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Sunday 15 January 2012


Corpulent figure on all fours,
a volcano has been plugged with straw,
the bonds and blindfolds will not hold for long,
the lava of a human dignity is breaking through.

Blakean figure from a modern myth
(Nebuchadnezzar springs to mind)
one part Urizen penned in rocks
one part a nude by Lucien Freud.

Botero paints the torments of his mind
brush replicates the concrete scrape of chain
in belly folds are labyrinths of creed
sound travels easily through paint -

when eyes are "neutralised" the screams are clearly heard.
We hear the groans from others held like him
from those preserved as beasts and maybe worse.
Each sound and smell is here preserved in paint.

The work of Fernando Botero formed the basis of this prompt from dVerse Poets
From the options listed I chose to attempt this ekphrastic poem on Botero's painting "Abughraib", but do go along and read the whole challenge. It really is worth the trip.


Claudia said...

brave words for a brave painting...kudos for approaching a painting from this series..the more i see from his work, the more he gains my respect for the courage he painted with, putting his deepest emotions and fears out in the public and think he made himself extremely vulnerable with this... great take on the prompt david..you're a brave poet as well

Unknown said...

so poignant to capture such gruesomeness in art ....great write thank you x

irene said...

Powerful words for powerful art.

Tabor said...

Powerful stuff. I listened to a lawyer on our public radio explain how our Guantanamo can not close because the international and national laws are so complicated we cannot send these people anywhere else!..EVEN if they are innocently being held!

Tabor said...

I forgot to add that I saw a Botero exhibit a few years ago in Calgary. He is a very interesting artist.

Anonymous said...

These Abu Gharib (graib?) paintings are so different from others of B. In a way the fleshiness emphasizes the humanity, though it also has a kind of oddness and an illustrational quality. still interesting. Your poem, as always, is very interesting, thoughtful, and enlightening. K.

Brian Miller said...

very nice dave...this series by him is so evocative...and speaks so much of the social conscious...the sounds and smells preserved in paint is a great close...as yes he almost captures that...

Mary said...

Yes, Dave, you took on one of the more difficult paintings. Your words were painfully strong on this strong painting.

I chose a less serious painting to write about and had a bit of fun:


Daydreamertoo said...

Man's continuing inhumanity to man. What we do each other is so clear we are not at all civilised, we never have been. Law and order breaks down in a power outage or some other natural weather calamity. Torture is rife everywhere. No, we're not civilised beings at all, even now.
A great write from you.

Grace said...

Very powerful yet chilling words Dave. I have a difficult time writing about torments of the mind but you handled it with ease and without reproach ~

Gerry Snape said...

Dave...an amazing work from this exceptional painter. I love the work of many of the s american artists.
Your words are more than up to his painting.

jabblog said...

That is such a shocking painting. Your words reflect it well.

Susie Clevenger said...

The painting strikes the conscience with such blows and your words speak of man's inhumanity. Great piece!!

Unknown said...

I like the ability to pull back from this pain and gaining perspective. These lines caught my attention:

brush replicates the concrete scrape of chain
in belly folds are labyrinths of creed
sound travels easily through paint -

hedgewitch said...

These are hard paintings to look at--and for me the inflation distracts a lot--but the underlying screams are definitely there, and you capture that sense here, esp in the line"..sound travels easily through paint..." Strong piece.

Victoria said...

Dave, you've put a lot of thought into this as I see it and your perspective is well-expressed. I thought the 2nd stanza quite amazing.

ds said...

Yes, I have to say that "sound travels easily through paint" is the sticky line here (as in the one that sticks in the mind, not one that is a problem. Your poems have no problems.). It is amazing that Botero took on that episode (his "Guernica" perhaps?). You do well by him, and also transcend him, giving voice to the silent screams of flesh and creed. Thank you.

Windsmoke. said...

Sadly a lot of innocent people have been locked up and tortured in Guantanamo and others prisons without any evidence or any charges being laid. The poem and the painting says it all :-(.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Echoing the accolades piled on
so deservedly, sir, for yes, paint
and iconography have voices,
and poetry is one of those; a
strong and brave write, sir.

Anonymous said...

"the lava of a human dignity is breaking through" ... I love this line.


haricot said...

I've never seen this picture nor I've not known enough about the history that is depicted in this picture, though I learned a lot through your poweful words. Thanks, Dave.

Dave King said...

Thank you for this. I must say I didn't feel particularly brave writing it> I hadn't know of his work before, so I Googled it, looked over the images and this one seemed to stand out. If anything, it seemed the obvious choice. I agree with you about his work. I think I want to get to know it better.

A warm welcome to you. Many thanks for your kind words.

good to have your thoughts. Thank you so much.

Inexplicable, isn't it, the way politicians paint themselves into corners!
On first acquaintance, he certainly seems a fascinating study.

graib, I'm sure! Apologies. I agree with you about the fleshiness imparting a kind of humanity. It was the first thing that struck me, for it seemed to have some affinity with a few other painters - including Bacon - where the same thing gives an opposite effect. To me, anyway!

My thanks for those thoughts. Very close indeed to my own. Good to know.

Thanks for this. I don't feel I chose it; it almost chose me. It was the first one I really looked at and I didn't look any further.

Alas, I fear I have to agree with you. "Civilised" is just a word we use, but it doesn't mea what it should - or did.

Welcome to the blog, and yes, difficult to set out to write on mental torments. I can only do it, as here, when it grips. Many thanks for your comment.

I do agree about the painting - and more than a few others by him.

Thanks. He deserves any praise for this one.

A warm welcome and my thanks for these kind words.

Hi and very welcome to my blog. Thank you so much for offering your thoughts. They are always much appreciated. It's good to have them.

I understand your reservations re the inflation. I found it off-putting when I first encountered the dVerse page, but for some of the paintings I see the point and feel I want to get to know them better. Thank you for your generous remarks.

Thank you so much for this. It is both great to have such feedback and very helpful

Yes, we were asked (in one option - the one I chose) to write an ekphrastic poem, one of the characteristics of which is the recreation in another medium of an existing work of art. So apurely static and visual work might take on movement or sound etc, etc. The lines to which you allude were an attempt to be ekphrastic.

Indeed. Sad commentary. Thank you for it.

Thank you very much for your generous comment. It is much appreciated.

My thanks, I am so pleased to hear that someone specially liked that line.

Thank you. The work was new to me also. I appreciate your thoughts.

Ygraine said...

The hidden side of humanity is chillingly exposed here.
Whatever happened in mankind's history to make him so Soulless and cruel to fellow man?
Or perhaps we'd rather not know, lest we find traces of it in our own psyche....