“Art is work”

A drawing of my desk with books read, unread, or partially read.

It is a challenge for me. When I am introduced as an artist and/or poet. Still not comfortable with either of those nouns. The next question is inevitable. It usually goes something like this:

My wife turns and introduces me to her friend and adds, “He’s also an artist and poet, too.”

“Wow, can I see your art work on Facebook?”

“No. I am not on Facebook.”

“Oh. Instagram?”

“No. Not on Instagram, either.”

“Well. Um. What do you do? Oil paintings? Do you have a gallery somewhere?”

“He posts some of his work on his blog,” my wife offers.

About that time the bread crumb trail ends and the conversation shifts to something else.

The trouble is that some of the work I create I cannot contractually share. Technically, I do not own the copyrights to the final art. And so, I cannot distribute or display it on this or other online platforms. Frustrating. Yes. Bad. No. It is the cost of commercial arts.

For example, a couple weeks ago I drew a portrait. A line art drawing. The portrait will be featured as an etching in either crystal or acrylic as part of a lifetime award. Sometime in March. You may have seen such awards in business offices. A crystal award on black base sitting on someone’s desk or shelf or trophy case.

I am reminded of one of Milton Glaser’s mottos: “Art is work.”

Milton Glaser, celebrated graphic designer, may not be a household name. Not even in my home. But most Americans will recognize the I [heart] NY logo. It is highly unlikely that school children will study designers as part of their art curriculum. (My children are presently studying the American painter Andrew Wyeth.)

Too often I lament, or rather, complain that I spend too much time creating work in front of a screen. It was so nice to ditch the screen and work in ink on vellum and illustration paper. Took nearly four hours to draw the portrait. And that is with the interruptions of replying to emails and designing elements for a multi-page editorial piece. It would take four weeks if I tried to craft the portrait as an oil painting.

In order to answer a request (Where may I find your art work?), I drew the above page last weekend. Inspired by Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf, I managed to draw the stacks of books on my desk by the bedroom window. At least fifty books. So many books. So little time. I enjoyed the exercise. It felt good to pencil a sketch, flesh out the details, and ink the page.

“Wait. You write poetry, too?”

“Um…” I start.

“Have you been published?”

“Yes,” I say.

And this time the bread crumb trail ends quickly. Because most people do not know where to begin to look for published poetry.

“He posts some of his published poems on his blog,” my wife adds.

One night at a kava bar

One night at a kava bar I read a poem about. . . well, . . . that was many years ago. As National Poetry month concludes I hope you enjoy this recording. I do not believe I have read that poem in public since that night. Much gratitude to Caleb Beissert for recording and sharing the video.

Hill Christmas by R. S. Thomas

“Hill Christmas”
by R. S. Thomas

They came over the snow to the bread’s
purer snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts’ manger.

They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had asked to be born.

A Scandal in the Suburbs by X.J. Kennedy

A Scandal in the Suburbs
by X.J. Kennedy

We had to have him put away,
For what if he’d grown vicious?
To play faith healer, give away
Stale bread and stinking fishes!
His soapbox preaching set the tongues
Of all the neighbors going.
Odd stuff: how lilies never spin
And birds don’t bother sowing.
Why, bums were coming to the door—
His pockets had no bottom—
And then-the foot-wash from that whore!
We signed. They came and got him.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

“Let Evening Come”
By Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

Poetry reading list for National Poetry Month, part four

Beanstreet coffeehouse, July 2005

Our paths first met at open mic night at Beanstreet café during a time of national crisis and local transition. The aftermath of 9/11 brought a lot of poets and singer songwriters to open mics for reasons of catharsis and later to protest.

But Barbie Angell[1] brought something different to the Beanstreet musicians and poets. Part Dorothy Parker, part Shel Silverstein, Barbie Angell became a regular favorite of scene and a poetic force.

We first met around the time my book Late Night Writing[2] was published. I was working hard on new material and trying it out on the open mic crowd. We exchanged a few conversations and notes at that time and then we lost track of each other for a couple years.

Beanstreet dramatically closed. The poetry scene was adrift for awhile. Eventually the Courtyard Gallery off Walnut Street filled the space. And that is where Barbie and I reconnected. From those late nights at the Courtyard Gallery open mics until my departure from Asheville, we spent a lot of time sharing poetry, discussing literary world domination, challenging and encouraging each other about all things regarding a poets life.

Roasting Questions,[3] her collection of poems and illustrations, was released a few years ago. We talked much about that publication and the supporting book tour.

Though our poetic styles were different we still sought to encourage one another toward success.

There was one night I remember in particular. Two different events were going on in Asheville and she was to read poetry at one while I read at another. She picked me up at my house, drove downtown, and after the separate events we met up at Sazerac for refreshments. We talked about the night’s events, avoided how jealous we were of the others’ success and then she drove me back home. That is what friends do.

That is a glimpse into the story behind this short poem. With friends like Barbie, you have the strength to walk further, to try harder, and to be better.[4]

NOTES:

[1Read all about Barbie Angell: http://www.barbieangell.com/about-barbie-angell/
[2Late Night Writing is still available in print. Contact me for details. Or you can purchase an e-book version here: https://www.amazon.com/Late-Night-Writing-Matthew-Mulder/dp/1932852204
[3Find out more about Barbie’s book, Roasting Questions: http://www.barbieangell.com/roasting-questions/
[4Originally published May 4, 2017 https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2017/05/04/poetry-reading-list-for-national-poetry-month-part-three/

PODCAST: Poems and readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold

by Madeleine L’Engle

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.[1]


This audio podcast features the poem “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle and concludes with a selection from the Book of Common Prayer that is often read on Christmas Day.

NOTES:
[1] Source: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

Poetry reading list for National Poetry Month, part three

Beanstreet coffeehouse, July 2005

Our paths first met at open mic night at Beanstreet café during a time of national crisis and local transition. The aftermath of 9/11 brought a lot of poets and singer songwriters to open mics for reasons of catharsis and later to protest.

But Barbie Angell[1] brought something different to the Beanstreet musicians and poets. Part Dorothy Parker, part Shel Silverstein, Barbie Angell became a regular favorite of scene and a poetic force.

We first met around the time my book Late Night Writing[2] was published. I was working hard on new material and trying it out on the open mic crowd. We exchanged a few conversations and notes at that time and then we lost track of each other for a couple years.

Beanstreet dramatically closed. The poetry scene was adrift for awhile. Eventually the Courtyard Gallery off Walnut Street filled the space. And that is where Barbie and I reconnected. From those late nights at the Courtyard Gallery open mics until my departure from Asheville, we spent a lot of time sharing poetry, discussing literary world domination, challenging and encouraging each other about all things regarding a poets life.

Roasting Questions,[3] her collection of poems and illustrations, was released a few years ago. We talked much about that publication and the supporting book tour.

Though our poetic styles were different we still sought to encourage one another toward success.

There was one night I remember in particular. Two different events were going on in Asheville and she was to read poetry at one while I read at another. She picked me up at my house, drove downtown, and after the separate events we met up at Sazerac for refreshments. We talked about the night’s events, avoided how jealous we were of the others’ success and then she drove me back home. That is what friends do.

That is a glimpse into the story behind this short poem. With friends like Barbie, you have the strength to walk further, to try harder, and to be better.

NOTES:

[1Read all about Barbie Angell: http://www.barbieangell.com/about-barbie-angell/
[2Late Night Writing is still available in print. Contact me for details. Or you can purchase an e-book version here: https://www.amazon.com/Late-Night-Writing-Matthew-Mulder/dp/1932852204
[3Find out more about Barbie’s book, Roasting Questions: http://www.barbieangell.com/roasting-questions/

Poetry podcast for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold

by Madeleine L’Engle

 

The winter is cold, is cold.
All’s spent in keeping warm.
Has joy been frozen, too?
I blow upon my hands
Stiff from the biting wind.
My heart beats slow, beats slow.
What has become of joy?

If joy’s gone from my heart
Then it is closed to You
Who made it, gave it life.
If I protect myself
I’m hiding, Lord, from you.
How we defend ourselves
In ancient suits of mail!

Protected from the sword,
Shrinking from the wound,
We look for happiness,
Small, safety-seeking, dulled,
Selfish, exclusive, in-turned.
Elusive, evasive, peace comes
Only when it’s not sought.

Help me forget the cold
That grips the grasping world.
Let me stretch out my hands
To purifying fire,
Clutching fingers uncurled.
Look! Here is the melting joy.
My heart beats once again.[1]


This audio podcast features the poem “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle and concludes with a selection from the Book of Common Prayer that is often read on Christmas Day.

NOTES:
[1] Source: The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold by Madeleine L’Engle
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

April – National Poetry Month

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It is no joke. It is April. And it is the beginning of National Poetry Month.

For poets and poetry fans, April is a special month-long celebration of poems and poets. For most of America, it is the beginning of baseball season.

One question that is asked of me when an individual learns that I compose lines poetry is this: “Are you published?”

The answer is yes.

Throughout the month of April I will post selections of my published work for your reading pleasure.

April is a good month to test your poetry writing skills. A few years ago I took up the challenge[1] to write 30 poems in 30 days.[2] You are invited to the challenge as well.

NOTES:
[1] 30 poems in 30 days challenge
[2] Write 30 poems in 30 days: a challenge