10 Questions with Jesse Herzfeld

In this series I ask artist, poets, and other creators 10 questions about how they’ve maintained creativity and sanity during the past year of chaos and isolation. 

10 Questions With Jesse Herzfeld (Writer/Poet/Creator) – Cleveland, Ohio

1. How are you doing after a year of Covid-19?

It’s been a tough year. The pandemic started toward the end of my first solo exhibition and I got sick around that time,which was before testing was widely available. I still haven’t fully recovered but I’m finally able to take deep breaths again. I just had my second dose of the Covidvaccine a few days ago so I’m beginning to feel a bit more hopeful.

2. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a bunch of things. My visual adaptation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations is an ongoing project and I’ve been making a lot of smaller works that focus on certain sections and characters from my larger compositions. These smaller mixed-media works were pretty popular at my show so I wanted to create more of them and put them up on my website shop. I’ve also completed some pet portrait commissions recently including my first double pup portrait. Mainly, I’ve been working on a book of visual poetry about my personal journey as a psychiatric survivor. It’s nearing completion and I’m excited to let it loose upon the world. I have a few other things in the works that will remain secret for now.

3. How has the pandemic affected your creative output?

Health issues have slowed me down some but also made me more determined to complete things.

4. What has kept you motivated during the last several months?

As I continue to recover and I have more energy I get excited to be able to put more time toward reaching my creative goals. I have been making a lot of progress with my book of visual poetry and I think there is a sort of adrenaline that kicks in when I’m nearing the finish line of a project that has been a few years in the making.

5. What have you been listening to, watching or reading?

I listen to a lot of lectures while I’m drawing. Alan Watts is always a favorite. I also like listening to David Graeber, Camille Paglia and Mary Beard. I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking” and “Aion” by Carl Jung. The best things I’ve watched on Netlifx are “The Dark Crystal” by the Jim Henson Co., the art documentary about Stanislaw Sokolowski called “Struggle” and “My Octopus Teacher”. The new Adam Curtis series “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is also really fascinating and available for free on youtube.


6. Do you have plans for when things begin to open back up?

I’d like to travel with my partner. We were planning a trip but that has been put on hold. Since I’m a solitary artist with a home studio I feel fortunate that my day-to-day activities weren’t greatly affected, but I do miss going to the theater and concerts and visiting with family and friends indoors.

7. Have you spent the pandemic isolated or have you tried to stay connected to other creatives remotely?

Both. I work best in seclusion but I try to stay connected to my creative friends. Since I went to art school in Philly and also in London (where I was the only American in my program), my artist friends are spread all around the world. I love that the digital realm allows me to keep up with what everyone is working on.

8. Has the last year helped you venture into new creative areas?

No, I’ve still been plugging along on the same projects but without the distraction of social obligations.

9. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned during the past year?

Appreciate breathing.

10. How do you think your creative community will look once things start to open back up and things start to get more normal again?

In some ways, it will look the same because so much of it is a remote community. In terms of my local creative community, I think a lot of people have done really interesting creative work during lockdown and there will probably be some great exhibitions and poetry readings once things are back to normal.

Bio:
Across a variety of forms and mediums, artist Jessie Herzfeld explores dreams, desire, and the fantastic. Inspired by music, nature, literature, and Medieval art. Jessie’s work often contains animal imagery, surreal creatures and unusual landscapes. She works in oil paint, watercolor, charcoal, markers, photography, sculpture, and hair.

Her current work is a visual translation of the poems in Arthur Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations and can be viewed at http://www.JessieHerzfeld.com. She uses a mixed media process combining traditional materials with non-traditional media to create visionary collages that capture the moods, symbolic themes, and lyrical quality of Rimbaud’s words.

She also has a pet portrait business called Modern Tail Studios. To learn more and see samples of her unique style of animal portraiture visit www.moderntailstudios.com.

Jessie holds a BFA from The University of Pennsylvania in coordination with The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a Master of Arts in Illustration from CamberwellCollege of Arts in London. She has experience with commissions and freelance as well as teaching art classes, and she welcomes further opportunities to be involved with arts education and nurturing creativity.

10 Questions with Steven Thom

In this series I ask artist, poets, and other creators 10 questions about how they’ve maintained creativity and sanity during the past year of chaos and isolation.

10 Questions With Steven Thom (Writer/Poet/Creator) – Cleveland, Ohio

1. How are you doing after a year of Covid-19?

Emotionally, almost over flowing and at times when isolated there is anguish and tears. This is due in part to the emotional pressure involved taking care of my 94yr old Mother. Her health is not good and her mobility is questionable. Being someone struggling with dementia her days and nights are indistinguishable from one another. So fatigue and stress plays a part as well. The fact my social life is nonexistent just adds to the isolation.

2. What are you currently working on?

I am working on my body as best I can. I train with weights three days a week. And read books that are typically non-fiction and poetry from indigent poets. I watch and study global climate activity and overall geological history of the planet. I had been writing poems and editing from a long list of thoughts built up over the last 3 years. But currently not actively writing or editing anything of note.

3. How has the pandemic affected your creative output?

I have gone from writing daily to having written one poem during the last four months. I have no headspace for writing. I’m in a solitary world, with the mentality to grind through it.

4. What has kept you motivated during the last several months?

My motivation is nonexistent to write. I’m forcing myself to read and learn and exercise but I have no words to put on paper. I used to go the Cleveland Art Museum three to four times a year. I haven’t visited in eighteen months. I am hopeful that will change.

5. What have you been listening to, watching or reading?

I watch a lot of You Tube about climate and weather in general, with trailers of various movie trailers I won’t be seeing. Some music but generally only listen in the car, mainly Laurie Anderson of late, or whatever is on WCPN. I’m reading a novel The Overstory, and rereading Breath, how to breathe to improve overall health.

6. Do you have plans for when things begin to open back up?

Not really. All things are pretty much on hold until my Mother passes and I’ve completed the dissolution of her estate. It will be nice to not have to make decisions concerning the right time to shop or go see a movie. I’ll just be able to go without much concern about how many people will be present.

7. Have you spent the pandemic isolated or have you tried to stay connected to other creatives remotely?

I’ve definitely been isolated. I’ve no interest in connecting remotely. Although I’ve had an ongoing phone conversation for the last six months or so with a friend and fellow poet.

8. Has the last year helped you venture into new creative areas?

It’s been a period of self-exploration and discovery. There’s a great deal of recognizing scars from family events. My family was at its best unsupportive and emotionally distant. So, I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting and coming to terms with the consequences of an abusive childhood. In that sense I’m more at peace due to Covid isolation.

9. What would you say the biggest lesson you learned during the past year?

No alcohol no weed is best for me. And really really embrace a commitment to exercise and health-oriented practices in the many and varied forms in existence today. And finally, its critical, at least to me, to come to terms with my personal history. To be able to try and let the wounds heal as opposed to denying the damage.

10. How do you think your creative community will look once things start to open back up and things start to get more normal again?

The three venues I regularly went to and participated in, may not reopen or have  poetry nights at all. So, I’m not certain about what plans I may have. I hope to be at at the Tannery Park Jawbone. And I was part of a trio that was to read poems at Visible Voice but I’m unsure about being indoors with Covid strains swirling around. And the Last Exit readings are still Zoom so until that changes very little will be different than how things are now for me.

Bio.

I’m a father for two young independent minded adults. When they were young, they traveled with me to some of my Pro bowling tournaments. I was a PBA member for a decade and also ran a bowling pro shop business during that time. Along the way I won the Greater Cleveland Bowling Association Masters title and also contributed to winning two team titles. After closing it down I returned to Baldwin Wallace in 2005 to complete my degree in business. With the mistaken belief, the combination of work experience and education would make me a valued employee in a company. While I maintained employment during the 2007-08 crash and afterwards, my career peaked at store manager level for three different supplement companies. When my Mother had an aortic valve replacement surgery in December of 2018, I quit working to take care of her. With the help of my sister, that has been going on for close to three years now. During that time, I also completed and published by John Burroughs, Crises Chronicles Press a selection of poetry titled, The Strength of Flowers.

New Poem – My Mind

My Mind (A Study In How I’ve Disappointed My Parents)

My mind is a used book shop.
It is filled up dusty, piled precariously.
Packrat, hoarder, floor to ceiling.
Unorganized to the outsider,
but to me…
organized chaos. Just right.

My mind is an old record.
Scratched, crackle, pop.
Ring wear cover art. Dollar bin.
It skips a few songs but plays.
Patti Smith, John Coltrane, Lou Reed.
In constant rotation. Soundtrack.

My mind is a medicine cabinet.
Old needles. Haunted. Demonic.
Ghost clang bottles. Glass, shaker.
Bad pills traded for good. Prescribed.
Still not right. Quite far left.
12 steps…baby steps.

My mind is a part-time bully.
Part-time bullied. Fetal position.
Fulltime beautiful mess. Scarred.
Post-traumatic stressed out. Tired as fuck.
Sober, alcoholic, addict. Recovery.
Reclusively on call. Ringer off.

My mind works. Day laborer, inconsistent.
Sometimes nefariously thoughtful.
Vulgar. Tongued whipped truth.
Medicated, for my protection.
From me. From everyone.
The results are varied.

My mind is a collected works. A tattered journal.
Bound with string cheese. Lactose intolerant.
44 years. Ginsberg’s madness marked up.
Emerging nonconformed. Identity crisis.
I’ve disappointed my parents. Again.
They’ll be okay.

The Mercy Rule

The Mercy Rule

Several years ago, I was asked to be an assistant coach for a little league baseball team my friend Steve was coaching. This team wasn’t just a typical little league team however, this team was was made up of the left-over kids who didn’t make the other squads around the area. Also this team only had nine players, there are nine positions in baseball, meaning we had no bench, and as the pitching coach, I had no idea how to put together a rotation for the upcoming season. Upon meeting the team, I was immediately aware that we were going to have a rough go of it.

Let’s take a look at the roster. 1st base, Kenny, who was about six feet tall and had absolutely no idea how to play baseball. His size made us coaches excited because we felt we have a potential power hitter, but during his first at bat, Kenny walked to the plate holding his bat upside down. In the field he was not much better, as he put his glove on the wrong hand and backwards, but he was tall, so we stuck him on first. On 2nd base, Julio, the coach’s son who had some raw skills but a debilitating fear of the ball. So much so, that he would jump out of the batter’s box whenever a pitch was thrown and, in the field, he would often play with his eyes tightly closed. The shortstop was Evan, our most gifted athlete, who had a good discipline about him and honestly his only downfall was that he couldn’t play every position at once, so he suffered a great bit for his team. At 3rd Base was Shawn, who had zero interest in sports but surprisingly was gifted with the best arm and could throw from 3rd to 1st with ease, which was never accurate but on the occasion he stopped a ball, he would get it near Kenny, who would normally just watch it sail by into the fence behind 1st base. In leftfield there was Nick, who was one of two brothers on the team, and the antagonist of all of the coaches. His skill set was his speed, but his insistence on challenging his coaches every decision and crying when things didn’t go his way tended to hinder his in-game performance. Centerfield was Andrew, who was Nick’s older brother and the oldest on the team. He was tall skinny kid with natural ability but full of anxiety about his ability to perform, which led to him often making mental errors, to which his brother would mock him. This often resulted in a in game wrestling match in left-center. In rightfield, Tony, who was a stocky and strong kid, who could throw hard and hit a ton, if he made contact. Behind Evan, he was the best pure athlete, but his weakness was that he would cry, often for no distinguishable reason. The crying wasn’t the worst part, it was that when he cried, he also would freeze in place, and it could last up to ten minutes or more. Having no one to replace him with due to our limited roster, Tony would be out in rightfield weeping while we hoped to god no one hit the ball towards him. At catcher, Simon, who was a bit of a troublemaker and foul mouthed, but he was also fearless, so he jumped at the opportunity to get behind the plate. Simon couldn’t really catch, or throw to second base, he often couldn’t throwback to the mound accurately which would delay play while the ball was chased around the field. Finally, at pitcher, Jesse, who was a pitcher by default because when I yelled out “who wants to pitch?” Jesse’s hand went up first. He wasn’t really a pitcher, but he tried which was enough.

Needless to say, this was a ragtag bunch of kids trying to be baseball players for a summer, the results were not great. In fact, we lost every single game, 0-15, but by some sick twist of fate, the little league office mandated that all teams make the playoffs. This was very troubling news to me, as after a long season of losing, player meltdowns, arbitrary crying, and a little actual baseball, I was ready to go about the rest of my summer in peace. Now I had the task of picking a pitcher to start a unearned playoff game but more so the anxiety of, “What if we win? I’ll have to do this again next week. We cannot win this fucking game. Damn it!”

The playoff was against the best team in the league. They had won every game, so our team really stood no chance. During our pre-game warmups we were informed that, our third baseman Shawn might not make it. This left us with eight players, to which I thought, “This is great, we can forfeit, go get ice cream, and I’m done!”, a sentiment shared by at least five of the players that had overheard me mumble it aloud. Steve, our coach, was not about to give up though, he was adorably committed and believed that we might be able to take down this juggernaut of a squad. Shortly before the game, the umpire asked for our line up and upon hearing we were short a player, he asked if we were going to forfeit. I was so excited to say yes! Then Steve got an idea, our opponents team had twenty players to our eight, so he asked the opposing coach if we could borrow a player for the game? To my shock, it was agreed, and the game went forward as planned.

The player we got, was Mo, and Mo ran over to our bench, stood in front of our team and said “Hey! I know I am supposed to play over there today, but now I am here! So, let’s go out there and kick some butt!” then Mo ran onto the field full speed taking centerfield. No one followed him. I had decided to start Andrew at pitcher, because he was our most rested arm and honestly the first kid I saw when I was deciding to pick one. The first inning was quite surprising as Andrew struck out the first two batters, and then the third kid up crushed a ball to deep centerfield, which usually meant a homerun, but this time we had Mo, and he tracked it down. It was the first fly ball caught all season by one of our outfielders. We were jumping up and down like we won the game. Mo flew off the field energizing the normally lethargic team. The celebration was short lived. Just as we were getting used to having Mo and his contagious attitude, off in the distance I saw Shawn, racing down to the dugout from the parking lot. This meant two things. One, Shawn had made it to the game and two, Mo was sadly going back to his team. 

We actually took the lead that half inning, and for the next few innings the game was back and forth, aided by a few fluke hits by our guys and even more errors by theirs. Andrew, who had pitched a decent game by little league standards was beginning to wear down. He also was now in a bases loaded situation, that made him extremely anxious. I called time out and approached the mound, “You alright?” I asked. “Coach, I am all kinds of stressed. This is a really not good.” he said with self-awareness of his tendency to allow anxiety to overcome him. “Do you want me to take you out?” I asked. Looking me in the eye, Andrew said “Let me try, I think I got this coach.’ The next batter was Mo, from before, and Andrew’s first pitch nailed him square in the head. I returned to the mound, and Andrew handing me the baseball said “I didn’t have it, coach. I am sorry, I got ahead of myself.”

I motioned to Evan, who walked up and took the ball. I said, “Just throw strikes and try to not kill anyone!” He nodded and managed to get out of the inning with only a few runs going against us. The next few innings we fell further behind, I used up all my regular pitchers. The last of the rotation was Julio, who was still afraid of the ball but was begging me to let him pitch. I looked at him and said, “What the hell, it can’t get any worse.” Julio faced just two batters in the 6th and final inning. His first pitch somehow hit him in the back of the head during his wind up and bounced towards 3rd base. After finally getting the ball to the plate, Julio never threw a strike, his final pitch was crushed into rightfield where Tony would normally be. As the ball bounced into the rightfield corner, Tony wasn’t there. “Where the hell is Tony?” I yelled as the bases cleared and Andrew ran from center to retrieve the ball. Then, Tony appeared, emerging from the porta-potty situated just behind the rightfield wall.

After that bases clearing grand slam, Julio immediately walked off the mound and into the dugout to pout. The problem was I had not pulled him or replaced him yet. So, I looked at my roster, and realized the only player left I could pitch was Simon. He had never pitched before, but I was in a bind and honestly, I didn’t care anymore. I called him to the mound, handed him the ball and said, “Look man, just do your best not to hit anyone and we will get out of here alive.” He nodded, then faced his first batter, to which he hit immediately in the hip. Two batters later the bases were once again loaded. Simon had also been changing his windup each batter, ending with a move reminiscent of the crane kick from The Karate Kid.

I went back out to the mound, knowing due to the “mercy rule”, if they scored one more run, the game and the season were over. I got to the mound, Simon looked up at me, “Coach, I am in a bad spot.” I said “What are we going to do? You’re our last pitcher?” Simon bit his lip, thought hard and shrugged, “Beats the hell out of me, coach. We’re fucked!” I laughed, “Hey, I feel you there but watch the language, okay. Here is the deal, Simon. You can get the next three batters out, which we both know isn’t going to happen, or do your best. If this next guy gets on, the game is over. We go for ice cream and that’s that.” Simon nodded and said, “I got it, don’t worry coach.” The next batter got up, Simon wound up, and hit him in the shoulder. The runners advanced, the game ended, and we lost. It was over. Simon walked up to me, winked, and said “That shit was easy. Let’s go get some ice cream.” So, we packed up our gear, gave a final after game coaches speech, and proceeded to stuff our faces at the local dairy queen.

New Album Out Today!

This is a collection of the only recordings of my alt-country/Americana project that was on and off from 1998-2013. I never released an album because the only studio LP I recorded was lost when the studio I recorded at was destroyed, that resulted in a long hiatus from music. The masters were lost and so as my momentum. This is all that is left. Rough cuts, demos and few live tracks.

Anyway, enjoy.

https://jeremymarkritch.bandcamp.com/album/jeremy-ritch-the-cowards-demos-live-tracks-1997-2013

Late Night Ramblings

I fall in love with afterthoughts and the names in playbills. Cast and crew. Nuts and bolts. Backstage busted non-union smoke breaks. Fuck. That’s good. Write it down. Have you cried for a smile that you never saw? A mirage. A dial tone fantasy. The best love never gets to that point. It scorches the earth then moves on. Forever is a badly cooked steak. Chewy and familiar. Paid for with coupons. The conventional version anyway. Soul mate synergy is more of a matrix of hearts. We love in spurts. As Richard Hell would say. Intimacy and multiplicity. Culture crushes called connections. Religious orders. Fast food faithful. One on one with a mirror between. We are wasted on our own selfish wine. I know love isn’t marriage’s possession. I’ve known that agreement. It’s just a subcontracted. Under god or the courts. Love is free. Birds singing duets on multiple wires. Wave length lovers. Moment to moment. Electricity is okay for mass consumption. Live more. Love bigger. Love in ways that defy sheltered norms. Kiss the moon. Kiss me too. Hugs are not deadly. Just infectious. Anyway, I’m going to bed.

New Poem

My heart burns with the readers digest. Thrown on a pyre without consent. Gasoline shoulders ignite. Carrying the weight of a world on fire. Dead eyes have no tears, only regrets. While my ghosts sing for the poets, we are mostly forgotten. Like a fallen tree, we are a silent thunder. Clapping off time in a white soul choir. Shred me dignified into your memory. Facsimile family man. Groped by the clerical collars curse. Hate tastes familiar, like the copper blood of youth. So, exercise a demonic Christ from the longing truth. For, we are glorious liars wading in our of sinful waters. Imagining elaborate punishment for such minuscule parts of life. Eternity is now and now is forever. Plant based, we will all be, one day. When the smoke clears.

Three New Poems


Rich People Fuck Weird

A slip of paper
in an old note
book was written,
“Rich people fuck weird!”
No context. No worries.
Folded it. In my pocket. Sliding out the door, just in time for the night. Lorain Ave. it was the 90s. Brutalism westside. Everything was grey, always.
we wrote poems. In alleyways. She. Summer.
The punk shows, the indie girls. I still have that piece of paper.


Father’s Day, 2019

We do love. Abruptly.
Distant we. Apart.
We do love. Hopeful.
Estranged, convoluted.
We do love. With truth.
Genuine, honestly.
We do love. Broken.
Fractured, forgiven.
We do love. In spurts.
Moments in time.
We do love. Unspoken.
Enduring. Despite pain.
We do love. Somehow.


Bookshelves

Dreaming of bookshelves.
Stacks, spines read me.
Signed copy. Auction.

Gallery talk. My image.
Quote me brush stroke, dipped in red. Scratch.

Hugs, cheek kiss.
They don’t fucking care.
The work is genius. What?

Lecture series. Greyhaired, silver fox. Podium.
I’m dead.

Four Poems About Love

Love Poems

Love poems are shit.
Shit. Love. Pray.
Or, was it, Eat Love Shit?
Either way. Struggle.
Mindful, mindless

Ghosting. Window pane
Window into pain.
Ice forms on glass, crackling.
Winters are cold here.

Smoke. ignite. Dissolve
My hands turn red, then blue.
Yellow tar.
Snow fell. I was falling. Star


Smoke Rings

Smoke rings into square pegs, ashtray eyes.
She held the cigarette like dart. Aiming it. Bullseye.
The sycamores were full of birds. Song birds. Love birds.
The soup was cold. Served white bowl diner.
Smoke rings. She made them perfect. Open mouth, lipstick cool. Puff…
I rested, coffee tired. Eyes dark circle, vulture.
Death in a vinyl booth. She smiled.
Staring hazy cloud. Eggs Benedict. 3am sleepless.
She blew smoke rings. Round pegs. Ashtray eyes.
Match sticks, vulnerable, struck heat. No more.


Orange Bike

He dared me.
Party, after party. Drunk.
Gay. Not me. Maybe?
Never sure. Never cared.
That was a kiss. So what?
Laughter, we followed
with whispered. Maybe?
Then New York. Magnetic.
Over and out.
Never again. Only a kiss.
No regret. Philadelphia was my courage. Orange bike.


Summer Lover

She. Beautiful, brown.
Black.
Stronger than aware.

My heart scraping
sidewalk gum. Sneakers
She was smiling.

Acting. Poet. Proud.
We were different. Same
Everyone kisses
like magic
at first.

White. Me. Nervous.
Brown. Her. Hesitant
Lips, soft. We were free

We stopped. Summer,
overheated. Modern lovers.
Radiator cool. She Was.

Three New Poems

Pills

Crushing pills, formica
Cold cuts. Tender touch
Rolled twenties. Credit card, chop, dice, tap.
Nose burns, tears swell.
Corduroy jacket, sweaty pants. Break the bone.
Slit wrist bath tub gin.
Blood orange, blue moon
Call me. Dawn. Call me.


School Daze

High school, wretched memory, Fuck
Grated my skin to bits. Parmesan ghost.
Priestly garb, clerical collar, choking victims.
Student body, body shaming, phobias.
Catholic cross crusted Christ. Nailed, bullied.
Fuck the nostalgia.
My classmates were cruel. They are. Repression.


Fuel

When you try to die
so much
it becomes a lifestyle

Blood letting us just
a ritual
in letting everyone down

Death trades us in
for rust
and artists that matter

So together we
sink into
our best impressions

Midwestern eyes
only see
burning hope as fuel