Untitled by Morris Graves

Poets on the Coast participated in a workshop led by Susan Rich at MoNA on Sept. 6, 2014. The poets wrote in response to works in the summer exhibits.
No Name Peak
I want to reach the peak
so I walk in forest dense, dark
walk up, down in uniform growth
blinks of sun appear and fade
I look up but see no sky
I am caught in a fabric
that breathes and whispers
that holds hands
covers eyes
smells of green.
When I spin I cannot tell
if I stop in the same place
that I began.

This peak has no name
because there is no peak
no summit.
I am here to discover
my own height.
- Dale Sylvain

What Cows Know

        ~ after ‘Wind Across the Flats’ by Guy Anderson

Noses to the ground,
cows do not consider
the lowering clouds,
do not register the
threat of rainfall.
They are not dismayed
by diving prices or the
hole in the barn roof
and are unaware of
warring over rights to
water, rights to land,
ancient grudges, staked claims.
And yet they know a thing or two.
They know pastures and
sweet mornings, the easy heat
of the sun on their shoulders,
dropped low to touch their
noses to the ground.
They know better than to
poke those noses into politics,
religion, other people’s business.
Cows do not know how to move
Congressional gridlock or
reinforce the infrastructure,
but they do know heartache,
and they fully understand alfalfa.

- Susan Blackaby


Ode to Rural Winter 1935

            ~ after Morris Graves, untitled, 1935

Praise the barren roads and barren rivers.
Praise the remnants, the dank.
Praise the smudged outhouse,
the one gray steeple.
You don’t need us.
You don’t need libraries and Ferraris.
You don’t need bright pink cotton candy
and plastic ring pops in florescent green.
You don’t need Gilligan’s island
or even blues harmonica in a Chicago bar
with the bright flare of beer.
You don’t need our understanding.
You have all the places for quiet to hide.
- Deborah Bacharach


In Opposition to the Title Prairie
             ~ after Wesley Wehr

Small picture shows

bands of mixed media

a sky, a beach

and in between those,

a band of white and blue

waves, breaking far out at low tide

It could be sky above

distant snow-capped mountains

seen across a brown prairie

But it’s not.

I’m surprised the artist doesn’t know that.

- Tia Hudson


Ecology of Neglect

          ~ after Invocation by Bradd Skubinna

My early enrichment was summer

at your house.  We were inherently fragile,

pretending to rip out our internal

organs and splay them in binders

to be saved for the day when a teacher

would be generous enough to seat us

together and use microscopes.


Always, always seat the x-acto

knife front and center, the Bunsen burner

at the back.  If these two are separated,

erasers and pencils and compasses

can sit anywhere in relative peace.


We were a misty application, sharing

plastic kisses and trading lunches—nutrition

facts always quite thorny. Then we collapsed in

crosshairs and bricks, and years layered on

orbit after orbit.

- Tarisa  A. M. Matsumoto


On the Eve of the Harvest Moon

         ~ after “Floating Feeling” by Bradd Skubinna

Self-imposed gratitude
led me to the indigo doorway
where I brushed beams
of miraculous light
from my crystalline sleep
wearing windy heaven in my hair
I stumbled up those moaning stairs
to the smoky fragments of
the knife-edged past
glowing trails
led back to the cinder rocks
where we played thistle games
drank red joy
and danced through feather memories
the soaring grove embraced us
and with log eyes
fenced us in
protecting our
secret portal moments
whispering pillows
guided our glass souls
as we floated
invisible to the misty swing
of the dripping thorns
- Lea K. Galanter
Footprints in the Night Desert, 2012

            ~ after Susan Skilling

Where have you gone?
Vanished in secret under blooming desert stars.
Scorpion jitters tug fears,
    tight held in ink fisted swirls.
The high left owl hoot smudges the sharp center
    to soft looser turns.
Open up to the foamy draught of deep night ale.
The monkeyshine moon fractures the sand.
Glimmer glints to follow coyote’s trail.
- Gina Hietpas

After Viewing Toutle River

More like a gentle Chinese Wash
Than the cold, clear river where
Aunt Virginia took us for picnics
The summer I was ten and Mother
Sent me to Kelso while she had
Throat surgery and so Ginny had six kids
Instead of the five Rube’s cancer left
Her to raise alone. She’d close the shop
Early and make a picnic of hot dogs
And  peanut butter sandwiches and we’d cram
Into the car and drive to the river.
Kathy was 12 and sat with her Mother
And I played with my cousins who
Knew how to swim. It was how we spent hot
Summer nights, poor as we were,
 Ginny exhausted and the tiny house a shambles
Since Kathy chased the last housekeeper
Away. It’s what I remember, like sleeping
On the top bunk in the girl’s room, lettuce
And mayonnaise on white bread that mushed
To fat balls in our hands, the pine walled
Basement room Rube built for the boys,
The smell of airplane glue and Tony teasing
Snakes, snakes on the steep trail we slid
Feet first down our way to the pool.
And nights  Ginny went back to the store,
We climbed the tire the boys hung in
 the canyon Maple, taking turns past dark
they hauled  us up and back and pushed
so  hard and high a fall would kill us.
Only Kathleen and I are left,
And this gentle river meandering through a glaze
Of well-placed bushes, which cannot capture
The flavor of those days
Or the ache now they are gone.

- Julianne Seaman


Gallery Plastique

We are all art-
ful dodgers
to fill our eye sockets
with spare change,
spare parts,
twist ties,
hollow glass,
spherical shapes,
modern ephemera,
shiny Mylar,
candy wrapper
stained glass windows,
hanging blue water shadows.
Let me art-
iculate how difficult it is
to leave off looking in the museum.
The only solution is to touch
what is left in the gift shop –
buy a book on Morris Graves,
for a son, geometric earrings
to wear home
felted hat in the mirror
ceramic wine stopper
perfect sentiment enclosed
in an envelope,
walk out the door
pretending to be Matisse.

- Mary Ellen Talley


Any mailman will tell you that postcards
aren't the place for confessions.

Confessions are too long winded,
too slippery and smudged to live
in the small blank space on a card.

They defy symmetry with more
yellow on that side,
more white over here.

Ever true, ever false, confess
if you must but beware, you may find
yourself in a captivating collage.

- Beverly Fesharaki

Universe Held Together by Leaves and Flowers

We love behind the mulberry paper,
torn edges and paint. Encased in creamy
matting that extends only to the frame,
we laugh.

Ours is the gray space between flowers
and leaves. We live in the squiggles
that snake through what matters.  

Green leaves that dance in the corner
and diamonds that hide in the shade
are never ours.

We are the space between.

- Beverly Fesharaki
Alice in Wasteland

                  ~after Bopulance, an installation by Brad Skubinna

Hey Alice,
Let’s get small
a wonderland of waste awaits
tiptoe through the garden of plastic floral markers
whiff the essence….smell it?
Hey Alice,
Let’s hopscotch through the maze of bottle caps and rings~
blue, red, yellow, orange, green, black~
Hurry! Faster!  Faster!
Don’t miss any… more over here!
Hey Alice,
Let’s teeter totter on these cool spoons~
Whoops!  Sent that one flying!
Strap on these pen caps…they make great stilts.
Wiggle, wobble, wheeeeee!
Hey Alice,
En garde!
Clear soda lid shields
and smoothie straw swords,
create pink plastic combat.
Is it time for Red Rose tea
and dried citrus tart?
The White Rabbit
or the Mad Hatter
might show up... you never know...
Maybe they’ll come if we find some chocolate
under the gold candy cups,
if we fashion a bread wrapper necklace
crowned by the ruby under glass...
Even the Queen might make an appearance.
- Carol Hille


The Museum

Very quiet. No laughter. No music.
Where do we go when we enter.
Would I be a painter-poet
or a poet-painter?
My struggle to express my inner life,
my heart handing on the walls,
suspended from the ceiling,
sitting in a niche near the stairway.
I cannot hear your response
to my paintings, my sculpture, my collage,
my woodblock prints.
Perhaps we would know more about you—or me—
if viewing in the museum brought
a spoken word
a song
a cartwheel
a whirling dervish
a painting with your brightest colors,
    your boldest strokes,
           your secret images—
a silence opened—
a whisper—
a giggle.
- Millie Renfrow



           ~ After Toluidine:  Blue Stain Slides by Benjamin Cobb

It was a panel of creek beds.
I could use the medical definition
that includes derivatives and analogous,
dye, and intermediates.  
But that wouldn’t describe the light.
Green and blue tadpoles, fish eye,
dragonfly reflection in the jungled
water of fallen birch leaves and moss.
And the light shining on the stones.
I’d been there once before - another life,
this stained-glass river and those stones -
before I knew there was light,
or darkness, and the word finite.

- Susan Landgraf


We three who turned on the sun,
made the world
of tinker toys and Lincoln logs,
raising invisible walls,
crafting opulent interiors
from fabric swatches,
wood scraps, and thumb tacks.
We breathed life,
animated whole families
of paint and plastic,
people who traded Monopoly money
and drove Dinky cars.
We played in the cool depths,
the calm eye of summer,
where no clumsy Gulliver,
no alien friend or cousin
could find us,
where no stamping,
running feet could
rock a world
we had all to ourselves
until we turned out the light.
- Lynn Knapp


Museum of Northwest Art


The Museum of Northwest Art connects people with the art, diverse cultures and environments of the Northwest. 



MoNA collects and exhibits contemporary art from across the Northwest, including Alaska, British Columbia, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.