Jackson Pollock : Memories Arrested in Space

Jackson Pollock : Memories Arrested in Space
Martin Gray
January 2004
Pop Culture, Biography & Memoir
5 3/8 x 8 3/8

Jackson Pollock: Memories Arrested in Space is Martin Gray’s remarkable biographical poem on the life of the dynamic and controversial American painter. The narrative chronicles the reckless, adventurous, and often desperate life of the twentieth century’s most pivotal American artist, from his beginnings in the American northwest through his pioneering of a revolutionary new painting technique that came to be known as Abstract Expressionism to his death at the wheel of a car on Long Island when he was only 44 years old.Written entirely in iambic trimeter (the same meter that Gray used to write about Charlie Parker’s life and work in his internationally acclaimed Blues for Bird), Gray’s biographical poem runs more than 3,000 lines.

In Jackson Pollock: Memories Arrested in Space, Gray captures the essence of the brilliant yet tortured artist in language that reflects a Pollock painting: spontaneous, beautiful, and haunting, with bursts of energy that touch the soul and make it soar. Art and poetry lovers alike will rejoice in Gray’s homage to a true American icon.

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‘The Project’ was devised
as part of the New Deal
where artists were employed
by hiring them to paint
pictures for offices
and cleaning monuments.
The regulations were
as if for working men.
All needed to clock in
bright sharp at nine a.m.
clocking off at five
but one cold day a friend
saw Jack pyjama-clad
with work beneath his arm
who ran to beat the clock
with only seconds left.


At a dollar seventy-five
(his hourly rate to start)
Jack cleaned up monuments.
Soon his wage reduced
to only eighty cents.
Why was the drop in pay ?
When working on a horse
(its rider Sheridan
the Union general)
Jack shone its phallus up
until the scrotum shone
and from the gaping crowd
who watched him at his work
occasioning guffaws.


Once ‘The Project’ closed
then all the canvases
were from their stretchers pulled
and slated to be sold
like broccoli or sprouts
by the gross or by the pound.
A plumber bought the lot
to insulate his pipes
but when the pipes got warm
the linseed oil smelled foul
so sold them all as junk
and the dealer purchasing
troubled by the smell
sold them once again.
The whole thing ended up
with the owner of a shop
who sold old battered books.
There they were displayed
and piled on tables till
acquired by Benevy
a dealer in art junk
who paid per oil three bucks
and that’s how he acquired
named art extremely cheap:
Joseph Solman Alice Neel
Mark Rothko Jackson Pollock
and Milton Avery.
He managed to acquire
two Pollocks for six bucks
while now a minor one
is fifty grand at least.


At Axel Horn’s one day
Jack unrolled some cloth
and laid it on the floor
dripping paint on it
so keen to duplicate
Siqueiros’ bold technique
but at a farewell meal
for that fine muralist
next day bound for Spain
to fight the fascist threat
just at the point where guests
had raised their drinks to toast
Siqueiros on his way
they saw that he had gone.
Jack too had disappeared.


There was a short delay
when both were found beneath
a table wrestling hard.
What words had passed between
the master muralist
and his erstwhile friend
nobody could say.
The wrestling only ceased
when Sande intervened
with a deft right to the jaw
knocking Jackson out
soon carried out by guests
into his Model A
then Sande drove him home.

© 2003 Martin Gray