Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Garden of Images that Endure in the Mind: Word Pictures in January's Verse-Virtual

             Some of the great word pictures offered us by poets in the January issue of Verse-Virtual make me think of the old Reader's Digest encouragement "Toward more picturesque speech."
In his poem "Continental Drift," John Kropf's cleverly written and sharp-eyed depiction of the big players in the dance of the continents includes this take on "rough and ready" North America
"cracking the whip of his Aleutian braid
and coiling the overgrown prehensile tail
of Mexico in the warm waters below..."
I definitely get the picture from this poem. 

Stuart Kurtz takes on a phenomenon many of us (such as me) may never have heard of, the "Dazzle Ship": ship hulls painted in camouflage designs to confuse an enemy. His poem imagines opportunities for painters such as "Arrangement in Grey and Grey, No. 1,
Commandeered by Whistler and his mother."
              And ahoy there, here’s the U.S.S. Narkeeta sailing by with "blips" and "dots" favored by the pointilist Seurat.

Frederick Pollack offers us sharp commentary and elegant phrasing in poems such as this month's "Line from Orwell" -- and also, contra the golden-oldie pop song, a rose garden.
The poet recalls a youthful walk in a rose garden sustained by "rich ladies," discovering
" an adult enjoys,
coolly, on a hazy summer day,
the soft toys
of others"
before concluding his poem with that borrowed line from Orwell, both for its ironic commentary on what goes before and for its still remarkable self. Go read the poem [], I won't spoil the impact here.

Lex Runciman's " Lace, Red Cup, a Rise of Buttons" provides speech for a great picture. The poem's meditation on this work gets so far inside the painter Vasquez's head that when he steps outside to look at the stars in the pre-dawn sky, we are led unobtrusively to share his thoughts: 
"lead white, he thinks, azurite blue."

Kenneth Salzmann's "1969" -- a poem that begins 
"If fifty thousand candles can be
the waxy, whispered remains of dead boys
in a cold, November rain..." 
-- may not paint a pretty picture, but it draws a powerful meaning from its Arlington National Cemetery setting. And the poem is beautifully crafted around syntactically paired conditional clauses.

Trish Hopkinson's poem "Dis-ease" -- its title depicted in lines such as "we wait... with wet
and tilting eyes, with steaming breath, with chests
collapsing, lifting, in apprehension" -- is enhanced by her son's drawing of a bent figure whose life is draining out of him. It's the key in the figure's back, suggesting the time limit on bodily health, that gets to me.

And Neil Ellman's poems attempt the challenge of finding human words for abstract pictures. In the poem "Green Un-Square Twist" on a work by painter Ron Davis, the poet delves into an image of a three-dimensional "un-circle" around a green center to draw the meaning that we 
"un-human as we are
without a sense
of hope in grass
and trees
see no reason
to evolve."

Happily we see before us many reasons to believe that V-V's poets are continuing to evolve. 
(See these poems and many others at