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Vermeer-inspired poetry

January 31st, 2015
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Vermeer in Hell
by Michael White
2013
http://www.perseabooks.com/detail.php?bookID=114

from publisher’s website:
Through the paintings of Vermeer, Michael White explores new landscapes and transforms familiar ones in this extraordinary new collection of poems. This captivating masterwork transports us across eras and continents, from Confederate lynchings to the bombing of Dresden, through its lyrical inhabitations of some of Vermeer’s most revered paintings, each one magically described and renewed. More than mere ekphrasis, Michael White explores the transformative possibilities of great art in his fourth collection.

reviews:
“Vermeer in Hell is Michael White’s museum of ghosts and shades, of narratives woven masterfully out of the personal and historical alike—out of the lived, the envisioned, the loved, and the terrible. Rarely have I felt the ekphrastic to be as dramatic as in White’s tour through the portraits of Vermeer, with its history of fiery damages, wars and afflictions, but also its own depiction of ‘love’s face as it is.’ Out of Michael White’s vision, each poem achieves for us the delicacy and durability of Vermeer’s own art.”
—David Baker

“Nearly every one of Michael White’s new poems is the equivalent of a quiet stroll through a blazing fire, igniting the reader’s imagination. His insights are frightening and comforting at the same time, his craft allowing for the most surprising and thrilling of associations. Vermeer in Hell is a collection that belongs in the room with all of the traditions of our language’s poetry, but it brings something completely original to us, too. It is not an overstatement to call this poetry Genius.”
—Laura Kasischke

“In these elegant, powerful poems, Michael White pays homage to a great painter while engaging social realities that affect us all. They are brave, beautiful poems linked by authentic vision and a sensitive, educated ear.”
—Sam Hamill

For what it matters….

December 2nd, 2014

After trotting thousands of miles around the hemisphere during the restoration of the Mauritshuis, Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring thought her performance would come to an end when she got home.

How wrong she was.

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If I have translated the Dutch news dispatch correctly, the Mauritshuis staged a competition inspired by the Japanese Vermeer enthusiast Shin Ichi Fukuoka which called on other Vermeer enthusiasts to submit a photograph of their own living rooms that includes a reproduction of the iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring on one of its walls. The winner, so to speak, would have his or her living room reassembled on the premises of the Mauritshuis with the iconic picture incorporated in the manner of photo stand-ins (once called carnival cutouts) that are present in every zoo, children’s museum and theme park in America. The lucky winner was recently announced on Mauritshuis Facebook page, and she is Elsa Oudshoorn.

Although I can’t quite grasp the sense of the Mauritshuis’ initiative, it would appear to be distantly related to the “win-an-evening-with-your-favorite-movie-star” competition of days gone bye. I have no idea what it would be like to sit in a reconstruction of my living room with a real Vermeer peeping through a hole, but I can imagine how foolish one might feel to have won the other type competition and be sitting at a dining table across from a Hollywood starlet only to discover that she would rather be anywhere in the world except face to face with one her fans.

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Those who read this blog regularly will have understood that my own enthusiasm for Vermeer’s art stops more or less at building the Essential Vermeer, reporting “Vermeer news” and looking at Vermeer’s real pictures when life permits. And they will also have intuited that I do not subscribe to the “anything-that-draws-people-to-art-is-good” philosophy (see here, here and here). On the contrary.

So, my only hope is that I got the Mauritshuis story wrong or that Vermeer was the type of fun-loving Dutchman who wouldn’t have minded having one of his pictures stuck in the hole of a photo stand-in of a funny green dinosaur or an Old West jail.