Saturday, October 08, 2005



Galaxy (1999)

It’s quite a massive mess out there--
matter and gas battering one another like
prizefighters or auto crash tests.
Space won’t stay down and can't be fixed
like a broken Comet
rusted and recalled for
bad brakes. The damn
thing just keeps expanding
like the audience for rumors
about heaven. Chaos theory
never wimps out or limps
away after each bout. A bent
fender or dented skull
chalks up the bills and meanwhile
upset shock waves big as a nebula
put the mechanic on the rack
and bluff the referee. Pay up
insurance on the afterlife
and keep receipts. A universal wreck
crumpling in upon itself
is what I want. With any luck
I’ll duck the sucker punch
and be thrown clear
into a kinder, more
predictable solar system
where the sun is a shrinking ball
not a man driving drunk among the stars,
crashed on the cross or corner ropes,
flinging a towel in the face of God
and waiting for the big bang bell
to sound and hurtle him to hell.


Today's poem began to form in my mind after I saw Pollock's Galaxy -- and the corresponding fractal image cooked in my brain and then materialized some years later.

It's quite a massive mess out there...

Galaxy (1947) by Jackson Pollock

Pollock's painting made me think about space -- in both a physical and an artistic sense. Kristen Hoving turns up on the same page in this passage from an abstract for a paper entitled "Jackson Pollock's Galaxy: Outer Space and Artist's Space in Abstract Expressionism":

Among the early "breakthrough" paintings in Jackson Pollock's development of Abstract Expressionism is a small canvas entitled Galaxy. Painted in 1947 with oil, aluminum paint, and gravel on canvas, it is an early example of the drip paintings for which the artist would become famous. With its overlapping skeins of paint, the work defies traditional Renaissance perspective systems in order to present an ambiguous sense of space that hovers simultaneously between the real flat space of the two-dimensional canvas and the illusion of the infinite space of the cosmos. In this paper I will explore the importance of astronomical space and the night sky for the evolution of Pollock's mature style. By examining Galaxy, together with two other canvases from 1947, Reflections of the Big Dipper and Come, I will argue that Pollock's thinking about what his colleague, painter Willem de Kooning, termed "the misery of the scientists' space [with] billions and billions of hunks of matter, hot or cold, floating around in darkness according to a great design of aimlessness," had a profound impact of Pollock's conception of space in painting.

Of course, as this article in The Socialist Review demonstrates, that whole "eye of the beholder" relativity can blindside at any time:

The drip paintings are qualitatively different. This is where Pollock makes the breakthrough to a new way of painting and a distinct aesthetic vision. Even here there are failures, pictures like Galaxy and Reflection of the Big Dipper which don't work.

Then again, maybe you find both depictions of a galaxy somewhat confining and prefer the elbow room of a space laid out more like this:

Excuse me.  Is this seat taken?

You are somewhere in here.
[Image of the Milky Way from NASA]

How's that for country living with no close neighbors? Got more room to stretch your legs now?


Lee said...

nice post, and as always great poetry.

Your style reminds me, to a large degree, of the german poet Rainer Maria Rilke. If you've never read him, you should, you'd love it.

cruelanimal said...

Thanks, Lee.

I like Rilke very much -- especially Duino Elegies and his "thing poems" like "The Panther."

Anonymous said...

Song: Theory of Relativity

Amoeba on the slide
Hide and subdivide.

Atoms in the pit
Ricochet and split.

Things know when they are viewed.
Glue-ons come unglued,

Pencils lose their shine,
And words won't stay in line.

Everything I see
Changes because of me,

And when I am on screen,
I wonder what I'll mean

To future generations
And their interpretations.

Beyond the now, I know
To know is not to know

How motion dies of light
Photons in the night,

Till everything that dreams
Forgets what just it means.

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