Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two of my adaptations of Andrea Alciati's EMBLEMS are up, at AGNI. I'm making a little book of these that I'm calling Unreasonable Facsimiles: based on the ‘Emblems’ of Andrea Alciati

Alciati’s Emblematum Liber, first published in 1531, is an urbane collection of proverbs, riddles, and enigmatic emblems that is today most familiar to art historians because of their accompanying woodblocks. Alciati’s book, however, was enormously popular and influential in the Renaissance and gave rise to a school of “emblem poetry” that continued to be popular through the 19th century. I am most excited by the rhetorical strategies, the wit, and the ethical imagination at work in Alciati’s Emblems and the poems I have written so far in this series attempt to bring those qualities to bear on poems about our own times. Playful, enigmatic, epigrammatic, demotic, ironic, and succinct, the poems will comprise more of a series than a sequence. Alciati (sometimes referred to as Alciato) wrote 212 of these. I would like to compose twenty-five or thirty; I'm about halfway there.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

In Dublin in 2008 I had the opportunity to spend an entire day at The National Library where they had mounted the greatest exhibit about a writer I have ever seen, devoted to the life and work of William Butler Yeats. Usually, at least in my experience, exhibits about writers tend to be disappointing: "Look, there's his chair! His desk, the couch he used to sprawl on to take naps, his dictionary, and ooo, ooo, come over here, there's a manuscript page under glass with a coffee ring on it!" It's all a bit like coming to the tomb on Easter morning and gawking, "Look, there's the rock, there's a piece of shroud, etc." But this exhibit, besides being comprehensive and deep in its considerations of Yeats and his times, and besides being organized like an excellent biography that is able to braid the chronology with the themes of each era of the poet's work, uses the resources of technology to the fullest to engage viewers and readers. I left feeling that I had been handling Yeats's manuscripts all day — and I had, albeit digitally.

I could go on and on: can't make out Yeats's handwriting? Click to the print version. Prefer to hear it? OK, then Seamus Heaney will say it for you. But I won't go on, because NOW THE WHOLE EXHIBIT IS ONLINE with the manuscripts, films, artifacts, and recordings available at your desk.