Questions is a collaboration by Lucy Kempton and Joe Hyam. Poems are based on questions drawn from an agreed starting question and formed by answers, which contain and inspire the next questions. In response to Lucy's first question, Joe kicks off. This follows our earlier work in Compasses, archived here, where Lucy's photographs illustrate Joe's series of 50 sonnets under the title Handbook for Explorers.

Saturday 9 January 2010

What on earth shall I draw to day?

Imagine, when you look, how the eyes
Of Rembrandt and Picasso widen,
Their bleak gaze, hard and black,
Your book open like a laugh,
Pencil sharp as an angel's foot,
Your eyes on the scrounge.
Watch fissures in walls and faces,
Narrow and wry, where lenses
Cannot go, where in the dark in the skull
Or in a spiral shell, particles
Dance at one time in different places,
Or in "the infinite spaces
Between the stars" which terrified
Pascal; or in the spaces
Between the head and heart
Where animals watch for prey ...
A line will do, just a line
To wire the air, connect the thought,
Lead from one thing to another,
Hang an apple on a tree,
Place a loaf on a table.
Answer if you can on the way
The questions that come up:
What is hidden in this jar
Or in that lacquered Chinese box,
Where, hard and dry, curled segments
Of tangerine peel are stored
(To perfume ice cream or soup),
Faded but aromatic still.


Roderick Robinson said...

Rolling like one those waves that carries a surfer further than he has any right to expect. But I am detained elsewhere and will be back.

The Crow said...

This is wonderful, Plutarch. It does, as BB notes, roll along like a wave and takes the reader to unexpected places in her (my) soul, a place full of memory - and longing for something unnameable, almost sacred.

Tangerine-scented soup...hmmm...

marja-leena said...

Such a wonderful collaboration, Joe and Lucy! I'm pleased to see it continuing, and this poem is especially close to my art-heart.

Roderick Robinson said...

This may be a small matter for you but for me it's a much firmer shove to my elbow. The ability to sustain the poetic line from beginning to end rather than break it up (as I find myself doing with sonnets) into 3 x 4 lines and 1 x 2 lines, the penalty I pay for a rigid format. But that's only the start. I particularly like "your eyes on the scrounge" which deliberately de-romanticises the initial act of creation: people who don't know talk airily of "inspiration", those who do go out like miners, armed with a shovel. Preceded, of course, by lines which describe the way the eyes and tools are prepared and leading on to a dash of quantum theory.

But the best thing of all is that you draw on experience that is outside the "poetic", touching on subjects that are thought too hard, too obscure. There's a wide range of implications in "Answer if you can on the way, The questions that come up." and I hope I'm not being naive in imagining that the lacquered Chinese box could have contained, or might contain, the famous cat. Eclectic is a word bandied about too easily but this is eclecticism at its best, a demonstration that there's a world beyond the visual and the psychological and its thrilling nature deserves good poetry.

Lucy said...

Interesting, BB; I am habitually leery of one line, and have even nagged Joe in the past to break things up a bit into stanzas, yet I didn't even really register that this was all in one piece, it just felt and ran so right...

Lucas said...

I am immensely enjoying the sequence as it is evolving. Each poem deepens and widens the net. This poem works extremely well with its musical lines and as Barret points out flowing syntax. I love the images too: "Watch fissures in walls and faces,/Narrow and wry, where lenses/Cannot go.." and "just a line/To wire the air.." conjures much.

PurestGreen said...

I love this poem and am adding it to my favourites so I can read it again and again. It is one of those poems from which I will get something new each time I read it.

herhimnbryn said...

A darkly rich poem for artists everywhere.