Your Hills Are on Fire by Jordan Trethewey

Your hills are on fire, why don’t you go downtown

 

see what all the fuss is about

you’ve been cutting firewood

living in a particle board tarpaper

bunkhouse hiding behind

an ancient white pine

when nature truly calls

 

worlds did collide where

you should have expected it

firewood     wood fire

and there you stand

in disbelief despite a cigarette

dangling from your lips

a pack of matches

in your callused hand

 

we worried when you wobbled

backwards on the progress ladder

feigning self-assuredness

while stumbling out the door

embracing fresh air simplicity

solitude in unrefined resourcefulness

 

take it as a sign given seekers

in old books there is nothing

to be found

you are your own mountain

to climb conquer or quit on

nature will provide until

we finish poisoning it

so let’s just go downtown

have an expensive drink

 

About the Poet: 

Jordan Trethewey is a writer and editor living in Fredericton, NB, Canada.

He is also a husband, father (to two kids, a black cat, and a Sheltie), beer-league softball player, art aficionado, and remote sensing analyst (by day).

About the Artist: 

Marcel Herms is a self-taught artist. His work is primarily about freedom with a strong link to music. Just like music his art is about autonomy, licentiousness, passion, colour and rhythm.

He paints with any material he can get a hold of — acrylic paint, oil paint, ink, pencils, crayons, spray paints, etc. He sometimes mixes the paint with sand, sawdust or pieces of paper, painting on canvas and paper and other materials like wood.

His work has been printed in many (inter-)national publications (like Inside Artzine, Proper Gander, Bananafish and many more) and he has designed many records and CD-covers. 

 

Eva’s Comments:

I was thrilled to receive this poetry submission together with this image – an abstract, child-like ghoulish painting by a Dutch artist Marcel Herms. The poem has been directly inspired by the image, entitled ‘Your Hills Are on Fire’ and fits in conceptually with the raison d’être of the Journal. 

Trethewey tells me that he met Herms online and was immediately drawn to the artist’s stark and abstract style. Herms’s haunting images of stunted and grotesque characters shambling around his canvasses spoke to Trethewey visually. 

“He seemed to be expressing, visually, what I try to express with words, the dark and repressed side of everyday existence,” Trethewey explains. 

There’s also a desire in both Trethewey and Herms to not pander to the commercial aspects of literary and visual arts. They write and paint what they like and what they are inspired by, is my impression. So their works are eclectic, eccentric and unique.

Trethewey pens what comes to mind emotionally and automatically. Yes, writing can be crafted as we all know, but, the most authentic form of writing comes automatically. Trethewey allowed this image to first embed in his unconscious before using the technique of free-association, allowing his brain and fingers to latch on to a theme or a story he can tell which makes sense with the image and does it justice. He doesn’t worry about the re-writes and always goes with his guts. How images inspire us takes many forms. How images speak to us is also personal. A viewer’s response to an image’s voice, narrative, ellipses and backstory vary from one person to another. 

Herms’s paintings are categorised as Art Brut, a French term meaning ‘raw art’. This way of painting was invented by the French artist, Jean Dubuffet. He used the term Art Brut to describe any artwork resembling graffiti or naïve/child-like art created beyond the strictures of traditional academic fine art. For Dubuffet, fine art which he called ‘art culturel’ was dominated by academic art. Artforms that stray away from academic art often go uncategorised and unseen. These could be works by prisoners, psychiatric patients, refugees and children who often paint untrammelled and instinctively from the soul raw and emotional depictions of their inner worlds. As an artist, Dubuffet started to incorporate these qualities into his own works. 

In 1948, Dubuffet founded the Compagnie de l’Art Brut to promote the study of such art. He created an outstandingly large body of work which is now housed in a museum in the Swiss city of Lausanne – La Collection de l’Art Brut. The collection is worth a visit if you’re ever in Lausanne. Dubuffet’s works, disturbing and haunting, are also simultaneously calming and innocent. Cast your eye back to Herms’s untitled piece and let the innocence of its backstory speak to you. Look beyond the stunted grotesque depictions of the figures and their faces. Don’t all children’s paintings start this way? 

Art Brut is also sometimes categorised as Outsider Art. Outsider artists are usually untrained and are unconventional when working. They use whatever techniques, materials and genres that inspire them. Outsider Art can be folklorish, abstract, surreal and most often express the emotions and the inner world of the artist. They can range from 2-dimensional pieces such as paintings to 3-dimensional works like sculptures. A very well-known Outsider Artist is African-American William Edmondson (1874-1951). Edmondson became the first African-American artist to have a solo at MoMA and his pieces have been placed on auction at Christie’s. Today, they are worth in the tens of thousands. 

We write what we know is often something that writers would say. Writing comes from the depths of our souls, is what I often say. We write for many reasons and more often than not, we write to express what our inner-worlds have experienced or are experiencing. Writing is a form of catharsis and allowing images to inspire us is a doorway to finding release. 

 

 

Case Closed by Karen Schauber

Tiptoeing

Marcia takes care not to step on the cracks when she walks down the sidewalk. The marmots are abundant along the riverside of MacArthur Island, in Kamloops…..and they’re not too shy! Walking quietly and carefully with one’s heels raised and one’s weight on the balls of the feet is the least one should do.

Whispering

Marcia carefully avoids discussing difficult or sensitive subjects. Elephants have good hearing, detecting sounds as low as 14 to 16 Hz (human low range: 20 Hz) and as high as 12,000 Hz (human high range: 20,000). Whispering a message through broken telephone is the polite thing to do

Hiding

Marcia does not turn on the lights in her apartment at night. Ants are social insects, so when one ant enters your home, others follow. Marcia hears the footsteps of armies marching. She buys plush carpet.

Blending

Marcia likes to wear high-contrast and bright coloured clothing. The bat faced toad found among the leaves of Amacayacu National Park in Colombia is masterful at blending into its surroundings. Marcia has a playful side and is not trying to make life difficult.

….

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.

 

About the author:

Karen Schauber is a seasoned Family Therapist practising in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her earlier writing is non-fiction and details three decades of psychosocial and analytical cases. Flash Fiction is a new and welcome adventure for her. Fictional short stories are much more fun to read and write! As an emerging artist, Karen hones her craft at home and at the dog beach on the Pacific coast (when it’s not pouring out).

Karen’s flash fiction can be read at Rebel Shorts, SpillWords, AdHoc Fiction, Down in the Dirt, Blood Puddles: An Anthology, CafeLit, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Yellow Mama, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Wilderness House Literary Review, Postcard Shorts, and forthcoming at CarpeArte, Stereo Stories, and Ariel Chart. The upcoming Group of Seven Flash Fiction Anthology celebrating the Canadian Modernist Landscape Painters is her first editorial/curatorial flash venture.

Eva’s Comments:

Surrealism is an art movement which was influenced by psychoanalysis and grew out of the Dada Movement. Dadaists like Giorgio de Chirico aimed to perturb the conservative middle-classes through artworks that have bizarre, naive (or primitive) and fantastical imagery and themes. Surrealist artists believed that the unconscious can be unlocked allowing the free flow of the imagination and imagination is seldom realistic, more often twisted, whimsical and inventive. They held a strong belief that the mind when repressed blocked the flow of the imagination which then impeded the unconscious from revealing innate and authentic emotions. 

Karl Marx was an influential figure in this movement as artists sought to let their psyches aid in spurring on revolutions; Surrealism was as much a response to the horror of the First World War as it is a voice speaking out against tyranny. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was also influential. Freud’s book, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ (1899) provided a theoretical framework for Surrealism. These artists did away with rationalism and literal realism in favour of mysticism, mythology and a form of primitivism that harks back to an idyllic past evoking a sense of nostalgia. [I tend to think that Surrealists are looking for a past that is far from innocent but one that is strewn with anarchy based on the belief that repression is a result of the process of the civilisation of society.] There is a dream-like quality in Surrealist art and imagery plays a big part in the recurring motifs found in such works. For example, birds, ants and butterflies are often found and can be symbolic of many things, if one were to apply a symbolic reading of the art. 

Surrealism was not confined to art, as in paintings, alone. The movement extended to film, theatre, photography and writing. André Breton, a Franco-Amerian writer poet and philosopher, focused on the idea that one’s verbal expression in the form of the written word is an automatic process which stemmed from one’s unconscious. Verbal expression is a function of thought, according to Breton. Verbal expression can be expressed through the written word and Breton believed that writers (and artists) have to let go of conscious, rational thought to give way to what he calls automatic writing in order to express themselves authentically. 

About the Artist

Christian Schloe is an artist from Austria, famous for his surreal digital artwork. Schloe’s artwork which prompted Karen Schauber’s Flash piece is a good example of Surrealist art. Here, the recurring motif of the butterfly acts as both mask and metaphor in this pseudo-Victorian image. There is that dream-like element mentioned above which this piece of work exudes; the image is both dark and ephemeral while evoking a sense of nostalgia for an idyllic past and landscape. It is difficult to place one’s finger on the time period in which this digital image is set. Judging from the dress of the “sitter”, one knows that the time period is not a contemporaneous one yet, there is a certain modernity about the piece which contradicts the suggested old-worldliness of this particular art piece. Isn’t this the stuff of dreams? 

‘Case Closed’ has certain surrealist elements to it and comes across like the description of a dream; yet, there is a quality of realism/reality to it. There is also a poetic structure to its form; each story segment begins with a title, compartmentalising the story into bite-size portions with Marcia as the pivotal prima ballerina/ primadonna in the story. In just a little over 200 words, Schauber has successfully conveyed the unique quality of what makes us individuals in this vast human world. 

 

Pristine Thoughts by Yogesh Chandra

When a curious did try to please the room 

Inside a box which will never be unfastened

And the strange edge, stagnant and surrounded by celestial imaginations

But what of the unseen or the unfelt

And how to believe on such blinded, to the skeptic or the believer

In a room, where light will not show its face

But what is it that so securely takes away ten thousand sorrows at a time

And that one soul, who will not believe a single thing

But why is such a corrosive thing, untrue and universally publicized

Which is bitter to the ones on that free flowing line

To the one who never compromises, he shall be taken to exile

And his clothes will be snatched and his flesh fastened to that tree 

Where the heavenly spirits did visit each night, so they say

To see, to feel, but what of the mind which never felt a thing 

Besides the one thing, poverty

Now that the soldiers take you away, 

But none a warrior left here to take away your imaginations

And when at the cross-road, that fine stone, and the splitting strings, 

And that automobile which will not stop creating this

To the broken, there needs to be something worth living for

Some sought love, some sought rejection

And what of the others

But never will a thought so explicit be allowed to take control over you

In this society and the next, it is highly contagious

Or what the creative shall say will never be heard

And he will be placed in that lunatic asylum

Where, beside the calm and the polite rods, grilled so sophisticatedly

But to believe in it, is to remain calm for the rest of this injurious life

Beside you, there is another soul, and the writings on the wall

He is brilliant, so the physiatrist gives him more pills

Now that every soul who has ever seen madness shall never see the pleasure in the gifted lines, but it is no game for the commoner

They will take you away and you will never see the art in your room again

 

About the Poet:

Yogesh Chandra is from Fiji.  He writes Poetry and Novels and is currently a Post-Graduate Student at the University of the South Pacific. His first book is entitled ‘The Tragedy of our Lives’ and can be found on Amazon Stores. He is currently working on a novel ( a psychological thriller) forthcoming mid 2018. 

 

Eva’s Comments:

‘Pristine Thoughts’ by Yogesh Chandra conjured up images of René Magritte’s work. This poem is angsty, urgent and shouts out to be heard. The imagery that Chandra uses to evoke my response to his poem is that of entrapment within a space/room— in this case, one’s imagination or the creative mind—that the world may not get. So “more pills” are shoved down the throat of “another soul”. It reminds me of writing not for others but for yourself, writing not “to please the room”. It speaks to me about staying true to the craft. As a writer, I understand the commerciality of one’s work, the sales which translate to figures that your work can churn but yet, I remain fervent in my belief that writing is not always about commerciality; writing is soul food and thus cathartic and not everyone can get what you’re writing about! This poem reminds me to remain strong and resilient to what my writing can do for me and for my readers who get it. I reflect and think about the cathartic nature of the written word when I stare into the horizon beyond the room that confines me.

About the Artist:

René Magritte [1898 – 1967] was born René François Ghislain Magritte in Lessines Belgium. He is known for his surrealist work. To date, Magritte’s most famous work is that of a pipe with the caption: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. This work forces viewers to ask themselves if this is art and/or the meaning behind the image. This artwork—oil on canvas— entitled ‘The Treachery of Images’ (1929) is found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It highlights the gap between image and language.

In ‘La Condition Humaine’ (1933), we see a room with a window resembling a canvas, indicated by the tripod stand of the easel. But wait! If you look closely, you’ll see that there is an easel with a landscape already painted on. Or are we looking through the glass pane out into the landscape beyond? Magritte’s paintings often reference paintings within his painting. Magritte says that “everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” 

Often, the spoken or written language is the only form of expression for many of us. Yet, it is not enough. In images, we find meaning through a visual language. But, that is also not adequate in expressing what we feel, see or do. Despite the gap between image and language, the human condition is universal: wherever we are in the world, love, pain, joy and hurt–the depths of human emotions–are felt similarly. Desires for liberty, self-actualisation and expression are all sought after globally amidst cultural and linguistic differences and diversity.

La Condition Humaine (1933) René Magritte, oil, 100 x 81 cm National Gallery of Art Washington.

 

Dedication:

This publication is dedicated to Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain who have sadly left their rooms within a few days of each other. Both Spade and Bourdain committed suicide despite being talented, famous and leading glamorous lives. I am dedicating this publication to them because I understand how so many of us live with pain beyond our abilities to cope; pain that can never be expressed publicly or even privately. “To the broken, there needs to be something worth living for”: where do we start to find that something to live for in this complicated world that we are part of and yet may not want to be? 

 

 

 

Of life – by A P Shells

 

(i)

I have told you too many times

Have told you too many times I cannot

Told you too many times I cannot take it anymore

Too many times I cannot take it anymore I have told you:

the lacerations
red tattoos, curves into a
smile: savoring a covenant
I can’t seem to remember:

(ii)

Of life, I am no placid man – there is screaming

in the house, yet, a severed ear is a deafening one:

– – – – –

my body, a portrait of
sanguine insanity —
where are these brushes,
and whose favorite color is

red.

(iii)

Of catharsis, I understood none –

yet there is brevity in a severed ear,

or the portrait of.

(iv)

him

(v)

it shouldn’t have been

me.

 

Author’s Comments:

The poem is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. It has raised questions on identity, confrontation with situations in life, and catharsis. The poem reflects that.

I am drawn to this picture for its honesty. There is something about this picture that prompts us to think about pain and resolution – why did he mutilate his ear? And why did he create this self-portrait? What did he hope to achieve? Was he hoping to achieve anything at all? I’m not too sure about the answers to those questions. There may not be answers too. As with life, we are very capable. We may live amidst the quandaries, amidst the questions we have no answers to. We do not strictly calculate everything we do. That is fine. Yet to that end, the picture draws me in to ponder.

Eva’s Comments:

When I received this poem, I’d just finished watching the animated film, Loving Vincent. It’s the first film in the world that’s made entirely of oil paintings. Amazing! Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, this animated film has gone on the win many awards.

Vincent Van Gogh needs no introduction. He is the most mythologised artist of the 19th century. Many interpretations of his oeuvre have largely been focused on his mental condition. Art Historians know that Van Gogh was institutionalised, of his own accord, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. It was during this period that he painted his most famous and popular piece, The Starry Night. This artwork inspired the song, (Vincent) Starry Starry Night by Don Mclean. This song never fails to bring tears. “They would not listen, they did not know how perhaps they’ll listen now.”

Vincent Van Gogh touched everyone he came into contact with; this was portrayed clearly in Loving Vincent. Van Gogh continues to touch our lives today as indicated by A P Shell’s On Life.

Van Gogh is categorised as an Expressionist painter because of his style of painting. Expressionism originated in the early 20th-century in Germany.  It is characterised by subjective perspectives depicted in images or text (poetry). These perspectives are highly emotive due to their distortion of reality. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of their felt experience rather than the physical reality surrounding them. For Vincent, it was Nature that he related to and found catharsis in. Vincent Van Gogh was ahead of his time as an Expressionist painter. A more accurate label to categorise him would be ‘post-Impressionist’, according to British twentieth-century art critic Roger Fry.

It’s good to note that Vincent Van Gogh did not paint for long. His painting career lasted between five to eight years. By the time of his death, in 1890, he had created over 800 paintings, all inspired by the people he’d met, loved and known, and by the natural beauty he saw around him.

 

Image credit:

Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, Oil on canvas, 60.5 x 50 cm© The Courtauld Gallery, London.