Fred Pohlman, van Gogh, and All That Jazz

In order to get into an artist’s head, sometimes it takes a good friend of the artist – they’ve heard it all before, and consequently they know just the right questions to ask! Take another glimpse into Fred Pohlman’s world of history, passion, and creation, lead by none other than Carolyn Bennett. I enjoy all of her interviews; I think you will, too.

 

When and how did your fascination with Vincent van Gogh begin?

Well, I was well aware of van Gogh’s works since I was quite young, but my first real fascination with the ‘artist’ himself came after I began to read his letters. I had read fictional accounts of Vincent’s life previously, but it was those letters that took me over the top.

Can you give me a brief description of what your Musical ‘Starry Nights, The Life and Times of Theo and Vincent van Gogh is about?

Well I could go into a long dissertation here and give a detailed description of my Musical, but I feel that the words of the opening Song of the Musical serve to convey the overall message and ‘emotional tone’ of this work. Anyone who has read Vincent’s letters will ‘immediately’ connect with the imagery I am conveying here. The song is related ‘directly’ to the audience and is sung by the character of Theo van Gogh’s widowed wife Johanna…

 

Memories

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Post-everything Poetry: an interview with Kirby Olson

It’s no secret that at the Catskill Mountain Foundation we’re working to expand our literary programming. This month, our program has grown to include Kirby Olson, poet and professor of philosophy and humanity at SUNY Delhi. I was lucky enough to catch him for a quick interview, in which we discuss several movements of poetry, politics, and the intersection of religion and art. I realize that the title of this interview may not make sense, since we didn’t really talk about post-anything; the idea comes from a review of Kirby’s book by Andrew Tully (which, by the way, you can and should read here). So scroll on, dear reader.

Trust me. He’s an interesting guy.

 

When did you study with Allen Ginsberg?

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Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg had opened a Buddhist poetry college in Boulder, Colorado in 1976. It was called Naropa Institute.  I went there in the summer of 1977 and the summer of 1979.  Had I been able to finish my Evergreen State College degree there, I would have remained.  Although I was from the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, my guidance counselor at East Stroudsburg University suggested I go to Evergreen State College, which is a non-traditional college in Olympia, Washington.  However, while there, I found a catalog for Naropa Institute, in the student lounge. I recognized all the poets in the Naropa Catalog. I wanted to study poetry. That’s about all that I knew at the time.  I studied with almost all of the Beat poets and lived in the same housing complex. In addition to Ginsberg, I talked daily with the poet Gregory Corso, and with Philip Whalen, and many others.  There were some New York School poets there, too. Kenneth Koch was there, and Kenward Elmslie, for example.  I met all of them, and found them all quite fascinating.

How much influence does surrealism and the New York school still have on your work?

While at Evergreen State College, I had begun to read surrealist and Beat and New York School writings, even though none of the professors at that time were poets.  I found their work in the library.  It was much better to study with the Beats and New York School writers in person.  This summer I met the poet Peter Schjeldahl, who was a New York School poet in the 1960s and 1970s, but gave up his poetry in order to write art criticism for The New Yorker.  He no longer writes poetry, as he didn’t apparently feel that there was much of an audience for his work. His poems were really good New York School work.  He’s like Frank O’Hara, to an extent, but with a more honest feel, a more Lutheran feel. He’s from Fargo, North Dakota, and was raised as a Lutheran.  There is a certain honesty in his poems that I feel in general is missing in the New York School poets.  I had sent him my poetry book, and he Continue reading