Saturday, March 24, 2012


Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild

Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild

On a slow Saturday, inspired by flowerville's post on slowness and form, I turned to a poem by Robert Hass we discussed in our "Standing as Metaphor" class Thursday:

Time and Materials

Gerhard Richter: Abstrakt Bilden


To make layers,
As if they were a steadiness of days:

It snowed; I did errands at a desk;
A white flurry out the window thickening; my tongue
Tasted of the glue on envelopes.

On this day sunlight on red brick, bare trees,
Nothing stirring in the icy air.

On this day a blur of color moving at the gym
Where the heat from bodies
Meets the watery, cold surface of the glass.

Made love, made curry, talked on the phone
To friends, the one whose brother died
Was crying and thinking alternately,
Like someone falling down and getting up
And running and falling and getting up.


The object of this poem is not to annihila

To not annih

The object of this poem is to report a theft,
     In progress, of everything
That is not these words
     And their disposition on the page.

The object o     f this poem is to report a theft,
     In progre          ss of everything that exists
That is not th          ese words
     And their d           isposition on the page.

The object     of    his poe     is t     epro     a theft
     In     rogres     f  ever     hing     at     xists
Th     is no     ese     w rds
     And their disp sit on o     the pag


To score, to scar, to smear, to streak,
To smudge, to blur, to gouge, to scrape.

“Action paint,” i.e.,
The painter gets to behave like time.


The typo would be “paining.”

(To abrade.)


Or to render time and stand outside
The horizontal rush of it, for a moment
To have the sensation of standing outside
The greenish rush of it.


Some vertical gesture then, the way that anger
Or desire can rip a life apart,

Some wound of color.

In class we talked about the mundanity of the layers with which our days are steadied. Richter paints layers on layers as he "creates abstractly" (abstract bilden). The poet pulls us out of the meanings of the sentences to the form of the words on the page by abstracting. His abstraction in words, like Richter's abstraction in layers of scored and smeared and painfully abraded paint, renders time.

We talked about the word "render," which means both to create and to break down. The painter and poet who render time create a nunc stans, standing outside the greenish rush of time. Hass's sentences are broken out of time. They cease to flow. They stand there, in part 2, with a vertical slash cutting through the one quatrain.

Anger or desire. Some wound of color or of print. And wounded, we fall down and get up and run and fall and get up.

We order it, it falls apart,
We order it again, and fall apart ourselves.
Rilke, 8th Duino Elegy

Or this morning, on the cusp of Spring, Winter still present but fading quickly, walking easily with cat and dog, pulling out my little camera to take pictures of the last snow, of the mats of plants the snow left, of the very first wildflowers, it felt like I was standing outside—poised just before—the greenish rush of time and of the plants that will vault us into the chirping and buzzing and sap-rising Spring.

And as my mind moves, as it will, from thought to thought, I remember Zarko's email about his friend in Cologne, the artist Norbert Arns, who was in Corinna Belz's fine film of Gerhard Richter painting, and who himself had a recent show in Cologne with the title (Quit Hitting Me With My Handke): HÖR AUF, MICH MIT MEINEM HANDKE ZU SCHLAGEN

[for more of Gerhard Richter's work and information about him, click HERE]


* said...

dear colleague, just saying hi, tomorrow i'm coming back to look at this properly. goodnight.

michael morrow said...

i mean you know what i mean..just saying...hope to be art sometime....s

* said...

this poem is great i must lok up this guy.

it makes me think of cassirer too, essay on man: in language, in religion, in art, in science, man can do no more than to build up his own universe -- a symbolic universe that enables him to understand and interpret, to articulate and organize, to synthesieze and universalize his human experience...

but that is symbols and are symbols layers. what does the symbol of a layer mean....and what's the standvermoegen of a layer?

the repeated movement of this all (standing, faling, sorting again, falling apart) and this reminds me i plan to reread the repetition again after so many years... i wonder whether this is all related... associating away...

Cate Parish said...

Thanks for this. I'd been reading Robert Hass's great book, 'Time and Materials,' and wanted to see the Gerhard Richter paintings he based a poem on. Your reminder of the opposed meanings of the word 'render' was illuminating.