Sunday, February 6, 2011

Douglas A. Martin responds to Kathrin Schaeppi's Sonja Sekula: Grace in a cow's EYE : a memoir

A canvas: If you think of the book as a work place (space), if you think of it as a way for stretching out

A canvas of: poems the poet-author/artist makes (marks)

A canvas from notebooks: words the responses to visual stimulus
(unlike Hannah Weiner, she here will not write on forehead)

A canvas of: Subject’s oil on canvas, oil on canvas on plywood

A canvas of:

poem improvised

(like yesterday at the MoMA, someone does a line drawing in sand)

A canvas of diaries: She does make her painting into one it seems in places

punctuation, parentheticals

to do this thing w/ genders.

A canvas of: how many threads


A bridge

A book w/ such scaffolding as this

—perhaps “surrounding” I should use
(sounding more kind, a forest of tenders)

—the dedication—“for U,
a bifurcating move

—author’s note for “Epilogue,” Appendix, dedications
too that close in the body of another poem

allowing for many places to stand or from which to sink in.

See for example:

Sunwheelreflect (Sekula, 1954; Schaeppi, pg. 30)

See for example:
your own life/ 2010

Cresting on
The bridge over
The two bodies watering

I love a book like this, with all its apparatus.
I can well come back another day,
the book as mobile bridge.

There was a time when abstract expressionist illustrations
(one of Sekula’s) accompanied stories in Mademoiselle (1954).

            A bridge:

Thank you, Rebecca for sharing your text with me.  I read it on the train starting back over to school, and that was a bright spot.  Mine is going to be a pale shadow, I fear.  (Still working, finding it hard, or a little too pulled presently between many things.)  much love/d.


I was reading, beginning and finishing before sleep the Bridge (“Painting bridges”) section in bed in Plainfield (VT), before the next day of residency.  This second of the ten sections to Schaeppi’s book galvanized my emotions and excitements as she paint-writes lines ways that loop and curve along connected, and then necessary slacknesses: to read the words, for words to come.  As to abstractly express, one would not stop with the frames of letters.
When she (Sekula) was in New York, where I continue to work on beginning to study her through Schaeppi’s lead, she was on the other side from me (“Williamsburg Bridge, 1948,” pg. 24)
I bike or walk or ride over
w/ the one I buy groceries w/
what makes us in part “us”

Before Kathrin wrote this book, she wrote another.  I could wonder what happened to that, but first works—like structures—eventually fold into under a surface of following ones as one goes on to see. 

Work evolves and finds its measures.  Here too in scholarship (Schaeppi is a seriously engaged student and thinker, pondering, exploring, and working through issues of gender, particularly as it quite traumatically plays itself out in one instance in an office, I once wrote), the tracking of loves, the getting of letters (the important text in her poem “Here We Stay, 1951” supplied by Manina Jouffroy, Venice) collaging.

After and returned home, the cement seals make a sad sense to me.  I see them in the buildings: it’s my kitchen my sun room I haiku.  Schaeppi writes to illustrate the silence that holds quiet with an owl in a landscape.

pg. 64:

Above, in the picture, o’s there would be the eyes (Sekula to Joseph Cornell, “craizy [sic] curves,” his boxes)
a peak before the completed A the nose down below,
plus two plus signs/ feet perched become stable. 

Words in paintings pull different eyes differently, punctuate, like italics in poems made part of a design too, a plus sign joining who and who and what again.  She means to add more.


A trace:
I went to the MoMA and the Abstract Expressionist New York show, hoping to see in person some piece by Sekula.  There were many Grace’s—whose name I know from being connected to one poet—two Lee Krasner’s more than earned their keep, plus drawings by Bourgeois, Dorothy Dehne, and Nevelson.  None of the larger works held words.  Still, cf. the other couple of floors the show extends to: pieces on paper, etc.  No Sekula there either.  I go searching for something referencing or reproducing Sekula’s, something in some library somewhere, to have held in my hands while I think, before my eyes, to try to see for myself.  In Middletown, at Wesleyan where his papers are held, one piece by John Cage noted for her among his Seven Haiku.  (“I no longer know of who’s origin haiku ‘silence √©coute silence’ is: Sekula, Cage or Schaeppi,” pg. 154).  Her works from 1961-1962 (plates 102-109, Sonja Sekula, 1918-1963, ed. Dieter Schwarz) appear hugely important to me.  Then I wanted the Parson’s branch of the New School to be named for Betty: Betty Parsons Gallery, Sekula’s first exhibition.  (Schaeppi shapes words, “now I know—that I am an artist,” pg. 26.)  Around the corner from Parson’s, 5th Ave, where I used to teach, that building, the whole thing has been caved into a pit in the ground now, not even a single I-beam in construction left.  The lines in designs go in all directions.  Witness the city, ‘though still none of her handiwork. 

Into another gallery, through other doors that open, there is a kitchen show: Counter Space.  When you had to do something to keep your hands from doing something else, potholders were occupational therapy (114).  I rework Schaeppi reworking—threading in a bit of line of one of Sekula’s letters to one she loved.  I flap the paper with all the pages holding around leaves of my own, I’ve folded inside with words and lines less like notes than swatches, the book becoming a (soft) box of sorts at present.

The first time I’d ever talked to Kathrin was at Goddard College (Plainfield option).  I’d been pointing to the possibility of a stylistic trope of handiwork in an obscure writer at the time for Americans, and in fact a large part of the world, before she’d won her Nobel: I meant √† la crochet, cozies and such, latches and stitches that might be pointed to to be located there in turns of clause and phrases with or without punctuation in tricky prose-grammar.  I wonder why I think here of the plover, but she could understand.  We were at the ice machine, before the cafeteria had been rearranged again, before Coke was taken out for Pepsi (politics).  Schaeppi knew how the languages worked with different bases, various vernaculars, and slides in and around capitals and markets.  As of today (1/28/11), I’m still carrying her book with me, until I put it in someone else’s hands.  Perhaps the student (Camara) I overlook to mention when asked about emerging LGBTIQ poets who might address issues of faith/religion/spirituality.


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