Erika Michael, “Shtick, A Riff on Adhesif”
French for glue, the picture sticks to the mind’s recollection of
collecting, those black-framed rectangles on the white stucco
walls of Dutch rooms, Vermeer’s interiors with maps and bricks
and such, old spatial tricks like seeing through a darkened box,
how Piet the painter morphed branches and trunks into webs like
leaded edges of stained glass in churches around Paris when he
lived in the digs of the Theosophical Society, Mme. Blavatsky’s
psychic order of occult spiritual views inspiring his theory on the
use of hues that can’t be mixed from others — put a lid on green —
and were not to drift beyond their grid. Some dodged those picky
rules, no mentor’s such a fool they don’t occasionally push the
edge of self-restraint and break the code, but only when their Shtick
sustains the neoplastic look of it. Oh, Broadway Boogie Woogie
killed it with those bits of tape applied in rhythm rows — all that
frenzied beat of drums from Broadway clubs & shows. The tape
suspended from the artist’s fingertip, what role d’you think it plays
as she surveys her wall. Rebirth of Montparnasse? Not a bad call!
This Mondrian thing flows — nifty rigor of her tresses, outfit’s hot,
a twenties take on sixties Saint Laurent. De Stijl still rocks. I like
the flawless fit around her derriere. Neo-neoplastic bonding there.
About the winning poem Contest Judge Stephen Gibson says, “What a riff this is, taking us through works by Mondrian, segments of his life, places, art, influences—those on him and him on others—the lines in this poem sticking like adhesif, “French for glue” (line 1), as the picture by Caroline Dechambay sticks, “to the mind’s recollection of collecting” (lines 1-2), as we, like the model, regard art, and then us regarding her as part of that, as being that, those “black-framed rectangles on the white stucco/walls of Dutch rooms” (lines 2-3), that are “Vermeer’s interiors with maps and bricks/ and such” (lines 3-4), Mondrian’s beginnings, the “old spatial tricks like seeing through a darkened box” (line 4). The poem spills forward, textured and rich in sound and image, like “how Piet the painter morphed branches and trunks into webs like/leaded edges of stained glass in the churches around Paris when he/lived in the digs of the Theosophical Society”( lines 5-7), the poem enriched with Mondrian biography, and then enriching us with more of it, “Oh, Broadway Boogie Woogie/ killed it with those bits of tape applied in rhythm rows” (line 13), and then at the end returning to Mondrian as Dechambay’s Adhesif, “De Stijl still rocks. I like/the flawless fit around her derriere. Neo-neoplastic bonding there.” Style in that closing couplet does still rock. Wonderful.
Erika Michael is an art historian and poet living in Woodway, Wash. With a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, she’s taught at Trinity University, Oregon State and the University of Puget Sound. She has participated in workshops with Thomas Lux, Carolyn Forché, Linda Gregerson, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Tim Siebles, and Major Jackson. Her work has appeared in Poetica Magazine, Cascade: Journal of the Washington Poets’ Association, Drash: Northwest Mosaic, Mizmor l’David Anthology, Bracken Magazine, Bracken Anthology, The Winter Anthology, The Princeton Institute For Advanced Study Letter, Belletrist Magazine, and elsewhere. She received honorable mention in the 2018 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Looking Glass Ekphrastic Poetry Contest.