Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Moment for Poetry

A slight digression today, in honor of the publication of the summer issue of the Los Angeles-based literary magazine Rattle. It includes a review I wrote of David Starkey's poetry collection, A few things you should know about the weasel. (Bibliosis, 2010). You can check it out:

Starkey, Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate, doesn't write directly about the themes of this blog, but at least one of his poems, 'Hitler's Art,' has an oblique connection.

I've heard it said, if Hitler had been a better artist, we would have been spared Nazism. This is not Starkey's point; his poem focuses more on the nature of art itself. The poem begins, 'I hate to admit it, but he wasn't bad' and goes on to say, 'He learned/the knack of when to lift the brush and when/to let the pigments blend.' Landscapes in watercolor: Hitler mastered technique. 'He couldn't, however,/draw a human face to save his life.'

The poem follows with a meditation about Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, 'written the year after the first war' when Hitler was 'beginning/to sketch swastikas in earnest.' It was Elgar's last composition: after the death of his wife were 'fourteen/barren years till death, while Hitler's craft/increased.'

In conclusion, 'And I feel that I understand/the difference between architecture/and art, between exactitude and, say it, soul.'

Perhaps what keeps us reading and performing and debating Shakespeare's plays for more than four centuries is that ineffable quality: soul.

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