December 31, 2008

The Empty Room

The eve of the new year arrives, and with it reflections on 2008 and hopes for 2009. 2008 was the year that I had hoped to finish my book of poetry and paintings. Despite slow downs and set backs I managed to do so. But there is still the work of editing and refining ahead - but that now becomes the resolution for 2009.
One tentative editorial change for the book Monologues: Poems for a Hundred Paintings is the title. I was never very happy about it. Dr. Robert Grenier, of the Orangeburg Writer’s Group, offered several insights about the body of work that could be clues as to how to name it. Titles are such crucial things as are introductions. So I have been listening carefully to all critiques. What Dr. Grenier noticed is that the people featured in the hundred paintings (actually 117 now) are very still, almost disengaged with the world. And Monologue was such as active word it didn’t really accurately capture the quiet mood. They are all people seated, usually alone, in the middle of a room. Finally Dr. Grenier also noticed that most, if not all, the paintings looked to be capturing a certain time of day- mid to late afternoon. So for now the new title is Moments in the Afternoon. Or maybe I could copy a phrase I recently read in one of Dr. Grenier’s own essay: A Bit of Room to Breathe. The naming of the poetry is obviously still a tenuous thing.
During the painting and composing process this year, I wondered what would be the most appropriate way to end the book. What would that very last person on the very last canvas be doing and what poetic ruminations should accompany the closing page? Fortunately, the answer came without the current strain of trying to organize, edit and label this whole undertaking. The answer seemed obvious. There would be no one in that last room - with reminiscence about the people of the past who sat in that now empty chair and anticipation of who would come to sit there next and fill the future space.
The poem below accompanies entry number 117, "The Empty Room," my oil on canvas adaptation of a cottage in Great Britain.

Happy New Year to Anyone reading this and allows a room in their soul for good things to enter and a chair in their homes for good people to come in and stay a while.

The Empty Room

Empty Room
with all but light removed
The old timbers rise darkly
against the white-washed plaster
of walls that make echoes
in the solitary sanctified emptiness
of unadulterated space
An unoccupied domain
entices like nirvana
nothing dying, nothing born
in that roaring peace of the void
simple greatness lies
within the mystery of the unanswerable question
Have souls all departed?
Or have they yet to arrive here?

1 comment:

harriett said...

Superb, Janet. I'm looking forward to that book!