Tuesday, December 16, 2008



RED by Marilyn R. Rosenberg
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2008)

RED is a coil-bound notebook that reproduces a variety of visual art/poetry works revolving around red-ness. It's a pleasing presentation: the pages are glossy and the colors reproduce well.

It's not just an art monograph, though. The fact that the format is coil-bound is a clever choice. One can unwind the spiral coil to frame the pages themselves as prints.

The project certainly heightens resonance through the visual. The title page logically is an all-red background, with the title, author name and publisher name in white. But as one goes through the pages, the book unfolds into a variety of colors and letters that, through negative red-space, fragmentary texts, and calligraphic lines, works to emphasize the nature of red. It's similar to how black is emphasized when set up against white or another severely-contrasting color (gold, silver, et al).

Some pages feature the word "red" but in some cases words like "ED" and "RE", among others, show up -- not "red" and yet evoking it. So, no wonder that the first (title) page is the word "RED" in white against a red background, but the last page is, against the same red background, the word "RED" in blue and upside-down. Because between the two pages lies (pun intended) a variety of definitions for the same word. But isn't that what language is? Something that's inherently unstable in terms of fixed definitions and becomes redefined with almost every use? Context, preconceptions, biases...all sorts of subjectivities hew interpretation.

One can also view the unfolding of the project-as-book as successful in offering an easily discernible narrative, whether it's the ars poetica of text or the more visually-based interpretations of lightnings, moons, eggs, rivers, canyons and so on. What's logical is how what's discerned often seems to relate to the notion of rupture -- it doesn't take more than one glass of wine to imagine that a page with some calligraphic lines has suddenly become a page that physically cracks in its middle to reveal the night that had been distant background. But what one discerns/senses through these pages also relates to rapture in the same way one can look at abstract expressionist works and feel the rush along brushstrokes' resonance.

It's a smart achievement -- the project bespeaks freedom with its multiplicities off of the theme, and yet never dilutes red-ness as its spine. Red, that is, as intended by this project's author/painter: "RED is blood, passion, life. Yes."


I could end the engagement with the above…but I’ll continue with recalling an old poem. Perhaps one reason I felt such empathy, too, to Marilyn R. Rosenberg’s RED is how her project looks at red sideways and, thus, sees it more. Her RED circles around the nature, image, concept and definition of “red” rather than simply presenting it as the color red -- there isn’t, for example, a single all-red page in the book which would have been logical but also simplistic. Rosenberg’s approach is like what I remember attempting to do with my poem “MUSE POEM” that I wrote as ekphrastically inspired by an all-red woodcut of an impassioned face by an artist whose name escapes me now. I reprint the poem below, this time as homage to Marilyn Rosenberg’s recent project:

She spends her days in a dusty room, its lone window shuttered, the air lit with the glow from a computer screen, and stacks of books melting into the shadows. This is the way it should be. Her eyes are open to a parallel universe where silence is alien, for silence has no color. She sees no reason to censor the mountain from saffron, the sky from celadon, the boulder from lavender, the bougainvillea from cobalt, the grass from ebony, the diamond from cerise, or you from me.

Or me from you. But everything costs. To define the Muse as forgetting memory is to begin by birthing a mask, then becoming subservient to it. Even if one must learn to allow shackles on one's wrists, fall to one's knees—then bow once more after begging for more lashes from the whip. All for the hope that welts will be permanent to create new parts of my body that may rise at the thought of your touch.

The use of third-party pronouns in a poem will not spare me from the sight of your back receding as the door slowly closes. This is the way it should be. I must crawl towards where I recall the door to be, uncertain of who you have become on the other side. When I find the door by scenting blood, I must open it by first remembering fear. I must remember fear. For nothing must be silenced. There must be color.

Like the color of Wet: bittersweet, bloodshot, blooming, blush, brick, burgundy, cardinal, carmine, cerise, cherry, chestnut, claret, copper, coral, crimson, dahlia, flaming, florid, flushed, fuchsia, garnet, geranium, glowing, healthy, inflamed, infrared, magenta, maroon, pink, puce, rose, roseate, rosy, rubicund, ruby, ruddy, russet, rust, salmon, sanguine, scarlet, titian, vermilion, wine. . .

Nothing must be silenced. There must be color. Though I remember fear, I have heard the memory of a Taoist shaman whispering: "Bright pure color represents the virtue. Bright white for strength, courage and rectitude. Bright blue for gentleness and wisdom. Bright green for kindness and benevolence. Bright golden yellow for balance, centeredness and fairness. Bright red for love, joy and compassion." I must remember fear, before remembering to forgive myself.

Nothing must be silenced. There must be color. Like the color of Wet: RED.

["MUSE POEM" is reprinted from Reproductions of the Empty Flagpole, Marsh Hawk Press, 2002]


Eileen Tabios does not allow her books to be reviewed in Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to Fred Muratori's review of her I Take Thee, English, For My Beloved in AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW. She feels lucky to have received reviews of her books and, one day, while wondering what to do with all these reviews, answered her own question with her newest book THE BLIND CHATELAINE'S KEYS: HER BIOGRAPHY THROUGH YOUR POETICS which recycles reviews and engagements of her poems into a biography--a biography because, as Ted Berrigan once noted, "there is a self inside almost all of the poems”.

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