Larry Rivers, Vocabulary Lesson (Polish), oil on canvas, 22 1/4″ x 33″. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery © Larry Rivers Foundation / Licensed by VAGA.
What I know about the poets of my generation, I started to learn, in the late nineties, by reading the young critic Stephen Burt. Many of the poets he wrote about seemed forbidding, but he tried to make them inviting. His own poems were often disarmingly direct. One line, from his poem “Kudzu”—“like the body I hated then, and hate”—still rings out to me twenty years later from a blur of more elliptical work. Now Stephen also goes by Steph and Stephanie, and their new collection, Advice from the Lights, has been my subway reading for the past two weeks, especially “Sadder,” an elegy to the poet C. D. Wright, and Burt’s imitations of Callimachus, and the many evocations of childhood in a “wrong” body:
O grapefruit (as color and flavor). O never quite rightly tied laces. O look,
up there on the uneven climbing bars,
too hot to touch where the sun touches, now that it’s spring,
the shadow of a tarp, like a sail between sailors
and thin swings that make no decision, like weather vanes.
O think of the lost Chuck Taylors. The lost Mary Janes. —Lorin Stein
Larry Rivers’s painting of Maxine Groffsky appears on the cover of our new issue, and I’m pleased as punch. I’ve long been an admirer of Rivers’s art and feel a kind of greedy affection for it: I never tire of seeing it. This week, “(Re)Appropriations,” a small survey of works—more than twenty paintings, collages, drawings, sculptures and relief paintings—opened at Tibor de Nagy in New York. The exhibition displays the changes in his work over five decades, but it’s hard not to get hung up looking at his life-size painting of a boldly nude (except for boots) Frank O’Hara, from 1954, and the collages from the early sixties, which are gorgeously tactile. I admire the way his representations of friends, cultural objects, and historical figures are only partially rendered on the canvas, as though they are already drifting out of River’s view just as he has turned to look at them. —Nicole Rudick Read More