Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Art and its makers

Look at her concentration. This is my baby sister about 1954 or 1955. It is one of the slides taken by my mother that I had scanned last year; I love the windowlight from the side. Finger painting was one of the delights of my childhood. I hope they haven't discontinued it now along with so many other "frills" of education. Making something with your hands and your full concentration has to be one of the great human pleasures. The color of this paint even reminds me of one used in the great Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux.

Here is a poem about making by the British poet Jeremy Hooker. It celebrates the creation of the bust of the poet Ezra Pound by the sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska, who was killed in World War I.


Scholars will speak of vision,
even, without irony, "the final vision".

The mind of Europe
flounders among its ruins.

Words must fail.

The man looks up. The light of the stockade
glazes in his eyes.
He is guarded, and displayed.

There is no shadow for him here,
unless it is memory
peopled with shades:

in his studio under the railway arch,
a man of the renaissance,
the air between them alive with ideas.
They dispose of an age of statues,
a trash of books.
The poet is quick to give.

The sculptor works on the marble,
winning every inch
"at the point of the chisel".

Naturally, the sculpture
will survive the carver,
and outlast the model.
It will gaze back down the century,
over the work of other men of order
whose material is blood and flesh and bone.

The head looks impassively over the ruins.
The poet looks out
towards the mountain, beyond the Pisan cage.

Jeremy Hooker in The Cut of the Light; Poems 1965-2005, Enitharmon Press, 2006, pages 242-243.

If the poet wants to write a poem that makes specific reference to another work of art, it is helpful for his reader to know what you are referencing. In our time, the understanding of the reader is enhanced by the huge amounts of information in Wikipedia and elsewhere. In this case, the ending, with its reference to Pound's imprisonment in an iron cage near Pisa after World War II for broadcasting against the United States only needs to make the reference with the use of the same word Pound used in his poems called The Pisan Cantos.

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