Thursday, April 29, 2010

No, I haven't passed on to a better place ...

although I did spend a weekend in Casper. Went up for a poet's workshop which was lots of fun. Got to chat with folks I trade email with and read about on the WyoPoet's website and in the quarterly newsletter.

Last night Kath and I went with Mary Jo Maguire, my poetry critique partner and La Cache buddy of Kath's, to the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art for a ekphrastic poetry reading. Ekphrastic poetry--I had to look it up--is poetry inspired or written about a piece of visual art. The Kirkland was the home and studio of Vance Kirkland who collected lots of pieces of art. The museum reminded me some of the Gardner Museum in Boston because everything in every room is a piece of art. What looks like a functional piece of furniture, like a soft easy chair, is really a collection from some place or artist of note.

That means that tables holding pieces of art are themselves pieces of art. For example, in Exhibition Room 2, where we heard the majority of the readings, the center piece of the room was a dining room table and chairs by Frank Lloyd Wright with signs on the chairs asking us not to sit on them or even touch them. Have you ever stood, looking at a dining room set, and not put your hand on the back of a chair? I have to confess to having done that last night until I saw the small sign on it. I slapped my hand for being bad.

Kirkland's studio,where he painted, is part of the museum, and it was somewhat surreal. Kirkland was only 5' 2" tall, so he had trouble reaching above the center of his large paintings. He had straps hung from rafters that let him lay over his painting which was on skateboards on a large table. He would lay above the painting, painting the spot immediately below him, and then would move it around on the table, so he could reach all of it. The poet whose poem had to do with the entire studio said she thought it must have been uncomfortable for him. I suggested it might have been a bit more comfortable than Michelangelo lying on his back to paint the Sistine Chapel. She agreed.

"Kirkland was synesthetic meaning, as he applied it, that he could hear color." (From a flyer I picked up in the studio.) His later works employed large dots of color, much larger than what you'd see in a pointillist painting. These paintings, most of which "depict imaginary nebulas and galaxies," he considered directionless. He encouraged collectors and museums to hang these paintings in all different ways. He sometimes hung square paintings in a diamond position. He didn't like to sign his "directionless" paintings because that would consign it to being hung in only one direction.

The poetry was wonderful. Each poet stood in front of the painting or object that inspired the poem, said a bit about the piece of art, and then read the poem. Each poet had written two or three poems and read each one during three half-hour sessions. Often several poets were in the same room, so we could move from poet to poet--they would read in succession--until we had heard them all. Then we'd move on to another room. It was very nice--this was their second annual.

I had one surprise as one poet said she lives in Hanoi and had flown to Denver to read her work. Last year someone else read her work as she was unable to come. I spoke with her after she finished reading one poem and mentioned my year in Vietnam. She and another poet who had read in that room said they hoped I hadn't spent any time in Hanoi back then. I half expected some hostility from the two women, but they were warm and understanding. Guess my old fears of being discovered from the 60s, 70s, and 80s kick in now and again.

So, we had a wonderful time looking at some fine art--and some not so fine art--and listening to good poetry. I'm looking forward to it again next year. One really nice feature of the museum for us is that they have Van Briggle pottery from Colorado Springs. One poet even recited a poem about a Van Briggle vase. We saw the Van Briggle works often as we drove up Highway 24 to the mountains. And our "pink" bathroom upstairs here in Denver has Van Briggle tile on the walls and floor. Neat!