Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Louise Bourgeois: An Unfinished Poem

(thanks to the great Lemon Hound blog for photo!)

A couple of years ago, I was on the way to New York and poet Lee Ann Brown happened to mention that she'd enjoyed the Louise Bourgeois Retrospective at the Whitney.  I had heard legends about Bourgeois' salon, and sculptor Judy Fox had been meaning to bring me over, but I hadn't made it there and didn't really know a lot about Bourgeois' work other than the Spiders. But I knew I had to go . .  .

And yes, that exhibit's spiralling journey through the restless curiosity, wild sensuality and heroic courage of her career really blew me away.  What a journey of texture, form, and heart, to the very end when the layers of expertise were peeled back and the raw pain of some of her formative experience revealed! What an inspiration to keep growing younger in heart and soul while older in mind and skill!

I felt compelled to pull out my notebook almost immediately, even during the early totem poles on the lower levels of the exhibit, and kept writing raptly as I climbed the ramps as slowly as possible, spiralling back over and over, notebook in hand, moved over and over to words.

I stayed to see a difficult film on her life and career, and from then on tried to absorb everything I could about her.  It is so rare that I have felt the heady sense of being alive at the same time as a truly great artist.  It's a reassuring feeling, like being in a tribe that feels complete.

And this artist really speaks to my own concerns and feelings.

So why is my poem still unfinished?

I have been trying to find a way to bring it together formally without closing it down-- a way that will do tribute to the organicity of her own forms.

Ekphrastic poetry is always difficult for me, because it forces words to focus on representing images, while much of the reason I am drawn to poetry is because words are musical.   In a few poems, such as my very first sonnet, "Still Life"(in EVE), which focuses on an imagined Vermeer painting, it seems the two discoveries, visual and musical, have melded.

In tribute to Bourgeois, I would like to finish the poem soon; but in order to do so, I think I will need to find a new kind of form, one that is "organic" but not in the sense meant by Denise Levertov, where the form of the poem grows out of its content, but in a more mathematical sense, like that meant by Gyorgi Doczi in his book on patterns of nature.

Perhaps I will do some mathematical parsing of my favorite of Bourgeois' shapes, or even her hands. I'll start by watching this youtube clip.


michael said...

if (as i believe) every artwork shows a world, then ekphrasis makes a journey into that world.

or, in jungian jargon, "active imagination"...

don't know if this might help.


Annie Finch said...

yes, this is a very nice way to "enter" into ekphrasis. thanks!