“Bayou Fever and Related Works,” an exhibition of twenty-one vibrant collages by the late artist Romare Bearden, is on view at DC Moore Gallery through April 29. Made in 1979, the works were originally conceived of as blueprints for a ballet, the titular Bayou Fever—a performance Bearden hoped would be choreographed by Alvin Ailey but was never produced. The ballet’s storyline involves a confrontation between the “Conjur Woman” and the “Swamp Witch,” who twist in a dramatic struggle for the soul of a sick child deep in the bayou. The collages are exhibited alongside artworks from other years, an effect that accents Bearden’s motifs: powerful women, elders, musicians, rural landscapes, domestic interiors, and religion.
Randi Malkin Steinberger’s book No Circus collects photographs of buildings tented for termite fumigation around Los Angeles. It includes an essay by D. J. Waldie, excerpted in part below.
If you live in Chicago or Cleveland, you may never have seen a house tented for termite fumigation. Dry-wood-termite infestation—the usual reason for tent fumigation in the southern and western parts of the United States—may become more common as the global climate warms.
Termites don’t take cold well. Neither do cockroaches. In an evolutionary sense, termites are the cousins of cockroaches that picked up other habits, including a knack for colony formation.
Like ants, a termite colony has a queen, but unlike ants, the colony also has a king. Once mated, the termite queen and king are monogamous and life-long partners. The queen may live as long as fifty years in some termite species. There is a court of princesses around the queen, waiting, infertile, until the queen dies.
Left undiscovered long enough, the termite colony will prosper until the apparently intact timbers of the house are a paper-thin skin over the hollowness inside. Read More
In 2014, I heard Solmaz Sharif read “Look,” the title poem from her debut collection. Look inserts military terminology into intimate scenes between lovers, refashioning hollow, bureaucratic language from the U.S. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms with a human touch. (Even the collection’s title has an alternate military meaning: per the Department of Defense, a look means “a period during which a mine circuit is receptive of influence.”) At a time when the U.S. automates acts of murder, Sharif insists that war is still personal—perhaps today more than ever. In one of its most quoted passages, she writes, “Daily I sit / with the language / they’ve made / of our language / to NEUTRALIZE / the CAPABILITY OF LOW DOLLAR VALUE ITEMS / like you.”
“By simply placing words from the Defense dictionary in small caps, and deploying them in scenes of intimacy,” John Freeman wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Sharif has begun the process of renaturing them, putting them in the readers’ hands for examination.” Look confirms what I’ve known since 2014: Sharif is poised to influence not only literature but larger conversations about America, war, and the Middle East. I spoke with her about her influences, the role of the poet in today’s world, and the stories behind Look.
In an essay you wrote for the Kenyon Review, you said, “When I am asked to describe my poetry on airplane flights, at dinner parties, I describe it first as ‘political.’ Then, ‘documentary.’ And these two things seem to, for some, preclude aesthetic rigor.” There’s a popular conception that overtly political can’t have aesthetic value—that a political message degrades the aesthetics. Is your work a deliberate effort to rebut this notion? Read More
This is the Library Hotel, in Koh Samui, Thailand. We appreciate the image’s caption: “Real happiness is not complicated at all.” Indeed, we would go so far as to say it doesn’t even require a plane ticket and a hotel room … but it’s lovely to look at, no?
“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.” —Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy