbs of Cleveland and found myself in a densely populated metropolis. For me, each person was a matchless original as well as a stereotype. In 1970, with a small, cheap camera, I began surreptitiously photographing people on the streets, often listening to their conversations. In an attempt to tease out patterns of human experience, I aggregated thousands of photographs.

For years, I repurposed my street photographs in many forms: books, videos, photographs, installations and sculptures, and even created Who I Saw in New York from 1970-2000, a book and gallery installation consisting of photographs of thousands of people.

When I moved from SoHo to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2008, I became dependent on the L train to visit Manhattan. This made it easy to go to galleries, museums, visit friends, see doctors, etc. I now found myself in close quarters with a vast and, for me, new, population. As a pastime, I began photographing other passengers with my iPhone. At the same time, I continued my art in the studio by developing several series of myself behind masks.

In 2017, it was announced that the L train would be closed for 18 months for repairs. What would this mean? How would my life be affected? Would my work practice change? It would not, but the focus, the idea would have a different urgency. I decided to start a new project, painting portraits of the passengers I had photographed. With free, quick, gestural strokes and a palette of both muted and intense colors, I tried to bring life to the gray underground. The speed of my painting reflected, for me, the crowded, ever-moving population of passengers; hurried, contemplative, sometimes angry, occasionally musical and lyrical. Almost half a million of us would be dislocated or stranded every day.

Underground became integrated with above ground. Everywhere I walked, construction crossed my paths. I photographed my altered landscape. The images became backgrounds on which I mounted several of the portraits. This recombination created context which has always been crucial to my art practice. I called the series L Train Bye, Bye. But then, overnight, everything seemed about to change. The governor had somehow discovered a new technology at the last minute. No shutdown, he said. No fast track. But my work would stand with a new title, They Rode the L Train.

Judith Henry is a multi-media artist, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. After receiving a BFA from Carnegie-Mellon University, she moved to New York in the late 1960s and started making art that explored the friction between interior life and public persona, developing themes of self-disclosure, identity and loss. She utilizes drawing, photography, typography, video, painting and sculpture. Several of her works resulted in large installations. In addition to exhibiting internationally for decades, in 1976 Henry and artist Jaime Davidovich created Wooster Enterprises, whose conceptual paper products were sold internationally. Her conceptual Crumpled Paper Stationery was produced and sold by The Museum of Modern Art for years. MoMA also commissioned her to produce Overheard on the Way to MoMAQNS when they closed the 53rd Street museum for renovation and temporarily moved to Queens. Judith Henry’s Overheard book series was published by Universe/Rizzoli from 2000 to 2002 and in 2006 Atria Books published her Overheard in America. Henry has shown in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Cleveland, Philadelphia and internationally in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London and Switzerland. Her most recent solo shows were at BravinLee programs, New York, 2015 and 2018, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, 2016 and The National Arts Club 2017.

Kathleen Hellen

lotuseaters

the limbless in the
curtained cots of
shivered blisterspit. So
many in the chalkline, so
many in detention, you want to
build a house for them. A heaven for
their tents. A made-for-hope of
numbness as
the tactic you have mastered as
the happy ending—it’s only
human feeling you control in
nightly buttons: that
red one—remote

as in background tasks when screens go black

while I idle
hallucinating

there’s a mushroom
cloudresembling
a diety toadstooling

between the sillpan and the slab
between the subfloor and the threshold

a navel
sprouting worldsinsideofworlds

a trickster
pretending to be oyster
mock
portobello
slippery
juliet

a fairy in the dome
sponging off the glut
surviving in the storm and drought

the only way out

no reflection

Wolves talk. A thousand rats
I wear the dividend of bats, opening to night’s
cold occupation. The tillandtamp
of every penny nickeled, every dime a habit
the math
the master-slave exactly

no allowance in
copper, obsidian
mercury’s amalgam
the master plan
far worse than being dead

I pay the ferry
poppy seeds and sand
the poorpuny flies to which we are attracted

Kathleen Hellen is the author of The Only Country was the Color of My Skin (2018), the award-winning collection Umberto’s Night, and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Loved Mothra and Pentimento. Nominated for the Pushcart and Best of the Net, and featured on Poetry Daily, her poems have been awarded the Thomas Merton poetry prize and prizes from the H.O.W. Journal and Washington Square Review, and appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Barrow Street, The Massachusetts Review, New Letters, North American Review, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, Seattle Review, the Sewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Witness, and elsewhere. For more on Kathleen visit kathleenhellen.com.

Margaret Hanshaw

Earthened

Absurdity takes me out to a field
to dig a hole in silence.
I make my home in the dirt,
keep my ashes on the hearth.
Strangers occupy the same deep space.
We blink only once.
It’s summer, I feel the trees.
Everything is either bone, or dust.
I don’t see in here.
A child laughs.
There are no distinct patterns.
No lessons to be drawn.
Slow light.
A purple ease.

Inside the Body Goblet

Sideways baluster
or dead-sleep position for      counting
sheep sheared
 
Vegetable
with skin and core of      cabbage
vibrancy
 
Suitcase in snow
patterned interior, lightly bizarre      alive
in plastic pockets
 
Boulder in river
not for leaving      this
thrashing dystopia

Balcony

I reach my cold hands out

into the autumn sun:

little balconies.

I am my only house.

I house.

To the spider with its many eyes

I am a carapace.

To the birch in blue light

I am a melted tree.

A single mountain diving

miles within itself.

Margaret Hanshaw is author of the chapbook Yellow Ripe (Dancing Girl Press). Her poems have appeared in New American Writing, West Branch, Verse Daily, VOLT, Salamander, New Orleans Review, and Poetry Miscellany. A graduate of Hamilton College and the Vermont College MFA program, she lives in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

Robert Hamilton

Senso Unico

I am sick of subjectivity. I think
I might go birding. Find one color
on one wing, one mixolydian ditty.
I think I might tinker with electrodes
or glass pipettes. Things clatter down
iron rails, one way. They get beaten out
like gold sheets, thinner now we’ve left
our twenties behind. Once, a god
ran his finger around my lips
like a man trying to make a wine glass sing:
taste of saltpeter, lemongrass, zinc.
I spent a night between two saguaros
as the rain carved runnels through blue
slate. I probably never will again.
I am sick of all of this, all. I think
I might try to mount myself in
a display case. I think I’ll try to make
a real difference. So I wave my hand
before the motion-activated sensor,
but no water flows, no towel
dispenses, nothing changes.

Predator & Prey

First midwinter hunt. Earth strung, wound around pegs. Resonant. Land taut as a drumskin. On the hollow roof of the world we learn the trigger’s tensile strength: cold, blue, it resists even as it begs the finger to shake & shake in its turn the forearm, the shoulder, the whole self. We learn how snow muffles all but the sounds that ping in our skulls or sluice through arteries, traffic in an imbrication of intermittent jams, diesel fumes making us dizzy. We spent miserable hours crouched in an outdoor shower removing the ink from our flesh with a fragment of pumice. One cannot be too careful. We strip the angular mountains from my forearm, the tree of knowledge from the girl’s thigh & line after line of unreadable text from her scapulæ; ink swirls in a slow coriolis spiral around our lukewarm ankles. One cannot be too careful. Qua beast, the mammoth cannot be had, cannot be brought up short by the Bering Strait, cornered, corralled, bled out. Try instead the ancillary screwworms & white lice who braid ropes & locks out of its sequoia-bark pelt. Try instead to sketch out its angular momentum. Try the collage: apprehend as a whole what is not a whole. Seemed possible until the lights went dim & the girl with the asterisk of whip marks across her back cut an opening in the top of the tent. Blood of stars drips through the tear in the thick lead apron of the sky which, every night, we button up with a little white-fog cough of a prayer & a censer burning balsam as if beseeching our little hand-carved idols with their primitivist eye sockets to keep out the bequerels pressing their bulk up against us, trying to pour in. The text on the girl’s back reappeared, in a phosphorescent glow. The mercury lies in undisturbed pools & for lack of a better idea we don our anoraks & splash. No angel to breathe on this stagnation. May as well keep to your stretchers & your lazar-house. The cicadas are silent now & the Ding an Sich cannot be had, not in its own guise but perhaps (we are told, as if to get rid of us) in the disguise of some appliqué angel or blue ankh whose meaning nobody has quite parsed. Not roaming the wild but caught in a little snow globe with our own figurines hunting a brown little smudge of a beast. We tell ourselves, look, that is us, innocent, jejune, with such sand-scrubbed skin, such cobalt veins, visible under flourescent bulbs! But across green felt the snow globe rolls away & the black spheres that come skittering after the cue’s clack are glassy, vacant like the eyes of the creatures we killed. Staring, they beat the tympanum of the world’s surface, stretched thin over nothing, & engrave their tekels & upharsins on the parchment. They push with their horns, beg for extraordinary rendition. We join hands & close our eyes & the black we see, squinting, has (does it not) the vanishing points & contour lines of certain doubled shotgun barrels. Against the cold of such blued metal, breath shows like visible clouds. The finger pressing hard against the trigger, shaking with dread, such palsy fills a world & more.

Labor Theory of Value

Punch in, punch out; slam that cold box like you hate it. Forearms flexed in anger, veins a blue watershed, agricultural zone of tattoos, each ink its own cultivar. They come from Kronstadt out of the hulls of triremes, rank male sweat, skimming over the blue Baltic. They come down from favelas garlanded in primary colors, corrugated necklaces draped over hills’ shoulders. They come up like dry bones that live from the city hospitals, staggering through the sliding doors in a burst of air conditioning in frankincensed sheets; hard work, we say, hauling up soul after soul from this cold cenote with only block & tackle. Down here, they have cut our power. Uphill, automatic sprinklers still hiss and chatter across empty lawns. A woman in a rich tweed skirt hugs her knees on a louis-quinze settee, one strand of hair loose on the hot forehead. Smell the fear under vetiver. Hear the sprinklers chatter & spurt like Kalashnikovs. With his discriminating beak Horus will soon weigh her bars of platinum, judge them against an amphora brimming with graveyard sweat. See which tips the scales. Clench your fist until the knuckles turn white. Dollars ooze out between each finger & slice the webbing between. Punch out. Punch in again. Good morning, Ralph. Oh, uh, good morning, Sam.

Robert Hamilton is a poet and English Professor from Texas. His first chapbook, Heart Trouble, was published by Ghost City Press in 2018. His poems have appeared in journals like Prelude, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, concîs, and The Fictional Café.

Michael Tod Edgerton

It Closing In It Whispers

1.

Francis Bacon at the Met: hours
with the paintings
leering
at every one of them
(and glancing here and there
at hot boys who pass
too quickly by)
shifting
circling
an un-kind lust
mingling
the surface      the space      inside
the frame
tremulous.

Then deflated
with the absence
of Two Men on a Bed, one of his most erotic.
(Brutal, you would add.)
Tender, I think. And no
Man at Curtain no Study of the Human
Body
I dream of having
on a book, no ice-gray glow of Two Figures
at a Window
in an eclipsed rock-blue room.

But then: Head I, one of the earliest paintings, the earliest Head, early 1948.
I stare at it at length, head flapping in the frame
to extract my small face from its glass, convinced:

it’s some substrate struggling for form, some unminded storm of forces half-
dispersed, desiring at
being One while wanting for want, substanceless
muck without world:

whatever it is
it is not I: Head
half on, ill-
shaped: flesh mottled gray
matter: eyes swollen
shut or glazed over: embryonic: face
all mouth round mouth four
fangs angling each other:
mouth a clot of blood
inside, muscling
toward a moan: staring
at me staring
at the painting trying still
to shut out my face your face
behind the glaring wall placed between us
to protect us, one from the other, my head still bobbing for an opening
I can slip through: cracked open
I almost break down:
hold back in fear hold back don’t
smear don’t bleed
the bruising pigment
flash of wine-splash
from a smacked mouth: still
a small almost-sob escapes, a sigh,
a quick-intake and—
repudiation of breath: eruption of               something
the glass has no will or way to stave
takes leave.

2.

Lunch to replenish some sense
of space between
myself and Bacon.

Then back in the museum with the hope
of recomposing
myself in a Rothko (or who knows, with luck,
maybe in one of those quickly-zipping men), so I go
seeking to float out into what currents
I can and I

turn the corner stop:      dead in a start:            the shark
scraping against the glazed skin of the seen to get at me,
this shark I didn’t know was in the States, let alone here
here               heaves
forward
toward
the shark-
mouth gape-
eyed and
leering at me leering:               (its prey)

glass cannot protect me from
the gaze:               the mouth               that mouth
that blazes
black
             sun
this
shark’s
dead eyes
defer to,
full-throated
void, it calls
and closer.

It could only be
this shark, this
second carcass, a shark
just like it, but not the original.
Only this museum, the Metropolitan, or a museum
laid out the same. Like so fallen a heaven
as The Physical
Impossibility of
Paradise,
the imperceptible Death
in the Mind
of the insensible perceptions of Someone
Living
(originally executed in 1991
shark replaced in 2006
now white clouds its expressions)
expressed gases floating
above it
a few rays behind
those reflections within reflections
the glass tank swims off into
the glass walls
of that side
of this gallery
in the Met:
shark head replicating
infinity in miniature over
5th Avenue. So peaceful
this
mouth-
like Bacon scream
hovering in its sea-blue
tankful of formaldehyde. Surprisingly
beautiful (what beautiful means)
to be stricken to be
taken. Thought from
the first it was pure
hoax. Seeing photos of it
differently installed (or was that the first
fish, the closed-mouthed?), reading about the piece, about Hirst’s other works,
the bifurcated
sheep and cows—I thought it must be
the inert sort of conceptual gesture that fails
to penetrate, to interpellate: to call out to call into
being:
my breathing, my movements
of expansion and response, calling me into its own—until I saw it, there,

installed to eternally return in the glass wall
of that particular room in the Met. Display lights scoring the symphonic depths
it soars
unswimming in, engorged and gorgeously eerie
glow. That crowned hole,
its pillowed palate itching to swallow in its entirety
my slight frame, every enfleshed soul in this museum—our sense
of sight itself
—every single thing and that thing’s inside-outwarding into

the world.

I sit with it

for a long time.

I sit with it very near

absolute stasis.

Sit with its ellipses
in the window over the car-barking street,
the window-pocked buildings
glaring back
their annoyance, that light-struck cloud
let to blue.

Circle around it and around. Sit. Flesh flecking off
even still: this form can’t hold, formaldehyde or not: art and science aside,
muscle and cartilage, even teeth
break down: the hide frays: none of us can stay.

And out of nowhere
out of nothing
— The museum is —


— closing in —
measured time
is shutting down
this last moment.
The museum
closing in on
the Physical
Impossibility.

The mouth the eyes
too will go.
The guards having
disappeared,
I take something
of it with me.
(Something other
than the photos
I never look at now.)

— fifteen minutes —

Is that how long,
not fame, not fortune,
but anything kin,
in the 21st century,
to transcendence
lasts?
(Look at them now,
so wanting.)

3.

On the slow walk out, I pass back through
the howling Bacons, the last
of the crowd (no longer even half-looking
for a mere hook-up)
no longer exactly hungry but wholly sated, sated and still
whetted for more, for the summer-humid air, for all the faces perched on the front
steps of the Met, along the bannisters, mapping their way to dinner (and okay, yes,
the sideways slide of that man’s tongue up my bent neck does flash over)
mouth
by mouth, room
by room to the exit, the front stairs, the early evening streets extending into
this calm exhilaration—this circulation of the substanceless
substances that compose and decompose us
recompose through us throw us
through the gullet of it into the world-rivering a bit further down now the teeth
in my back your chest the snaring marks the bracketing scare
quotes lighter now around the world around us
more real this illusion and only exhalation of the remains of:

the never-shaken unknown:          unknowable:                       —heaves—

What else
does beautiful mean
but unnerving or
innervating
or vacating:
Mere pleasure binds us
together the same,
Barthes (that lovely loner)
whispers behind us. And listen to us again, I thought
I heard, but no:
And bliss
undoes us
again.

Land’s End

—for Kate Schapira
 
It’s because of their mortality that things exist.
—Etel Adnan, Night

Walking unintentional miles
along the Pacific: Land’s End to China

Beach and back, in view
of Marshall’s (but not

close enough to see
any nude men

lingering along one another on the wet sand),

wondering if we were anywhere
near where you had been when

a whale back
arched above

the tremulous
sun-

reflexive surface foaming over rocks, gliding in

and out as quickly
lost to you as you

turned to leave turned round to see:
hence memory, so sight.

So this absenting
presence, this existence: Oceanic:

from our finite shores, some notion of something more: magical

thinking. What else do we have? What else
could we do, even knowing

it was futile, but back-track all our day’s
steps to try to find what was

inadvertently tossed aside
or slyly lifted from my little black bag—

designer shoes from Rodeo, a trip to Rio for Carnival, a Mercedes convertible, maybe even

a chateau on the coast
of every sun-drenched droplet of a newly-acquired summer-home archipelago—

an electric trail of charges posting stills of a whole life I’ll never know
but might have halfway wanted myself—someone else’s

bucket list pocketed by the fistful
from my fiscal ipseity—

eyes in the bushes behind rocks but thoughts roaming now like children lost

hunting the hidden and finding—I imagine a plump
and graying woman holding out

a cracked hand full
of endless slices

of cake and reams of paper to capture
our attention.

When we put a sheet over her face

to trace its contours, our gazes no longer meet
its lines. We must rely

on the two-step dance
of memory and perception

(the beat won’t stop even
when your feet go missing)

like a daydream out of which we’ll never snap but know

will end, as this record heat
submits, and so

when the moment comes we look out
over the Pacific

with its ever-redder set piece sun—going going
about and around—look look

out and out for any glimmer of twilight

blue leather along the crepuscular ground,
futile even by cell-flash at dusk’s end

retracing a path already taken
again and again, and then giving up, nothing left

but to hop on call after call to call in,
rep after rep, my current status:

disabused of symbolic currency.

Only one last place to check
against hope:

the dollhouse, where the men therein protest
all clothing and sexual dissonance,

where I had stopped to snatch quick shots of the signs
gleaming dreamily in their disco window-splayed resistance

on the way out. On the way there

the front door callbox rings up my phone
on Geary, the cops finally come for me

to inform me my wallet
was returned,

seemingly as found, to the station on Fillmore,
just off Geary—

my ID, every single card, a grocery list on the back of a Blackbird bar receipt—everything,

even an easily swiped bill—
present and accounted for—

turned in by a worker at the VA near the Coastal Trail
who didn’t leave a name so all we can do is go home

as thankful as surprised, as anxious-buzzed as exhausted, with the hope of waking

renewed in the morning,
of keeping something

of the sound of the waves
inside of us to aid us,

to anchor us,
as chorus to score,

here

in this world’s
body this

body’s world
(sail

and chain),
that that might fortify us

to press through the night into another day,

to rave with the sea to change,
to rage like the sea

that it may recede again
that that may make it

(though the waves thrash
they sing)

easier to drift off.

Michael Tod Edgerton is the author of Vitreous Hide (Lavender Ink, 2013). His poems have appeared previously as the winner of the Boston Review and Five Fingers Review contests, and in Coconut, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, EOAGH, New American Writing, New Orleans Review, Sonora Review, and Word For/Word, among other journals. He holds an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and a PhD in English from the University of Georgia. He lives with his husband, Greg, in San Francisco. You can check out Tod’s ongoing participatory text and sound project, “What Most Vividly,” at WhatMostVividly.com.

Tyler Flynn Dorholt

Hand

The small window rattles
I feel everything tied to my arms
the arch that collects shadows
even in the night
I put on a charge of hope
the house you turn the edges of
in your remains
when you are finished
gesturing toward demise
the letters we leave
the cornfield season
for the middle linger
to step it up belong to the others
you share with ache
and rural into the world
a fasted hear I don’t ride
the world I won’t leave
the window I cannot see
flattened water arriving
giving news to you and your box
passing to a loud nobody
how scattered the changing
plants that reason everything
antique kept us young here
where I’m taking the screen off
and how open the heart
I first attached to the river.

Stoop

Too often the bodies
like coins
roll down Jane street
as if to slot something sane
aside the main lanes.
Some gutter some swerve.
I think of Philip’s veins
as he lined them up, widening
the blood to rise above character.
It is always the fire escape
which lets me rely on others
to relieve my ruins, all the cigarettes
flecked from the second floor,
the ashes stored below soles,
the armors of flame.
Who knows what side
of myself is shelved in the small elm
outside the tiny apartment
or how many times I said the name
of a body before the street climaxed
between bricks who wants to
know I don’t know. To say a street
runs anywhere is to forget
it must connect and adjust
our movements, not take off
from them or maybe
a person is not a number
but I ran all seven miles
starting from Jane, ending at Wall St.
before the cab took me down.
This is to second
the notion we work in many ways.
Philip’s eyes open right before
he dies and he finds a building
he’s never seen
growing behind a building
he’s never been in
and it flows yellow
he wants a lemon
and the building he’s in will be
rebuilt using the weight
of his death. A woman
walks by and touches
the window near
the croissant.
A singer downs a burger
where Dylan sang
about Emmett Till.
These are just references,
though they hang alive
in the street
running itself down.
I was silent that entire
Thanksgiving weekend
writing about becoming
someone else. I walked back
and forth on the street
it was so small
of the street to think big things of me
in the reflections of doors
in the wind-trapped porn of wine labels
and laundry groped by others
for the bag. When I look at
what I’ve seen
the scene is always
overlooked
there was a corner
and the motorcycle
hit her perfectly
so that her knees buckled, clipped,
and she bounced off the sign
that said yield.
I touched the gravel
the next day, my finger
on maroon, then said
my first words in days:
I can’t believe
we’ve never talked
about life. The street
returns to me as if the arm
of what I am, undone,
and I hold it up to hail a hello
to the space Philip leaned
against himself
that time
that one time
I saw his body
and all the characters
it has been taking up
the whole of Jane
and running
it off
the Hudson.

Tyler Flynn Dorholt is a writer, visual artist, and teacher. His most recent books are Side Cars & Road Sides (Greying Ghost) and American Flowers (Dock Street Press). He is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Environmental Science & Forestry in Syracuse, NY, where he lives with his wife and son. He is co-founder and editor of the journal and press, Tammy, which is entering its tenth year of publishing.

Julie Phillips Brown

from The Adjacent Possible

 

One emerges, a small vertical at the riveredge. One watches, waves as. By the
bank, waking. Wan to the river’s wake, one.

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One scales a rising, back to the hills and climbing fullheight. The rocks cast rocks
upon rocks. One angles with the earth’s rise, flight skyward.

 
 
 

One sounds the waters, breaks toward a bottom of delimitation. Fathomless       remains
the river, remains one       each at the last.

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One rifles over the prospect of scapular hills, scans a metered distance. Breath
and analogous cloud surface the mountain.

 
 
 

One furls the tongue at the riveredge, uncinctures the word and the real. Cracked
breath of language. One slips under, wonders       seeded dream.

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One turns the eye under cloudcover, an open pool—blue running onto blue,
lapsed distances. One blinks at haze of ice       snowfall

 
 
 

One flowers among the watery veils       outpalm, open

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A cloudself

 
 
 

Under under. Unaccountable, one is countless, fathomless, and alone. Words form as burrs and pits. The
river       the mouth weeps.

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One dearticulates toward an unthinking unthought       Scatters unrelational, spun
pinions        mind of atmosphere

 
 
 

One is one, suffices.

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One strikes out toward the proposition. One traces over a wide of snowfall.
One in one’s own drift, watching. One wakes as air—

Julie Phillips Brown is a poet, painter, scholar, and book artist. After earning an M.F.A and a Ph.D. at Cornell University, she served as the N.E.H. Post-Doctoral Fellow in Poetics at Emory University’s Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry. Her poems and essays have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Angels of the Americlypse (Counterpath Press), Columbia Poetry Review, Conjunctions (online exclusive), Contemporary Women’s Writing (Oxford UP), Crab Orchard Review, delirious hem, Denver Quarterly, The Fight & The Fiddle, Interim, Jacket2, Mixed Messages (Manchester UP), North American Women Poets in the 21st Century (Wesleyan UP), Peregrine, Plume, Rappahannock Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Talisman, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Vinyl, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Lexington, Virginia, where she teaches creative writing, studio art, and American literature.

Eozen Agopian

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Artist’s Statement

In my artwork I create visual parallels between rational and cosmological worlds through constructing and deconstructing, layering and erasing, scraping and marking, unraveling and reconnecting. I incorporate techniques of drawing, painting, sewing and weaving. I started using thread in my work more than twenty years ago. I liked the practical properties of the material, thread’s use to put things together, to mantle, to unify. Threads also soothed my desire for fluidity: I could manipulate them to create mass, sculptural forms, to penetrate the canvas or just leave them loose. I would sew different layers of colored yarns to create chromatic filters where underneath you could see shimmering shapes.

Eozen Agopian was born in Athens, Greece. She received her MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute (1993) and her BFA from Hunter College (1989). Her first solo show was at Michael Wall Gallery (N.Y. 1993). Since then her work is shown in several solo, three person and group exhibitions in Greece, France, Italy, Germany, China, Russia and the United States, such as, Shiva Gallery of the John Jay College (New York), Fox Gallery NYC (New York), Lesley Heller gallery (New York), Hellenic American Union (Athens), AAW Gallery, (Beijing), Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete (Greece), State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessalonica, (Greece),Smack Melon (New York) In 2014 she was a resident artist at the Triangle Arts Foundation in Brooklyn. The last years she lives and works both in New York and Athens. Currently she has a solo exhibit at the Consulate General of Greece in New York. Her next solo show will take place at Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery (Athens, Greece) in the Spring of 2019.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 20)

 
Welcome to the 20th issue of Posit! We’re truly delighted (if a bit amazed) to find ourselves here. And we’re deeply grateful to all of you (worldwide!) who read and view this site — and, especially, to our ever-growing family of contributors, for entrusting their remarkable work to us.

And speaking of remarkable work, the poetry and prose gathered here is, as always, as various as it is impossible to categorize. Nonetheless, as befits the somber chill of mid-winter, much, if not most, of this work grapples with the most ancient of literary preoccupations: mortality. Which is to say, “this absenting / presence, this existence” (Michael Tod Edgerton, Land’s End) — its tragedy, its absurdity, its beauty, and its generative relationship with life and art. The range of approaches in evidence underscores the inexhaustible depth of this subject, as a look at the work of Edgerton, Tyler Flynn Dorholt, Robert Hamilton, Margaret Hanshaw, Simone Muench & Jackie K. White, Rick Snyder, and Anne Riesenberg confirms.

Given this subject matter, it’s not surprising that an elegiac tone weaves through this issue — made emphatic by moments of actual elegy, for Philip Seymour Hoffman (Dorholt), Anthony Bourdain (in the visual art of Miriam Hitchcock), Catullus’ famous sparrow (Snyder) — even Damien Hirst’s decaying shark (Edgerton).

Yet in many of these works, the link between loss and creation gives rise to an understated but persistent optimism — a “calm exhilaration” (Edgerton) which leads us to “savor . . . the Value of imperfect choices” and appreciate the “grace of saying Yes.” (Riesenberg). This is true even — or perhaps, especially — in certain works notable for their silence. Miraculously, it is sometimes in the spaces between what is said (as well as the spare beauty of their language), that the most potent generative potential is located. We’re thinking here, especially, of the poems of Julie Phillips Brown and Alexandra Mattraw, but also, cousin to those ellipses, the ones made visual and tactile by Sonja Johanson’s botanical erasures, the lacunae of which give rise to new structures, even as they mark the destruction they highlight. Plus, cousin to both, Kelly Nelson’s novel translations, which combine departure and tribute to give rise to the shockingly, refreshingly new.

This is not to say that all here is gentle or calm, as a glance at the poems of Robert Hamilton, Muench & White, or Rick Snyder will confirm. Nor that only loss is generative, as Kathleen Hellen’s high octane recombination of language, “sprouting wordsinsideofworlds,” reveals.

But all of the work here offers something new, in the best sense of that over- and abused word. And we are the better for receiving it.

In this excerpt from The Adjacent Possible, Julie Phillips Brown’s “one” evokes the music of solitude. Although the “one” of the poem is so “unaccountable . . . countless, fathomless, and alone” that “words form as burrs and pits,” the haunting beauty of Brown’s own prosody “flowers among the watery veils” to proffer a “cloudself” so transcendent it “wakes as air.“

Tyler Flynn Dorholt’s elegiac litanies of urban living “put on a charge of hope” even as they “gestur[e] toward demise” in their deftly inclusive contemplation of the entanglement of self and other, survival and suffering. Focusing on Jane Street in New York City to “talk. . . about life,” Stoop connects the death of an anonymous pedestrian with Philip Seymour Hoffman’s overdose while “widening / the blood to rise above character,” as well as a singer downing a burger “where Dylan sang / about Emmett Till,” insuring that “when [we] look / at what [we’ve] seen / the scene is [not] . . . overlooked.”

Like Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, Michael Tod Edgerton’s It Closing In It Whispers considers the inextricable bond between death and beauty, provoked, here, not by an urn, but by the “tender,” “erotic,” and “brutal” portraits of Francis Bacon, as well as Damien Hirst’s famous shark “scraping against the glazed skin of the seen” in The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Both poems featured here embody what they respond to: art’s capacity “to call out to call into / being,” compelling us to marvel at how “surprisingly / beautiful [it is] . . . / to be stricken to be / taken,” despite the disturbingly fleeting nature of “anything kin, / in the 21st century, / to transcendance.”

In Senso Unico, Predator & Prey, and Labor Theory of Value, Robert Hamilton sings in a number of forms and tones unified by a voice as erudite as it is forceful in its exploration of the tragic irony of the human condition. These poems expose a species prone to grandiosity, even as it — as we — are trapped by the ‘unique meaning’ of the one-way, no-exit (“senso unico”) trajectory that characterizes a mortality in which “the Ding an Sich cannot be had” and we are not “roaming the wild but caught in a little snow globe with our own figurines hunting a brown little smudge of a beast.”

The stark beauty of Margaret Hanshaw’s imagery confronts us with an existential solitude from which “there are no distinct patterns. / No lessons to be drawn.” What’s more, this “thrashing dystopia” is universal rather than personal, since “strangers occupy the same deep space.” Nonetheless, these poems remind us, there is comfort in the real: “slow light. / A purple ease,” one’s hands like “little balconies” in “the autumn sun.” But most importantly, there is the deep resource of the self, one’s “only house:” “a single mountain” capable of “diving / miles within itself.”

In Kathleen Hellen’s poems, what we do to survive “the tillandtamp of every penny nickeled, every dime a habit” may be the addiction of the lotuseaters, “a made-for-hope numbness as the tactic you have mastered as the happy ending.” Unless, they suggest, “the only way out” is “to be a trickster . . . a fairy in the dome sponging off the glut surviving in the storm and drought.” Either way, the compressed intensity of Hellen’s neologisms are as provocative as they are pleasurable to read.

Sonja Johanson’s botanical erasures inventively combine text with both native and invasive plant parts to spark a dialogue on a number of simultaneous levels. In Divinity, for instance, she uses leaves, Pincushion moss, and a passage from Taltos by Anne Rice to comment upon “this brimming world” of both the poem and this planet in danger of being erased by our own species’ invasive tendencies.

The chiseled mystery of Alexandra Mattraw’s poetry resonates “like a ghost echoing.” Reading these poems confers a pleasure akin to “taking some of the sea into your mouth.” In one of the two poems entitled /Vigil/, a decontextualized “I” “fells speech to splinters.” In the other, it “split[s] infinitives to / engolden dirt and breath” to achieve that great goal of the best art: “holding in / the swarm of things.”

Simone Muench and Jackie K. White mine the sonnet’s dialogic and philosophical affinity to offer marvels of precise, profound, and synthesized resolution. These poems consider, variously, the insecurity of female identity via “the dress [as] a liar laced with history’s lies,” “the desert [as] an armory of black tires . . . murder ballads, and . . . silence strung along barbwire,” and the “garden’s rot, obit, subplot.” All serve as metaphors for the darkness we must lead ourselves out of, if we are to reach “salve or salvage . . . Not quite song / or sugar water, but a wrought ripe, sunlit.”

Kelly Nelson’s erasure-palimpsest-translations reveal the complex delights of the bonds she forges — and detects — between languages. Their insightful and sometimes humorous effects derive at least in part from the juxtaposition of multiple poetic impulses, starting with classic American texts, and ending with Nelson’s doubly-translated erasures. The results are entirely fresh and undeniably her own. In The Day Lady Died, “I spun no feathers around your neck” derives from the verb hilar (to spin). In The Road Not Taken, “I pray to see the possum before it sees me” is the road wished not taken — glad as we are that the twisty paths of these poems were.

Anne Riesenberg’s extraordinary tales “skew ordinary Neediness into a Darker Story” via prose as clear-eyed and unflinching as it is dreamlike, and sometimes surrealistic. Always, though, “Resolution tremble[s] Above . . . its own finely Wrought cloud.” Informed by wisdom, complexity, and compassion, Riesenberg’s resolutions bring us to “savor . . . the Value of imperfect Choices” and “the grace of saying Yes within the context of Love.”

In O Miselle Passer! and Red Tide, Rick Snyder reframes the preoccupations of “high” Western poetic and philosophical thought within the most banal public spaces of contemporary life: waiting rooms. Here, Catullus’ famous sparrow is trapped in an airport “aisle / of plastic blue seats,” while the “bounded lack of boundaries” of extra-linear space is suggested by a fish tank flanked by a plastic plant. These poems expose the inherent comedy of the mundane, even as they prevent us from assuming we can deduce substance from style; their incongruous waiting room fauna raise questions as eternal as any more obviously “poetic” predecessor.

Thank you, as ever, for reading!

Susan Lewis, Carol Ciavonne, and Bernd Sauermann

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The intricate constructions of Eozen Agopian incorporate many materials and techniques. Her complex pieces are like small universes, each containing its own private visual logic. Using techniques drawn from sewing and weaving, she uses threads and fabric to push and pull her works into three dimensions from their wall-based origins. Manipulating loose threads over painted and drawn color, she is able to create compositions that seem to vibrate as the color and form are in constant movement. They are intense and beautiful, the eye moving constantly over these landscapes of color and texture.

Judith Henry has created a body of work that will resonate with all those who commute on public transportation. The L Train, a heavily used subway line that runs through Manhattan and into Brooklyn, is a perfect device to use to paint an iconic portrait of urban life. Everyone takes the L train! Using an intimate format (5 x 5 inches) Henry has portrayed her fellow commuters with humor and empathy. Her loose and fluid painting style, superimposed over black and white photographs of the subway, conveys the beat of urban life.

We are presenting a snippet from extraordinary 12-year project, entitled My Brother’s War by Jessica Hines. Hines has sought understanding and closure on her brother’s experience as a soldier in Vietnam. Through photographs and text, both his and hers, she eloquently paints a portrait of both her beloved brother and his experience as a soldier and her family’s loss. It is work that is deeply personal and yet touches us all with its willingness to express love and grief.

Miriam Hitchcock makes mysterious paintings that hint at narrative, but leave the story up to the viewer. Her works on shaped panels capture brief moments of everyday life – a window, a profile, the gesture of a dog walking. Like visual poems, they reveal bits and pieces of color, form and idea which are effortlessly woven into lyrical compositions. We see the connections between her thoughts and observations of the physical world synthesized into images that reflect her contemplative worldview. In these paintings, I perceive the landscape and sunlight of the California coastline, where Hitchcock lives. Clear warm color, with a hint of clouds and sun, infuse her work.

The ceramic and mixed media work of Beth Lo conveys her keen understanding of both her family’s cultural heritage and her experience growing up as a minority in the US. Her wonderful images of children and childhood emerged in her work after the birth of her son and reach back into her own childhood as a potent source of psychological material. The gentle narratives of her finely detailed painting beautifully marry the traditions of ceramic pottery and sculpture with the modernity of her storytelling.

The carved wooden sculptures made by Hirosake Yabe are simultaneously funny, tender and bold. He takes the simplest of forms and gestures and imbues them all with a deep sense of life and humanity. His animals are particularly “human,” suggesting a universal connection between all living beings. His carving is masterful and bold, the marks of the object-making adding to the animation of his figures.

Enjoy!

Melissa Stern

Etty Yaniv

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Artist’s Statement

How we form narratives out of patterns that recur daily and how we process diurnal time in relation to memory and place have preoccupied me since early on. In my artwork I imagine multiple ways in which narratives may form out of fragmented knowledge by constructing and deconstructing pieces of repetitive documentation.

In a process–oriented approach I use a wide range of materials from my studio and from every-day life — such as found objects, drawings, paintings, and photographs which depict autobiographical fragments from my environment. Together, these disjointed pieces form a holistic image, widely varied in scale — from small scale collage paintings to monumental immersive installations. In either format I aim to create hybrid mindscapes in which the viewer is placed somewhere between the real and the imagined, the organic and the artificial, landscape and topography.

While on the whole I frequently allude to the fragility of our Eco system and complexity in our civilization, the layered fragments are like coded messages or excavated memories which present new clues. Each layer documents a particular moment in time and only up close the viewer may discover the content underneath, invited to choose their own perspective.

Etty Yaniv was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and currently works on her art, art writing, and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. Her work includes drawings, collaged paintings and immersive dimensional installations which merge photography, drawing, and painting. Yaniv exhibited her work in solo and group shows at galleries and museums nationally and internationally, including The Haifa Museum of Art, Israel, State Silk Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia, Newark Museum of Art, NJ, Torrance Art Museum, CA, AIR gallery, Brooklyn, Long Island University, Brooklyn, and Leipziger Baumwollspinnerie, Leipzig Germany. She holds BA in Psychology and Literature from Tel Aviv University, BFA from Parsons School of Design, and MFA from SUNY Purchase. She has been writing for several NYC art blogs and recently she has initiated Art Spiel, her own fine art blog. In 2018 she was awarded the Two Trees subsidized studio space Program in Dumbo.