I love you, baseball. I’m glad you’re back. — J.W.
NO PAINTING SUMS UP the alienation and isolation of 21st century existence as does The Scream by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. After Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it is the second most recognised painting in the world.
The idea came to Munch while walking in the wooded hills above old Oslo more than a century ago, following a bout of heavy drinking the previous evening.
“I was walking along the road with two friends. The sun set. I felt a great sadness. Suddenly the sky became blood red. I stopped, leaned against the railings, dead tired. And saw the flaming clouds as blood over the blue-black fjord and city. My friends walked on. I stood there trembling with angst. And I sensed a loud, unending scream pierce nature.”
Written shortly after his walk, the words that would eventually lead to the series of paintings and lithographs entitled Skrik (The Scream), contain…
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As a child, Horace Walpole frequently heard it said of himself that surely he would die soon. Born in England in 1717, the last of his mother’s six children, he was fragile and prone to illness from birth. Two siblings before him had died in infancy, and so in the family order it went: three older children, loud, healthy and opinionated; two grave markers; and then young Horace toddling up behind—half child, half potential grave marker.
Naturally, his mother, Catherine, spoiled him. His father, Sir Robert Walpole, was the King’s prime minister. This often kept him away from home, as did a long-time mistress who acted, more than his wife did, as his hostess and companion. For her part Catherine had her own dalliances. It was that sort of marriage. The Walpoles…
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Don’t gesticulate with your hands or make faces when speaking, the teachers at my British boarding school told me. It’s vulgar. I’m sure that this enjoinder at such an impressionable age imbued my poems with reticence and austerity.
But poetry has a body language. The poet’s way of breathing supplies oxygen to the body and to the poem. The poet’s way of walking and talking is inherent in the poem. I knew a poet who walked like the prow of a ship cutting through waves, the bone in its teeth, as sailors say, and that how her poems walked and talked.
The body language of a poem is also shaped by the script used in its writing. If it was first written by hand the poet’s hand, the stops and starts, the way I’s are dotted and t’s crossed, lives in the poem. If the poem was first typed, the…
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