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Monthly Archives: March 2010
Rae Armantrout has won the 2009 award from the National Book Critics Circle for Versed (link to article here). I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on Rae’s previous collection, Up To Speed, a book which beautifully delivers an ‘everyday’ experience to us in a fresh context which makes us reconsider our own subjectivity, our speech patterns and behaviour. A lot of poets aspire to – and achieve – the same objectives, but Rae Armantrout’s writing is especially special to me because it was the basis of my first in-depth engagement with such jarring and intensive writing, and I wonder if I would have been so electrified had I chosen another poet (my choice was naive but lucky). Her poems tend to document the thinking process, and are often made up of composite figures and voices drawn from science and mythology to the TV. She writes against the norms and symbols of contemporary culture, and while she has said that she finds contemporary American culture to be a ‘degraded linguistic environment’, I have never found a misanthropic streak in her poetry. Her pessimism is instead genuinely cool, crisp and unsettling. From the poem ‘Babel’ in Versed:
…In relation to my last post, isn’t the Guardian a matrix of confusing messages? Isn’t the Guardian stoo-pid! I’m sure this point is obvious to many, but the ‘aspirational’ fashion and lifestyle pages especially seem like a joke to me, placed next to lucid articles about women’s lib. like the one I just mentioned. This tribute to Alexander McQueen caught my eye, and if its words have something of a different timbre to the most of the fashion pages, they’re even more curious. In it, the language of fashion rises to ethereal heights as McQueen is held up as a deity. With no disrespect to McQueen (and I emphasise that here) the captions accompanying the photos from his last collection make a funny poem, if you like a bit of religious fervour… Here I have assembled them together.
For fifteen minutes today, in a grand Paris drawing room with soaring white ceilings gloriously flounced with gilt, Alexander McQueen came back to life.
The collection was truly spectacular; the mood in the face of devastating evidence of what the fashion world has lost, was bleak.
When the first model walked into the room, there was an audible intake of breath, for it was as if McQueen himself was back. His spirit was right there, in the skullcap of bandages dissected by a mohican of lacquered feathers …
… in the fierce black boots with gold angels sculpted into the heels …
… in the muscular power of the tight crimson bodice …
… and the way the pleated and ruffled skirt appeared to have come not from the past or the future but from some other dimension where the two meet.
In folds of double duchesse satin, in a short dress tightly waisted and extravagantly swagged at the hip, could be glimpsed the infant Jesus from Jean Fouquet’s 1450 painting of the Virgin and Child, digitally captured and engineered to fit the piece.
A pale silk chiffon gown, curves as sculpted as a Greek marble goddess yet so gossamer light it swept the floor in silence, bore the faces of angels and the wings of doves, and on the back the outline of angel wings.
A coat tailored from lacquered gold feathers was probably a nod to Grinling Gibbons, whose lifelike carvings of feathered birds have long been much marvelled at.
A red cape cut away to reveal the flowing, Madonna-esque robe beneath seemed to echo how, in Botticelli’s Cestello Annunciation, Mary is pushing open her virgin-blue cape with her arm to reveal a red dress beneath.
The original article is here.
Enjoyed this over at FUCK THEORY:
Dunno about M People… these cards kind of go nicely with ‘Thanks for the Night’ by The Damned… maybe. I’m going to add it anyway.