Category Archives: Memoir (Outside Inside)

ART Basil King Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside)

Moving and Standing Still

We are still at the same address, same website (, same Flickr site for Basil King art.  But a move is a move, whether cross-country or just from upstairs to downstairs. We have moved within our house, up to down, to top half, to bottom half, to all, and now back to half.  Six different configurations since 1969…  But (no surprise) it took most of a year to pack, sort, sell, give away, and throw out…all the familiar wrenching drill of moving.

Now, we’re out of the top two floors, which have been converted into a nice apartment. No more stair-climbing. Plus improved income. Because while we we sat still, Park Slope became a pricey and desirable neighborhood. So desirable that we want to live here ourselves despite alluring offers from developers.

Now I’m writing downstairs at the dining room table.  Baz is writing in the living room where his desk fitted nicely. We have a few hideaways when we need more space for domestic life.  In fact much of the house is mostly unchanged…except for Baz’s studio. That was the big rub.

Baz and Martha in the new studio space
Baz and Martha in the new studio space

He’s now working in the front of what’s called in brownstones the parlor floor…   Very narrow and about one-third of the size he was used to. Higher ceilings, yes. Skylight, no. But it works. For now.

And since this April he’s been birding…18 are complete, as of today, September l6. All on paper, most in mixed media.   See one of them below. Do please visit the Flickr album called Bird Scripts.

Meanwhile all summer I’ve been working with Brigid Hughes, the editor of A Public Space magazine  ( on a very large condensed selection from my memoir, Outside Inside. It will be the feature of the fall issue.

I’m certain to trumpet this news more and again–in October when the print copies are in my hand and again in November. The November 5th Prose Pros reading will be a celebration of the issue, with brief readings from all the devoted Friends of Basil King: Mitch Highfill, Vincent Katz, Burt Kimmelman, Kimberly Lyons, and me.

A party after the move -- it all looks the same downstairs.
A party after the move — it all looks the same downstairs.
"Bird Script #17" - mixed media on Strathmore paper, Basil King, 2015
“Bird Script #17” – mixed media on Stonehenge paper, Basil King, 2015
Basil King Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) News Poetry Prose Writing

News! New issues: Talisman & Local Knowedge

Literary magazines live!  In print (Local Knowledge 2) and online (Talisman 43). Both new issues include work by both Basil King and Martha King.  Rarely together in print if frequently together day by day. They include more of Basil’s  “Learning to Draw” and more of Martha’s “Outside/Inside.”  Plus Talisman has Martha King poetry, to which she is returning after a long focus on memoir.

To purchase Local Knowledge, just $12, click

Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge
Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge

To visit Talisman 43 (a bonanza of poetry,essays, prose, translations and art) online, click

Please note, there are several drop-down menus at the top for the many sections of this issue. And much fine work to read and savor.

Talisman House in the dead of winter
Talisman House in the dead of winter




ART Basil King Critique Exhibitions Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) News Poetry Prose Prose Pros series Readings Writing

NEWS: Events, Publications, and a Show — November 2014

November 6 at 6:30.   Basil will read from his new book, The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand (Marsh Hawk Press, 20l4*) and his old friend Hettie Jones will read some of her not-yet published short fictions.  They are both being presented by Prose Pros at Side Walk Café, Avenue A @ 6th Street. (Free, donations requested.)

Front cover of King's The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand
Front cover of King’s The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand


November 16 at 3:00Martha King and Basil King will read from new work published in Local Knowledge, Fall 2014, a biannual literary magazine featuring art, photographs, poetry, and prose of many kinds and variations. Basil is represented by “Basil’s Lifeboat” from his “Learning to Draw” series. Martha appears twice: in a note on dead cats and in “It Starts to Drizzle,” a history of her zine Giants Play Well in the Drizzle. Gala magazine launch & reading at Swift Hibernian, 34 East 4th Street, between Bowery and Lafayette.(Free, purchase of magazine requested.)

Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014
Martha King with her copy of Local Knowledge, fall 2014


November 20, 21, 22, and 23.  Three evening performances at 7:30 and one final matinee at 3:00.   Basil will be the Narrator in “Black Mountain Songs” – a program of music by seven young composers, inspired by artists associated with Black Mountain College.  The Brooklyn Youth Chorus sings. Part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual NEXT WAVE festival. Tickets sell out quickly. If you want to attend, please connect with BAM.

A painting by Basil King (from his “Looking for the Green Man” series) will be in the BAM lobby exhibition until January 2015.

*There will be a reading and book launch for Marsh Hawk Press’s full fall list in December.




Basil King Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside)

A New York Birthday–with Cops and Hot Dogs

Hetty arrived in mid-summer.  Basil’s parents had taken our daughter Mallory out to Long Island where Esther (her grandmother) and some of her relatives could dote on Mallory while we waited on Second Avenue to deliver her sib. We two had gone up the street for Chinese food to celebrate and late that night it took me more than a few minutes on the toilet to recognize that this was a baby coming, not over-indulgence in hot Schezwan. Yike. But Baz was a tower of calmness. He proceeded to shave, shave!  while I was barely able to pull on some clothing.  “I mean it. The baby’s coming!” I gasped.

Second Avenue in the 1960s.
Second Avenue in the 1960s.

A fellow park mother and good friend who lived on Great Jones Street had an actual car, a rarity among our friends, and had offered me something priceless.  “Call,” Delores said.  “Anytime. You know how taxis are.”

“Not in my cab, lady” canny drivers were likely to calculate when waved at by a very pregnant woman and a young man holding that tell-tale overnight bag.  Baz woke Delores up. He might have been sure we had loads of time, but Delores took one look at me as we got in the car and gunned her engine.  It was not quite dawn. By this time, Baz got it. Not one of the three of us realized we were going the wrong way on Second Avenue—uptown not downtown—until a cop car with siren pulled us over. “There’s a woman in here having a baby,” Dolores managed.  It was sweet. “Follow us,” the lead cop said. We had a police escort all the rest of the way up to New York Hospital and no ticket, and not even a scolding. Dolores, still in her nightgown, drove home.

A little later was sweet for Baz too.  He no sooner arrived in the tension-drenched ‘father’s waiting room’ than he was paged.  The haggard dads-to-be glared as he rushed out. And there she was: perfect and plump, with a mop of black curls, and looking so like her father I wanted to pencil on a little mustache.

After seeing me settle down for sleep, Baz walked all the way from 72nd Street and the East River to West 42nd Street. It was a glorious summer day and at Grant’s Cafeteria, a now long-gone landmark, piles of the best hot dogs, a raw bar with clams and oysters, huge cold pickles, and tubs of spicy yellow mustard, waited. A camera crew was there, shooting something. B roll? A documentary? Baz happily signed a release, he told me, and the crew treated him to dogs while they filmed. So somewhere, maybe still, there’s film of Basil King welcoming his daughter Hetty on July 10, 1964.

Hetty this spring at the warehouse where materials for New York City dance teachers are offered free by Capezio  Ballet Makers and others.  See the website for Friends of Materials for the Arts.  Hetty teaches dance to New York kids, preK to 5th Grade. (The photo was not credited.)
Hetty this spring at the warehouse where materials for New York City dance teachers are offered free by Capezio Ballet Makers. See
the website for Friends of Materials for the Arts. Hetty teaches dance to New York kids, preK to 5th Grade.
(The photo was not credited.)




Basil King Basil King MIRAGE film Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) News Poetry Prose Readings

NEWS: New Haven Screening

Two words: quiet and intense.  Martha read from memoir about moving to New York in 1957—and finding a place where Baz could paint and they could live for $50 a month.  Down at the bottom of Manhattan Island, a block from Battery Park, when that was below what the cops called the “Fulton Street deadline.” It was almost totally uninhabited and fabulously empty all night long.

Baz read selections from Learning to Draw, showing one more time how all the intertwining parts of that epic can recombine, reorder, and be seen in different combinations  like paintings in a museum or cards in the deck.   There was Camille (Monet) on her deathbed and the Towering Ace from “Wild Cards”;  Bill Traylor, the cave painters, and Cy Twombly from “In the Movies”.   There was Hans Holbein the Younger arriving at Black Mountain with a suitcase and a small hamper of brushes and paints (from “The Real Thing Has Four Parts”) and there were the smells, sounds, images of September 11, 2001 from “Twin Towers.”

Learning to Draw Then Mark Lamoureaux projected the film,  “Basil King: MIRAGE.”  We had to do the reading first because sunlight streams into their high floor near Wooster Square till well past 9 pm and Mark and Rachel have white translucent blinds.

Mark had a screen and a projector for the DVD disk.  But not the BluRay version.  It was so well received people asked to see it again.  As a filmic introduction to painter/poet Basil King it is quite properly layered, nuanced, intricate and deserving of multiple viewings.  Once again, thanks to Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte.

Stay tuned for news of  future screenings!

Baz in his studio - the same shelf of chalks is the opening visual of the film
Baz in his studio – the same shelf of chalks is the opening visual of the film

ABOUT the film



ART Basil King Basil King MIRAGE film Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) Movies Readings

NEWS: “Basil King: MIRAGE” to play in New Haven

NEWS:  June 19, 2013.     Mark Lamoureux  and Rachel Chatalbash are hosting a screening of  the film, “Basil King: MIRAGE” and the video of  the conversation between Basil and George Quasha, “Art is Not Natural,” at 7:30 PM in their loft in New Haven.  The film, created by Nicole Peyrafitte and Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, is a portrait of the artist featuring his paintings, graphics, and text from his long poem, mirage.

Basil and Martha will be on hand to read their prose and poetry and talk.  Books will be for sale at “reading” prices – and guests are welcome.  Visit Mark Lamoureux’s  EVENTS page on Facebook for details.Martha & Basil King


Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) Writing

The world of LIFE

Looking for complementary photos for my chapbook “Seventy Years Ago in the South” – to come soon in Michael Rothenberg’s wonderful BIG BRIDGE online – I found that ole Google has the entire archive of Life magazines on line, free.

Hard to explain the impact of that magazine on us kids in the 1940s – before TV, before newspapers carried color photos, when timely war news came with whistles and surges over the short-wave radio.  I went for the issue published just after VE day — May 14, 1945.


It’s enormous: 130 pages.  And full of amazingly well-written text as well as photographs.  Not to mention ads for cigarettes and whiskey, and the smiling housewives scampering about kitchens in high heels, fancy dresses and frilly aprons.

The photos I poured over when I was seven or eight wouldn’t be shown on network TV today.

This edition pictures an American soldier the instant after being hit by sniper fire, shining blood pooling from his head.  His two platoon members, their eyes blocked with grey rectangles – to “protect their identity,” – are seen climbing over the body to fire at the shooter from a balcony in the background.

There are graphic photos of Mussolini – not just the famous one of his body hanging upside down with four others – but close-ups of his mutilated corpse.

There is a whole section on German suicides, showing mid-level bureaucrats, the mayor of Leipzig, for example, lying dead of cyanide on couches and office desks. A dreadful one shows two little boys, about five and two, with bandaged eyes, on a living room carpet after being murdered by their mother. (She was found dead in the cellar.)

If you’re of a mind to trip in a time capsule – take a bit of time with this one:   The San Francisco Peace Conference. The Broadway musical Carousel. Tallulah Bankhead and her press agent. An amazing cartoon from 1944 showing how the Germans will pretend to be penitent and harmless and then return to a total victory in 1960. The rampages of DP’s looting Nazi storehouses.

And more ghastly coverage of the still-raging Pacific war including a captured Japanese photograph of an officer in the act of beheading an American prisoner. He is kneeling in front of the small hole where his head will land.

My childhood.

Before I could read very well, I poured over the weekly copy, only rarely asking a grownup what it was about.  So did all my middle-class age mates. To think the grownups were worried about comic books!

The picture at the top is from a retailer selling actual back issues, but the entire archive is available free online at

ART Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside)

A Green Man in my Bedroom

Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then.  I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…
Here he sits in the bricked up fireplace of our bedroom in Brooklyn. I give him a bit of gin now and then. I’ve no idea what is in the hand he holds to his chest…

He used to be in my grandmother Aggie’s dining room.  He sat in the dark on a heavy mahogany sideboard.  There was enough light for me to see holes that lead inside. They frightened me, or he did.

He was “a temple ornament” Aggie told me without the slightest sense of shame or embarrassment.  I believe he was stolen from somewhere in India and sent to the West to be sold.  What gash was left behind when he was removed can’t possibly be ascertained.  (Plaster with polychrome glaze, clumsy repairs.)

Aggie was born an upper middleclass white woman in Virginia in 1878 and I’m sure she never gave a thought to how or why any of the ancient art came to be in the British Museum or the Metropolitan or the National in Washington, let alone this piece which she bought in an antique shop somewhere. Relics like this are preserved and honored in the West as they might not have been in their home countries, she might have said.  I learned later that an eerily parallel belief buffered Southern white guilt about the capture and enslavement of black people: Better off here, where they have bibles and underpants, than in their home countries.

We didn’t discuss him.  I didn’t ask her why his body is so glossy brown, why he has horns, why his skirt and cape of leaves are so blue, and what those animals and the headless white man are doing at his feet.  Very likely Aggie didn’t know.

Is that bright blue circle behind his head a halo or part of an elaborate ceremonial seat?

After my grandmother died, he ended up in my parents’ house, presiding over the counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room, just where my father always set out the cocktail-hour bourbon bottle.  I think my sister was the first to add a few drops of alcohol to the tiny white bowl on one side…and much much later my daughter Hetty made the miniature blue bowl that now sits on the opposite side.

Surely he’s a Green Man. His blue enlightenment gleaming.  Or he’s a Blue Animus, holding sway over monkeys, antelope and goats.


Does anyone have information to share?