Because I love this & it’s summertime in New York & because I’m feeling a little bit Cruz-y:
I thought I’d do a post in the wake of the tragic/shameful closing of New York’s 160-year-old St. Vincent’s Hospital (which welcomed my pops to the world).
It’s also National Poetry Month, which is fitting, as St. Vincent’s was once called “Poet’s Hospital” after it became the birthplace of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and deathplace of Dylan Thomas. Check out the short and sweet article in L Magazine.
I’ll also include this poem by W.S. Merwin:
I came across a ton of 1950’s covers of Jet Magazine, here are some I thought were super-trips:
<images from Vieilles Annonces>
Some Sylvia Plath, on her birthday :
Poppies in July
Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?
You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.
And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.
A mouth just bloodied.
Little bloody skirts!
There are fumes that I cannot touch.
Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?
If I could bleed, or sleep! ————-
If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!
Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,
Dulling and stilling.
But colorless. Colorless.
I’m a riddle in nine syllables.
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.
Letter in November
Love, the world
Suddenly turns, turns color. The streetlight
Splits through the rat’s tail
Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic,
This little black
Circle, with its tawn silk grasses — babies hair.
There is a green in the air,
It cushions me lovingly.
I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.
This is my property.
Two times a day
I pace it, sniffing
The barbarous holly with its viridian
Scallops, pure iron,
And the wall of the odd corpses.
I love them.
I love them like history.
The apples are golden,
Imagine it —
My seventy trees
Holding their gold-ruddy balls
In a thick gray death-soup,
Gold leaves metal and breathless.
O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me
Walks the waist high wet.
Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
Poppies in October
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly —
A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky
Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.
O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.
It is becoming more and more tempting to judge books by their covers. Publishers are looking to artists for their cover designs, the aesthetic becoming, in itself, a purpose for owning the book.
Among some of my favorites, photographer Cara Barer has been using books as the subjects of her photography and sculpture, and these photos have become the covers of books themselves <via GalleyCat>:
Barer says of her work:
A random encounter on Drew Street with the Houston Yellow Pages was the primary inspiration for this project. After that chance meeting, I began the search for more books, and more methods to change their appearance.
I realized I owned many books that were no longer of use to me, or for that matter, anyone else. Would I ever need “Windows 95?” After soaking it in the bathtub for a few hours, it had a new shape and purpose. Half Price Books became a regular haunt, and an abandoned house gave me a set of outdated reference books, complete with mold and neglect. Each book tells me how to begin according to its size, type of paper, and sometimes contents.
…With the discarded books that I have acquired, I am attempting to blur the line between objects, sculpture, and photography. This project has become a journey that continues to evolve.
Some of my favorite Cara Barer photos to follow:
For more info on the work of Cara Barer, visit her website here.
a sherman alexie poem my friend jeffery sent me, that i’m smitten with:
Requiem for a Pay Phone
I walked from
The apartment (shared
With my sisters) to that pay phone
On Third Avenue, next to a sleazy gas station
And down the block from the International House of Pancakes. I was working the night
Shift at a pizza joint and you were away at college. You dated a series of inconsequential
boys. Well, each boy meant little on his
Own, but their cumulative effect devastated my brain and balls. I wanted you to stop
kissing relative strangers, so I called at midnight as often as I could afford to. If I talked
to you that late, I knew
(Or hoped) you couldn’t rush into anybody’s bed. But, damn, I still recall the misery of
hearing the ring, ring, ring, ring
Of your unanswered phone. These days, I’d text you to find you, but where’s the
In that? God, I miss standing in the mosquito dark
At this or that pay phone. I wish
That I could find one
And call back
I just finished reading (and adoring) The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. The book comes from a year-long blog Kalman did for the New York Times of the same name. Since reading her work, the world of Maira Kalman has bloomed around me. I’ve learned she is a woman who has illustrated twelve children’s books, many of which were considered to be ‘too hip and worldly-wise’ for children, a series of these children’s books about Max Stravinsky, the Poet-Dog (how cool is that!). She has designed objects from umbrellas to coasters to covers of the New Yorker. Kalman is a collector of empty boxes, sponges from around the world, and postcards from the Hotel Celeste in Tunisia.
——- Kalman also illustrated the Elements of Style in 2007 by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, which is perhaps the best-known prescriptive treatment of English grammar and usage, often required reading in U.S. high schools and universities, originally published in 1918. (see the un-illustrated cover & Kalman’s version)
Below is a video Kalman did for the Elements of Style (the great song you hear is “El Pecador” by Los Panchos):
She is currently writing for the Times, posting one blog per month called “And the Pursuit of Happiness”.
Below are some neat Classics with covers designed by Ruben Toledo. Admittedly, I work for Penguin Books, but I genuinely appreciate a trajectory of book-making that attracts new people to otherwise unseen things. (check out this new cover for Revolutionary Suicide, by Huey P. Newton)
Ruben Toledo is an artist and graphic designer, married to fashion designer Isabel Toledo. Isabel, widely known for designing Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day dress. The Toledos are New Yorkers, Cuban-Americans, and one of the coolest couples in this dimension. They have an inspiring, creative, personal relationship which is talked about at length in this article for Harper’s Bazaar. Not to mention an incredible Atelier in Midtown that they share, live in, create things in, a place where Isabel keeps her fashions while Ruben has a studio, they make art together, mannequins, LOVE. Sigh….
Anyway, here are the ‘Couture Classics’ designed by Ruben:
If you were to redesign a Classic book cover…what would it be (consider your own definition of ‘classic’ literature)?
It is National Poetry Month and I’d like to celebrate with some short poems I love that communicate from/with New York.
My good friends Rachelle & Jeffery are also celebrating on their blogs; Rachelle by ambitiously writing a poem per day and Jeffery by posting poems he appeciates all month-long, links below.
Juke Box Love Song
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem’s heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day–
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
Federico García Lorca
The New York dawn has
four columns of mud
and a hurricane of black doves
that paddle in putrescent waters.
The New York dawn grieves
along the immense stairways,
seeking amidst the groins
spikenards of fine-drawn anguish.
The dawn comes and no one receives it in his mouth,
for there no morn or hope is possible.
Occasionally, coins in furious swarms
perforate and devour abandoned children.
The first to come out understand in their bones
that there will be no paradise nor amours stripped of leaves:
they know they are going to the mud of figures and laws,
to artless games, to fruitless sweat.
The light is buried under chains and noises
in impudent challenge of rootless science.
Through the suburbs sleepless people stagger,
as though just delivered from a shipwreck of blood.
excerpt from Puerto Rican Obituary
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
and they died
A Small Moment
I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking
What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
She does: She takes her time
Some days, I love my work.