Monday, March 25, 2013

Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

Mark Nepo's "Fire Without Witness" is an epic poem that centers on Michelangelo as he paints The Sistine Ceiling. While painting the different panels, he reveals stories of his time, his life, and through his dreams, the future. As the panels are painted, the prophets and sibyls and objects of Creation come alive, unknown to Michelangelo, and tell their stories. The poem presents two skewed realities, and while at times the Biblical and mythic voices see Michelangelo, they never reach his awareness. 
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.
About his work, Nepo says "It took me ten years to write the poem, which seems now a painting itself. It seems a vision of that rim between the human and the infinite, where our body of sense almost leaves us, than settles and hardens into what we are. And when dealing with the infinite, all comes down to one encompassing, unnamable source, one fire without witness. As Michelangelo himself put it, “What is in the very center is always free.”

From Part III: Michelangelo stalls on the scaffold to recall how he first saw the Pieta, complete, in the unquarried marble at Carrara.

"Someday, I'll carve a Venus, bunching
the warm breasts high, the silk legs closed,
the most perfect virgin, with everything
to give, and no desire.

O what if Heaven is as cold.
The things I love most wait hunched
in the white Carrara grove, never
where the workmen mutter. Like fish,
the statues scatter from the lines.
I hunt alone, away from the crews,
and the statues pull back, deep
in the thick of the mountain.
They hold still as the stone,
and some arch themselves
along the inner faults,
dreaming slowly
not to be found.


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