To Die Next To You

TO DIE NEXT TO YOU  poems by Rodger Kamenetz/ drawings by Michael Hafftka is a unique event in the literary and artistic world.  Two brother artists,  both nurtured by the dream world and its imaginal colors and sacred words, have joined to produce a single work of rare quality. More that a collaboration this work is a journey into the power of the unconscious depth of word and image,  in which master painter and poet present verbal and visual displays of agony and joy, destruction and falling, love and dying. This project has taken ten years to produce, from the first poems that emerged from Rodger Kamenetz’ encounter with dreamwork  to three years of gestation as Michael Hafftka internalized the poems and reconstituted them in images that serve as imaginative midrash, annotation, anticipation and anti-illustration.  The drawings offer brilliant first readings of the poems without limiting their scope, and it is equally possible to read the poems as reflections and interpretations of the drawings. The brilliant design of Andrew Shurtz allows the reader to move between worlds of poetry and painting, without losing trace of either one.

Praise for this new work has been overwhelming. Poet and art critic David Shapiro hails Kamenetz as “one of the secret best poets in America” and finds in his work “the fire in the heart of the great transcendental Romantics.” Turning his eye to Hafftka’s “fabulous anti-illustrations” he compares the artist to Soutine and Bacon and finds him “a humanist in the line of Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt and Meyer Shapiro.”  John Yau, another greatly accomplished poet and art critic, says that Kamenetz has sent us poems that “are mysterious and open- both parable and their opposite, anti-parable”, while  Hafftka “with pen and ink” “registers the turmoil of being afflicting the inhabitants of the strange world called Now. “ Together poet and artist have “achieved the miraculous.” 


Poetry and drawing are brothers that emerge from the dark of sleep holding hands— bringing fresh images out of the vividness of dreams, giving birth to strange monsters who may be saviors, and charging words and paint with electricity which streams from the place in the soul where love and pain are one word.

 –Rodger Kamenetz & Michael Hafftka

From Six Gallery Press. Publication date October 15, 2013

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