For the last five years I’ve been making text/image sequences of poetry employing found language on the dust jackets of hardcover books. I clip the last lines of blurbs to compose poetry. These last words, so to speak, are vestiges of writing which is itself deliberately ordinary in function. We are all too aware of the deception of buying a book after reading a blurb more engaging than the volume it’s wrapped around. I’m taking up the challenge of writing as collage from such meager shards, bringing variations of color, typography, and bits of images into the process.
The ancient Greeks imagined the machinery of fate as three women, weaving the lives of human and gods into an enormous tapestry, killing or giving life by snipping or knotting a thread. Through the medium of photography, in my new series Woven, I imagine myself introducing time and thus mortality, into the lush flora and fauna which make up the millefleurs backgrounds of medieval hunting and falconry tapestries. The 5 x 10 foot photographs sometimes take weeks to compose, and during this process of composition, of collecting, arranging, burning, painting, and transplanting, there is change. Flowers wither, spiders build webs, new shoots emerge, and corpses decay. Influenced both by the Dutch vanitas tradition and the allover graphic compositions of Jackson Pollock, I intend the photographs to be experienced as exquisitely detailed still lives when viewed from up close, but to hold together as a immersive, more abstract composition from further away. Although the pieces are all made on the same wooden frame and printed at the same scale, each photograph incorporates a distinct set of conceptual and visual ideas. Some are densely packed with rotting plant and animal life, and others more open, sprinkled with small brightly colored flowers or verdant moss. What is common to all, however, is a sense of opulence which verges on excess, a plenty which verges on plunder. In these elaborately artificial tableaux, the inexorable movements of nature are shown forth and growth and decay, beauty and terror, life and death are woven together.
Nature and the world around us is the inspiration for my work. I explore the notion of evolution that ‘took a wrong turn’, whether it be vegetation or animal, blending elements drawn from human, animal, geological, astrological, archeological, and others. The funny thing is, it is likely that over the hundreds of million years of Life on Earth, many of these strange little creatures of mine may have well walked the Earth at one time.
Welcome to September, and to Posit 11!
It is a special thrill to introduce the masterful poetry and prose Bernd and I have gathered for this issue. Not only has another summer come and gone, but we are in the last stages (if not throes) of an American election cycle in which the complacency of most notions of “normalcy” have been shattered, giving rise to an appropriately pervasive anxiety about the depth and scope of the humanly possible. In its own provocative and evocative ways, the work in this issue addresses that anxiety, and even musters some degree of optimism. For tragedy rendered inseparable from the beauty of its vehicle, consider the stark profundity of new work by Michael Palmer and Fady Joudah; the disturbing resonance of two parables by Marvin Shackelford and Eric Wilson; or the tender melancholy of verse by Jeffrey Jullich, Stephen Massimilla, and Simon Perchik. For an inspiring balance of critique and optimism, take a look at Sharon Mesmer’s tragic yet emancipatory tributes to undervalued women poets, Sheila Murphy’s inimitable and ineffable pull-no-punches constructs, Sharon Dolin’s disciplined frolics, ambitiously braiding tribute and lampoon, or Anne Gorrick’s high-octane mash-ups of web-commerce parlance examined and re-examined to reveal rich veins of resonance. And on the brighter side, bask in Felino Soriano’s linguistically untethered odes to transformation.
Whether you are absorbed by the anxiety of our historical moment or weary of its seep, I hope you’ll take some moments to explore:
the tightly packed wit and wisdom of Sharon Dolin’s allusive riffs on Conceptismo, W. C. Williams’ So Much Depends, Niedecker’s ‘condensery,’ and the fraudulence of linguistic obscurantism;
the looping logic of Anne Gorrick’s expansive assemblages, artistic antidotes to our day-to-day “doses of forgetting” the “fine tunings built into” these rocking, rollicking litanies in which “invisible empires of products, fireflies and songs add to the beauty;”
Fady Joudah’s profound and miraculous condensations, with their masterfully chiseled, spare, and haunting visions of oppression and its internalization (“Election Year Dream”) sanctuary in the face of damage (“Monastery”) and the devastation of love (“Coda: A Fragment”);
Jeffrey Jullich’s grimly beautiful constructs, evoking the hazard, sorrow, and insignificance of existence as revealed by the “metamorphosis of seraphim,” “Nostradamus contradictions,” and “a cloud/hung between my life—and life itself” in which “intelligence is only – a fraction – a niche for omniscience;”
the mystery and beauty of Stephen Massimilla’s chiseled lyrics, gesturing towards the elusive and tragic lightness of love, loss, and existence itself, in which “so many little masks (marks, tasks) / make a life” until one is reluctant “to come down from the lightfastness / of this insomnia high;”
Sharon Mesmer’s lyrical tributes to women poets of the Americas which, by “beating all sorrows/into beauty” themselves fulfill the determination to be “no mere witness/to inertia” by evoking, among other notions of liberation, the freedom of radical departure — in what her fans will recognize as a masterful departure from the pyrotechnical virtuosity of her signature Flarfian poetics;
Sheila E. Murphy’s confidently quiet, powerfully enigmatic new works evoking the intimacies of existence anchored by “the palpable act of witness, witnessing” in which “pounce marks levitate a posse / of connect points” in our appreciation of her bracing linguistic montage;
the incomparable music of Michael Palmer’s austere and profound masterpieces of compression, sternly confronting us with the tragedy and horror of a world — our world — in which a child is “set afire / before blindered eyes / a world’s eyes” and authors “lost at sea / in a storm of words” stand idly by as their “books consume . . . the fire”;
Simon Perchik’s moving lyrics of love, loss, and memory, gently guiding us to “listen / the way all marble is crushed” and witness how “inside each embrace // the first thunderclap and shrug / no longer dries”;
Marvin Shackelford’s haunting parable of shipwreck, survival, and friendship, with its “reversed exploration” of the great parable, Before the Law, replacing Kafka’s eternally-withheld judgment with rescue, but, gratifyingly, perhaps not redemption;
Felino Soriano’s “relocated” lyrics, as musical as they are disjunctive, enacting the generative power of the transformations of which they sing; “alters” “of improvised becoming” in which the day is “a dangle of marbled light, an / algebra of sun” for the reader to gratefully absorb;
and the disturbingly resonant infinite regress powering Eric G. Wilson’s “Bowl,” ruled by the labyrinthine, archetypal, Escher-esque logic of nightmares.
Thank you, as always, for reading!
Welcome to the visual art of Posit 11!
Christopher Adams’ background in biology and science informs these environmental installations of ceramic sculpture. He creates small universes of hundreds of individual elements reminiscent of creatures from the biological world, as filtered through Adams’ imagination. Installed on walls painted in brilliant, deeply saturated colors, they seem to vibrate with energy, transporting us into another dimension.
Yura Adams works in a diverse vocabulary of forms united by her nuanced and thoughtful vision of the world. Based on both scientific and intuitive observation of the natural world, this work encompasses a lovely tension between loose drawing and complex patterning. Her use of rich and beautiful color reinforces this dynamic.
Kate Brown’s solidly painted compositions address one of the basic constructs of painting – the push and pull between positive and negative space. Using a carefully controlled palette of color, she has created an exploration of figure and ground that transcends the academic idea and emerges as glorious paintings. Big gestures are offset by architectural spaces. These works are luscious and bursting with energy.
In John Hundt’s hilarious and odd collage pieces, we see a world of biology and evolution gone strangely awry. Unlikely combinations of creatures are meticulously constructed from Hundt’s trove of imagery. Building upon the grand tradition of Surrealist collage, he has created a world of creatures found (hopefully) only in dreams.
With intricate and delicate etched lines, Renee Robbins explores the biology of the ocean. Her etchings, all based on actual creatures, evoke the undersea world caught in mid-motion. Her images are simultaneously scientific and dreamily ethereal. Rendered in softly psychedelic tones, they are like specimens on view through Robbins’ artistic microscope.
I hope you enjoy!
My paintings are an extension of my life in New York City. I have two ways of seeing–one as a painter in my studio, and the second as a walker in the city viewing urban life and architecture. My art-making process involves painting, collage, print-making, and drawing. I build up my paintings with layers of painted papers and fragments of prints, allowing an open-ended narrative to develop as I work. In my work I take fragments from the real world and re-imagine them in invented urban spaces.