Frank Beltrano – an update on his Square Foot Poems

Frank Beltrano has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations twice, here and here, spotlighting his unique blending of “poetry as visual art” that he has been developing for some time. He’s back now to tell us of the recent art show in which he took part.

Right on the heels of a week spent in Bayfield (read cottage country/Lake Huron eastern shore) with several poet friends writing and relaxing, we came back to London, Ontario, scrubbed off the forest and dressed for an art show opening at the Westland Gallery in Wortley Village.

123 It was a well-attended opening. The gallery is hosting its Square Foot Show (possible link) when artists are invited to submit up to three pieces each that measure exactly one foot by one foot in diameter. From now until August 15th the gallery walls will be lined with approximately 420 pieces from more than one hundred artists.


I am humbled to be a part of such an outpouring of diverse talent, creativity and skill. I attended the opening with my wife, Marie-Claire Roussel, and Susan M Toy. The works I submitted are similar to my Coffee Shop Mystery shadow boxes which were chronicled in an earlier blog post published by Susan.

4 The poems in the new pieces are part of a series of 64 poems inspired by the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching. For the past few years I have been reading about the I-Ching, enjoying the ancient myths, coming to terms with its use as a divination tool but mostly being inspired by the shape of the hexagrams that accompany the texts… inspired to write a series of poems with solid lines and broken lines, six lines per poem thus resembling the I-Ching hexagrams. There are 64 combinations of solid and broken lines possible resulting in a 64 poem series. The poems sometimes refer to I-Ching legends (#39 picture) and often are just snippets of life (#59 picture). 7

They often have rhyme, alliteration, repetition and other poetic devices. I have found the form easier to write than shorter more esoteric haiku, and a refreshing break from writing longer more intense or complex forms.

So far I have written 20 of the poems; the three pieces in the show are the first of the visual presentations, but the plan is to write and mount all 64 over the next year or two, show them in a gallery then publish a book of all 64 I-Ching hexagram poems…stay tuned.


Frank Beltrano Artist Statement
I-Ching Hexagram Poems

The three pieces I am submitting to this exhibition are a sampling of a much larger series of 64 poems on which I am currently working. The verse form is my own creation inspired by the look of the Chinese I-Ching Hexagrams…six lines, either solid or broken. There are 64 possible combinations when working with six lines of two types, hence 64 poems. I have been reading about the I-Ching in three commentaries and sometimes have drawn inspiration when writing my poems from these ancient texts. However many of my poems have just come out of events observed daily in 2015.

The use of materials, coffee stir sticks, burlap from coffee bean bags and wooden hoops is a development of earlier work I did making visual art out of my award winning Coffee Shop Author poems.

It is my hope that you will find the form to be intriguing, the poetry entertaining and the art original.

Frank Beltrano

I’m posting promotion for a “new” author to Reading Recommendations today, because I wanted to share information about a Canadian poet who has discovered a unique way to “publish” his work that does not involve either print or electronic books. But I’ll let him explain … “

1800044_615388585208469_1308471164_o Frank Beltrano

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Poems visually presented as shadow-box art . . . entitled The Coffee Shop Mysteries

Quick description: In 2011, I won third place in the Coffee Shop Author Contest. My submission was a collection of poems written to the theme of coffee shop related sights, sounds, smells and experiences. After winning the contest I wanted to share with the regulars at the sponsoring coffee shop, The Black Walnut Bakery and Café in Wortley Village, London, Ontario, my poems about this place that we knew so well. Rather than just print off the poems on a computer and perhaps post them on the bulletin board I came up with a novel presentation. I gave the printed poems to a calligrapher who copied them in black ink onto wooden coffee stir sticks. I took burlap coffee bean bag material and covered the mats in black shadow-boxes with the colorful graphics-laden fabric. Then I mounted the lines of poetry to the burlap . . . out of those stir sticks and coffee bean bags came these poetic creations in shadow-boxes.


Brief biography:
Frank Beltrano has written a poem and folded it into a paper airplane that was found and read and liked. That summer men landed on the moon. More recently, he has had two poems “ride” the London, Ontario buses, had a poem printed on a postcard, had the same award winning poem printed on 1,000 posters. He has been published in journals, read poetry in bars, coffee shops, library basements and art galleries. Last year he erased his way to second place in Geist magazine, and for three years he has tasted the cold Atlantic ocean dripping off a fingertip in January at a poets’ getaway in New Jersey. This past July, with several other London Poets, he watched the sun set on Lake Huron again and again until he had to write a sonnet about it. Frank Beltrano puts a lot of himself into his writing, and nothing makes him happier than making art.

Links to buy Frank’s shadow boxes:
Patina Studios, Bayfield, Ontario

Frank’s promo links:
Contact Susan M. Toy
Frank Beltrano on YouTube

What are you working on now?
Two submissions for the Square Foot Exhibition at the Westland Gallery in Wortley Village, London, Ontario. Continually writing poems. Preparing a poetry manuscript to be work-shopped at the Murphy Writing Seminars in New Jersey in Jan. of 2015 and then sent out to publishers.

Frank’s reading recommendation:
Recently blown away by Xu Bing’s Book from the Ground, a novel written completely in pictograms. Check it out at MIT Press.
Also reading In Beauty Bright, a book of poetry by Gerald Stern, Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa Thong’o, Trust Your Vibes by Sonia Choquette, Quiet by Susan Cain, and, and, and . . . I probably have too many books on the go.


And, on a personal note, not only do Frank and I share the experience of Coffee Shop Author, the writing contest I administered, but we also discovered we shared the same childhood pony! These photos were taken a couple of years apart as well as many miles (I was in Toronto and Frank was in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario), but it is most definitely the SAME pony!

As Frank said when he discovered we’d had similar pictures taken: “That pony sure did get around!”