Art Muscle

Waswo X. Waswo, an American artist with Milwaukee roots has, at this writing, moved to India where he has established himself as a celebrity, both in the field of photography and poetry. The second (India Poems) of his two books of poetry was printed there and contains seventy-five works best described as “exquisite.” Perhaps the following jewel was conceived at the Goan residence he shares with his partner… “Palm trees and sea have always seemed to be such an easy paradise.” Life in India is not so easy, however. Here’s a slice from #28… “When I take a shower, I must first chase the long red ants. They run from where they have been sipping shimmering beads of water from the tarnished, mildewed nozzle.” Or this from #53… “The woman with one eye who taps a wooden staff, smiles. The man who in the famine of ’67 watched his children’s skeletons burst slowly through their skins, smiles. The fourteen-year-olds who break rocks for the road-builders, and cough from the dust in the sweat-dripping heat, smile.” Waswo’s words are not fashioned of the stuff of in-and-out backpackers or tourists marveling at the Taj. His is another India, one wrapped in a gossamer sari shot thru with eternal sadness. It is said, Waswo writes, that “the poor sometimes lop off the limbs of their newborns to make them better beggars.” At book’s end, just before a superb glossary including “lassi” (a yogurt drink), “lingam” (a stone phallic sculpture), and “lungi” (a colorful scarf worn by men around their waists) Waswo claims to “not be able to go on” because of the heat. Readers are left with a bittersweet taste of paradise, by no means an “easy” place. Seven of the more homoerotic poems have been culled and printed on coconut fiber paper and hand-illuminated by Arvind Shrama, a miniaturist painter. They are, should you wish to share in the adventure, in the special collections department of the Golda Meir Library at UW-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Public Library. In May of 2005, they will be available for viewing at Libreria Babele in Milan, Italy. If you’re seeking good karma, India Poems is available locally at Woodland Pattern Bookstore, Voss Books, and Outwords.