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Visual Cues

(Art Meets Poetry — and Vice-Versa)

Poet: J. Mark Beaver / Artist: Polia Pillin 

The ceramicist Polia Pillin (1909–1991) was married to one of Los Angeles' best-loved and most enlightened poet elders, William Pillin (1910–1985).  William was born in the Ukraine and his wife was a native of Poland.  When they met, Polia had already studied at the Jewish People’s Institute, at the studio of print artist Todros Geller and at the Hull House Art Center, Chicago.

In their modest East Hollywood home Polia painted and fired her pots, William read and wrote, and their son Boris composed music in the spirit of contemporary classical.  A little studio served as both reading venue for poets and gallery space for Polia's work.  Many evenings they hosted gatherings for writers, artists and thinkers, usually no more people at a time than could fit around a dinner table.  All who attended remember those get-togethers as giving rise to some of most wonderful, canny, stimulating conversations any of us can remember being a part of—conversations about craft, music and history, politics, cultural trends—but always, and especially, poetry.

Of our two hosts, William did most of the talking.  Polia expressed herself powerfully through clay and canvas.  J. Mark Beaver has contributed two of his own photographs of Polia's work, along with his poem of tribute.

J. Mark Beaver


For Polia Pillin

She throws vases and bowls
from the Los Angeles air of silt,
paints them
with a perfect Poland:
a girl’s arm,
on which two birds sit,
one calmly in the crook of the arm,
the other grasped in the hand,
in delighted surprise,

staring into blue eyes
beneath flowing
Polish blonde hair.

Her waist is so small
and her birds love her so,
and slender horses
stand unbelievably still.

When did the surface begin to craze,
sending the fine lines
down across her face,
as if the wind,
still blowing beneath the glaze,
had blown strands of her hair
across her forehead?

She holds her arms up
at the elbows
displaying her hands
as if in surrender,
or to show that,
she can do this forever.

J. Mark Beaver was raised throughout the Pacific Rim, courtesy of the U.S. Navy.  He has studied poetry with Steve Kowit, Sandra Alcosser, Mary D'Avila and Laurel Ann Bogen; and his poems have been published in San Francisco's Tea Party magazine and in the scholastic textbook, Active Voices IV (James Moffett, Ed.).