One for the Neglectorino Project*: Florine Stettheimer

* Click to see the Neglectornio Project
          An aside before the main attraction: I’ve been hard at work/play editing “Looms,” my poetry manuscript that I describe as a series of layered narratives. So with my energy going into this and other creative projects, I’m taking a break from writing reviews and close readings and for the time being I’ll just post poems from books that I’m reading, with book cover scans and where possible, links to sites where the books may be purchased.
         I might come back to these books or poems and write more about them at another time, but for now . . . pure poetry! I hope you enjoy my selections.

Crystal Flowers: Poems and a Libretto
Florine Stettheimer
Edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo
Toronto: BookThug, 2010
order from BookThug
order from SPD Books

         First, just out from BookThug, Crystal Flowers, a collection of short poems and a libretto resurrected from a relatively unknown American modernist poet and artist, Florine Stettheimer (1871 – 1944). Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo compiled and edited this collection, which includes a generous and helpful introduction to her work.
         These deceptively simple poems—sometimes reminiscent of nursery rhymes—are often tinged with Stettheimer’s signature sardonic humour and her sense of the gendered complexities and imbalances of her time. There is something reminiscent also of Japanese poetry traditions in her ability to limn vivid images within succinct verses and to subvert the set-up emotional reaction with a hairpin turn.
         I’m including a couple of her paintings following the poems.


I broke the glistening spider web
That held a lovely ephemère
I freed its delicate legs and wings
Of all the sticky untidy strings
It stayed with me a whole summer’s day
Then it simply flew away—

A human being
Saw my light
Rushed in
Got singed
Got scared
Rushed out
Called fire
Or it happened
That he tried
To subdue it
Or it happened
He tried to extinguish it
Never did a friend
Enjoy it
The way it was
So I learned to
Turn it low
Turn it out
When I meet a stranger—
Out of courtesy
I turn on a soft
Pink light
Which is found modest
Even charming
It is a protection
Against wear
And tears
And when
I am rid of
The Always-to-be-Stranger
I turn on my light
And become myself
[I found pink hearts]

I found pink hearts
soft to the touch
stuffed with fragrance
nestling among her underthings
I gently stole one
jammed it
full of pins
and hung it up
                    my Saint Sebastian.
Adventure in Larchmont

Scaredly cackling the stray white hen
Hopped up the steps of the kitchen stoop
Chased by a sleek green-eyed cat—
I saved the chicken from attack
Altho’ my taste was that of the cat.
The 13th of October

A black butterfly
with a long black shadow
was there
in my room
when I switched on the light
In the very middle
on my coppercolored carpet . . .
It was motionless
it looked permanent
it thrilled me
with horror . . .
The grey walls
grew icy
the Japanese prints
did harakiri . . .
In my chill terror I make a vow:
I shall do my room
in white and gold
and paint gay flowers
on the walls
and honey bees
and white butterflies
and the song of birds
and the sun’s bright rays!

Florine Stettheimer, Family Portrait, II (1933)

Florine Stettheimer, Sunday Afternoon in the Country (1917)



Camille Martin

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