Quadrille down

Where did someone get the idea of a poem with only 44 words and, strangely, no other constraints? And why is it named after a dance? Are they supposed to be silly as Lewis Carroll’s “Lobster Quadrille,” or are they supposed to be as slippery as sea creatures often are? I tried one.


If you ask me
I’ll say that nobody
wants a poem now
unless it’s somehow

about them.
They become a some-
body. Poems that
fit like a hat,

or it’s tossed like
a half-cooked, misshapen pancake
into the dog’s dish.
What’s want? What’s wish.

My dog is lying under my desk while I write this, preferring my half-attentive foot-rubbing-his-belly over the very boring contents of his food dish. I think he’d like a pancake.

I think I love creating poetry and watercolors because these are both “less is more” art forms. The work requires an ability to stop and say “good enough.” And maybe that’s the mark of the highest achievement in these forms. A light touch, an embrace of present-moment-randomness and accident, a smile for the quirks of imperfect color and falling sounds.

Which is why I could never imagine making films. I just finished watching Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy, rescued and digitally restored from negatives damaged in a fire in 1993. What an intensive art form: image, sound, music, time, story, history, texture, light, movement, contrast.

In this final film of the trilogy, Apur Sansar, we see the arc of the story as a bildungsroman, as Apu sets out into the world as a young poet and fiction writer. I won’t spoil it for you and give away what happens to the novel he’s writing; it’s not even that important.

I’m glad that some artists are that way — tireless in their pursuit of perfected and overwhelming vision. The great ones inspire us all. And it makes me acknowledge that I could work harder at my own practices.

Recently, I visited the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz. It was very unexpected, and therefore even more beautiful, to come upon a collection like this.

An outdoor sculpture at The Dorsky

The pandemic was one theme that pervaded the exhibitions. The textile arts show, Homespun, featured many artists local to the Catskills and mid-Hudson region of New York.

Love in the Time of Covid, by Orly Cogan

The exhibit that blew me away, though, was the Historic Woodstock Art Colony: The Arthur A. Anderson Collection. I learned a lot about the visionaries who helped establish the Hudson valley as a place where artists work and thrive.

I especially loved learning about Bolton Brown and lithography. How did I never fully understand the difficulty of making reproducible images back in the old days?

The exhibit runs through July 23, 2023, if you find yourself up in this neck of the woods. Or just go to Woodstock and breathe the air, walk on the stones, take some inspiration.

If you want to make… an ekphrastic quadrille poem

Like I said, a quadrille poem is just 44 words with no other constraints or rules or themes. But if you prefer a little more direction, try making it an ekphrastic by responding in some way to a piece of art. It could be a painting, a film, a song, a dance. Let it be a snapshot of the emotions you feel.

2 thoughts on “Quadrille down

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