by Michael Dwayne Smith

Because the painting has a life of its own,
he said,
I try to let it live. I glanced up
and watched the way in which Pollock was trying to do.
I think so, yes, in which he
wipes paint off
to begin again.
Pollock, a marvelous carpenter, built
several false starts before he hit this use
of foreign matter . . . not unusual in his work.

Would you
continue various objects?
I think so . . . possibilities,
it seems to me,
it seems to me
very much relate to contemporary painting.
I noticed over in the corner
something done.
Something about that?
He scattered onto the surface
mentions in his narration,
embedded very thick
wire mesh, glass pebbles, shells, string and plain glass.

A week to dry.
Squinting my eyes to Pollock’s house
and replied I wanted to show the artist at work
with his face in full view.
I sometimes lose a painting
but I have no fear of changes, because a painting
has a life of its own.
I finally figured out
how to lie on my back and photograph him from below.


Poem title: “A comment Pollock was known for—‘No chaos, damn it.’ He telegraphed Time magazine after they wrote some blurb about his ‘chaotic’ paintings.” Quoted from James Coddington, Chief Conservator, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in online interview.

 Poem body: “Through a Glass Brightly: Jackson Pollock in His Own Words,” Helen A. Harrison, New York Times, November 15, 1998.  The Harrison interview includes excerpts from Hans Namuth’s essay, “Photographing Pollock,” in Pollock Painting (Agrinde Publications).

IMAGE: Jackson Pollock photographed by Hans Namuth.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Process is what fascinates me, always has—even a hundred years ago in high school when I painted canvas and murals—so it’s natural enough to be fascinated by Pollock, and Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, any artist who happily abandons a conventional approach to work. This piece allowed me again to try and get at some small part of the man while trying also to get at some part of the observer. In other work, I’ve spent some time trying to translate Pollock’s “action painting” techniques into my own use of language; the quotes I plucked for this piece point to my own struggle to teach myself this invented process.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Dwayne Smith is publisher and editor of Mojave River Press & Review. Recipient of both the Hinderaker Prize for poetry and the Polonsky Prize for fiction, his work appears in excellent journals like The Cortland Review, burntdistrict, San Pedro River Review, Word Riot, Stone Highway Review, Monkeybicycle, decomP, and >kill author. His latest poetry collection, Happy Good Time News, is a collaboration with graphic novelist Evan R. Spears (forthcoming, Devils Hole Press). He lives near a ghost town in the Mojave Desert with his wife and rescued animals. Online he haunts MichaelDwayneSmith.com and MojaveRiverPress.com.