Sunday Poem

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Here’s my best read of this week’s poem: you have the frustrated artist, who finds himself completely capable of artfully representing reality but failing to apply that same art to imagined, fictional creations.

The poet contrasts painting with photography. Painting is what he aims for; the photographer’s lens merely captures snapshots. The snapshots are clearly attempts at assigning importance to the moments they capture, but frequently fail to do so effectively because they’re constrained by what actually happened (“paralyzed by fact”). The poet’s own work often feels just like photography, limited in this way.

But is this really a limitation? Vermeer is a painter who provides such realistic portrayals of reality that they seem almost photographed. And yet, they have a powerful effect. The artist — the photographer, the painter, the poet — does something wonderful, the poem concludes, by accurately representing actual moments. Our entire lives are composed of such short, delicate moments, and the photograph snapshot allows us to assign each of those unimportant moments some importance.

Thoughts and questions:

  • Why is the poem called “Epilogue”? Does it come at the end of some other work?
  • What does “all’s misalliance” mean?
  • Oh, wait, here’s a short essay about the poem.
  • From that essay: “the poem also recalls the classical recusatio (refusal), in which the speaker claims he is unable to write the kind of poem the occasion calls for.” That’s cool! I want to read more recusatios.
  • So is this poem imagined or recalled?
  • What does it mean to “tremble to caress the light”?
  • I like that line break — “I want to make // something imagined, not recalled.” But read the line break and it’s not just a felt inability to write imagined poems, but an inability to make anything at all. (As opposed to just recalling, I suppose?)


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