Archives for posts with tag: abstract expressionism

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 and

by Daniel McGinn

The new needs need new techniques,
new ways and new means of making
the atom bomb, the radio, the culture,
the strangeness will wear off
and we discover
I think not look for
but look passively
and not bring what they are looking for

Paint it liquid,
the brush doesn’t touch the surface,
it’s just above
I don’t use the accident—
‘cause I deny the accident—
it hasn’t been created, you see
I have a notion of what I’m about
and what the results will be

SOURCE: Jackson Pollock interview with William Wright (1950).

IMAGE: Abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) at work in his studio. Photo by Hans Namuth.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel McGinn‘s work has appeared numerous anthologies and publications, his full length collection of poems, 1000 Black Umbrellas was released by Write Bloody Press. He recently earned an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He and his wife, poet Lori McGinn, are natives of Southern California. They have 3 children, 6 grandchildren, two parakeets and a very good dog.

by Amy Uyematsu

A practical mom
can go to Bible study every Sunday
and swear she’s still not convinced,
but she likes to be around people who are.
We have the same conversation
every few years—I’ll ask her if she stops
to admire the perfect leaves
of the Japanese maple
she waters in her backyard,
or tell her how I can gaze for hours
at a desert sky and know this
as divine. Nature, she says,
doesn’t hold her interest. Not nearly
as much as the greens, pinks, and grays
of a Diebenkorn abstract, or the antique
Tiffany lamp she finds in San Francisco.
She spends hours with her vegetables,
tasting the tomatoes she’s picked that morning
or checking to see which radishes are big enough to pull.
Lately everything she touches bears fruit,
from new-green string beans to winning
golf strokes, glamorous hats she designs and sews,
soaring stocks with their multiplying shares.
These are the things she can count in her hands,
the tangibles to feed and pass on to daughters
and grandchildren who can’t keep up with all
the risky numbers she depends on, the blood-sugar counts
and daily insulin injections, the monthly tests
of precancerous cells in her liver and lungs.
She’s a mathematical wonder with so many calculations
kept alive in her head, adding and subtracting
when everyone else is asleep.

PAINTING: “Seawall” (!957) by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).

SOURCE: “A Practical Mother” appears in Amy Uyematsu‘s collection Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Uyematsu was raised in Southern California by parents who had been interned in American camps during World War II. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Stone Bow Prayer (2005), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (1997), and 30 Miles from J-Town (1992), which won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Uyematsu co-edited the seminal anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971), and her work has been included in the anthologies Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (2008), The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles (2003), and Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women (1991). She has also collaborated with multimedia artists Joan Watanabe and Roger Shimomura. Uyematsu taught math at Venice High School for more than 25 years before retiring. She lives in Culver City, California.

Author photo by Raul Contreras


During the past few months, we’ve written posts about Dennis Hopper‘s love of photography. These include several posts about his iconic photograph “Double Standard” and a post about his self-portraits. We’ve noted that much of the daily traffic to the Silver Birch Press blog comes through search engines — and every day people are searching for articles about Dennis Hopper, photographer.

While visiting San Francisco in 1964, Hopper shot the photo reproduced above. Called “The only ism for me is Abstract Expressionism,” the photo speaks volumes about Hopper and the owner of the Plymouth with license plate JQR661.

Hopper’s photos are often witty and filled with irony — and this one is no exception — and he seems to revel in the bumper sticker’s proclamation that, for some, art takes the place of politics, philosophy, and religion. In 1964, most of the people who felt this way drove old (this model is probably from the late 1940s or early 1950s) cars and were proud of it!

For the record, the leading abstract expressionist artists were Jackson Pollack, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko.

Photo: “The only ism for me is abstract expressionism” by Dennis Hopper, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.