Throughout their fifty-year marriage, poet Alan Feldman has written poems for and about his gifted wife, the painter Nan Hass Feldman. Recently, for their anniversary, Alan's publisher, Bill Zavatsky of Sunlight and Shadows press, decided to produce a book authored by the two of them, with 51 if Nan's blazingly energetic and quirky paintings, and Alan's witty, precise, and touching poems--some published, and some drawn from the album Nan kept of Alan's love poems to her, some of which would otherwise have been lost.
As Zavatsky writes in his introduction, "Alan has always held close to the idea of home, and in fact some of his strongest poems center on his experience (a shared experience naturally) of home and marriage and children, including parents and grandparents. I can't think of too many poets who follow the family theme so devotedly, and whose poems have enriched as deeply as Feldman's poems have."
Nan's work is famous for making people feel happy, yet it remains complex and is never glib. Alan's narratives about his life as husband and lover seem inevitably to find something astonishing in their every day life together. Together they serve as an example of marriage as creative enterprise. In the words of Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Carl Dennis: "Even Emerson, New England's great preacher of self-reliance, has to concede the truth that "a fruit tree, looking at a fruit tree, becomes fruitful." So Alan and Nan, living for fifty years in the company of each other's art, have been inspired to fill the world with apples."
An ideal gift for couples both newly married or married long-term, Nan's work "transforms landscapes and interiors into visual songs," says poet and critic Judith Ferrara, "while Alan Feldman holds us balanced between tenderness and the ache of reality--a relatable, honest, and exquisite book."
Poet and critic Tony Hoagland included one of Alan Feldman's poems in his essay for Harpers, "20 Little Poems that Could Save America." Of his work Hoagland writes:
"Reading Feldman's steady, funny, well-wrought poems reminds me how blind we are in the world; reading these poems I feel my fingertips being guided over the Braille."
Feldman has published extensively: The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Threepenny Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Yale Review, and others. A debut full-length collection of poems, The Happy Genius (New York: Sun, 1978) won the 1979 Elliston Book Award for the best collection of poetry published by an independent press in the United States.
A Sail to Great Island was awarded the 2004 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry and published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Immortality was awarded the Four Lakes Prize, and was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in March of 2015; it received the Massachusetts Book Award for poetry in 2016. The Golden Coin (2018) also received the Four Lakes Prize. His work is represented in anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2001; 2011, The Best American Erotic Poems 1800-Present, and To Woo and To Wed: Poets on Love and Marriage. Garrison Keillor has read his work for Literary Almanac, and Ted Kooser has featured his poetry in his syndicated column, American Life in Poetry.The National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation have awarded him fellowships in poetry.
His other books include Frank O'Hara for the Twayne United States Author's Series; State College 101 (introduction by Philip Lopate) a book about college teaching;and Lucy Mastermind (E.P. Dutton), a novel for children. A former chair of the English Department at Framingham State University, for twenty-two years Feldman also taught the Advanced Creative Writing class at the Radcliffe Seminars, Harvard University, where he was Distinguished Instructor of Writing. He lives in Framingham, MA and offers a free drop-in poetry workshops at the town's library via Zoom. He and Nan Hass Feldman, a widely-exhibited artist, celebrated their 50th anniversary in October, 2022.
Nan Hass Feldman has been painting over fifty years. In that time she has had fifty-nine solo exhibitions, and has been included in over sixty group shows and twenty-nine museum exhibitions. She has work in private collections in six countries, in corporate collections such as Fidelity Investments, Meditech, and Veryfine Products, and in eighteen hospital collections such as Children's Hospital, Boston; the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and Cape Cod Hospital, in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Her awards include two Frances A. Kinnicut Foreign Traveling Fellowships from the Worcester Art Museum, and the Basil H. Alkazzi Award, a national award for painting.
"Animated. Energetic. Vibrant. Imaginative" wrote The Worcester Phoenx. "And these words describe just the artist. Throw in colorful, joyful, funky, whimsical, and exuberant and you have a partial description of Nan Hass Feldman's evocative paintings as well."
For many years she has taught in the Boston area, including at the Worcester Art Museum, the DeCordova Museum, Danforth Art at Framingham State University, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From 1999 through 2018 she led painting retreats in France, Greece, Italy, and Mexico, and from 2011 through 2019 ran the Artist's Loft on Oceania Cruise Line on Pacific, Baltic, Mediterranean, Caribbean, and South American voyages.
"A binary star system, its gravity pulling one towards the other-gravity being the love, respect, and support for each other's genius. Nan Hass Feldman transforms landscapes and interiors into visual songs, with rhythmic design and glowing color, while Alan Feldman holds us balanced between tenderness and the ache of reality-a relatable, honest, and exquisite book" - Judith Ferrara
"Even Emerson, New England's great preacher of self-reliance, has to concede the truth that a fruit tree, looking at a fruit tree, becomes fruitful. So Alan and Nan, living for fifty years in the company of each other's art, have been inspired to fill the world with apples." - Carl Dennis
"Everything is for the purpose of drawing closer to you, Alan Feldman says in one of the tender and intimate poems included in this extended love letter to his wife, Nan Hass Feldman. This gorgeous collaboration is illuminated by Nan's paintings that vibrate with motion and light. Full of the art of making art, each page captures a life well-lived as the couple travels through time and place --that's the way time is sliced here, as if each moment deserves a salute, as it does during love. The doubt, desire, and rejuvenation of long love, tinged with the melancholy of age and illness, are narrated with details of daily ritual from Alan's rich interior landscape. Ultimately, In the First Half Century that I've Loved You is love multiplied by time, divided by nothing." - Ellen Bass
"Animated. Energetic. Vibrant. Imaginative. And these words describe just the artist. Throw in colorful, joyful, funky, whimsical, and exuberant and you have a partial description of Nan Hass Feldman's evocative paintings as well." - Leon Nigrosh
"Alan Feldman's poems are sentimental in the best sense of the word: fully intelligent, closely attentive studies of how feeling colors and enriches experience. Inventive, vital, witty, and precise, this poet has a rare and deep allegiance to the life of the heart." - Tony Hoagland