POSTED: APRIL 25, 2020
When I sat down to write this piece it was because I received an email telling me I was a finalist in a poetry competition. I was thrilled. I was also just enjoying the idea that something else might be going on in the world than the Coronavirus. There are little green shoots starting to come up in places where its spring, and people falling in love and poetry contests. If only for a bit of the day its good to get your mind into part of the world that is not virus related or the associated end of the world financially.
So contests – I think they are great. They are a way for an amateur or recreational poet or painter or woodworker or quilter or dwarf rabbit breeder to find out what the world thinks of their work. Yes, our friends and family might tell us they like that crochet piece we did of Elvis riding a unicorn, but when someone who has been deemed to be a judge of a real contest provides some feedback on our work well that’s where we really can learn. Its also what gives us the confidence to continue on with the pursuit.
Many years ago Janice was chosen to be one of two visual artists representing Ontario at the Royal Bank Of Canada’s National Painting Competition. It was a big deal. She did not win the top prize, but being chosen to be a finalist, the comments of the judges on her work, and the exposure in shows at some of the most significant public art museums and galleries across Canada was amazing for her confidence in moving further with her work and continuing to let her own voice come out. It is probably one of the things that inspired her, many years later to establish a poetry award at the University of Toronto.
The contest I was contacted about was not the only one I have entered. I enter a number of contests a year. Perhaps only about one-tenth of the contests Jim enters but many have entry fees so he can, and some don’t, so I can. This contest was with the Palm Beach Poetry Festival which happens near the end of January each year. The contest is for an ekphrastic poem (poetry about a piece of art) based on one of several pieces of art shown at the Cornell Art Museum in Palm Beach. Jim had been told about it by a friend of theirs in Key West – Flower Conroy. Now Flower is a poet who Janice and Jim hang with while in KW and take a poetry workshop with each year and is by all accounts a pretty neat creature. Some of her poetry is a bit beyond me but I like it. www.flowerconroy.com
Jim sent me the details as he knew that one of the pieces of art I would like. It is called Adhesif and I will get to that in a minute. The artist is Caroline Dechamby a Dutch painter who lives in southern France. Her work is based on using a historic artist’s style as a starting point or muse for a current piece.
Her homage pieces to Basquiat, Van Gogh and Rothko are shown below.
Now the young woman in the art is Dechamby herself when she was younger. She is now a more mature age and while some of these pieces were painted some time ago others are recent and it seems she loves to depict herself at a certain age. Many of us think of ourselves this way. We aren’t delusional and know what our actual age is but many of our ideas and our sense of self really gelled at a certain point. I have had many a conversation over many glasses of wine on this very topic when I ask a person not how old they are but how old their psyche is. For me, it’s my late 30’s. By that point in my life I had a good sense of who I was, and a really good fix on who I was not. For some people it is the age they were when their life story turned – beat cancer, a new marriage, leaving a bad career, came out of prison. For others, it is just that point when everything came together and they started feeling comfortable with themselves.
It’s also interesting how some of us don’t age other people as well. They may age but we still see them as we once did when we met them. I have a high school friend who when in something like grade seven had a crush on Jane Goodall. Well, what’s not to like there when your in grade seven: an attractive scientist and monkeys! I was speaking to him a couple of years ago and he referenced a current documentary piece on her and I had to ask – “still hot? And his response “as ever”.
So this is the background to my poem. I hope you like it. The art piece Adhesif is shown first so you have the reference for what the poem is about.
MODERN MASQUE FOR MONDRIAN
No piety here.
Her soft edges layered
On hard edge technique.
Abstraction of abstraction
The artist with the art,
in the art, the fiction complete.
The photographic reflection,
One dimension, two dimension,
Three dimension, four.
Comments by Judge Stephan Gibson.
“This spare, brief, thirteen-line poem delightfully engages the artwork—and the reader’s ear, with its slant rhyme use used to slant meaning in relating its sly view of Dechamby’s equally sly piece. Right from its opening, “Piet indeed,/No piety here,” (lines 1-2), the slyness and engagement with the artwork happens—and continues, “Her soft edges layered/On hard edge technique” (ll. 3-4)—the abstract objectification of art and the model immediately coming into view, “Abstraction of abstraction/So representational//The artist with the art,/in the art, the fiction complete,” leading the reader to what the eye feels and not only sees, the epiphany, “Primary colours/Primal desires” (ll. 12-13).
So that’s it. To see the other poets pieces check out: https://www.palmbeachpoetryfestival.org/news/art-couture-winners/
P.S. as always I don’t have a problem with anyone reproducing my poetry or prose but please attribute it to me.