National Poetry Month: Talking of Michelangelo

Selected by Dr. Joan Digby

Talking of Michelangelo

“in the room the women come and go

talking of Michelangelo”

T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

 

Not only women but men also

talking and listening to audiotapes

as they strolled through the rooms

of the Metropolitan Museum’s

Michelangelo extravaganza

five viewer’s  deep to get within

range of a red chalk drawing.

 

For me it was a positive absurdity

between the brown walls

low light macular degeneration

and my paltry height of barely five feet

making me wonder whether

Michelangelo himself was tall enough

to see these drawing hung

at the eye level of a camel.

 

I imagined him there

in a crushed velvet hat and cape

cruising the rooms

wondering what it cost to gather

in one place all the work

of his masters and students

dead these six hundred years.

 

I followed close behind him

too short so see anything

but the bottoms of frames

and the collections

from which they had been borrowed:

the Louvre, Ufizzi, British Museum,

and the Queen’s cabinet at Windsor Palace

places from which he earned not one lire.

 

Unable to see the drawings

I read the endless wall copy

A babel of curatorial jargon

instructing me about

the cost of paper and how

the great artist worked from wax

models and wrote perhaps a poem

perhaps a shopping list—I thought—

on top of the drawings

he intended to throw away

once the real work was accomplished.

 

“Notice the cross-hatching,”

a gentleman clearly an art historian

or wily dealer said to the woman

at his side who turned to admire

the musculature of a floating arm.

It was all, quite literally, above me.

 

Michelangelo stared in disbelief

that all these sketches had survived

his clear intent to toss them out

once his sculptures were complete

and how they had miraculously

attracted people who had

nothing better to do

on a rainy afternoon in New York

a city that did not exist for him.

 

We walked together toward

the quarter scale replica

of his Sistine Chapel ceiling

cheap and stunted as if

it had been designed as a prefab

to adorn Vatican Pizza

Venieros or some other joint.

 

The idea of pizza seemed

to interest him and so I offered

to get him the hell out of

this show right past his mini

Last Judgment and hop a

subway down to 14th Street

to Basile Artichoke where I

could introduce him to

a venerable slice he was

most welcome to draw

in daylight when I might

closely observe and admire

his delicate cross-hatching

and architectural detail.

 

 

 

 

 

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“War Photograph”: By Kate Daniels

To continue in the celebration of American Archives Month, here is a moving poem written by Kate Daniels about a young girl, thrust into the chaos of war.

Also, remember to send you poems to post-wc@liu.edu for a chance at being featured on our blog. For details, see our last blog post: “Honoring American Archives Month” and send us your poem.

War Photograph
by: Kate Daniels

A naked child is running 
along the path toward us, 
her arms stretched out, 
her mouth open, 
the world turned to trash 
behind her.

She is running from the smoke 
and the soldiers, from the bodies 
of her mother and little sister 
thrown down into a ditch, 
from the blown-up bamboo hut 
from the melted pots and pans. 
And she is also running from the gods 
who have changed the sky to fire 
and puddled the earth with skin and blood. 
She is running--my god--to us, 
10,000 miles away, 
reading the caption 
beneath her picture 
in a weekly magazine. 
All over the country 
we’re feeling sorry for her 
and being appalled at the war 
being fought in the other world. 
She keeps on running, you know,
after the shutter of the camera 
clicks. She’s running to us. 
For how can she know, 
her feet beating a path 
on another continent? 
How can she know
what we really are? 
From the distance, we look 
so terribly human.

Honoring American Archives Month

Collecting photos or historical objects is a wonderful way to look into the past. As a part of the celebration of American Archives Month, the Writing Center invites you to write a poem reflecting on a photo from your or your families history, engaging the reader in a story that goes beyond the still image. Once you have written your poem, e-mail them to the Writing Center at post-wc@liu.edu, where it will have the chance of being posted on our blog! Be sure to include your name, year, and major in the e-mail. We are excited to read your poems and cannot wait to post them for others to see!

If you need a little help getting started, take a look at Gabeba Baderoon’s poem below!

Old Photographs

On my desk is a photograph of you
taken by the woman who loved you then.

In some photos her shadow falls
in the foreground. In this one,
her body is not that far from yours.

Did you hold your head that way
because she loved it?

She is not invisible, not
my enemy,
nor even the past.
I think I love the things she loved.

Of all your old photographs,
I wanted this one for its becoming. I think
you were starting
to turn your head a little,
your eyes looking slightly to the side.

Was this the beginning of leaving?