ART Green Man Martha King

Green Man Mystery SOLVED

My esteemed China-scholar sister Charlotte Furth solved the question I asked last year.  Who is this wildman, who currently lives in an empty fireplace in our bedroom?  We know how he got into our possession – a purchase by our grandparents, when Asian artifacts were routinely pried from their places of origin in ways that -thankfully- horrify us today.

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…

Charlotte said he is a god of agriculture, Shennong,  and then referred to one of her  colleagues, Susan Naquin at Princeton. Who replied:

You are right. This is Shennong 神農. First agriculturalist, culture hero, associated with medicine, known in pre-Han texts. Absolutely Chinese. I’m less clear about the history of the iconography, and most of the stuff I turned up on medicine on the web is very recent and unrestrainedly imaginative. Be careful.
The statue in question is of a type familiar to me from the late Ming or early Qing, north China, I would call this one relatively unusual and nice, but to most art historians this kind of regional ceramic showing a popular god is not a high-status or high-value item.
This “leaf” outfit is common for Shen-nong as a god…I have seen many similar objects showing instead the god Zhen-wu 真武, or Guan-yin 觀 probably Shanxi province. In the auction-market world, this format (god, seated enclosed in a kind of grotto) and these materials (琉璃瓦 lead-glazed ceramic, in turquoise, cream, aubergine)(alternate palate: green, cream, yellow) are well known.  Some were indeed “architectural” and used on the outsides of pagodas, but I believe yours was intended as a free-standing altar with figure. Halos are common in this format. I presume it is perhaps one foot high? [*YES]
A proper study of the iconography needs doing. What is he holding? At some point Shen-nong holds a yin- yang symbol, perhaps here.
音. Let me see if I can find some comparables, but my best examples are on my othercomputer. The printed-book British Museum catalogue of their ceramics edited by Jessica Harrison-Hall might be your best scholarly reference: J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics – A Catalogue of the late Yuan and Ming Ceramics in the British Museum (London, British Museum Press, 2001), esp. chapter 13, 18, 19. Though there is  nothing exactly the same.

Withal, he’s just fine in our fireplace.  A friend made a small bowl for his periodic tot of gin — and there he presides.  Thank you, Charlotte and Susan.


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
Martha King Poetry Readings

Martha reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop

Martha at Berl’s Poetry Shop, July 17, 7 PM

 To celebrate publication of Bone Bouquet –Spring 2015, Krystal Languell and the other editors invite all to a reading from the newest issue Berl’s on Front Street in Brooklyn, down under the Manhattan Bridge. [F train stop at York Street.]  Please note correct date: Friday, July 17.

Bone Bouquet, Spring 2015
Bone Bouquet, Spring 2015

I’ll be there reading a section from my “South Jersey Pastorale.”

Also on hand, Chia-Lun Chang, Aimee Herman, and others.

All writers in this issue are listed at

For more about Berl’s

ART Basil King Green Man Martha King museums

Scoring at last: The new Whitney

Late out of the gate? Not to worry.

Yes, the Whitney finally got it right. A museum with space designed for being with works of art, with a glorious lightness, so we see the work, not the housing.   Only later realize the housing makes it so with its careful use of real light and the soft touch of wide-plank pine floors! I wanted to be barefoot. No clanking heels. No chill up the ankles.  No harsh edges either (unless the art proposes them.)

Whitney on the water...
Whitney on the water…

Many museums have flexible wall systems. High ceilings aren’t a surprise. But this one has a flexible boundary between inside and outside, with openings to the outside on every floor.   For a half century New York has been altering its relation with the harbor and the docks—now the city’s shoreline no longer needed for the commerce of loading and unloading freight is public space. We’ve had Chelsea Piers, for sure, but the Whitney is the first building designed to employ the new nearness of river water and open sky.

There just are two flaws: First: elevators. Not enough of them. We were visiting on a non-holiday weekday and there were lines in the front lobby for elevator space. Except for the freight elevator, they were all small (if humorously decorated). Too bad.

The second isn’t a true flaw and can be remedied at lower cost than redoing elevators: No Basil King’s! Born in 1935. Working in New York from 1951 to the present.  From a teenager steeped in Ab Ex ecstasy to the patient development of his still expanding personal vision.

But otherwise, HUZZAH for the Whitney having broken its long curse…from cramped Victorian 8th Street, to being MOMA’s cheap seats slapped onto its backside, to the brutal stone and cement home on Madison Avenue. Free at last. (Except for the pricey admission.)

"Dick T" from The Green Man series, mm/can,  c Basil King
“Dick T” from The Green Man series, mm/can, c Basil King
From "A Pigeon in Delacroix's Garden" series.  Mixed media on canvas, 2013
“Green Birds” from “A Pigeon in Delacroix’s Garden” series. mm/can, c Basil King
Night in the City, mm/can 2010
“Night in the City,” mm/can, c. Basil King
Martha King Poetry Writing

What’s old is new

Ever since going through all drawers and files (as we moved out of the top two floors of our Brooklyn house and consolidated ourselves in the bottom two)…I’ve been going through files of unpublished poetry, or poetry published in long gone ephemeral small press publications.

Some I’ve gleefully tossed!

Some I’m revising.

And once in a while – I find something I’ve no quarrel with at all. For example:


            Oboe and

a double bass

big as a baby elephant !


            Dear mother

            were you


            big ?


Something’s all wrong

with this religious hush


The seat’s too tight

we’re in the dark


            The player’s hand

            cocks against the bow

Was I

the right size


                                    this long vibration seizing







ART Basil King News Poetry Readings

News from PennSound! “The White Tablecloth” available

Basil King’s reading of “The White Tablecloth,” recorded at SideWalk Café this past November, is now available. on PennSound.  Click here!

(Thank you, Zach Carduner at PennSound for working the magic needed to create an MP3 file from an unpromising original.)

Even better — print is also available. “The White Tablecloth” appears in The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand, from Marsh Hawk Press. 104 pages, $15.  Order from SPD, Amazon if you must, or any wonderful independent bookseller you patronize.

PennSound has more: 8 minutes of Basil’s reading of “A Pigeon in Delacroix’s Garden” at the James and Mary Laurie Booksellers of Minneapolis, April 10, 2015. Publication of this text is under discussion. Stay tuned.

From the series, "A Pigeon in Delacroix's Garden."  Mixed media on Strathmore paper, ©Basil King, 2014.
From the series, “A Pigeon in Delacroix’s Garden.” Mixed media on Strathmore paper, ©Basil King, 2014.


For more birds, visit King New333 (and choose ALBUMS. Five of them contain birds).

Basil King Martha King Poetry Readings

April 10 readings at AWP off-site

The James and Mary Laurie Booksellers, 250 Third Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN, couldn’t have been a more hospitable place for poets to read.

Laurie Booksellers

On April 10, Lunar Chandelier (Kimberly Lyons) and Unarmed magazine (Michael Mann) presented:

C. S. Giscombe and Basil King at 5:00 p.m.

Lee Ann Brown, Pierre Joris, Vincent Katz, Burt Kimmelman,  Martha King,         Kimberly Lyons, Nicole Peyrafitte, George Quasha, Elizabeth Robinson, Michael   Ruby, Elizabeth Savage, and Sam Truitt at 7:00 p.m.

Basil and Cecil
Basil and Cecil
A somewhat fuzzy partial view of the audience.
A somewhat fuzzy partial view of the audience.







Special Commemorative pamphlets of work by the poets, prepared by Kimberly Lyons and printed by Ann Elliot of SoHo Letterpress in Brooklyn were distributed at the reading: Folded Silhouette (everyone in the group) and A Pigeon in Delacroix’s Garden (B.King and C.S. Giscombe only).

Some of the Laurie Booksellers wares can be found on their website:  If you aren’t near Minneapolis, try

Martha King reading . Photo by Sarah Kaplan.
Martha King reading . Photo by Sarah Kaplan.




ART Basil King Basil King MIRAGE film Movies News Poetry Writing

News! Basil King and Nicole Peyrafitte at The Walker Art Center

In partnership with Associated Writing Programs, which is having its annual meeting in Minneapolis this April, the Walker Art Center is hosting these free events Thursday April 9 from 5 pm to 11 pm:

  • 5-9:   Screenings of Basil King: Mirage, every half hour, Lecture Room, Free
  • 5:30: Basil King book signing, Bazinet Lobby, Free
  • 6:30: Minnesota Expatriates Poetry Reading, Walker Cinema, Free
  • 7:20: Minnesota Expatriates book signing, Bazinet Lobby, Free
  • 8:00: “Greatest Hits” Poetry Reading, Walker Cinema, Tickets $10 ($8 Walker members); book signing in Lobby to follow
  • 9:00: Reviewers Party—All Welcome! Drinks and revelry in the Cargill Lounge, Free
The Walker Art Center
The Walker Art Center
Opening image of film, "Basil King: MIRAGE"
Opening image of film, “Basil King: MIRAGE”

All the events are open to the public as well as the AWP attendees.  Nicole Peyrafitte will introduce the screenings, and Basil will be signing his latest book, The Spoken Word/The Painted Hand from Learning to Draw, Marsh Hawk Press, 2014.

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