ARTISTS AND AIRPLANES
The 2017 installment of The Poetry Porch selected works under the heading of artists and airplanes. A dialogue was initiated in part with the work of Julia Budenz who often wrote on the subjects of paintings and flying in airplanes. It is interesting to note that while she investigated processes of portraiture and landscapes, contributors here wrestled with the way compositions tend to spill out of their frames. While Budenz addressed the speed of flying and its effect on space and time, in which seasons could change between takeoff and landing, the poems here welcome the detachment and privacy during flight as a chance reflect, to return better prepared to engage with awful realities on earth.
About artists, some contributors focus on place. For Robert K. Johnson, the place to be is listening to the magnificent artist Beethoven. Richard Dey asks about the split focus in the painting by Fitz Hugh Lane between the shipwreck and the rock, while Ruth Arnison regards salmon as a dead fish in a privately run market until an artist slings one over her shoulder. Marge Piercy engages with the contradictions posed in an artist’s diorama of a library, a dilapidated building with a tree growing through the open ceiling in its center, while the books, preserved on the shelves, are still available to be read.
The contributors who wrote about flying in airplanes approach the subject as a vehicle for entering into a kind of privacy. The dislocation of being in the air, where perspectives are easily confused, can free associations and the courage to examine embedded truths. K.E. Duffin encounters feelings of loss taking off over waters rich with imagery that the narrator must leave behind, unexplored. Emotions are even more poignant when she thinks of her father’s death and sees how “a nacreous shell of sky and sand,/ hinged at the horizon, closes like a hand.” Barbara Siegel Carlson describes flying to sites of holocaust massacres in remote mountains and the resulting spiritual need that suggests itself up in the enigmatic clouds, where resolution seems cold, elusive, and oddly unbinding.
Danny Barbare does not fly, but he imagines the world of his brother, who is a pilot, where the lines “high in the twilight // riding on each other’s wings” and “the forever eyes that rule the landscape” represent the bond between them. Kasey Hartung’s poem engages in the narrator’s annoyance over passengers whose personal quirks irritate as they involve all the habits of talk and self-delusion that she had hoped to escape and leave on the ground.
Dolores Hayden constructs intersections between history and poetry in her persona poems that capture impulsive traits characteristic in those drawn to flying planes and taking risks. For Bessie Coleman, first African American to earn a pilot’s license, flying in daring sets of loops pulled her out of the narrow expectations imposed by society and gave her a chance to make a personal contribution in the career of aviation. Hayden has found a metaphor for ways to achieve with ambition and exuberance in the lives of those committed to the dangerous art of soaring through the skies.
Celebrations for the Twentieth Anniversary of The Poetry Porch will be held at two venues:
Grolier Poetry Book Shop, 6 Plympton Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, at 4:00 p.m.
Poetry by the Sea, opening reception of the poetry conference, in Madison, CT, on May 23rd at 6:00 p.m.
Contact Poetry Porch Mail if you would like an invitation and have not received one, or if you need more information about these events.