“Even in the Absence of Proximity”-my review of Christina Quinn’s Up the Down Spout published in Red Fez

My review of Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

download

Looking Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

Poetic Justice Books & Art (Port Saint Lucie, FL)

Christina Quinn is a visual artist and poet, born and reared in England, who has lived many years in the Coachella Valley of California. As a girl, she was the kind of person to travel extensively in Germany and ride a motorcycle around the U.K., Belgium, France, Australia, and New Zealand. As a woman, she designs houses and furniture out of next to nothing, walks her dog in the high desert, and has had solo and group art exhibits in California, Florida, and elsewhere. She is tall, bone thin, and wears her very short hair a natural platinum. I have followed her work on line for several years, admiring her large abstract paintings and distilled, minimalist poetry. A life-long visual artist, Quinn began writing poetry much later in age. She has five published collections of poetry, some of which are not available in the United States.

Looking up the Down Spout, the title of which reflects Quinn’s lifelong curiosity and willingness to take risks, both large and small, is a fine collection of brief poems, most under a page long. The untitled poems lay spare lines on a page, reminding of the delicate bones of a bird that somehow still lifts its own weight off the earth and through the sky. As one would expect of a visual artist, Quinn’s poems are filled with colors and vivid images. One reality is often altered by the play of light and shadow to reveal an alternate reality. Here is a poem in its entirety.

under the pier

sun fingers

hold tight to

green algae

softening the split

of treated wood

pink crustaceans

kiss randomly

the junctions

of dark & light

& the sea makes

entanglement

of underworld weeds

slumber eyes

catch shaded

dappled skin

swaying in time

to the tide

he smiles

in that lazy way

& the sea tilts

close enough

to taste salty skin

your eyes are green

he said

Her dreamy imagery here implies more than mere visual description, suggesting a reference to one of many definitions of quantum entanglement, that something exists only in a dream-like state of unreality unless measured, that is, quantified in some way other than mere observation, as described by Scott Glancy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in his article, “Local Realism, Bell’s Inequality, and T-Shirts: An Entangled Tale,” found in the NIST blog. According to Glancy, based on extensive experiments throughout the world, quantum particles do not have fixed properties in all circumstances. Quantum entanglement is the concept that stuff, like particles, can affect other things even when separated by even substantial distances. Quinn’s poem quoted above, in a few brief lines, conjures the impact of dark, light, color, the tide, on human observation and consequent relationships. Likewise, her dramatic changes of media and approach to her art reflect the diverse realities in which she has found herself throughout her life. Here is another poem that hints of objects being described in reference to each other, controlling effects even in the absence of proximity.

I have been dying

I feel no pain I dream in color

I hear sharps & flats

& speak chameleon

listen I won’t lie

I have been a polite spectral guest

mostly

though not in person

see here

I know the secrets of

deathly impermanence

I don’t lie       

In March of 2015, as a poetry editor for the magazine Return to Mago, I published one of Quinn’s poems. “konigsberg summer” reveals a denser play with language, but also demonstrates a consistent use of color-saturated memories.

the baltic glistens with gold

tears spilled

from the eye of a goddess

calcified in beauteous resin 

lovers who stroll the sand

search for amber teardrops

a pledge to those they love

war came

& when it was time she

walked the thousand miles to freedom

took her boy

a sheaf of love letters bound in blue

& a strand of amber tears

the memory of

konigsberg summers

caught fast in yellow sun

At the time, Quinn said in Return to Mago, “Always a painter, sometimes a poet, I was taught to appreciate language and words by my father…a lover of all things English. I learned to read from the magic found in the complete works of Oscar Wilde, bound in leather by my father’s hand.” Quinn credits her father, who died when she was 12, for instilling a great love and respect for visual and literary arts. He particularly exposed her to the great English artists and writers such as Shelley, Byron, and Blake. He encouraged her painting as a toddler, and inspired her adventures in various media and different parts of the world. As a young bride in New Zealand she diverged from painting and developed a body of work in textile arts, using a neighbor farmer’s sheep as a source of fleece that she then washed, dyed, and wove, developing a reputation for her fine textile artwork. After moving to the United States, she returned to painting, exploring the landscape and human body to create stunning abstractions. Quinn has been quoted as saying, “I like to start with a more realistic approach but quickly move onto an abstract field. I am a colorist so that is a huge part of making art for me. Intuitive color and marks please me to no end….” The Press-Enterprise June 27, 2019.

More painterly details from the natural world, and a subtle mysticism, hint of Blake in the following poem from Looking Up the Down Spout.

from the last step sometimes

I sit & feed the pigeons

they understand this perpetual motion

the four cents in my pocket

& the shoe shocked horses

bolting down cobbled streets

there’s a whirling field of energy

an obsessive compulsion to capture

something tantalizing & out of reach

i feel my dreams have been stolen

others have made silk from my visions

even so

i was born at the stroke of midnight

the cusp of yesterday tomorrrow & today

i can tie three knots in an eyelash

i can make sparks fly

i feed my friends the crumbs of my thoughts

i jangle the cents in my pocket

i watch the horses bolt

& from my frozen finger tips       

i touch the stolen dreams & execute the lie  

Many of the poems in this book are implicitly about a relationship, perhaps failed, perhaps merely complicated. Here’s one of my favorites.

the smell of insanity

& track of quick eyes

silver bells of madness

disturb the air

this autopsy must end

stop seeing the body

focus on the question

are you mad she asked

with a clay heart

he replied

yes

I am reviewing the chapbook edition, which was recently re-released as a perfect bound soft back book in combination with Quinn’s Ricocheted Memories, also published by Poetic Justice Books & Art out of Port St. Lucie, Florida. See more of Christina Quinn’s work at Christina Quinn words and art on Facebook or Christina Quinn on Instagram.

Buy from publisher Poetic Justice Books & Art

Buy from Book Depository

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Foyles-U.K.

My review of Lantern Lit Vol. 4

My Red Gez review of Lantern Lit Vol. 4

“In the fourth volume of its Lantern Lit series, Dog On A Chain Press presents three chapbooks, poetry collections by William Graham, Mat Gould, and Sheldon Lee Compton. Publisher Beasley Barrenton describes the poets’ combined work as ‘the gospel of real life shit. . . .’   All three poets, according to Barrenton, ‘live and breathe the same incandescent air,’ as he does himself, ‘whether at the edge or deep within The Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Appalachia.'”

 

Read more at Red Fez.

Loring Wirbel’s review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Red Fez review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Perhaps a Southwestern state of mind is a prerequisite for a full appreciation of the Sandia Mountains and Chaco Canyon landscapes that populate Donna Snyder’s latest collection of poems, The Tongue Has Its Secrets. Yet a stranger to these parts can approximate a high-desert way of knowing, in the same way that a male reader may discern, if only as a tourist, the invocation of ghosts from a woman’s way of seeing, the subject at the heart of Snyder’s latest work.

Dea tacita  

Lara’s tongue severed by the sky for indiscretion

Love led her on a spiral path deep into the laurel

She gave birth to little gods but was forever silent

 

She lingers at cross roads

Tends the dead

 

What is evident from the first poems is that Snyder avoids the fear of modern vernacular that seems to occupy many poets who visit natural sites, hoping to evoke ancient gods. We could all be judicious with our language while trying for the perfect Mary Oliver setting, but any ancient god worth a prayer won’t mind the occasional reference to a pop song or video game. Snyder’s language is at once formal and casual, giving works like ‘Prepare to Ululate’ surprising depth.

 

Blue norther’

In the North Texas Panhandle, southbound truckers 

blast down Hwy 83, headed to where the wind’s not

from the north and not called blue.

Winds and storm outside become Valkyries,

the concrete septic tank a magic stone.  Women 

warriors ride like furies across the frozen plain.

An Irish woman outruns a chariot,

gives birth to twins, 

lays a curse.

 

The wind takes my spirit in its arms and flees.

Mama lights the candle, locks the door. 

 

There are plenty of two-lane highway odes in this world paying homage to modern gods of transport, and plenty of chants that attempt to revive Anasazi imagery, but Snyder is rare in being able to meld the two. Poems such as ‘Blue Norther’ and ‘My Heart Makes Chorus with the Coyotes’ successfully bring the two worlds together with an impressive degree of success.

 

Snyder obviously takes the most time with the multi-stanza works spanning two or three pages that attempt to disentangle layers of spirituality. Sometimes, the longer poems are not as effective as the shorter, more direct works. ‘Bear Who Loves a Woman’ is an obvious exception to this rule, a complex and interwoven longer work that is one of the book’s highlights.

 

The collection ends with the tight and disciplined ‘Supplication,’ which seeks to call upon the right panoply of gods without a wasted syllable. Many of Snyder’s fans may find the poem a perfect summation and distillation of the entire collection. But even those of us more secularly grounded in cynicism will find the pair of poems near the book’s end, ‘The Truth of Vikings’ and ‘Aqua de mi sierra madreTM ‘ to provide just the right mix of breathless voice and raised eyebrow. In short, there’s a brand of salvation in The Tongue Has Its Secrets appropriate for just about any seeker.

 

The truth of Vikings

The music in her head makes her scared,

as if Vikings still brandished their blades 

from the decks of ships fierce as dragons.

Afloat in an ageless river, 

the leaves are chill flames.

Cold rains obscure the water’s source,

hiding it away like the secret of a woman’s 

aging body, rain, a woman’s sluggish heat.

She is apples and pears ripened 

in her own sweet skin.

Only the moon can match 

the luster of her opalescent belly.

Her mouth makes shadows. Her hair 

a burning bush. 

Her fingers a doorway,

iconic as a religious artifact.  She is on route

to the end of being on the back of a red swan,

on the way to nothingness made tolerable 

by ritual and fire.

 

Through the wind, she hears the shriek

of disconsolate women who no longer 

believe love will save them from sorrow.

There is no home now, they wail.

There is no safe place.

Death tastes like winter flowers.

She knows this because she knows 

things she is not supposed to know.

She stands so close she can hear 

warriors tell each other secrets.

The truth is that neither love nor death 

diminishes you.  The way to truth 

is a life suffered, a drunken waltz.

She stands so close her howl is lost 

in the roar of music inside her head.

She is wordless before the fact of Vikings,

 

truth found in a harsh yellow light.

 

My Red Fez review of new book by Tamara Albanna

https://www.redfez.net/redfez/embed/workembed.php?p=undefined&i=undefined   Read on Red Fez | Read Later