Archives for posts with tag: bath
Alfred Stevens Le Bain

Alfred Stevens, “Le Bain” (1867) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the facecloth
parcel up the little cry. Let it
well with the suds.

With your fingers, with what is left,
crunch up the crystals from the soap dish.
Rub such salt
against forearm, shoulder,
shin and knee skin;
sand out
the rough grains of today.

In the giant bowl of liquid,
soak off the dead lees.
This could be the basin
that dissolves sharp edges.


With poetry above and life advice below, it’s two for one in this post:

“When it’s been one of those days, the best thing left to do is sometimes to have a little cry in the bath. Let the taps run. Slough it off with the bath salt. Parcel up the little cry.

Then dry yourself off and have some cocoa, honey with milk or soya with cinnamon.”

At some other point, I must write an essayette about the bath I had the day after my dad died, Frida Kahlo’s bath painting and the metaphorical salve of bathing. Today, tea and lesson prep calls.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

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"Auspicious Cranes," a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 - 1135, r. 1101 - 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

“Auspicious Cranes,” a hand scroll on silk attributed to Song emperor Huizong (1082 – 1135, r. 1101 – 1126). Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAuspicious_Cranes.jpg

Within the confines of a silken sheet,

the observers attend upon the temple.

Before it returns to ash and dust,

they light a votive offering.

It is

 

in a portrait

the thumbnail of the painter’s right hand

 

the sparse arm-hairs of a samurai

beset by ghosts

 

the frog at the woman’s feet,

gazing, as we do, as she steps out of her bath

 

21/11/13

Yesterday and today I have had the great pleasure of visiting three temporary exhibitions of glorious visual/material culture. I find visual stimuli a great well for my writing and am delighted that today’s poem gives credit to this recent input.

Freshest in my mind are the Shunga scenes, which I saw at the British Museum this evening.  Shunga (‘spring pictures’) are erotic paintings, prints and illustrations paintings and prints from Japan.

The last two descriptions in the poem above are drawn from two works on show. I searched for links to the images, but unfortunately could not find these particular ones in the British Museum’s online collection. Possibly they are loan items, or I am in error as to my search criteria. I’ll add a note later should I come across them.

The image with the artist’s thumbnail is “Portrait of Shen Zhou at Age Eighty” (Unidentified Artist, 1506, The Palace Museum Collection, Beijing). Shen Zhou (1427–1509) was a notable painter during the Ming dynasty in China. (You can view an image of the work here.) It was at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum’s Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900, that I saw the original of Shen Zhou’s portrait. I was supremely fortunate to also see the original of “Auspicious Cranes” (possibly Emperor Huizong, about 1112, The Liaoning Provincial Museum Collection). A reproduction of this image had inspired my poem Twenty Auspicious Cranes in July.

As for today’s poem, I ask for some artistic leeway from the post-colonial theorists and rigorous Asian Cultural Studies scholars. They will have noted two misdemeanours. The first, that I group the creative production of two distinct traditions in one list. Secondly, I overlay the poem with a veil of ‘spiritual East’.

Now I spy two further inadvertent creative devices that may tempt critique. I have compounded the ‘spiritual East’ with the ‘historical Orient’.  This imagined benevolent kingdom of the past bequeaths, through its exotic treasures, wisdoms about greater universal truths to the present (read: curious Western scholars or readers). Note the tactility elicited in the poem. We read about silk, ash, dust and light. We imagine the referenced water. Thumbnails, arms and feet are mentioned. Alluded to are the hands as they attend, light offerings and paint. We imagine the form of the woman stepping out of her bath. The poem catalogues wonder through an exploration of sensual (sense) experience and the ‘body Orient’. Here, it is worth cautioning that I am conflating East and Orient at will. Ai me. Edward Said and his followers shudder.

Finally, I suspect not all the images are painted on silk either. Yet, this quintessential fabric of the East sets the canvas.

When I look at the handiwork of other artists, artisans and craftsman across time and cultures, I am frequently drawn in by their attentiveness to those small details like the thumbnail, the arm-hairs and the gazing frog. It mattered enough at some point in time for them to add that observational asterisk to the image. This is what, as an artist, I perceive as a votive offering. I indulgently imagine their bequest of wonder is of a similar sentiment to my poetic attentiveness that declares, Now Here is Something to Marvel At…

P.S. The third exhibition was a marvellous homage to pearls at the V&A. It had my imagination at sea with mermaids, but all that for another post.

P.P.S. I didn’t even mention the samurai.

Masterpieces of Chinese Painting, 700 to 1900 is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum until 19 January 2014. Tickets: £13,50 with concessions available. Advance booking is strongly recommended. For more information see the exhibition website.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum details:

Tel.: 020 7942 2000

Address: Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:45 daily

10:00 – 22:00 Fridays

Website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/

 

Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art is on at the British Museum until 5 January 2014. Kindly be advised, the exhibition will be closed all day on Saturday 14 December and until 12.00 on Sunday 15 December. Tickets: £7, Members free. Parental guidance advised. For more information see the exhibition website.

British Museum details:

Tel. for ticket booking: 020 7323 8181

Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG

Opening times:

10:00 – 17:30 daily

10:00 – 20.30 Fridays

Website: http://www.britishmuseum.org/

You’re invited to take a peek at my book of selected poems, Shining in Brightness.

I tweet about art, writing and London life as @BeadedQuill. Please follow me.