Jane Eaton Hamilton

"At the bottom of the box is hope." – Ellis Avery.

Tag: Picasso

The Norton Simon Museum

I am in LA in order to do readings at Cal State Channel Islands and yesterday, I went to Pasedena to see the Huntingdon Art Museum,  and then, after that to the mind-blowing Norton Simon Museum.  I could not get enough, and closed the place down at 8.

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The sculpture garden

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Henry Moore

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Pablo Picasso, detail

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Diego Rivera

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Amadeo Modigliani

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Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 3.18.56 PMVincent van Gogh

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Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 3.20.07 PMEdgar Degas, including Le Petit Danseuse de14 ans

 

 

All photography: Jane Eaton Hamilton, iPhone

C’est Tout Ce Que J’ai – by Jane Eaton Hamilton

JaneEatonHamiltondancer4
acrylic painting Jane Eaton Hamilton 2014, Paris
Reprinted from Canadian Lesbian Fiction

I hobble along rue du Président Wilson, my skull a walnut shell of fleshy coils and confusions, taking it in, in, in, the Paris scene, the gusting wind and rain, firing synapses, maneuvering the running gutters, dodging the knobs of canes and dog paws, feet in running shoes or boots, sticky gum, spit. Can’t go straight, so I go crooked, go dyke, down the curbs, over the cobblestones, under the limestone palaces. Every place in me hurts—the gimp hips, the left knee, the two torn rotator cuffs, the narrowings in my heart, the turned ankle, the osteo-knuckles, the hot swollen feet. All the car tires, the horns, the shouting, the lampposts, the metro signs gothic or deco, the Eiffel Tower there across the Seine under which my wife and I once renewed our vows.

C’est tout ce que j’ai, shouts a woman into her phone. C’est tout ce que j’ai.

My wife. I gave her all that I had and then, after that, I gave her all that I had again, and afterwards I gave her all that I had again and again, and still she came at me, and after that I was a lover flattened.

I loved her ruinously.

I pass The Palais de Chaillot and its art deco exhibit, where I will go later with the Meet-up queers.

The Musée de Toyko: fermé.

But the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris is open. And here, after Derain, Picasso, Matisse, Fautrier, de Chirico, DeLauney, Dufy, Bonnard, Vlaminck and Rouault, after Dadoism and expressionism, and surrealism and fauvism, I come to a halt in front of one painting, La femme avec les yeux bleu. Modigliani, Dedo, and I go so sad, I go so happy. Come and heat the feckless wind, I think to him. This straining, uncomfortable mix of adoring whom, perhaps, I should not adore, a behaviour well known from marriage. Modigliani and I, we both know what it is to touch a woman. We know the hand and how it can move like eyes across lips, nipple, mons, soft as glove leather.

Closer, he whispers.

Relative to this painting, he once stood where I am standing, 96 years ago, his daughter Jeanne an infant, so I tell him that his arm is my arm and my arm moves in blues and greens and peaches, my arm pushes paint onto linen.

Phantom in Parisian oxygen, his brushes clack wood on wood handle, Prussian blue, Rose Madder, Aureolin, Viridian, Cobalt Violet, Emerald Green.

No one apprehends us. The guards, do they even notice?

Lesbians notice. Their nipples erect and between their thighs they dew. They wrench cries from me as they penetrate.

Fucking, Dedo breathes.

The inside of women, I tell him.

There is only inside, he says.

Ce tout ce que j’ai, I say. But is it? Is it all I have, now, and then for the dead time?

After a scoundrel life, Modigliani died painfully, from TB at 36. His wife, artist Jeanne Hebuturne, 21 and 9 months pregnant, was so distraught she jumped from a window leaving Jeanne, their older child, an orphan at 3.

No arms with which to paint. No lips with which to speak. No feet with which to walk. No hands with which to write.

The situation histrionic, obsessive, mentally fragile, unstable. Just like a woman, Dedo says. These women of the paintings of the Musée d’Art Moderne, these unknowable models who led their fragile penurious fraught and I hope precious lives after the painter’s last stroke fell.

Who cares for them? They might as well all be abstractions, unrecognizable cubes, used and then discarded, except that we have their likenesses, crude or realistic or just shapely. And don’t imagine that I’m above it: I ride that knife edge as an artist myself, hungering always to place the story above friendship, love, loyalty, resisting or giving in.

Am I disgusting? Should I be ashamed to love the art of these rogues and roués, these knaves, these mysogynists who betrayed and battered and knifed and molested and shot their women folk? TS Eliot who had his inconvenient wife institutionalized. Hemingway, Maugham, Updike, Mailer, blackguards all. Burroughs shot his wife in the head. Picasso was a batterer. Gauguin, a sadist. Louis Carroll, ee cummings and Gore Vidal all said to be pedophiles.

And anyway, where are the women? In all these salles, no Lucy Bason, Henrietta Shore, Emily Carr, Marie Bashkirtseff, Anna Boch, Rosa Bonheur, Olga Boznaska, Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, Camille Claudel, Marie Ellenrieder, Kate Greenaway, Georgia O’Keefe, Kitty Lange Kielland, Edmonia Lewis, Constance Mayer, Victorine Meurent, Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Enid Yandell, Wilhelmina Weber Furlong, or Marie-Denise Villers, Frieda Kahlo.

No Romaine Brooks.

How is a radical dyke feminist writer to articulate a swirl of half-formed thoughts? All my thoughts are strangled vowels and nipped consonants. How am I to see, to touch, to feel, to absorb this terrible beautiful cruel situation where I love the art and hate the artist, where the women have been discarded like dirty tissues? Even here, in the city where the women worked. And why haven’t curators worked to change this?

I look out my Paris window and see, in these old buildings, an endless repetition of staircases and balconies. Birds sing at night. Why do birds sing at night? The world order must be flipped.

If we have extra-textual knowledge, and we do in this age of information, what are we to do with it? Can the man and his mistakes come together? Do we, should we, de-bifurcate?

We can’t, is the answer. He is one thing. They are one thing. He is the other. They are the other. Perniciously.

There are still no women.

And my body still hurts as if every thought I’ve had was on the attack: every punctuation mark acid, every word poison, every sentence a mallet, every paragraph a fist.

I drown in Parisian wind, going down in a glug of hopeless love for Hemingway, in adoration of Dedo. I choke on my love for Picasso, my head in the noose of his elbow. I bruise after Gauguin pummels me to the linoleum, after TS Eliot locks me away. Here I am dead after Burroughs puts a bullet through my skull.

It is not as simple in this world to be a woman as it is a man. It is not as straightforward in this world to be a lesbian, a feminist. It is nothing like elementary to be a woman artist, a woman filmmaker, a woman musician, a woman writer.

The streets of Paris are still the streets of Paris, still the streets where these men walked with determination and sorrow and backache and sore feet carrying the tools of their trade without understanding women. They are still full of potholes and filth and direction that plays tricks on you.

C’est tout ce que j’ai, indecision and worry, as I plaster myself up against these bastards of beauty who always, always whisper their clean and dirty seductions. And as with my wife, after they damage, I get pie-eyes, flowers, apologies, promises to do better, to be better. I still get joy.

Here’s a review of the new book

Michael Dennis keeps a reviewing blog for recent Canadian books and today he reviewed my book Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes.

Today’s book of poetry:
Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes.  Jane Eaton Hamilton.  Caitlin Press.  Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia.  2014.

It is not, I promise you, that I think I’m smarter than most – I don’t. But I do think I’m smarter than some.  Jane Eaton Hamilton is not one of them.  I love smart poetry and Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes is as smart as it gets.

Usually I’m a little offended and a little annoyed when I have to open my very much used dictionary because a poet has a better vocabulary than mine.  I know it is childish.  I’m almost always a little peeved when they show superior wit.  Jealous on both counts might be more accurate.

So why did I LOVE Hamilton’s Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes?  I loved the title when I first saw the book and then when I started reading these poems they hit like a beautiful velvet hammer.

Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes:  Frida Kahlo

The first time I married Diego
he could not lift the paintbrush
from my womb
I bled cadmium from interior spaces
yawning with pubic hair, seeds
cactus roots
cavernous with absence
feeding myself with the milk of Solanaceae
Demeter’s teats
spitting out sugary skeletons
instead of babies
slipping toward parthenogenesis

After I married Diego a second time
he wound necklaces of thorns around my throat
I bled alizarin crimson from soft flesh
feeding myself dead birds
Other women crowded around
masticating and cheering, but they were nothing
even my sister was nothing
(was I? Was I nothing? With my lovers?)

Diego grabbed the sky
through the cavern in my chest
his arm a straight unbearable pole
and told me that was all the love
he had

Fair is fair; I didn’t have a heart anymore
just something swollen
a girl’s red castle of pain
wetly beating on sand

_____________
1  Frida Kahlo, not to Diego Rivera

Jane Eaton Hamilton’s raw and crippling precise poetry is a bit like your first grasp of Picasso.  It doesn’t happen with one painting (or one poem).  It is the result of accumulated brilliance.

Love Will Burst… has poems using paintings and painters as a starting point, poems about being a girl, being a woman, being alive.  The subjects of these poems don’t matter nearly as much as the mastery.  Hamilton is the perfect dance partner, she only lets you think you are leading.

Mikltini

I) The Broom

is a pole with attached bristles
The broom can stand in a closet and be seen by no one
The broom comes alive only in hands:

a woman’s hands
ordinary, tremoring
sweeping mouse nests and spiderwebs across the kitchen tile
toward the living-room carpet
under the underlay they lump like live things

The problem of cash
The problem of the vomiting child
The problem of varicose veins
The problem of the car’s bald tires
The problem of the husband’s fist

At the intersection of 14th and Quebec
a broom –turquoise, plastic, short black bristles
has been struck, its pole twisted and warped,
the head dethroned

II) The Sponge

is not what the woman calls for when
her head splits, but it is all the boy thinks
to grab from the silver belly of the sink
and what he holds to her blood-clotted hair

It is the same sponge swiped the night before
across pork gravy

III) The Bucket

is worn by the boy when he wants to
shut out fighting
Is yellow. Has a
compartment to wring out the mop
When the boy wears the bucket he believes
he is invisible, an action hero
who can zip through the battle zone
invisible as his mother
who is known to be clumsy
who calls in sick on average four days every month

IV) The Vacuum

was originally her mother’s
Is so old it has a fabric electrical cord
a two-pronged plug

The bags fill up like paper pregnancies
to be discarded
She would like a wet-dry vac

The vacuum makes an unholy roar. Sounds like aircraft

V) The Mop

also combats dirt
the kind that adheres
the way a bruise adheres
When dinner is flung from the table
a broom will take care of the mess
(Caesar salad, green beans, rice, salmon)
but anything wet
blood in particular
leaves a sticky film

The mop is a fright wig
a Medusa head

VI) The Toilet Bowl Cleanser

Pine-Sol. The boy adds it to water
where it turns to milk
While his mother serves ice cream
he passes it to his father
Milktini, Dad! Drink your milktini!

Make no mistake, Hamilton is a clever assassin.  She can cut your heart out while you are still reading, falling to the floor.  There is little in the way of tender mercy here.  Hamilton is a Ninja poet. Hamilton is a nurse to the ill-considered, the ill-informed reader, a dark and sometimes harrowing beacon of incandescent light.

Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Love Will Burst Into A Thousand Shapes is astonishingly good, painfully honest.

Did I mention brave?  She’s that too.  Her love poems are lovely, the sex poems sexy, all the stuff in-between tailored to excellence.

Regardless of your choice of plumbing the poem “Sleepless” is a tour d’force.

Sleepless

We did not sleep and were made insane by it, and loved the stupidity
Gads, it was just the thing, all that rutting, our senses electrified
honeyed bee stings, slow-sinking mudslicks–sex
meted out in silken slaps on a slow summer landscape of skin
most extraordinary, more to us than Lamborghinis
or Ecosse cycles, more than soaring through cerulean skies, skin was
licked, bitten, scorched, twisted, puckered, rubbed raw, hickeyed
blown on, finger-tipped, heated, cooled, exalted–

every time we fucked it was brand new, brand new, I say
like a cotyledon leaf through spring soil, like starlight brimming night

in mewls and murmurs and mine a hosanna, a liturgical worship–
did we hear a choir of lesbians? cries and exclamations and groans
and caught breath and occasional exhortations as leg cramps or
ovaries knocked or a nipple tweaked past good pain–

let me talk about her frankness, the way she opened me as an orange
stripping off bumpy rind, the way she peeled me so I came apart
in sections juicy and dripping through her hands
my head thrown back
my throat rippling, how she asked me to show her
fucking myself … I stopped time
for that, wouldn’t you? Fuck, wouldn’t you?
masturbating naked on her deck in the sunshine
my skin hot and prickling … if you could, wouldn’t you
stop everything and just–

and the first thing, no, it wasn’t the first thing
but neither of us was keeping notes … the actual first thing
was the moon fingering shadows through arbutus leaves
while she lifted her Folk Fest t-shirt
and I moved like silk behind her, my breasts globular and firm
and ran my tongue up the bones of her spine, bump, valley
bump, valley and so on, before a kiss, I mean, I seriously mean that–
before a kiss, or even, the next night in another town
weeping against her, sobbing for the cruelties of illness–her fist
struggled to fit inside me, slow lubed penetration, agonizingly sweet
and harsh, my cunt became a balloon, a hollow, filling
with this woman’s richest tactility, and began to–

she began interphalangeal articulations, I mean she began to move
against me, my red leaking bruised flesh
a postural rotation, I mean her wrist turned
and I reached to feel her there
fisting me, and I could see her move inside me by watching above
my pelvic bone, the shape of her fingers almost visible
and I was gobsmacked that a woman
was taking me like that, punching me, if you will, if you go where
bdsm goes (which we didn’t–we did not, that, quite)
I arched my back, began to undulate
and roll my eyes back as she flung me
over Saturn like an extra moon, like Titan.. I was all head and no head
at the same time, blown like a gunshot, blown into space–

“Sleepless” goes on for several more verses, each as good as the last, better than almost any other.  Wow.

The Review

Paintings

Happy 2014, folks!

Here’s some recent art; a Picasso and a Shiele, acrylic on paper:

 

AfterModigliani

AfterPicasso

 

 

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