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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 12: March 2022
Prose Poem: 389 words
By Lorette C. Luzajic

The Poetry of Darkness

—After George Ault *
 
  1. Russell’s Corners, upper state New York. The location of Ault’s best work. Steeped in magic, and a quiet emptiness, wide as the sky behind it.

  2. It was the age of Metropolis. The pixelated city, the city deconstructed, reconstructed, reconstituted, deconstituted. The city as Phoenix. The labyrinthine engineering of factory pipes, power surging through steel and lighting houses. Ault was a precisionist who wasn’t, really, a Precisionist. He gave them their angles, their planes, but stood apart.

  3. Skyscrapers, he said, were “tombstones of capitalism.”

  4. He himself lived in the star-spun frost of bleak and blue small towns, without electricity, without running water. He relied on his wife. Galleries would barely show his work.

  5. His family had been wealthy once, before the crash.

  6. After he drowns, after the five days it takes for them to find him, after they declare the icy accident intentional, his widow describes him with a quotation from Nietzsche: “Unless there be chaos within, no dancing star is born.”

  7. George does not join the artist colony in his neck of the woods. He prefers the isolation. It is why he moved there in the first place.

  8. All of his brothers are dead. It happens like gunshots, one after the other, with their mother there in between them. Gone, gone, gone, gone. All of the men, by their own hands.

  9. He, too, will follow that darkness.

  10. And who will blame him? The cold comfort beckons.

  11. The paintings. Cool, linear, complex. Dispassionate and reserved.

  12. But then, there was this. “Ault has summoned up the poetry of darkness in an unforgettable way—the implacable solitude and strangeness that night bestows upon once-familiar forms and places” (Roberta Smith, The New York Times, 16 December 1973).

  13. A modest output, though. The handful of desolate barnscapes will have to be enough.

  14. Yes. They are. Small windows into neverwhere.

  15. They understand our loneliness.

  16. The white weight of winter, the sharp crystal tooth of night. You have been turning and tossing for hours, for days, for years. Restless in the still world. Now, even. Even in the lull of gin. No tonic to the agitated pulse you’ve long worn beneath the surface. Always knowing something’s coming, just around the bend.

 

 

* Publisher’s Notes:

[1] One of several paintings depicting the crossroads of Russell’s Corners in Woodstock, New York, which were produced by George Copeland Ault (1891–1948) between 1943 and 1948: Bright Light at Russell’s Corners (oil on canvas, 1946), held by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (link retrieved 25 February 2022):
https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/bright-light-russells-corners-679

[2] and [3] From Wikipedia:
Ault worked in oil, watercolor, and pencil. He is often grouped with Precisionist painters such as Charles Sheeler and Ralston Crawford because of his unadorned representations of architecture and urban landscapes. However, the ideological aspects of Precisionism and the unabashed modernism of his influences are not so apparent in his work—for instance, he once referred to skyscrapers as “tombstones of capitalism” and considered the industrialized American city “the Inferno without the fire” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Ault).

[6] The quotation by Nietzsche is paraphrased from his philosophical treatise, Thus Spake Zarathustra (published in German from 1883 to 1885).

Primary sources of information about George Ault’s life include the memoir by his widow, Louise Ault, Artist in Woodstock: George Ault, the Independent Years (Dorrance Publishing, 1978); as well as sketch books, correspondence, and other written materials on file as George Ault papers: 1892-1980 at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

Lorette C. Luzajic
Issue 12, March 2022

is from Toronto, Canada and writes prose poetry, flash, and other forms of little stories. Her work has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies, including Gyroscope, Free Flash Fiction, Bright Flash, Club Plum, Red Eft, and Indelible, among others. Her story The Neon Raven won first place in a writing challenge at MacQueen’s Quinterly, and her work has been nominated multiple times for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Her most recent of six collections of prose poems are Pretty Time Machine (2020) and Winter in June (2021). Some of her works have been translated into Urdu.

Lorette is founder and editor of The Ekphrastic Review (established 2015), a journal devoted to writing inspired by art. She is also an award-winning visual artist, with collectors in 30 countries from Estonia to Qatar. Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Two Must-Read Books by The Queen of Ekphrasis, commentary in MacQ-9 (August 2021) by Clare MacQueen, with links to additional resources

Featured Author: Lorette C. Luzajic at Blue Heron Review, with two of her prose poems (“Disappoint” and “The Piano Man”); plus “Poet as Pilgrim,” a review of Pretty Time Machine by Mary McCarthy (March 2020)

Fresh Strawberries, an ekphrastic prose poem in KYSO Flash (Issue 11, Spring 2019), nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize

 
 
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