Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Malevich and me

In preparation for my reading at the Berkshire Museum (August 18th at 7:00 pm), my first in about 15 years, I’ve been revisiting the trove of poems I wrote between 1990 and 1995 when, for whatever reasons, the outpouring abruptly ceased. At the time I blamed it on no longer being able to breathe the cigarette smoke that enveloped the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and Steve Cannon’s informal poetry workshops. No matter how personal my poetry was, it was something I did for, and with, other people. The fun was in writing for performance—the immediate feedback that painting doesn’t provide—and, most importantly, the critical response of the other poets in our tight little group.  Since then my poems have remained buried in a box in the basement, paper copies encased in plastic sleeves in a three-ring binder (also saved on a floppy disk somewhere, as if that will do me any good). Unearthing it was like opening an emotional time capsule from a time of tortured love affairs with people whose names I may or may not remember, recorded by someone much more cynical than I am now. Also this, from 1995:


I’m ushered into her office and it is announced that I am going to review the show. “So do you know about Malevich?” she asks from behind an ornate desk with curvy legs. Two very tiny, very ugly, snob-nosed dogs are chewing on the remains of a pink stuffed rabbit at her feet. “So do you know about Malevich?” My mind races over what I do and do not know about Malevich. Maybe there’s some hideous secret I haven’t been party to. Perhaps he’d had an affair with his sister, or swindled other artists out of thousands of rubles in some turn-of-the-century pyramid scam. I realize I know nothing about his sex life, or even if he’d had a job other than artist. I also realize I’ve forgotten how rude people in the art world can be. I want to say I don’t do this for the money, you know, I do this because I love the art. I want to say fuck you. Instead I say something totally meaningless and defensive that I know, the minute it leaves my lips, I’m going to regret. What I wouldn’t give to be the master of the snappy comeback, the Lily Tomlin of the art world! Of course, like always, when I get into the elevator, the perfect response pops into my head. What I should have said was, “I don’t know about Malevich, but I know what I like.”

Untitled, ca. 1916. Oil on canvas, 20 7/8 x 20 7/8 inches (53 x 53 cm). The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Acquisition confirmed in 2009 by agreement with the Heirs of Kazimir Malevich  76.2553.42

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This lovely! Thank you for sharing your capsule in time!