My Red Fez review of Christina Quinn’s Looking Up the Down Spout

s__2020-05-05_02-05-57Even in the Absence of Proximity-my review of Looking Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

 

Looking Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

Poetic Justice Books & Art (Port Saint Lucie, FL)

Christina Quinn is a visual artist and poet, born and reared in England, who has lived many years in the Coachella Valley of California. As a girl, she was the kind of person to travel extensively in Germany and ride a motorcycle around the U.K., Belgium, France, Australia, and New Zealand. As a woman, she designs houses and furniture out of next to nothing, walks her dog in the high desert, and has had solo and group art exhibits in California, Florida, and elsewhere. She is tall, bone thin, and wears her very short hair a natural platinum. I have followed her work on line for several years, admiring her large abstract paintings and distilled, minimalist poetry. A life-long visual artist, Quinn began writing poetry much later in age. She has five published collections of poetry, some of which are not available in the United States.

Looking up the Down Spout, the title of which reflects Quinn’s lifelong curiosity and willingness to take risks, both large and small, is a fine collection of brief poems, most under a page long. The untitled poems lay spare lines on a page, reminding of the delicate bones of a bird that somehow still lifts its own weight off the earth and through the sky. As one would expect of a visual artist, Quinn’s poems are filled with colors and vivid images. One reality is often altered by the play of light and shadow to reveal an alternate reality. Here is a poem in its entirety.

under the pier

sun fingers

hold tight to

green algae

softening the split

of treated wood

pink crustaceans

kiss randomly

the junctions

of dark & light

& the sea makes

entanglement

of underworld weeds

slumber eyes

catch shaded

dappled skin

swaying in time

to the tide

he smiles

in that lazy way

& the sea tilts

close enough

to taste salty skin

your eyes are green

he said

Her dreamy imagery here implies more than mere visual description, suggesting a reference to one of many definitions of quantum entanglement, that something exists only in a dream-like state of unreality unless measured, that is, quantified in some way other than mere observation, as described by Scott Glancy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in his article, “Local Realism, Bell’s Inequality, and T-Shirts: An Entangled Tale,” found in the NIST blog. According to Glancy, based on extensive experiments throughout the world, quantum particles do not have fixed properties in all circumstances. Quantum entanglement is the concept that stuff, like particles, can affect other things even when separated by even substantial distances. Quinn’s poem quoted above, in a few brief lines, conjures the impact of dark, light, color, the tide, on human observation and consequent relationships. Likewise, her dramatic changes of media and approach to her art reflect the diverse realities in which she has found herself throughout her life. Here is another poem that hints of objects being described in reference to each other, controlling effects even in the absence of proximity.

I have been dying

I feel no pain I dream in color

I hear sharps & flats

& speak chameleon

listen I won’t lie

I have been a polite spectral guest

mostly

though not in person

see here

I know the secrets of

deathly impermanence

I don’t lie       

In March of 2015, as a poetry editor for the magazine Return to Mago, I published one of Quinn’s poems. “konigsberg summer” reveals a denser play with language, but also demonstrates a consistent use of color-saturated memories.

the baltic glistens with gold

tears spilled

from the eye of a goddess

calcified in beauteous resin 

lovers who stroll the sand

search for amber teardrops

a pledge to those they love

war came

& when it was time she

walked the thousand miles to freedom

took her boy

a sheaf of love letters bound in blue

& a strand of amber tears

the memory of

konigsberg summers

caught fast in yellow sun

At the time, Quinn said in Return to Mago, “Always a painter, sometimes a poet, I was taught to appreciate language and words by my father…a lover of all things English. I learned to read from the magic found in the complete works of Oscar Wilde, bound in leather by my father’s hand.” Quinn credits her father, who died when she was 12, for instilling a great love and respect for visual and literary arts. He particularly exposed her to the great English artists and writers such as Shelley, Byron, and Blake. He encouraged her painting as a toddler, and inspired her adventures in various media and different parts of the world. As a young bride in New Zealand she diverged from painting and developed a body of work in textile arts, using a neighbor farmer’s sheep as a source of fleece that she then washed, dyed, and wove, developing a reputation for her fine textile artwork. After moving to the United States, she returned to painting, exploring the landscape and human body to create stunning abstractions. Quinn has been quoted as saying, “I like to start with a more realistic approach but quickly move onto an abstract field. I am a colorist so that is a huge part of making art for me. Intuitive color and marks please me to no end….” The Press-Enterprise June 27, 2019.

More painterly details from the natural world, and a subtle mysticism, hint of Blake in the following poem from Looking Up the Down Spout.

from the last step sometimes

I sit & feed the pigeons

they understand this perpetual motion

the four cents in my pocket

& the shoe shocked horses

bolting down cobbled streets

there’s a whirling field of energy

an obsessive compulsion to capture

something tantalizing & out of reach

i feel my dreams have been stolen

others have made silk from my visions

even so

i was born at the stroke of midnight

the cusp of yesterday tomorrrow & today

i can tie three knots in an eyelash

i can make sparks fly

i feed my friends the crumbs of my thoughts

i jangle the cents in my pocket

i watch the horses bolt

& from my frozen finger tips       

i touch the stolen dreams & execute the lie  

Many of the poems in this book are implicitly about a relationship, perhaps failed, perhaps merely complicated. Here’s one of my favorites.

the smell of insanity

& track of quick eyes

silver bells of madness

disturb the air

this autopsy must end

stop seeing the body

focus on the question

are you mad she asked

with a clay heart

he replied

yes

I am reviewing the chapbook edition, which was recently re-released as a perfect bound soft back book in combination with Quinn’s Ricocheted Memories, also published by Poetic Justice Books & Art out of Port St. Lucie, Florida. See more of Christina Quinn’s work at Christina Quinn words and art on Facebook or Christina Quinn on Instagram.

Buy from publisher Poetic Justice Books & Art

Buy from Book Depository

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Foyles-U.K.