They carve them up with shapes,
With with oil paints and scrapes
To show how a body here escapes,
The image of a dame.
She’s sat in sand with bodies bare,
Next to woman’s skin so fair
And although neither seem to care,
The two have lost their name.
Her body forfeits feminine grace,
And curvature of tender face
To be forever dead in space
Where artists choose their worth.
And those who see them in the frame,
Reject their shapes with not much shame,
But still they praise the painter’s fame,
For he gave “she” new birth.
So now the critics praise their form,
In the midst of cubists’ norm;
See that here figures do transform
What is alive to dead.
Portraits last all years through
And immortality the subject knew,
Was something here so very true,
Because he took her to the bed.
So women together artistically lie,
‘Neath pure oceanic sky,
And are left beautiful there to die,
But in paintings lift their head.
In history of patriarchal ages
Leaving acts to Shakesperian stages,
She still clandestinely engages,
In a dialogue with “one.”‘
For together they are caught in time,
In the art form of too-rigid a line,
Where queer love is a solid crime
for two women ‘neath the sun.
Represented as transgressive and crude,
By all those who by now have viewed
Their simple scene and by choice conclude
the sculpted she-story is done.
We recently studied a selection of poem from The Book of Repulsive Women by Djuna Barnes, and one of the most haunting poems, I felt, was “Six Carried Her Away.” The poem strings together ideas of death, exploitation, nature, and eroticism. It also has a very rhythm, patterned rhyme scheme. The rhythm of the poem makes it feel a bit like a funeral march, while makes sense since it follows the story of a girl being buried after her death. I was very intrigued with the way death and femininity were tied together in this poem and wanted to try out using the rhyme for myself.
Therefore, I wrote this poem inspired by the Picasso portrait at the top of this post. I think that my poem is not anywhere near as good as Barnes, for one main reason because hers is a linear and mine is just a scattering of ideas. However, I attempted to take the connection between femininity and death that Barnes constructed and applied it to the profanation of woman in art. Particularly, I was thinking about Picasso’s treatment of women during the cubist movement (which I have mentioned before in this post and felt was relevant since both Barnes and Picasso were composing at the same time). I wanted to suggest that there is a sort of violence revealed in the way Picasso took the woman form and cut it up into an element of his design. At the same time, I wanted to suggest that the way he “carved” up (which I meant to suggest a sort of death) these forms is what made them immortal (they still live on in art).
I also wanted to base the poem off of this painting because it is two nude women on a beach, which could suggest queerness. The painting then showcases a sort of queerness in subject and form. The painting also is an example of the artistic treatment of woman by man, and it is certainly not a flattering portrayal of femininity—few of Picasso’s works were. Moreover, I wanted to get across the idea that much of the history of women is sculpted by men. These two women would likely have been forgotten in history had it not been for a male artist validating their artistic work.
In all, this poem is an attempt to piece together some ideas on femininity and queerness is treated (or perhaps exploited) artistically with a tone and rhyme scheme similar to Djuna Barnes’ poem. I hope you enjoy it!