Archives for posts with tag: paintings

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How to Squander a Sunny Day
by Jennifer Lagier

“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.” ~ Annie Dillard

Sunlight steams away nighttime drizzle,
flings coins of golden poppies
among lavender lupine.
Honeybees flaunt stockings of yellow pollen.
Blue jays spear slugs and snails,
glean pests from awakening garden.

A poet ignores dirty laundry,
abandons vacuuming, mopping.
Surrounded by primroses,
she props feet against oak barrel,
squanders warm afternoon,
scribbles on notepad.

Self-indulgent indolence seduces
hibernating muse from her shelter,
jump-starts imagination held hostage
by months of pandemic winter.
Spring revives taciturn earth
with lyrical hyacinths, cheery daffodil stanzas.

PAINTING: Flower Garden by Gustav Klimt (1907).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This past year has provided a restorative time out within which to appreciate our natural surroundings and has taught me how to put more satisfying routines into place.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published 19 books, her work has appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines, she has taught with California Poets in the Schools, edits the Monterey Review, and helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Her recent books include Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press) and COVID Dissonance (CyberWit).

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Crocheting – Nana’s Voice
by Julie A. Dickson

I can hear Nana’s voice:
crocheting is not knitting,
as she watched my hands struggle
with needles and yarn, dropped
stitches leaving holes everywhere.
Nana tatted lace and crocheted
fine even stitches on doilies,
tablecloths and afghans.
I decided to crochet at age 8.

Picture the finished project,
afghan, lap robe or shawl.

Yarn ready, crochet hook size 6.5
casting on is similar to knitting
single or double crochet — yay!
Much easier so far, keep going;
grab a stitch and catch a loop.
Oh no, my fingers are cramping,
look at the rows building; am I
crocheting an afghan? Mother
asked for afghans each year,
his and hers for their chairs;
how many did I crochet?

Fast forward thirty years.

Nana is gone, Mother is gone;
I’d forgotten how to crochet,
but a grandson on the way —
struggle to recall her voice;
cast on stitches, single, double;
count the rows, edge the sides
like a frame, now you’ve got it.

I cannot stop crocheting now;
baby afghan complete —
lap robes all around! Turquoise
and white, navy and maroon,
soon I’ll be broke from buying
all this yarn

DRAWING: The Crocheting Lesson by Mary Cassatt (1902).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I learned to crochet at age eight years, made countless doilies, pot holders, lap robes, and afghans. I finally stopped in my thirties, too busy with work and family for craft projects. In 2020, I was expecting my first grandchild and remembered back to my Nana, who had crocheted my baby blanket. For the past few months, during Covid, between working and visiting my grandson, I have, through many early attempts, finally achieved a decent afghan, crocheting until my hands hurt, a labor of love.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Julie A. Dickson is a crocheting poet whose work addresses nature, environment, captive elephants, teen issues, and human events. Her poetry can be seen in Ekphrastic Review Silver Birch Press, Poetry Quarterly, The Avocet,  among other journals, or on Amazon for full length works. Dickson has two rescued feral cats called Cam and Claire who watch her crochet and play with the yarn.

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How to Identify a Bird
by Laurel Benjamin

Focus on the orange beak, a crusher,
take your time, turn the nobs
oriented left to right—
see the racing stripe head, a bullet,
puff of white black white
flight action.
Zoom out from the golden
morning tree among white corollas
to bird frock a holiday suit,
dive and land.
I’ve studied the dynasty of devotion
among bird families,
a queenship of no solitary taste.
Now look from the side,
narrow as a finger, almost
disconsolate, almost tearful,
like a bride without like flesh,
without sugar breath.
From the front, view the open eyes,
too dilated, streaked neck,
hints of wing stripes, tan breast
no one can contest.
Or are there too many details
like a Victorian instruction book?
I set my eyes forward
to meet the bird’s as if
I the mother
eggs underneath, a little boudoir
with a dainty chair, house
with many breasted chicks.
Kneel down greenly
hour to hour,
employ a knowingness.
Like a fruit fully ripe, never rotting
on the vine, the feathered fabric,
not musk nor silk,
never peels back.
Tail flicks, throat opens,
verse a whistle followed by
a sharp explosive
chink.

PAINTING: A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills by Georgia O’Keeffe (1946).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Since the pandemic, I have gained a higher level of birdwatching, something that’s both intellectual and emotional, connecting with the birds, as never before.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurel Benjamin lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s PoetryCalifornia Quarterly, The Midway Review, Mac Queens Quinterly, Poetry and Places, WordFest Anthology, Global Quarantine Museum Pendemics issue, including honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Poetry Contest 2017 and 2020, long-listed in Sunspot Literary Journal’s long list, among others. She is affiliated with the Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and the Port Townsend Writers. More of her work can be found at thebadgerpress.blogspot.com.

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Red Bandana
by Nancy Wheaton

During the month of March I lost track of the days.
Once I dreamt I was walking the desolate landscape
inside Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.”
Amid the drooping clocks, I explored the mountains with the ants.
In April and May, people were making and donating masks
from scraps of material.
Shopping became a way of acknowledging
that we are creative and kind.
A most touching scene was in Rite Aid,
where an elderly woman waited patiently,
wearing a Grateful Dead mask,
while the gentleman in front of her listened
to an explanation of the possible side effects of Viagra,
as he was a first-time user.
He wore a red bandana as a mask.

PAINTING: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali (1931).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Wheaton lives and writes on the New England seacoast, which is now barricaded with police tape.  She walks on nearly empty streets through town, exploring new neighborhoods.  Out of stillness, she hears piano pieces being practiced and guitar solos.  She has named two chipmunks “Cheeks” and “Gordy” because they share the droppings from the feeder with the cardinals every day.

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We asked the 97 contributors to the Nancy Drew Anthology (Silver Birch Press, October 2016) to send photos featuring the book in their home environments for a series we’re calling “Nancy Drew Around the World.” Author Shahé Mankerian provided this photo taken at The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Shahé contributed the poem “Dear 12-Year-Old Self,” featured below, to the 212-page anthology.

Dear 12-Year-Old Self

Ride your bicycle a lot.
Don’t pick up magazines
in the alley. Don’t call

any of the girls. Samantha
does not exist. Her phone
number belongs to Tyrone.

If you want to talk
to girls, go to the library.
The girl sitting pretzel style

in the Nancy Drew aisle
might be shy, but talk to her.
She will know more

about boys than Samantha
or Tyrone. Carry the books
she checked out to her bike.

Memorize the titles
because your job is to know
Nancy Drew. After you watch

her ride off into the sunset,
run to the checkout desk,
and apply for a library card.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: While visiting the Getty Center in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help notice the painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David. In the portrait, the Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte (Napoléon Bonaparte’s nieces) stare at the viewer blankly as if they are caught reading a secret letter. A clue. Naturally, the painting reminded me of Nancy Drew. More so, it reminded me of the Anthology cover: Nancy Drew’s shadow keeps her company as she sits hunched over a clue. The shadow acts as an extension, Nancy’s body double. Finally, look at Nancy’s stylish gray dress suit, and the depiction of the overextended shadow in obvious black. Now, look at the painting. Notice the colors of the clothing on the Bonaparte sisters? Gray and black. Coincidence?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California, and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. As an educator, he has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education. His most recent manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

Find the Nancy Drew Anthology at Amazon.com.

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Stiflers at an Exhibition
by Tom McLaren

On October 8, 2011, a displaced East Coaster walked into the Goodwill in Gallup, New Mexico. Amid the strewn trash, he spotted an abstract painting, reminiscent of one in his high school English textbook next to Allen Ginsberg’s “A Supermarket in California.”  He saw one which looked like a Julie Mehretu he had seen at the Carnegie International in 2004. Adrenaline rushing, he looked for more. A Jackson Pollack, Silver Over Black White Yellow and Red, One Number, 31, Lucifer, Alchemy, or Sea Change. 3 others.

A misplaced Chicagoan, blonde, 40s, vaping, a high school teacher on the rez, used these paintings as an excuse to hit on him. He offered her one. He rushed the paintings to his wife, rummaging through the women’s clothing. He wanted to buy the lot, but the price tags of $8 – $15 intimidated him. The blonde put one back. He bought all but one of the big paintings and went back that evening for the small ones. He hung them and thought the pain which seeped through the canvas might be mold.

The abstract expressionist extravaganza which is the group of paintings by Richard B. Stifler I bought that day is my prized possession. Stifler was a dabbler in the arts, a Beatnik who read On the Road one too many times, and upon his graduation from psychiatry school took up residence in Gallup, New Mexico. Even though he died two years before I came West, he haunts me. His name pops up, written inside the covers of avant-garde books I buy at Goodwill. One particular vintage Marquis De Sade paperback tome comes to mind.

When I die, donate my Stiflers to the Albuquerque Museum or for display on the walls of UNM Hospital. I lament the lost Stifler—the one I didn’t take that day.

PHOTO: A Stifler painting from the author’s collection.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’m not sure of the value of my Stiflers, but I spend a lot of time in art galleries — especially contemporary art galleries — around the world. The only thing that separates them from many prized exhibition pieces are the size, say 28″x28″ or 8″ x 14.” I’m a big fan of abstract art because the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder. I have talked to physician’s assistants who have worked with Stifler, and I found an old news clipping about the birth of his first child. One physician’s assistant told me he was inspIred by Navajo blankets. To me, Stifler is the Blake in his garden of the fringeland surrounding Navajo Reservation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom McLaren is originally from Pittsburgh, but has traveled extensively and lived for a few years in East Asia, where he was a professor of literature and oratory. He has written a few unpublished dramatic works, and his work has appeared in such publications as Word River Literary Review, Gallup Journey, Flipside, and Martial Arts Training. In addition to writing and presenting at academic conferences, his hobbies are judo, aikido, and jujutsu, EDM and Goa Psytrance, and trips to Las Vegas.

PHOTO: The author at a museum in 2010.

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Imagined
by Dorothy Swoope

I imagined I
was Isadora —
diaphanous
dancing barefoot
on a lush summer lawn,
fragrant flowers
woven through
my flowing hair —
lithe and light,
a loosened, bright
Pre-Raphaelite.

IMAGE: “Isadora,” portrait of dancer Isadora Duncan by Arnold Genthe (1926).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was inspired to write this piece through the Silver Birch Press prompt “My Imaginary Skill”  I spent hours imagining I was Isadora Duncan and would dance and swirl aimlessly in my own world around the house in winter or out on our front lawn in summer, thoroughly entranced with myself!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dorothy Swoope is an award-winning poet and long-time resident of the South Coast, New South Wales, in Australia. Her writings have been published in newspapers, anthologies, and literary magazines in Australia and the USA. A collection of poems, The touch of a word, was published in 2000. Inspiration is everywhere.

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Skill in Need
by Jacalyn Carley

I imagine
working night’s whetstone, honing
somnambulant pleasures —
falling asleep.

I imagine
dropping anchor in night’s harbor,
quieting unruly passengers in the brain —
waking up eight hours later.

IMAGE: “Ladder to the Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1958)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was inspired by the prompt, pure and simple, thinking it might be possible to make poetry from restless sleep, to squeeze an iota of text from the sweats and doubts, the flotsam and jetsam, of bad nights.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacalyn Carley is a writer, teacher, and former choreographer who lives in Berlin, Germany. She is On-site Director for Sarah Lawrence College’s Summer Arts in Berlin program, and has had poems published in Borders, Silver Birch Press, Painters, and poets.com. She has authored four books (all only available in German translation) and is working on a full-length collection of poems about the nude.

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Self-portrait
by Ruth Bavetta
Alice Neel, 1980, oil on canvas

Eighty you are, Alice, planted
in a blue-striped chair, more naked
than nude. In one hand you hold a brush
like a baton, as if conducting your life,
in the other, a rag for wiping out mistakes.

Your breasts, like mine, droop
over an abdomen poured like a land slump
onto plump thighs. Pizza, pregnancies,
peanut butter, whiskey, long sweet afternoons
in the studio instead of in the gym.

Turkey neck, jowls, marriage, divorce,
paint under the fingernails. I see myself
with the same downturned mouth,
the same skeptical stare and wonder
how we got our bodies through it all.

You used to say an empty chair by the window
would be your only self portrait. Save
that chair for me, Alice. I’m drawing close.
Tell me how to come ashore.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My MFA is in Painting, so ekphrastic poetry is a natural for me. I wrote this after visiting a small Alice Neel retrospective a few years ago. It appears in my book, Fugitive Pigments, which is centered on art.

PAINTING: “Self-Portrait” by Alice Neel (1980).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at home in a striped chair.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Bavetta’s poems have been published in Rhino, Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Poetry, North American Review, Spillway, Hanging Loose, Poetry East, and Poetry New Zealand, among many others, and are included in four anthologies. She has published two books, Embers on the Stairs (FutureCycle Press) and Fugitive Pigment (Moon Tide Press). Two more books, No Longer at this Address (Tebot Bach) and Flour, Water, Salt (FutureCycle Press) are forthcoming. She loves the light on November afternoons, the smell of the ocean, a warm back to curl against in bed. She hates pretense, fundamentalism, and sauerkraut.

Escaping Criticism by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874)Paul Fericano at nine years old in SF (circa 1960)
Escaping Criticism
by Paul Fericano

1.

The strange picture of the startled boy
Stepping out of the frame and fleeing the scene

Is torn from a book and thumb-tacked to the wall
Above the bathroom sink next to the mirror

This is you my father says buckling his belt
A warning shot aimed at his second son

The little monkey in a disappearing act
Who climbs out second-story bathroom windows

Shimmies up drainpipes and sits alone on rooftops
Late at night to escape the rage of lovers

Screaming and throwing ashtrays and souvenirs
Against the walls that always talk back

2.

I brush my teeth I comb my hair I stare
At this other me this nexus boy

This doppelganger kid who leaps and bounds
From his world into mine

Unaware perhaps like me of what there is
To see or be on this or any other side

Where fathers say our names and sound
The way all fathers do when they dream

3.

One night I surprise us both
I sneak back in through the window

Like a tiny thief caught in the act
And there he sits on the toilet reading Popular

Mechanics his face so startled by my entrance
That I see the wound of his disappointment

The locked bathroom holds me now
There is nowhere to go but into his line of fire

I take the brown leather blows like daily penance
With time enough to flee again tomorrow

On the other side of all this noise and deception
My mother bangs on the door with small fists

PAINTING: “Escaping Criticism” by Pere Borrell del Caso (1874).

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at nine years old in San Francisco (circa 1960).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Paul Fericano
’s poetry and prose have appeared since 1970 in such diverse outlets as The Wormwood Review, Second Coming, Jean’s Journal, Saturday Night Live, Vagabond, The Mas Tequila Review, Mother Jones, Poetry Now, Wine Rings, The Café Review, Paul Krassner’s The Realist, and Krokodil (Moscow), Punch (London) and Charlie Hebdo (Paris). In 1983 his work was honored with both the Ambrose Bierce Prize (San Francisco) and the Prix de Voltaire (Paris) for upholding the traditions of socio-political satire. His latest collection of poems, The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), was nominated for a National Book Award.