POINT, by Carol Hamilton
Recently I saw a film in which a girl leads a blind
man down a street in France. During the brief walk,
the girl described for the man everything she saw, in
overflowing glorious detail and pulsing with life. That’s
how I feel when I read The Vanishing Point by Carol
Hamilton; that I am being taken by the arm in the presence
of beauty. The poems, crafted carefully and tenderly
by Hamilton, lead me down a hallway in a great heavenly
museum, where the walls are plastered with vibrant,
living art, and the creators of the works slip attractively
by like ghosts.
Throughout the 40-page journey of The Vanishing Point,
I am not only given 40/40 vision of paintings through
Carol Hamilton’s poet eyes, but glimpses into
intimate and revealing biographical details of artists
whose works we know but whose souls are often mysteries.
In “Candles in His Hat” I am delighted to
learn of the candles Goya placed in his hat so he could
work at night. In “From Gaudi’s Bedroom
in Park Guell, Barcelona” I am taken on a furtive
tour through the monk-minimalist room where Gaudi lived
“amid the extravagance of his dreams.”
Though the subject matter of the book deals with paintings
and those who have devoted their lives to art, it is
not without the emotional landscapes of Hamilton herself.
Hauntingly effected by the art she contemplates, Hamilton
includes her own personal reflections in the poems.
“Then I knew I drew all space / through the needle
of my eye,” she writes in “Selections,”
inspired by an O’Keeffe print of two crows in
Though I was unfamiliar with some of the art that so
intrigues the author, I was pulled into a newfound appreciation
for it through Hamilton’s words. I found myself
strongly moved by the poem “Miro’s Mercury
Fountain,” which is rife with lush language about
mercury moving slower than water.
My favorite poems are the kind that help me grab onto
concrete images as strongly as possible, and my least
favorite are those which leave me searching for any
information at all. Hamilton’s poems are of the
former variety, and I don’t think it’s only
because they’re about art - I think it’s
because Hamilton does her job as a poet. Hamilton paints
with words like an impressionist, lines like “Today
with icy drizzle whispering / behind my still-dark window
glass” display the author’s aptitude for
setting sensory moods. Her verse consistently loads
my head with color, texture, shades, contrast…and
is as pleasing to the senses as a carefully tended garden.
When I asked Carol Hamilton her thoughts on how art
can inspire art, she mentioned that she loves “finding
in a poem that moment when something stabbed the poet
I couldn’t have put it better myself - the feeling
I get when reading The Vanishing Point. The author is
constantly “stabbed to attention,” whether
she’s musing about Gauguin or fixated on a man
in a Hopper painting. I can testify that with this book,
the reader remains as engaged as the author.
|YOUR PILL, BY
A debut book of poems by Amy Ouzoonian, "Your
Pill," appeared this winter, with book parties
from the Bowery Poetry Club to the Huntington Poets
Cafe in the New York Region. An auspicious first book
by a young author of considerable promise, Your Pill
has been called a book that "reaches far and out
bringing back a logic and a clarity that turns all we
know surreal and all we believe absurd," according
to Bret Axel.
Amy Ouzoonian recently received her BA in writing for
the theater and journalism from SUNY New Paltz University.
She has edited an anthology of poetry, Skyscrapers,
Taxis and Tampons and has been a fixture at Tribes Gallery
in the lower East Side of Manhattan, where she has been
instrumental as the editor of A Gathering of the Tribes
Magazine. Editor of a far-reaching Tsunami relief anthology
this year, she has been active in the Hudson Valley,
as host of a poetry venue in New Paltz, as a board member
of Arts for Peace and as the performance director of
the Space: a cultural co-op art organization and a member
of the activist group Synthesis.
The book is a uniquely designed and quite attractive
88 page hand-sewn paperback published by FootHills Publishing.
Titled from a well-known Richard Brautigan passage that
referred to birth control pills and the corridors of
human loss, Ouzoonian moves tangentially from this theme
while retaining the emotional point. Your Pill reflects
the American "need for medicine or a tool kit to
help repair or heal them from the chaos of war within
this country and outside its borders," and speaks
to the loss of persona which occurs through the medicating
of those with emotional trauma.
She calls the slim chapbook part of a healing process
that she underwent while caring for individuals with
disabilities and while experiencing certain life events.
"I learned to express these experiences through
my art and writing."
These sentiments are in evidence throughout the book,
as in the poem 'The Way How:"
"This is the way he made me want to live (again),
This is how I pass for female,
This is the way how three thousand stitches are made
Or this passage, in "Similes Like Love"
...brushing one bare cheek
Against browning grass
After a drizzle
A hand wiped it away
When he said
"...I feel like your brother."
Your Pill also includes a moving elegy for Pedro Pietri,
the seminal 'street poet' of New York, whose influence
on the downtown scene, not to mention the Puerto Rican
community of the metropolis, was profound and enduring
beyond his death in 2004.
While its politics are decidedly youthful, with all
that is unflinching and direct in that assessment, there
is an underlying tone of mature reflection and human
compassion that bodes well for future offerings by Ouzoonian.
Donald Lev has been writing and publishing poetry
since 1958. His thirteenth collection, YESTERDAY'S NEWS (Outloudbooks,
2002) is obliquely about the WTC tragedy. He publishes/edits the
literary tabloid HOME PLANET NEWS, which he and his late wife Enid
Dame founded in 1979.