Visions: Paintings Seen Through the Optic
of Poetry by Marc Elihu Hofstadter

Praise for Visions:
Paintings Seen Through
the Optic of Poetry

Marc Hofstadter wields an optical instrument that captures the rays that emanate from the interiors of things, rather than from their outsides. This is what makes him a poet, an excellent one. I believe, as he does, that the moment is the key to the eternal and color the key to the invisible. —Yves Bonnefoy

Following the Chinese dictum, "paintings are silent poems," Marc Hofstadter bequeaths the canvas word. So before Pollock he utters: "No room to breathe/in this cacophony of snow." And before the late gloomy Rothko, he hears the cry under the paint: "Death conquers all/yet there's movement/in the dark sea below it." Like the great Spanish poet Rafael Alberti, he watches Picasso's blue dancing in chains. And then chats luminously from the canvas. — Willis Barnstone

To read Marc Hofstadter's Visions is to feel you're walking through an intimate museum. One or two paintings hang in each hushed, whitewashed room. The light filters in. And then, magically, each painting begins to speak. Zen-like, Hofstadter sets his spare evocations against "reality, white,/which is unknown to us," so that we're left to contemplate again the mysteries of art and artist, color and consciousness, and to remember that "sometimes life's joys are small." — Kim Addonizio

The big questions—love, death, life—evolve in the painter's mind, flow out of the brush, and take shape and color as they hit the canvas. Why didn't I realize this before? These poems put me in that mind, as if, for a moment, I am the painter. — Clive Matson


After a painting by Jackson Pollock

The world's crazy with paint.
Dripping colors, for me, is living,
like a pilot with his jet
or Marilyn Monroe with her hips.
I swish and swagger with my stick and can
until the paint's alive and shaking
like an alligator thrashing its tail
in a teeming swamp.
I drip black, green, a little orange, a bit of red—
every color's in my grasp.
I exclude nothing.
I welcome squiggle, bump and streak.
I splash them out on the naked canvas
until it's live as a lake of fish,
as jazz, as me and my baby
making it all night.


After a painting by Chang Dai-chien

This gold mountain, my California dream.
Sun's rays fan from its summit
like a Giotto halo.
Sky and cloud are angels' vestments.
Green torrents cascade down ravines.
Evil's black fingers clutch up from below.
I'm of China and see darkness
as part of the brightest sun,
yin in yang, the Tao in everything.
Here the West of sunshine meets
the delicate poetry of my childhood,
splashed black
blends with dazzling gold.