Thursday, January 3, 2008

Greatest Hits Gallery--Charis T.

How could I not enjoy poems about an American painter of place? Albert Bierstadt and his landscapes, especially several paintings of the Rocky Mountains, formed the heart of Charis T.'s series of poems in her portfolio. After our group critique session, Charis' bringing together of the idealized place as represented in paintings with its ineveitable change, her language play on terms like "plain" and "lines" and the wistful sense of loss from these landscape poems stuck with me the rest of the day and on my drive home. Here's her meditation on one of Bierstadt's Rocky Mountain paintings, Lander's Peak.

Grassy Graves

Grand lines empower plains,
Swinging across the landscape.
And the only plain thing
That Bierstadt painted
Was the two-hued sky.
But even that is pierced with gold.
Gold pierces the waterfall too.
And the rocks.
Even the horses
Get a glimmer, a ray.

There’s talk of industry
And how every tree
May no longer stand watch
Over the rocky mountains.
Bierstadt will save them—
At least he’ll try
With each of his seamless strokes
Of bright, precise color
Contained on a canvas.
Conserving via paint.

Let’s reminisce and romance
The idea of plains under
A two-hued sky
And sun-absorbing water
And guardian trees
In bright shining armor
Watching over yellow rocks,

While the trees die
And steel survives,
As railroad tracks
Run over and
Cover grassy graves.

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