we embark on a handful of poems and related material, related to MV members! Dalia mentioned that she was currently living in Australia, but not that her husband is an award-winning Australian poet! Of course, who would spontaneously utter such a thing to a big group? She disclosed it to me a while back and thought it would be OK to look at a poem or two of Luke Fischer’s. He recently won the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize, and I’ll paste a link to that announcement and some poems at the very end of today’s selection. But today’s selection (from a very recent Mascara Literary Review) needs an attachment of its own, to the Cezanne painting from which it takes its title.
The modernists and the American post-war masters were also fascinated by the interplay between poetry and the visual arts, and often took a single painting or sculpture as their inspiration, as this lyric does. I’ve always loved the approach, because it takes me to paintings I haven’t seen before, or isolates details that were previously hidden to me. In this case, because the light on the bathers is so bright, sensuous, and lovely, I never would have noticed the darkness of the background without Mr. Fisher’s use of the words “serious” and “dusk.” And I’m all for any poem with a dark cat.
It’s not so often that a poet gets to hear audience feedback, so I’m sure any responses–personal, short, immediate, long, art-history-informed, what have you–would be relayed and welcomed. Congrats to Mr. Fischer and thanks for the (3rd person) permission! NOTE: If the painting does not appear in the body of this e-mail I’ve pasted a URL for it as well. This was the only size reproduction [linked] I could find.-ed
Les Grandes Baigneuses
The serious blue of dusk
pervades the forest and figures.
On the further shore a dense cypress
spires. To the left of the group
arranged as a chance constellation,
a woman with a trunk-like frame
trails a river of towel, the source in her hand,
while her head is submerged in blackened foliage.
Two women, kneeling on the bank like deer with
folded legs, watch a naked girl as she slowly leaves the water,
unembarrassed and contained. Her iconic profile,
ringed by a cumulonimbus steeped in twilight.
To the right a tomato cheeked farmer with ample breasts
relaxes in cushioning arms and a sturdy physique
inclines with a tree. A seated woman between them
is feeling the texture of the earth while a russet head,
still bathing alone, rinses a shoulder, looking on.
Their skins shimmer––a moonlit lake
composed of refracted sky, woods, shore.
Beside the dark cat on a table of grass:
a cane basket of fruits and a watermelon half.