The painter and poet Sally Cook has a new exhibition at UB Art Galleries. Because of the current coronavirus pandemic, UB Art Galleries has put the entire exhibition online so that you can actually travel through it and experience it virtually. Click below to visit the exhibit:

Sally Cook: 1960–Present


Those Druids Had Mooids

by Sally Cook

The Holbeins, and Turner and all of the rest
Of the painters we love—they’re the brightest and best.
Now I view deconstruction, and bodily fluids
Wiped onto the canvas, and wish for the druids.
For at least they had ritual reasons for gore
When they painted themselves blue. I note furthermore
They were always dramatic, and never a bore.

—First published in National Review


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32 Responses

  1. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Sally, what an absolute treat it’s been to wander through your world of wondrous art. I particularly like I go to Africa, Blue Oranges, and White Painting. I can relate wholeheartedly to the accompanying poem – it speaks my language, beautifully. Thank you for the splendor of this colorful online gift during grim and gray times. It’s much appreciated.

    • Sally Cook

      Dear Susan –
      The opening and attendant festivities were shut down only a handful of hours before what would have been quite an event — well chosen, well hung, and well attended.
      I cannot say enough good about the University people at U B Galleries, who
      came up with this virtual tour. I sent it to Evan; he agreed and posted it.
      I am so happy to know of your response. Just the fact that you responded to specific paintings and poems is a great compliment, for which I thank you.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Copied from an e-mail sent directly to the artist:


        I recently saw your virtual art presentation. I would have responded on the comment section at SCP, but I was a day or two late. I’ve noticed that late comments never receive follow-up comments, and so I’ve decided to respond directly.

        First of all, the virtual tour made me dizzy, and I found it difficult to turn corners, but when I finally got my bearings, I was treated to some truly amazing visual art. I have gotten used to bowls of cherries and other types of berries, but what I saw here blew me away. In particular, “A Flowering” was stunning in the way it perfectly depicted (in some abstract way) the essence of the matter. What bothers me is how you managed to keep the perimeters of the triangles so perfect when applying your paint. Your use of colors is less mysterious, though it’s not obvious to me how a person might go about it. In sum, although I have no ability to place your work in any particular school, I found your work nothing short of magnificent.

        Kip Anderson

  2. James A. Tweedie

    First, I want to thank the SCP for inviting me to the exhibition of Sally Cook’s paintings.

    Sally, What an extraordinary group of friends you have standing beside you in your garden. I would certainly enjoying spending time with any one of them, particularly Rousseau, who seems to have had a particular influence on the floral and botanical backdrops to so many of your paintings. Like Susan, I have my own favorites. For some reason, I am captivated by your Still Life with Egg Plant. It is exquisite in every way. I also enjoyed the touches of humor in your creative titles and within the paintings themselves. I smiled when I saw how in several of your paintings you had painted paintings of paintings you had previously painted, and especially so when at least one of those paintings was hanging on another wall in the same room. It was like looking into a hall of mirrors!

    For some reason, your painting of Emily Dickinson brought to mind the poem, “Patterns,” by Amy Lowell, standing in her garden, grieving in her “stiff, brocaded gown.” There are so many references to be found in your work. I wish I could walk through the gallery with you to explain them to me!

    I am glad I had the opportunity to see this side of your creative talent.

    • Sally Cook

      A hall of mirrors! Yes, art has a magical facet to it; you have the sensitivity to acknowledge it. I have always loved Rousseau. In his time he knew exactly what he brought to the table. No bombastic artist of lesser quality could remove it.
      James, when I read these comments to my husband, he quite spontaneously said “this man knows and sees more than the so-called art critics! I concur.

  3. Mike Bryant

    Your paintings are glorious. I completely agree with Susan. I especially love White Painting 1960. I collect a few paintings including from local artists, but yours are in a class of their own. It sounds like a cliche but I really mean it. I enjoyed the Virtual walk and I love the poem just as much!

    • Sally Cook

      Mike, Your gracious response to my work gladdens my heart. Fact is, you are a man of impeccable taste. The proof of this lies in your herculean efforts to sneeze out that plastic straw, self-identify as a male human and marry Susan !
      As soon as my husband Bob wins the big lottery prize, that white painting is yours !
      In Sea Turtle Solidarity, I am
      Sea turtle husbands must stick together.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    I have known Sally Cook for many years, and have always loved her paintings. Her poetry, which is widely published, also stands out as high quality work.

    • Sally .

      Your friendship is honest, forthright, long-lasting.
      I number you among the very best, and thank you beyond measure. Your words mean even more because, if you thought I was not doing my best you would. come down on me like a ton of bricks.

  5. Jan Darling

    Sally I love your paintings. Those vibrant colours remind me of the prints of Monkeys and Oranges I removed from a beautiful book on Rousseau. I had them framed and they accompanied me from London to Barcelona and cheered my wall in New York. Looking at your work I felt that time had been suspended and there was a faint ringing in my ears. My mind was wandering through a jungle of greens – and then I realised I was holding my breath as I drank in your colours. Magical!

    • Sally Cook

      I loved hearing about Rousseau — his monkeys and oranges — and the joy you received from them. I’ve always believed one can taste color. see music, physically react to tones and shapes.
      I will look at your work with new perceptions. How I wish more poets would discuss this sort of thing.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dear Jan, I love the story of your Rousseau prints of Monkeys and Oranges that accompanied you on your travels to different homes. I have a very well worn set of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis I simply can’t part with, and a beaten, old Bagpuss cat my son won for me at a fair when he was 12. His purr was meant to last for only 6 months and 20 years on, Bagpuss is still purring loudly.

      • Sally Cook

        Susan –
        I, too, have long-standing favorites. One, is C. S. Lewis, whom I carry in my heart. Another, a black glass Victorian steak sauce bottle, was given me by grandfather because, at 2 years old, I said I wanted it. Had it ever since; it has graced several window sills, and remains an everlasting bond between me and my grandfather.

  6. Sally Cook

    Jan –
    Here’s a poem I would have read at the opening.


    When an arpeggio takes flight,
    It shows you green, in minor tones.
    A small flute, made of malachite;
    One sprightly saint’s transmuted bones.

    How rich the sound that orange makes,
    So clear and unequivocal.
    The simple path to Heaven it takes
    Lies in each marigold’s bright ball.

    As ochre slants the autumn sun,
    Momentum carries you along
    The ancient path that orb’s begun,
    The echo of a brassy gong.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Sally Cook’s art (both pictorial and verbal) has always been about synaesthesia: the combined use of all the five senses to experience color, music, taste, and shape.

      • Sally Cook

        Yes, Joe – that is true. .You see more in a poem than most, so I ask you — if it is commendable to search for errors, even with the best of motives, sometimes .this becomes so routine it excludes certain aspects of poetry from discussion?.We all do it.
        However, sometimes this takes the air out of a poem. I’m not saying we should ignore errors, .only that we leave a bit of room for a discussion of style or meaning. You have often said a poem is a fictive artifact. I take that to mean that poetic license takes over when a thing may most effectively be said in the wrong way. Am I totally off base. here? .
        .More discussion on this could be refreshing. I would dearly love to hear some comment from you and others.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        What an interesting question, Sally. I have pondered over this myself. I have a lot to learn as a poet, but I have an opinion on the “search for errors” front. I would rather read a raw, error-strewn, bold and thrilling poem which looks at life from a fresh, passionate angle than read a drab, monotonous one that is technically correct. I think that the raw poet can improve on technique if they want to hone their craft, but, maybe it’s harder for the technically correct yet dull poet to see life from a color-splashed perspective. It seems that it’s only the technical composition of a poem that is held up to grave scrutiny, and this often overshadows the content, or, as you say “takes the air out of a poem”.

        Having said that, I am always open to learning. I embrace constructive criticism. I know I can fall down on grammar and meter and welcome being put back on course. I know the layout of my poems is often unconventional and I stray from strict meter. Sometimes I have a reason. Sometimes I don’t. I always welcome a discussion.

        Of course, there are some out there whose poems possess every desirable trait, both technically and aesthetically. I know I’ve a long way to go, but that will never stop the passion for my art spilling out for all to see, no matter how flawed… and that’s a beautiful state to be in for any would-be poet. I believe if you have the heart of an artist, even the harshest critique won’t put you off.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, I thoroughly enjoyed this magical and musical piece. It brings colors to life before my eyes… a linguistic painting, indeed. I especially like the “sound that orange makes”. That could be because my late grandmother grew marigolds every year and I can hear them calling me back to her beautiful English garden. Thank you!

      • Sally

        Susan, I am sure that your grandmother’s English garden far surpassed mine. All my flowers are in front of the house; .because a giant black walnut tree poisons the soil in the back of it.
        I call my garden an English garden., .because, living in an area where most flowers occur in back yards, this makes it a sort of joke.
        I’ve a peach tree in the front, and a sand cherry as well. Lots of daffodils (Wordsworth), a magnolia, coreopsis, and all the spring bulbs, except for tulips, which the squirrels devour. They d.won’t eat daffs and hyacinth. Plenty of milkweed, as the Monarch butterflies love it.
        I just plant something wherever it will do well, and count myself lucky to have it.

  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Sally, I try not to comment too much on errors in poems posted here, unless it’s an egregious mistake that could easily be corrected by the poet. If a poem is chock-full of such errors, I usually think it best to leave the thing alone, and say nothing.

    “Poetic license” doesn’t mean a license to ignore proper spelling or grammar or metrical structure. How can something be said effectively “in the wrong way”? We make allowances for the errors of children who are learning to talk, because their mistakes are cute, and only temporary (we hope). But is that a valid excuse for an adult?

    The question of differing styles is something else totally. I don’t comment on certain poems simply because their style just rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t appreciate the poems for that reason. I compose in my own style, and other people compose in theirs. Live and let live.

    As for a poem’s meaning, of course we can discuss it. But quite frankly, that’s where most of the bitter arguments begin. If a poem asserts a judgment, or an opinion, there’s bound to be somebody someplace who disagrees with that judgment or opinion,, and if he makes a negative comment then all of a sudden we have a gladiatorial combat going on.

    • Sally Cook

      What I understand you to say is that discussing someone’s creative artifact is a prickly thing; best handled with care. And .you make perfect sense, as usual.

      • Sally Cook

        To Susan:
        We are definitely on the same page here. How often have I said of a poet, “He has technical knowledge but not the heart of a poet.” Yes, .the exact words you used !
        As a portrait painter, I find it crucial to know who I am painting. A head on a cloud with a dull expression and stiff composition, even if technically correct, is not a portrait to me.
        Leaving off limbs you can’t paint also falls into the non-portrait category. To make a portrait that is also a painting is .my goal; same goes for poems. l must understand personalities.
        What I find most interesting is how the poet/painter (read creative person) reveals himself through his work. Let’s forget about constricting, political “correctness” here. I’m talking humanity in the larger sense.This process I would call style.
        Years ago, as a fledgling art student, I noticed .that while fledglings could draw their version of the model, the face was always theirs ! You could track the moment when they gained perspective to when the drawing began to resemble the model’s face.
        In any case, I always “read” a poet through what he writes. Depressed poets usually write depressing poems. Those who mistake multiplicity for success and keep records on it are usually more bean counter than poet.
        No rule is iron clad; there are always exceptions. But a good rule nowadays is hard to find !
        Everything you say of your own work i.rings true with me. As for myself, I err on the side of the weird.But we have some important things in common: a desire for excellence, openness to learning and genuine criticism, and the desire to make our creations flash and fire.
        Thanks for a great initial exchange; I look forward to more.

  8. Mike Bryant

    Yes, Sally, care IS the operative word. IF this site really wants to encourage the aspiring poet, perhaps obvious errors should be shared with the poet before the poem is posted. This site is rather odd in that a poem is accepted and THEN criticized in the comments section for small errors that could have been corrected before publication. This is an electronic age. Surely, if a poem is up for ridicule and scathing commentary, it should be done face to face BEFORE publication or not published at all.
    Perhaps submissions should be quickly scanned by more than one editor before publication.
    I love the standards of this site, and have benefited from constructive criticism.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The trouble is, Mike, that this would put an unbearable amount of work on poor Mr. Mantyk. He’d have to go over every submission with a fine-tooth comb, fixing errors. Leo Yankevich once told me that if he had to do that kind of labor at his website, he’d never have a free moment for himself.

      There’s a difference between a show-case site, and a workshop site. The workshop site posts poems-in-progress, and expects its readership to suggest changes and corrections; the show-case site posts perfectly complete poems that need no further work. The SCP is a combination of both.

      • Mike Bryant

        I agree. Perhaps a facility could be added for private messages? That might not be as labor intensive. I do believe it would pay off. Just spitballin’ here…

      • Sally Cook

        Joe and Mike –
        How to keep something simple and yet incisive, precise?
        I struggle with this every day. I know what I want the thing to do, and it is not much; at least it seems so to me, and I ask my self why names of simple things must be changed, basic procedures be segmented into paragraphs filled with fake words I neither need or want to know or use. All the talking voices seem to want to help me, but only on their terms. No way I can accept help if I cannot comprehend the question.
        Of course Mr, Mantyk could choose co-editors, but they would most likely be fellow poets to those making submissions, which could infer unfairness.
        Yikes ! At this point I have only questions and recognition of potential pitfalls.

  9. Sally Cook

    Joe and Mike –
    How to keep something simple and yet incisive, precise?
    On computer, I struggle with this every day. I know what I want the thing to do, and it is not much; at least it seems so to me, and I ask my self why names of simple things must be changed, basic procedures be segmented into paragraphs filled with fake words I neither need or want to know or use. All the talking voices seem to want to help me, but only on their terms. No way I can accept help if I cannot comprehend the question.
    Of course Mr, Mantyk could choose co-editors, but they would most likely be fellow poets to those making submissions, which could infer unfairness.
    Yikes ! At this point I have only questions and recognition of potential pitfalls.

  10. Theresa Rodriguez

    Sally, just wanted to thank you and Evan for making it possible to see your exhibit here on the SCP website. I think I liked “Beauty Crowds Me” best of all, so beautiful! I enjoyed the virtual viewing experience very much! Congratulations!

    • sally cook

      Dear Theresa.
      Of course you know that the portrait you prefer , “Beauty Crowds Me” is one of my series of portraits of the poet Emily Dickinson. I drew titles for these portraits from her poems. My thought was that if no one can say what she looked like as an adult, well, why not make a stab at it? . Research for this evolved into a years long study of her life. People would often say to me “Well, how do you know this or that’s true (of ED.) ” My answer was always “Well,
      how do we know it’s not?” I think this attitude allowed me to avoid sterility in the paintings. Each one is another facet of her life. Thanks for looking carefully enough to have a favorite.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    Concerning the suggestion of having a “private message” facility at this website, I know from long and bitter experience that this is a bad idea.

    What immediately happens is as follows. First, the “private message” facility becomes a back-channel for vicious flame-wars and attacks on third parties who are not privy to the messages. In addition, it becomes a place of conspiracy and clique-building, where those members who are sympathetic to each other gather and decide on how to attack or undermine non-clique members.

    Second, the mere existence of the “private message” facility causes a split between speech that is made openly and in public, and speech that is considered secret or privileged. This unhealthy division poisons the entire atmosphere of a website, and encourages self-censored blandness in public, and quiet backstabbing in private. That kind of public/private split might be useful in the CIA or in corporate public relations, but we don’t need it at a site for literary criticism.

    I have seen the “private message” option destroy several websites, or reduce their exchanges to mindless pabulum.

      • Sally Cook

        .Mike, if all .poets were in a uniform state of stability and Evan had 48 hour days, then your idea would be perfect.
        Unfortunately, this is not the reality of it..
        .Sometimes people wreck things for themselves simply because they are not up to handling what they do have.
        I don’t like seeing this, but — it happens to everyone, to a greater or lesser degree. If you can come up with a better system, God bless.

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