Sunday, November 30, 2008

Les Murray talking shop on National Public Radio

Back on Nov. 9, when I was still on a major Obama high (and had a Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational to worry about), Tony Renner sent the following note:

"Listening half-an-ear to to the best of our knowledge on kwmu this morning, I heard a guy read a poem and talk about religion and thought, 'hey, this sounds like something chris king would be interested in.' Of course, the poet was les murray."

As Tony knows, Les Murray's long poem The Sydney Highrise Variations is the subject of the Fall 2009 Poetry Scores Art Invitational. We are also scoring the poem, mostly as a rock band record (it sounds, in my head, like XTC's English Settlement).

Tony was nice enough to send along the link to the NPR program Les was on. Les is the third segment on a show that opens with Patricia Smith and moves to Jay Parini, before getting to our man. The producer does recognize Les as "a man many regard as the greatest writer in the English language," which is well and true, though we're also told that he "rarely gives interviews," which I doubt.

All I did was mail the bloke a baseball and, next thing you know, he's in my country and we're hanging out and he's writing me long, wonderful letters.

Maybe I'm just lucky.

Speaking of luck, Robert Goetz has agreed to help me shoulder the burden of sifting through the archive of source recordings I have accumulated toward scoring Les' poem. I have a six-pack carton of O'Fallon 5 Day IPA full of strange and wonderful music packed for tomorrow night!


Portrait of Les Murray by David Naseby is from the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

All Souls Procession for Marcella Sali Grace

The living tributes to the late Marcella Sali Grace continue to evolve and spiral in a way that begins to beggar the rational suspension of disbelief, especially considering that we are talking about a young person who was not yet twenty-one when she was raped and murdered in Oaxaca in September.

A memorial to this lamented spirit, based on K. Curtis Lyle's long poem Sali's Ark, will be the next Poetry Scores project, probably in the spring, up and down Cherokee Street, where Sali would have been most at home here in St. Louis.

We have much to learn from the All Souls Procession conducted in Sali's living memory on November 9 at the Dry River Radical Resource Center, in Tucson, one of Sali's many stomping grounds. And she did stomp on that ground. Steev Hise has filmed and uploaded a striking video document of this procession.

I, for one, am humbled by the passion, imagination, and daring that went into this tribute. The thought of competition in grief is, of course, absurd, but we'll need every fire eater, acrobat, and burlesque artist in St. Louis to even begin to equal this Tucson tribute in keeping Sali's spirit alive through ritual enactment.

The Barking Zanahorias blog is refreshed regularly with moving prose tributes to Sali by a friend who is keeping up with the evolving international tributes to her.

Sali's father John Eiler has written a powerful poem about his daughter, about what he taught her and what he wishes he had taught her.

Catherine Eiler's story about Sali, delivered at the St. Louis memorial service, remains the most succint statement of the remarkable facts of her life.

Finally - for, now - there will be no "finally," for Sali - this photo is pulled from Shagethelma's Flickr site, which pays tribute to Sali via the Day of the Dead ceremony in Tucson.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Encounters with Kelsey and Amy on paper stairs

Two interesting young artists, roughly within the Poetry Scores orbit, are in the news these days - or in the poem and on the blog.

Kelsey LaPoint, photographed here at our Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational, emerges as a character or spirit in a new K. Curtis Lyle poem that I uploaded today to Curtis' blog, Barackutopia.

The fifth movement of the six-part poem is titled "Kelsey LaPoint Convenes a Conference of the Birds". How much of this avian parable relates to Kelsey and things about her she has shared with Curtis, and how much of it is the poet riffing on her spirit as he intuits it, is best known to them.

Here's a powerful movement from the Kelsey and the birds section of Curtis' poem:


A smooth door suddenly opened
And out stepped a golden locust called Truth
Wearing red cowboy boots.
He said, “Friends you’re a little late.
The debate is over. While you were sharing your pain,
Taking blood oaths, giving up mixed drinks, breaking
Mirrors, stopping clocks and dramatically waiting for
Bells to toll, you missed the debate. You came too late.
Take the expression for what its worth. You came late!
The show has been cancelled. The damsels in distress have
All been saved. The graves have all been opened. While you
Were standing in one spot hollering ‘hold on, I’m coming’,
You missed the resurrection, the redemption. While you
Were in the studio practicing the destruction of silence,
Strength elevated violence and cunning to the absolute psalm
of pinpoint accuracy.”


In that nice photo of Kelsey at our art invitational, the piece she is checking out is Paper stairs by Amy VanDonsel. Like the other pieces in the show, it responds to Curtis' poem Nailed Seraphim and takes its title from that poem.

Stephen Lindsley of the Art Patrol blog singled out Amy for praise in his note on the show. Listing her with other artists whose contributions "appeared to be significant departures from expected oeuvres," including Jon Cournoyer and Justin Tolentino, he says "VanDonsel’s work, in particular, deserves high praise."

Looking at previous work in her online gallery, I see Paper stairs as well within what Amy has been doing since before she found us (she was the first of a few artists who invited us, rather than we them), but I'll take for granted The Art Patrol sees a lot more local art than I do.

At any rate, it is a gorgeous piece of art, a fantasia of color that also has fun with the image she has sorted from the poem, by crafting the illusion of stairs from pieces of paper - while still creating an ominous feeling that (if you know the poem deals with 9/11) leaves you with the creeps of a tower that is about to fall.

Paper stairs is now in the private collection of Lynne Wasson, who bid and won at the opening.

Amy has been invited to show again in our Spring 2009 invitational (Sali's Ark) and our Fall 2009 invitational (The Sydney Highrise Variations). I have always tried to invite Kelsey to collaborate on everything since I first became aware of her work - no luck, yet!


Photos of the painting by Thom Fletcher and of Kelsey by Elaine Marschik.

Doris joins invitational, responds to oatmeal & flag

In addition to the photographs, videos and reviews of the 2008 Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational that we have come across, we would like to report that new work was also made on-site at Hoffman LaChance the night of the show.

It was my bad not to have recorded her last name for posterity, but a little girl named Doris made these drawings. She was a little too old to cling to her mama's leg, and not quite old enough to entertain herself by looking at art or by looking at grownups looking at art, so I asked her if she wanted to draw.

Her answer was the universal answer of children to this question: "Sure!" (Despite having once been a child who would have seized every opportunity to draw and done just fine, almost all adults answer the same question with a self-defeating answer: "I can't draw" or, maybe, "I haven't drawn in years," which implies "and I'm not about to start now".)

Doris' mother - whose name also escaped me - said Doris used this first piece as a forum for working out a signature struggle of that particular day in her life on earth: the imperative to eat oatmeal (again), owing to its alleged nutritious benefits.

I don't know where the flag piece, the visual salute to our "highfiveing flag" of the United States, came from. Maybe Barack Obama?


Any help further identifying Doris is welcome. She and her mother were the guest of Mike Paradise, the man of their house.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sunsets and Television and Jenna Bauer

Jenna Bauer, founding board member of Poetry Scores (now living and working in the Hudson Valley), has a show of what she describes as "signature and large scale works created during final moments of the twentieth century" on show and for sale at MOSSA CENTER, 1214 Washington Ave. in Downtown Saint Louis.

These all look like deeply beloved old friends, to me, having admired them on the walls of Jenna's studio and, in some cases, in her previous solo show at Bruno David Gallery.

Such works on display include:

* Silverback, 1999, 36" x 37" x 7"
* Deep Blue Under, 1999, 58" x 49" x 9"
* Crust, 1999, 56" x 46" x 6"
* Sunsets and Television, 1999, 34" x 36" x 9" (pictured here)
* Gold on Everything, 1999, 56" x 19" x 11"

That sounds like the track list for an e.p. of sumptuous paisley coutry pop music - somebody should ask Gary Louris and Mark Olson if they need any song titles after they get back together and stay.

And there's also some Jenna stuff from this new century in the show:
* The Cliffs, 2005, 41" x 43" x 3"
* Sky, 2007, 37" x 35" x 5"
* The Richest Soil, 2007, 42" x 41" x 3"
* Sky Grass Soil, 2007, 42" x 41" x 3"
though I'm not quite feeling these as song titles, unless they were open-ended improvisations with Eric Hall directing them from deep within a complicated narrative about geologic change.

The space is open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 314.241.5199 for more information.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks so far, who knows what's next

I'll offer a very widespread but heartfelt thanks to the many people who have helped Poetry Scores over the years, beginning with its roots in Hoobellatoo, and before the roots, its seeds in the bands Three Fried Men, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Enormous Richard.

So many talented people from so many disciplines have helped us evolve this vision, and I foresee nothing but future evolutions, involving more and more creative people from more and more disciplines, all dedicated to translating poetry into other media: into music, film, drawings, paintings, sculptures, video installations, blogs, art books, beer, food, ritual, sword fight, horse rides, dogs painted as the Mona Lisa, who knows what else is possible.

As a place saver, I'll also introduce here a new St. Louis musician, Aaron Mansfield, sketched roughly from his CD cover. He works with Poetry Scores board member and executive chef John Eiler, who brings this purveyor of blue-eyed soul into the fold.

I hope to pull Aaron into a collective collaboration on a score to Sali's Ark, which we hope to premiere up and down Cherokee Street in the spring. Aaron, when you end up reading this, go and read Sali's Ark and see what the seraphim start singing in your ear. I think the fourth movement, "A River," would be the place for blue-eyed soul to dive in.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Art Patrol log for Nailed Seraphim invitational

The Art Patrol has reviewed the Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational in its most recent Patrol Log.

It's very detailed and matter of fact and fair.

Since Stephen Lindsley, and whatever other horses of art observation he rode in with, put so much thought into the review, I'll leave it at that, for now.

I'll give anyone following Poetry Scores time to read it and think about it - and count on me to riff on it after the bird is out of the oven and maybe even down the gullet.

Make sure you read until the end - the ending really captures our spirit. Little bit of Spirit Catching going on here.


Photo by Elaine Marschik.

Gustave on Gustave at the 2008 Art Invitational

The public notices of the Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational are starting to roll in. The Art Patrol blog says it has a post on the show, though the page comes up empty when I take a look. Refusing to take that as the Art Patrol's judgment on our group show - that it was nada, blank, zero, a void - I'll visit again later.

Christopher Gustave, who contributed a sublime piece to the show, has switched hats from artist to critic to offer a breezy critique. Gustave says "the show was actually a lot better than I expected," which is a little difficult to rate, in terms of its praise value. Obviously, it's better than if the show had been "not as bad as (Gustave) expected," but since it's unknown just how high or low his expectations were to begin with, it's not possible to know whether he appreciated the work much or not.

But he sure did have fun! Gustave reports, "I had all kindsa fun yakkin' with old friends and making a few new ones." That is an important function of any art event, as we all know. I am sure there exists somewhere a painstaking piece of sociology that documents how much time people spend at an art opening "yakkin'" and drinkin', and how much time they spend actually looking closely at the artwork, and if this report were integrated into how we describe these events, we would stop calling them "art openings" and start calling them "happy hours".

It was indeed a happy hour, or happy series of hours, for Gustave! Too happy? he seems to fret. Gustave on Gustave: "I may have been a little mouthier and less dignified than I would've liked but, eh, I'll sweat that in the afterlife." Gustave, don't say it like that; those who sweat in the afterlife are going down, with the twin towers, not up, with the seraphim, if we are to follow one popular paradigm for judgment after death.

I am having fun with Gustave here. Without coming out and saying it, he almost says that he liked the show and that we did a good job with it. After describing the model of a Poetry Scores art invitational - artists respond to poem and title work from language in poem; curators hang show based on where in the poem the language used as the title appears - he reports, "It all makes for a very interesting room, ultimately."

A very interesting room, Gustave reports. Since the interior of Hoffman LaChance is itself bare, as one wants in an art space, the things that are very interesting must be the artwork in the show! There's the Art in America pull quote!

"Very interesting." - Christopher Gustave

Gustave also has praise for us yeoman and yeowoman organizers: "The whole thing came off without a hitch, it seemed. " Being a grown, complicated man, Gustave knows that nothing comes off without a hitch, certainly no group effort involving poetry, art, volunteer labor, and egos, so what he really is saying (employing, again, my "Gustave-breeziness to actual fact" translator) is that we hid our hitches from the public - even from this contributing artist.

That is the highest praise one can offer to an art committee, and on behalf of my fellow Poetry Scores board members - Robert Goetz, Stefene Russell, K. Curtis Lyle, Serra Bording-Jones, Charlois Lumpkin, Dianna Lucas, John Eiler, Matt Fernandes, and I hope I am not forgetting anybody - "Thanks, Gustave! And thanks for contributing to the show! Your piece was actually a lot better than we expected!"


Actually, I had very high expectations for Gustave's piece. He had the best piece in the most recent group show I saw, which I have reproduced above (using his mediocre photo of a beautiful and profound work of art). And his contribution to the invitational sold for real money, as our bargain-basement prices go. I'll collect that money - and get his piece out of the trunk of my car - just as soon as I can get to The Shanti on a Tuesday night when Kim Vrooman, the buyer of Gustave, is on premise to host an open mic.

I think I'll even invite Gustave to join me on that Tuesday night, for some "all kindsa fun yakkin' with old friends and making a few new ones". He and I are somewhere between those two categories, and getting older all the time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In the shadows of 'Nailed Seraphim'

Thom Fletcher reports that Elaine Marschik took some excellent pictures of the Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational. I'll be borrowing some of her images for future microfeatures, but here for now is a guided tour:

Gene Harris' power figure Nailed watches on as the people talk amongst themselves

Kevin Belford discusses his technique in creating The Relative Hurricane of Humanity, which found a happy home with Eve, in the shadow of Nicholas Lang's sculpture and just down the way from Carmelita Nunez's piece

Andrew Torch holds forth

Baba Mike Nelson's conch collection (catch Mike this evening - Tuesday - at The Gramophone)

Our friends from the Republic of Georgia take it all in.

Thom adds, "I believe Elaine has been to all three art invitationals so far" - Blind Cat Black, Go South for Animal Index and Nailed Seraphim - "and has pictures of Go South if you look back far enough for them."

I guess I'll be looking back far enough for them.

All photographs by Elaine Marschik, who clearly knows how to use that thing. Thanks to Thom and Elaine.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dianna Lucas catches the spirit of the horizon

One of the revelations of the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, for me - when I got to actually see the show, as opposed to blog it - was Dianna Lucas' Spirit Catching.

Unfortunately, all I can show you, here, is all she could show me, before the show: a rectangular scan of what is actually a wide, horizontal print of a photograph. This image doesn't do the piece justice - it doesn't catch the spirit.

When I studied the actual print of the photograph at Hoffman LaChance - near the very beginning of the show, since the phrase "Spirit Catching" is very near the beginning of K. Curtis Lyle's poem, Nailed Seraphim, on which the show was based - I understood what we mean by a "horizontal" image. As in: the horizon.

That's what Dianna's photograph captures, to me: the spirit of horizon. Without a doubt, she shot the horizon on a day it had hovering above it a wild skyscape, complete with color coding - would all the white clouds line up to the left, and all the funky dark blue clouds line up to the right?; thank you - but it was that black bedrock of the horizon that I was feeling.

Maybe that's because I'm so very sure that, to catch the spirit, you have to be grounded.

For those who missed the show, let me share an important detail this scan doesn't impart: the character of the horizon. There is a more or less regularly jagged line of corn heads and tassels that forms the horizon. It's an horizon of cornstalks that also looks, at least to me, like an horizon of tipi tops. Actually, I was reminded of the sure, severe lines of American Indian ledger art - the way Indians took what they had been drawing on bison hides and drew it in notebooks when they were imprisoned or at school (= same thing, mostly).

Another detail for those of you who didn't get to talk to Dianna about the piece, as I was fortunate to do: she found this horizon standing on land owned by Wesley Fordyce, whom she knows through Jenna Bauer. So her feelings for Jenna (and Wesley; but mostly Jenna) are also all caught up in this act of spirit catching.

Here's something we learned at this year's invitational: people will pay more than $100 for a work of art at our bargain-basement art auctions, but typically not when the bidding starts above $100, and Dianna started her bidding at $102. Why am I ending a discussion of art and spirit with financial terms, with filthy lucre? Only to say that the piece remains in the collection of the artist, should anyone wish to see and hear the details I saw and heard (and, surely, other details).

If there is anything that distinguishes Dianna, it's her capacity to make people want to spend detailed time with her.


p.s. to those who saw the show but don't know her: she was our graceful emcee, one of her various duties as a Poetry Scores board member.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

From the pyramids to the towers to the angels

It seems only fair to backtrack and say something about the other pieces that went into the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, even though the show is down and most of the work has been parted out to happy homes.

My old friend Kevin Belford contributed two pieces to the show, From here to there was eighty six flights (top, seen in detail) and The relative hurricane of humanity.

If I'm not mistaken, he was the only artist - making work to a poem titled Nailed Seraphim, mind you - who actually figured angels, seraphim. I half expected someone to graphically nail up some image of an angel, to manifest the crucifixion image hinted at in the title of the poem and in the treatment of the central characters in the narrative. But all we got was Kevin's beautific image of angels rising, in blessed, implied contrast to the fiery fall of the towers.

On grounds of eye candy - and I don't ridicule those who want something that "looks pretty," whether or not it "goes with the sofa" (bitter modern artist put-downs of accessible work) - I thought From here to there was eighty six flights was a highlight of the show. It went home with my dear family friends John and Catherine Eiler, so I am pleased to know I will be visting this painting often and continuing a relationship with it.

Other than the angels in the title, the other visual element in this poem crying out for representation were the twin towers of 9/11 - and, again, few of the contributing artists took the bait. Libby Reuter's pieces made stylish reference to the twin towers, and Surrealist Andrew Torch turned them into crumbling columns of numbers (math bows to God, to invert the clever title of a Minutemen song).

Belford alone ventured into anything approaching realistic portrayal of the terrorized icons, though planting a pyramid at their base created a new narrative for his painting. It invokes a concept that has become proverbial in contemporary African-American culture (I first heard Isaac Hayes use it, though he did not originate it): "from the pyramids to the projects, from the projects to the stars." In Belford's painting, it's from the pyramids to the citadels of capital, and we're not talking about the stars.

Kevin, in my experience of him (which goes back years and runs deep), is cursed by being able to do too many things too well. Because, as these paintings make clear, he is a fine draftsman who can clearly articulate someone else's verbal vision, he has been at times dismissed as an "illustrator." He is an illustrator - he has worked for everyone in town - but he is also a painter and, in my opinion, his paintings stand alone as satisfying visual statements.

By the way, he is also a political cartoonist - he serves us in that capacity at The St. Louis American - a diligent researcher, and a decent writer. It seems his life work on the blues in St. Louis, which he has done in fits and starts for the American, mostly in our Black History Month sections, will finally find a publisher. I hope the same comes to pass for his projects on Stagolee and Frankie and Johnny, which I'll call graphic novels, whether or not he likes it.

The relative hurricane of humanity, by the way, also found a happy home at the silent auction. I'll find out whose tomorrow at lunch with filthy lucre specialist Serra Bording-Jones, and I'll do my best to connect artists with buyers so they can continue their relationships, if that's something they want to do. Hope so.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I lay down at her feet and listened

It's a very good sign, coming out of a volunteer group effort, to be talking already about the next volunteer group project. And so I count it a very good sign that even last night, in the midst of the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, and then again this morning, during cleanup operations, that people were talking about the next thing.

The next thing will be devoted to the memory of Marcella Sali Grace, beloved daughter of Poetry Scores board member (and chef de cuisine) John Eiler. It's always hard to believe that these are the facts, but Sali was raped and killed in Oaxaca, Mexico, back in September.

Among many other worldwide tributes to Sali, K. Curtis Lyle has crafted a poem about Sali, The Girl Who Opens Doors, that has already had a large impact on our inner circle. That impact continues to widen and is also evolving into a suite of poems about this irreplaceable young woman that Curtis is calling, in his head, Sali's Ark.

It is not only Sali's sudden and horrible death that has left such an impact on so many people. As Catherine Eiler said so well at the St. Louis memorial service, Sali was many people in her short life (she died at twenty), and all of those people were fiercely active. She promoted recycling, defended old-growth forests with her body, taught women self-defense (and belly dancing), worked with Food Not Bombs, ministered to migrants crossing from Mexico into the United States and - leaving out much, even in this long list - bore witness to the indigenous rights struggle in Oaxaca.

Our thought is to organize an art invitational around Curtis' poem about Sali and try to enlist every arts space up and down Cherokee Street to host part of it. We would provide the model of a Poetry Scores art invitational and share Curtis' poem with all of the curators, and leave them to make their own invitations, as would Poetry Scores proper (hopefully claiming Snowflake as our home space). Curtis would perform his poem in our space (accompanied by fellow traveler musicians), and we would encourage the other curators also to arrange a performance of the poem in their space.

The working title for the event is "Prayer for Oaxaca," and the idea is to raise funds for work in Oaxaca that furthers what Sali was doing down there. All of this remains to be discussed and finalized as a board, but it seems certain that we will turn our minds to some version of this project and produce it, hopefully, in early spring.

I would want to make art for this invitational. Already tonight, my daughter Leyla and I have started drawing pictures of Sali. (For Leyla, this is not be her first portrait of Sali. When we first heard news of Sali's death, Leyla drew a picture of Sali holding hands with Sali's sister, Claire, who is Leyla's dear friend. Her drawing said, simple as only a child can be simple, "Claire, I am sorry that your sister died.")

But I want to do more than draw pictures of Sali. I also want to make my first foray into conceptual art, in imitation of Sali herself. When she was ministering to Mexican migrants, in addition to providing food and water to people making the border crossing, she also washed and tended to the blistered, aching feet of people.

That's what I will do at our invitational. I will set up two stools and a bucket, and wash and tend to people's feet. I'll do what Sali would never have done - I'll charge $5 per person - but the money will go to the people's work in Oaxaca, so Sali would approve, I'm sure. And I'll let everyone have a free drawing of Sali with their ablution, while supplies last.

I plan to title my conceptual piece - after a line in Curtis' poem, according to the rules of a Poetry Scores art invitational - as:

Lay down at her feet
And listened.

As I sit at people's feet and care for them, I will also listen to them - and talk about Sali.

Here is a snapshot of Sali doing this humble people's work. It is from a letter written to her father:


My name is Sarah Roberts, and I want to tell you how sorry I am to hear about Sali. I have cherished memories of Sali, since I had the privilege of getting to know her this past spring when she worked as a No More Deaths volunteer in Tucson.

She went to the Mariposa, Nogales No More Death border aid station with my partner, Jim, and me several times, to give first aid, food, and water to the migrants who had attempted to cross the desert and were being returned to Mexico, most of whom have gone without food and needed medical attention for several days in the desert, and then for up to three days while in custody.

She treated each migrant she spoke with and served with such dignity and respect; she was always so intentional, energetic, and focused in her work. And she always put the needs of the migrants first.I remember in particular one afternoon when the aid station tent quickly filled with migrants (there must have been 100 or so), newly arrived, hungry and hurting. She immediately grabbed the basin for water and began washing the feet of migrants, checking for and treating blisters, moving from one to the next, always completely present with the person she was treating.

I was in conversation with one of the Mexican "supervisors" of the project when she came to me and requested I examine a young pregnant woman (I'm a nurse) who had just arrived. I stayed to finish my conversation and then went to look for the young woman who needed help ... and, sadly, could not find her.

Sali challenged me to really be present with the migrants and to put their needs first (and not those of the "bosses"!), and I am so grateful for that. For Sali, I could tell there were no class distinctions ... the poorest of the poor were the most important to her.

Blessings for peace,

Sarah Roberts
No More Deaths volunteer


Picture of Sali doing the people's work by Sarah Roberts.

Two 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational videos

Michael Hoffman has uploaded a rough cell phone video of K. Curtis Lyle performing "Nailed Seraphim" at at the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, with Christopher Y. Voelker on violin and bass, and Baba Mike Neslon and David A.N. Jackson on percussion and whatever else they could lay their hands on.

Thom Fletcher uploaded a rough cell phone video on his Flickr site, shot by his honey Stefene Russell, who went on an art show walkabout of obscure purpose. Stefene also took this picture of Curtis with his musicians. No jokes about Stefene keeping her day job as poet.

Please share, if anyone has any documents of or comments on this event. This invitation is not, however, extended to one art scene veteran who stumbled into the space when Robert Goetz was hanging the show Thursday night and made an onager of himself.

Only an idiot would go through it alone unless you had to

There aren't any "little people," unless we are talking about people who are, actually, physically, little, and even in that case, there aren't many good reasons to discuss their size, unless you are purchasing clothing for them and they prefer to wear clothes that fit.

I wanted to post up something about the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, which we hosted last night at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, with a mutually - indeed, communally - created vibe that makes me happy to be here, the way Barack Obama and David Axelrod make me happy to be here.

I didn't take any pictures or make any sketches, I just wanted to look at art and connect with people and drink Schlafly beer and eat John Eiler food, and I did all of those things, and they all made me happy. I also bought art, which I wasn't certain I would be able to do; this, too, me, happy to have made, as the Germans would say, if they spoke English along the lines of German grammar, which they never do.

I wanted to put up some good word, here, this morning about how happy this event made me and how much I love - I am, I think, talking about love, here - the people who helped to make it possible. Not having any images of the night, my thought was to plunder Thom Fletcher's Flickr site (henceforth, thy name be Fletchr) for an image of the sculpture Fred Friction contributed to last year's invitational.

I would have used that image as an excuse to talk about how happy I was to see Fred and his darling "K-leen" last night, especially seeing them together, because, as an Okie who married a cousin of mine once said to me, when I was contemplating divorce in a previous life, "Life is really fucking hard and only an idiot would go through it alone unless you had to."

That post would have gone on to complain at myself that, though I bought Fred's sculpture last year, it's still in a bucket in my basement, waiting to be reassembled; and I would have issued an open invitation to Fred (or anyone with gifts for making shapes in physical space) to come out to The Skuntry Museum one cold day this winter and help me to reassemble it.

But, checking the crab traps of my friends, and I am talking about wholesome crabs one eats, not infestations of pubic lice, I see that Tom Fletcher already is up and at it on that there Fletchr site, with fresh pictures from last night, and why does that not surprise me.

So I thought, instead, to post up pictures of the Poetry Scores support staff, my fellow board members who did all the actual work last night, while I connected with people (which is surely important, for a fledgling arts org, if not by any stretch "work" to me).

Serra Bording-Jones, who bought the ice and minded the till and collected the filthy lucre. Charlois Lumpkin (our people have unbeatable names), who minded the bar and inspired the generous tips which always more than pay for the beer and outfundraise the art auction. John Eiler, who made the patTAY four ways, including this handsome salmon in the shape of salmon pate, and otherwise foraged for food. Fletcher himself, who backed the bar.

Others did other things. I'll keep an eye on Fletchr for pictures of them and opportunities to enthuse over them.

Thanks to Schlafly for the free and discounted beer (Anthony Brescia is a beautiful man, and Fat Charles is a fat and beautiful man), for KDHX for finding us Serra and Charlois in the video production class they set up for the making of Blind Cat Black: the movie, and for the Hoffman LaChances for cohosting the best party I attended all year.

Love, and I am, I think, talking about love, here,

Chris the creative director

Friday, November 21, 2008

Word is shield for Jon Cournoyer

Here are two looks at Jon Cournoyer's contribution to the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, which bears the magnificent title -

Here is the carrier of the new word
Raised magnificently
Against those who would enter the exalted crucible
In shroud
- and an opening bid that requires the eyes to resize the frame, once or twice, looking for the mizzing zeroes: $100, folks. I am personally bidding with about $250 tonight and will certainly be getting into the action on Jon's piece.

The invitational is a one-night group show and silent auction going on 6-10 p.m. tonight (Friday, Nov. 21) at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood.

Our annual Art Invitational has a few simple rules, which Jon (among the most beloved and accomplished of local artists) embraced. Artists must respond to the poem that is the subject of the event, and they must title their work after a verbatim quote from the poem. The work is then arranged in the exhibit space based upon where in the flow of the poem the quote chosen as the title appears.

This year, the poem we all have been inhabiting is Nailed Seraphim, a meditation on 9/11 and the American crucible by local (national) poet K. Curtis Lyle. Curtis' piece ranges wildly in diction, tone, and mood. Whereas many artists reveled in its sarcasm and profane humor, Jon and several other artists - Michael Hoffman, Cindy Tower and Christopher Gustave hang beside him - tackled one of the more intensely lyrical passages of the poem.

It's the second of the poem's seven sections, which I'll share in full with links to the other pieces:


2. The Arrival At Ground Zero

Spirit Catching: ‘home is where the hatred is
and it might not besuch a bad idea
if I never went home again’ - Gil Scott Heron

At first he was welcomed;
Home is the hunter;

Home is the hero
Home is the man who looked upon death
The demonic, the unspeakable horror
Of the reversed god joke

Here is the carrier of the new word
Raised magnificently
Against those who would enter the exalted crucible
In shroud
Soak themselves in camphor, swallow marigolds,
Wash dead flowers down with embalming fluid
And chant the song of the scorpion
From the mid heaven
Of the Age of Aquarius

Here is the man who is whole;
Who is one, distilled, refined, synthesized
And nailed to solar essence

Like Lord Krishna
With a fragment of himself
And remained


One thing I love about the art invitational process is it makes you focus on individual elements of long poems (Poetry Scores specializes in long poems). In fact, when artists start to submit titles for an invitational, I'll often think, "That's not in the poem, I wish people would just play by the rules." Then, skimming the poem as I prepare some polite way to chastise some great artist who is doing us a favor, sure enough, I find the line, right there in the poem where it had always been.

Take the lines Jon chose, for example:

Here is the carrier of the new word
Raised magnificently
Against those who would enter the exalted crucible
In shroud

I did not recall those lines anywhere in the poem. They are beautiful lines. Jon evidently seized the image of the word being "raised" to substitute a shield for the word. Playing off of lines that immediately follow the image of "the reversed god joke," Jon pulls his own reversal.

The "word" is often imaged as a "sword," partly because of the obvious possibilities of s/word play, partly because of some rather brilliant things Jesus Christ was reported to have said. Jon substitutes, instead, a shield. Word is shield. Shield is word.

This shield is a deeply personal piece that he labored over and struggled to relinquish. Jon brought it to board member Jon Eiler's house on Wednesday and shared some beers with the better part of the Poetry Scores board. His shield sat on the table between us (along with Lyndsey Scott's piece) while we visited.

It was exactly like having some priestly relic, or some rusted fragment from an ancient foreign war, sitting there, exalted, among us.


Curtis will perform the poem tonight as well, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker. The event is free, and the Schlafly beer will be free, and John Eiler's pate four ways will be free. If you want to bid on the art, bring your cash, check or credit, since we will close all sales Friday night.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Who the fuck is Robert Goetz?

Tonight Robert Goetz is ringleading the hanging of the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, a one-night show and silent auction that will be held 6-10 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood).

This year's invitational is devoted to K. Curtis Lyle's poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim. In addition to being head honcho installator (a job he also performs by day at Laumeier Sculpture Park), Robert contributed two pieces to to the show: Fourth Question and Marijuana (Smiley Travis), which appear in that order, above, and sport opening bids of $150 and $60, respectively.

The game of a Poetry Scores art invitational is that the pieces must respond to the poem and take their titles from verbatim scraps of language from the poem. Fourth Question - which lovingly embraces the raw, profane humor in Nailed Seraphim - is taken from a list of questions about our (anti-?)hero, Mortice Juwan Menifee:


First question:
How did Mortice Juwan Menifee manage
To run down eighty six flights of stairs
In less than seven minutes (six minutes and two seconds)
And escape the collapse of tower number one
Of the World Trade Center?

Second question:
How was it that nobody above the fiftieth floor
Survived, but him?

Third question: Was he really on the eighty sixth floor?

Fourth question: Who the fuck is Mortice Juwan Menifee?


The creamy, sparkly, psychedelic photograph of cannabis flowers in situ takes its title from the prose parody of the mass media that inhabits the sarcastic heart of the poem:


The Washington Toast got it first. Crack investigative reporters Bobby Woodchuck and Larry Burnside scooped the New York Rhymes
With this headline:
‘Lone Survivor of Upper Tower Revealed to Have Checkered Past’
Mortice Juwan Menifee, the lone survivor of the upper floors of Tower Number One of The World Trade Center, has a record of minor convictions in his past. It was revealed that Mr. Menifee had been arrested in high school for possession of less than a gram of marijuana. Although Mr. Menifee performed three hundred hours of community service and under a plea agreement his record was expunged, this crack in the so-called hero of Tower Number One’s armor might lead to the discovery of more significant problems in his past.


The subtitle - obviously a bastardization of a somewhat glib television host who aggravated a lot of us on election night - comes from the very next movement of that prose section:


Next came a black reporter from S. A. N. N. (The Sorry Ass News Network)
Smiley Travis, who had somehow tracked down and then gotten and old girl friend of Mortice’s to talk about the time he had thrown a McDonald’s wrapper in her face at a drunken post prom party.


In addition to his solo work, as it were, Robert forms half of the performance art duo Nosey Parker. Much of their recent work has taken the form of multimedia lectures that I'd be tempted to call "mock lectures," except they are offered with deadly earnestness (whether or not there is a live horse in the room, dropping dung) and unbeatably professional production values. They reflect genuine scholarship and provide actual, bankable knowledge. So I am going to call them bona fide lectures.

I can see the aspects of Robert's mind that goes into those Nosey Parker pieces at work when he chooses this part of Curtis' diverse, polyphonic poem to riff off of. This is one master manipulator of media enjoying the manipulations of another master manipulator of media and having his own distinctive fun with it.

Robert is also a gifted songwriter with a pleasant tenor singing voice. I was privileged to play in a version of the band Three Fried Men with him, until Hunter (our drummer) had the bad taste of killing himself. Goetz is almost ridiculously prolific as a songster, so I hesitate to say what his latest songwriting project is, but the most recent project he shared with me is a cycle of songs about hate. They are such lovely, lovely songs about hate.

Robert said Fourth Question includes in its materials a working television set. At the opening tomorrow night, audio will be playing on a videotape on the TV. Curtis has heard Goetz's songs of hate and probably would appreciate hearing them at the show, but with Goetz, one never knows. He may have a song cycle already crafted from Curtis' poem - he might be half the way home on a future poetry score to it - and that may be what we hear tomorrow when we confront Fourth Question.

Hope so.

The invitational is a free, one-night event, from 6-10 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood. In addition to the free art, free food and free Schlafly beer, the show will feature Curtis performing his poem, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker. The art will be on sale as a silent auction, all sales concluded tomorrow night, cash, check or charge.

! Free as the spirit in Lyndsey Scott !

Last night was a memorable night in the Poetry Scores universe, and this amazing new piece by everybody's favorite local hero kick-ass superstar evangelist of being yourself again Lyndsey Scott was right there in the middle of it.

Literally. Right there in the middle of the table at John and Catherine and Claire Eiler's house as we drank good beer and red wine and, at the last minute, and in not much more than a minute, hashed out the last-minute details for the art show while John's art, his pate (pat TAY) four ways perfumed the house from the oven where it baked.

What art show?

Why, that would be Poetry Scores' 2008 Art Invitational from 6-10 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 21 (that's, like, tomorrow) at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood). That's Lyndsey Scott - and about 24 other artists (almost as cool as she) from St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and some sunforsaken Colorado hamlet - making work in reponse to K. Curtis Lyle's wild and crazy poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim, which Poetry Scores published last year in a double-headed book and will try to sell you tomorrow when you're not bidding on all of the fabulous art, available on silent auction and priced, mostly, cheaper than cheap.

Take this Lyndsey Scott kid, for example. (Take her, but bring her back. Oh yeah, bring back Jenna Bauer, too, while yer at it, why don't ya.) Lyndsey's piece, above - that I hoped you doubleclicked on, on account of that makes it bigger so you can see it better - is going out there with an opening bid of $77. ! Seventy-seven dollars ! That's, like, two tanks of gas. Except only Lyndsey Scott won't be buying any gas. She is pedalling her bike into a green future of no dead dinosaurs being excavated and drilled, drilled, drilled into our brains as the reason why we should vote, vote, vote for a mooseshooting Republican for president.

Lyndsey Scott has been whispering to me in taverns about this new piece of hers and then adding, in a LOUD whisper (and there is such a thing), "!THIS IS FOR YOU, NOT FOR YOUR BLOG!," so I'm not supposed to tell you what little I know about it, dear blogspot, however, EVERYbody gets to know that she titled it "The House of God Is Also A Black Hole," which is a phrase from Curtis' great poem, and that's playing by the rules, because that's what a Poetry Scores art invitational is: art about the same poem, titled with language from the poem, then arranged in space according to where in the flow of the poem the language chosen as a title appears.

Here is how the poem be flowing from Lyndsey's title.

6. The House of God Is Also A Black Hole

Those who experience the created thing
Must also experience the uncreation

Mortice caught on fire
And got completely fulfilled
He came back home
And got completely cancelled

It was sort of like training for twenty years
To climb Mount Everest

Your time comes
You make the ascent
You court that impeccable calling
You come back home
You get run down in the street and killed
While jay walking

Oh, yeah, and Jenna Bauer did come back home - for Thanksgiving, you know, like a good girl - and she did come to the Eilers' house last night, but nothing bad happened to her in the street like that, and though we don't get to keep her (yet), she will be at the art show tomorrow night. So show up and buy her a beer. Except, you won't have to buy her a beer. The beer is free, and it will be good beer, because it will be Schalfly beer, and Curtis will perform his poem with Baba Mike Nelson and David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker, and that, too, will be free.

! Free as the spirit in Lyndsey Scott !

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Libby Reuter turns the twin towers into bookends

About the only thing I can say about these two pieces by Libby Reuter, which she categorizes as "louminaries," is to click twice on the picture so you can take a better look. Then, since that still won't satisfy you (it doesn't satisfy me), come down to Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood) from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 and take a closer look at the real things.

These two, strange beauties are Libby's submissions to Poetry Scores' 2008 Art Invitational, which is devoted to K. Curtis Lyle's crazy poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim. As Thom Fletcher noted when taking this photograph for his Flickr site, when seen together they evoke the twin towers that came down on 9/11. Spooky.

However, they won't be displayed together at the invitational. In our shows, artists respond to the same poem, title their resulting piece after a verbatim scrap of language from the poem, and then we display the pieces according to where in the flow of the poem the language they choose for their titles appears.

For the piece to the left, above, Libby chose this title -

Mortice caught on fire
And got completely fullfilled.
He came back home
And got completely cancelled.

- which is very near the end of the poem. For the piece to the right, she chose -

Indelibly across the paper stairs

- which is very near the beginning of the poem. The twin towers now start to look like very ornate and beautiful bookends.

And laborious to make! I don't know Libby - this show was curated by committee; I don't even remember which of us brought Libby to the party - but she must be an incredibly generous person to share these pieces with our show, which is a silent auction where we encourage artists to price themselves low. Bidding on these pieces starts at $30 (!) and $25 (!). Bidding on them will start very early.

Since I don't know Libby, I looked her up. She is the Executive Director and Curator for the William & Florence Schmidt Art Center at Southwestern Illinois College and recently served as Associate Dean for Community Relations at Washington University School of Art.

She collaborated with architects and developers on the design of the Washington University lofts and the Des Lee Gallery at 1627 Washington Avenue and has devoted much of her career to public art projects.

Since my personal blog is called Confluence City, the following river letter that she sent to Exquisite Corpse really caught my eye. It captures such a beautiful spirit that I want to share it in full:


I'm a St. Louis Artist who received your email about the documentary you are planning on the Mississippi River. I have been interested in the river and have some work/ideas that might be of interest to you.

I have a series of watercolors from maps of the confluence of the Miss and Missouri Rivers beginning with Maquette map of 1675 and each 100-year interval plus a 1993 flood map. At the base of each map is a cross section through the area showing settlement, rivers being hidden, pollution from coal, yada yada. Might be something you could use.

I have a proposal for a project called "Fishing for Rivers" which involves fishing with a bottle at 5 locations along the Chain of Rocks bridge to illustrate the different colors, density of waters from the two rivers that don't actually mix until they are east of St. Louis.

Have you seen the water intakes on the Miss. river just south of the confluence of the Miss and Mo? Like German castle turrets. I'd love to boat out there and spend the night. Bed and breakfast on the river anyone?


This letter wasn't addressed to me, but I have an answer for you, Libby: Yes!

In addition to the free art and free Schlafly beer, the show on Friday will feature Curtis performing his poem, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker.

Kim Humphries doesn't know shit from Shinola

Another annual Poetry Scores Art Invitational coup we owe to board president Robert Goetz is Kim Humphries, his friend and colleague at Laumeier Sculpture Park, though their work as artists is wholly independent of their day job at one of the Midwest's most important museums.

Kim submitted this piece for the 2008 Art Invitational, a one-night show and silent auction that will be held 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood).

I am gradually getting a take on Kim's approach to making art, which seems triangulated between conceptual art, pop art, and a hand slipped under an armpit for the purpose of simulating a spectacular gasp of flatulence that has the distinct advantage (being art, not gas) of not actually stinking.

We all tend to categorize people and artists by things like race, age, and region. K. Curtis Lyle is blacker and older by a generation than Kim, and he got his start amid the Latin elegance of Los Angeles, whereas Kim is from a Midwestern town in Ohio with a name that belongs to an East Coast city (= Philadelphia), but I think Kim really connected with Curtis in this piece.

This year's invitational asked roughly 25 artists to respond to Curtis' crazy poem about 9/11 poem, Nailed Seraphim, and to title their resulting piece after a verbatim scrap of language from the poem. Kim seized upon the line "He didn't know shit from Shinola".

I have known Curtis well for a long time. He might be something of a living legend who has made a record with Julius Hemphill, played chess against Ray Charles, and pulled part of a tour with Bob Marley in the Wailers bus, but he has a very earthy sense of humor and - as this line from his poem suggests - is not afraid to use a cliche for comic effect.

I submit that it takes guts to do that. You have to know you are the real deal and won't be mistaken for a cliche yourself. You also must be generous of spirit, a sort of Barack Obama artist, who gives the audience credit for being loose and intelligent enough to laugh at the funny parts, even when parts of the story are not at all funny.

Curtis is and does all of that. So is and does Kim. I am glad Robert brought the two of them together for this show.

Though he has placed his work in museums, has gallery representation and basically qualifies as a professional bad ass artist, Kim also gets the way Poetry Scores does things. We mostly attract other artists and art scenesters and ordinary folks, rather than monied collectors (if there are, in fact, still monied collectors walking the Earth), and when he makes art for us, he prices it so people will be able to bid on it and have fun bidding.

Opening bid on "He didn't know shit from Shinola": $60.

Here is a little more context for the line Kim chose. It shows how Curtis likes to play with levels of rhetoric that vary wildly in tone, like a master saxophonist (a Charlie Parker), who can sample a little of a tune that everybody aught to know - a cliche - and then in the next breath skronk an interval never previously skronked:


From here to there was eighty six flights
Of defiance
Of the laws of gravity
speeds of light
quantum mechanics
quantum physics

He didn’t know shit from Shinola
But, the exalted alliance of his mind and his heart
Grasped hands exceeding his reach
Waist bent
Thighs stretched
Knees extended
The end of each nerve in his being
Sent the same long Fats Waller – Stepin’ Fetchit song
Screaming back to his brain
‘Feet don’t fail me now’!


Shit, Shinola, and the exalted alliance of his mind and his heart - Curtis and Kim know there are places in poetry and art for all of these things, even jumbled right on top of one another. Just give your audience the credit that they will be able to figure it out and savor it.

In addition to the free art and free Schlafly beer, the show on Friday will feature Curtis performing his poem, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker.

Greg Edmondson burns the candle at both ends

I always am happy when Poetry Scores board president Robert Goetz ropes our mutual friend, the impressively accomplished Greg Edmondson into contributing work to one of our annual Art Invitationals. This year Greg contributed this piece from his archives, provisionally retitled for the occasion "If you catch on fire/They will put you out."

With an opening bid of $150, this piece is one of many potential steals for those who come prepared to play in the silent auction. The rest of us can just enjoy a bunch of work - by 25 artists hailing from St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles and wherever Stefene's aunt lives - responding to K. Curtis Lyle's great poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim.

Though this piece existed before Greg was invited to respond to the poem, I do consider his selection of this piece from his vast archive to be a response to Nailed Seraphim. Obviously, it's a visual pun - the proverbial candle burning at both ends - and though Curtis' poem is about a horrific event, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Indeed, the lines Greg chose for his title are funny (to me) and invoke a pun on being "put out". Since these lines conclude the poem, Curtis means to leave us laughing. Since the art in the show is arranged based on where in the flow of the poem the lines used in the titles appear, Greg's piece also will conclude the show - also with a smile.

That show - a free, one-night event - will go down 6-10 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood. In addition to the free art and free Schlafly beer, the show will feature Curtis performing his poem, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker. That alone would be worth the price of admission - if there were a price of admission.

If you want me to carry on about Greg's many and varied accomplishments - the Guggenheim, the salad days when Halle Berry and Elton John were collecting him, life among the tiny scorpions in the hills outside Chatanooga, the terrible truths about art I whispered to his infant daughter at her first art opening - come down to the show Friday night and get me started!

For a mockup of the Art Invitational as best I can approximate it now, please to click. Poetry Scores is a St. Louis-based art org that translates poetry into other media, including music, visual art, film, beer and sword fights.

Michael Behle has created 'The Created Thing'

An image of this piece is already up here linked from the mockup of the show, but I wanted to give its only little space to Michael Behle's contribution to the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, The Created Thing, which has an opening bid of $15o at Friday's silent auction.

The subject of this year's invitational is Nailed Seraphim by the great K. Curtis Lyle. The event will be held 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood, and will include Curtis' perfornance of the poem backed by three of the area’s most talented and versatile musicians: Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker.

The show features more than 25 artists from St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles. The artists have all responded to the poem that is the subject of the event, and they titled their work after a verbatim quote from the poem. The work will be arranged in the exhibit space based upon where in the flow of the poem the quote chosen as the title appears.

The title of Mike's piece appears in the sixth of the poem's seven sections. That section is brief enough to be shared in full:


6. The House of God Is Also A Black Hole

Those who experience the created thing
Must also experience the uncreation

Mortice caught on fire
And got completely fulfilled
He came back home
And got completely cancelled

It was sort of like training for twenty years
To climb Mount Everest

Your time comes
You make the ascent
You court that impeccable calling
You come back home
You get run down in the street and killed
While jay walking

Five of the pieces in the show respond to these few lines (the entire poem is vast in scope), and one can see why. Looking at the lines, I see a piece no one else has made yet titled "killed/While jay walking" that I'll have to draw and color with my kid one cold day this winter.
The opening is free, the Schlafly beer will be free, the company will be stellar, and great art will be on auction for modest opening prices, all sales final that night. See ya there.

Monday, November 17, 2008

St. Louis American preview of Art Invitational

Here I am, behaving as reporter and critic of last resort for the newspaper I edit. This will appear in Thursday's edition of The St. Louis American.


K. Curtis Lyle does 9/11
Artists respond to a funny poem about a horrible tragedy this Friday

By Chris King
Of the St. Louis American

As historical events go, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were about as visual as you get. How about planes crashing into the World Trade Towers, which catch on fire, causing desperate people in business suits to jump out of their windows, with their ties flapping in the wind for 80 stories, before both massive towers pancake to the ground?

Horrible and terrifying? Yes. Visual? Also, yes.

So, the subject lends itself well to an exhibition of visual art. And that is what we will see on Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood) for one night only, when the local arts group Poetry Scores stages its annual Art Invitational and silent art auction.

The subject is not 9/11 in and of itself – it’s 9/11 as filtered through the consciousness of local poet K. Curtis Lyle in his poem Nailed Seraphim, which the group published last year during Black History Month.

In Nailed Seraphim, Curtis – one of the nation’s greatest working poets, and the culture critic for the American – tells the story of 9/11 through the wild eyes of Mortice Juwan Menifee. Menifee is fictional, but his flagrant and prodigious character is drawn from a long line of African-American heroes and anti-heroes best expressed (this being a black thing) in a description of a very vivid extended family:

Cousins, near cousins, fake cousins
And straight up gangster-pimp cousins
All enshrined in a mythic black heroic pantheon.

Which pantheon now includes an accountant, our hero. Who would have thought to filter the demolition of the defining skyscrapers of American capitalism through the eyes of an accountant with the vibe and legacy of a black bad man? Only K. Curtis Lyle.

The focus on Menifee makes for a parody on the way America tells stories about itself and its own (especially, its African-American own). It just might remind you of the way St. Louis Republican Ed Martin and his colleagues tried to slime Barack Obama for having once known a white guy who belonged to a marginal radical group that botched a demolition job on the Pentagon - when “Barry” Obama was still in elementary school.

Now Poetry Scores has invited more than 25 artists from St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles to interpret this strange and exciting poem visually. The group’s annual Art Invitational has a few simple rules. Artists must respond to the poem that is the subject of the event, and they must title their work after a verbatim quote from the poem. The work is then arranged in the exhibit space based upon where in the flow of the poem the quote chosen as the title appears.

Judging from the 19 finished pieces available for preview, the artists are mostly responding to the profound philosophy, manic energy and sly humor of Curtis’ poem, rather than the horror and terror of the underlying event.

A number of artists have developed the way Curtis plays with visual space in the descent of Menifee down the steps of the collapsing tower, but only one artist – the local Surrealist Andrew Torch – actually worked with the iconic image of the towers burning down. Torch’s twin towers are columns of numbers, so this is a Surrealist’s vision of the rational system of mathematics crumbling as much as a memory of actual buildings collapsing with people in them.

In other words, the Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational is much more a spirited celebration of the wit and imagination of K. Curtis Lyle than a somber tribute to an American tragedy – so don’t let the 9/11 blues keep you away.

Fittingly, Curtis’ fertile imagination will be on display at the opening, as he will perform the poem backed by three of the area’s most talented and versatile musicians: Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker (Zimbabwe Nkenya also has been invited).

The Nailed Seraphim Art Invitational is a one-night event, from 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary (3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood). The event is free. All art work will be on sale in a silent auction setting. For more information, visit or call 314-265-1435.


The image is one of the two pieces created for the show by the poet's sister, Kayren Lyle of Los Angeles. Its title is:

He penetrated some kind of center
Or spiritual vortex
He dialed up some impeccable code
Some blacked out strategic safety valve
That allowed him to evolve, for a moment,
Down some mythic magnetic corridor
Some rear window in a parallel universe
That occupied the same space and time
As the transcendent crime taking place

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mockup up thus far of Nailed Seraphim invitational

Those who have worked with me on a musical score to a poem know I am a great believer in the mockup - the assembly of an skeleton of the score with all of the song sketches and fragments sequenced in order, to get a feel for how the whole thing is coming together.

I suppose this is a mockup of the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational to Nailed Seraphim by K. Curtis Lyle, which will be held 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood.

The work will be available on silent auction, and Curtis will perform the poem as well, backed by Baba Mike Nelson, David A.N. Jackson and Christopher Y. Voelker. The event is free, and the Schlafly beer will be free. If you want to bid on the art, bring your cash, check or credit, since we will close all sales Friday night.

Here, in order, are the pieces that we know we are getting in for the show, with opening bids when we have them (artists, we need them!):


Gene Harris
(Exhibit only)

Spirit Catching
Dianna Lucas
(Opening bid: $102)

(Opening bid: $30)

Sue Hartman
(Opening bid: $60)

Indelibly across the paper stairs
Libby Reuter
(Opening bid: $25)

Paper stairs
Amy VanDonsel
(Opening bid: $40)

From here to there was eighty six flights
Kevin Belford
(Opening bid: $75)

(Opening bid: $100)

Here is the carrier of the new word
Raised magnificently
Against those who would enter the exalted crucible
In shroud
Jon Cournoyer
(Opening bid: $100)

Wash dead flowers down with embalming fluid
Cindy Tower
(Opening bid: $50)

With a fragment of himself
And remained
Christopher Gustave
(Opening bid: $100)

Fourth Question
Robert Goetz

Is this the hero whose photo-shopped picture you want on the front of a Wheaties Box. Is the dawg you want to send to Disneyland?
Keith Buchholz
(Opening bid: $75)

He penetrated some kind of center
Or spiritual vortex
He dialed up some impeccable code
Some blacked out strategic safety valve
That allowed him to evolve, for a moment,
Down some mythic magnetic corridor
Some rear window in a parallel universe
That occupied the same space and time
As the transcendent crime taking place
Kayren Lyle
(Opening bid: $999.99)

He dialed up some impeccable code
Daniel Shown
(Opening bid: $20)

That allowed him to evolve, for a moment
Alicia LaChance
(Opening bid: $75)

Mythic magnetic corridor
Nicholas Lang
(Opening bid: $150)

On the tree of life, the Christ-like exalted flowers and leaves
Carmelita Nunez
(Opening bid: $75)

The relative hurricane of humanity
Kevin Belford
(Opening bid: $75)

He was an accountant not a warrior
They ruined his reputation and that was all he had
Andrew Torch
(Opening bid: $60)

The House of God Is Also A Black Hole
Lyndsey Scott
(Opening bid: $77)

Those who experience the created thing
Must also experience the uncreation
Stefene Russell
(Opening bid: $25)

The created thing
Michael Behle
(Opening bid: $150)

Mortice caught on fire
Tony Renner
(Opening bid: $25)

Mortice caught on fire
And got completely fullfilled.
He came back home
And got completely cancelled.

Libby Reuter
(Opening bid: $30)
Greg Edmondson
(Opening bid: $150)


These are the artists whose work we are expecting, but whose titles, etc., we don't yet have (and we need them!):

Alicia LaChance
William LaChance
Dianna Lucas
Adelia Parker


For more information, contact Chris King at and/or Robert Goetz at


The image is of Keith Buchholz's piece - I previously had posted about it without having the image itself.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

That's how the archetypal Tower crumbles

Sue Hartman has finished her piece "First Step" for the 2008 Poetry Scores Art Invitational, which will go down Friday, Nov. 21 at Hoffman LaChance Contemporary, 3100 Sutton Blvd. in Maplewood.

Sue's title, like the titles of all of the pieces in the show, is drawn verbatim from K. Curtis Lyle's great poem about 9/11, Nailed Seraphim. That's the idea behind a Poetry Scores Art Invitational: artists respond to the same poem, title their work with a scrap of language from the poem, then we hang their pieces in the space according to where in the flow of the poem the title appears.
Here's the part of Curtis' poem she responded to:

The first step was the hardest
Like the first word of a poem
The pen scratching uncertainly
But indelibly, across the paper stairs
Of the babbling tower

John Minkoff's piece responded to the same lines in his drawing, and no wonder: these lines are both a scene-setter and a show-stealer.

Sue also sent a remarkable analysis of the poem and her creative process. This really got me thinking about the poem all over again, which is, of course, why we do these things. Here is Sue on Curtis and on painting to his poem:


The line shows up on one of the flights of stairs. It kinda references "feet don't fail me now," as well as Ground Zero and the collapse of the Towers in general. The more times I read Lyle's poem, the deeper I fell into it.

While I was drawing/painting it, it occurred to me that the stuff we've been taught about humans facing fear with either a fight or flight response was too limiting. Shocked, some people freeze in place and are unable to act or even think sometimes, and others react with resignation and acceptance. There is a kind of grace in facing "what is" when what you are facing is the insurmountable. Some bow to the inevitable when the archetypal Tower crumbles and sends the world into upheaval.

Also, as Lyle said in the poem, a man who survives against all odds must enter some transcendent state to be able to do so, when no one else could. It likewise seems to me that type of consciousness that allows a survivor to keep running while the world crumbles could actually parallel and be similar to the mental state of people who don't make it out alive. There's a sense of vividness and detachment that happens when tragedy occurs.

Personally, I am thinking of the young man who crashed and died in our driveway and the sense of fragmentation that brightens colors and heightens noises in the aftermath, but it also makes everything distort and look surreal and somewhat distant. It's a weird phenomenon.

That's where my reverie took me when I was painting and maybe it'll explain partially, at least, where I took the painting. That is, if I took it anywhere.

It' s different than anything I've ever attempted before. Sometimes when I was working on it, I got the feeling, like I sometimes do in writing, that I wasn't doing it myself. It came out different than my original vision by about 180 degrees. When I tried to impose logic on my impulses, I screwed it up and had to rework that part. The color was the part that weirded me out the most. The color choices seemed like taking dictation.

I KNOW Curtis Lyle will love all that. As I said: why we do these things.

All art at the invitational will be on sale in a silent auction setting, with starting bids set by the artists (and typically set low). Every year, this makes for steals. The show runs 6-10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, with free beer partly donated by Schlafly.