every other day

17 FEB 06

     There were pictures in her rooms and none of them were reproductions. The first time I visited, I noticed gritty trails of oil pastel, the wash of tempera and gouache, torn edges of paper, lumps of oil paint and glue... clues from the forming material world were everywhere evident and often framed. I wandered and looked while she made tea. Another time, at a large party in her uptown apartment, she was the beautiful blonde protagonist in the "whodunnit" mystery, walking among her guests, offering little bunches of purple grapes and slices of green apple from a silver tray.

. . .

     One night, I was at a big gallery opening, in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood below Houston Street, before it was marketed as Soho. It was sometime in 1964... Joe LeSueur, a guardian angel of sorts (and roommate to Frank O'Hara), had decided to watch out for me that evening...and, at some point...he turned to me and demanded, "Have you met Barbara Guest yet?"
     When I said "No," his reply was..."Well you must... Frank told me you must meet each other... They were in Europe at the same time a few years ago, you know, and even though there were piles of friends around, Barbara was the
only one Frank could stand to be with if he wanted to take a serious walk, especially when there was some ancient statue that had to be visited by moonlight. He knew she wouldn't ruin it."

-- Kathleen Fraser, "Barbara Guest: A Memoir"
from Translating the Unspeakable

Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest died on Wednesday night. Forces of Imagination, which came out from Kelsey Street in 2003, collects some of her essays and talks on writing:

---- from "A Reason for Poetics"

The conflict between a poet and the poem creates an atmosphere of mystery.

. . .

Mystery with its element of surprise and, better word, audacity.

. . .

The poet relies on the pitch within the ear... Pitch and ear are the servants of language and cannot make their living anywhere else, even by escapades.

. . .

Poetry sometimes develops a grayness; the light can never get in. The surface is smudgy. Cezanne was irritated by this murkiness in painting and complained "the contour eludes me."


---- from "The Beautiful Voyage"

      Respect your private language.

. . .

Never "negotiate" with the reader by projecting the reader's aims into the poem, such as a "desirable subject."

. . .

When in trouble depend upon imagination.

Picasso, when facing his inquisitors: "Subject matter? You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."


---- from "The Shadow of Surrealism"

Once I sublet an apartment overlooking Union Square. I came to dislike the cold north light of the apartment and I admit I was unhappy while I lived there. However, the owner's library included several books on Kandinsky. There was one book that quoted him on the necessity in art for an "inner sound." To me, this is the essential "noise" of poetry. Another book showed photographs of Kandinsky's Moscow apartment. The artist, his ideas, and his dwelling place became a solace to me.

One day looking down on Union Square from the apartment, the sudden realization arrived that Union Square looked remarkably like the Moscow park seen from Kandinsky's apartment.

Several years passed and I moved near the south side of Union Square. I walked over to Union Square one day and looked up at my former apartment. The building now seemed to resemble the old photograph of Kandinsky's apartment. That evening I began to write a poem about the last evening Kandinsky had spent in Moscow before going into exile. I called the poem "The View from Kandinsky's Window."

(Barbara Guest, Forces of Imagination : Writing on Writing)

Barbara Guest photo by Judy Dater 2004
Barbara Guest    1920-2006

Jacket 25: Barbara Guest and Kathleen Fraser in conversation with Elisabeth Frost and Cynthia Hogue

Jacket 10: Special Feature on Barbara Guest

Barbara Guest page at PENNsound

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