By Tom Wachunas
“…I grew old distracting myself from what I knew to be true. And then, just like I knew it would, it came late one night, looming with slowness, from the fjords.” –from What Would Kill Me, poem by Zachary Schomburg
EXHIBIT: FJORDS – Art inspired by the poetry of Zachary Schomburg, through September 26th, presented by Translations Art Gallery at Cyrus Custom Framing, located at 2645 Cleveland Ave NW, Canton 44709, with over 30 artists exhibiting. (330) 452 – 9787 www.translationsart.com
Zachary will be coming to Ohio and doing a poetry reading and book-signing on Thursday, September 24th, from 7-9 PM, at Cyrus.
Webster defines fjord, or fiord, as “a narrow inlet or arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs...” So already, the imagery conjured in our minds sets up an expectation of encounters with the strange, dangerous, and perhaps mystical. From that perspective, this exhibit doesn’t disappoint.
After reading several of the poems from Zachary Schomburg’s Fjords, volume 1, and viewing their accompanying art works, I began to envision myself in a Quentin Tarantino movie, speaking the poems out loud, as in reporting my dreams to a psychiatrist. He’s gonna have a Freudian field day with this stuff, I’m thinking. The good doctor looks up from his note pad and pensively sucks his pen for a few seconds before mumbling the proverbial, “So tell me, how does that make you feel?” At which point I leap from the couch and punch him repeatedly in his face. As I wipe my bloodied knuckles on his chest, our eyes lock. His are wide, unblinking, terrified. “Thanks, Dad,” I say, leaving the room, adding, “I love you.”
Rest assured that such an event would never transpire in my personal dealings. But it wouldn’t be so shocking in the situations and circumstances that Mr. Schomburg describes. He does so neither with sing-songy rhymes nor metric rhythms, but rather by seamlessly blending conflicted emotional rhythms. “There is one tree for every person,” he writes in The Killing Trees, “and the trees have all started falling on the person they’ve grown tall to fall on…” His image-laden sentences are delivered with such matter-of-fact, disarmingly conversational ease that their often barbed absurdities, or their precarious and occasionally nihilistic content, can take on an edgy humor if not unexpected tenderness.
So Schomburg’s world is a fated one where, among other possibilities, people routinely wait for purposed trees to fall down and crush their skulls; where kids’ cereal is a malevolent commodity; where you might not be able to get into the movie theater because the clerk is having sex in the ticket booth; where rescue from disaster can make you just as likely to fall in love with the inevitability of death as with the rescuer.
There are many commendable artworks in this exhibit – wildly diverse in styles and media - by more than 30 artists from both the Canton area (including some made in classes at the Stark County Board of Developmental disabilities) and outside our region. The ones I find especially arresting are those that - while to varying degrees recapitulating specific imagery from Schomburg’s words - resonate necessarily as metaphors for, or symbols of the poems’ often enigmatic and metaphysical aspects.
Here’s just a partial list, pictured above in the following order. Tim Belden’s digital photo collage, Dead Star Breakfast Versus The Ming Muses (from the poem, What Would Kill Me) – a crispy contemporary Pop icon of insouciant cultural consumerism; Matt Medla’s monochromed painting on a knobless door, Boy in Waiting (from the poem, The Killing Trees) – a moving portrait of contemplative loneliness; Patrick Buckohr’s acrylic painting on a stressed wood panel, Because It Comes Right At You Does Not Mean It Comes To Save You (from the poem of the same name) – ambiguous and foreboding; Annette Yoho Feltes’ mixed media assemblage, The Relationship was Balanced by Equal Amounts of Baggage (from the poem, Someone Falls in Love with Someone) – a vaguely erotic device looking like it came from a Medieval alchemist’s lab.
This exhibit offers an intriguing take on “fate” and “bittersweet.” Many of the poems seem characterized by a wearied resolve, like knowing that even as you bite into a succulent peach, your pleasure is destined to end with cracking a tooth on the pit. And the idea of a fjord still looms large. There’s the lingering sense – alternately intriguing and cloying – that even if we’re left terribly mangled from our torturous slide down its stony ledges, there’s always the waiting arms of the sea. There, we’ll either bleed out, drown, or tread water until saved.
Life can be like that.