Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Reality" by Carol Hamilton

Former Oklahoma Poet Laureate and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee Carol Hamilton was the Songs of Eretz Poetry Review Poet of the Month for August 2015 and the guest judge for the 2016 Songs of Eretz Poetry Award Contest.  She has recent and upcoming publications in: Pontiac Review, Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine, Poet Lore, Limestone, Louisiana Literature, Off The Coast, Palaver, San Pedro River Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Hubbub, Blue Unicorn, Abbey, Main Street Rag, Two Cities Review, Poem, Tipton Poetry Review, and others. She has published seventeen books, most recently, Such Deaths from the Visual Arts Cooperative Press in Chicago.

Carol Hamilton

Giotto … I told the children
of him, the first known
artist we studied. 
We all loved his funny
flying angel skirts,
the creatures’ tears
and rounded cheeks and limbs,
though the mountains and trees
remained angled and awkward,
born in the studio from piled
and draped tables and chairs.
So art’s progress
in the Renaissance came
in lovely fits and starts.
Now his work flakes off
the walls and someone
must save them, though I love
the spots where the background
paint peeks through all
those things the artist tried
to make as real as he,
at the moment, could …
as we. 

Poet’s Notes:  I visited Assisi and saw Giotto’s frescoes long before I knew much about his work. I am not sure when I fell in love with his art, but some books I still have with reproductions of his frescoes are yellowed with age and tattered with use. When teaching an art history course in a school for gifted elementary students, I taught the children of Giotto and his place as transition from Medieval and Byzantine art into the Renaissance.         

For me, the realistic faces and rounded bodies of his works are beautiful, but there is something so na├»ve and charming as he tries to show the motion of flight, and I wonder why in the ebb and flow over the centuries between abstract and realistic art it would not have occurred to him to look out the window in order to paint the hills and mountains. You can so easily see the artifice. But is not much in our lives filled with artifice, “truths” we live by without questioning the wisdom of our times?

Editor’s Note:  For me, this riveting poem works as an ekphrastic piece but also as an example of ut pictura poesis.   The statue of Giotto above depicted was sculpted by Joseph Mailord William Turner.  Examples of Giotto's work may be found here:

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