Posts Tagged ‘Walker Evans’

DARK HORSES: “Killed” by William Jones

April 6, 2011

We are pleased to have guest blogger, Michael Itkoff, a founding editor of Daylight Magazine, launch our first column of DARK HORSES.  We asked Michael to choose a book that he felt has been overlooked or underappreciated in the photo world.  He chose the book, Killed: Rejected Images from the Farm Security Administration by William Jones.  Besides Michael’s column, you’ll also find a five-minute video piece, “Punctured,” directly below, which was recently exhibited at the Andrew Roth Gallery in New York. As always, please leave your comments at the end of this column.

In addition, we’d like to remind our online photography community about the annual Daylight/CDS Photo Awards, for both established and emerging photographers, whose deadline is MAY 1, 2011.  You can read more about the awards on Daylight’s blog.

Lastly, for photographers in the LONDON area, we wanted to let you know that we’ve added a last-minute weekend workshop in London, Friday evening, June 17th, through Sunday afternoon, June 19th.  Space is limited, so we’ll fill it on a first come basis.  Here’s a link to the Magnum Events page for those interested in having more information.–Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

Punctured from The Paris Review on Vimeo.

History is widely understood to be a malleable record. The dense reams of paper-work and documentation that amalgamate into historical record are generally controlled by a ruling party, selectively shared and highlighted as needed. The inaccessibility of such archives can deter all but the most devoted pursuers of information. In the United States, the Freedom of Information Act coupled with the searching power of the internet have added a level of transparency few regimes have matched. Recently, the undiscerning publication of sensitive government documents by Wikileaks have forced us to evaluate the line between open-source accountable governance and potentially negligent loose lips.

The control of information has long been a significant historical hinge. Figures from Martin Luther to Thomas Paine have helped to sway public opinion with their influential publications. In his new book, Killed: Rejected Images from the Farm Security Administration, the artist William Jones has reexamined the well-known historical record left us by Roosevelt’s New Deal. While searching for homoerotic elements in the FSA archives, Jones stumbled on a series of rejected photographs and assembled them into a video.

Between 1935-44, under the watchful eye of American economist and government official Roy Stryker, a number of photographers were sent into the interior of the United States to bring back a record of the Great Depression. The results of this campaign have been shown widely around the world and become emblematic of America’s dignified suffering during this difficult period. The photographs we have come to know and love were, of course, vetted and approved by Stryker himself but little is known about the others. Until now. Combing through the archives, Jones has presented us with 157 images rejected by Stryker.  The images are compelling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the negatives themselves were ‘killed’ by Stryker’s hole punch. In the book, photographs appear by Walker Evans, Theodor Jung, Carl Mydans, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, John Vachon, John Collier, Jr., Russell Lee and David Myers.

Stryker’s circular redactions serve to bind each image with the next both formally and conceptually. Looking through the photographs one cannot help but think about why Stryker chose to reject them. In one pair of photographs, two little girls stand in a farers field with flowered dresses. Their clothing matches the squash blossoms around them and the photographer adjusts his viewfinder to catch their wary father as he walks by. This strange dynamic is highlighted by the girl’s expression, which changes from cherubic to awkward as the father approaches. Another rejected image features a pair of young African-Americans picking cotton. A self-portrait by John Vachon is definitively marred by two hole punches over his face. In one of Walker Evans’ images, a sad looking barefooted child sits in the dirt next to a man with ragged pants.

In the images described above, and many more, underlying tensions are magnified by the sheer weight of the historical context. Despite the magic of photography, the documentary process is imperfect at best. Coupled with the gesture of governmental rejection, the photographs in Killed make for a potently loaded experience.–Michael Itkoff

Michael Itkoff is a photographer, writer, educator and a Founding Editor of Daylight Magazine. Michael’s monograph, Street Portraitswas published by Charta Editions in 2009.  His website: www.michaelitkoff.com

POSTINGS: April 2010

April 8, 2010

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Torcello, 1953

TWO VIEWS:  Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Cartier-Bresson show that just opened at MOMA is a very different kind of exhibition than the last one that I saw at the museum.  That prior show concentrated on his early work, his surrealist-influenced street photography of the thirties, largely from Europe.   This new exhibition concentrates on his entire work.  Though the early photographs are represented –– and indeed there are a few extremely early images that I am utterly unfamiliar with –– the show largely focuses on the later, more journalistically oriented work from all over the world.  There are examples of many of the magazines that published his work from this era, and there is a set of astonishing maps, representing an incredible amount of research, that track Cartier-Bresson’s wanderings throughout the world.

Though I remain personally most excited by the early, more lyrical work — it was so pure, so visionary, such a special moment in the history of photography ––  it is fascinating to see the broad spectrum of his oeuvre, including many images that I was unaware of.  And there are certainly some gems to discover:  I was particularly taken with this image from Torcello (above). I may well have seen it before but now, thanks to this new exhibition, it is burned into my memory.––Alex Webb

“In a portrait, you are looking for the silence in somebody.”––HCB

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”––HCB

Above, I selected TWO QUOTES by the late great Cartier-Bresson, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Paris a few years before he died.  In addition, I’m also including links  to two interviews with him –- one a TV interview with Charlie Rose of PBS and, the other, a radio interview with Susan Stamberg of NPR.

And, lastly, here are TWO LINKS to reviews of the current MOMA show, one by the New York Times art critic, Holland Cotter and the other by Philip Gefter of The Daily Beast, which includes a slideshow of some of Cartier-Bresson’s most iconic images.–– Rebecca Norris Webb

TWO RARE BIRDS: BARB and HELEN

Rebecca Norris Webb, Barcelona, 2010

Last month at the Barcelona Zoo, I was thinking about a good friend of my parents, Barb, a lover of birds, who had died recently in my hometown in South Dakota. I’ll always remember my last visit in February with Barb and her husband Don, the couple surrounded by a menagerie of assorted birds, dogs, cats and ferrets.  Bird-thin from the cancer, Barb was holding one of her prized cockatiels close to her chest, and –– like always –– her chief concerns were about her many rescued creatures, not about herself.

So, in the Barcelona Zoo last month, I couldn’t help but think of Barb as I photographed this caged cockatiel (above), while outside my frame –– above the bars and the glass and the zoo’s many fences –– the largest nesting colony of gray herons in Spain was flying free.––Rebecca Norris Webb

Helen Levitt, New York City, 1988

When I first moved to New York in the late 1980’s, Helen Levitt was one of my favorite photographers, and continues to be so, today.  Known predominantly for her black-and-white photographs of children in New York City, she also worked some in color.  Above is a rare bird for me personally, a photograph I’d never seen until recently.

When I look at this image, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for a couple of reasons:  It’s a photograph taken of the once ubiquitous icon of the New York City street –- the phone booth–– this one crammed with mother and children.  And secondly, because it was taken on the now extinct Kodachrome film.––RNW

DARK HORSE: Louis Faurer –– Text and Images

Louis Faurer, Self portrait, New York, 1947

Some photographers seem to fall through the cracks of photographic history.  Such seems to have been the case for a time with Louis Faurer.  When I was a young photographer, no one ever mentioned Faurer’s work.  In the late 70’s, after moving to NY, I began to see some of his images, images that I found intriguing, evocative.  I’ve seen more over the years and have always been excited by the uniqueness of his eye.  But until Rebecca recently returned from Houston Fotofest with a book of his collected photographs –– with a fine introduction by Anne Wilkes Tucker of the MFA, Houston ––I didn’t really have a sense of the scope of his work.

Most of the Faurer work that I had seen over the years reminded me a bit of that of Robert Frank (not necessarily surprising, in that they were apparently close friends):  that sense of immediacy, of being inside a poetic moment, often captured a little off-kilter.   As with Frank’s work, with Faurer’s work there is often a strong sense of freedom to the camera. Situations are seen through glass, through reflections, through car windows.  At times, the seeing seems to look towards the later complexities of Friedlander — though consistently striking a more lyrical note.  And for me, personally, this is the side of Faurer’s work that I am particularly sympathetic to.  However, what surprised me most in looking at this book of his work was its variety.  There seems to be a willingness to experiment, to move in different directions, to try new approaches.  For alongside the more spontaneous off-kilter street pictures are more conventional portraits as well as negative sandwiches.  There are echoes of Lisette Model, Arbus, and even Maholy-Nagy.  Perhaps it was simply a fertile time in American photography, when photographers felt particularly free to explore.––Alex Webb

Louis Faurer, Accident, New York, 1952, Gitterman Gallery

IN HIS OWN WORDS: The Photo Not Taken

The MFA Houston book of Faurer’s work by the insightful and thoughtful Anne Wilkes Tucker, includes a wonderful passage from a letter written by the photographer to the then editor of Camera Magazine, Allan Porter, in December 1974.  Faurer, who was known, among other things, for his sympathetic photographs of people on the fringes of society, reflects on an incident in which he missed a photograph of a destitute man in the New York subway.  Interesting how sometimes the photo not taken gives us a different kind of picture of a particular photographer’s process, body of work, and even, sometimes, as with the passage below, his humanity.—Rebecca Norris Webb

Slowly I walked down the slope leading to the second lower level platform.  Was it because I was not courageous that resulted in a miss?  Because I could not further humiliate him?  Was this cadaver-like man with no direction beyond the need for food, thought, and love?  Again, the thought came to my mind, was I cowardly?  Had I become a counterpart to this man?  Hadn’t I been pacing, darting aimlessly, without direction, like the man?  Later I related the incident to several people.  I said, perhaps I thought I was he, maybe I was afraid of myself, but I wanted to think that he had experienced so much pain and anguish that additional injury to his once felt dignity was not possible and that I could not risk accepting the guilt.  Or maybe from way back I heard Walker Evans once say to me, “You wouldn’t photograph a fat woman, would you?” and he might have added “and hurt them?—Louis Faurer

FOTOFORUM: Indelible Image II

January 11, 2010

Because we had so many responses to last month’s FotoForum: The Indelible Image, we decided to run a second column this month.  So for January, we are featuring the indelible image choice of noted Aperture editor Denise Wolff, who has worked with some of the world’s most widely acclaimed photographers, including Mary Ellen Mark, Stephen Shore, Martin Parr, and Eugene Richards.  Originally a photographer herself, Denise is joined by six other photographers from five different countries around the world for this column, all of whom have chosen to write about a photograph that they responded to strongly as young photographers –– an indelible image that still lingers with them today. –– Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb

DENISE WOLFF ON SARA MOON: “Shooting Blind”

Sarah Moon, "The Clock, 1999," from her book, Coincidences

When I first learned to take pictures, I was struck that a photograph doesn’t look like what the eye sees in reality or even through the viewfinder. Technical decisions, such as depth of field and shutter speed, are made largely in anticipation of what the picture will look like. The camera freezes moments that the eye could only glimpse in the fluid nature of continuous time and motion. The mirror pops up to block the view on most 35mm SLR cameras at the moment the film is exposed; something similar happens with a view camera once the film holder is in place. Essentially, at the critical moment the photograph is taken, the photographer is at the height of not seeing. I have always been fascinated by this idea of shooting blind.

I bought Sarah Moon’s Coincidences the same summer I learned to shoot. To me, Moon’s photographs seem not so much guided by what she saw as by what she imagined. It is as if she was shooting with her eyes closed, dreaming rather than seeing. Indeed, in the book, she refers to the moment she takes the images as more of a recognition or calling than a function of the eye. “I believe in miracles when I hear an echo between me and what I see, a resonance … the eye hears before it sees.” Her pictures seem to play with this idea by consistently presenting what can only be seen in photographs. Though often highly staged, her images remain utterly open and dependent on chance. The Type 55 Polaroid film lends another layer of unpredictability to the process as the emulsion leaves traces of the photographic act on the images, highlighting their mediated existence as well as their dreamlike quality. Though the subjects of her images are never clearly defined, one, nonetheless, gets the sense that she captured a moment that can never be seen the same way again.

The Clock, 1999 is the image I remember most from my early days of photographing.  The geometry of the circles and the arrows – always pointing ahead into the future – reference a kind of continuous time. The numbers, removed from the clock (as well as from the faint time line at the center) are near the floor, displaced by the beautiful architecture of the triangle dress. These elemental forms remain quite stationary, permanent, frozen. Amidst them, the motion of the woman/clock’s hands creates a visual impossibility as the circle and axis line appear drawn over her arms. Her dark fingers form a stunning band as they run together with the marks, tracing a new arc. Here, the woman is both time itself and timeless, outside of linear measurement and numbering systems (the basis of our knowledge) through embodying, and thus subsuming, such systems. She represents the physical experience of time that cannot be fully measured or suspended. Here, Moon touches upon a central problem of knowledge and science: how to divide/measure a continuous magnitude into discrete units, how to define something constantly and infinitely evolving. She seems to offer the photograph as almost a proof, acting not unlike the woman/clock. All of this is collapsed into one, discrete image, which acts somewhat like memory itself, lifted up out of the infinite fluidity of unbroken time and reality. At the same time, this photograph will outlast the moment and woman it captured, creating its own kind of continuity, one that also resists being revealed or easily quantified, remaining ultimately mysterious. I think this paradox is at the heart of human understanding, as well as photography.––Denise Wolff

A selection of Sarah Moon’s work at Howard Greenberg Gallery.

JUSTIN PARTYKA ON JOHN COHEN

John Cohen, Mr. and Mrs. John Sams, Combs, Kentucky, 1959

Music brought me to photography. After a few years of being immersed in the music of Bob Dylan, I wanted to know what came before. I discovered the raw authentic tones of bluegrass, early country and blues, and the strange sounding folksongs from what Greil Marcus called “The Old, Weird America” entombed in Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. I also encountered the work of John Cohen. A musician, sound recordist, photographer, filmmaker, and folklorist, Cohen literally linked all of my musical discoveries together, and his work showed me the way.

In 1998, I purchased Cohen’s CD, Mountain Music of Kentucky. This was a re-release of an LP originally released in 1960, and is a collection of field recordings he made in 1959 in the rural communities around the mining town of Hazard in eastern Kentucky. The haunting songs and tunes I heard pierced me with their melancholy and harsh metallic sounds. This was music out of the mountains from which the livelihoods of the people depended, music that became known as “the high lonesome sound.”

To accompany the recordings, Cohen included detailed notes about the music, people, and places he discovered, and he also included a series of photographs. The photographs show the people and the places, but they go further than that. As the image above reveals, Cohen suggests the sound of the music in these photographs, creating an intimate window into the world of eastern Kentucky.

Like the music, these images are haunting, mysterious and timeless; they embody the endurance of this rural culture, and left me wanting to know more about it. Through John Cohen’s work, I experienced for the first time the powerful impact that a photograph is capable of having.––Justin Partyka

Here is Justin’s website and a link to the trailer of Justin’s film, “My Friend Eric,” about a 99-year-old farmer from East Anglia, UK, and what remains of his traditional agrarian world.

ANIMESH RAY ON HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Athens, 1953

I grew up in India, in not a very affluent family.   Though I did have an Agfa Isopan 120mm uncoupled rangefinder camera, which used to belong to my father, it was difficult to afford to shoot more than one roll of film in six months.  Getting access to serious books of photography was even more difficult.  When I was in college, in 1971 or 1972, I came across in a used bookstore a large hard-bound book of photographs by a man with a double-decker last name.  I am quite sure that it must have had most of his famous photos, but there is one I remember distinctly.  I suppose at that time I was too youthful to worry about time’s irony, yet somehow I found the photo profoundly moving.  It is a rather simple photo, but for me it distills the essence of life’s evanescence.––Animesh Ray

Click here to see a selection of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work.

Click here to a selection of Animesh’s photographs.

ERICA MCDONALD ON WALKER EVANS

Walker Evans, "Negro Church," South Carolina, 1934

I’ll never forget seeing one of Walker Evans’ images, “Negro Church,” for the first time. I was in high school on a weekend field trip to New York. My class had a museum day, and I was just moving along looking at images and chatting with friends when somehow I came to this image. A surge of energy ran through me, and I felt my body rooted into place, while emotionally and intellectually, I felt transported away. I recall silently saying to myself over and over, “I get it, I understand what he is doing, I think I might be able to do that, too.” What I saw wasn’t just a building, or just a church, it was one man’s connection to a place and a time and a people, and his particular perspective also allowed space for my own experience.

I had been interested in photographing from the time I was very young, but seeing this image was an awakening and a calling to work towards using the medium to create relations amongst the viewer, the viewed, and myself as photographer.––Erica McDonald

Click here to see a selection of Walker Evans’s work.

Erica’s website

RICHARD MARAZZI ON ERNST HAAS

Ernst Haas, Venice, 1955

Here is a shot that inspired me. Back when I was starting out as a photographer, my local library in Canada had few photography books, but one that I kept going back to was by Ernst Haas. I found his images to have a mood and ethereal quality to them, and I especially like the way he used color. This particular shot actually inspired me to begin a long-term project of Venice, a place of my family’s origins.––Richard Marazzi

Click here to see a selection of Ernst Haas’s work.

Richard’s website

DAVID BACHER ON ELLIOTT ERWITT

Elliott Erwitt, New York, 1974

This iconic photo by Elliott Erwitt is one that lingers in my mind and never grows old. It suggests the simplicity of discovering one of life’s magical moments that can unfold on the sidewalk anywhere, even on the sidewalk in your own neighborhood. I have come to appreciate surprising photos like this one that evoke a sense of humor, two elements that embody much of Elliot’s work. I love this chihuahua and always find myself wondering what the rest of the large dog and the owner might look like.

Ahhh…like a nice bottle of red wine or a Mozart sonata, this photo is one of life’s simple pleasures.––David Bacher

Click here to see a selection of Elliott Erwitt’s work.

David’s website

JOHN MASTERS ON HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brussels, 1932

I have been looking at Cartier-Bresson’s images for decades.  Of all of them, this one has always intrigued me.  There is a surreal quality to this image, and it can be seen as being abstract.  It reminds me that when I remove the subject from its context (through the viewfinder) it becomes something else, something more expressive than the possibly banal event it had been before.––John Masters

John’s website

FOTOFORUM: THE INDELIBLE IMAGE

December 7, 2009

We asked photographers this month to select an indelible image –– one photograph they encountered early on as a photographer that still lingers with them today.  We’re especially pleased to include an indelible image from Darius Himes, one of the country’s foremost experts on the photo book, who is also a photographer, writer, and publisher.  And thanks to everyone who submitted an indelible image. Because we had so many responses to the column, we’ll run THE INDELIBLE IMAGE II next month. –– Alex and Rebecca

DARIUS HIMES ON HARRY CALLAHAN

Harry Callahan, Aix-en-Provence, 1958

One of the first photographers I was introduced to, as a young teenage boy, was Harry Callahan. The introduction came by way of the cover of Henry Horenstein’s Black and White Photography. My father had purchased the book at the suggestion of a colleague, and while the technical language was still far above me, I was deeply impressed by the work chosen. Callahan’s graceful black-and-white image of barren trees in winter not only spoke to me due to the subject matter—I grew up just across the Mississippi River in Iowa, a mere 3 hours from Chicago, where I presume Callahan made this photograph—but also because of the graphic power of the world rendered in shades of black, white, and gray.

But the photograph of Callahan’s that I most responded to, then and now, is his photograph of 1958, Aix-en-Provence, France. Actually, that statement is a bit of a falsehood. There are so many photographs of Callahan’s that I respond to, that to narrow it to one particular image is like asking for a favorite passage from Shakespeare! There are so many that are appropriate for so many situations. But nonetheless, what moves me about this image is the wildness of the underbrush and the seeming impenetrability of the scene. And yet, the more you look, the more things are revealed, by which I mean, the more deeply it impresses itself upon you, untethering your own inner eye along the way. Merely informational facts are not what I’m talking about; what I’m hinting at are the multitude of ways that the outer world has been transformed into a powerful two dimensional, abstracted image. I’m talking about the very transformative power of photography in the hands of an acutely sensitive artist.

There is a concept that is a clarifying one for me that relates to my attraction to this photograph. In both Eastern and Western cosmology is the notion of the mirror-connectedness of the Book of Revelation and the Book of Creation. Here is one exemplary, brief passage that speaks to this subject, from Persian-born Baha’u’llah. “Look at the world and ponder a while upon it. It unveileth the book of its own self before thine eyes and revealeth that which the Pen of thy Lord, the Fashioner, the All-Informed, hath inscribed therein”* John Ruskin, the 19th century British writer and social commentator expressed it this way.

There is religion in everything around us,

a calm and holy religion

in the unbreathing things of nature.

It is a meek and blessed influence,

stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart;

It comes quickly, and without excitement;

It has no terror, no gloom,

It does not rouse up the passions;

It is untrammeled by creeds….

There are a great many photographers and artists who have approached the world around them with awe and wonder. In this image, I see a precursor to photographers like Hiroshi Sugimoto and Thomas Joshua Cooper, as well as echoes of artists as varied as Nio Hokusai, Kandinsky, and the darker aspects of Whistler’s painting oeuvre. What Callahan seems to have mastered, to me at least, was the ability to gaze, with deep intent, at his “immediate” surroundings, without feeling the need to either exoticize nor degrade what he looked at and what he ultimately decided to photograph, allowing “the book of its own self” to reveal itself in all of its own inherent beauty. This is a powerful role that the arts can play in our society and in helping us advance our fledgling, world-embracing civilization.––Darius Himes

* (Baha’u’llah: Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 141-142)

Darius’s websites:

http://www.dariushimes.com

http://www.radiusbooks.org

For more about Harry Callahan:

http://www.stephendaitergallery.com/dynamic/artist.asp?ArtistID=25

To see Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work:

http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/

To see some of Thomas Joshua Cooper’s work:

http://artnews.org/artist.php?i=735



ALEX WEBB ON HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Valencia, Spain, 1933

My father, when he was struggling with writer’s block––which, unfortunately, was all too often––turned to photography, and as a result had a fine collection of photographic books.  At about the age of fourteen, I started to sift through these books in his study.  As I pored through The Decisive Moment, I remember coming upon this Cartier-Bresson image from Valencia, Spain.  I’d never seen anything quite like it.     As I marveled at the echoing rings of the mismatched spectacle lenses and the half-target on the door, set against––in deep space––that slightly twisted, ambiguous figure in the doors behind, I remember thinking: How can someone see this way?  How can someone find such an enigmatic moment in the world and bring it back as a photograph? I began to sense something about perception, about the moment, about space, and about the unique possibilities of the photograph. I’ve never forgotten this image.––Alex Webb

To see more of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work:

http://www.magnumphotos.com

REBECCA NORRIS WEBB ON WRIGHT MORRIS

Wright Morris, Clothing on Hooks, 1947

Formerly a writer, I was attracted early on as a photographer to two books that combine text and images:  Walker Evans and James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Wright Morris’s God’s Country and My People. Both bodies of work expanded my way of looking at the photo book, and eventually led to my intermingling the two in my own work.  Yet, there was something about the lesser-known, Nebraskan-born Morris’s photo-text book –– in which he interweaves his writing and his photographs –– that touched something deeper and more inexplicable in me. Morris’s work is aloof yet engaging, bare-bones yet mysterious, spacious yet intimate –– it is work that suggests the many paradoxes that make up the Great Plains itself, where, like Morris, I also grew up,

I’m not sure exactly how his work manages to evoke all of this in me.  Perhaps it’s because Wright Morris’s objects are often photographed so sparely, yet with such intensity, it creates a kind of space around them.   And this space creates a kind of suggestiveness, ripe for poetic reverie in the viewer, not unlike the experience of driving across the Nebraska or South Dakota prairie with few if any trees or houses to fetter the mind, the memory, the imagination.  So, for me, Morris’s spare objects suggest the Great Plains –- like this photograph of the tattered coats and hat –– as well as evoking a different kind of landscape, a kind of private and interior Nebraska, one that suggests what all that emptiness feels like to an insider, someone who grew up on the Great Plains, and the Great Plains “…grew up in you,” to quote Morris.

And, lastly, there are his accompanying texts that somehow speak to –- or perhaps I should say, speak for –– the photos, texts that are as spare and distilled and intense as the photographs themselves.  I find the text pieces as plainspoken and mesmerizing and mysterious as a Weldon Kees poem, a poet who also grew up in Nebraska.  Reading Morris creates a kind of expansiveness in me, a kind of ache and a kind of delight, which is often my response to the Great Plains.  And, I’m not sure why, but as soon as I finish reading one of his more luminous pieces  (like the one I’ve included below), I find myself starting the process all over again –– a sign, they say, of truly poetic writing.––Rebecca Norris Webb

The man who lives his own life, and wears it out, can dispense with the need of taking it with him. He dies his own death or he goes on living, and where the life has worn in the death will come out. Skin and bones, jacket and shoes, tools, sheds and machines wear out; even the land wears out and the seat wears off the cane- bottom chair. The palms wear off the gloves, the cuffs off the sleeves, the nickel off the doorknobs, the plate off the silver, the flowers off the plates, the shine off the stovepipe, the label off the flour sacks, the enamel off the dipper, the varnish off the checkers, and the gold off the Christmas jewelry, but every day the nap wears off the carpet the figure wears in. A pattern for living, the blueprint of it, can be seen in the white stitches of the denim, the timepiece stamped like a medallion in the bib of the overalls. Between wearing something in and wearing it out the line is as vague as the receding horizon, and as hard to account for as the missing hairs of a brush. The figure that began on the front of the carpet has moved around to the back.––Wright Morris

For more about Wright Morris:

http://monet.unk.edu/mona/first/morris/morris.html

For more about Weldon Kees (including my favorite poem of his “1926”):

http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/Ncw/kees.htm


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