Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lions and Doves

Our first video in this post arose from the poem “Sketching the Assyrian Reliefs, with My Wife, at the British Museum.”  Let me just say that
each time Dan and I stand before those ancient lion-hunt friezes, we wonder: How could an artist have sculpted these exquisitely sensitive images
of such a brutal ritual of slaughter? This paradox says so much about that haunting dichotomy of human nature.

I chose the second poem for our companion video before fully realizing how much it balanced the violent mood of Assyrian Lions. In his
“Moore’s Doves” piece Dan sees some local birds in a fresh light after contemplating Henry Moore’s sculptures — bringing to mind Oscar Wilde’s
quip that “nature imitates art.” And isn't it true that what we perceive in art museums so often influences our vision of the natural world?
Another paradox in our human experience . . .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    — Suzanne
                                                                                                                                               


"Sketching the Assyrian Reliefs, with My Wife, at the British Museum"
                                                                                                                           

"Moore's Doves"
                                                                                           

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                                Sketching the Assyrian Reliefs, with
                                   My Wife, at the British Museum
                                         
                                    Were it not mere alabaster, hewn
                                      the better portion of 3000
                                        civilizing years, the Dying Lioness
                                         of Nimrud, writhing in the grey
                                          spew of an archer’s flank-sprung
                                           shaft, would continue,
                                             year on year, to writhe
                                              on the black friezes
                                                of tossed sleep, to nudge
                                                 with her bruised snout
                                                   and dark closed eyes
                                                    into our dreams, like
                                                      painful words
                                                       that sputter eons to rekindle
                                                        in the corners of
                                                         the mind, like hunters’ fires
                                                          verging on our harmless
                                                           seekers’ lives — stalking
                                                            the beautiful, found rarely,
                                                             never uncombined
                                                              with pain.




                   Moores Doves
                                   IN MEM. Henry Moore (1898-1986)

         Soft sculpture of the morning.  Sunlight rose on their swollen breasts,
                  where they roost on the hard blackness of the power
                        lines.  Coo gently as we pace upon our 

          early walk, beneath.  Who says an artist's vision, true enough,
                 can't change the living world the way, forever after,
                        that we see: merging craft with blood's

          warm living pulse?  Round soft breasts, like Moore’s globed forms,
                 against the rising light.  Or like Cycladic women, small
                       heads & rounded bosoms tiny fecund

          sculpture, in glass cases, that he surely saw, as we had, in the British
                 Museum halls.  And thought, as we, how they’d reminded
                       him beyond their ancient lore of sun-tinged

          hills / or the soft breasts of cooing doves / before the rush of day.


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*“Sketching the Assyrian Reliefs, with / My Wife, at the British Museum” first appeared in the literary journal, Epoch (Cornell University Press), and later in Dan’s
first full-length volume of poems, The Artist and the Crow (Purdue University Press)  //  Moore’s Doves” first appeared in the final issue of the Massachusetts journal 
Diner, and was later reprinted in the International Poetry Review (UNC, Greensboro) in its original form.  This revised version will appear, alongside “Assyrian Reliefs,”
 in Back to the Source: Selected Poems & Parables (1980-2013) [San Francisco Bay Press, 2015]

1 comment:

  1. What deeply moving, thought-provoking poems with beautiful paintings! But beyond the fine writing and images alone, the videos create a fascinating TOTAL experience. I feel like I’ve traveled to the British Museum to stand before those stunning, disturbing reliefs myself. My middle school English students will appreciate poetry much more when I show them the videos on this site.

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