Friday, December 6, 2019

From the Current Issue: Irish Poet Thomas McCarthy's "Yale Graduate and Bennington Graduate"





Yale Graduate and Bennington Graduate

He was sent back East to where gentlemen went
At a time when Senator Yeats was still in his tower;

East coast Anglophile grace for maritime power,
His family’s mercantile Pacific clout made absent

Deliberately as he plunged into the long haul
Of Professor Wade and Yale. Comfort became stone

And luxury as barren as a West Clare wall,
His dinner-jacket becoming frayed and undone –

Whereas, his grand-daughter sixty years on
Breaks her tanned ankle in a Co. Tipperary field

Just ten days after graduating Bennington;
Not that pain bothered her or that she’d yield

To any kind of self-pity or youthful stress.
Something from her grandfather was in her legs still

As she ran through a field of Tipperary wheat:
Wanting a Tolstoy feel, she said, not Yeats, not Yale.


A member of Aosdána, the Irish Assembly of artists, Thomas McCarthy has published many collections of poetry, including The First Convention, The Sorrow Garden, Merchant Prince, The Last Geraldine Officer, Pandemonium and Prophecy and two novels, Without Power and Asya and Christine as well as two works of non-fiction, Gardens of Remembrance and Out of the Ashes. He has won the Patrick Kavanagh Award, the Alice Hunt Bartlett and O’Shaughnessy Prize for Poetry as well as the Ireland Funds Annual Literary Award. He was Editor of Poetry Ireland Review and The Cork Review.


Friday, November 22, 2019

From the Current Issue of Pratik: American painter Vivian Tsao's on her evolution as an Artist



Doorway at Dusk: From Jeddah to New York


One winter afternoon when I passed through the door to the room in the back, I saw that the sun had cast shadows of the brown door on the off white wall. A pair of tall boots stood next to the radiator. Outside the door was a bluish hallway. There were a small framed photo and clothing that was left on the rail. I suddenly saw a painting. I brought my easel to the narrow room and began the pastel.

In the moment to moment dialogue with light, I tried to capture what was in front of me. I discovered that the tones of the white doorframe kept on changing as the tones of the hallway continued to deepen. I did not work with any formula. Painting was like sailing out to the unknown.

I often worked in silence. In February, the symphonic play of color and light in pastel gradually took shape. One afternoon at the end of the session in 2017, I brought the easel back to the studio. In the bright light in New York, I studied the picture and realized that I had just added the last stroke to the new painting Doorway at Dusk. I put down the worn stick in my hand.

It was in late summer 1977 that I landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I joined my husband who was teaching there. I had received an M.F.A. degree in painting from Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. As if a dream had come true, I visited for the first time Paris and Rome on my way to the Middle East.

In the ride from the airport to our new home, I noticed outside the car window a giant setting sun. Its flaming red figure seemed to rest forever on the horizon. Yet suddenly, it left without a trace over the desert.

My sunny studio was on the second floor of an apartment building on the street corner. In early afternoon, a shepherd dressed in a robe often passed by with his goats. The melodic sound of the brass bells around their necks broke the silence of the sandy street.

As the package of my brushes and oil paints had yet to arrive, I thought of visiting the local graphic supply store. To my surprise, I came across a set of 200 pastels. Its fine gradations in red, yellow, blue and green impressed me. When I began exploring it the next day, I felt a strange familiarity with the new tool. I sensed that it opened a channel in blending and in creating the nuanced tones in my picture.

When I set up the easel in front of the mirror in my new studio, I noticed that the steady sun had outlined the features of the young woman in the reflection. The light in her eyes and the flowers on her veil intrigued me. I began painting without hesitation. In the process, I felt a sense of liberation. I was no longer concerned about the self. Ignited by curiosity, I used pastel and my finger to create on paper the tones and textures of my subject.

Several months after I arrived In Jeddah, I realized that I no longer tried to resolve my painting through theoretical thinking. In pastels such as Self-Portrait with Veil and The Poet, I jotted down my spontaneous responses to light.

When I saw for the first time the artworks by Spanish master Antonio Lopez Garcia in New York in 1986, I was struck by the intimate touch of his hand. The retrospective show included oils, drawings and sculptures by the Magic Realist. I felt an affinity with the works from life of his daughter Maria and of his uncle, painter Antonio Lopez Torres.

His nuanced drawings in pencil sometimes took years to complete. In infinite changing tones, he captured child Maria in a peacoat. Her presence was gentle, modest and contemporary. In the drawing  Antonio Lopez Torres’House, the elderly artist passed through the familiar interior in layered silvery light. The back of Torres in an overcoat drew me in as if in a dream. Whether a window scene of a street or a mural-sized cityscape, Lopez created images over long periods of observation. The emotions triggered by his brush were subliminal. They suppress yet transcend.
Recently, in the narrow room in New York, the afternoon sun from the two tall windows shined on the Chinese scroll on the wall. The rhythmic strokes of Chinese calligraphy by my father took me back to his study in Taipei shortly before I left for graduate studies in the U.S. He wrote the poem by Li Yi-shan in Tang Dynasty at my request. He carefully stamped his seal in red ink after writing. Nearby, the bronze-toned spines of the books World Art Series published by Kawade Shobo in Japan stood on the hand-made bookcase. Before I had a chance to see the original artworks by Corot and Cézanne, the series was my Western art museum.

My middle school was within walking distance from the National Palace Museum in Taiwan. I longed to visit the Museum in construction outside my classroom window. My first visit in 1965 led me to the discovery of the hand scroll by Emperor Hui-tsung of Sung Dynasty. In his personal slender gold style, he wrote the Poem. I felt transported when I read the last lines of his writing. On darkened silk, the bouncing strokes of the palm-sized characters read,

“ The dancing butterflies lost their way on the fragrant path
   Their wings chased after the evening breeze.”

The scrolls of Hui-tsung and of the landscapes by Chinese masters echoed the mountains and waters that surrounded my school. They and the Saturday art lessons in the studio of Prof. Sun To-Ze helped plant the seed for my journey in art across the oceans.


 Taiwan-born, American painter, Vivian Tsao has exhibited her oils and pastels in places such as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Butler Institute of American Art, Tenri Cultural Institute, Queens Museum and Ceres Gallery in the U.S., and the National Museum of History in Taiwan. Her art is reproduced in books such as “Paintings by Vivian Tsao” published by the National Museum of History and “100 New York Painters” by Cynthia Dantzic.  She is also a recipient of Artist-in-Residence grant from the New York State Council on the Arts






Monday, November 18, 2019

Pratik Book Reviews: American Photographer and Art Critic, Williams-Krishnan on Contemporary Image-based Art




India/Contemporary Photographic and New Media Art, conceived and edited by Steven Evans and Sunil Gupta, (Fotofest, Inc. and Schilt Publishing), is a much-needed spotlight on contemporary image-based art produced by people of Indian origin. This book is the companion to Houston’s Fotofest 2018 Biennale which featured a show on this topic curated by Sunil Gupta in the Houston area during the Biennale.

Gupta and Evans have put together a group of 47 artists who visually represent current themes related to India and/or Indian identity in a variety of ways. Important to note is that this book (and exhibition) focuses on art made since 2000. Gupta curated a show of South Asian Art from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh for the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 2010 and he notes that this exhibition and book is the next installation of this effort.

Accompanying the work of the artists are four essays that shed light on the various practices in the book. Gupta writes about his own efforts to discover and uplift the voice of contemporary photography dealing with his country of origin. In a recent conversation with Gupta at a dinner in Cambridge, MA, Gupta told the small group that artists from non-western regions don’t need members of the West to speak for them or to ‘validate’ their work. He did, however, express the importance of inclusion in shows and gallery representation. This book and Fotofest 2018 provided Gupta and these various artists with a platform for exposure and an opportunity to edify all who engage with the work.

Three other essays accompany the work. Guyatri Sinha, critic, curator and founder of the Critical Collective forum writes about identity and self-representation in Indian photography through time. Curator Nada Razaalso considers identity but via the role of artists who utilize impersonation and imitation. Cultural critic and author, Zahid R. Chaudhary, looks at how politics and social friction are visually represented in the context of postcolonial and post-liberalized India.

                        Sunil Gupta

The photographers included in the collection represent a wide variety of approaches to themes and methods of expression. Some of the work is firmly rooted in interpretive documentation of India’s land and cultures. For example, Rishi Singhal’s A River Story is concerned with the sacred Ganga River and how it passes through the land and the heart of India. Gauri Gill’s series, Jannat 1999-2007 follows the life of a girl and her family living on the margins of society in a remote hamlet in rural Rajasthan. Including photographs of Jannat and her family, as well as images of some of her artifacts, Gill creates a touching story reminding us that many people remain vulnerable.

Other artists are working on issues of identity and social concerns within India. Mithu Sen has produced a very touching and poignant body of work, I Have Only One Language; it is not Mine. Sen has found a visceral way to visually represent the gaps in nurturing and memory that abandoned girls living in an orphanage in Kerala might experience. In the series, Where They Belong, Vinit Gupta has photographed Mahan, the the last patch of forest in a coal mining town in central India. Indigenous people have been in struggle with the State over the right to their land, which is being threatened by the State for its coal reserves.

Another genre of work investigates identity through performance. Chennai based Nandinni Valli Muthia, in her work The Definitive Reincarnate, for example, has recreated scenes in which her model represents Krishna and Vishnu with mythical references mixed with mundane details of the settings of daily life. New England based Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, in her series An Indian from India, creates self-portraits in which she references photographs of Native American Indians in the US. She presents the work as diptychs showing the original image of the Native American Indian and her performed self-portrait.

In summary, the 47 photographers represented in this book present many engaging approaches to issues important in and about India today. This collection of images, and the accompanying set of essays, is a welcome showcase of artists who are grappling with the dynamic, multi-layered cultures of India and the threads of Indian identity.

India/Contemporary Photographic and New Media Art,
Steven Evans and Sunil Gupta,
Fotofest, Inc. and Schilt Publishing, 2018



Julie Williams-Krishnan is a fine art photographer and the Director of Programs at the Griffin Museum of Photography. She has exhibited her photographs at the Cambridge Art Association, the Griffin Museum of Photography, the Khaki Gallery, and Zullo Gallery in the Boston region, the Colson Gallery in Easthampton, Massachusetts, The Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado, the  A. Smithson Gallery in Texas, as well as other venues. Based in Boston Massachusetts since 2010, Julie lived in London, UK for more than 16 years and has traveled extensively.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

From the Current Pratik: American Poet and Translator Andrew Singer on Europe’s Cultural Compass


           
Culturally, Europe encompasses 47 countries in the Council of Europe, stretching from Iceland to Georgia. Turkey and Russia, both Council of Europe countries, are geographically about half in Asia, while three more Council of Europe countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – are geographically nearly all in Asia, but are considered sufficiently European in culture to have joined Council of Europe. All of the EU is in this grouping, as well as Turkey and Ukraine, the whole Balkans and so on. In all, this cultural definition of Europe spans three-quarters of a billion people, speaking 225 native, living languages.

It often rests with Europe’s poets to explore and register meaningfully the scope, limitations, interactions and changes happening within and among these cultures – mediating between the local and the universal, finding what is beautiful in the melancholy, wisdom in injustice, and the wonder underlying the everyday, to which poets are uniquely attuned.

Aurėlia Lassaque, from around Toulouse, is equally at home in French and Occitan, the language of her forebears which was, for a time, the dominant cultural language of Europe. So a whole civilization’s knowledge is condensed in her now-tiny language grouping – recognizably “European”, yet at once also encoding something notably “other” from the European cultural history we think we know. It is the beauty of her poetry which bridges this divide.

Hungarian-Roma poet Lászlo Sárközi experiences a kind of cultural fault line running right through himself, which he acknowledges, frankly explores, and strives to unify in his verse. His stanzas presented here are part of a longer work, in form known as a sonnet wreath, which he came to master from a funded mentorship with former Hungarian enfant-terrible poet, György Faludi.

A conduit of delight, Latvian poet Edvīns Raups has a fully-formed style all his own. Romanian poet Adrian Oproiu has surfaced at a different point on the poetic intersection of delight and depth, peizings and stars to break through from specific myths to the all-in-all.

Swiss poet / fiction writer Leta Semadini plies the waters between her native German and Rhaeto-Romanic, writing poems always in one of these languages and translating into the other. Doing this, residues of things unseen seem to get snagged perpetually on small twigs; her poems are the record of this strange, local alchemy. Meanwhile, on another side of Swiss culture, Pierre Voėlin is a leading, living French-language poet from the Jura mountains; again we find a kindred spirit boiling down a whirlpool to leave us his intense residue of notes in poetry.

Four thousand kilometers away, Armenian poet Anahit Hayrapetyan holds open the intimate space of her pregnancy with a vulnerable sensuality, disarming the everyday. At the other end of the poetic spectrum, Italian poet Vincenzo Bagnoli gives us an almost forensic, tragic epic – from which we excerpt one striking Movement here.

Mandy Haggith lives on a croft in the Scottish highlands and educates on environmental concerns; her poems sometimes are like the very extension of nature herself. Here we present two of her “A-B-tree” poems, each based on a different tree in the Gallic tree alphabet.

Finally, İlhan Sami Çomak is a Turkish poet virtually unknown in English. Convicted as a young university student for ostensible separatism, he is now about 24 years into what is likely to be a 30-year total prison sentence. He writes poetry in both Turkish and his native Kurdish.

The poems in this focus run from formal to avant-garde, from many geographies, politics and original languages. Yet, is there something undefined which seems to place all these poets in a common cultural construct? If it is there, it will be easier to discern in English translation, where we can view all these works side by side.

Certainly, there is a cultural inheritance which all these poets share. Perhaps the very notion of setting up such a construct of European poetry, can nudge it toward greater meaning. In any case, there is quite a range of voices and experience in this small selection. We can celebrate this diversity, and at the same time recognize that a spirit of growing openness and interchange may indeed also be at play, toward a greater sense of belonging together in the very long term. If this is happening, it is certainly coming firstly in culture. In this sense, our poets may function not only as individual shining lights, but as members perhaps of an emerging culture, facing up to a new set of shared challenges over against all of us in this age.


Andrew Singer is a poet and fiction writer, translator and visual artist. He directs Trafika Europe showcasing new literature in English translation from across Europe. He mentored with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and has taught Creative Writing, Literary Translation, and literature courses most recently at Penn State University, and across Europe. His work has appeared in World Literature Today, Fulcrum, Levure littéraire, and Open Letters Monthly.  






From the Current Issue -- American Poet Mindy Kronenberg Celebrating Whitman’s 200th Birth Anniversary



North Shore Reverie

I picture Walt and Neil,
The wizened long-bearded poet
under the wide-brimmed hat,
the astronomer adorned
in a vest of suns and stars,
walking the shore at dusk,
relishing the percussion of
shards and pebbles underfoot,
consonants of the sea’s unfolding song
embedded between ribbons
Of seaweed snapping on the surf’s tongue.

Glaciers, says the astronomer, his voice
a reverent music summoning cliffs
frothed from ice, climbing
and receding in the briny air.
His old companion whispers Algonquins,
sinking footprints in the glittering sand,
their tents and fires shimmering on the landscape.  

“The atoms in your body
are traceable to the stars”
says the astronomer.

“For every atom belonging to me
as good belongs to you.”
says the poet.

With the swell and sway of
the Sound against the tusks
of cliffs, our Island reaches
its long grasp through the
effervescence of Time.


Mindy Kronenberg is an award-winning writer whose poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of publications in print and online in the United States and abroad. She teaches writing, literature, and arts courses at SUNY Empire State College, publishes Book/Mark Quarterly Review, reviews books for Mom Egg, and serves on the board for Inspiration Plus, an arts initiative celebrating creativity through art and science. Since 2016 she has served as Editor for Oberon poetry magazine.





Friday, November 15, 2019

From Pratik's Current Issue: "Rowan Woman" by Mandy Haggith



Rowan Woman

The eagle, demon-torn, crashed to earth.
Its head buried into soil,
beak rasped through stone,
eyes and brain rooted to a tree-form.

Above ground, wood-bones branched
feather-leaved. Blood became berries
seeded with life. So, to Greeks,
the rowan was born.

Vikings went the other way: took wood
and shaped a spine, legs, arms, head,
filled out flesh with berries,
adorned the skull with leaves.

There she was, the girl. Here I am,
the woman, finally understanding why
I need to be rooted, yet always felt
I fell from the sky.


Mandy Haggith is a Scottish poet, novelist, and environmental activist from Northumberland. Since 1999 she has lived on a coastal wooded croft in Assynt. Her environmental stewardship has included advising for a Scottish Member of Parliament and working for Greenpeace, WWF, Fern and Taiga Rescue Network. She presently lectures on Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands.  




From the Current Issue: "Irish Poetry" by Eavan Boland


Irish Poetry
for Michael Hartnett

We always knew there was no Orpheus in Ireland.
No music stored at the doors of hell.
No god to make it.
No wild beasts to weep and lie down to it.

But I remember an evening when the sky
was underworld-dark at four.

When ice had seized every part of the city
and we sat talking -
the air making a wreath for our cups of tea.

And you began to speak of our own gods.
Our heartbroken pantheon:

No Attic light for them and no Herodotus.
But thin rain and dogfish and the stopgap
of the sharp cliffs
they spent their winters on.

And the pitch-black Atlantic night.
And how the sound
of a bird’s wing in a lost language sounded.

You made the noise for me.
Made it again.
Until I could see the flight of it: suddenly

the silvery, lithe rivers of your south-west
lay down in silence.
And the savage acres no one could predict
were all at ease, soothed and quiet and

listening to you, as I was. As if to music, as if to peace.


Recipient of the Lannan Award for Poetry and an American Ireland Fund Literary Award, Eavan Boland has published ten volumes of poetry, the most recent being New Collected Poems (2008) and Domestic Violence (2007) and An Origin Like Water: Collected Poems 1967-87 (1996) with W.W. Norton. She is on the board of the Irish Arts Council.