Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First we see the parts disconnected...

Woman Standing by the Sea (Pablo Picasso)
by Gabriella Mirollo

First we see the parts disconnected,
some sharp, some soft as stones
the sea deposits at our feet.
But while each feature interrupts
and contradicts another,
there is balance in the way she stands
on a small round raised mound of sand,
sandy-gray herself, before a blue sea
inseparable from blue sky,
save the thinnest wisp of horizon.

Her mood too is monotone.
She has holes the wind blows through,
yet arrests the eye
in her graceful abstraction,
lets us guess whether
that little sphere atop a pyramid
is her whole mind or just one notion,
those tiny cones
her breasts, ears or eyes,
that smudge bellybutton, nipple, bruise.

She knows it doesn’t matter.
The sea is calm, the sand cool.
Her legs stand their ground like obelisks.
Only one thing is unmistakable,
the arms she holds above her head.
One hand grips the other by the wrist, 
completes the circuit of herself,
the sum of her parts.
She keeps the sky caught in the crook of her arm.

After a few posts dealing with more abstract philosophical matters, I thought it might be good this week to write about my working process and share some of what I’ve been doing when I’m not composing posts and trying to keep up with all the other wonderful blogs out there! In compliance with a personal request I’ve begun with a whole poem of mine, instead of just the usual snippets. Choosing to offer this particular poem in its entirety seemed ironically appropriate for a post about putting pieces and parts together!

I could be
                             the slick black back
                     of  a sleepless street
                                                     smelling of rain and smoke
all is calm but in that calm
                     whatever it is finds a way
                        in shimmering puddles
      blind fingers reaching
                                         for the world

Speaking of which, before I go any further, I’d like to voice my gratitude to artist and new friend Patti Roberts-Pizzuto, whose excellent blog and shop you can find here and here.  Patti works in many media – collage, needlework, paper, painting. She also maintains a blog in which she shares a daily found poem assembled from bits of text she has collected over the years; thanks to her marvelous agility of mind and a sprinkling of pixie dust, these words and phrases always form themselves into beautiful little poems that speak large truths. She recently asked me to be a guest poet, which post you can find here. I’ve also included images of the results above. For lack of my own treasure trove of word scavengings, I cut up a few dozen of my poems, old and new, let them sit in my Tibetan singing bowl until they were ready to be sorted and selected, and strangely pulled together a poem that was a product both of conscious choice and unconscious happenstance and told me something about myself I didn’t know.

like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting

This got me thinking, how is this combination of a little intention and intuition plus a whole lot of happy accident any different from writing “original” poetry? Or any artwork for that matter. I don’t create any new words, I don’t sit down with a plan and execute it to perfection, I just wait until some urgent mood, metaphor, image or theme rises to the surface, locate and re-purpose the same old words from the very limited English language at my disposal, put them together in interesting ways and keep rearranging them until they all fit into some form, one I don’t know the exact size or shape of until it’s done! It’s really more improvisation than creation, and I don’t feel I’ve done a good job unless I’m a little bit surprised by the results, and a little bit guilty if someone praises me for my excellent control of composition! At which point the poem and I exchange sidelong glances because we know the real truth!

Yesterday's News (Brockton Station)

This is true of photography too. I am not so self-effacing that I will deny I have a good eye for something that will make a good photograph, but mostly I have good luck and a lot of patience and faith. I don’t really know how the resulting image of what first caught my eye will look until the negative is developed, or what it will mean until I’ve looked at it a few times. Sometimes naming it opens up a whole new world of meaning. Quite often there are things in it I didn’t even consciously register when I aimed my camera: perhaps I sensed them, but I didn’t look for or include them on purpose. And it takes a lot of shots to get that keeper. I save them all anyway, because sometimes a formerly dismissed shot suddenly looks better than I remembered, and it begins a new life outside the file box.
Self Storage

So then, it’s about receptivity, being open and surrendering to the act of creation, which requires setting your ego aside and letting something else take charge. At the same time, it requires great arrogance to involve yourself in the process of creation at all! There is a middle ground, where we must balance the pride and credit we have every right to take in and for the accomplishment of creating something beautiful and meaningful, with the humility we need to cultivate in order to let influences and ideas develop with their own momentum and direction and take us with them to a new place we never imagined before, giving us what Robert Frost called “the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew.” Thanks for following, everyone, and enjoy a season full of happy surprises.


  1. I do enjoy writing them so I'm glad you enjoy reading them too! Many thanks, Laura, for your kind words.

  2. Gabriella...what a wonderful post! I love Woman Standing By The Sea and your beautiful and so accurate, at least for me, description of the creative process! Thank you for the comments on my shop and my blogs...much appreciated. And big thanks again for contributing your beautiful poem to Missouri Bend Paper Works!

  3. Thanks right back at you, P. Now that you're back from your holidays, I hope to see some beautiful new creations on your site!

  4. wonderful poem , and this post could become an exhibition by itself...
    I think what you do is working with what the destiny ofers ....it is good , must to have courage for this.

  5. Thank you, my friend. Courage and destiny have not always worked so well for me, so this a welcome change! Al the best to you.

  6. I agree with Caio!! Loved the poem, your photos and your words. It is a beautiful post! : )

  7. Many thanks, Manon - compliments mean so much from artists I respect and admire so deeply! I am keeping such talented company lately, it seems just a little bit of the brilliance is rubbing off on me! Best wishes.

  8. Thank you Gabriella for let us have an eye into
    your working world. A beautiful poem!!

  9. gabriella this is wonderful, the words and the pictures. Your posts are extraordinary.


  10. Thank you Monika - I think the posts in which we give some inside view to our working process always get a positive reaction! The poem was inspired by a painting now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, where I worked in the 90s and was able to visit this lovely lady every day until I had to write about her!

    T, many thanks for your visit and your words. I allowed creative writing to slip out of my life five years ago - these posts are bringing something alive in me that I truly missed! I'm so glad that others can enjoy the results!

  11. Hi Gabriella,

    first of all thank you for your wonderful comments on my blog. :-)

    This is such a wonderful post! The poem (about that lovely painting) is very beautiful and i read it several times to let it sink deeper in my mind.
    I love your photographs as well. I love the abstract sense of it.
    And i really enjoyed your description of how you work. I also have a little box with hundreds of words and lines. I used that writing my lyrics. It's a great way of working i think. Ofcourse it's improvisation but also creating. I see the words and lines as notes and you compose the melody. :-)
    I love the singing bowl, maybe you noticed that i also have such a wonderful bowl at my home.

    Sweet greetz and kisses i send to you! And enjoy your weekend!

  12. So many kind words, Monica! Thank you, my friend. The singing bowl was a recent purchase - there was a little corner of the shop with a TIGER rug and dozens of bowls of all sizes. They were all beautiful, and so hard to pick just one, so I sat on the floor and tried to ring each one but only this one gave me a full deep sound when I touched it! And so, I knew it was mine. Enjoy the weekend, my dear!