Friday, May 26, 2006

A Limerick Peers in the Mirror

I don't think there's a way one can utter
any limerick that'll casually mutter
or musingly wander
confusedly ponder --
it's a bread that resists all such butter

Its statements are insistantly chiseled
its beard (whether angular or grizzled)
has such definite sharp points
& its bones such acute joints!
its champagne is so methodically fizzled

Is it true that the limerick's brusque tune
is akin to the art of a cartoon?
it goes sharp but not flat
it wears boots but no hat
it lacks stars but shows one hackneyed moon

Here it seems   this critique of the form itself
(like a line drawn in air) must perform itself --
short on subtlety it bites
a rude dog that delights
in crude violence   & fails to reform itself

So I've turned here the limerick upon itself?
howsoever much it might now re-spawn itself
every syllable it speaks
demonstrates how its squeaks
turn absurd the bleak night or dim dawn itself

Can the limerick transcend its essential tendency
to make its statements with such emphasis-dependency?
could it murmur "well yeah perhaps"
while casually it tap-a-taps
on its clown-nose   so round with comic pendency?

But enough!   who'd insist the musky rose
languish thornless?   that ain't how the tale goes!
limerick-land's a simplistic town
where each face must front a frown
or crack a cackle bearing teeth in quaint rows

All the flourish of its thin grace is architectural
conceived in stone (no cushy petals)   thoughts conjectural
what with such sheer black-&-whiteness
must eschew all their hemi-lightness --
that disappears amid extremes   bluntly sexual

So is the limerick   in its quintessence   a provocation? --
a pinch of violence   limned in lieu   of a disputation?
& yet a tap-dance it can syncopate
rather handsomely!   let it titillate
while it opiates with its fix of opinionation

Ah the limerick   at its best   is a steel drum
whose imperfections of rough-tuning can well become
the pleasant features of its own nature
hey it has never claimed a lofty stature!
it's facetious   & so pugnacious   & then some!

Now a limerick could spin out giddy or litigious --
a witty-ditty expressing pity? or yet libidenous?
its essential blunt play of utterance
twirls inventively adorned with flutterance
alike a butterfly that likes to flutter by in a minibus

It's demonstrative in every sylllable that it may vocalize
however distant be   the things it thinks about
                        they swiftly localize
might it be two-D   instead of three?
yes-no!   its bas-relief   at best can be
a darkling paradox   Assyrian caricature   albeit yokelized

This comparison with bas relief made me thoughtful about the qualities of relief sculpture in its various forms. I initially wrote the phrase (in the final line of the above poem) as "Egyptian caricature," then changed it to "Chaldean" and finally (after help from the Wikipedia) "Assyrian." Yet now that I look at the nuanced definition of bas-relief outlined in the Catholic Encyclopedia, with its interesting distinction between various relief-sculpture methods in art history, I do suppose the first thought (Egyptian) has some argument in its favor. However, then it wouldn't in fact be bas-relief (as technically defined). I was anyway thinking more of Mesopotamian relief sculptures (for which Assyrian is intended to stand as synonym). [Readers might, incidentally, also note my earlier, brief blog-musing mentioning bas reliefs at night.] Here's one paragraph from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

A sculpture executed upon and attached to a flat surface. The usual impression produced by an artistic relief is that about one-half of the actual proportions of the object are being seen in their third dimension of depth. Strictly speaking, however, relief sculpture is subdivided into various kinds. In alto-rilievo (Italian for "high relief") the figures are sculptured partly or wholly in the round, that is, they project entirely, or almost entirely, from the surface of the block in which they are cut. The metopes from the Parthenon (Elgin Marbles) now in the British Museum are among the best examples of alto-rilievo. Mezzo-rilievo (Italian for semi-relief; French, demi-relief) presents figures that are rounded to half their natural proportions, but without detached parts. Basso-rilievo (Italian for low-relief; French, bas-relief) is a form of surface-ornamentation in which the projection is very slight. The finest known specimen of low relief is the frieze around the cella of the Parthenon; large portions of it are to be seen in the British Museum. The lowest kind of relief is that described by the Tuscan term rilievo-stíacciato (depressed or flattened relief). This scarcely rises from the surface upon which it is carved, and is mostly an art of fine lines and delicate indications. Donatello's Florentine Madonnas and saints are among the best examples. Finally cavo-rilievo (Italian for hollow relief; French, relief-en-creux) is a method of concave sculpture in which the highest part or outline is on a level with the surface, while the roundness is considerably below it. Cavo-rilievo was practiced chiefly by the Egyptians whose hollow reliefs are known by the Greek term Koilanaglyphs.


Post a Comment

<< Home