Inspired by the works of Marvin Way.
"Studying the masterpieces of visionary Melvin Way... you see him creating synaptic connections between real things in possible and impossible ways, all with great graphic imagination." Deciphering the drawings is something only Melvin Way can do, each "a sort of three dimensional thesis; compressed to 4" x 5" of a reused piece of scrap paper, a refined—almost elegant—haiku." Melvin Way's drawings: Melvin Way: The Cocaine Files Dossier (1989-2017).
Way meticulously builds up the surface with layers of tape, covering deliberate markings he's thickly drawn in ballpoint pen, leaving the remnants of older thoughts obscured but sometimes still visible beneath an edge. The works are given titles like "Carborane" (combination of boron, carbon, and hydrogen atoms) and "Orthodontics" (specialty in dentistry).
Melvin Way was born in South Carolina in 1954. Raised there and in Brooklyn, he studied briefly at the Technical Career Institute before mental illness left him homeless, in and out of psychiatric care and the city’s shelter system. While admitted on Ward’s Island, Way met art teacher Andrew Castrucci. Drawn to Way’s private, dedicated system of art making, Castrucci has been his champion and collaborator ever since.
This poem is featured in Bacopa Literary Review 2018:
Deciphering is Something Only I Can Do
by Devon Balwit (for Melvin Way)
So much noise inside my head, each
molecular bond resonating, words themselves
overtoned, like Tuvan throat song, the
geometry of letters vibrating, one note for
straight lines another for arcs, homophones
warring, rights with wrights, iron pikes
clanging, the air inspissate with the unseen
like a stadium crowded with refugees, like the
antechamber to the underworld, everyone
pleading to be someplace else, writhing with
enforced stasis. Sleep turns on its heels,
leaving me the wee hours to draw parentheses
around groups, relying on association
to keep the peace, knowing they can cluster
otherwise, but wanting perfect pairings,
pieces volatile as children. Despairing, I leave
the second dimension for the third, stacking,
as with books, as with a palimpsest, as with an
accretion of cities upon the first city, each
with its domestic dramas, its economies, its
rebellions. You cannot look at surface only,
but much dig down. Beneath is where you find
the much we rest on, the clamor, the ever-
Devon Balwit lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Rattle, Peacock Journal, Fire Poetry Journal, The Wild Word, and many others. Her chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, is available at dancing girl press & studio.