Poems Inspired by Morgan O’Hara’s “Nineteen Forms of Containment”

From the ekphrastic serial poem, Contain: “The 1st Form of Containment,” “The 5th Form Of Containment,” “The 6th Form of Containment,” “The 9th Form of Containment,”  In On the Seawall: A Community Gallery of New Writing & Commentary (May 25, 2021).

The 1st Form of Containment

a sphere floats in the frame
off center (earth off-kilter),
colors in darker hues than wailing sirens,
the hot zone’s viral red edging into
magenta, filling the circle majestic,
forming the body celestial, feelings
of healers encircled in care
for human bodies, ailing, o lament-
able, o able to care and to hope-
fully heal: thus harken the myriad
of echoing voices

COVID-19 #1 — “A Heightened Level of Anxiety for Emergency Room Doctors,” 2020
Sennelier shellac inks and Lefranc Bourgeois encre de chine on Silberburg handmade drawing paper, 26.7 x 38.5 inches, 68 x 98 centimeters

The 5th Form of Containment

Jags of thick, dark waves course
across an orange-red surround
and inked-in background, interrupted
by white concentric circles that as a rule
not of law but of formality have
the same center, here a small
red dot like a needle prick
In this configuration we see
at last the emptiness of a center
depending upon the multitudinous waves
which contain its dominance, and where
it’s sinking of its own weight

COVID-19 #5 — “Fears Allow World Leaders to Seize New Powers,” 2020
Sennelier shellac inks and Lefranc Bourgeois encre de chine on Silberburg handmade drawing paper, 26.7 x 38.5 inches, 68 x 98 centimeters

The 6th Form of Containment

A gash of black as from a scythe
or scalpel sharpened by fate
Razor-cut through the wires
of connection, seep of community-
spread coming to a minute satellite-
head inhaling the messy lines of communication,
erasing the ancient routes of commerce and exchange
This global operation of containment
isolates you from me, I from thou
World being slashed to bits, earth-
swathes in this catastrophic dissection
of sorts: Patient bleeding out

COVID-19 #6 — “This Is How the Coronavirus Will Destroy the Economy,” 2020
Sennelier shellac ink bleed through, opaque white ink, graphite, Lefranc Bourgeois encore de chine, collage on Silberburg handmade drawing paper, 26.7 x 38.5 inches, 68 x 98 centimeters

The 9th Form of Containment

You arrive, beloved, and my arms circle wide
in spatial form, a body-memory of holding you
long and cupping your head in my hand
but for now green hills rise in my embrace, gold-struck,
bloom-filled, the warm burgeon of June
on a breeze that strokes the neural roots
of my blue-houred concentration beyond which gray
isolation encircling me day and night holds
at bay the vision of violating social di-
stance, for instance to take a stand or speak a truth
which can be imaginatively proximate: my mind
touching yours, threading the space with love

COVID-19 #9 — “Countering the Loneliness of Social Distancing,” 2020
Sennelier shellac inks, graphite, college on Silberburg handmade drawing paper, 26.7 x 38.5 inches, 68 x 98 centimeters

About the artist

Morgan O’Hara is an artist living in Venice, Italy and working internationally. Her work has been widely exhibited and collected in museums around the world, including the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin. She has received artist residency fellowships worldwide, including from the Macdowell Colony, where she met poet Cynthia Hogue in 2008. Among other honors, O’Hara received the Lee Krasner Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019. O’Hara teaches courses in the Psychology of Creativity, most recently at the University of Tübingen in the spring of 2020.

Artist’s Statement

“COVID_19_1: Nineteen Forms of Containment” were made in response to the coronavirus and to headlines from the New York Times International Edition during March, April and May 2020. The titles of the ink drawings are taken from articles in the New York Times. The works included here are selected from the first of three series produced over nine months in 2020. The drawings were shown in the Brigitte March International Art Gallery in Stuttgart and the Zurich Art Fair, both in 2020, and were included in a group show at the Salzburger Kunstverein in Austria in February 2021. — Morgan O’Hara

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