Archives for category: Women Artists




by Robert Bly

In the month of May when all leaves open,

I see when I walk how well all things

lean on each other, how the bees work,

the fish make their living the first day.

Monarchs fly high; then I understand

I love you with what in me is unfinished.
I love you with what in me is still

changing, what has no head or arms

or legs, what has not found its body.

And why shouldn’t the miraculous,

caught on this earth, visit

the old man alone in his hut?
And why shouldn’t Gabriel, who loves honey,

be fed with our own radishes and walnuts?

And lovers, tough ones, how many there are

whose holy bodies are not yet born.

Along the roads, I see so many places

I would like us to spend the night.


Painting: “Apple Blossoms I” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1930)



Poet Joan Jobe Smith forwarded yesterday’s post — where we wished Carolyn Cassady a happy 90th birthday — to the grand lady herself, and received this reply (excerpt):

Many thanks to one and all. I did have a delightful day …The house looks like a funeral parlor with all the flowers…life goes on at 90 and gratitude for health. XXCC

Thanks for your note, Carolyn. Wishing you many more happy, healthy years! 

Photo: Carolyn Cassady in the early 1950s with Jack Kerouac and her daughter Cathleen



April 28, 2013 marks the 90th birthday of Carolyn Cassady — the accomplished and gifted woman associated with Beat writers Neal Cassady (one-time husband), Jack Kerouac (friend and lover), and Allen Ginsberg (friend and confidante). She wrote about these iconic figures and much more in her 1990 memoir OFF THE ROAD (available at

Carolyn showed artistic gifts from her early years — at age 12, joining a theater troupe in Nashville, where she won awards for her set designs. She received a scholarship to Bennington College (Vermont) — studying with choreographer Martha Graham, philosopher Erich Fromm, and poet Theodore Roethke — and earned a B.A. in drama in 1944. After graduation, she served as an occupational therapist for the U.S. Army, then moved to Denver in 1946 to study for her master’s degree at the University of Denver while working as a teaching assistant at the Denver Art Museum.

Fate intervened in 1947, when she met future husband Neal Cassady and his friends Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. While dating Cassady, Carolyn learned he was still married to his first wife, so she moved to California to pursue work as a costume designer in the movie business. Before starting the job, it became clear she was expecting a little Cassady — and decided to reconcile with Neal. They had three children together — and, in all, spent 16  tumultuous off-again-on-again years with each other, divorcing in 1963.

In 1983, Carolyn moved to England and has continued to work as an artist and writer. So, wherever you are today, Carolyn, your friends in America — especially Joan Jobe Smith and Fred Voss — wish you a very happy birthday. (Thanks, Joan, for suggesting this post.)


“Collage Poem” © Jena Ardell, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Jena Ardell is a freelance photographer and writer. Her photography has been exhibited worldwide and has appeared in numerous publications, including Rolling Stone, and can be found as the cover art to a handful of novels. She is a regular contributing writer and concert photographer for L.A. Weekly’s music and arts sections. Jena earned second place in the online feature category at the L.A. Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Awards 2011 for her contribution to L.A. Weekly’s Coachella coverage. Jena is currently pursuing editorial photography and seeking a publisher for a children’s book she penned during a cross-country train trip.


“Collage Poem” and other work by Jena Ardell will appear in the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology, a collection of poetry, prose, photography, and art from contributors in the U.S., U.K., and Europe — available March 15, 2013.


Born on January 19, 1943, Janis Joplin left us in 1970, but continues to lift our spirits and bring us joy through her music. Yes, Janis (“Pearl”) Joplin would have turned 70 today! Ms. Joplin was an inspiration to many — especially women — showing that a female could front a rock band. To me, she was the female equivalent of Jim Morrison — a gifted, charismatic, one-of-a-kind artist that no one before or since has come close to matching.


My favorite Janis Joplin tune is one she penned herself called “Kozmic Blues.” Listen to this brilliant song in a brilliant 1970 performance here.

Joan Jobe Smith named her literary journal Pearl in co-honor of Janis Joplin (the other honoree was Smith’s mother, Margaret — a name that means “Pearl”). Visit Pearl Magazine online at this link. Founded in 1974, Pearl Magazine will celebrate its 50th edition in 2013.

Photo at top: Janis Joplin, New York City, late 1960s — all goodwill and benevolence.



“…any person who aspires, presumes, or feels the calling to be an artist has a built-in sense of duty.”


PHOTO: Singer/songwriter/poet/writer/performer PATTI SMITH with her cat friend.

NOTE: Smith won the National Book Award in 2010 for her memoir JUST KIDS, available at



We just received the year-end report for the Silver Birch Press blog and learned that our top postings for 2012 featured Cecilia Gimenez, the 80+-year-old Lady from Spain whose good-intentioned but ill-advised restoration of “Ecce Homo” — a portrait of Christ’s face on the wall of her church in Borja, Spain — made her an international art superstar.

Despite (or more likely because of) all the controversy, Cecilia is thriving — creating new paintings (drafted with admirable skill) and looking well rested (and always well dressed).

Happy New Year, Cecilia. Thank you!

Photo: Cecilia Gimenez and a recent painting.



by C.S. Merrill (March 1974)

I worked for O’Keeffe at first
as librarian in the book room.
It smelled of old paper
sweet, sharp, and dusty
bare bulb overhead
plywood table
books all over
on the floor, in crates
on shelves, in boxes.
I listed these books
cataloged them
on a manual typewriter
sitting on a cane bottom chair.
Is this how a medieval scribe felt?
To relieve my hours
she hung a small painting
on the west wall,
brilliant scarlet poppies.
Asked her after lunch,
“May I have that little painting?
Will you give it to me?
I like it.” She snorted
didn’t laugh
didn’t say anything
She snorted…loudly
Years later
looking at a paper
for an auction
I learned how much
money it was worth.
She snorted at me
there in the library.
went out the door.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE FROM C.S. (CAROL) MERRILL: O’Keeffe answered my letter. I first visited her one day in August, 1973. She hired me to work on weekends as librarian, secretary, cook, nurse, or companion from 1973 to 1979. This poetry is from my journals written a few hours after the experiences. O’Keeffe…often had me read aloud to her from biographies of the great. Many times we re-read an ancient Taoist text Secret of the Golden Flower. O’Keeffe taught me to cook. She taught me to look, really look, at things. She showed me how to live. She let me know her when she faced old age, blindness, and death in the last years of her life. O’Keeffe must be remembered. She was a woman of fierce temper, infinite kindness, and impeccable sense of artistry. She encouraged me and changed my life. I like to think of her walking in beauty beneath ancient cliffs at Ghost Ranch. This work [poetry] is thanks for the strength of her will and the spirit of her work.

Painting: “Oriental Popples” (oil on canvas, 1928) by Georgia O’Keeffe


“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”  GEORGIA O’KEEFFE

Painting: “Sunrise” (watercolor, 1916) by Georgia O’Keeffe