About allenshadow

I am a novelist, poet, songwriter, recording artist, former journalist and public relations pro. Born and raised in the Bronx, I currently live in upstate New York. My artistic career has jogged from poet to Nashville songwriter to recording artist. When I released my debut album, "King Kong Serenade" earlier in this decade it was the culmination of all my experience as an artist. I had come full circle. I had finally married my poetic voice with my music. My lifetime has led me to what I am today, a rock poet. I always knew that’s where I was headed, but I had many stops to make along the way. It feels pretty good to have finally arrived. More about my career as a rock poet can be found on my Web site: http://allenshadow.com. My intent for this blog is to become a meaningful, useful part of the music and literary community. With decades of experience in both the music and writing fields to draw upon, I hope my posts will also help new artists and writers. I'll also be touching on the media and political scene along the way.

Robert Frank–Poet with a Camera–Passes

Robert Frank, the master photographer who taught us to see photography and America anew, died on Monday in Inverness, Nova Scotia. He was 94.

Below, I reprise a former post on the this artistic giant:

The other day The New York Times covered the announcement of a treasure trove of images from the work of Robert Frank, one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. The National Gallery of Art has released a comprehensive archive of Frank’s work, including contact sheets and work prints, much of it never before seen by the public. It all comes in advance of Frank’s 90th birthday, in November.

As The Times says in it’s Lens Blog:

The cover image for the U.S. edition of The Americans, Robert Frank’s epochal book, spoke volumes about the state of the nation in the mid-1950s. The tightly-cropped photo shows passengers in the windows of a New Orleans trolley assuming their place in the social order of the Jim Crow South — progressing from a black woman in the rear to white children and adults up front (slide 4).

The contact sheet that contained the image showed that Mr. Frank had photographed the city from multiple perspectives, but he ultimately selected the frame that most dramatically and symbolically captured New Orleans’ racial hierarchy. Learning this photo’s backstory would be impossible without the ability to view Mr. Frank’s contact sheet. Now, such important archival material, typically reserved for scholars and curators, is just a click away.

Born in 1924 in Zurich, Switzerland, Frank took pictures in Europe and South America during his early career, but it wasn’t until he crisscrossed the seductive roads of America that Frank felt he was finally making art with his lens. With his U.S. travels in the mid-1950s, his work reached a new level, and 83 of his road images were arranged into the book The Americans.

It’s no surprised that Jack Kerouac wrote the introduction to the first U.S. edition of The Americans. The 1959 edition raised eyebrows in the media for its brute black and white candor. But The Americans, like Kerouac’s own masterwork, On the Road, opened the door to the loneness of the country’s heart and spirit and, together, they inspired a generation of artists, musicians and thinkers.

It’s interesting how foreign image makers like Frank, Mechelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point, 1970), Louis Malle (Atlantic City, 1980) are able to capture the essence of the land better than most native auteurs. In fact, with the stir made by The Americans, Frank was compared to America’s original outsider observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, whose 1835 book Democracy in America helped to define the young nation’s unique character (Is it what America brings to you or what you bring to her?).

I believe a great artist is a conduit for “place.” His subject somehow finds him, speaks through him. The artist ultimately “sees” through time as the French photographer Eugène Atget once described it. I believe such artists also see through other dimensions, some of which elude us, some of which speak through intersections of light and shadow, artifact and art, quietude and cacophony, moment and mystery.

It’s hard to describe The Americans. Language could illuminate it, could degrade it. Perhaps it’s like the stuff of dreams, the magic of which begins to disappear upon transfer to the conscious mind. So much spills from the bucket on its ascent from that deep, dark well.

I was surprised and pleased when I discovered Frank himself had linked the worlds of photography and poetry in his description of his work:

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.

Moon Landing 50 Years On

A decade ago, on the 40th anniversary of the moon landing (July 20, 1969), I wrote the following:

How strange it is that the venerable Walter Cronkite, who defined that very moment, should pass right now (he died July 17, 2009). It’s as if he and Neil Armstrong will somehow launch into eternity together, in a fitting orbit.

I was in a second-rate hotel in Eureka, California the day the Apollo 11 crew landed. I was with my own merry band of pranksters (my first wife, Carol, my sister, Alice, and friends) on a cross country trip in my 1948 Cadillac hearse. As we descended into the hotel lobby, Cronkite’s voice crackled from a TV, saying something like, “What a great county…I just don’t understand these hippies…” The TV was a table model that sat on a broken Sylvania console. Behind these proceedings, in a large picture window, a broken Native American shuffled along the street in the hot California sun. What an ironic scene. Could have been out of an Antonioni film.

To be fair, Cronkite, who had already helped turn the tide against the Vietnam War with his groundbreaking television coverage, eventually came to look upon the the so-called hippie movement more kindly.

My poem ‘Ghost Plaza’ in Gallery Show

Emerge Gallery’s “Art & Words” Exhibit — a combination of art and poetry inspired by one another — opened last night in Saugerties, NY. My poem “Ghost Plaza,” inspired by artist Ellen Martin’s photograph “Abandoned #98 Plywood and Pleats,” appears in the exhibit. Both are shown below.

Ellen Martin_Abandoned #98 Plywood and Pleats (10-10-2015)

GHOST PLAZA

By Allen Shadow

Blanked and shadowed
once curtained and live
the cratered parking lot
the power lines to nowhere
the mismatched plywood for eyes
yet can see, smell the luxe drapes
dripping sad theater where once
little ladies with purses sat for hours
beneath bulbous dryers, unaware
of the traffic and teen terrors beyond

Are there still stray coins perhaps
amid the slaughtered floor tiles
ones that might tell tales of transactions
good and bad and heated, when there
was once the throbbing of life?

The show will culminate in a poetry reading on Sunday, April 28, from 2 to 5 p.m. Emerge Gallery is located at 228 Main Street, Saugerties. The show is curated by poet, artist and gallery owner Robert Langdon.

Finalist in American Song Contest

I was selected as a finalist in the 20th Great American Song Contest, for my song “Is It Love Yet?”. I recorded the song in Nashville in the late Eighties. Trisha Yearwood sang the demo; it was signed to PolyGram (later bought by Universal). It was later released as a single by indie artist JoAnne Redding.

You can listen to Trisha singing “Is It Love Yet?” here:

I haven’t written much about my Nashville years on this blog, so thought I’d mention that I also had songs published to other major companies, including SONY, Tom Collins Music, Shedd House and Tillis Tunes.

The 20th Great American Song Contest received more than 2,000 submissions from 44 countries.

‘The Devon’ Published

Following is my most-recently published poem. It appeared in the literary magazine Waymark.

The Devon

The cup dropped from
the machine and teetered
till the syrup and
the seltzer mixed
and the cowboys
came around the bend
again and again
rifles erect
Indians on the run

My chin on my knees
skinny arms lashed
eyes ever wide
two Saturday matinee features
broken only by coming attractions
that would have to be seen
the war movies the dramas
the beach blanket bingos

I emerged from the slanted foyer
to the blinding afternoon
unsure who I was
knowing only
I wouldn’t always have to return
to the kasha-scented Bronx building
I would live in California someday
in the wild fake sunlight
I would I would

‘The Dream’: Poem Meets Painting

As part of Emerge Gallery’s upcoming “Art & Words: Ekphrasis” exhibit — a combination of art and poetry inspired by one another — I penned the poem “Dream,” which was inspired by Loel Barr’s painting “Leaving Kansas.”

THE DREAM

The dream that
comes in the barn
in the night
with Marie
and travels the road
when no one else
is admiring the purple heaven
thinking how someday
someday it might
part for us
might take us
yes just like that
everywhere and nowhere
all at once
the dream
the dream that is Kansas

Barr_Leaving Kansas

I will read the poem at a preview of the show, slated this Saturday, May 22, at 2 p.m. at the Saugerties Library, at 91 Washington Ave. The show, which opens May 6 at 6 p.m. at Emerge Gallery, 228 Main St., Saugerties, N.Y., will run through May 29. A special reading will be held at the gallery on Saturday, May 20, from 6 to 8 p.m.

‘Poet in the City’: the Lost Gem

The following is from Mat Danks’ Excavation Tape Project, which attempts to unearth previously undiscovered musical gems:

Excavation Tapes #267: ‘Poet in the City’ by Allen Shadow

kks-album-cover Wow, this is dark. And very cool. Listen here.

It’s a creeping, haunting yomp over some brilliantly bleak, industrial clangy instrumentation. Perhaps, like a gothic take on John Cooper Clarke with some pretty obvious touchpoints of Nick Cave and Tom Waits.

It’s from a 2002 album called ‘King Kong Serende’ and a bit of digging into Allen Shadow (see his blog here) suggests he’s a bit of a renaissance man. His Twitter bio states: “Novelist Allen Shadow (aka Allen Kovler) is also a music artist, poet, journalist & PR pro (APR) who blogs on writing, music and politics.” Which is what we like here on the Excavation Tapes.

If this project is all about unearthing really interesting and brilliant material lost in the banal mainstream crossfire, then we’ve got ourselves a gem here.

–Mat Danks