Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Subway Vision

It’s odd when what we’re reading merges with where.  So it is when Dan’s interior meditation
on a William Carlos Williams poem fuses with the visages of fellow train travelers.

Our thanks to guest artist Ann Ropp for her haunting images of isolated faces (selected from
her watercolor series titled “Ancestors”).
                                                                                                                   -- Suzanne

[For more about Ann's art, see the bio below.]


                   Note to Doctor Williams, from a DC Subway,
                          in the Lull Between Christmas
                                  & New Year’s Eve

                               “To give a damn”
                               (and to not give a damn) —
                                most difficult resolution!

                                William Carlos Williams
                                when your Christmas greens went up in flame
                                by your own hand (town father’s and life-giver’s),
                                at once a conflagration and a prayer,
                                I breathed that thickened heat
                                with you . . . .

                                             Writing this on a train,
                                your book in hand,
                                I dwell on faces purified, this moment,
                                by the task of being human,
                                simmering, I imagine,
                                                       with the slow incessant flame 
                                                       of gentle sorrow.


An earlier version of "Note to Doctor Williams … " appeared in Dan's original book of
poems, The Artist and the Crow (Purdue University Press), and will be included in his
forthcoming selected volume, "Back to the Source: Selected Poems & Parables" (San
Francisco Bay Press, 2018).

Ann Ropp has exhibited work in galleries throughout the US and Europe, and is also the
recipient of a Southern Arts Federation / NEA Fellowship.  Since earning an MFA from
Columbia University (NYC), she’s maintained a studio in Johnson City, Tennessee.  In 
2011, Ann and Suzanne first collaborated on an unusual series of drawings, later exhibited
as “Two Characters in Search of a Title” at East Tennessee State University’s Tipton Gallery
(see Scott Contreras-Koterbay’s lively review in Antennae: The Journal of Animals and
Visual Culture at http://www.antennae.org.uk/back-issues-2013/4583481046
issue 25, Summer 2013).

Ann Ropp in her studio


Monday, October 23, 2017


And now for something a little different . . . 



They deceive us.  And we them.
Carving our kids’ whims into
their plump & gusty flesh,

handfuls of scooped seeds
mounding the newspaper-strewn
floor, bent to the scarred oilcloth

saved from the year before,
we huddle in the circle of their
scent — acrid & still blades

tracing grins already inked into
their bland & swollen skins
that we might alter, always, if

we dare — slight frenzy, grimace,
calm — by one swift slice or angle
of the wrist.  Our kids, all goggle-

eyed, watch on.  And on we carve,
refining lines — the razor’s edge
of their gapped teeth — not

quitting where we might, now
hardly conscious that we carve
for them . . . .  Finished now.   
They stare, queer, droll, triangle-
eyed, crescent mouths agape.
Our kids squeal with delight.  

Days beyond festivities, the
neighborhood grown calm 
again in chill fall’s leafless time,

they lean from the porch ledge,
dull orange, spent, features
caving in & turning pulpWe 

watch them now the most,
& feel them kin.  Their smiles
as they rot, become more real.


Dan Stryk's X-ray

"Pumpkins" first appeared in The Southern Humanities Review
and later in Dan’s first full-length volume of poems,The Artist 
and the Crow (Purdue University Press). This revised 
version will be appearing in Back to the Source: Selected 
Poems & Parables [San Francisco Bay Press, 2018]

Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Shell" by Shinkichi Takahashi (Translated by Lucien Stryk)

Back in the 1970s, when still living among the cornfields of Illinois, I remember listening—spellboundto my father-in-law’s bold 
resonance when reading us his translations of Shinkichi Takahashi’s contemporary Zen poems. Four decades later that voice 
blent with a Japanese poet’s vision moves me stillstirring the cycles of life and death while I paint the wavy image of a conch. 
And inspiring me to weave that painting into a video combining both their spirits with my own.
                                                                                                                                      -- Suzanne




Nothing, nothing at all
    is born,
dies, the shell says again
    and again
from the depth of hollowness.
    Its body
swept off by tide—so what?
    It sleeps
in sand, drying in sunlight,
in moonlight.  Nothing to do
    with sea
or anything else.  Over
    and over
it vanishes with the wave.


Dan’s father, the American poet and translator of Buddhist 
literature, Lucien Stryk (1924-2013),* was instrumental in 
bringing this highly unorthodox Japanese writer (already 
locally renowned for poems melding experimental
freedom with traditional Zennist thought) to the attention
of the English-speaking world in Triumph of the Sparrow 
(Grove Press), a comprehensive volume of the 
Zen-inspired poetry of Shinkichi Takahashi (1901-1987).  

Lucien visiting Takahashi in the latter’s Tokyo study (1970). 

*See "Featured Post" (top left of this page) for a video based on two of Lucien's original poems.