What Critics Do
Your Royal Highness Beyoncé?
Right Honourable Sanders?
President Rodham Clinton?
Rear Admiral Albright?
His Holiness the Barack Obama?
Chief Operating Officer Kardashian?
Her Majesty Streisand?
His Royal Highness Trump?
His Worship Bowie?
Your Honour West?
The Marquess El Chapo?
King Pierre le Premier?
Prime Minister Trudeau?
Art and Politics
Your life could cut you for holding a bias.
A bluebird darts in, spectacular tease
of spotlight and shadow. It catches you between
appreciating your naturally shimmering
freedoms, and asking someone else
what they appreciate. But enough about me,
what do you think of me?
You could be accused of dandyism
yet there is an earnest doom-saying about you.
A system was established in the tradition
willing to separate the issues from the community
whose collectivity created communal issues
to begin with. You could say that painting a bad painting
is a question of poor life choices but that your poverty is not
bad luck, because it might be alleviated with help from
someone with power in the alleviation arts and sciences.
Rather than compose aphorisms for posterity –
that summer swarm in a blurred mantle of woods
standing for four hundred acres of history – you could
redeem personal desiderata available on installment.
Some magazine articles
call this adulthood.
Judy Chicago’s study for the Susan B. Anthony
plate, the Georgia O’Keeffe plate.
The intelligentsia wrings meaning from
the apathy, autonomy, degeneration,
and melancholy dialectics of nature and concealment.
It’s not the effects of power as much
as power’s repetitive architectural feature
that keeps us complacent, and the design
imperatives that reckon on a whole
philosophy for the god-like nature of artists.
A painting hangs in a poor man’s house
a whole lifetime. It’s not that I minded
that you’d adopted a persona, I explained,
but before that, I knew the person underneath.
A semblance of grandstanding, temporary
contentment in a little newspaper boat.
Picturing myself standing on my hands.
On film, supplicant in an act of humility.
An obscura, a felt position.
I’m feeling it. You’re seeing it.
I want a seen position, too.
I want to see Myself the way you saw Me.
Yet there are other worlds.
Fields burning, horses frightening,
a child playing peekaboo at the ha-ha.
It was never about a selfie. It was an inquiry
into our ideas on the sublime
point of view.
A man walks on the horizon,
freely given harbour and hound of love.
I sing of shells and a splendoured shutter,
of seaworthy drapery of self-erasure,
of what I felt, of which I would never see.
Of retrospective, point of view.
Oh I wish I could see. Me in 1975.
[Note: ‘Beach Spleen’ began as my observations on ‘The Restless Image – A Discrepancy Between the Felt Position and the Seen Position. Self-Portrait’, a 1975 photograph by Rose Finn-Kelcey which hangs at Tate Britain. When I viewed it one day in February, 2014, the curators had just placed a vase of flowers next to it, along with a notice that Finn-Kelcey had died 3 days earlier.]
Nyla Matuk is the author of Sumptuary Laws (2012), nominated for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for a best first book of poetry in Canada. Poems have appeared in Canadian, American and U.K. journals including PN Review, Ladowich, Prelude, The Walrus, and The Fiddlehead, among others, and in the anthologies New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015) and Best Canadian Poetry in English 2012 (Tightrope Books). A new book of poems, Stranger, is being published with Véhicule Press in 2016.
Image credit: nosha