Monday, January 11, 2010

Jill Krementz Photo Journal - Portraits of Poets

Nikki Giovanni photographed at her desk in her apartment on November 4, 1975 by Jill Krementz.

A poem is a way of capturing a moment, I don't do a lot of revisions because I think if you have to do that then you've got problems with the poem. Rather than polish the words, I take the time to polish the poem. If that means I start at the top a dozen of times, that's what I do. A poem's got to be a single stroke, and I make it the best I can because it's going to live.
Portraits of Poets
National Arts Club
January 5th-January 15th, 2010

Free and open to the public
Weekdays: 10-12 noon and 3-5pm
15 Gramercy Park (20th Street between Park Avenue & Irving Place)

An exhibition featuring drawings, photographs, collages and oil portraits of distinguished poets ranging from Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, Frank O'Hara, and Elizabeth Bishop to Nikki Giovanni, Billy Collins, and Mark Strand is on view at the National Arts Club.

The show which includes 180 portraits has been curated by Alice Quinn, Executive Director of The Poetry Society of America. Miss Quinn has loved poetry all her life and in fact memorizes a poem every day. She began her career as an editor at Knopf where she published (and discovered) many poets. Quinn then moved on to The New Yorker Magazine where she was the Poetry Editor for twenty years. In my opinion Alice Quinn is the patron saint of 20th century poetry.

On January 5th there was an opening reception featuring readings by Richard Howard, Galway Kinnell, Marie Ponsot, and Yusef Komunyakaa. The evening culminated in a dynamic presentation by Sapphire.
Richard Howard began the evening by reading a few poems by W.H. Auden and went on to read a few of his own.
Installation shot. Go see the show and have the fun of identifying all these fine poets. The seven photographs are in the collection of Richard Howard. And I have no idea what the cougar is doing in the top photo with Cynthia Macdonald and Edward Hirsch.
Rosanna Warren (with her dog, her brother Gabriel and her parents, Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark); Phillis Levin in the center; Ron Padgett, wearing jodhpurs is on a pony. On a toy horse at bottom is Kimiko Hahn.
Yusef Komunyakaa in front of photograph of himself (lower left) by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Mr. Komunyakaa is the son of a Louisiana carpenter as well as a decorated war veteran. He chronicles the raw elements of his life with the controlled improvisation of a master jazzman. Sapphire is a poet and a novelist. She has been walking the red carpet of late because of the recently released movie called Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Directed by Lee Daniels, the film's cast features Gabourey Sidibe as the title character, and Mariah Carey, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, and Lenny Kravitz in supporting roles.
Sherman Alexie, photographed by
Marion Ettlinger.
Publisher Morgan Entrekin (Grove Press) with Jeff Seroy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Entrekin published Sherman Alexie. Mr. Alexie, in addition to his novels and children's books, is an acclaimed poet.
Richard Howard and Marie Ponsot. Galway Kinnell talking to one of the 300 guests who showed up for the opening night reception and reading.
Rachel Cobb and her husband Morgan Entrekin with their three-year-old son Allen, who preferred the snacks and Shirley Temples over the poetry reading.
Photographer Nancy Crampton with Joel Conarroe. Ms. Crampton had many of her photographs included in the show. Galway Kinnell photographed by David Crosby. Mr. Crosby is the father of Laurel Crosby, the hardworking intern from Columbia University who works with Alice Quinn.
Poet Hugh Seidman in front of childhood photo of himself wearing striped overalls.
Photographer Christopher Felver standing in
front of two of his photographs: Jessica
Hagedorn (top) and Bob Kaufman.
Mr. Felver's book of photographs.
Photograph of Phillis Levin as a
young girl.
Richard Howard and Phillis Levin.
Poets Yusef Komunyakaa and Marie Ponsot. Gorgeous book jacket of Marie Ponsot's newest book; jacket designed by Chip Kidd.
Transport, by Marie Ponsot.
Marie Ponsot with five of her seven children. This 1957 photograph appeared in the Queens edition of The Daily News.
Poets Star Black and Stephen Motika. In addition to being excellent poets, Ms. Black is a collagist and photographer, and Mr. Motika is the Programs Director of Poets House. A self-portrait collage by poet Star Black. Ms. Black has had many exhibitions of her collages.
Kenneth Goldsmith photographed by Star Black. Mr. Goldsmith (born 1961) is an American poet. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb and hosts a weekly radio show at WFMU. He has published ten books of poetry.
Brenda Hillman by Star Black. Ms. Hillman is a professor in the MFA program at St. Mary's in
Oakland, California.
Installation shot. In the center, Richard Howard holding his eyeglasses, photographed by
Mary Jo Bang.
Elizabeth Bishop by George Platt Lynes. Eileen Myles, by John Sarsgard.
A nook containing six photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
T.S. Eliot by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Robert Frost, also by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Frost is shown at his writing desk which he made himself.
Dylan Thomas; photograph by Rollie McKenna.
Tom Clark; painting by George Schneeman. Miguel Algarin, the poet who started the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; photograph by John Sarsgard.
May Swenson, painting by Bernard Rosenquist. Childhood photo of poet Louise Glück.
Marianne Moore; photograph by
Stephen Llewellyn.
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, photographed in 1956. Unknown photographer.
Tom Carey and James Schuyler; collage drawing by Duncan Hannah. Allen Ginsberg, without his beard; drawing by Raphael Soyer.
A stone fresco by George Schneeman depicting Allen Ginsberg.
Helen Adam; photograph by Luke Wynne. Jerome Rothenberg perhaps portraying the burden of being a poet; photograph by Larry Fink.
A drawing of Frank O'Hara by Nell Blaine. Kenneth Koch; lithograph by Alex Katz.
Poet Mark Strand.
Mark Strand; etching by Kiki Smith, courtesy of Harlan
& Weaver, New York City.
Nathaniel Tarn and Lorine Neidecker; both photographs by Jonathan Williams.
Rita Dove by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Gertrude Stein's locket. There is a portrait of Ms. Stein hanging from a "bouquet" of silk ribbons.
W.H. Auden and Anthony Hecht at the 92nd Street Poetry Center, New York City.
Poet James Wright photographed in New York City on February 11, 1973 by Jill Krementz.

"I have written about things I am deeply concerned with-crickets outside my window, cold and hungry old men, ghosts in the twilight, horses in the field, a red-haired child in her mother's arms, a feeling of desolation in the fall, some cities I have known. I try and speak of the beauty and again of the ugliness in the lives of the poor and neglected."
Marianne Moore photographed in New York City on November 17, 1967 by Jill Krementz. Maya Angelou photographed in Winston Salem, North Carolina on April 14, 1994 by Jill Krementz.
Poet Gerald Stern at the First Roumanian-American Congregation, Lower East Side, New York City. Photographed on July 16, 1997 by Jill Krementz.

Mr. Stern has seamlessly blended the exaltations of everyday life with the sorrows of Jewish history.

In his poem, "Romania, Romania," Stern writes:

I stand like some country crow across the street
from the Romanian Synagogue on Rivington Street
singing songs about Moldavia and Bukovina.
I am a walking violin, screeching
a little at the heights, vibrating a little
at the depths, plucking sadly on my rubber guts.
It's only music that saves me.
Anne Sexton and W.S. Merwin backstage at the 92nd Street Poetry Center on November 11, 1968. Photographed by Jill Krementz.

Sexton struggled with "madness" most of her adult life, a battle beginning with To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960) and ending with the posthumous The Awful Rowing Toward God (1975).

Merwin, a prolific poet and translator, now lives in Hawaii, where he has created a remarkable nature preserve and forest.
John Ashbery photographed by Jill Krementz, March 14, 1995.

In addition to being a fine poet, Ashbery is an eminent art critic as well as a novelist, playwright, translator and professor. He is seen here in his Chelsea apartment sitting beneath The Painting Table, a 1954 work by close friend Jane Freilicher.
Billy Collins photographed by Jill Krementz at home, January 18, 2003.

"The bust on the piano is of Robert Wagner, former Mayor and Governor of New York, a friend of my father's. Janine, a lover of terribly amateurish jazz piano, would lie nearby whenever I played."
The headquarters of the Poetry Society of America are located on the second floor of The National Arts Club. When I returned to see the exhibition a second time it was a real pleasure to go upstairs for a visit with Alice Quinn and her hardworking staff.
Alice Quinn in front of Poet Ted Berrigan by George Schneeman.
On the mantle near Alice Quinn's desk: A marble bust of Alice Fay Di Castagnola, a benefactor of The Poetry Society of America.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost and Dante keep watch over hardworking staff on second floor of The National Arts Club. The gavels are relics from earlier meetings of The Poetry Society of America.
Florencia Varela, Membership Coordinator, and Brett Fletcher Lauer, Managing Director. Laurel Crosby, programs intern for The Poetry Society of America. Ms. Crosby is an MFA graduate student at Columbia University.
The auditors at work! As a non-profit, this is a yearly review.
Alice Quinn at her desk in front of poster of poet Wislawa Szymborska who won the Nobel prize in 1996. Szymborska's reputation rests on a relatively small body of work: she has not published more than 250 poems to date. Framed is Walt Whitman and propped against the glass, his doppelgänger, Hayden Carruth.
Aimee Walker, who is the development director of The Poetry Society of America. She would love to hear from you: c/o PSA, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC 10003.
The 2009 Chapbook winners. The cover design is by artist Leanne Shapton. The chapbooks are available at Kate's Paperie stores throughout Manhattan.
Brett Fletcher Lauer and Alice Quinn re-installing painting of Ron Padgett by George Schneeman. Mr. Padgett's most recent book of poems is called How to Be Perfect. The painting had been temporarily moved upstairs for safekeeping during a crowded luncheon event that day in the gallery space.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved.

All other art and photography, courtesy of the Poetry Society of America exhibit, "Portraits of Poets, 1910-2010."