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A Portal to More Art

September 20, 2021

Anne Elliott on the poetry of Capital by Mark Hage.

In “Confetti Allegiance: Love Letter to Jim Brodey,” a requiem from another pandemic, CA Conrad reminds us that every work of art is a recipe for more art, that the work of those we have lost feeds us. Mark Hage’s photos do the same, inviting me to frame everything I see, to notice the compositions, intentional and accidental, all around me, even in emptiness. Both poem and image present an upstairs-downstairs relationship: I imagine the rainbow stairs take me to the fun people; I feel sorry for the dark shelves of the stiff downstairs neighbor.

The long shadows of the trees tell me the day is ending—or or just beginning. Am I upside-down, or is the picture? Am I dreaming? The sunlight will always win; the sun will outlive us and our walls and ducts. Marianne Boruch’s “Genius Light Running Through Us” recognizes the link between dreaming and death in pandemic times, and shows that the trees know more about light than we do.

In Adrienne Rich’s “Dreamwood,” a piece of cheap wood is a map. Mark Hage gives us plywood with plugged knots and splashes of paint, and I imagine walking through canyons and washes, encountering snow and watering holes. The dark knots are towers or castles I want to visit in my dream walk. Rich’s desktop map lets her see “the end of touristic choices,” and I think of dreams as our best mode of travel now, while we wait out this surreal moment and observe the changes in the concrete world around us.

Frank O’Hara’s “Why I Am Not a Painter” is a poem I return to for its celebration of process, its exposure of the layered workings behind the surface of a painting or poem. Mark Hage exposes the complicated and beautiful workings behind this orange wall, and I think: “how terrible orange is / and life.”

Anne Elliott is the author of The Artstars: Stories (Blue Light Books / Indiana University) and The Beginning of the End of the Beginning (Ploughshares Solos). Her story “Black, Black, Red, Black” appeared in A Public Space No. 28. She lives in Maine.

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