Sunday, July 28, 2013

"The Napalm Girl", iconic Vietnamese photo and poems

How do we, as Americans, react to photographs of children our bombs have hurt or killed? Here are two poems about images of children caught in the horror of war. The first is a response to the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Kim Phuc, burned by napalm as she and her family run to escape the bombing of Trang Bang, Vietnam, in 1972. The second poem may be a response to the same image. More here.
Photo by Nick Ut

Too Hot, Too Hot
by Lisa Mullenneaux

We couldn’t play the dragon snake
We couldn’t go outside the temple
while the fat planes flew so we played
spinning tops, told each other stories
of what we’d do when the fighting stopped.

Run, soldiers shouted, the temple’s burning.
Trang Bang was burning, I was burning,
orange flames licking my bare arms,
licking away my cotton shirt, my shorts
and underpants until I was nothing
but a mouth screaming “Too hot, too hot,”
trying to outrun the dragon.

I lived. The doctors told my father “no,”
but I lived. Every minute in pain. When they
removed dead skin in the burn bath,
my childhood washed away. Something else
grew with the new cells grafted to my back.

Fame grew. I was “the Napalm Girl,”
image without a name. Can I tell my story?
There was once a village, there was once a girl.

War Photograph
by Kate Daniels

A naked child is running 
along the path toward us, 
her arms stretched out, 
her mouth open, the world turned to trash 
behind her. 

She is running from the smoke 
and the soldiers, from the bodies 
of her mother and little sister 
thrown down into a ditch, 
from the blown-up bamboo hut 
from the melted pots and pans. 
And she is also running from the gods 
who have changed the sky to fire 
and puddled the earth with skin and blood. 
She is running--my god--to us, 
10,000 miles away, 
reading the caption 
beneath her picture 
in a weekly magazine. 
All over the country 
we're feeling sorry for her 
and being appalled at the war 
being fought in the other world. 
She keeps on running, you know, 
after the shutter of the camera 
clicks. She's running to us. 
For how can she know, 
her feet beating a path 
on another continent? 
How can she know 
what we really are? 
From the distance, we look 
so terribly human. 

ekphrastic poems painters poets

Monday, July 22, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Catullus: Cy Twombly

Postings this week will include selections from Art and Artists: Poems, an anthology of ekphrastic poems by Emily Fragos, Knopf, 2012. Of his work, the painter Cy Twombly (1928-2011) said : “It does not illustrate. It is the sensation of its own realization.” He was much influenced by poets like Catullus, Rumi, Pound and Rilke. More on Twombly.

Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the shores of Asia Minor)
—The Twombly Gallery-Houston, Texas

by Javier O. Huerta

A child could not have drawn this.
Maybe something more like 67 children.
(Each with his or her own favorite ice cream.) 
         And not just
Ordinary children. All 67 would have five arms each.
And each arm would have three hands and each hand
Would hold three brushes and two pencils.

And, in his or her own way, each child would love and 
         hate Catullus.
Love him so much that they would crawl the streets 
        of Rome in search of him.
Hate him so much that they would crawl the streets 
        of Rome in search of him.

335 arms to embrace him. 1005 hands to maul him.

Catullus, give back all the beautiful words.

The artist stands before his monumental painting.

ekphrastic poems painters poets

Piero della Francesca and Jorie Graham

Postings this week will include selections from Art and Artists: Poems, an anthology of ekphrastic poems by Emily Fragos, Knopf, 2012. Jorie Graham was born in New York City in 1950 and educated in Rome and Paris. She is the daughter of sculptor Beverly Pepper. Graham won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994. The Italian painter Piero della Francesca (1415-1492) - the inspiration for one of Graham's most famous poems - was born in San Sepolcro.
Jorie Graham

San Sepolcro
by Jorie Graham

In this blue light
     I can take you there,
snow having made me
     a world of bone
seen through to.  This
     is my house,

my section of Etruscan
     wall, my neighbor's
lemontrees, and, just below
     the lower church,
the airplane factory.
Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca 
A rooster crows all day from mist outside the walls. There's milk on the air, ice on the oily lemonskins. How clean the mind is, holy grave. It is this girl by Piero della Francesca, unbuttoning her blue dress, her mantle of weather, to go into labor. Come, we can go in. It is before the birth of god. No one has risen yet to the museums, to the assembly line--bodies and wings--to the open air market. This is what the living do: go in. It's a long way. And the dress keeps opening from eternity to privacy, quickening. Inside, at the heart, is tragedy, the present moment forever stillborn, but going in, each breath is a button coming undone, something terribly nimble-fingered finding all of the stops.

ekphrastic poems painters poets