Short bits

I’m going to hear Magdalena Kozená sing tomorrow night! Gluck, Rameau, Rebel, and some as-yet-unannounced Mozart. Huzzah for other people’s last-minute ticket cancellations! I think I’m going to be pretty close to the stage, too.

Cole Swensen’s poems are hard to describe: you never know where she’s going subjectwise, but the way she breaks up sentences and lines and the visual field of the page are a constant and consistent signature. I once read in a biography of Keats that the way Keats managed to sound like Milton when he wanted to be all Miltonic, or Pope when he was being Popean, was all in the placement of the caesura. Swensen’s broken and reassembled and half-parenthesized lines are like that caesura; they’re even more of a linkage than the thematic connections she likes to work with. And yet one is never bored. I’m partway through The Book of a Hundred Hands and keep wanting to quote it. So, here:

The Hand as Staircase

Or as sunlight on a stair
                            Follow the curve
across a brow. Later
a film still in which a Venetian blind, a streetlight outside,
and the face climbs,
one at a time, spiraling outward as the flight turns

we revert
to the brow. The shadows thrown by the streetlight
are not quite parallel, a city on a hill.

And how happy we are here! On a corner
about to cross the street and enter the park

at the top of a hill, from which you see the tops of dozens of hills.

(Cole Swensen, The Book of a Hundred Hands, Part 3)

Some of these poems make me think of Georges de la Tour’s paintings of people by candlelight, with their hands silhouetted against the candle flame, like the Repentant Magdalen in the National Gallery.

Yipes, it’s late. Time for bed.

3 Responses to “Short bits”

  1. Sarah says:

    Magdalena! You lucky lucky lucky person. I might cry..

  2. Amanda says:

    And I was sitting a mere ten feet away from her, too! (Not to make you cry or anything, cara mia. But I’m still amazed at how near she was.)