Monday, September 12, 2011

The Revenant


The Revanant (1949): a self-portrait
 by Andrew Wyeth: offered by Tess Kincaid
 for Magpie Tale 82

























How many lifetimes did it take
to make that tattered shade,

      darkened by the soot of soiled hands,
            torn to beckon light into the room,
                   clawed to shreds in trying to escape?

To shape the edge into the blackened fingers
      hanging in the window, burnt by sun;

a shroud to shield the soot that settles
      in the cells of all the voices filled with light –
                  clings to paper walls of faded roses;
                       petals peeling off the plaster cracks.

Tear off the shroud and throw open the window!
Call spirits from the mirrors – and away.


Posted for

30 comments:

  1. Fabulous write! Love the entire tone of this piece. A little chilling, a little intriguing.

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  2. some excellent plays on words ('specially shade)

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  3. ah love the empowerment there at the end...yes we can not live like that...really like the textures you spin up to that as well setting the scene...

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  4. Your response to the painting has changed my perspective. It's always interesting to read someone else's reaction - thank you:-)

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  5. The phrases build up into a powerful evocation of atmosphere.

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  6. A claustrophobic captive? Horror indeed...You certainly produced a scary scenario for this Magpie, Ann.♥

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  7. Macabre, very chilling, one looks for
    Ossian, blind and dreaming, and one
    struggles to wake up from the poetic
    nightmarish daydream, until the last
    stanza, when the cold air rushes in,
    the mirror glass clears, and only our
    own reflection stares back.

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  8. There is something quite frightening about this. There is too much darkness here to leave me as flippant as I usually am with these prompts.

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  9. Basked in the dark truly shouldn't be where one should lie, really liked your strong realization at the end.

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  10. I like this a lot, especially the ending! This prompt DID bring a lot of dark poetry, for some reason.

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  11. Your fine eye for detail separates the light from dark in this picture. I've often wondered what the artist was trying to convey here, but now I feel as if I've been offered an explanation that covers so many of the painted facts. The dark fingers--in the window, on his hand, the half-face, the shroud shirt and curtain, all coming back from far. Your last lines are that affirmative the light seems to be asking for.

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  12. Beautiful images... I love "clings to paper walls of faded roses; petals peeling off the plaster cracks."

    ~laurie

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  13. I'm with Hedge. Sorry Andy couldn't have read your piece. He was a master of detail and did amazingly strange things with his paintings. Just as they were thought to be finished, he would take a risk by hanging them out a window wet, throwing a film over them, staining them with something lighter and darker. He was obsessed with the subject of light. Well done!

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  14. I don't think the painting means anything. I think it's a thoroughly modern painting - no symbolism, no narrative, just paint. All the more surprising that I love what you've done here. And in doing it you've made me see the painting like I've never seen it before.

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  15. Your fine words give life to this portrait.

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  16. Complex and rather frightening. Atmosphere well evoked

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  17. I love the opening question and all the possible answers you evoke, ( esp striking is 'clawed to shreds in trying to escape',) your use of words - shroud, blackened fingers, torn, tattered- is deliciously haunting yet precise and contrasts so well to the upbeat call of the last line '- and away.'
    Wonderful writing and images:)

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  18. You've drawn in so much with few words, sparse like the painting that inspired it, full of depth and hinted at signifiers like the art. I wouldn't have paid as close attention without your luring words, thank you.

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  19. Wyeth was 31 and painted this self-portrait of himself as a ghost in his studio on the second floor of the Olson house in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where he lived with his wife and also painted "Christina’s World," the work that made his reputation early on.

    This one was done the year after he shook the art world with the latter, a work he had privately disparaged before sending it off for sale. So I've got to wonder if he was portraying the disconnect between an artist's sudden acclaim and his real self, his own values.

    Thanks for your poem and this fabulous image. It made me want to know more about the work and the historical artist!

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  20. What tenderness and empathy pervade these lines, Ann-- very mesmerizing and beautiful; I especially loved:

    ...a shroud to shield the soot that settles
    in the cells of all the voices filled with light –
    clings to paper walls of faded roses;
    petals peeling off the plaster cracks.

    xxxj

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  21. Thanks to all for your thoughtful reactions and comments to this poem. I learned from the application documents for the National Register of Historic Places designation that Wyeth spent almost 30 summers at the Olson farm, in Maine, using it apparently as inspiration for his work. The owners, a brother and sister who inherited the farm, lived there all their lives. Christina's disease robbed her of the use of her legs, as Wyeth immortalized in his famous painting. He reportedly watched her crawl to and from her garden to harvest a few vegetables. So the idea of "lifetimes", stifling enclosure in that little world and the thoughts of Wyeth watching Christina swirled into the weird amalgam that produced the poem.

    In addition, I read that Wyeth's father had instilled in him as a boy and young man the desireability of remaining in one location, becoming part of it, employing it as muse (my interpretation). He lived in Pennsylvania in the winter and at the Olson Farm in summer. Wyeth's wife encouraged him to distance himself professionaly from his father but that apparently did not happen. We all know that that simple statement probably can't begin to describe the tension such a situation caused between husband and wife. I asked myself why the artist would interject himself deliberately into another claustrophobic life situation. There are no answers of course. I am not a psychiatrist but I found the basis for a poem in the painting and a few details of the life of the artist who created it.

    I should also mention that the sight of a torn ragged shade hanging in the windows of old abandoned houses here in Foster was not an uncommon site before affluence made those antique treasures desireable for restoration.The longer I lived here the more old stories I learned of the generations who spent their lives there.

    Although I know that poems neither require explanations, nor should try to provide them, for this one I find it useful to explain it to myself, just for the heck of it. I see though, having reached this point with many words, that I haven't reached the end of the references I still see in the poem, but the circle begins to ripple as when we skip a stone across the pond, and I must stop.

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  22. What an amazing poem and how you bring life to this portrait
    http://gatelesspassage.com/2011/09/13/a-new-life-begins/

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  23. You have incorporated all the elements of Wyeth's picture very adroitly.

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  24. Open the window -- she's still crawling in the field toward the house. Good poem, Ann. (And I love Andrew Wyeth's work.)

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  25. I also found it fascinating that AW used the image of his wife's arms in place of Christina's when he painted her crawling in the field. Great piece, Ann.

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  26. Wow, this image certainly fired your imagination!

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  27. Tear off the shroud and open the window...I love this! Excellent, Ann.

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  28. Such a powerful piece Ann - so accomplished. I love the opening - very brave. On first reading I couldn't help but think of the prisoners and the prison I worked in for so many years.

    On reading your background research I see how much imprisonment was in your thinking. A wonderful piece.

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