I Am Big. It's the Pictures That Got Small

for those wonderful people out there in the dark

26 February 2008

Up from Useppa

Here's an image of my Gerri earlier today, as we were wading in the Charlotte Harbor Estuary off of Useppa Island, a barrier island west of Pine Island in Lee County. For my northern readers, none of the colors have been photo-shopped. It is that blue, green, and aqua, during this sunny, low-80 degree weather.

(Yes, January, your Red Sox are just arriving in town, by the way.)

Anyway, I learned a good deal about Useppa today, as I knew it was a site of Calusa Indian mounds. It has a rather strange contemporary history, as it was a resort for Barron Collier, the Florida land baron, and the island traded hands a number of times over the last century. Garfield Beckstead bought the island outright about 30 years ago (with a number of private homeowners still keeping their individual homesites), and he did a great deal to restore the old Collier Inn and in saving some of the Calusa digs.

Most intriguing for me was to discover that Useppa was one of the training locations set up by the CIA to prepare Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Odd to go there the week Castro officially resigned his presidency. But now, this island is a very small playground for the wealthy, while accessible for some middle-class day-trippers to enjoy if they can boat in.

23 February 2008

As Promised . . . .

Here's what I have been working on today, trying to create a "still life" poem about Ingrid's foot. As usual, I'm playing with a difficult range of diction, from dance to yoga to anatomical vocabulary, and I'm not sure if it all mixes together (not that it need be blended). I also had the challenge of including a self-portrait element in the poem to make it work with what Carol Rosenberg often does with her visual images. So I'm there and not there.

A Study of Ingrid’s Right Foot

Heel, ball, toe, nothing more than
a relevé:
the foot first planted,
the plantar surface flexed,
weighted on the floor, then
the fondu, the sinking, the resisting
against gravity, before the lift and light
up, the bounding and unbounding
up, to a glissade en avant, a slide
forward, how you might leap
from the hospital bed, to waken
to light and air, or to your children
and husband. I press my hand
to give you some purchase, and
in that moment is a ripple,
a movement, some coming to surface,
and then a falling, or a flexing,
a repose to tadasana, a foot firm
in the sand on this beach
between gulf and mainland. O Ingrid,
your foot deep in it, your toes fan,
nails Cleopatran red, this radiant
contact, so that I have become still,
something less than the sand,
and your foot bears everything.

21 February 2008

On Ingrid, Another Collaboration

As some of you know, my dear friend Ingrid Martinez-Rico suffered a terrible automobile accident just over two weeks ago; a dump truck (the official vehicle of Southwest Florida) ran a red light, likely going over 50 miles an hour, and striking Ingrid's car, plowing it into two other cars, and pinning it to a palm tree. The most significant of her injuries was head trauma (she also had a cracked vertebrae, a bruised pancreas, and a broken rib--remarkably few injuries for this kind of accident), which was complicated by Ingrid being without oxygen for about fifteen minutes.

She's no longer in a comatose state, but now a state of "unconsciousness," meaning that she's very close to awakening, and so we're all hopeful about her recovery, which will be a long, difficult process, but she has such strength and so many people have been giving her and Craig, her husband, and their children Victor and Cassandra such support.

I'm bringing this up because I have collaborated with Ingrid in our Entangled dance last fall, which I posted about earlier, but I am also working with a visual artist in another collaboration. Carol Rosenberg is a figurative artist, working with nudes of a certain age--her work is stark, even minimal, but the attention to the light on the body is amazing. In a painting (or charcoal work) she'll have multiple images of her subject, with various studies of feet, hands, back, and then she'll include one image of a self-portrait. I'm partaking in a project on Sanibel called ArtPoem, where poets and visual artists create artistic responses to each other's work. For Carol's work, I will be writing a poem, I think, of studies of Ingrid's feet (I have messaged them, while Gerri has pressed them into various Yoga poses, with Ingrid responding by pressing into other kinds of Yoga poses), and I'll be including a fragmentary self-portrait along the way. I hope to post this early next week . . . .

But thinking of Ingrid, I will now follow with a dress poem I wrote for her almost two years ago.

Dresses: Ingrid, 1966

I hold the sawtooth-framed photograph,
a two-inch square black and white, while
Ingrid, you hold your mouth in an oh,

waiting for me to see how you look
like your daughter Cassandra, then, all
fragrant mop-haired and girl-frocked,

the flounce of your skirt poufing
with Spanish wind. And it’s also your mother
you wish me to see, she kneeling to you

and facing full to the camera, a woman
arrested in two directions. Ingrid, I confess
I did not pay attention to your beauty

for once, not this moment, not that moment
in the past. I could not even see your
dress, but only my male-tilted idea of it,

even now. I saw only your mother’s
white purse, a patent-leather and gold-
buckled affair, a purse good enough for Anita

Ekberg to remember to retrieve at the club
after dancing with that man-goat American
Frankie Stout in La Dolce Vita, a purse

too gauche for Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy,
but not too crass for Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis, which once opened would

smell of mink oil, ambergris, lipstick,
and Bilbao, which once opened would
bounce on a spring, like a woman’s laugh

after a man’s too forward, too direct
word, and then would quickly snap closed,
no, no, no, and laughing still.

20 February 2008

On Being Ephemeral

Just a couple of more thoughts about my theater experience. Oh, before that, this is a wonderful photo of me during a rehearsal by Syndi Kavanaugh; she plays the "lying bitch terrorist" puppet.

I am especially enjoying the ephemeral quality of performance. Whether it's writing poetry, grading papers, or blogging, I find myself immersed in the futile attempt of trying to make something permanent, something inked or blotted or pixelled, which has some kind of pretense of the fixed, of the located. Yes, it's Frost's momentary stay against confusion.

But the performative arts, at least those which are not filmed or recorded, have no such pretense. It's the here, the now, just the immediate encounter with the audience. The conspiracy, that imaginative communicative act, is there and there, and then no more. Yes, in the reading of a poem, a reader may have that kind of private communion, one that has its transient and impermanent qualities, but the poem stays there all the same, implacable, indifferent. But this other kind of art, this presentation, expects no such extended contract. I know that there is something liberating at work here, and I want to play with it when I return to writing my own poetry.

Also the piece we are performing is also in transition, in frequent revision, as Barry Cavin continues to change this or that after our performances. It is more than a little unnerving, but it's also about attaining a kind of lightness, too. The student actors are amazingly game, resilient, and receptive, all of which humbles me all the more. And then, simultaneously, I am proud of it all. I realize, of course, how I am but the most pathetic of amateurs at this performative art thing (yes, I realize I am always performing as a teacher, as a poet, but that's a different animal altogether). But when you are a part of a troupe, feeling the heat of those lights and the audience just beyond, knowing that it is all disappearing even before you speak your first words, you realize how beautiful these moments are. This one and this one and this one.

19 February 2008


I've been away for a good while from the blogosphere, and I'm dipping my toe back in it.

Actually, the last few months have been a time for me trying new activities artistically, all of them collaborative, some with dance, some with theater, and some with visual art. Of course, all of these activities take me out of my own comfort zone, and I know I'm not very good at them, but they do stretch me, remind me how difficult accomplishment of any value is. More importantly, they have brought me to working with some wonderful, amazing, positive, joyful people.

Currently, I am playing a super creepy psychiatrist in Barry Cavin's Live Blog: Apocalypse, a dense, rather beautiful, and distressing multi-media piece. It's been one of the hardest things I have done in the arts, as I haven't acted before, and the role is one that's both a stretch and a familiar one for me. What's been tremendous, though, has been working with the other actors, who are so absolutely lovely, devoted, brave, and playful in their own work. And they have been so generous with me, as well, that I wish I could become something like a familiar to them when I pass from this life, something like a happy animal spirit, something avian and flock-like and feathered.

Anyway, this image is of Katelyn Gravel fixing Melinda Velasquez's hair. Melinda plays the puppets Judy and Violence/Death/Power/Famine, and Katelyn is Apocalypse; both are FGCU students. Katelyn's character is my nemesis (my character's name is Kerch, a little too close to Joseph Conrad's Kurtz), which means she's the cleansing heroine, and I'm the last bit of scum that she has to sweep offstage. It's a lovely little moment really.