Offcourse Literary Journal
ISSN 1556-4975 

"Of Frank Lloyd Wright", a poem by Oliver Rice.


Five foot seven without his elevating heels
whose Tokyo hotel famously withstood an earthquake,
well know for his leaky roofs,


had an actor's voice, a charlatan's brass,
and a fool's vanity for his role as a prophetic loner,
certain that his critics would answer to posterity,


who sprang from Welsh settlers in Wisconsin,
father a failing, itinerant evangelist,
mother embittered, ambitious for his talents,


nurturing his fantasies with books and toys,
an ostentatious dandy, given to capes and canes
and costumes of his own devising,


who inherited moralistic, individualistic values,
ideals of the cultivated mind,
and recast them to confirm his temperament,


his posture of unassailable arrogance,
who lied in his memoirs about his age and education,
fabricated the life he wished to have lived.




Who ran away to skyscraping Chicago at twenty,
rousted about among architectural firms,

while adopting the image that made him notorious,


eventually becoming a protegé of Louis Sullivan,
with whom, after a break over Wright's disloyalty,
he did not communicate again for seventeen years,


marvelling, meanwhile, at the square and circle,
developing a philosophy of organic architecture,
a harmony with a structure's natural environment


and a straightforward expression of personality,
extended horizontal wings with bands of windows,
stucco walls, hovering roofs, earth tones throughout,


at whose first house in suburban Chicago,
kept a horse and a fast car,
through the roof of whose studio a willow grew,


who, wherever he lived, acquired a piano,
mounted the Japanese woodprints he so admired,
surrounded himself with fanciful objects,


his homes constantly remodeled, remortgaged,
denying himself no whim nor extravagance,
forever in debt to all available persons,


who shamelessly persuaded clients to his will
by charm and guile and intimidation,

brushing aside complaints about delays and overruns,


who, not content with dictating their living space,
often designed their leaded window panes,
carpets, chairs, pottery, even their clothing,


fiercely disparaging his competitors,
denying all influences except Emerson and Ruskin,
while schooling himself in all genres of the arts.




In midlife, on several hundred acres
purchased for him by his mother in Wisconsin
near the family farmlands, vividly remembered


from the summers he was put to work there as a boy,
he built a long-envisioned home for himself,

an expansive, idealized structure on a working farm


with orchards, irrigated gardens, floating swans,
peacocks strolling among the statuary,
a nurturing retreat from which to confront humanity,


and for which he went still deeper into debt,
journalists feeding off a succession of scandals,
his abandonment of his wife and six children,


the ensuing divorce and public liaisons,
his flamboyant lifestyle, bold opinion on any topic,
his celebrated creations, world renown,


outraged creditors, engineering blunders,
the axe murder of a lover and her children
by a crazed servant at his grandiose estate,


more than once going into hiding with a paramour,
celebrating the spiral and cantilevered slab,
brusquely rejecting overtures from Ayn Rand,


plagued by builders' resistance to his iconoclasm,
once jailed for illegally consorting,
whose grandiloquent Wisconsin home, over the years,

was destroyed three times by fire,

each time redesigned and rebuilt,
who, during the Great Depression, commissions rare,


supported himself by lecturing, writing,
and establishing an institute at his estate,
a barony, with tuition-paying interns as a court,


who also worked in the fields and the kitchen,
participated in enlightening entertainments,

and intense competition for the masters' favor.




Experienced a surging renaissance in his last decade,
during which he executed a third of his total works,
notably his definitive house over a waterfall

and the massively controversial Guggenheim Museum,

who said he shook his designs out of his sleeve,
reiterating the greatroom with a central fireplace,


enduring from the horse and buggy to the space ages,
defying the world's regard, demanding its attention,
who always sharpened his pencils by hand.




Oliver Rice has received the Theodore Roethke Prize and twice been  nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Austria, Turkey, and India.
His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, has been introduced by Cyberwit, a diversified publishing house in the cultural capital Allahabad, India, and is available on Amazon.

His work appears in Offcourse Issue #34, Four Poems.

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