(cover art by Madara Mason)
Publisher’s Book Detail:
A bittersweet love song to the bliss, mystery, and madness of creativity, Rubble Square explores the power of art and the fickleness of art history across three millennia of painting, photography, architecture, and film. In both traditional and experimental forms, these ekphrastic poems interrogate timeless questions of perception, inspiration, appropriation, objectification, alienation, self-destruction, and transcendence. Throughout, marginalized visionaries–including women artists, artists of color, rural artists, and neglected masters–are celebrated for their brilliance, their originality, and their resolve. Poems from Rubble Square have appeared, or will soon appear, in some of our best literary journals, including North American Review, Copper Nickel, Los Angeles Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, American Literary Review, Appalachian Review, The Maine Review, Diode, Cold Mountain Review, and Plume, among many others.
“In this dynamic collection of ekphrastic poems, Adam Tavel time-travels through the centuries to construct a stunning compendium of artifacts, paintings, photographs, film and more that illuminate the myriad forces that shape perception and creativity. Tavel brings to life a chorus of characters—schoolchildren Zooming the Pledge, a doctor photographing his native Scottish streets, Bosch considering an apocalyptic fire, or archaeologist Howard Carter. Here, too, we see how iconic images—like Bruegel’s winterscapes or Wyeth’s dreamlike vistas—become a lens through which the poet reconsiders private memory. Whether he is memorializing the wartime suffering of civilians and soldiers or musing on the golden cache of an Anglo-Saxon king, Tavel reveals human truths beyond glittering surfaces that catch the eye. Rubble Square is a dazzling exploration of the power of images to document and transform our collective lives.”
“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in the hands of a skilled poet a thousand words can capture the essence of a picture. Or in the case of Adam Tavel, the paintings and photography of an impressive array of artists ranging from the familiar—Kahlo, Cassatt, Lange and Riis—to (for me at least) the less familiar: Henry Fuseli, Caspar Friedrich, Willard Metcalf, Robert Blomfield. And Tavel does so with elegance and passion. This is a marvelous collection from a marvelous poet.”
“Through both sonnets and elegies, Adam Tavel explores the timelessness of the human figure in art, the beauty and spectacle of a body. Absence is at the heart of many of these ekphrastic poems, whether it’s an unfinished portrait, the outtakes of a film, or lost bison skulls. Whether object or oil painting, each made piece of art finds a second life in the poem, where the dead are “absolved by ecstasy” and the living’s future landscape is foreshadowed in its portrait.”