Traces: Poems to Paintings with poems by James Wagner and paintings by Nava Waxman


Poetry. Art. Collaboration. "Although Waxman's paintings are to be sensed through the eyes, her pieces are not oculocentric, that is, oculos as logos. Instead, unpredictable contours of 'reality' continuously re-elasticize our lived-life 3-dimensions into 4ths and 5ths. Wagner riffs off of Waxman's explorations, stripping singular words of excess referentiality, assiduously avoiding rounding off predictable lyrical contours. Wagner, rather, makes the edges of scalar references be points themselves. This energetic and soulful collaboration invites a sustained meditation on a concrete-abstract sensuality that's as old as Lascaux. Fascia of the living- dead over the living- flexing." Rodrigo Toscano

"Remainders of one another and mimes in a house of mirrors, these poems by James Wagner and paintings by Nava Waxman interrogate the spaces and caesuras that mark the limits of perception within each art. Wagner's poems function within the parameters of ekphrasis, sometimes in the most literal, caption- esque, ways. But in only almost following the arc of Waxman's line as homage, in only almost dissolving language into marks and sounds, Wagner lets us hear, lets us read, the undulations between Wagner and Waxman, between his laconic, if abstract, ruminations and her minimalist, if lush, drawings and paintings." Tyrone Williams

"TRACES evokes a strange combination of aestheticism and atavism, a description of the world in phrasal units, like a creature traversing the seafloor, in nacreous kimono, steering by delicate eyespots. The future may be the past, 'blooms in black, ' and this its ecstatic, ekphrastic map." Joyelle McSweeney

"TRACES is a seamless and utterly engaging collaboration. Wagner and Waxman contribute a rare fluidity to each other's work. I keep rereading it, 'ghost by ghost.'"


Michael Burkard



Traces is a collaboration described as “Poems to Paintings.” The paintings by Nava Waxman use a palette of mostly white, pale blue, gray, pale pinks and greens and some black—at first, it can come off as muted palette but there’s a depth that evokes the sense of teeming life. It’s a bit tough to gauge that effect based on reproductions but the images suffice for giving forth a sense of energy and motion. This explains (at least to my eye) why James Wagner’s poems are so detail-enriched. The poet imagines of what the paintings (which can be categorized as abstractions) are traces. The collaboration results are intense, vivid and/or passionate.  Such impression speaks well of the power to this project due to the immense talents of the poet and painter. Here’s one example, the poem “A Bird Has A Face for You” to the painting of the same title.

Eileen Tabios