Poetry Brothel Berlin Launches Next Week

Next Thursday, May 4 at 19:00, Poetry Brothel Berlin launches (Facebook group, Facebook event, EventBrite for tickets). Poetry Brothel brings together internationally renowned and locally infamous bards for a night of poetry, performance—and payment. After great success in New York, Chicago, and London, the Brothel is opening in Berlin. The steampunk-themed launch will feature characters, costumes, intimate readings, vintage photography (complete with tint), musicians, performers, and merriment.

My friend Felicia will also be there. Felicia Faust. This is her story:

Found on the library doorstep swaddled in lingerie, Felicia was raised by a pack of wild scholars. She grew up writing poetry and painting commissions at the behest of the Devil, who was dean of the college of arts and sciences at the time. At 12, she discovered red lipstick and black fishnets, and began composing piano accompaniment for her favorite literary influences — Plato, Goethe, and Rage Against the Machine. When she was 16, she ran away to college, where – sadly – she had no other option but to obtain a Ph.D., as she was young and needed the money.

Burned out on grant proposals and her affairs with Marxists in silk turtlenecks, at 20 she left all her books and papers in an abandoned art silo in Saxony, stole a horse heading to France, and hopped a boat to England under a blue moon. In London she learned the arts of jazz dance from Josephine Baker and drinking from Zelda Fitzgerald. Eventually the flappers’ strict morals proved too much for her, and she returned to her natural habitat: the whorehouse in Berlin.

Felicia enjoys absinthe while drawing liquid poems from a well that reaches directly to Hell, thanks to a joint appointment at Our Lady of the Screaming Banshee. Sometimes she also digs small poetry shards out of her skin, after bathing in brimstone. It takes years off the eyes.

When she’s not writing poetry, songs and essays, or painting her various lovers’ genitalia, Felicia sneaks psychedelics into church water supplies. She prefers clients who have engaged in risky behavior such as whistleblowing, truth-telling, and making peace with their parents; those who prefer life without protection should be warned that her courage is contagious. Her favorite flower is the black Dutch tulip, long prized by anarchists for its aphrodisiac qualities. Her prrrr is unrelated to her relationship with the Devil, but has everything to do with the state of her soul.


It Actually Snowed

in Berlin today, and I wrote this poem. Usually I hold and pair them with paintings. But snow only comes once in late April. (Except yesterday we had hail. Twice.)


“April Snow”

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3, KJV

Tell me why
I was not good enough to be loved
I was not worth hearing, much less helping.
You have human beings and then there is the mass,
and I was not one of your people.
Or else you were an ass.

Come up with a reason
it was my fault, it was something
I did, something I said, or didn’t.
Go on, take me to task.
It had to do with the limits
of your capacity and I needed too much.
Or else I did not properly ask.

At the end of the storm
at the end of the life
at the end of the season
everything is different:
there is no I
there is no you
there is no reason.

Sometimes still in spring
the snow comes back and stays.
Even while the sun is shining,
it hails for days.
People think it’s strange,
except some of us understand:
Winter is a refugee,
rapping gently at spring’s fences,
hoping and asking, but knowing
although there is space enough
although she is strong and beautiful
although she holds a lot
Summer won’t hold her
hold her freezings hands
hold her shivering knees
hold her chilly breath.
For everything, a season.
For every season, death.


Spring Flowers, Great Art, and New Publications

Spring is here. Today I took photos of beautiful flowers to paint (or draw other inspiration) from later, at Gärten der Welt—a lovely collection of botanical gardens in Berlin.

Recently, I also saw two great art exhibits at the newly restored Barbarini Museum in Potsdam. Im-Ex (Impressionism and Expressionism) are too often combined in relatively small collections that don’t do either justice. Luckily, neither of those things is true here. The Impressionism exhibit goes back to Boudin and presents his heirs (Monet, Sisley, Signac) in their full glory. The Modern Art Classics show starts with Kandinsky and Nolde on the verge of abstract expressionism, and follows through showcasing fresh experiments from brut to silkscreening.

Speaking of which, Franklin Einspruch, a colleague in art and thought who I’m proud to call a friend, has just launched a fresh experiment in art criticism. My first reviews (1,2) appeared this week at Delicious Line: Art Criticism for the Contemporary Era. Yours can, too.


Home Fire

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (web store).


“Safe Space”

There is no safe space.
There will be no saving grace.
Wipe the slogan off your face.

The world has viruses in nests.
While one attacks, another rests.
We are evolving plated breasts.

But you have been a sanctuary friend.
Let me tell the story to the end.
Sung over the bones watching them mend.


The Broken Shell

“The Broken Shell,” oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (web store). 


Have you ever cut up a sheet of paper
to see how far its curls, uncurled, could reach?
The whole sheet’s a canvas,
but the bits can be a ream of ribbon.

Or cracked an egg instead of poking holes
in the ends to make an ornament?
The unbroken shell isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Cracked into little bits, the eggshell reaches farther
than the whole shell ever could.


Safe Harbor

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (web store).

“Dear Sir”

I have been in your head
and found it to be lacking
in furnishings and provisions.
The insulation, however,
is outstanding, protecting
the inhabitant without fail
from the inconveniences
of outside weather.


The Colossus of Hiroshima

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas (web store). 


Bring me your despair—but only a bit.
Resistance is a marathon, not a sprint.
Pour out what you must and I’ll sweeten it.

Every day I pour myself out—sometimes by pouring in.
Every day the great works of the ages wear a little thin.
Time ravages everything. No one knows what will happen.

Except in the big picture we’re all doomed, and that’s alright.
Everyone dies. Empires fall. Experts imagine they know what’s right.
Our brains tell us stories, day and night.

If you had seen Rome crumbling, what would you have done?
Written a friend, retired to think, sent away your only son?
Towards the end, it must have been clear to everyone.

At least Caesar’s corruption didn’t kill off all of life.
Our failing family has yet to face off its nuclear strife.