Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nestlings and Feathers

When flipping through my summer sketchbook, I came upon my painting of a dead bluejay nestling—a colorful sack of guts. 
I then thought about those other intimate dramas of vulnerable birdlife, often witnessed through dew-soaked remains or simply 
a heap of fluttering feathers. So I chose to create a video using Dan’s poems “Maelstrom” and “Hawk Feather,” mingling our 
responses to those moving encounters.
                                                                                                   — Suzanne 

"Maelstrom" and "Hawk Feather"                                                                          


    (Or Dance of the Fallen Nestlings)

Splayed on the dark
   roadside by a wind
that whirled against
   our screen all night,
tossing sleep into
   strange streaks of
dream, and sucking
   three wet sacks of
bluejay life from
   hemlock boughs into
a ringlet of bright
   dancers, mouthing
cries of ecstasy
   above blue wing-
stubs nearly grasped
   like fragile hands,
still featherless,
   upon an urn in
late May’s icy

Hawk Feather

A tail feather
was all ... breeze-
spun to the wood-
pile.  Fawn-brown
ribbed with touches
of soft black —
stirring the ire
of our backyard
woods, like code,
that balmy noon.
Grackles, crows
shrieked down as
one from linden
boughs.  Demon
guardians of the
heartpulse buried
in each hidden
heap of fluff that
bright spring


“Maelstrom” and “Hawk Feather” first appeared 
in Puerto del Sol and Shenandoah, respectively. 
Then, together, in our collaborative chapbook, 
Field Notes (Rubicon press, Edmonton /
Alberta, Canada, 2007).

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two Poems by Robert Morgan

For the September Red Eft video, our guest poet is Robert Morgan.

The minute I read Morgan’s “Brownfield,” I dog-eared the page. I knew I'd go back to it someday, for it spoke to my belief that we 
might find grace in wounded places. In fact, I’d once created a painting of my own that it immediately evoked, a work I titled Landfill.  
I merged that image with Robert’s telling words for this first piece on the video.

The second poem, “Jar Fly,” offers its grace to a small often-ignored insect: the mysterious cicada, who—like us—creates 
love ballads.

[For more about Robert Morgan see the bio and links below.]

“Brownfield” and “Jar Fly”



The lot that’s poisoned by a spill
of toluene or gasoline
and tons of industrial swill
and drops of mercury dispersed
among the bits of asbestos
and rusting nails and tangled coils
with scattered beads of Styrofoam
all tossed among the posts and beams
of rotting wood and toads of grease,
exploded garbage bags and inks
on asphalt floes, and silty sinks,
is touched in one remote spot by
an ironweed’s purple mystery.

Jar Fly

The cry is more a seethe than song,
high in the oaks, a call at once
bone-dry and juicy, blast so loud
it seems a thousand rattlesnakes
are giving furious warning,
so wild it’s near impossible
to spot the source. The insect, called
cicada in most places, here
was known as jar fly, since the kids,
if they could catch one, sealed it in
a jar and watched its finger-small
anatomy vibrate inside
the amplifying bulb to light
the evening calm with serenade,
with fanfare, rasping anthem.
But what was usually found in woods
was not the tiny rock star itself
but just the husk of skin it shed
before it soared into the trees
to rock the lazy summer breeze
for hours on end with love ballad.


 “Brownfield” and “Jar Fly” were published in Terroir (Penguin Books, 2011).  

Robert Morgan is the author of fourteen books of poetry, most recently Dark Energy (Penguin Books, 2015). Morgan
has also published nine volumes of fiction, including Gap Creek, a New York Times bestseller. Among numerous awards, 
he has received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from
the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. Born in Hendersonville, North Carolina (where he’d collected cicadas, himself, as a boy), he later moved to upper New York where he’s taught at Cornell University since 1971. 

For more about Robert Morgan, visit the author’s website:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Naming Colors

The nuances of natural color never cease to amaze us.  And so I created this video where Dan meditates on finding precise words — 
and I mix precise combinations of paint — to match the color of a simple berry. 

 Naming Colors

Naming Colors

Soapy purple  no, deep soft
   pink  those berries . . .

All my conscious life
I’ve striven, blind to other
earthly orderings, to get
them “right”: without
clear gainful 

swear I was a painter,
potter, or at least some
dyer of fine cloth,
seeking ideas . . .
        But no such
chance, with unclear
goals & gently
       Just inner need
to pierce small moments
of the day: this ritual
that from my youth
I’ve naturally

      Now older
& so often foggy-minded
when I rise, can tell my
morning clarity of mind, my
cast of eye, by how quickly
I cease groping.  How
quickly I’m satisfied with
my first “mental
match” —
shared with my artist wife,
when trimming growth
       around the yard, or on
       our “viewing” walks down
rural paths.  
I trust the most, more
       skilled & industrious,
       in many ways,
than I . . .
                And so I wait
       on tenterhooks, while 
       feigning nonchalance
       (another of our
       games) for her

 I believe they’re more a cloudy
      rose, those berries . . . "


Suzanne Stryk   Naming Colors    30" x 22"    mixed media  on paper     
The Naming Colors painting appeared in "Love," an exhibit at Second Street Gallery 
(Charlottesville, VA  2006) curated by Leah Stoddard. The show featured collaborations 
between writers and artists. The images in the video are details from the painting, including
Dan's handwritten poem.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Notes from the Field

With Spring now fully arrived, I’m once more soaking in all the buzzing and peeping around the yard. The caterpillars are slinking through 
the fresh-green leaves, and I’ve already been slapping a few bothersome mosquitoes while lunching on the deck beneath our hill. So for
this month’s Red Eft video, I've decided to mingle three of Dan’s short poems inspired by those very creatures, while merging his human 
imagination---past and present---with their observed behaviors.
                                                                                                                                                        -- Suzanne

Field Notes: 3 Short Poems by Dan Stryk


                  Caterpillar Life

   I leave this caterpillar life
       behind (the long
 sluffed in my morning
      bath), to set
                                               out again: slightly
                                                      the Earth . . .

        Birth of a Mosquito

                Arising in my
                on this muggy
                night of
                to swirl
                on through the
                vortex of
                my eye socket,
                through rank
                hairs — then
                out!  That
                single whine
                to its ruby
                source, a
                despised breed,
                to live.

             Child’s Sin?
            How could this tiny treefrog
                    whose glistening green legs

            I’d sundered from the rough
                     pinebark he’d clung to,
            to restless fingers in Japan,
                     hop into my life again,
            bright-green dream, this stormy
                     night    so many years


"Caterpillar Life" and "Child's Sin" first appeared in the journals American Tanka and Harvard Review
respectively. All three pieces in the video then appeared in our collaborative chapbook of epigrammatic 
poems and complementary paintings and sketches, Field Notes: Stray Musings in Brief Forms (Rubicon 
Press, Edmonton / Alberta, Canada, 2007), and later "Caterpillar Life" and "Child's Sin" were included 
in Dimming Radiance: Poems & Prose Parables (Wind Publications, 2008).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two Poems by Felicia Mitchell

For the March Red Eft video, our guest poet is Felicia Mitchell.

I've often found it strange that when painting a wild animal, I've glimpsed its essence most fully only after cleaning my brushes 
and flicking off the studio lights. So encountering Felicia Mitchell's parallel concept in "One Green Heron at Dusk" was like a 
summons to my own deep feelings in her act of photographing the wild. 

While in "Bat Moral," the second piece in this two-part video, Felicia is startled by discovering a bat in the grass outside her 
home, inspiring an unusual meditation on the struggle for peaceful coexistence between all creatures in the natural world.
                                                                                                                                                         -- Suzanne

For more about Felicia Mitchell, visit

"One Green Heron at Dusk" and "Bat Moral"        


One Green Heron at Dusk

That green heron needs a telephone pole
as much as I need a camera in my hand
but there it is--making do without a tree 
or without fish that used to be in this creek.
Tomorrow it will fly somewhere else.
This evening, nothing is the matter.
Dragonflies fly, the green heron eats.

Straining my neck as it shifts its neck,
I am seeking the perfect image of this heron.
That is the one I will leave by the creek,
the pictures in my camera just shadows 
of a time that has come and gone 
like the fish that used to swim here.

Later, if I close my eyes and clear my mind, 
I will see a green heron as patient as a green heron
without a camera lens between us.

Bat Moral

Sometimes a bat is just a bat.
It's not an omen, or a vampire,
or a rabid threat to your good health.
It's just brown, and lonely,
as confused as you are sometimes
when you turn to find someone
and he has turned another corner.
A bat can be as warm and fuzzy
as you want it to be, or cuter,
but it's still not a good idea to touch it
even when it ends up in the grass 
wrestling your dog at four in the afternoon
where it should be hanging upside down
like a good bat in the rafters
or turning some corner to find the woods.
Bad dog, bad bat, I'm okay, you're okay,
but it's still not so good to fight,
not mammal to mammal,
not at four in the afternoon
over who or what belongs in the yard
or who or what should go which way
when there are so many paths to choose from.


"One Green Heron at Dusk" was anthologized in Sunrise from Blue Thunder (Pirene's Fountain, 2011). "Bat Moral" was first published in Terrain.  Both poems appear in Waltzing With Horses (Press 53, 2014)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Walk in the Snow

My recent walk — or should I say trudge? — through a snowy, sub-zero landscape brought to mind Dan’s poem “Snowblindness.”  
That poem in turn inspired our February video, a tribute to this blustery yet beautiful season. 

Our guest artist is Southwest Virginian landscape painter Kyle Buckland, whose work deeply explores the spirit of the Southern 
Highlands, and the shifts of season and time of day upon them, while also exploring the richness of paint itself. Along 
with Kyle’s winter landscapes, I included a few of my own drawings of withered grass and brittle stalks emerging from the 
white canvas of snow covering the hill behind our home this winter. 

                                                                     — Suzanne 
 [To learn more about Kyle, visit]




                       One must have a mind of winter . . .  

Only the red dogwood’s
brilliant scar in the whitescape
down the river
leads me on.  And still
the burning cold’s shrill light
spreads through me,
                      as always
when the crust sets hard
as calcium,
             and throbbing bones
might keep a sane man
from his daily 
trek along the river bank
in constant glare.  

                       But let  
another man partake
his brittle glee
           that morning walk’s
“insanity,” his thumping
breast swelled ardently


the pure sting of heaped
brilliance: luster
of an emptied mind,

    stunned seeing
       in and out.


An early version of “Snowblindness” appeared in The Artist and the Crow [Purdue University Press, 1984]; 
the present version is forthcoming in Back to the Source: Selected Poems and Parables (1980-2014)
[San Francisco Bay Press, 2015]. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Requiem for a Thrush

Last October I found a thrush dead on the asphalt outside my downtown studio.  I scooped up the olive-brown bird — limp 
but still so exquisite.  Then placing it on my drawing table, I studied those intricate feathers around beak and eye, while sketching 
its stiffened scaly feet.  And I couldn't help but think about the difference between natural death and the senseless death of road-kill.  
It then occurred to me that I might one day create a video with Dan’s poem, “If I Were GOD,” as a requiem to all those creatures 
who die from our blundering ways. 
                                                                                                                                        — Suzanne


     If I Were GOD . . .

Thrushes would not plunge
       through ice-storms, snapping

                   off those hulking towers
                          I’d allowed to rise

& thrive, nor suck into
       great engines streaking

                    shrilly overhead
                           nor would I let them

slap against the blind
       herd of smeared windshields

                    zapping glibly through
                           VAST DAYLIGHT on My

thoroughfares below.  Nor
      would they perish in lost flocks

                    flung to chill waves
                             by shocking shifts

of climate that, when dreamy,
       I’d allowed.  I’d beg Myself: No

                    more.  No more mistakes. 
                          But in My SECOND

COVENANT, I’d now so much
       more carefully devise, of balmy

                    days of Grace for feathered sprites
       so intricately fashioned on

                  the third day of My ART,
                          I’d touch their slumping

spirits with hushed sighs of mild
        breeze, those fragile bodies

                    stammering with aches so fine
                            they’d soothe / as, chirring,

they’d float down through sunlit
        updrafts, buoying a most gradual
                   descent . . . till sweeping through
                           the tree-limbs, past those

 bare nests where their brief lives
        had begun, they’d settle

                     oh so lightly

                                into brush.                               

sketchbook page, thrush


"If I Were GOD" was first published in Ascent, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota.