Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love, Luther E. Vann and Aberjhani (art and poetry)

Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love, artwork by Luther E. Vann and poetry by Aberjhani

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

· Publisher: Soar Publishing, LLC, 2008
· ISBN-13: 9780972114271
· Hardcover, 144 pages
· Price: $39.99

I have long, long been an Aberjhani fan. I came across his work many years ago online, as is more often now the case for many of us—to make our literary discoveries over the Internet. Yet how soothing, reassuring, to know that with all the changes and progressions and regressions of time and technology, some things hold true: art awakens and joins. No matter what the venue. Whatever our life experience, whatever our particular and individual view on the world around us, art illuminates and connects us. Art, one might argue, really is just the expression of love. Just as limitless, just as boundless, just as astounding.

And then this gift arrives, this grand and pleasingly heavy book. Unwrapping, I knew this would not be the kind of read that one zips through on a spare weekend hour. Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love is the kind of book one places carefully on the coffee table, inviting visit after visit after visit, over time creating a bond. In some 140 pages, I found not only the expected poetry of Aberjhani, but also more than 60 vibrant art reproductions by artist, Luther E. Vann. Now, this was new to me. I relished the additional discovery. Even as I read the lush work of the poet, the corresponding reproductions reflected the words in yet another medium. The artist Vann works in paint that resembles colored fire—the kind that one knocks one’s head back to gaze upon in the night sky on Independence Day. Fireworks, nearly liquid fire, in every blazing color and few of them muted, but pure, in shivering and shimmering lines. On closer inspection, I learned the artist sometimes uses chopsticks to paint instead of conventional brushes. Ah, I thought, that explains it. I could envision the chopsticks dancing across the black canvas—for Vann’s work is always on a black canvas—and could imagine the sparks that traced their dancing path.

Both artists, the painter and the poet, are from Savannah, Georgia. Various essays in the book describe the meeting of the two, pleasingly drawing a circle at the conclusion. In the first meeting, Aberjhani writes his poetry to correspond with Vann’s art. By conclusion, Vann’s art comes to life in illustrating Aberjhani’s poetry. Art breeds art, life gives life. Vann has also spent time in New York City, and it seems his artwork reflects this, too: the beat and pulse of the great metropolis, the life that is born of the street, the milling of color as it blends and separates and blends again. His work is at times like neon on canvas, bright lights, and has, too, a dream quality, perhaps because of the ever present black background, reminding one of those mysterious dreams that haunt throughout the day. His paintings are often crowded with figures that intermingle and overlap, seem born of one another, yet remain distinctly alone.

Aberjhani is also known as author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance, The Bridge of Silver Wings, and The Wisdom of W.E.B. Dubois. He publishes often in various publications, print and online. His poetry has an intensely intimate courage, the sort we would all wish to have, but too often hold protectively back.

Muscles stretch from star to moon to heart,
shrink to a single comet; the sweet
heave-ho of flesh awakens to higher intention.
Pain like an over-efficient android
builds metallic agonies of nerve and thought.
Joy like a forty-day flood of acrylic roses.

The two artists are a perfect match, words as vibrant as image, image as emblazoned with fiery color as poetry. The occasional essay enlightens as to the inner workings of each, building anticipation for the pages ahead and beckoning return to the pages behind.

I once watched Time grow fat
then explode in my face
as if too much pain
or too much love had gathered too fast
into a single small space.

The Universe said, “Let me show
your soul something beautiful.”
And I then recalled two things:
the Disciple who loved his Teacher,
and the main reason I was born.
I watched Time disappear and tasted
upon my fingers the colors
of a vision still hot with truth.

I return to this book time after time, as one does to art—for inspiration, for a reminder of what is still hot with truth.

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