Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem/Painting Pairing

I have some more verses for you this evening. Tonight's piece has been previously published in the Irish journal Census. The poem runs as follows:

My Aunt Asleep

My Aunt is a rather proper woman:
Her hair always so neatly coiffed
That every strand stays in its prescribed place,
Matching the distinct modesty of her dress,
Plain garments of perhaps a generation ago,
Which declare her a lady
Uninterested in all that “nonsense,”
A verdict proclaimed in that voice of calm reason
With which she so typically speaks.

Yet if you observed her in her slumbers,
You might glimpse a hint of something else:
Visions haunting her senses,
Filling her mind with wild thoughts
Of caution tossed to the wind,
Reveling in the charm and humor of that old family friend,
Dear Mr. Reynolds,
Who no longer acts the pure gentleman,
My Aunt no longer holding her tongue,
Or acting in decorum,
Her body shifting restlessly in her sleep,
A smile spreading across her face,
Signs which will immediately vanish
Upon the light of dawn . . .
*   *   *

I often find my inspiration within a diverse set of disciplines, including the graphic arts; indeed, one of the projects I am working on at the moment draws from seventeenth century painting and sculpture. The specific spark in this case was a figure from a more recent century: James Ensor. I shall confess that I first met Mr. Ensor through a They Might be Giants song (more interdisciplinary overlay). However, the more I have seen of his art over the years (especially superb shows at the Drawing Center & MoMA this past decade), the more my fondness for the artist has grown. This poem came out of my first of two visits to MoMA's exhibition in 2009. There is also a second piece from, you guessed it, my return trip to the galleries, though, while I have been working at it again, the poem still has not been revised into an entirely satisfactorily form. As for "My Aunt Asleep," I do not claim that it is either "about" or an explanation of Ensor's drawing, as much as an articulation of the images that his picture conjured in my mind . . .

James Ensor, My Aunt Asleep Dreaming of Monsters, c1890

 . . . still, I do believe that the theme of repression/duality is common enough in his output to link together the two pieces. 


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