Sunday, November 29, 2015



ACTUALITIES by Norma Cole and Marina Adams
(Litmus Press, Brooklyn, 2015)

ACTUALITIES is the most organic collaboration between art and text that I have witnessed in at least three years (as far back as my memory allows) if not more. By “organic” I mean a natural relationship between image and word that transcends how the work was created as collaboration: the result seems created by a single author-artist rather than its two creators: poet Norma Cole and artist Marina Adams.

The effect is particularly arresting given the work’s abstraction — or maybe that’s why the coupling of art and text is so effective. e.g. this text and image (do forgive the poor quality of my Iphone photos—but I trust you get the drift):


As if we didn’t know, first jasmine and roses climbing over the fence, sort of a prison song, something I didn’t claim to know, said Veronique. First a window, then I saw them, hat pins, stick pins collar stays with monograms or hidden messages on them, plastic, brass or silver, tortoise shell or mother of pearl in order to look crisp, jump starts, “courteous” or “visitation” betrayed in his dark glasses.

While I note “couplings” between text and image in this review, I mean coupling only through a book format in which a particular text is next to a particular image.  It seems to me that several alternative pairings would be equally effective as one switches around the order in which the visual and text are presented within the book. While this effect relates to abstraction, I suspect it’s also generated by the familiarity the duo have with each other’s work—in an Author’s Note, Cole mentions that the two have been in collaboration for about 30 years

In any event, I feel, too, that one reason the pairings work so well is because of the airiness in both text and image — there is, in both mediums, a sense of space, or expanse (Litmus Press’ willingness to allow for a 8” x 11” size enhances the work’s expanse) , e.g. this “coupling”:







And yet, despite what I earlier called “abstraction,” the text does not lack specificity so that one can discern a correlation between the matched art and poem, e.g.

I am a man

so I go walking

hunting and stalking

one letter at a time.

Then I stand, sit,

play the lyre.

Its sound is crystal

light, the song of

the spheres played

with a pick, a particle

or credit card on

a fine iron gate

from paradise to

the end of the island.

Last but not least, while I’ve read Cole’s poetry in the past, there’s something in the poems in this book that makes me pause, linger and — the highest compliment of all — make me return to her prior books for another read(s). I think this pull on me can be captured by her poem:


That beautiful lamp

the way it comes into focus, a

narrowing, tightening

this moment of recognition

and I saw

a few times

what some thought

they saw

the dream world is for dreamers

Ultimately, Norma Cole and Marina Adams have created a thing of beauty, a space for meditation (I first typed “medication” which seems apt too as the effect certainly can be “healing”), a very effective actualization, and a work in which, and at which, marvel.  My gratitude to the poet, artist and publisher Litmus Press.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  I FORGOT LIGHT BURNS received a review by Zvi A. Sesling at Boston Area Small Press & Poetry Scene; by Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer Grady Harp over HERE; and by Allen Bramhall in Tributary.  Her experimental biography AGAINST MISANTHROPY: A LIFE IN POETRY received a review by Tom Hibbard in The Halo-Halo Review, Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web and Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source. SUN STIGMATA also received a review by Edric Mesmer at Yellow Field.  Recent releases are the e-chap DUENDE IN THE ALLEYS as well as INVENT(ST)ORY which is her second “Selected Poems" project; while her first Selected THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, INVEN(ST)ORY focuses on the list or catalog poem form.  A key poem in INVENT(ST)ORY was reviewed by John Bloomberg-Rissman in The Halo-Halo Review, and the book itself was reviewed by Chris Mansel in The Daily Art Source and Allen Bramhall in Mandala Web.  More information at 

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