Michael Filan & John J. Trause

Works from the Visible Word 2006

I Got You, Babe
Pax Bellicosa
There I Spy

a statement from the poet, John J. Trause

My participation in The Visible Word : Ekphrastic Art for the Senses, the exhibition and poetry reading held at the DeBaun Auditorium of Stevens Institute, Hoboken, N. J. for the second time (May 2006) was a fluke. I was chosen as one of the three poets in this inaugural project in 2005, and I was happily paired with Willie Baéz, the painter from Hoboken. I had been writing ecphrases for a long time, having studied all the classic models throughout the centuries of our literary history, so when I first learned about the competition, which pairs three poets with three visual artists, I gladly entered it. My connection to the work of Willie Baéz was immediate, since one of the overriding influences on his art is Surrealism, particularly the Mexican Surrealists (Remedios del Varo, Frida Kahlo, et al.). Surrealism is a movement that is of great interest to me. I promptly composed my three poems based on three of Willie Baéz's paintings, and we opened to the public on Sunday, May 1, 2005 along with the other literary and artistic pairings.

In the early spring of 2006 I was cleaning out my e-mail files, and I found in my Draft folder my original acceptance letter to the coordinator of The Visible Word, David Vincenti. By mistake I hit <Send> instead of <Delete>, and David Vincenti wrote back to me to say, "We are looking for new poets and artists this year. I hope you understand." I apologized for and explained the mistake. Several weeks later my lapse of the mouse (lapsus muris?) came to have significance: David Vincenti wrote to me to ask if I could step in in a pinch and participate in the project again in 2006, since one of the poets originally chosen had to cancel. I had learned that the poet and editor Jerome Rothenberg, one of my heroes, was also a participant in 2006, so I said sure I would write three poems in a day (which would not be easy for me), and I was given the information for my artist, Michael Filan, whom I contacted at once having done some on-line research on his work. I learned that Michael Filan was a painter and professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I did not have as immediate a connection to Michael Filan's work as I had with that of Willie Baéz the year before, but I was drawn to the many bright colors and surface layers of the abstract canvases, which I was only experiencing in on-line reproductions. I was also interested in the mix of oil and acrylic. I noticed too some techniques of Action Painting above paint that had been carefully applied. Each painting I was assigned was Untitled, so I could not rely on any verbal cue. I was a bit frightened by the work, but I plunged in and allowed the three poems I wrote for it to be as wild and uninhibited as the canvases I was considering. One code in all three of my poems for The Visible Word 2006 is the word "there". Usually when I write poems about art I enter the artwork and draw it close, often using the word "here" to describe what I am seeing. Because I was afraid to enter fully the paintings of Michael Filan, I kept my distance and so I included the word "there" in each poem.

Well, I was astounded on the day of the exhibition, Sunday, May 7, 2006, to see Michael Filan's paintings in front of me. First of all, they were much larger than I imagined; they were also grander, more sparkling, even more finely layered and physical than I expected, and I realized that my wild impulses were a correct response, but my slight distancing was more a response to my own anxiety at capturing in words the abstractions that were presented in the paintings than in the paintings themselves. Despite the grandeur I was unexpectedly drawn in, not distanced, and I have come to feel very much at home in the painted world of Michael Filan. It also heartened me to learn that Michael decided to give to his paintings the titles of the poems I wrote for them. That is a wonderful compliment as is his use of some of the text of my poems as titles of some of his other paintings. This project of creating cross-fertilizations in the arts is a great success.


Michael Filan is a painter and art educator based in New York City.

He has exhibited his works in museums and galleries throughout the Northeast, including the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. In Manhattan, he’s shown at Artist Space, the Port Authority of New York, the One Two Three Watts Gallery and the Shirley Fitterman Gallery. In addition, his work is part of several private, public and corporate collections, including those of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Pfizer Corporation, Colgate-Palmolive and Sally Bingham.

Awards significant to his development as an artist include a grant from the Bronx Council of the Arts for Studio Space in 1983 and four fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Along with being a painter, Michael has been an art therapist and art educator. He is now teaching at the School of Visual Arts.

He has a B.F.A. and a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.

John J. Trause, the Director of the Wood-Ridge Memorial Library in Wood-Ridge, N. J. since 2000, has been writing and reciting his poetry for over 25 years. Having worked at the Museum of Modern Art Library from 1991-2000 and participating in The MoMA Strike of 2000, Mr. Trause has been an active part of the NYC art scene as well as an avid devotee of avant-garde public raucousness. Mr. Trause's poetry, translations, and visual work have appeared in SENSATIONS MAGAZINE, COVER (New York, N.Y.), THE NORTH RIVER REVIEW, THE TROUBADOUR, GLOBAL CITY REVIEW, THE RIFT, PARSE, RADIX, XAVIER REVIEW, and the artists' periodical CROSSINGS, published by the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition, as well as the on-line journals PEDESTAL and SIDEREALITY. It is forthcoming in SULPHUR RIVER REVIEW. His LATTER-DAY LITANY and Other Pseudo-Hagiographica has had a number of revivals after its New York debut in 1998 most recently at the Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown, N. J. in 2004. In 2005 and again in 2006 Mr. Trause was chosen to participate in The Visible Word exhibition and poetry reading (Stevens Institute, Hoboken, N. J.), which paired poets and visual artists, and in 2005 he co-founded the William Carlos Williams Poetry Cooperative in Rutherford, N. J., where he serves as programmer and host. Mr. Trause was a regular collaborator at the Nuyorican Poets Café with SynonymUs, the poetry/performance and music group from 2004 to 2006, and he continues his association with the Wild Angels, the writers group at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where was he was guest instructor 2002-2003 and is still a co-editor of their anthology.