Poems start at around minute 9…If you need or want to skip over my reading of the essay. (!)
This poem is in my new book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS. Alas this final version did not get there as i had misplaced it and did not find it till after the publication date!
(pour ma jumelle)
Sometimes when you’ve spent hours rushing somewhere
and just as many hours rushing back
you ought to make yourself stop ten minutes from home
ten minutes short of where you think
you can put your feet up
finally, and get out at the road’s edge
and ask yourself where you are
going and where have you been and why
are you hurrying just to get it over with, or is there no point
to this day but in the ending of it?
Ten minutes, this pause
wrenched out of the rush by the roadside
getting the kinks out, lets you hear the sudden quiet
of your own thoughts
as the out-of-doors pours in and gives you pause.
What have you been doing all day
racing, rushing, wasting your time all day
for what, to get what over with?
Better to have rested more along the way,
to have seen, to have been, to have watched, listened
to have paid attention
than to have beeped and swerved so much
sped and sweated in bottlenecks
and cursed the traffic for what could neither be avoided
nor its fault, being its nature.
Where had you been all day
in your hurrying to get home, but on your way
along the only way there was: yours.
Oh, but you should have known better–
how all homes are but temporary shelters:
a roadside shack or leafy park bench,
a ramshackle timber lean-to —
each a place to rest as good as any mansion
ten minutes away. Ten mere minutes from home
the roadside beckoned with saffron mustard sprigs,
brave bouncing bet. But you had no time
to pay attention, so nearly home to rest and relax.
Oh, but you should have known better—
The day scattered like dry leaves
and ended without you.
Now you pay with the rest of your life.
Available at Amazon.com here (dont worry about the different covers, it is the same book!):
I left my fingers holding this uncropped so you could get an idea of just how small the portrait really is. Watercolors and caran d’ache luminance pencils.
The following poem is by sufi muslim poet Hafiz, and it just blows me away:
“Light will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain
You hold the title to…
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy
Even if your mind is now
A spoiled mule.
A life-giving radiance will come,
The Friend’s gratuity will come
O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation.
From a sacred crevice in your body
A bow rises each night
And shoots your soul into God.
Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One
From the lunar vantage point of love.
He is conducting the affairs
Of the whole universe
While throwing wild parties
In a tree house – on a limb
In your heart.”
Am I opinionated or what? But someone has to SAY these things!!! Peace!
All i can say is everything in this picture was as deliberate as i know how to make it, without planning it at all, and it contains symbolism both public and private. With reference to my signature quotation, (see below) it makes use of what the negative spaces offered me without leaving any in the end.
“There is no negative space, only the shapely void. Hold your hands out, cup the air. To see the emptiness you hold is to know that space loves the world.” P. Wagner
(for those who are not familiar with WWII, over the gates over Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp where Jews and many other despised groups were taken to be tortured and killed, were emblazoned the words: ARBEIT MACHT FREI, or “work will set you free,” which was of course a lie and a horrible joke, because it was only meant to kill you at what was not a labor camp but just a death camp. )
PSYCHIATRIE MACHT FREI?
Psychiatrie Macht Frei? Mixed media anti-psychiatry picture, 24″by 19″
I did this chair tonight with drawing Vine charcoal I made in the grill. I peeled wild grape vine then roasted the pieces in wired-together tin box pierced with a nail to let out the gases, for an hour..Inside after that was nice black vine charcoal!
The Second piece is my drawing in progress of which I will try to post a few stages..I have not come anywhere near to finishing it! Nor do Have any idea what it will look like when done!
Aside from the fact that it is really stupid and cruel to say this to a student taking your course on creativity, and I was stupid enough to listen to him without objecting…Aside from all that, when Robert Fritz says artists can’t use art to work out their problems, I say, Balderdash! SAYS WHO? SAYS WHO?!!!
Can you imagine what the world would be like without artists who did NOT work out their problems in and through their art? A world without the likes of, and I am just selecting a few very famous examples from all over the art world:
Edvard Munck’s numerous depictions…
Just in case you doubt that he was rendering his emotional turmoil in pastel and paint, he wrote these sentences on the frame of one of the four known original versions of what the world now knows as
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
And where would the world of poetry be without Sylvia Plath. Surely it would be a milder and less rich place without her magnificent and moving poem, “Daddy”, which I will quote only in part below:
A contemporary poet who has for many years mined her life and traumas for art, is undeniably Sharon Olds. But one poet who made art out of exquisite spiritual agonies was the British Jesuit convert,
Gerard Manley Hopkins in the mid-1800s, who wrote what are now called The Terrible Sonnets, terrible because they portray with astonishing depth the suffering and spiritual anguish he experienced as a parish priest going through the dark night of the soul. I do not know of any poet, then or now, who has done it better.
This is one of my all-time favorites of Hopkins. But you really need to read it aloud…
Francisco Goya Saturn Devouring Son
But as Robert Fritz said to me in class, and I stupidly took to heart, “ARTISTS CAN’T USE ART TO WORK OUT PROBLEMS”…
Geee, they can’t? How dumb of me to think they can and do it, all the time.
Remember Franz Kafka? Why do I think he too might have been dealing with his authoritarian father in such books as THE TRIAL, THE CASTLE, THE PENAL COLONY or a story like “The Hunger Artist”…No, that is impossible, right? After all, artists cannot and do not do such things, not real artists…Not according to Robert Fritz, who is the arbiter of all things art!
Songwriters are notorious for displaying their hearts on their sleeves, as most of us know. But VIc Chesnutt, who later committed suicide, did this in spades, with his song, “Coward.” This song is far too raw and painful to me to place it here as a sound file. But I will give you the lyrics and tell you to look for a version of Vic singing it, as no one can do it better.
The courage of the coward
Is greater than all others
A scaredy-cat’ll scratch ‘im
If you back ‘im in a corner
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward
Courage born of despair and impotence
Submissive dogs can
Lash out in fear and be
Very, very dangerous
But I ,I ,I, I am a coward
I, I, I am a coward
Anyhow, I think I have made a case for stating that art — which can be used for a great many purposes, in fact can be used in whatever fashion and for whatever use you want to employ it, because truly there are no rules — most certainly one can work out one’s problems in and through using art. What better way to do so in fact? Better than taking a load of guns and shooting up the nearest _________! (fill in the blank with the most recent mass shooting locale.)
I welcome my readers to send me examples of artists who expressed themselves or used their problems to make art. I will add them to the list, especially if you provide a link to an example of their work.
Much love to all,
Pamela Spiro Wagner
Oh, I plum forgot! Here is my own example of using art to deal with problems:
All art copyright of Pamela Spiro Wagner
Dear Readers, here I am again, some scant four months after getting out of the Vermont state hospital unit in Rutland, Vermont, after two years of nearly nonstop institutionalizations, and i am dedicated to the proposition that i will never again see the inside of another mental health facility in this state, or any other state for that matter. Nor will i allow myself to be lied to again by a practitioner of mental health care, a subject i consider almost completely bogus, both the diagnosis of so-called mental disorders and their almost universally dangerous “treatments.”
In this spirit of rejecting the mental health system, rejecting even the non-system, except insofar as I need assistance in getting out of it, and rejecting *any* and all mental illness diagnosis, i decided to take a course in creativity for five days in Newfane, Vermont, just to try my hand at something outside the usual realm of “recovery-” and or madness-oriented activities.
While this ended up being, frankly, a bust — for reasons i will explain, i can report that i really liked the people i met there, some of whom came from as far away as the UK. As for the course itself, I feel that a requirement of valor means that i leave this at “the less said, the better.” I admit, however, that the teacher, a certain Robert Fritz of self-proclaimed international renown, seems to have been taking out his private pique on me ever since the course ended, for leaving the class early, on a few days, and for not praising him lavishly, or even, god knows, “enough.”
So be it, so be it. If he is so small as to exact such petty revenges, i myself need not stoop to his level.
Alas, the course ended up depleting me deeply and the sole worthwhile lesson it left me with concerned “structural tension.” This, Fritz repeated literally ad infinitum, or at least ad nauseam, all day long for five days, 8 hours a day. Sadly, the one time we did worthwhile hands-on practice, when he *first* outlined this notion and gave us a narrative structure — take point A and reverse it to point B (with a character, crisis and certain developing plot points) around which to easily design a monologue — Fritz then gave us an hour to write a piece in the voice of a single person, and was rewarded when every single person in the class wrote what i thought was a professionally competent piece, this was never to be repeated.
How much more he could have taught us and built on that, had he used the example of what we had learned and done and our confidence to “grow on and go on…” but instead he opted only for more of the same old same old, which was just going over the same ground again and again, with analyzing music video after music video but doing it FOR us, not even having us participate in any meaningful way. Readers, it truly appeared that class participation in any real sense was simply too threatening for this teacher, who was not one of those who felt he could learn anything from his students, no matter their age and life experiences…
No more recriminations on my part. I could not have known this would happen, especially since we were provided no clues, no syllabus, no handout that gave any hint as to Robert’s plans…I went in every day, every single day, and to every session with (dimming but) renewed hope that things would change, right to the last session of the last day…To my dismay and disappointment and growing exhaustion, it never did.
At least i enjoyed the monologue- writing exercise. The following was mine, which is fiction, though it was based on someone i know pretty well (and he knows who he is! )
I, Winton Wooster the third, had sex for 30 years with one man and one man only, Arturo, whom I’d met in Culinary Arts school and absolutely despised. It took me another three years and five other men, one woman, and an Electrolux, before I came to realize that it was Arturo to whom I was attracted and loved with all my heart and soul and body. “Over The Rainbow” sung by Izzy Kamakawiwo’ole was our song.
Some people think gay men can’t be monogamous. That is so not true, so not true. I might have been promiscuous before Arturo, but A.A, that is After Arturo, I never looked away, that is until…well, how do I explain this?
It all started with cars. And collections. Collections of cars. And collections of everything else under the sun. I had the car collection, and I had the other collections. I had Kewpie dolls and Christ statuettes and I had spoons and books of spoonerisms, and I had jackknives and jack-in-the-boxes, I had bowls and bowling ball collections. If there was something to be collected, I collected it and more. I collected art and books, and books of art and china and vintage Chinese clothing and if you think there was no space left in my three-story house, that is saying nothing. I rented space in several other houses, my clients’ houses, which I cleaned each week, and those were soon filled with my collections as well. As for the cars? I had seventeen cars and that was only after culling them down from a high of thirty-seven.
As for Arturo? He had one. One car, and no collections. Only an affection for zinnias, which he called the gay flower and he grew tons of them, for me. His car was named Ada, and she was a 1987 Toyota Tercel. I always said I didn’t think they still made the Tercel that year, but he showed me the papers and proved that they had. Ada was pale yellow, a custom color, and still had the original fabric on her seats and the same original everything, just a tad creaky and fading. I joked with Arturo that we too were creaky and fading. Now, to tell a gay man of 55 that he is beginning to fade and creak is dicey at best, but we were not just old lovers, we were practically brothers, so the degree of his taking offense surprised me. But then he retorted that I shouldn’t talk, since I needed Viagra more often than not and that was only when I managed to get interested enough to take it.
Oooh, that got me where it hurt. But he wasn’t wrong. The thing is, I had once had enormous sex drive along with everything else but along the way, things seem to have just dissipated. I don’t know why exactly. But it was that remark that crystallized an amorphous dissatisfaction into the huge lump of cruel coal it was: Arturo was the source of my problems and my discontent. If I hadn’t been supporting him, if he didn’t live in my house, I would have more space for my things, and furthermore I would find someone I could, frankly, feel something for and well, get it up for. Period.
The end of our partnership came one night during a quarrel about my car collection, which was occupying several other garages as well as parking spaces in town. Several times a year during snow storms we had to play a desperate game of move the cars – in order to stay ahead of the tow trucks and the tickets to get them out of wherever they might be impounded. Arturo was sick of this, and frankly so was I and I wanted, I proposed, and I had actually had the plans secretly approved by the town zoning board, to build a giant garage in the back yard, a “garage-mahal” that would house my entire car collection on site. The problem was that in order to finance it, I wanted Arturo to pay rent, to help out, that is, with my second mortgage.
Arturo was hurt and he said so in no uncertain terms. He had lived with me and paid me in so many other ways, he told me, how could I do this to him? He cooked, he cleaned and he shopped and he did everything in the house to have made it a home for us and now I expected him to pay rent like a mere tenant? Firmly and obdurately I stood my ground and said, yes.
With tears in his eyes, for which I admit I felt a small pang, but not as big a pang as I ought to have, he turned around, climbed the stairs to our bedroom and packed a suitcase. Then I heard him tread the stairs downward, open the front door, and close it with a thud.
I was such a cad I did not even ask him where he was going or see him off. I felt a relief just to be rid of him. I can’t even say why. It was only the next morning that I discovered, in the small car shed I was planning within the week to tear down and replace with my garage-mahal, Arturo’s pale yellow Toyota Tercel, which he had left behind, for reasons I did not know and could not divine. After he didn’t pick it up for a month, I decided that he likely could not afford the payments or the gas, now that I was not paying for everything. Nevertheless, I could not bring myself to get rid of it, so I paid the insurance and made sure the registration was up to date and kept it on the first floor of the new enormous garage that was soon built on the back of my property.
I did not hear from Arturo at all after that. I learned from friends that he was renting a small first floor apartment on the outskirts of town, in exchange for taking care of the owners’ property. He was rumored to have neither phone nor email. I did not try to contact him but got absorbed instead in my own busy-ness.
In the garage-mahal there was room for all of my vehicles, all the ones in driving condition, including the Bentley for which I had paid only $22,000.00 but kept in mint condition. I had some cars on lifts and others were withdrawn down into specially constructed rooms underground. Only my special fire engine red Mustang and Arturo’s Tercel were in the front bay, readily available for driving.
I spent many of my leisure hours polishing and cleaning the cars, as the house had gone to seed, ever since Arturo was not there to pick up after me or sort the collected items. Also, it was – to be honest — lonely. I was able to have sex after Viagra, yes, but then only to have the Electrolux as my partner — what was the point? I gave up sex altogether. But that made me feel even worse. I tried the gay dances and party scene, and once even an “orgy” that a friend urged me to go to. But all of that just made the loneliness worse.
One night in the summer, sitting in a deck chair, under the bright LED lighting in the garage-mahal, I thought I heard someone’s radio playing a yard away. I got up to listen and heard our favorite song, “Over the Rainbow” performed by Izzy. I stole down the street, and listened to the radio on a porch nearby, and found myself standing in a clump of tall bright-petalled flowers as if by coincidence. No coincidence, I thought, there are no coincidences. I am a total cad, but I can’t let this be. I have left the love of my life and I need him back.
I ran back to the garage-mahal and jumped into the red Mustang, but the starter just made a coughing sound, as if it had just then given up the ghost. “Damn!” I yelled, then I realized that Arturo’s Tercel was still insured and ought to be drivable. Ought to be. Hell, yes, why not?
It was. As if it knew just where it was going the Tercel seemed to drive me all by itself to a small pink stucco house on the edge of town, a house surrounded by trees and with planters filled to the brim with zinnias. To this day I don’t know how it was that Arturo happened to be there, or why he did not seem surprised or even taken aback that I’d come. But without questioning anything, he just smiled warmly, opened the door and opened his arms.
Living in a hospital is like living in an Ice Hotel
where all the appointments beneath the furs and fleece
are hard frozen to the floor
Like Ice Hotel staff, the nurses try their best
to be kind, to find compassion for those suffering
here on their sub-zero beds.
But really, they have their warm lives elsewhere.
The psychiatrist knows better. She visits briefly
once a day at the height of the sun, chewing her Vitamin D,
and encourages Hotel visitors to Happy Talk
and Life Skills. If she fails to ease their suffering
in any part, it is because she does not see it, blind
to the fact that the beds are frozen pallets that chill
to the bone. She sees only the furs and warm fleeces.
She cannot fathom why one would not rise and walk
under her cheerful ministrations after a few nights
spent on a banquette of ice. Only the aides
are savvy enough, being low-paid and long-working,
to bring in oil lanterns and hot water bottles.
The patients love them and when finally it comes time
to leave, strange how difficult it is to say good-bye
to even the hardest corner of this place.
luckily i no longer live in a hospital but in a little corner of paradise, in Brattleboro Vermont. And soon I will be writing you about my place. All week i had a headache, which was a beach that was decidely not Miami. But I stopped taking the Abilify on a whim, and wouldn’t you know, immediately the headache ceased. I cannot tell anyone this, because they will become up in arms at my stopping a “necessary medicatoin” but if I do not tell anyone, and things go just fine, won’t that be funny as hell? I think so. And that is precisely what happened when I stopped the Zyprexa, the last time. Everything was fine fine fine,. for six months, and never stopped being fine. I mean I did just as good off it as on it, and we never started it with any good being done, again.
But no negativity from me today. Instead I will leave you with the sunny face painting I did for a member of BRattleboro TIme Trade, in preparation for a papier mache sun we want to work on. Love to all of you!
These are the latest fractured portraits and artpieces i have done at Rutland Regional Medical Center’s PICU. The portraits are not meant to be recognizably anyone, unless of course, they are. The set of small oil pastels were just experiments. The last picture is a gouache painting, about 22″ by 36″. The others are about half that size and in colored pencil.
(Sorry but my last post about their use of the restraint chair was very unexpectedly deleted…i still have the draft and can find the emailed comments, but i dunno that i have the heart to repost it unless someone requests it…)