Tag Archives: memoir

Martha King News Prose Writing

NEWS: Recent Martha King prose available!

Two free and online.  One not!

  • “A Wedding” in print in Skidrow Penthouse magazine, 2013  (To order, for $15, go to skidrowpenthouse.com.)


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        http://basilkingmirage.net/

See the TRAILER      https://vimeo.com/35652974


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 Books.google.com

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?



Martha King Memoir (Outside Inside) Prose

Fifty years

A daughter turns 50 this Groundhog Day

I have no concept to fit this.  50?  The other daughter is very soon 49.

I have an overstuffed memory.  Shrink.  But I forget too much.  Stretch.  Personally I’m sure I’m not older than 35. Maybe not even that.  In every fat man there’s a thin man, dancing.  In every grown-up, a child, who wants to play.  In every blended woman/man, some who chase and some who chase after. And some giggle and others sob. That’s normal. But a 50-year-old daughter?

Not a Canadian clergyman!  This was taken in our loft on Whitehall Street by Lynn St. John.
Basil drawing  on Whitehall Street in 1959. Photo by Lynn St. John.
Martha smokes a cigarette in North Carolina
Martha smokes a cigarette in North Carolina, 1961













I do remember a despicable doctor in Grand Haven, Michigan chastising me for using a toboggan “at your age.” (I was 35.) I do remember a nice neighborhood yoga teacher telling her class that people can do yoga in their fifties! (I was 61.)

Yesterday is tomorrow’s face. Shrink.

I’m only 28 years younger than my mother, who died in 2000 at 92. Stretch.

Accordians wheeze and are music simultaneously.

Our two children have children – the most normal thing in the world. But their dad and I are now their last bulwark. Everyone in the generation before ours has passed into the dark. Too many in the generation almost ours have done the same. I have no concept to fit this.

Except for an upwelling of gratitude, so acute as to be almost absurd. Stretch.

Except for a deep pinch of fear, so sharp as to need immediate denial. Shrink.

Withall, here is a section from my (unpublished) memoir about birth adventures fifty years ago…:



Mallory was a tiny, skinny 17-month-old with a firm sense of herself the summer Hetty was born. Mallory is from the smaller order. She had weighed in at just two ounces over five pounds. The young nurses at New York Hospital solemnly and wrongly assured me she’d catch up. She was physically mature. She had exquisite blonde eyelashes and binocular coordination.

“Probably over-carried,” a young resident said, wowed by her ability to follow his finger with both eyes. He also assured me her small size hadn’t anything to do with the tumor she was born with, that walnut-like aberration, poking out of her mouth. It was attached by a thick stem coming out of the ridge in her jaw where her bottom teeth would be.

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Martha King Writing

Martha is in BEAT SCENE

BEAT SCENE #65 –Kevin Ring, editor, has just published a large section of my BMC memoir. Contact kev@beatscene.freeserve.co.uk for info on how to order.