Forward... These poems were mostly written between 1978 and 1985. They resulted from a long series of conversations between Jim Gehr, Steve Kuckuk and myself, with others such as Ruth Gehr and my wife, Ethel, involved to one degree or another, that raged around the fireplace at the Gehr homestead located in the small town of Gresham Wisconsin.
Since these poems have their roots in conversations, there are numbers of references to people, and perhaps even places, that may not be familiar to many of today's readers. Most of these references came out of the years Jim and Ruth Gehr experienced at Taliesen, located in Spring Green Wisconsin, the school and homestead that Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous sculptor, made his sculptural headquarters during the mid nineteen hundreds. The Wright school attracted the most famous writers, artists, and personalities of that time, including such luminaries as the writer Alexander Wolcott, a famous gourmet and author of the best selling novel While Rome Burned as well as dozens of other works, and Georgia O'Keefe, then a young woman just getting her start in art and today recognized as the most famous woman artist to have ever developed on American soil, as well as the young Jim and Ruth Gehr.
There is one reference to Owen Gromme, the wildlife artist who gained fame when he won the United States's duck stamp competition, a friend from Jim Gehr's days as the artist in residence at the Milwaukee Museum of Natural History, and references to a host of famous artists and poets such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso and Braque (Twentieth Century giants who revolutionized art with their cubist revolution and movement toward abstractionism), Miro, Rodin, Pollock, and Calder (famous modern artists) Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, and Theodore Roethke (modern American poets), William Wordsworth, the early Romantic Period English poet, and the ancient Japanese artist Hiroshige. Pasternak, Yevtushenko, Ginsburg and Solzhenitsyn are all Russian writers. The reference in "Conversations With Jim Gehr About Art" to Pablo and Daly is about a sculpture by Pablo Picasso placed in the center of Chicago by then-mayor Richard Daly.
References to Ruth and Ethel are always to Ruth Gehr, Jim's wife, and Ethel Davis, my lovely poet/artist wife. The subject of the book is art and the meanings of art. Some may find inconsistencies in both the views stated by Jim Gehr and myself. But those are the inconsistencies of intellect, not emotion. The conversations themselves are true reflections of things that were really said and laboriously recorded in my notebooks. No conversation occurred as complete as it appears in any single poem. One poem often contains the gist from dozens of conversations. But the poems are true nevertheless.
Jim Gehr is no longer living, of course. As the last poem in this volume indicates, he finally let his magnificient spirit slip away from life into that sleep which is no sleep. Still, by at least a few of us, he is remembered. These poems are the way I remember him.