“Jungelize my Days” – Agnes Marton and Midori McCabe

Agnes Marton is one of the poets who contributed to the anthology. Here, she describes her collaboration with the artist Midori McCabe  (whose recent projects include the wonderful book Estuary). With the kind permission of Midori McCabe, below are six of her paintings, capturing the flows and reflections of water. Unga is inspired by the Navigli Canal in Italy, Dieforella by Schubert’s song Die Forelle (the Trout), and Odori  by the Pacific Ocean.

Agnes Marton: ‘Jungelize My Days’

“What made my collaboration with Midori McCabe easy and enjoyable is the similarity between our personalities: positive thinking, searching for adventure and challenges, dynamism (to the extent of restlessness), colour- and playfulness, freedom, absolute honesty; keeping emotions in the centre of attention; making the best of all what we have; finding beauty even in tiny things (a flower, a cloud, a lucky charm) and feeling the immediate urge to show them to others in our own way… A 19-year-old Mauritian poet, Ameerah Arjanee wrote this about Midori’s work:

“Her paintings have a transmuting energy to them, like phoenixes repeatedly burning and being born. Or like rain falling and then draining away.”

“And it matches Midori’s own words quite well:

“Nature inspires me most. I often wonder why; even though ocean waves are repetitive and hit the same sand, they are never the same; I am fascinated by things like this. I would like to paint by nature.”

“On the other hand, just like Björk (whose world we adore; and who is the theme of my poem written for pop culture anthology ‘Double Bill’, to be published in 2014), we would do (almost) anything against boredom; we can’t bear staying stuck. You know the Kerouac quote: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” (On the Road).

“We have special projects.

“The images of Midori’s paintings are transferred into high quality silk using advanced laser printer and non-toxic natural dye colours. They are called dancing scarves because they fly beautifully in the sky. They were also showcased in Milan this May.* Midori had another exhibition in Milan this April within the Fuorisalone Milan Design Week, with one hundred of her digital images in glass frame created by “Le Cornici Di Luna.”

“Her forthcoming project is the “Free Hand” Exhibition at the Gallery House, Palto Alto, USA.

“The poem T-shirts I designed myself (using some key expressions from my own poems) have been exhibited in France, in Germany and in South Africa.

“I’ve joined various poetry projects (most recently the Like This Press Austen/Bronte/ Shakespeare Anthology edited by Angela Topping) but I’m editing anthologies (confluences of poetry and visual art) myself too, together with American sculptor/designer Harriette Lawler.

“Midori began studying music and painting simultaneously as a child.  She works intuitively, combining colors, textures, and forms into a fluid whole until she can hear the melody.

“Although her forms appear to be entirely abstract, she derives them from elements in nature, books, movies, songs, or everyday objects, each becoming characters in a musical play on canvas. Her artwork is basically her emotional diary. Even when she travels, she always paints in her head… Whatever she sees contributes to her art… colours, forms, movement… so she takes a note, or a photo, or makes a drawing.

“Similarly, I collect impressions and words everywhere… Strange sentence structures, patterns of leaves, traffic signs, evocative names… they might be used later in my poems, sometimes distorted, most often out of context, surrounded by my own word creations. I love writing about mythical figures too, for example about the Icelandic eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Midori told me about Furaibo, somebody who arrives with the instincts but flies away soon: and Furaibo moved in one of my poems, just like shimenawa, the ‘enclosing rope’: lengths of braided rice straw rope used for ritual purification in the Shinto religion. It happens that Midori doesn’t even realize when she gives me inspiration with a word or comment. She posted some photos of Hollow Bean Beach – and later I used this name in my own way as Hollow Dream Beach; she mentioned some strange ice-cream names and this is when I started to write my poem Flavours:

No bounderies in those dreams.

You melt in my veins

from plates and scoops,

scones and cornets, craters.

I’ll never lose your flavours.

Aileron chevalier des vosges du Nord,

pommes de terre nouvelles et girolles.

Lalande de Pomerol,

Arbois Pupillin,

Gevrey Chambertin,

Clos des Mouches.

Citrussy, Bramble & Hedge Sherbet.

Miraculum Mundi Fudge Torte.

Shaved Ice,


Wind Chime.

“Midori says, outside Japan people seem to see more Japanese in her work, and more western in Japan… but it is fine with her. As a child, she used to admire the work of European artists, their vivid colours and free forms… however her brush strokes might have been influenced by the form of Kana, full of curves, taught by her mother who is a calligraphy artist. Now Midori uses this kind of brush stroke with various colours. If it is black and white, it may look like Japanese style.

“I grew up admiring the rhythm of Hungarian poems and folk songs. I formed my own diction step by step, I started the recreation of the language for my own purposes, mainly to express the magical knowledge (I believe) I have.

“In my highly visual, dreamlike poems I make invisible processes (cores of life decisions, changes of emotions, birth and death of doubts and fears, the inner fight between our noble selves and our beasts) recognizable, and smile at them, using my poetic inventions (non-existent words and expressions, distortions, unusual punctuation, ’langwiches’ – mixtures of different language fractions) and juxtaposition.

“I talk about mysterious beings, snakes proud of their new, glorious skin, leopards lying in the middle of the canopy dreaming about their new territories and running free in the sunshine, passages leading to different empires, timeless hills of our private Edens… The word-sparing, airy compositions are full of music.

“As I write in my poem ‘Trespassers’:

‘My enladdered words / leading to secret vaults / of your senses. (…) Our bisons on rock walls / before we go on trace.’

“Both Midori and I feel at home everywhere (and lost everywhere, just a little bit, in our own worlds), have friends everywhere, work everywhere. It’s a very reassuring feeling that people in each corner of the world understand our art. It gives us new energy.”

(The title ‘Jungelize My Days’ is from my poem ‘Attraversiamo.’)

*“DA COSA NASCE COSA” Exhibition at Sala Biagi, Libreria RIZZOLI Galleria, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

‘Estuary’, edited by Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton, Moon and Mountain 2012, $59.95 hardcover, $44.99 softcover


'Estuary', edited by Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton

‘Estuary’, edited by Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton

please click on the images in the gallery above to enlarge

Just as an estuary is the interface between land and water, ‘Estuary’ is built around the metaphor of  ‘a confluence of art and poetry’.  Each page pairs a poem and an art work, in a fabulous moment of symbiosis, fluid interchange, and synchronicity, and the crystallisation of two distinct yet related worlds. An innovative work, ‘Estuary’ also includes scannable barcodes that transport the reader to online videos of the poet reading their work, or the artist at work in their gallery or studio. ‘Estuary’ thus enables a confluence of the printed and digital worlds also, allowing them to live in harmony rather than playing on perceived antagonisms between digital media and the printed book.

One of the striking things about this volume is that it is a place where metaphor is concrete and powerful. Concepts are inextricable from the metaphors that poets and artists have for them, and from the landscape of the estuary. The estuary does not just represent thought, but helps to mould it. In JP Reese’s beautiful poem ‘Sand Dollar’ (pictured above), for instance, shifting sands sculpt, and bring distinction to, the speaker’s thought: ‘ The sand moves, sculpted by wind.| Endings clarify, chasten’.

This collection also brings out the uncanniness that eventuates when two disparate worlds – land and water – overlap. Indeed, Freud’s original definition of the most uncanny involved a description of walking across the bed of a lake where water once was. Kathleen Jones perfectly captures the overlaying of land and water in ‘The Estuary’ (pictured) when she speaks of salt dissolved not in the sea but in the air, and land that ‘wander[s]’ and ‘swills’. Her estuary, that ’empties and fills,| empties and fills’ evokes the temporal nature of the estuary: it is at one time land, and another, water. Imagining these two states of the estuary at once leads to precisely the uncanny experience of walking on dry land underwater. As Ágnes Lehóczky writes in ‘Balaton 2: Spiral’, with a perfectly placed line ending that tips the reader suddenly the right way up, making them realise they had been upside down, the estuary is ‘vertigo,| in reverse’.

Many of the poems in this book are wonderfully surprising. My favourite line comes from ‘Sand Dollar’: ‘I am the arid bone of flowered stars’. With the word ‘arid’ we might well predict the next word ‘bone’, but the movement from ‘bone’ to ‘flowered’ to ‘stars’ is totally unexpected, leading and shaping the reader’s thought in ways it would not possibly go alone. The same goes for Meg Tuite’s startling evocation of sound, an unwieldy instrument, and silence in her description of her mother’s girdle in ‘Unsheathed Behind Locked Doors’  (pictured), ‘The constrained texture of an accordion’s wings| Without the music’, and Lehóczky’s simple statement ‘stars and snails have something in common’. There is so much energy in the language throughout ‘Estuary’, perhaps most so in Agnes’ Marton’s sonorous ‘Apesanteur’, where ‘partless’ echoes ‘Harbour’ and the speaker has ‘no planiverse, no maniverse| no know-all, just naked verse’.

If there is one thing we have learned so far at Poems Underwater it is that writers love to use the sea as a way of evoking the highs and lows of society, commingling and clashing material cultures. They do this pervasively by simply listing objects that jumbled together by the sea (as Linda Ann Strang does in her ‘Wedding Underwear for Mermaids’, reviewed earlier in the project). And ‘Estuary’ is no exception to this celebration of the disparate objects of our society, and the power of the water and the silt to mingle them and to make them monochrome (Mani Bour’s art work beside Lisa Gordon’s wonderful ‘The Uneven U-Turn Poem’, and Pia Lehmann’s piece beside Reese’s ‘The Sand Dollar’, both evoke the weird shapes and part-objects unified by the colouring silt). In ‘Zones of Convergence’, Pippa Little succumbs to this love of collecting as she lists  ‘sea glass and souls, bloated ships’ cats,| jellyfish and hag stones,| tampax applicators, drums and sleeves| kettles and car parts, cans of beans in Cyrillic alphabets’.

‘Estuary’ is a gorgeous book to own, full of surprises and of verse held taughtly in the hands that alters the contours of the mind.

Copyright Notice:
All art work and poetry presented here are excerpts from the book “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry.” They are copyrighted by the artists and poets and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the respective artist and poet. The excerpted pages are copyrighted by the publisher Moon and Mountain and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the publisher.

Purchase ‘Estuary’ Online


The Editors

Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet. She has been working in publishing since 1991.

She participates in exhibitions and art projects: ‘Opposition’ (USA), ‘Flow’ (Switzerland), ‘So What’ (New Zealand), ‘Stone Project’ (USA), ‘Gateway Project’ (USA), ‘Arts et Jardin’ (France), ‘Windows for Burns Night’ (UK), ‘Dharmic Angels’ (UK), ‘European Sculpture: Methods, Materials, Poetry’ (Sweden), ‘For Rhino in a Shrinking World’ (South Africa), ‘Appeal 2012’ (South Africa), ’Wool Symposium’ (Spain).

She collaborated with French sculptor Mani Bour and Japanese/American artist painter Midori McCabe. Both collaborations have been featured in London art magazines. Now she is in collaboration with Polish artist painter Malgorzata Lazarek.

Her Publications include ‘Sculpture/poésie’ (France); ‘Gateway’ (USA); anthologies and literary magazines in the USA, in the UK, Finland and Hungary; ‘The New Encyclopaedia of Hungarian Literature’ (co-author); filmographies; translations.
Her most recent publications are ‘Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry’ (USA, poetry editor and contributor); ‘Poems for Pussy Riot’ (UK), ‘Binders Full of Women’ (UK), ‘Shorelines’ (UK).

She’s a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland, the English PEN and the (Germany-based) international Sculpture Network.

Harriette Lawler

Art editor and designer Harriette Lawler is a sculptor who has shown her work in the USA and in Europe. After living and working in New York City for 20 years, in 2003 she relocated to the tiny mountain village of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, USA, where she currently resides. She also operates a guest retreat in her home there. During her career as an artist, she has curated and organized many exhibitions, was a co-founder and co-director for two artists’ cooperatives, has taught children’s art classes in New York, and is currently a member of the European based artists’ group 3rd Paradigm. Her publishing credentials in New York City include work at Rolling Stone Magazine, The Village Voice, and Popular Mechanics Magazine. Books published are Privatsphären”“Gateway: An Artists’ Time Capsule”, and of course “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry”.