Notes on Poetry + Art

Jean Dubuffet, Cow, 1959

Want to write a poem called “Imaginary Madonna of the Pomegranate” (plague-ridden Arno, the promise of alchemy, basilisk of dawn), but I haven't seen her face yet.

Ideas for an installation- giant, handwritten lyrical analysis of Paul Thek's Pyramid for a Hippie.

Why I am not a painter: no room at the Inn!

The art world today reminds me of the Tulip Mania of the 17th century; even the search for the lavish black ones.


  • Eugene Marais

  • Photos of Maidenek

  • turtle doves- catfish humor.

I love Handke's rejection of history (are Kiefer's paintings moral equivalents of the 'realist' novels of Böll and Gunter Grass?). Unthinkable though in America, before we've studied a single word!

A notion of the geography of the imagination: inscapes on the hood of an open skull.

Three moments when the moon stopped waning- for the brutal deaths of Lorca, Frank O'hara, Pasolini.

When I draw, faces (of cows, dogs, Moon-ladies, mammals) look funny; in poems they always seem sad. Am I half-Karl Valentin, half Trakl? Or is it a question of cerebral hemispheres?

A social sculpture: the Berlin Wall (German architects, called Coop Himmelblau: “ the dissipation of our bodies into the city”).

Series of images of car graveyards (147). Each photo is a darker shade of green.

In my dream I was shopping for mothballs. Round ones, shavings, even huge blocks like soap or salt licks.

Landscapes (coasts) of death.

I saw a pterodactyl, wild, flying outside the Cloisters. Is it this impossible juxtaposition that makes me want to keep on living?

Barbara's ivory towers haunt me. Now she wants to build a UFO in Times Square. And houses for rock stars (Hotel California, In the Year 2525). And me- I want to carpenter an Ark in Flushing Meadow Park (make a list: who to invite).

On Ashbery (on Ash): playing the piano backwards (bagatelles).

Ideas to avoid literally: Social Darwinism, the Scottsboro Boys, the Shroud of Turin, birth of Dionysus, love of war, etc.

When I tired to photograph Mount Palomar, a plumber chased me with a giant monkey wrench.

For a poem (not a still life):

  • man in a doorway- Ireland

  • putting socks on, a portal to hell

  • or other underworld.

When I saw my print in the Museum of Modern Art, I had to go ask who the artist was.

Montauk, NY. Frozen birds fall at my feet from the fireplace (excuse for an elegy).

I am still only one point of any triangle.

Whenever I start writing in the afternoon I feel like I am loafing on a glass-bottom boat.

I remember reading that Dubuffet never drew a cow in its presence. It's the absence that I'm interested in, the moment after.

A cherrystone's foot, a metrical foot, a child's bruised foot.

Project for a billboard in the Bronx (or Omaha- just so long as it's by a freeway): small black letters on white: TOTALITARIANISM.

All of the women in my family are painters. None of the men are writers.

Art after Auschwitz: a wary ocelot.

The only sculpture I ever sold (for twenty dollars) - three blackbirds leaning into the wind on tiny pedestals, each with a designation: rain, fire, ice.

Trying to get at what lies between those cheery Haitian folk paintings you see in New York and the reality of living in Prot-au-Prince.

In my dream there were hairy coffee cups and then a lecture on the word “sieve.”

Favorite museums:

  • Dog Museum (Park Avenue South)

  • Cheval's Palais Ideal (a postman's dream)

  • The Deer Tick Museum.

I find myself by learning what I am not, by what is hewn away. Empty my pockets; you'll find those gummy erasers.

Siegfried understood the language of the birds the moment he drank the blood of the slain dragon.

In the bathtub it suddenly occurred to me that Bobby's painting Tides was a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. No, they had crossed time and space and medium to embody- in Plato's world- one essence! But how do I explain this to anyone?

Remember Mom preparing for a watercolor (a single wash):

  • fishermen on a beach

  • hairs of ink for fish poles

  • the wrath the sea contains.

Beautiful Monika is driving us along the Autobahn. She is waking from the oblivion of being. I am writinga poem about Ronald Reagan.

The Symbolists were right: every brushstroke eats away at consciousness.

Epistemology is dead! The narrative is lost! Geometry is out! The Age of the World Picture is over!

In my dream, was I Lowell? We were underwater without being underwater. The city burned, I took down words to make a poem, and when I woke up, it was finished.

My love for B. is deeper than whole oceans of gold, or any poem, or any dream of endless questioning of everything I've ever done.

Inside the deep image: Jung was a Fascist collaborator.

  • I want to write poems the curl up as in flames.

  • I want to draw a circle around the earth.

  • I want a rock garden and a singing dog.

Sunrise. Kassel. Planting trees in the shadow of the Tower of Hercules. From a prison window on a hillside a poet of the RAF looks out, as I look up to him, both of us trying to capture the moment.

How to say what the mind is, or what is making art? Two boys, two and four years old, squatting on the sand flats of La Coruña. One plants a stick in the mud from a broken lobster pot and says, “this is us.”

Published in Pequod, 28/29/30, 1989