Poetry News

Talisman Features Special Section on George Quasha

By Harriet Staff


We've been going back and taking a deeper look into the new issue of Talisman (we made mention of Joel Lewis's essay on Baraka last week), and appreciating the generous portfolio of writing by and about George Quasha. The special section is edited by Burt Kimmelman, who provides an introduction. Kimmelman writes:

George Quasha’s presence in the life and work of a great many poets, artists, musicians and filmmakers is most remarkable. And so nearly a dozen critical appreciations of his achievements in the arts have been assembled here. Written by luminaries in their own right, they are meant to broaden awareness of Quasha’s unique contributions in a number of fields of endeavor. George and Susan Quasha (a marvelous artist herself) have been mainstays in a community located close enough to New York City to be an instrumental force in the city’s artistic and intellectual goings on, yet far enough north of the city to have developed a collective character and outlook that may owe something to the bucolic experience possible there. The Quashas put down roots, specifically in Barrytown, New York, having already become a part of the avant garde that was taking shape during the 1960s and ‘70s in the city and its environs.

What follows is a selection of Quasha's poetry from his "preverb" series, drawings from the Dakini-Duende Series, a Quasha bibliography, and essays on Quasha's myriad works ranging from his poetry to his music to his visual art to even his axial stones project. Andrew Joron offers to guide us through the field of axial stones, writing:

Thinking of George Quasha's Axial Stones project, I am reminded of the long tradition of poets handling stones, in both the figurative and literal sense of "handling." Stones want to be touched both by the poet's words and by the poet's hands. Touch me—two words that summarize the aim and origin of art. Stones especially tell words that they have weight. Some stones cannot be moved by human hands alone. Are there words like this?

Some stones seem to float in midair. The Earth is one such stone, hanging over an infinite abyss. Every stone stands for the entire Earth, just as words stand for things. The weight of a stone results from the attraction of all other stones (the weight of a word, from all other words).

Quasha's axial stones stand in precarious balance. They present an exquisitely fine moment in time: they are about to fall, but they have not yet fallen. To be alive is to inhabit that moment. The axial stones conduct gravity: they guide it to the point where its hold on stone is made visible. We can watch the fingers of gravity playing—wondering, momentarily baffled—at the precise point where the two stones meet. In time, gravity will pull the stone down. But it has not yet figured out how to do so.

Quasha has written a fraction in stone, challenging gravity to solve it. The top stone is the numerator, the lower the denominator. If the denominator were zero—as it sometimes is—the solution would be infinity, where the numerator-stone, the Earth-stone, falls forever into the void. Kant, who had no idea of the expanding universe, considered a static cosmos in which the stars must be poised perfectly, the attraction of each canceling out that of the others—if this were not the case, the stars would gravitate toward one another, collapsing in a universal conflagration. Quasha's stones stay, even as they say, even as they perform the way a thought holds at bay, this cosmic collapse.

Keep reading on, and be sure to read through the rest of the essays and poems in the portfolio. After that, it may be a good idea to revisit some the writing Quasha did back in April 2014 for a little blog called Harriet.