Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Debut Poetry Collection from a Master Teacher—Cathy Hailey



A lot is packed into Cathy Hailey’s Finishing Line Press chapbook I’d Rather Be a Hyacinth. All the poems are haiku sonnets. She tells us she learned about this form in The Poetry Gymnasium by Tom Hunley. With a few words to each line, she constructs Shakespearian sonnets with four haiku (most stanzas following the five-seven-five syllable count in three lines) and one rhymed couplet.


Most of the poems deal with nature, either the physical world or human nature as in behavior. There are also ekphrastic poems, the greater number of these describing dance performances. “Under the Sun,” her opening poem about a vase invokes movement and sensation in most lines, a call to find life in seemingly still manmade art.


Under the Sun (an excerpt)


Helios ascends,

bursting urns of golden fire,

glazing graceful winds.


Rhapsodizing lyre

song, strummed by Apollo’s hand,

transcends bound canvas.



The overall title of the collection is found in her last poem of section II.


In Life…


Hyacinths, Purple—

baby blooms adding stress, weight—

instinct maternal.


Tulips variegate

orange-yellow, dancing, coy,

above troupes of green,


singular pride, joy

even with no breeze.

In life, I’d rather


be a hyacinth,

embrace the role of mother,

live the labyrinth,


loved by a brood of florets—

barycenter of orbits.


The poet sees the hyacinth as a mother figure which transcends earthly boundaries as the “barycenter of orbits,” an outer space phenomenon where two or more bodies orbit one another. Elevation and transcendence are what the poet has her creative eye attuned to.


This brings The Dresser to the stunningly beautiful image Cathy Hailey created for the cover of I’d Rather Be a Hyacinth. The image combines a rosebud with the hint of a human profile, butterfly wings as shoulders, a lush display of purple leaves (looking like a ballet tutu), and a pair of stems that seem to represent legs and feet in ballet toe slippers.


But there is one more thing to notice and that’s the final poem and the only poem in Section III entitled “Afterword”. Hailey makes a swipe at “long-winded verse in “In Closing”. The ending couplet redeems:


In Closing (excerpts)


To curb long-winded

verse—haiku, haiku sonnet—

excess rescinded.



There’s magic in condensing,

precision in expressing.


Like many William Shakespeare plays, Hailey provides an epilogue to her collection of haiku sonnets. I’d Rather Be a Hyacinth is a notable first collection from a poet who is gathering her power after years of teaching others about poetry and writing.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Visibility of an Artist: Giuseppe De Nittis


The Dresser wasn’t planning to write about “An Italian Impressionist in Paris: Giuseppe De Nittis,” the exhibition that closes today February 12, 2023, at The Phillips Collection. However, several factors congregated in the Dresser’s consciousness that needed outlet.

—Number one is that De Nittis sometimes painted in a remarkably engaging Realist style and other times he experimented such that both Realism and Impressionism show up together which seems a contradiction in styles but work fascinatingly well in his paintings. Most striking is La parfumerie Violet where the background figures and buildings appear Realist and the foreground figures are Impressionist (a man at the right side of the canvas whose lower body disappears against the building’s black backdrop and a woman carrying a basket who feet blend with the wet street). 


—Number two is that De Nittis died at age 38 from a stroke and at the rise of his career. A circulating docent at the Phillips said a possible reason he isn’t better known was because the critics were unable to pigeon-hole him while lesser-known Impressionists are much better known.

—Number three is that this exhibition of 73 works, 60 by De Nittis coming from Italy, France, and the United States is not going to be shown anywhere else after it closes.


De Nittis was friends and working colleagues with Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, and Gustave Caillebotte. Renato Miracco, curator of the De Nittis Art Gallery in Barletta, Italy, and the guest curator of this exhibition shows the influence of these three well known painters on De Nittis. Interestingly, Caillebotte, though considered an Impressionist, painted in a style more known for its realism.










One more painting of De Nittis that the Dresser wants to note is Promenade Hivernale. In this painting, the realistically presented, beautifully dressed woman with melancholy eyes is the painter’s wife. The Impressionistic background shows a Japanese influence.




In the United States, paintings by Giuseppe De Nittis can be seen in such museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In Europe, his work can be found in Musée d”Orsay in Paris, the British Museum in London, and the Pinacoteca De Nittis in the Palace of Marra in Barietta, Italy where he was born.