P o e t r y   P r o j e c t
Carla Drysdale      Abeer Hoque      Rustin Larson      Tyler Sage      Emily Tuszynska



These collaborations with contemporary poets first began in 2002 while in residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In exchange for a painting or print I'll invite a poet to respond directly to one of my painting(s), that they weave their thoughts and writing as close as possible to the image(s) of their choosing. The end result is a new piece that exists from the conversation the poem brings. I'm honored and thankful to the poets who agreed to collaborate with this project and offered their time and words so generously.








It was snowing and the landscape was beginning
to glow eerily with the blanket of whiteness.
A winter sunset tinted the snow-covered plains lavender
and filled one’s soul with a strange calm.
In the haze the snowfall created, my father saw a figure cross the farmyard,
moving from the house to the barn. The figure paused a moment
and placed a mitten on his snow-covered tractor, the jag-toothed
mouth of the windshield bearded with snow.
My father grabbed snow from the bank of the pond
and ground it into his eyes and into his mouth, swallowed it.
Snow: about an inch of large flaked fluff covering the black asphalt.
I had been driving late and I was tired of the highways slicked with
new snowfall.
I jogged down the stairs and to the door near
where our car was parked out in the biting near-zero ice and snow.
I got outside and my breath hovered and then condensed
into a fine mist of snow.
When I got back to my room,
I watched the falling snow through the window.
I saw my father walk out among them, the beacon of his cigarette
shining, the large snowflakes crashing silently all around him.



Rustin Larson



The Carberry’s farm rested on the border and had fields
that stretched on flatlands of those two states.
Elmo, who was not with them that evening, was their only son
and he inherited the house and fields,
to harvest the corn that would slowly, after a hard
season in the fields, be transformed.
After lunch, Ruby and her parents paid respects to Polka and then
drove, past many cornfields, home,
near the gnarled fence posts and barbed wire
that protected a farmer’s cornfields from my dad’s televisions.

The cold black Civil War relic hadn’t been fired in her memory,
The black silhouettes of trees and windmills and houses.
The storm arose, bruise-black and fierce.
They bought two five-cent bags of hot buttered popcorn
and slipped through the black curtained entryway to find their seats.
When the lights blackened, first there were the newsreels: “The March of Time;”
automobile racing; dare-devil riding; motorcycles and cars crashing
through flaming debris; airplane stunt shows; Winston Churchill
speaking; London fire raids. There was a cartoon of black and white
cows and horses and mice tip-toeing and skipping in a drafty rundown
hotel. Ruby cast her vision toward the glassy black window
and noticed the wrought-iron flower stand in front of it.
Her eyes were not soft, but black and without pupils—
filled with a near supernatural mischief.
A redwing blackbird buzzed and screeched, the field
glimmered in the picture window’s moonlight like a slab of black marble.

Ruby noticed that the power
lines had started to sag and coil on the ground like mounds of black
spaghetti. Ruby’s hands were anxious and as restless as black birds,
the reflection of the glinting black water of the hotel’s closed pool.

Rustin Larson

Something Feral

for Ken Dubin

something feral

underneath its skin

behind the masque

empty eyes

blood lines mark

that old map

that used to be

now it's moving

now it's morning

a state between

then and after

a place of its own

holding its own

the feathers fan

the feathers close

painting space

where there was no space

once upon a time


there was something feral


Abeer Hoque
2011, VCCA





Field Study
for Ken Dubin
     I have crossed this stubbled field,
navigating the narrow layer of the present,
     the moment thin and sharp
     as the first ice rimming the rutted track.
Sap was retreating into the oak
     like a gas flame turned low
     and the greens were fading,
as that particular moment
     is now fading, crow vanishing
     over the horizon—just the call’s echo,
and the mind’s thought: crow, lingering—
     sinking down beneath the surface . . .
     I have been supported
by the changeable, the immaterial,
     have stepped against the honeycomb
     of vibrating atoms that makes up
what passes for certainty, pellicle
     of substance between the self
     and the dissolving reaches of the known.    
The field burrows through time.    
      It hunches its back and shakes
       the generations off,
shakes them under its broken ground.
     Each winter the slim twigs
     of the forgotten graveyard’s copse
 are knotted with more buds,
     the branches re-iterating themselves
     as they grow, their fractal tracery
making a shifting, moire veil
     against the sky’s whirring light.
    I have stood on ground swept
by their shade, shadows shortening
     and twisting north, then west,
     and again lengthening
along what was once a stone wall,
     heaped harvest of up-turned stone
     warming and cooling in turn—
now is your time on the surface, stones—
     already tangled in thorn and vine,
     already sinking down into the field’s
dissolution, into the rotting tapestry
     perpetually reworked, strand by strand.
     I have touched this field,
gathered and wound into a nest—
     fallen, crumbling—decaying
     weave pierced by new blades—
alchemy of rain and mineral frothing
     up into the thousand deepening greens,
     green into gold, gold withering to brown,
brown folding back under to black,
     soil sweetened and turned,
     the new-tilled field layering atop the old,
seed folding into furrow, furrow folding
     into furrow into yielding furrow.

Emily Tuszynska




For Ken Dubin



is the feeling of emergence. Is the smell of a cut apple. Is rising. Is the forms created by the wind
on a coldspring day on the plains of Iowa, the streets of Chicago, the forms invisible to us and
yet felt, as if we could look up and see them between here and the blue boundary of the sky,
coming into being in the wind, intricate, invisible, joyous, rising and gone

of the rock, and yet not of the rock exposed to the elements, not some hard shear of granite
slicked by the rain or the broad red sandstone of my youth, but the rock before this: quiet, buried
deep, compressed of sediment that bore the bodies of small moving things, of early life; of rocks
moved slowly and painfully by old hands, ringing off of old shovels, of the worn headstones in
the cemetery in Sheridan where my grandparents and their parents are

of sweaters too. Yes, of sweaters. Old tennis shoes. Smeared tubes of paint one after another,
stubs of crayon, marks made with the back of a brush. Of feet unmoving for decade after decade
while the hands scrape and climb over the paper. Of the slow eater. Of a rich clear sight hard
won, hard found, hard excavated while the world moves blindingly by; I see a man in a sweater
standing in the wheat stubble center of some mad cloverleaf of interstate at an easel, a gentle
repudiation, a patient counterswimming

The continent is rising. The weight of the ice during the last ice age bowed it, crushed it down,
and that ice is gone and the northcenter of the continent is springing back into place, but slowly.
An inch a century. Half an inch.


but there was a flutist who made breathy broke-jawed music in the studio between ours, anarchic
and beautiful music, and he was from Chicago too

and there were horses that came swaying and clopping across the field to the fence for a half an
apple each and you took one's head against your chest and scrubbed his ears, his mane. He
submitted for a moment and then shook free and looked for his apple. And there were the trains
that rattled by in the night, and David with his limp and his smile

and dull cows and a trail through the leafless trees and the coming spring and

is what I think of: Reaching. I think of a kind of biological and conscious reaching that is an
expression not of some drive or some force but of life. Of the great brimming draft. Of a plant
battling joyously for the sun. Of a cell arching forward to divide. Of wind, which must find such
hard playful pleasure in its ability. Of the fact that things that reach must decay.

And what is left behind is what glows through, past all the billboards and freeways and bank
buildings, is what can be touched by the hand and seen in the small patient lines one after another,
in the rising forms, is left behind long after the rest is gone, is the patience, the slow human
patience, the attempt to see, to show that this is what it felt like to try to understand, for decades,
the move from here to there.

Tyler Sage

2011, VCCA






for Ken Dubin

A Man guides a plow steadily across a field

A curtain of air parts, then seals again behind him.

Furrows on top of the memory of furrows.

Grass is folded under the soft earth,

and a new field is layered

on top of the memory of the old.

The fabric of the view decays,

warp and weft rotting into the weave

of the grasses. The field gives way

to bramble, bramble to pine,

pine to oak. The muffling earth

is shot through with thrusting roots,

threaded with fine root hairs.


Emily Tuszynska
2005, VCCA

(After the Painting by Ken Dubin)

Undriven layers of

blizzarding diamonds

underpin paradox.

An absence of irony.

You have no actual whereabouts.

Clock is a quaint relic.

Trust the pattern's dogma.



Carla Drysdale
(2002, VCCA




(after a painting by Ken Dubin)

Blue oblivion lifted.

Everything lay behind

veils, and the unstoppable

spiral, wound around

rails of tears. A calm mind.

Mother, are you there?

What we don't know,

lives us.

Carla Drysdale
2002, VCCA








Drama Mist
(after a painting byKen Dubin)


If a line. I searched. Effort

ate all my conclusions.

The ambivalence that

binds us also divides us.

Wings would take us closer to.

In the land beyond dark

horse or pretense,

fast cars recede

Carla Drysdale
2002, VCCA

2002, VCCA
2002, VCCAnting by Ken Dubin)