Poetry News

Selections from FIELD WORK: Dodie Bellamy @ Open Space

By Harriet Staff


OPEN SPACE, the official blog for San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, has just started posting selections from a small chapbook of poetry called FIELD WORK, edited by poet and playwright Kevin Killian, and SFMOMA Curator of Public Programs Frank Smigel, and hand-produced by Andrew Kenower and Lara Durback for the occasion of Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field. This most recent installment from FIELD WORK at OPEN SPACE features writing by Dodie Bellamy.

The Center of Gravity

Steel is an incredibly cooperative substance, I read in an art review. Mark di Suvero’s mammoth creations won’t tumble or crumble under their own weight, I read. He loves to sneer at gravity; he creates joy of spirit out of steel. He’s like an acrobat feeling for that invisible point, a steel whisperer, madly in love with the brawny alloy, coaxing it into graceful forms, Tyrannosaurus-sized, carnival orange, energetic and muscular, yet seeming to defy gravity like a multi-ton dancer who has lighted on the lawn. Steel geometries connect earth and sky, space and time. Primordial elements, physics, music, poetry, philosophy find their way into the mix, di Suvero’s wizardry melding the monumental and the intimate, humanizing steel. Over and over I read feisty, gravity-defying, bright.

In the rust belt where I was raised there was no poetry in steel. No art. No music. Steel meant money. Steel meant hellish, smokestacks spitting fire and black clouds. In grade school they showed us a movie about the making of steel so that we would understand where our fathers and uncles went to all hours of the day and night, returning with blackened hands impossible to clean. At 3000º the air turns a hazy orange and the solidest things—automobiles, box cars—melt and seethe. Molten metal flaring in huge cauldrons, molten metal glowing white, coronaed by yellow, coronaed by orange. The skin of goggled men liquid with sweat, men wincing like marshmallows at a friggin’ campfire. I sat there in my gradeschool deskchair staring at the pull down screen, terrified by the mill’s liquid fire, terrified of the molten center of the earth, the molten beginning of the universe, of the unremitting fires of hell they told us about every Sunday. Hell was a steel mill that boiled through all eternity, grimy men prodding an unimaginably hot vat of vile bubbling goo.

To read more selections from FIELD WORK, click here.