Art

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

Une Semaine de Bonté, page 4

They have never stopped watching me
or reminding me of my own,
inferior pair that cannot shoot
sweetness at the world’s
avid mouths. They lurk
in mirrors and behind drapes,
disguise themselves as crockery,
solar flares, or bells that ring
backwards: wholly holy.
If they were ever to blink,
we would all disappear—
let’s keep them under wraps
and over underwires where
they’ll be safe. Only then can men
preserve our immense dignity
and not tremble like virgins
at the sight of them,
for the truth is they are the most
human thing.

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

Une Semaine de Bonté: page 3 collage
Une Semaine de Bonté: page 3

My first crush was a statue:
strong and silent, noble
to a fault. Realer

than the dead general
he memorialized, for his triumph
was far less fleeting.

He kept his chin up
no matter what, weathering
all weather. His head

was like a moon, blotchy
with seas. As for me,
I didn’t want to be seen

with my head of a beast
like an ass-backwards sphynx.
Small dogs assaulted

the space I’d left
intentionally absurd,
uniformed like a unisex fireplug,

gruff as a gryphon. I huffed
glue till my syntax collapsed
and I came unglued.

A war blew in and they drafted
my soldier, melted him down
and cast him into shot.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

Une Semaine de Bonté: illustration from the cardboard slipcase of the 1934 edition

Goatweed goatweed how you brighten
my waste places with your yellow stars

blossoming in the deep space between
my shoulder blades, where the sun’s

too weak to rise. Like any lover
you make me dizzy and anxious, I can’t

get it up any more and you play
badly with other medicines, such as

dust and pillbugs. Call me a shaman
fundamentalist, but my dry bones

have never felt more possessed of life.
In the otherworld I’m growing a green husk.

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

cover of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst
cover of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst (Dover edition, 1976)

The seven deadly elements fight
like nestlings for our worms.
Death is without end

and therefore never as shapely
as my morning eggs.
Don’t misconstrue the ouroboros:

it’s not consuming but giving birth,
having just crawled out of
its own mouth.

I wake every day of the week thinking
it’s enough to follow
the warm curves of the earth

wherever they lead, though I know
it’s nowhere good.
And each day I dress

as if to the funeral of a blackbird
seizing every kindness by the hair.

The Tub 1917 by Vanessa Bell 1879-1961

Today’s word is raw, said the weather forecaster,
and you flinched, soft skin flayed by wind and sleet,
soft heart by unremitting news of inhumanity.
So embrace this respite, stuff your stiff winter coat
into a locker, stretch and let your sore soul touch
the curves and colours of the pictures, slow-dance
with the fading shapes and figures frescoed on every wall.
You know the artist too was flayed, continued painting
through the worst of times, death and betrayal, two long wars…
Her work outlasted all of it, is here to wrap your fear,
your sorrow in warm flesh, bathe you in earth-green light.

 

Vanessa Bell at Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Tub, 1917 (Tate Modern)

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Louise Labé

VIII

Painting by André Minaux 1

I’m living, dying, drowning, burning up –
extremes of heat and then I’m cold again.
Life is too soft on me and then too hard –
my trials are great, but intertwined with joys.

I burst out laughing and then into tears,
smile through the torment of my many wounds.
My happiness dissolves and yet endures:
I wither and I flourish, both at once.

So Love’s inconstant but remains my guide
and when the pain seems at its very worst
I rise above it unexpectedly.

Then just when I think joy has really come,
that peak experience is mine at last,
I find myself back where I started from.


Je vis, je meurs: je me brule & me noye.
J’ay chaut estreme en endurant froidure:
La vie m’est & trop molle et trop dure.
J’ay grans ennuis entremeslez de joye:

Tout à un coup je ris & je larmoye,
Et en plaisir maint grief tourment j’endure:
Mon bien s’en va, & à jamais il dure:
Tout en un coup je seiche & je verdoye.

Ainsi Amour inconstamment me meine:
Et quand je pense avoir plus de douleur,
Sans y penser je me treuve hors de peine.

Puis quand je croy ma joye estre certaine,
Et estre en haut de mon desire heur,
Il remet en mon premier malheur.

IX

Painting by André Minaux 2

As soon as I allow myself to rest,
safely tucked up in my own comfy bed,
my stupid, sorrowing mind can’t help itself –
it leaves my body, flies straight back to you.

It strikes me then: within this tender breast
I harbour still the very thing I’ve craved,
the object of my deepest sighs, of sobs
I’ve often felt would break my heart in two.

Oh sweetest sleep, oh night of happiness!
May joyful, calming rest bring me this fond
illusion every time I close my eyes.

If my poor lovesick soul is destined now
to never really know such love again,
at least let me have dreams and fantasies.


Tout aussi tot que je commence à prendre
Dens le mol lit le repos desiré,
Mon triste esprit hors de moy retiré
S’en va vers toy incontinent se rendre.

Lors m’est avis que dedens mon sein tendre
Je tiens le bien, où j’ay tant aspiré,
Et pour lequel j’ay si haut souspiré,
Que de sanglots ay souvent cuidé fendre.

O dous sommeil, o nuit à moy heureuse!
Plaisant repos, plein de tranquilité,
Continuez toutes les nuiz mon songe:

Et si ma pauvre ame amoureuse
Ne doit avoir de bien en verité,
Faites au moins qu’elle en ait en mensonge.

 

Louise Labé in Wikipedia.

Paintings by André Minaux (1923-86) – I came across his work by chance for the first time this week and the sharp, stylized imagery, often of women alone in interiors, somehow resonated with the sonnets; also an exquisite concert on the radio of short pieces by J S Bach and Jörg Widmann made me think about how mutually enhancing old and new(er) works can be.

I am a loner drawn to multiplicity.
I like it when things change but stay the same,
as a village in Italy creeps around and around a hill.
In reflections I see another world – or is it this one?
Over and over, bees and birds in flight and swimming fish –
patterns repeat, both infinite and contained,
shapes tumble into creatures, houses, streets and shapes again.
When each thing separates and all things coalesce I am complete.
Shapes tumble into creatures, houses, streets and shapes again,
patterns repeat, both infinite and contained –
over and over, bees and birds in flight and swimming fish.
In reflections I see another world – or is it this one?
As a village in Italy creeps around and around a hill,
I like it when things change but stay the same.
I am a loner drawn to multiplicity.

 

Escher's "Metamorphosis II"
Maurits Escher: Metamorphosis II


Inspired by Via Negativa: In the beginning and Fractal (this time the shape).

The Swan, a painting by Hilma af Klint

my love is a tight
white glove
fitted to your whole body
cast it not off

wear this for me
so I can caress
you all over and leave
no telling trace

on your actual
sweet skin
so rosy and glowing
it dazzles me

this barrier between us
soothes me
its close fit ensures no
loss of sensation

you are a white swan
pirouetting on points
far above
my grubby love

encased in your white glove
you can touch
but not be touched as
best befits you

you can handle
the dusty old leaves
of an illuminated book
look but not be sullied

you can perform magic
pull from your tall hat
all the white rabbits
we require

you can attend a polite
old fashioned party
converse and drink milky tea
with an adoring me

oh dear one
don’t disdain my love
can’t you see it fits you
like a glove
?


Image: Hilma af Klint,
The Swan (1914).

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series The Temptations of Solitude

Watch on Vimeo.

The other videopoem that my friend Marc Neys AKA Swoon surprised me with at my birthday party (see yesterday’s post) was this interpretation of a poem I’d written in response to a painting by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, one of a series of ekphrastic poems I wrote in response to his series of paintings The Temptations of Solitude. (These poems were later collected along with the work of five other poets in a beautiful little anthology called The Book of Ystwyth: Six Poets on the Art of Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and you can watch the videos of our group reading at the 2011 book launch.)

I made my own videopoem with this text back in 2012, and while I wouldn’t call it a failure, I do think it rather pales in comparison to Marc’s. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating how the creative spark originally struck by Clive continues to give rise to new works of art. As Clive himself commented when I shared the video on Facebook last month: “I love the way art begets art begets art begets art. This is hauntingly beautiful.”

Sadly, this is among the last videopoems that Marc plans to make for a while. He told me he’s taking a year off from filmmaking to concentrate on other things—especially his music. Here’s hoping that when he does go back to making poetry films, it will be with new energy and fresh perspectives on the genre. His influence over the international videopoem and poetry film scene so far has been enormous.

For what it’s worth, I’ve added this and the videos I shared yesterday to the Plummer’s Hollow Poet channel on Vimeo, which is probably the best place to browse videos made with my own poems (since I don’t share those at my site Moving Poems).

Erasure poet Austin Kleon‘s keynote at SXSW 2014 should be required watching for every poet — especially the vampires and human spam, as he calls them, who are all about self-promotion, wedded to the false, romantic notion of the artist as lone genius. Kleon talks about how to “steal like an artist,” the importance of acknowledging one’s sources and sharing one’s work on the internet, and why we should emulate the great knuckle-ball pitchers. I’m being kept from my own work these past couple of days by a bad case of conjunctivitis, but this makes me impatient to get back at it.