Saturday, February 26, 2011

From the long overdue (re)readings (VI)

Insofar as Stella's and Fried's historical reflections accurately mirror the character of contemporary art (and to a large extent they do), I may almost certainly expect, as I walk into a gallery, to confront either a bunch of autonomous icons pretending that I am not present, or a covey of 'difficult' autodidacts intruding into my space and making theoretical demands on me. After years of such confrontations, it has become increasingly clear to me that our twentieth-century characterizations of the work of art as this ravishing, autonomous entity that we spend our lives trying to understand, that makes demands on us while pretending we are not there, is simply a recasting of the work of art in the role of the remote and dysfunctional male parent in the tradition of the Biblical patriarch. Even art critics deserve some respite from this sort of abusive neglect.

—Dave Hickey, 'Prom Night in Flatland. On the gender of works of art,' in The Invisible Dragon. Four essays on beauty. Los Angeles: Art issues. Press, 1993. 39-50 (46-47).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Poem by Lauren Castaldi

My Girls

We marched three in a line
Sipping frozen smoothie drinks
Tinted tropical colors to match our vibrant bathing suits.
And I can see myself in you, but I was more daring.
More intrigued with my dangerous side.
But your innocence is lovely
And I know you play ignorant because you are smart
One of the few kids who knows it’s safer to stay young
More rewarding to live in youth as long as you can.
I was the opposite.
I tried to grow up as fast as I possibly could
I thought it was better that way.
And I know you remember when I hugged you in the waves
Sand covering every inch of our bodies as we rolled around in the surf
Now you help me hold your little sister
But I keep it a secret that I hold both of you for dear life
Because the pull of the waves is that strong.
I put every muscle I have into keeping you from being sucked away
A little girl battling the persuasion of the ocean.
And although you are young for your age, you are wise.
But my favorite is when you laugh, oblivious to anything else in the world but your own delight.
And we walk down the sidewalk three in a line
Holding hands with our shirts on and wet bathing suit butts
Three blondies, my two girls in the Florida sun.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Poem by Lauren Castaldi


Call me the Queen of Losing.
I’m a pro.
I can lose hair ties, money, wallets, socks, and shoes
Earrings, brushes, clothes, homework
Car keys as I’m running out the door
My dog.
That girl I was babysitting two seconds ago
Basketball games, card games, board games.
Fights, disagreements, debates
Dignity, respect, self-control
My train of thought, my formulating idea
The disappearing images of my early morning dream

I can even lose you.

And none of this is even hard to do.
But none have quite the magnitude of losing you.

And if you want a reaction, I’ll give you a fucking reaction.
I’ll yell, scream, cry and crumble
I’ll give you tears with a slur of inaudible words.
That ugly uncontrollable What’s-Wrong-With-Her-Face cry, too.
Because silence isn’t satisfying
And it’s no fun to wonder at my cold shoulder.
But don’t ask to look me in the eye
If you don’t really want to see.

And losing myself wasn’t hard to do.

In fact it was quite easy when I had you.
But now I’ve lost you too.

[after Elizabeth Bishop, 'One Art']

Friday, February 18, 2011

Requiem by Manolo Gonzalez

Introitus. As he lay on the floor, I stood watching over him while the blood from the wound slowly spread out over the chocolate oak planks. He wasn’t dead, of course. I made sure of that. That part comes at the end, the finale, like a crescendo in a symphony. All of the curtains in the room were open, nothing out of place or out of the ordinary. I planned it that way. Everything must be accompanied by music, like a beautifully choreographed ballet. Death too can, and will be, an act of such sublimity, such operatic splendor, that calling it a work of art would be a grave injustice. But, of course, for that to become true, it must all go along with the music. So, I stood there, silent, looking down at the beginning of my masterpiece. The room was still, almost somber and then, as planned, the strings became striking and I set out for my next movement. Dies Irae. Now the fever grew, and the darkness began to show himself. I moved the body away from its blood soaked setting and placed it on top of the wooden table. I quickly shut all the windows and curtains, and locked all of the doors. I disrobed the body down to its undergarments, and quickly searched the pockets of his waistcoat and trousers and placed the articles on top of a chair. I removed all the jewelry, also put them on top of the chair, and then I removed his shoes and placed those under the chair. I grabbed a washcloth from the basin and quickly cleaned up the blood that had been spilled. The room was still once more. Rex tremendae. The madness in me, the madness of a man fulfilling and creating such beauty, was now controlling my body the same way that a ballerina loses control over herself with Tchaikovsky. Continuing on with my black dance of death, I turned off all of the lights, leaving only the light of candles to illuminate the rest of my opus, and I poured a generous glass of Bordeaux from a splendid vintage and drank the wine. The red glass matched the rouge of the blood, as if I was drinking the man’s own, and through that, drinking in the spirit of death. Slowly, to make sure that I was going perfectly along with the score, I walked into the washroom. I looked at myself in the mirror; face somber and unmoving with red streaks of blood on my cheeks, as planned, and stared into my eyes. Confutatis. Without taking my eyes off my reflection, I reached into the drawer and pulled out my straight razor. Methodically, I stropped my instrument as a violinist tunes his. One, two. One, two. Timpani. Bassoons. One, two. One, two. The feverish violins demanded that the blade be sharp. I raised the razor up to my eyes and examined the sharpness of the blade. Alas, the moment of true artistic beauty was soon to arrive! Offertorium sanctus, what beauty and splendor will befall my legacy! With the retreat of the pulsating instruments came the calm of the vocal forces. Lacrymosa. Soprano, tenor, contralto. In that calm I paced back to where the body lay. Slowly, deliberately. My glare was fixed on that pathetic slab of flesh on my table. His breathing was getting more pronounced now, indicating that he would be awaking soon, as planned. A soloist, no matter how spectacular, needs accompaniment to achieve greatness. Unbeknownst to him, he would not only become art eternal, but he would also service me as my corps de ballet. Soprano, tenor, contralto. The time was soon to be upon us as the strings became more and more nervous. I stood over the face of the man, peering down into his twitching eyelids. By this time I was worried that he wouldn’t come to consciousness in time for the grand finale, thus ruining my masterwork. This, of course, was a chance I could not allow myself to take. For this very purpose, I had prepared myself with some smelling salts in my breast pocket. Under his blood dripped nose I waved the container. The violas began to escalate as his eyelids began to flutter. I watched as one eye slowly opened and focused on my being. As the crescendo drew upon us, the other eye flung itself open. The moment of triumph—my moment of triumph—was finally among us. My eyes pierced into his eyes. I smiled as I lifted up my instrument as the music began to reach its climax. Soprano, contralto, tenor, bass, violins, trombones, bassoons, timpani, basset horns, trumpets, basso continuo! A glorious and beautiful work of sublimity and death! Amen! And then, the music stopped.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

English Journal 11 (2011) is now available for viewing/downloading as a pdf here.
Thanks for taking a look! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Luscious Frisian Fur by Jon Hill

Luscious Frisian fur cascades down her back as she throws her head back in what would better be described as an angel changing the feeling of happiness to sound rather than simple laughter.  That happiness spreads inescapably to anyone around her, and a single glance from her eyes, like pools of molasses surrounding dark chocolate, will bring anyone out of the deepest abyss of depression.  When her perfect lips form the simple crescent of a smile, forgive the cliché, but the entire room lights up. And in me it brings out an incredible mixture of happiness and longing, because even though I know she’s mine every second I’m away from her feels like forever, and then whenever I’m around her it makes up for whatever I felt while she was gone.  When people stare at her as she walks by she doesn’t understand that it’s because she is perfection, she is salvation, she is the love of my life, the reason I’m failing my classes, and everything in between.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vesti la giubba by Manolo Gonzalez

The lights on the street were beginning to flicker alive as she walked into her dark and empty apartment on the Via Ghibellina. She locked the door behind her and didn’t bother turning on the lights in her studio. Why would she? She loathed the apartment and everything in it. Everything to her was tainted, and used, and unmentionable. She was not happy with the apartment just as she was not happy with her life, wallowing in misery and the depths of stagnation. She dropped the wooden rosary, which she had taken with her earlier to evening mass at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, on a sparse wooden table. She had gone to pray; at least that was her plan. But, as every day beforehand, instead of praying she had ended up repenting and begging for mercy when her day of judgment came; a day that could not come soon enough. Defeated as she always felt after prayer, she had no choice but to continue down her path until that day came, and until then, as they say, the show must go on, no matter how perverse or unsavory the show might be. Thus, she reopened a bottle of cheap vino rosso saved from the previous night’s ritual, and poured some into her dusty Bordeaux glass with the twisted stem.  She drank her wine in the dark silence of her apartment with only the rays from a street lamp providing a dim light that filtered through her blinds casting a shadow along her face. It was completely dark outside. Silent and brooding, she walked into her washroom and lit a weak light over the sink. She opened an old bottle of red nail polish and methodically began to coat her chipped nails in a red that had long lost its gleam. Next she picked up a black eye-pen, a sad excuse for eyeliner with about only two more sharpens left in its length, and slowly, but not carefully, drew out the outlines of her eyes. Why should she make the effort to be careful in applying the blackness around her eyes, she thought as she stared at herself in the oxidized mirror over the basin. Her eyes and lips sagged, and her hair rumpled. The laugh lines around her mouth had ceased to be laugh lines and had become a jumbled web of ridged dermis that ended upon thin, pale lips. Neither a smile nor a twitch did she give herself in the mirror. The show must go on and this is all part of the act. She did not care for this show anymore, but to her dismay, she had no choice but to let it go on and on! Smile and the world smiles with you, they say! She raised her red lipstick to her lips and began painting a smile on those lifeless lips. Laugh, clown! Laugh! Ridi, Pagliaccio! Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart! Her lips, now as red as her bloodshot eyes, twist into a distorted feigned smile; a smile lifeless and unconvincing. There is a knock on the door. She walks to her locked door and opens it. A man wearing a suit almost as dark as her lined eyes holds up a hundred Euro bill to her face. With her red, twisted, and feigned smile, she leads in her first customer of the night and locks the door behind her.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011