RECOVERIES: A Poem by Theodore Weiss


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A long poem needs an ambition-to-scale--but Weiss' 1500-line ""Recoveries"" represents little more than a dramatization of the old chestnut if-that-picture-could-only-speak. The emblematic work of art in question, an apparently early Renaissance fresco in an (unidentified) Italian church, speaks to the poet through the mouthpiece of one of its painted figures, Virgil. From him we learn of the fresco's origins: ""There my one eye,/ glistening with the paint he plies/. . . . / The day and the night of the first day."" The painter is thus identified with the Creator God, and the fresco's various forms--animals, plants, humans, Christ--represent, albeit somewhat dimly, His creation. The Virgil character recounts Western history--weather, wars, and waning church attendance--as seen from his two-dimensional post on the church's wall; and fails to bring much insight to the passing years. (If there's a message, it's that Art Endures.) The convoluted syntax and vocabulary read like bad translations of Virgil and Dante: ""by that moment's zest all focused/ into the singlehood of my being/ wholly here."" For such an old hand at poetry as Weiss, the awkward manipulation of meter and diction can only have resulted from the uncharacteristic grandiosity of the undertaking.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1982
Publisher: Macmillan