Thursday, November 29, 2012

Erasure Poem: Faded Lustre


Anna Montgomery, illustrious host of tonight’s Meeting the Bar at dVerse, prompts us to try our hand at an erasure poem, a type of found poem using an existing text. This is a very fun exercise—why don’t you join in?

The artist did not immediately reply, being startled by the apparition of a young child of strength that was tumbling about on the carpet,--a little personage who had come mysteriously out of the infinite, but with something so sturdy and real in his composition that he seemed moulded out of the densest substance which earth could supply. This hopeful infant crawled towards the new-comer, and setting himself on end, as Robert Danforth expressed the posture, stared at Owen with a look of such sagacious observation that the mother could not help exchanging a proud glance with her husband. But the artist was disturbed by the child's look, as imagining a resemblance between it and Peter Hovenden's habitual expression. He could have fancied that the old watchmaker was compressed into this baby shape, and looking out of those baby eyes, and repeating, as he now did, the malicious question: "The beautiful, Owen! How comes on the beautiful? Have you succeeded in creating the beautiful?"
"I have succeeded," replied the artist, with a momentary light of triumph in his eyes and a smile of sunshine, yet steeped in such depth of thought that it was almost sadness. "Yes, my friends, it is the truth. I have succeeded."
"Indeed!" cried Annie, a look of maiden mirthfulness peeping out of her face again. "And is it lawful, now, to inquire what the secret is?"
"Surely; it is to disclose it that I have come," answered Owen Warland. "You shall know, and see, and touch, and possess the secret! For, Annie,--if by that name I may still address the friend of my boyish years,--Annie, it is for your bridal gift that I have wrought this spiritualized mechanism, this harmony of motion, this mystery of beauty. It comes late, indeed; but it is as we go onward in life, when objects begin to lose their freshness of hue and our souls their delicacy of perception, that the spirit of beauty is most needed. If,--forgive me, Annie,--if you know how--to value this gift, it can never come too late."
He produced, as he spoke, what seemed a jewel box. It was carved richly out of ebony by his own hand, and inlaid with a fanciful tracery of pearl, representing a boy in pursuit of a butterfly, which, elsewhere, had become a winged spirit, and was flying heavenward; while the boy, or youth, had found such efficacy in his strong desire that he ascended from earth to cloud, and from cloud to celestial atmosphere, to win the beautiful. This case of ebony the artist opened, and bade Annie place her fingers on its edge. She did so, but almost screamed as a butterfly fluttered forth, and, alighting on her finger's tip, sat waving the ample magnificence of its purple and gold-speckled wings, as if in prelude to a flight. It is impossible to express by words the glory, the splendor, the delicate gorgeousness which were softened into the beauty of this object. Nature's ideal butterfly was here realized in all its perfection; not in the pattern of such faded insects as flit among earthly flowers, but of those which hover across the meads of paradise for child-angels and the spirits of departed infants to disport themselves with. The rich down was visible upon its wings; the lustre of its eyes seemed instinct with spirit.

Faded Lustre

The artist 
startled
with something so real
moulded this hopeful
momentary light 
yet steeped
in such depth of sadness
produced by his own hand
as if
to express by words
the pattern of faded
lustre

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This is from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Artist of the Beautiful.” I just read this yesterday so it was fresh in my mind—not particularly creative with the design here, but such as it is. I pretty much left it as I found it, without punctuation. The only change—I de-capitalized the “T” in “this” (line 3). I thought hard about replacing “lustre” with the word “paradise,” and still think it might be better. I stuck with lustre for now since I used the word “light” in line 4. Seems to be more consistent, but either word feels right.

44 comments:

  1. Excellent, really. You succeeded in finding a poem of meaning within those words. I like 'the pattern of faded lustre' really, but 'paradise' WOULD work as well.

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    1. Thanks Mary. I just finished reading Paradise Lost, so maybe that's why "paradise" seemed to jump out at me.

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    2. How on earth can you plough through Milton for pleasure. You are making me feel decidely less of an intellectual :)I have also never heard of Nathaniel Hawthorne.Must research.

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    3. Well, I have a long love-hate relationship with Milton--I studied him in college, but (should I admit it?) never actually read all of PL. I felt I owed it to him. It's not as bad as it seems.

      I hope you find Hawthorne as rewarding as I do. Many of my friends can't stand him--his highly allegorical, heavily-themed stories don't appeal to everyone.

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  2. oh wow...really nicely done and with feeling...i have a hard time generating feeling out of someone elses words....you nailed it though sir....def agree the closure is beautiful too...

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    1. Thanks Brian. I know many people don't share this opinion, but I think Hawthorne had tremendous poetic sensibilities.

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  3. Impressive and emotive, Nico! Definitely one to read over and over again...

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    1. Thanks Laurie, I'm glad you liked it.

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  4. I love anything having to do with art and you've painted such a perfect poem using Hawthorne for inspiration. Bravo.

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    1. Thanks Victoria. Hawthorne made it easy for me . . .

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  5. Ah, Nico--I couldn't wait until my shift was over to peek at your choice. This is so beautiful--spare and darkly beautiful.

    moulded this hopeful
    momentary light

    is just perfect.

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    1. Susan, thank you, you are too kind.

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  6. Oh, I really like this Nico. So simple and, so effective for that simplicity. I also like either lustre or, paradise, both do seem to fit as good as each other.
    Brilliantly done.

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    1. Thanks Bren--simple and effective, that's what I like!

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  7. ..this is cool..nice choice of subject..

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    1. Thanks Katy--I thought of this page immediately when I saw Anna's prompt. It was made for erasure!

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  8. Very well executed. Love that title too!

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    1. Thanks Bodhi. I'm happy you liked it.

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  9. I love Hawthorne and especially what you've done with his words here. I am impressed and happily read and reread the entire work. Beautifully done!

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    1. Thanks Anna, and thanks for the prompt. I probably would never have attempted something like this otherwise!

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    1. Thanks Sabio--I was delighted to find those two words in the text, they fit so well together.

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  11. Exquisite -- rendering from this detailed text, you found a modern poem depicting the essence of inspiration and art itself.

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    1. Thanks Gay. Hawthorne seems to have been troubled by the how's and why's of inspiration and art--several of his "Tales" touch on this theme. In many ways Hawthorne was a very modern writer, strange as it may seem.

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  12. This is just beautifully done. You've made it modern and your own. k.

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    1. Thanks Karin, I'm so happy you liked it!

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  13. i think lustre is just perfect...i didn't knew the word before (i'm german..that's why), so had to look it up and really like the different nuances and images it creates...good job sir..

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    1. Thanks Claudia--I do think I'll stick with lustre, it's a wonderful word.

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  14. You have really hit on that mystery, and emotion within the artist and their work. Beautifully succinct.

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    1. Thank you, Di. Hawthorne did all the work, I just made a summary!

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  15. The artist and his self inflicted sadness...maybe a metaphor for mankind and the fall..thus the taint of faded lustre...maybe I am reading too much religious significance into this.

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    1. With Hawthorne, one can never read too much religious significance into his work. One of Hawthorne's earlier reviewers, Herman Melville, noting a certain "blackness" in Hawthorne's work, wrote that "this great power of blackness in him derives its force from its appeals to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin, from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free."

      Hawthorne--like Melville himself--is continually wrestling with matters of religious significance. Hawthorne, I think, was particularly torn between his detestation for his forefathers' Puritanism and his inability to completely rid himself of their influence.

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    2. Right...off I go ...time for some dirty dancin':)

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  16. I absolutely love that you presented in this fashion. To allow us to see the process, the birth of the fantastic poem that resulted. Fantastic!

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    1. Thanks Tash--it wasn't flashy, but it did the job!

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  17. You do Hawthorne proud while honoring your own voice and message, Nico. I like the visual presentation. I love the final product. Simple, direct, deeply meaningful.

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    1. Thanks Kim. I think Hawthorne and I would have gotten along well.

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  18. Hmm. This is lovely - very crisp and I think lustre works with the artistic image and creative process you are trying to convey... Paradise wouldn't follow-up with this theme, in my opinion. LOVE, LOVE the title of your blog!

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    1. Thanks Margaret--I think you're right about lustre.

      As for the blog title, here's how the whole thing started (my first post from Feb. 2008):

      I've no idea what I'm doing here. I wanted to comment on someone else's blog, kept clicking on stuff, somehow ended up with a blog of my very own. I don't have time for this kind of nonsense. No one in their right mind would care what I think. I seldom care what I think! But maybe this can be a place to practice my fiddlefarting--I don't think I'm as good at it as I once was, and I'd like to recover that lost skill.

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    2. Ha! Somehow, we make the time and hopefully, stretch our brain at the same time.

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  19. wow, you did an excellent job (re)molding words together to create something beautiful and real.

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    1. Thanks J., I'm glad you think so.

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