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Hosted by Kath Abela Wilson
in our garden
we claim the mother rock
as our Fuji
she calls out of silence
the return of the flute*
~ Kath Abela
We all have our laments and yet… many wonders have emerged in the midst of our isolation, we could never have expected.
I am feeling trapped in my room – paralyzed. I should walk to the pharmacy to get a prescription filled but I can’t bring myself to do it. I simply cannot do it – the plague has got my soul. I manage to clean my room and take a shower. I pour a large glass of wine and put on “Ghosteen” a double album by Nick Cave that always heals. It does not disappoint. I stare at the peonies my daughter gave me. The bright pink is mesmerizing. In minutes, I have drawn and painted them I then move on to Irises in a vase that I rescued from our dogs. Another painting completed in a few minutes. The plague ebbs and I remember the last Zoom meeting I had with my fellow poets from California.
The cold computer had come alive with faces from far away as we shared precious poems and stories. Rick’s flute had floated over it all. I read there is a 50-50% chance of humans going extinct in 750 years. Listening to the news makes me believe it. But with the silver lining of poetry from friends in Pasadena, it does not matter. It dissolves the plague and fears of extinction into the beauty of poetry and art.
a communion of my fellow poets
art and poetry are the
plagues and extinction fade
into beauty woven with pain
along the arc
of a dying sun
Ο Ο Ο
I’ve chosen four Art Hugs Meher has written and posted on her Facebook page, one a day, for over 60 days of lockdown. What a wonder and gift this has been! She gave me permission to post them to one of our poet’s inspiration pages. As a result, hundreds of poems have been inspired by her daily writings. Such a gift from an art historian, curator and friend:
MEHER’S DAILY ART HUG March 19:
Today’s hug is painting by Japan’s most famous artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), who is best known in the West for his woodblock print of a great wave curling in front of Mount Fuji looking in the distance. Throughout his long life, this extraordinary artist mastered many styles and techniques of painting, from Japan and China and also Europe, thanks to the Dutch engravings that entered Japan from the 17th century, and although his output was tremendous, he is believed to have lived a relatively impoverished life. His art is currently being celebrated in a major exhibition at the Freer Gallery (part of the Smithsonian) in Washington DC, but of course, the museum is closed. So, since no one can currently view these works, I am sharing this wonderful painting from the Freer Gallery Collection. Painted in 1839, it depicts a boy perched on a willow tree playing a flute while gazing at Japan’s most sacred and majestic mountain. Here, we witness not only Hokusai’s elegant approach to design and composition, but also his deep sense of humanity and its place within the larger natural world. I hope you enjoy this peaceful image.
MEHER’S DAILY ART HUG April 16:
Perhaps even more than ever, a trip outside into nature seems like such a gift. Although I only walk around my neighborhood and sit in my back yard (and I am very grateful to be able to do both), I am particularly in awe of nature’s abundance right now and am reminded of the mixed media collages of one of my favorite contemporary artists, Kaoru Mansour. In her mixed media collages, she recreates this sense of abundance in the natural world around her, blending flowers, birds and trees with jewel-like elements and dazzling gold leaf. Her recent series “Sonaemono,” is named for the Japanese word for an offering of food and drink made to deities at Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and domestic altars dedicated to family ancestors. By depicting trees laden with fruit, birds perched on the branches, bowls heaped with fruit and other foods, Mansour explores both the lavish offerings we receive from nature and the food we offer back to the spirits. In this exquisite image of trumpet flowers, which are blooming here right now, she embellishes the branches of the pendulous trumpet flowers with delicate ornamental details, implying not only abundant offerings but festivities and celebration. Though we may not feel we have much to celebrate in our current upside down world, the appearance of such marvels of nature and art are surely cause enough.
MEHER’S DAILY ART HUG April 17:
I am sure I’m not the only person who has wished for a hero or some magical means to defeat the virus that has caused so much harm, chaos and anxiety around the world. Last fall, when I was looking through Japanese prints at Scripps College with a student, we came across one print by the artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92), depicting a legendary 12th-century hero, Minamoto no Tametomo, who succeeded in vanquishing demons who caused disease. Tametomo was extremely strong and highly skilled in archery, but he was tempestuous and often became embroiled in arguments, which resulted in exile to distant islands. In a 19th-century version of his story, he was banished to Okinawa. When the island was threatened by hososhin, the demons that cause smallpox, he chased them away and became a hero to the island’s inhabitants. In this print – one of his series of 36 depictions of supernatural beings, Yoshitoshi portrays Tametomo standing holding a large bow and glaring at two terrified smallpox demons who flee to the upper left. At his feet is a talisman meant to protect against disease. Oh that we could call on Tametomo today to save us from this disease, or at least from some of the demonic characters out there who are making the situation far worse than it should have been.
MEHER’S DAILY ART HUG May 13:
So, today I’m completing two months of art hugs – so 9 weeks of self-isolation and maybe at least 12 more to go…Good lord! Not quite what I’d imagined when we first locked down and I first started writing these hugs, but thank goodness we have art to help keep us sane, right? My art hug today is another monochrome masterpiece that literally stopped me in my tracks when I saw it. It has the appearance of an abstract sumi-e painting created by a Japanese painter who has mastered tarashikomi – a technique in which ink or color is brushed onto paper or silk, and then, either darker sumi or the same or a contrasting color is dropped into the first before it has completely dried, creating an effect of pooled, blurry-edged colors. But it is not a painting. Nor is it a detail of beautifully marbeled, black glaze on a porcelain vessel or the cross-section of a section of black and white agate stone prized for its healing properties. No, this amazing pattern was created by the birds in my back garden. I had put out a black plastic tray and filled it with water to create a bath for them. A day later, I found that they hadn’t exactly bathed in it but had left their mark on the tray in other ways. I found the pattern rather beautiful and photographed before I took apart my unsuccessful attempt at a bird bath. Now, either my aesthetic sensibilities have become so finely attuned over these last weeks that I am seeing works of art all around me, or all these weeks of self-isolation are really taking their toll and I need to get myself back to a museum ASAP before I completely lose my mind. I’ll leave it to you to decide!
Silver Linings: Quotes and Credits
Peggy Castro has been living with her youngest daughter in Washington since she retired as a peer partner working with the homeless.
Although she feels strongly the loss of her friends and family in California, and is confined because of the Coronavirus, she finds solace in the nearby woods, and the lovely flowers her daughter keeps bringing her. Also, the Zoom meetings have helped her connect with her friends in California. The time alone has been very productive and she spends a good deal of her time meditating, writing and painting. The silver lining is bittersweet.
Meher McArthur is an Asian art historian who specializes in Japanese art. She is based in Los Angeles and works as Academic Curator at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She began writing her Daily Art Hugs on March 12 as a way of adding something positive, healing and beautiful to her friends’ Facebook feeds.
A Note from Kath Abela: “My introductory lament, a tanka, was written in response to Meher’s Art Hug, on Hukusai’s print of boy on willow. It recalls the garden, we local poets cannot meet in, because of the current crisis, where poets have met weekly for many years. My husband Rick plays flutes for our writing sessions.”
> You can read many of Meher McArthur’s Art Hugs, and poems inspired by them on Tanka Poets on Site Facebook page.
> See The beautiful Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena. The owner James Haddad is a 93 year old poet who hosts and attends all our meetings. He has recently joined us on our weekly Zoom meetings. Poets here have also been grateful to Meher McArthur who has curated and presented many events and art shows at Storrier Stearns En Gallery, enduring inspirations. Our lives are woven with friendship and abundance, revealing themselves more and more even in our isolation.
♣ Tell us, by midnight Sunday, Pacific time, your story of the unusual interesting positive gifts and realizations that you have come upon by surprise, during these challenging times. Tell us about the new paths you have taken, those that might endure in your life, that may not have happened had we not been in this situation. We all know good things can come from difficulty. Unexpected doors open and we sometimes find treasure.
Send short poems, haiku, senryu, tanka, cherita haibun, tanka prose, short prose poems, etc., or your own unique approach, to Kath Abela by Facebook message or click here to email her directly. We can feature your work again after five months. Multiple Submissions can be saved to appear later:
- Send a short bio, comments on the theme.
- Send photos or artwork by you, if possible.
- No attachments except photos.
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