Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ekphrastic poem with buttless chaps and unicorns




An artist asked me to write some texts to accompany some illustrations, mostly engravings of various nudes in traditional pastoral or home settings. Though he is highly skilled, I found it difficult to enter into the world of these works. One approach is to be 'ink aware' -- to appropriate that eReader term -- to be conscious of the deliberately constructed artifice of the images, to talk about the paper and the ink and how images are formed, both conceptually and physically. How to bridge an aesthetic gap and have the result be satisfying for both collaborators?

I've created several short texts already. I'm posting this slightly longer one which I have recently completed. Why? Because it mentions "buttless chaps" and "unicorns" and so is perfect for the Internet? (I stole the images from Wordsworth). Perhaps, and though it is the most conventional of the texts and most traditionally coherent, it begins investigating the representation of traditional tropes of the nude and of women in particular. How to unpack visual conventions while still not hobbling their aesthetic effect? I don't think that the images are disrespectful or problematic though their 'gaze' appears to me to replay several old tropes much in need of renovation and unpacking.


yet again I am an artist and a naked woman
emerges from my hedge

to embrace Greek and Roman ruins
I look deep inside the flower

where bees seek the galaxy
better wireless reception

and pollen like damp stars
I see nothing but what is invisible

the seat of philosophy’s buttless chaps
created to ride the impossible

kind of unicorn:
vague updrafts of something phenomenological

and chaffing
twenty-two dimensions where

each trembling of hedge reveals
your quantum self

here even when
somewhere else

6 comments:

Eccentric Scholar said...

I like this a (very) lot!

Jeff said...

Word.

gary barwin said...

Thanks, Craig & Jeff.

And chaps, I just realized that I have used a term that doesn't exist to describe the aspect of the chaps that doesn't exist. Idiomatically, chaps don't have the quality of buttlessness, but rather asslessness.

gary barwin said...

and here's another one I'm still working on:

*

we must be quick
tabula rasa

time is running out
I spread my legs

like someone in an email
who says she is lonely

and waits for me in Russian
or in an oil painting

I conceive a new hairstyle
a cerebral challah-braid

brain weaving the days
in Rapunzelling chains

which snake me
it seems I’m pleasured

by a hedgehog
or giving birth to

a bedframe
a plough

a seagull shape from Hans Arp
a blank and unmarked sky

Leather Coats said...


nice post love reading it

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Leather Coats said...


nice post love reading it

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