Purple Birds by William Heath

Masterpieces are hard,
manifestos, conversation
pieces are easy. Here’s
a woman who does sculptures
of babies popping out of
toasters, the whole thing
drenched in a combination
of blue and yellow paint—
her statement. And here’s
a painter who paints weird
purple birds distinctively;
he’s good with his brushes,
we recognize his paintings,
but who needs purple birds?
What purpose do they serve?
I know we’re not supposed
to ask these questions—
instead critics will praise
the artist’s unique subject
and style and people will
buy her toasters, his paintings,
prominately display them
on their sideboard or wall
(they’re fun to talk about),
wait for the price to rise.

purple and blue swirls
Abstract by Alex Sar. CC license.

William Heath
William Heath was born in Youngstown, grew up in Poland, Ohio, with a BA from Hiram
College and a PhD from Case Western Reserve University. He has taught American literature and creative writing at Kenyon, Transylvania, Vassar, the University of Seville, and Mt. St. Mary’s University, where the William Heath Award is given annually to the best student writer. He is the author of three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Literary Award), Blacksnake’s Path, and Devil Dancer; two poetry books, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; two chapbooks, Night Moves in Ohio and Leaving Seville; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone. The poems included in Steel Valley Elegy represent the best of his work since he returned to writing poetry a few years ago. Find more of his work at www.williamheathbooks.com heath@msmary.edu

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