COMING UP FOR AIR

 

 

 

 

 

First, like clockwork, confusion sounded an alarm, resurfacing suddenly with slow-motion force. Over a month since the last post, I wrote; work and words scattered everywhere in various stages of completion, needing mostly to be collected, dusted off and formulated for offering. Thus I began, with dark words to post.

SPLIT COMMENTARY I - REVISITED
Split Commentary I – Revisited      Newest series in Progress

 

Then the days lengthened and grew warmer, earth softening and a barely perceptible haze of green hovered above winter’s debris – out of which poked crocuses and small weeds. Some of the darkness has been dispelled. Like a creature with matted brown coat rising from a bed of hibernation to dig itself out of the earth, blinking and stretching, sniffing nose pointed up in the air, I too feel a thaw and present myself. Despite everything.

Now I count two months since the last post – remarkable! I ask myself where those two months have gone. I had been acutely aware of the passing of time, or maybe more accurately, of its disappearance – time just dissolving and vanishing as I consciously sought and strove to create rhythm. Then suddenly, changes were evident. Before my eyes snow melted. Clocks were re-set. Each evening at supper the time change was noted with surprise and pleasure as we ate in ever-broadening daylight. The shift into spring is felt, understood, accepted – and with that, a sense of rhythm has returned of its own accord.

What next, then? Friends resurface here and there; slowly, cautiously, presenting themselves as do I – all of us, groundhogs emerging. There is an uptick in correspondence, phoning, zoom meetings; new mentions of sometime meeting in person, a  spontaneously shared walk – still distanced, masking. Congratulations are exchanged on vaccinations completed. Seed starting has just begun on the sun porch. Meanwhile, there is more new material to post – new poems read and written, new visual works, some new exhibition plans percolating upward.

 

So, what to write about now? Not about the fragments and particulate matter of the past weeks, although I photograph exactly that on my daily walks (new posting of photos here). Not about that second vocation which, moving unremarked and silent as an underground stream, continues to demand effort and attention. Not about the daunting negotiation of massive flux coupled with complete immobility. Instead, contrary to expectation, I focus on parallel impulses swelling up to the surface through the senses. Spring speaks of life, reminds and engages.

First, work: At this moment of posting, a new series is in the works, the first of which, Split Commentary I – Revisited is above. After much gessoing of long paper panels taped rather than stitched together, I am revisiting the Split Commentary series which emerged from the Big Series of 2009 – 2011 but was never fully developed as envisioned. With the Ünneptelenül  pieces of 2019, work with these forms resumed, only to be halted suddenly by circumstances. Now is the right time to once again resume work with these forms, freshly adapting them to my current focus. As they progress, more will be posted.

The Black Rock series is probably done, and maybe with it the movable, multi-pieced working method. Its unending variability and lack of fixed delineation was both compelling and maddening, describing confusion yet further feeding it. Now I am ready to return to something more solid. Unless the work insists otherwise.

A new group of five small double-sided square acrylic paintings on cotton entitled Doors and Windows was recently made for the Society of Hungarian Painters‘ spring open exhibition of that same name (Ajtó, ablak). These new works veer towards pure painting while still making use of pressed transfer of pigment and retaining the double-side functionality of recent works on paper. Two of these new pieces have just made their way to Hungary, joining the works of 73 other artists in an exhibit which opened virtually on April 23rd at FUGA, the Budapest Center of Architechture in Budapest. The event can be seen on FUGA’s YouTube channel.

Another, more long-term exhibition plan is in the works. It is a new gallery project called the Stella Quarta Decima Gallery, recently started by Benjamin Ward. Both virtual and actual exhibitions are being planned for this summer.

I’m also scheduled to lecture about my recent work on May 23rd via the virtual events programming of Montpelier’s Beth Jacob Synagogue. Check back soon for further information on the News and Exhibitions page here.

Now to some poems just posted; first, one by Baron Wormser, A Quiet Life (1997) (open PDF here) from his collection of poems entitled Scattered Chapters new & selected poems. In this poem Wormser traces with fierce, quiet logic the ultimate culpability behind interconnectivity. I know something of this – can recall walking down city streets in another century, noticing pavement flaws beneath my feet. Rapid-fire sequences of associations pulled me from pavement to infrastructure, to where public funding does and doesn’t go, to skewed priorities and politics, to wars.  Now it’s impossible not to feel that in reverse as a retribution of enormous proportion descends; penetrating and altering even the smallest elements of our lives. I wrote about that in my own poem Connectivity – VIII.  A few new poems of mine also follow on the Present Continuous page here.

Finally, some words about a new aspect of this website. In the Menu is an added item: Revisitations: Works From the Decades, linking to the many different categories of work I have done over the past decades: printmaking, photography, collage, digitally manipulate work, artist books, etc. Some are already in my Sophrin Archives but many have never been posted. Works will be freely added to this new Revisitations page over time, as suggested by my own inclinations in a given moment. I invite you to take a look here.

 

 – Diane Sophrin
   Montpelier, Vermont.  4.30.21

 

 

“Crash & burn – new works, words & thoughts”

 

 

 

It’s been awhile – what has kept me occupied over this past month as things crash and burn? Although life shines beautifully through the cracks at times, a seesawing of hope and despair continues to distract, draining resource and spirit, It’s not easy, this method of mine. No denial, no avoidance, no bliss-seeking ignorance allowed, disregarding the minutiae yet holding the gold, grasping the gifts, not wasting life, never letting go. It’s tricky – sometimes it’s I who crash and burn. Stepping outside the moment to observe, there is a strange reoccurring sensation;  just a hint, a tinge, a whiff, just a nanosecond of approaching comprehension in which I acknowledge what flashes through me. It is remarkably, this: a sense of gratitude to be living now, bearing witness to the enormity of these times. Can I really say that’s something to hold onto?

Anyway, it’s very cold here in Vermont. No melting. Lots of wood burning; lots of snow. We are used to it. In contrast to many days of a low-hanging grey-white ceiling bearing down upon us, today the blue brilliant skies soar. The idea of time affecting regularity of rhythm has been abandoned. Maybe it’s true that time itself is composed of unequal fragments, no two measured moments being identical.

Have recently attended two virtual poetry readings. The first gave me the opportunity to hear Baron Wormser read from his newest book: Songs from a Voice. At the second, host Anna Gurton Wachter read from My Midwinter Poem at her new chapbook launch. The latter was an open reading. I read last, choosing Sweetness on the Edge and then, József Attila in hand, read The Rain Falls, written in 1929. In both meetings, attendant poets appeared with their words from various parts of the world. The events opened windows, offered conversations, left me more alive than I’d been in some time.
 
During these difficult days, or perhaps at this stage of creative life, I devour art forms cannibalistically. I dissect, extract, swallow for personal sustenace, filling the deficits with whatever relevant fragment, chord or articulation crosses my path, satisfying whatever need or demand the eye, mind or spirit insist upon. I’ve been looking at Vajda Lajos (one of the most important artists of the twentieth-century Hungarian avant-garde, and will share some of his works here.

My own work nears a corner. The newest Black Rocks and Spheres series is complete enough. Another series of movable, double-sided pieces – another engagement with spheres. The gessoing of torn and collage-built circles and large rectangular papers, the staining, painting and transferring has been done. There are countless assemblages, and endless shooting of photos. As with my other free-standing works these pieces too, must wait for eventual installation, when the many components take on life as a whole, inform and signify. Meanwhile, a large selection of variant assemblages can be seen here on the Black Rocks, Bronze Spheres page .

Finally, poems get written. Sometimes they emerge more or less whole, more often I collect words and phrases over time and eventually, the pieces are assembled. Frequently they appear dark. That isn’t intended and I struggle against sameness, as I do day to day. My newest poems can be found here on the “Present Continuous – Poems & Other Writings” page.

 

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 2.17.21

 

 

 

“Salting the earth and other updates”

 

 

Writing in real time! Things move so fast; the words need to get out there before reaching swift obsolescence. The newest visual work is done – a series including Dominant Spheres, a large four-paneled acrylic painting on gessoed paper and the related Dying Spheres group of collaged, gessoed papers. The Dying Spheres in particular are not easy – I long to hide them in the drawer. A sudden realization – the deeply organic asymmetry of these latest spheres disturbs and causes me uneasiness, while the clean circles of the earlier Spheres of Destiny & Variants, Swingeing Spots, Big Looming Assemblages, and Spots of Retribution are the outcome of pleasing geometric play and design-based color despite conveying their own darkness.

Three new poems are posted as well here.

This post is not easy to finish – it has been in progress for several days. Words pour out, so much to say. The difficulty is removing the rant, offering a piece of reality which somehow doesn’t pierce, drown, suffocate – and some hook to grasp as we try to hoist ourselves up out of this sordid cesspool. Here goes.

So the race has been called and Trump has lost (does he ever really lose?) despite all the crazy noise and destruction. We can hope he’ll eventually recede into a nightmare memory. Right now, how hard it is to loosen trauma’s grip. A genius trickster – we are still being messed with, because the trickster still deals. It is an empty hand. It is a big fist.

The quiet on the street and within was palpable immediately after election day. I truly had no idea how much frenzied static had been absorbed and internalized. Trauma! Trump is a rapist. He has raped the US – knocked it up, given it syphilis, robbed it blind, tarnished its reputation, spit on and severed it from family and friends, and thrown it out on the street. The country has a lot of recovering to do. Each and every one of us.

This is what we must absorb:
Steve Bannon saying he wants Dr. Fauci’s head impaled on the White House fence…. slippery snakes, clattering beasts hoofs tapping out orders shrouded in transparent code…

…Trump refusing to concede – predictable, but what next? His government refusing to be part of a transition, obstructing, destructing; some few rats jumping ship but most holding fast, some of the lemmings possibly backing off from the precipice…

but only to where we all were before. The chasms and anger that brought this on in the first place are wider and deeper than ever. Will the center hold? Is the center the answer?

As sometimes happens, circumstance and the challenge of the moment can bring someone to a higher place. We can only hope this will be the case with Biden. All the terrible problems have fused into one great disaster; to repair one problem necessitates the repair of all. It is certainly a gargantuan task Biden faces, after the past four destructive years of division, theft, lies, hate, and death. If he cannot successfully bring sanity, health and a modicum of security to the country, it won’t be a pretty picture. The backlash to such a failure to fix would be ferocious. Meanwhile, here we are in this bizarre moment when the loser digs in his heels and punches out in every direction. What happens if he refuses in the end, to leave? That’s the million dollar question on everyone’s lips, tormenting everyone’s brain. What more, with lightning speed and subhuman cruelty will he do to us, to the country, to the world? Truly he is salting the earth.

Will the US Senate return to a Democratic majority? Two January Georgia reruns will tell. American democracy always hangs by a wire, but now it’s by a thread, a hair. Will Bernie Sanders become the Secretary of Labor? One can guess. Will the Republican Senators remain lockstep in the footprints of their former leader if and when he’s gone? Whatever the outcome, it won’t be what we wanted but may be just barely enough – or is it too late?

However this all plays out, the most fearful aspect is the roughly 48.3% who support this madman, apparently gone twisted mad, kool-aid in hand, ready to follow the menace of mirage, merging into a blur of evil. Or is it “just” ignorance and banal moral laziness? Either way, the knowing mind shudders. We have already seen where this ends.

The impossible impulse to flee rises repeatedly in the gorge – how primal, how embedded – but to where? Will we ever again have that freedom of movement or funds or strength for that matter? Who knows how things will devolve or mutate around the world. What will be left of our earth? What part of our now longed-for past life was freedom, what part profligate?

Meanwhile the virus, like a grossly unwelcome guest or conquering brute continues to intrude and invade everywhere. In Vermont the numbers are still relatively low but suddenly spiking, while elsewhere they soar. Why should they not? The masked and maskless go about their business. Denial is everywhere, masquerading as rage or optimism. Scorn the messengers.

Absorbing these intense realities is daunting. We are not built for this. I continue to work, which helps the balancing act although new realities penetrate and what is made mirrors these realities. It is painful to bear such fruit, but to hold back is impossible.

I open and close my poetry books, looking for words that speak to my soul. Brecht comes closest, for obvious reasons.

The last few weeks lingered warm, echoing early September. Like a vertigo, the strange warmth disoriented since we had already had snowfalls of some significance and tending the wood-fire had become a regular part of our routine. But now it truly is November; windows have been shut, the weather is a cold grey and the wood-stove is hot. Nothing in the garden but parsley and collards, the elderberry syrup is done.

Ending now with a poem by Bertolt Brecht and another by Attila József :

 

What use is goodness …

1
What use is goodness
When the goodly are at once struck down or else those are struck down
To whom they are good?

What use is freedom
When the free have to live amongst the unfree?

What use is reason
When only unreason will procure the food that a body needs.

2
Instead of merely being good, exert yourselves
To create conditions conducive to goodness, or better still:
That make it superfluous!

Instead of merely being free, exert yourselves
To create conditions which make everyone free
And make the love of freedom
Superfluous!

Instead of merely being reasonable, exert yourselves
To create conditions which make the unreason of the few
A poor business.

Bertolt Brecht
Uncollected poems 1934-1936

The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht
Translated and edited by Tom Kuhn and David Constantine
Liveright Publishing. 2018

 

 

Be a Fool!

Be a fool! Don’t worry, freedom in this age
is only for fools. We are imprisoned
by our ideals, jumping like frenzied
apes rattling the bars of their cage.

Be a fool! Benevolence and peace
are only for fools. An order of some kind
will come to settle over your heart
like scum in a riverbed.

Be a fool! If you are slandered, don’t whimper.
You cannot win, but you won’t be a loser.
Be as idiotic as death will be, at last.

This way you will never speak a false word,
you will be calm, collected, strong, and free –
a welcome tableguest in future and past.

Attila József
1935
Winter Night. Selected Poems by Attila József
translated from the Hungarian by John Bátki
Oberlin College Press. 1997

 

That’s today’s update from one corner of our careening world.

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 11.16.20

 

 

 

Spherical Fragments Series

The Spherical Fragments series is a brief return to what I call constructed collage. Created in one burst, these seven double-sided paper collaged forms were built through an additive process, with each form developing as overlapping edges of scraps and fragments were glued together. The free-hanging finished pieces have both front and verso functioning as related yet independent collaged pieces. Click on any image below for larger images seen sequentially.

 

Here is the entire set, front:

Spherical Fragments 1-7

and verso:

Spherical Fragments 1-7 (verso)

 

 

 

 

“VISITATIONS – V”

 

 

 

 

VISITATIONS – V

 

Scattered visitations
from there to there
how does your book go Ken
and yours, Jack
where are you Lynn and what of those drawings
Carol how do you navigate what do you make
a word only from Gyuri
but I am guilty too
Feri your silence is mysterious
but yours B & J is not
photos from Ilus does Elöd paint
Laci and Laci I think of you
fondly
as Albert as Ambrus!

World visitations
fueled by impulses
other
than
those
currents
of normal days.

 

 

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 9.12.20.

 

 


click here to open in PDF format

 

 

“TIME – VI”

 

 

 

 

TIME – VI

 

The Paz   books arrive on time
detox on   the table
oh you still   do that yes
I do that   still.

These we   don’t talk about
immaterial   material things
grounding   diminishing things
exalting   humbling things

Washing   clothes by hand in a basin
time lost   time frozen drowning
chaos   without time
no living   timelines.

Time to   repack summer
unpack   cold weather
clothes   buried deep in
another   time.

Trip cancelled   fourth time
temperatures   urgently demanding
access to the   right clothes
for that broken   season

Now for this one
cycling im·per·cep·ti·bly around
to what could be recognized as
fall.

 

 

– Diane Sophrin
   Vermont. 9.8.20

 


click here to open in PDF format

 

 

“HOW LONG – V”

 

 

 

 

HOW LONG – V

 

Waiting for the return
which will not come
the Lost Year s?
six months and counting

For how long now
have I been making myself invisible
three days of disconnect send me in a panic
of epiphany

Toughen up take courage but
after three solitary days
I look!  and
the rage returns.

Why record the flailing
one individual like all
others or not maybe just the
small tracking of monstrous times.

 

 

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 9.7.20

 

 


click here to open in PDF format

 

 

“NORMAL ABNORMAL – III”

 

 

 

 

NORMAL ABNORMAL – III
(Normal Like A Yo-Yo)

Normal one could
say human
responses to
abnormals.

Cling to
normal as wet fingers
clutching
the slippery life-saver.

Snuggle up
to mad reality
denial a more deadly dance
partner than madness.

Spin and bounce
rise and fall
like the blue wood yo-yo
on its noose.

 

 

– Diane Sophrin
  Vermont. 8.13.20

 

 

click here to open in PDF format