We all have our sacred texts — not necessarily religious in derivation — texts that offer comfort, that answer an unarticulated need. In Brian Teare’s fifth book, he charts his shifting relationship to the painter Agnes Martin, to whom he turns in the midst of a devastating and illegible illness. Teare’s book functions as a record of this experience and an interrogation of it. Martin’s interpretation of the value of suffering informs his decision to turn away from her: “Agnes is my teacher until she isn’t.”
Why am I drawn to abstraction in images and quite dubious of this gesture in writing, wary of a writer’s intentional subterfuge, and the privilege, perhaps, of a writer who does not need to comment on the world with narrative clarity, with a point, with a discernible stance, evidence, argument? In an attempt to bring this personally persistent mix of desire and wariness into dialogue, I have begun to unpack the word “abstraction,” and though I voluntarily stepped away from a PhD program more than twenty years ago, I am still exploring “argument” and its forms. Researching textiles — in order to teach a course on expository writing through textiles and to imagine a poetry workshop via textiles — the words “geometry” and “pattern” began to take hold, not necessarily eclipsing abstraction, but emerging from a word more various than I thought.