Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Short Season of Other Poets: Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith writes:
‘On Not Seeing,’ came from two separate but linked events. In February 2008, I had a rare weekend away with my partner in Rome. We arrived too late on Saturday to visit the Sistine Chapel, but made do with all the other beauties that Rome offers. Four months later, on a June day out with the family at the beach, I was lazily cloud-gazing, lying on my back, when I had a ‘ping’ moment. This was first published in qarrtsiluni, July 2008.

On Not Seeing Inside the Sistine Chapel

You were a sky-gazer, a cloud-watcher,
seeing within those steamed puff-pillows
the forms of fabulous beings.

Just now I saw a fisherman, his white head
turned away, his finger flung
behind him pointing at infinity.

His rag-rolled head streamed to the west,
clothes rippling in the high sky-wind.
And when my lazy eye looked again

he morphed into a huge ornamental E,
whose top lintel was a crocodile’s mouth,
snapping at the blue. This too bleeds,

feeds into a sterling pound sign. You
must have spent afternoons on your back
gazing at patterns forming and merging,

dissipating where the mind dragged it.
You took your pigments and pulled them,
your art fixing a borderless sky inside

a broad high vault, peopling the heavens.
Ah, Michelangelo, I know why the sky
became your backdrop, why you loved shades

from azurite to smalt to cobalt blue.

Barbara Smith lives on the east coast of Ireland, dividing her time between raising six children, writing and teaching Creative Writing. In 2007, her debut poetry collection Kairos was published by Doghouse Books, Ireland. She was awarded an MA in Creative Writing from Queen’s University, Belfast in 2008. Barbara is the 2008/09 recipient of the Annie Deeny Memorial Prize, granted by the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annamakerrig, Newbliss, Ireland to emerging poets. She blogs at Barbara’s Bleeuugh.


Liz said...

Oh yes, I remember this poem - love the sentiment and how it came about.


A beautiful poem. Very well crafted like all Barbara's work.

I especially love these lines:

'You took your pigments and pulled them,
your art fixing a borderless sky inside

a broad high vault, peopling the heavens.'


PJ Nolan said...

What a beautifully worked through evocation of the creative. As somebody who paints as well as writing, I enjoyed the celebration of playfulness here - that it's not always a slog, but sometimes a soft settling of sparks.

Rachel Fox said...

I bet this sounds brilliant read aloud...especially 'Ah, Michaelangelo...' with Irish on top. I bet kids really like it too - they are the champion could-watchers.

It's always exciting when a non-experience gets turned into a wow experience too.


apprentice said...

Lovely poem and lovely to see it here B. I was just thinking today that the clouds had a look of summer abot for the first time in months, those high, fluffy cathedral-sized ones...

Rachel Fox said...

Did I say 'could' - meant 'cloud' obviously!

Angela France said...

I love this too - the different approach to Michelangelo humanises him, releases him from the iconic.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Nice one, B ,particularly liked the
'His rag-rolled head streamed to the west' line. Funny how different things mean different things to different people. Vive la difference!

Michelle said...

A beautiful poem, Barbara. Thank you for posting it, Jane.

And a stunning book cover!