Jackson Pollock, part 1

‘Part 1’ because this is the first of a series of posts on Pollock, a build-up to the publication of The City with Horns this Spring, which contains a sequence of poems on his life and work.

So why Pollock? There are many artists I like, many artists who have inspired poems. With Pollock I had the opportunity to create a narrative, many narratives. A story about a great American painter, some might say a tragedy. A love story, of sorts, about two painters (Pollock and Krasner) who argue until they’re near murder, but through all that passion and fury find a new language of painting. Krasner was an incredible artist, overshadowed by Pollock; more than anyone else she understood what he had discovered, and was able to bring discipline and sensitivity to his great swirling masses of paint, so it was an opportunity to tell her story too. And then there’s the mistress, the drinking, the car … It has the makings of a B movie, the kind of movie Pollock would have liked; it is a movie, but not starring James Dean, as Pollock himself would have fancied, even though Dean was never old and worn enough, and died long before he could age into the role.

Pollock became an actor, in those films by Hans Namuth where Namuth follows Pollock around the studio with his camera, charting every move as Pollock dips and drips and dives, like a butch ballet dancer. He fancied himself a cowboy, a rebel, an intellectual, a philosopher; and all those sides of Pollock, or guises, are evident in this picture, one of Namuth’s most arresting and beautiful portraits of the artist.

Portrait of the Artist as a Depressed Bastard

His brow’s a field of furrows,
his face half-cheek in shadow,
the night of the mind
descended, a silhouette of turmoil,
his cigarette mid-air.
Eyes too black, too deep,
and behind,
the ghost mutt
tails him, the whistling
in his head, nature somewhere
in the distance, crusted,
tinged with sleep.
And still he’s coiled
in the cross and weave of giant screens:
casualties, market shares, Burger King.