According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
the whole pageantry
of the year was
the edge of the sea
sweating in the sun
the wings’ wax
off the coast
a splash quite unnoticed
Some twenty two years after Auden, the American Imagist poet William Carlos Williams published his ekphrastic poem in response to the same painting by Breughel.
The Imagist poets emerged from the Modernist movement and were committed to clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images; choosing the exact word and not the decorative, and attempting to write in the voice of the common people. Rather than making this easier to write it in fact demanded exacting precision to get poetry right: to ensure an intellectual and emotional complexity in an instant in time.
Williams writes a poem in seven three lined stanzas. The entire poem is a sentence but doesn’t end, as it lacks a full stop. His poem is primarily about the landscape and the significance of the power of spring: ploughing in order to sow the earth, bright awakening light, the crystallised sea, the sweltering sun and the splash off the coast. In all of this fecundity and life there is death; the central metaphor of great storytelling since time immemorial.
Indeed, Icarus falls in line two but he doesn’t drown until twenty one lines later.
Our eyes and his lithe body fall down the page together; we give witness to a life descending to death.
Extract from The Alchemy of Poetry
Elizabeth’s first book, The Alchemy of Poetry, is available now! It would make the perfect gift for someone who is interested in the world of art and poetry and history and politics and love and death and war and the sublime – because the 160 poems selected in The Alchemy of Poetry succinctly and pitch perfectly offer all this and so much more!
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The Alchemy of Poetry by Elizabeth Guy
Published by Dreaming Big Publications
Paperback; 470 pages; ISBN-13 : 978-1947381414
Genre: Ancient, Classical and Contemporary Poetry; Education and Teaching; Non fiction