Editor's Introduction              Tony DeLap              Feitelson/Lundeberg             

Marc Straus: Art Poems

Marc Straus only began writing poetry seriously in 1991 when he joined a workshop at the 92nd Street Y. Within the next year, his poems were accepted to major literary journals including Field, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review and TriQuarterly. In 1993, he was the recipient of a poetry fellowship at Yaddo.  Straus has three collections of poetry published by TriQuarterly Books - Northwestern University Press. His play in verse, NOT GOD (2006), was staged Off Broadway. Straus frequently writes about cancer medicine, about the dialogue between patients and health care providers, about ethics, and most importantly, about how information is conveyed and received. 

Tim Rollins The Word - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

THE WORD

           

For Tim Rollins

 

You see a word. It isn’t. It’s

an idea, it’s letters forming a pattern

that may be as incongruous as breadcrumbs,

and there’s the bird that will peck at them

one at a time and miss the confluence, like a baby

sucking at a nipple, a smith striking the metal,

oh, and that eye doctor asking if you can read

the lower line. It means nothing, I think,

until you paint a red flower over some T’s and P’s,

until you ask yourself how you feel when that whale

comes rising up again, two harpoons embedded

in its back and ask yourself what if every page

of every comic book were lined up like soldiers

at Antietam, because you have to realize what you

are shooting at, and when Jesus passed the unleavened

bread on the Passover to his right what were the letters

of the Word, perhaps an Aleph, perhaps Nathanial

Hawthorne might have chosen a different color, perhaps

you are tempted to misread Flaubert, perhaps my angels,

you annihilate the text by drawing a simple X, so then

tell me this my kids, what exactly did Jesus whisper

when he turned to his right, and if you have discovered anything

working in this studio together it’s that we each hear a different

whisper, we each must sort the letters into our own words,

and for me the letters are echoes, it is a timid boy

with an idea, with a paint brush, summoned up

to a high hill and below there is a cacophony, a

murmuring in Birmingham, in Jerusalem, in Brooklyn.

He listens long and then it is Love he hears.

It is Love.

 

Tim Rollins  and K.O.S. The Scarlet Letter: Pearl 1985-88
watercolor, charcoal, bistre and acrylic on book pages mounted on canvas 24 x 36 inches

Eldridge Street - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

ELDRIDGE STREET

 Anna Leonhardt, Eldridge I, Oil on canvas, 72 x 54”

 

 

The sun slants through the windows

tinting the cerulean blue with teal,

 

sunflower yellow is streaked

with mauve, carmine red

 

is singed like maple leaves

in late fall. A cacophony of color

 

here on the Lower Eastside where

seven new languages cascades

 

over the old tenements

on Eldridge Street. I glance

 

across to the corner flower shop

on Grand as I press the pigment

 

across the canvas: shards of raspberry,

edgings of green, maroon, and white.

 

And white, and more white, on

Eldridge I

Anna Leonhardt, Eldridge I, 2016 Oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches

ON, ON - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

ON, ON

 

Stefan Bruggemann, Puddle Painting, 2015

Black spray paint and aluminum paint on canvas, 119 x 78” 

 

It is here I played as a child, I say

to Jorge, as we slowly drive past a vacant lot littered

with discarded clothes and thousands of ripped posters

piled into pyramids. This looks like a burial site

for signs from protests, he points out.

 

Yes, I say. Mexico City spreads and the air fills with

soot and bird droppings. Privilege is cordoned off

behind walled compounds but these streets remain the same;

wages insufficient to buy a loaf of bread, little boys

peddling drugs, teenagers killing each other, killing

 

for the right to lord over two blocks of cement and dirt.

So from time-to-time mothers protest. No, they say.

Workers want, grandmother’s lament and in the end

the air becomes more stale, the governor issues

a proclamation and nothing changes.

 

These signs, I think to myself, are the detritus of hope.

I remember once a boy about my age was lifted onto

his father’s shoulders holding a placard aloft. I only

wish I could recall exactly what it said. The boy was shouting,

on. On. On. On what? I still wonder. On what?

Stefan Brüggemann, Puddle Painting #5, 2015

Acrylic spray and aluminum paint on canvas

118 × 78 inches

Number 43 - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

NUMBER 43

 

Leonardo Drew, 1994

Fabric, plastic, rust, string, wood.

138 x 288 x 12"

 

Redman’s tenor sax pulses a sorrowful lament─

Moodswing─ from a boom box

on the steps of a five-story walk-up on W. 146th

where Tiny Joe sits casually handing out

little bags of white snow. Two doors down,

in front of my building, lies a discarded queen-size

mattress with the stains of blood and sex

 

and plenty of heroin. In the tiny kitchen,

the large pot on the stove heats a block of wax.

The dining table is covered with strips of canvas

already charred, shards of wood from discarded boxes,

fragments of mattress, a flannel shirt, a yellow terry robe,

spools of string, an old sweater, and even stuffed animals ─

a brown one with only a single plastic eye.

 

I build it box-by-box, stuffing secrets into

each one: memories of a meal, of a lover

who walked out, of a boy who died

in a hail of bullets. Some are dreams: a grandmother

whose grandfather was a slave; her first childbirth

in Greensboro. And my dreams: my mother waving

a handkerchief to me from our porch in Tallahassee.

Leonardo Drew, Number 43, 1994, fabric, plastic, rust, string, wood, 11.5 x 24 x 1 feet

The Tower - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

THE TOWER
   

Chris Jones: Of Vanished Alphabets, 2016, Book

and magazine images, board, polymer varnish, 76 x 21 x 21"

 

There were moments in my childhood
I thought it was a dream; how else to fathom
this 16-story building with a single small elevator,
cavernous halls clanging like echo chambers,
an apartment door that opens into a living room
right out of the 15th century with real renaissance
paintings, a turn-of the-century kitchen, a staircase

with gilded balustrades, a washing machine with  

with clothing spilled out, a bedroom from a Bogart movie,
and once inside, you could pass through rooms
and rooms, as though never-ending, as though in
a porous universe where excessive wealth leaches
into poverty, where interior staircases climb up and down,
where private is public, where derelicts and diplomats
can converse, and who knew which bathroom
belonged to whom, here a giant screen TV,
there records on an old Victrola, sometimes
playing a Mozart sonata, while almost in reach
might be Mozart himself, tinkering, head down
poised over a sheet of music, making little notes,
deciding so quickly whether a C- Sharp
crescendo, pausing, drawing in a crepitant
breath, blood-tinged, the Tubercle Bacilli multiplying,
the chill draft of air wafting from the next room
in which an old soldier sits demurely remembering
his fallen comrades from World War II.

Chris Jones Of Vanished Alphabets 2016
Book and magazine images, board, polymer varnish 76 x 21 x 21 inches

Blind Guardian - Marc Straus
00:00 / 00:00

BLIND GUARDIAN

     

Paul Pretzer, The Blind Guardian,2011 Oil on canvas; 51.2 X 39.4”

 

It is Aurora, my granddaughter, ready for the

Cold Spring Halloween parade in a costume

of her own design. No flimsy super-hero outfit

for her; this year you will see a dozen kids as

Spiderman, perhaps eight or nine as Iron-Man.

 

No sir. She is a prodigious reader and here the silk

brocade gown might be because she has been reading

of late about Phillip the Great, perhaps too she was

thinking of the Infanta’s dress in Las Meninas. But

the face puzzles me, the red-hooded, bunny-eared,

 

Pinocchio-nosed, toothless grin. And dead-white

eyes. She says she is The Blind Guardian. I see

that was a metal band in Germany, but still…

She stands there ready to go – a two-toothed grin,

so grim, roguish, elegant, and mischievous.

Paul Pretzer, The Blind Guardian, Oil on canvas; 51.2 X 39.4”, 2011