Friday, June 11, 2010

Sentimental Education: Essays in Art

The visual arts have been at the center of my life from my earliest memories. My mother was a painter and she taught me to observe the world intently; she also conveyed the mysteries of the creative artist; a love of introspection; and an intelligence built on association. My father had a passion for classical literature and he taught me the importance of words, sentences, logic. He introduced thematic concerns. My own form of expression, I like to believe, is a combination of the two.

My sentimental education was not based on failed romances, or successful ones, for that matter. But my maturity to appreciate art. I believe visual art is born in the emotional realm, that it lives in emotion as a human being lives in the open air. A poet once said that art leaves the imprint of the artist’s emotions as she creates.

I hope these essays carry a sense of experimental wonder to whomever reads them; also a love of beautiful forms, and a sadness toward self-destruction. Because I am not a visual artist, I have the privilege of looking on, the privilege of an outsider’s point of view. I admire painting, drawing, illustration, photography, architecture, even music, like a little boy mystified by a magic trick. Literature and writing, on the other hand, is a trick I wish to learn.

Art Essays

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gustave Dore's Sketchbook

is a poem cycle I'm beginning that joins my love of visual art and classical literature. Gustave Dore (b. 1832-1883) illustrated scores of literary masterpieces including Paradise Lost, Idylls of the King, The Divine Comedy and Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I purchased a book not so long ago that presents his illustrations alongside thirteen of these literary works, and just recently the thought occurred to me to make use of this edition by taking certain selections and writing my own poems based on the original works. I foresee the poem cycle as an assemblage of literary classics, each a fragment from a larger work, placed into a context of my own creation and its development, but reflecting the Romantic style of Dore's illustrations, and the styles of the authors from which each poem will take its inspiration.

The first poem of my cycle is based on "Geraint and Enid," from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King. The poem follows lines 314-344 of "Geraint and Enid". I use the stanzaic structure of the original poem as well as employ some of the exact words or lines in the original.


Then Lethe awoke and stood before his bed,
he didn't know if it was early morning
or if the shadows on the floor meant night.
he looked and saw that all was ruinous
here sulked an unfed plant and here
the milk for the cats, licked to the last
drop, like a plate of steel burnished with neglect,
like a bowl that remains empty for weeks,
and the carpets collected parts of insects,
wings, antennas, torsos, trapped
by monstrous dust while brown stems
grew along the wallpaper and made a map
of bifurcations, and looked like a deserted
territory some poet once dreamed up.

And while he waited in the living room,
the voice of Rosalind, Lethe's mother, spoke
directly from the pencil drawing he hung
on the wall beside the door, and the voice
confounded him, as an unprotected child
whose parents have marooned him in the night,
becomes startled and thinks what other person
could be trudging through the rooms, whose nerves
begin to quiver with the slightest noise he hears,
so the voice of Rosalind shook Lethe;
and made him like a prisoner who jumps
at the sound of keys rattling when the guard appears
and lifts him out of a cold, unwanted bed,
so the shock passed through Lethe, who thought,
"Here is my dead mother."


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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We are attracted to the infinite

for the moment it lasts
something like the mathematics of miracles or continuous space
we sense it under every mundane awareness
we seize it once or twice
I imagine we're split into particles
each a smaller copy of the whole
we undergo a transformation
with our sudden sprawling capacity
we define an infinite goal
we are not the size of our own height
but the size of what we see
and it may seem foolish to even talk about
these moments
but we're tessellated and amplified
with electricity buzzing through us
even when the infinite seems improbable and distant
we're two mirrors exactly
parallel with our dreams
nesting a shared intuition
that must be discrete.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

The theater is self-contained

and then self-enclosing, like an oyster shell
pink ribbons and flesh-colored brilliance
reflecting on the inner wall,
sudden darkness once the shell
has closed. The origin of the world
may never be found, locked in a mass
of tangled ropes, swaying with the tides,
a prisoner of our dreams, a captive
of our senses, how can I nurture this life?
Where you feel the pulse racing
through a tiny muscle in your neck,
the wheel keeps on turning, it turns
until it stops. Childhood spliced
into fragments, the records tossed
into a vain shoebox, opened irregularly
and easily forgotten; outside a parade
sweeps past the suburban block, girls and boys
hold hands, french-kissing in the crowd,
parents sulk in the heat, holding flags.
Above all, the clouds pull apart like taffy
and the center reveals a satin hue,
it's nighttime and my devotion to these spectacles
is constant and mad, as if I'm viewing
my own poor imprint on the world.
I carry home a banquet and pry open
the door, flies emerge from a carcass
I never knew I had. Unreason dresses me
in the morning and I'm weighted down by
superstitious charms, I don't even have to travel
to hear sermons for what I'm after;
delusion wears a costume of elegant ties
and writes verse in an empty cell.



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Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm back at the beginning

as if I've gone nowhere
I demand my rose and my pearl
both were lost along the way
look over this cliff
do you see tomorrow receding
beneath yesterday's waves?
every wrinkle of hope
belongs to another part of me
I don't think we can save ourselves
it is too cold, too deep
the world, family, strangers
reside in far off places, rarely visited
by myths and fables
here the spiral moon talks
to a chorus of insects
I envy your silence, your faith.



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