Leonard’s Flat is a chapbook cycle of 10 ekphrastic poems based on 10 paintings by my uncle Len Fligel. As a kid I used to see his paintings in my grandparents’ apartment.

When I was nine, my mother and I lived with him in Glasgow. Our stay was brief due to her sudden death from pneumonia, after which I returned to Montreal.

Decades later, when visiting Glasgow, I used to stay at his flat, where much of his artwork hung on the walls, as if in a private gallery. My initial concept for the chapbook was as a mini virtual tour of the flat.

Taken together, the 10 paintings and 10 poems create a narrative of intimacy and distance, evoking a voice that alternates between the personal and the mythic.

The poems draw their imagery from specific paintings, but also include elements of our familial history and our connection as creators. Although there were years when we were not in touch, I credit my uncle’s dedication as a serious artist with indirectly inspiring my own creative ambitions as a writer. I have some of his pictures hanging in my office and I see them as giving me a kind of permission to create.

Leonard’s Flat is published by Grey Borders Books and can be purchased at their web site www.greyborders.com

Len Fligel
Len Fligel was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. As a teen he studied art at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art with Arthur Lismer, a member of the famous Canadian art collective, The Group Of Seven. As a young man Len worked in Alaska so he could earn money to travel and live in Mexico and later studied in Florence, Italy. He settled down in Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1960s, where he painted and taught at various schools, ending up at Jordanhill College. After a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease, he passed away in March 2018.

Leonard’s Flat

"You've got to accept the flat surface. Not try to pretend it's not there."  David Hockney

The flat like a gallery with all
your artwork wall to wall, I wandered
through it as if through

a private exhibition.
To me you have always
been Leonard, although

you preferred Len
or Lenny. My private Leonardo,
you were the uncle who took

to brush as I later took
to pen. The paintings now
long since taken down

and stored away, the flat rented
to strangers to pay for the care
facility where you went

to live. Would you have
remembered me to my face or would I
have flattened out with no frame

of reference? Did your world
shrink to a pair of eyes
looking inward? Through

hallway to living room to
studio to bedroom I keep
getting lost from looking too

hard at figures on their
surfaces, following strokes
and smudges, delineations of life.

Your life or mine?
It doesn’t matter as I take the tour
one more time, to remind myself

that perspectives only flatter
the senses, while surfaces
awaken what has been lost.

(a slightly altered version of this poem appeared in Abstract Magazine, January 2018)

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