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. . . . the role of the fine arts in a divine civilization must be of a higher order than the mere giving of pleasure, for if such were their ultimate aim, how could they ‘result in advantage to man, . . . ensure his progress and elevate his rank.’

(Ludwig Tulman – Mirror of the Divine – pages 29-30)

Moving on from a focus on his life to Munch’s art, we can see it was rooted in sensory experience. The surroundings that triggered The Scream, which are described in Sue Prideaux’s excellent biography, illustrate this powerfully (page 151]:

The main slaughterhouse for the city was up there, and so was the hospital, in which Laura [his sister] had been incarcerated. He had probably gone up there to visit her; there was no other discernible reason. The screams of the animals being slaughtered in combination with the screams of the insane were reported to be a terrible thing to hear.

However, the end result was meant to transcend even the most powerful transitory material details that were its origin. The term ‘soul painting,’ used frequently by Munch, captures this intention.

What did he mean by that exactly?

Soul painting

Perhaps it is no real surprise to find in a letter from one of his currently most admired precursors an overlap in the language both Munch and van Gogh use. Vincent wrote to his brother Theo in March 1884 (Letters of Vincent van Gogh – page 272):

My strongest sympathies in the literary as well as in the artistic field are with those artists in whom I see the soul at work most strongly.

This is not just a one-off from van Gogh. He refers to this kind of approach in various places (page 272):

. . . art is something which, though produced by human hands, is not wrought by hands alone, but wells up from a deeper source, from man’s soul, while much of the proficiency and technical expertise associated with art reminds me of what would be called self righteousness in religion.

In a way though, Munch seems to have taken this to another level. As Prideaux puts it, when she describes the nature of Munch’s influence once his fame was established (page 238):

‘Soul paintings’ galore were created in the wake of ‘the powerful dreamer’ . . .

How can we explain what ‘soul’ painting is? Not very easily as it turns out, but this is my best shot.

It’s about truth (page viii) ‘I have always thought and felt that my art might be able to help others to clarify their own search for truth,’ and meaning (page 35) ‘In my art I attempt to explain life and its meaning to myself.’ It entails penetrating beneath the surface of things (page 169): Réja, an art critic referred to Munch’s ‘ability to pierce the exterior.’ Some of his potential subjects feared this ability, one in particular refusing to be painted, saying (page 268): ‘He sees right through us and turns us inside out.’

This does not mean he ignores the exterior (page 257): ‘his own constant struggle as an artist [lies] in the depiction of the inner by means of the outer . . .’ This was as true at the end of 1904 before his breakdown, as it was after it (page 237):

Even as he felt most estranged from the world and most conscious that the black bird of insanity was making its dangerous escape from the cage of his soul, the white bird of outward appearance was stretching its wings to fly into an annus mirabilis.

The Night in Saint-Cloud (scanned from the Taschen edition)

He turned aspects of the physical environment into a trope that is repeated when needed (page 133):

[He] set The Kiss in the same corner as the blue-hazed room in Saint-Cloud where he had set the figure of himself/his father in The Night in Saint-Cloud. The room had now become spiritualised into a universal chamber of his brain, a location he could revisit for the rest of his life.

And memory plays an important role in this process (page 305):

‘I paint not what I see but what I saw’ was an oft-repeated maxim that he used to indicate the vital role that the depths of memory played in transforming transitory insights into timeless themes.

When he succeeds the word ‘soul’ keeps appearing. Even a painting has one, which suggests we shouldn’t always take his use of the term too literally (page 231): ‘Each physical painting aspires towards its idea, its eternal prototype, which may be called its soul.’

Each painting says what words can never capture. Munch wrote (page 201):

‘Explaining a picture is impossible. The very reason it has been painted is because it cannot be explained in any other way . . .’

Not surprisingly his influence lived on after his death.

For instance, as I’ve discussed elsewhere, Alice Neel termed herself a ‘collector of souls,’ perhaps indirectly acknowledging Munch, whom she admired even though she explicitly denied he had influenced her early work (Alice Neel: Painter of Modern Life– edited by Jeremy Lewison – page 31:

‘But Munch I never saw in the beginning. I did a painting, and you’ll swear that I was influenced by Munch, but I hadn’t even heard of him yet.’

It is also true to say that the word ‘soul’ in this context has not lost all its spiritual significance. More on Munch and his spiritual take on things next time.

Ginny by Alice Neel (from Alice Neel: Painter of Modern Life)

Munch’s Inger in Black and Violet (from the Taschen edition)

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. . . . . For art to merely display the workings of man’s lower nature is not enough; if it is to be edifying, the portrayal needs to be placed within a spiritual context… For it is only against such a framework that darkness can be perceived as the lack of light, evil as the absence of good.

(Ludwig Tuman in Mirror of the Divine– page 88)

Even as he felt most estranged from the world and most conscious that the black bird of insanity was making its dangerous escape from the cage of his soul, the white bird of outward appearance was stretching its wings to fly into an annus mirabilis.

(Prideaux – page 237)

More about the Man

In the previous post I referred to key early losses that impacted heavily on Munch throughout his life, and left their mark on his art as well. There is more needs to be said about his personality, scarred as it was by these tragedies, and the ways he tried to manage his post-traumatic reactions.

His relationships with others were fraught, especially perhaps with women, as Prideaux explains in her biography (page 191): ‘. . . he fled if [women] got too close . . . but if they did not, then he felt alone.’

He felt that his art had benefited from his troubled state of mind (page 229):

‘I have suffered from a deep feeling of anxiety which I have tried to express in my art.’

He makes the link quite explicit (page 251):

‘My art is grounded in reflections over being different to others. My sufferings are part of myself and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.’

A key and traumatic early relationship coloured his attitude to women for the rest of his life and culminated in a shooting which damaged the finger of his left hand (page 227):

For the rest of his life he hid his finger. . . . The feeling that his life had been marked by a heavy doom from birth had been greatly increased by this visible sign.

This was not the end of the impact of a gun on his life. Drink contributed to poor impulse control so that, after a drunken spat with an artist he was painting, he later fired at him with a shotgun from the window of his house. He missed (page 237): ’Trembling, he withdrew [the gun], realising how close he had come to murder.’

Alcohol, as well as frequenting prostitutes and heavy smoking, were taking their toll. In the end he broke down completely (page 248): ‘[Jacobsen, his psychiatrist,] correctly diagnosed Munch as suffering from dementia paralytica as a result of alcohol poisoning.’

As a result of his, for that time, enlightened treatment (page 251):

He accepted the idea that from now on he would have to confine himself to ‘tobacco-free cigars alcohol-free drinks and poison-free women.’

He was afraid that his sanity had been bought at the price of his art: more of that later. He used novel ways of activating his creativity (page 294):

The dissection of [a] cadaver was not the only time Munch had felt the need to shock himself during the later part of his life… Aware of the danger of lapsing into the emotional bluntness of middle age… he requested a butcher if he might be present while a bull was slaughtered.

When his end approached, his characteristic stubborn curiosity determined his behaviour (page 323):

He was very adamant that he did not want to die in his sleep; he wanted consciously to experience the last struggle.

Hopefully that has conveyed some sense of how powerfully Prideaux confronts us with Munch, the man.

Now for the treatment of how Munch felt this all related to his art, before we focus in the final post on his art and the explicit ideas behind it.

Anxiety from The Frieze of Life (scanned from Prideaux’s biography)

His Life in his Art

Prideaux’s introduction flags up where this is likely to take us now (page vii):

Munch was twenty-eight when he embarked on the lifelong effort to paint his soul’s diary . . [something which] Munch described [as] ‘the terrible struggle inside the cage of the soul.’

She also highlights his high regard for a Russian writer in this respect (page 49):

‘No one in art,’ he told a friend, ‘has yet penetrated as far as Dostoevsky into the mystical realms of the soul…’ [T]hroughout Edvard’s life, Dostoevsky was the writer of greatest importance to him. . . [He] succeeded in conveying in parallel the outer and the inner life. This was exactly what Edvard wanted to achieve with paint. ‘Just as Leonardo da Vinci studied human anatomy and dissected corpses, so I was trying to dissect souls.’

The Frieze of Life, a key body of work (page 64) is ‘a sequence of paintings showing the progress of a soul through life,’ fulfilling his ambition (page 81) ‘to paint soul art.’

She goes into more detail than is possible here into two key experiences in about 1890 (pages 118-120):

Two intensely private and ecstatic visions came to him in two separate moments of mystical transport . .

He first came as he ascended the sun-warmed hill of Saint-Cloud. . . . He perceived [a cock’s crow, smoked dissolving into nothing and green shoots appearing] ‘as metamorphoses. How foolish to deny the existence of the soul.’

The second vision came in altogether darker circumstances [involving a Spanish dancer. He concluded as a result] he would paint themes that were timeless, personal, and in some manner sacred; pictures in which could be read the psychological reality of man’s connection to the world-soul that he had glimpsed from the sunlit hillside and in this fusion of music and colour.

It helped shape what turned out to be a long-term project, perhaps lasting the whole of his life in some respects (page 132):

He had been thinking for a long time about the concept of a series of paintings depicting the secret life of the soul.

Self=portrait with wine bottle (scanned from the Taschen edition)

Discussions of the self-portrait he painted with a bottle of wine nearby have interpreted the two waiters springing out of his shoulders as symbolising his state of mind. He was deeply divided as a human being (page 228): ‘My soul is like two wild birds, each flying in its own direction.’ I’m no stranger to a divided mind as my sequence about my Parliament of Selves testifies, which obviously served to increase my interest in Munch.

It is not surprising, given this inner split, that conflict should be a key element in his work when it was so rooted in his deepest experience of self (page 254):

‘I am making a study of the soul, as I can observe myself closely and use myself as an anatomical testing ground for this soul study. The main thing is to make an art work and a soul study…

Munch’s later reading perhaps gives some sense of that this might have been like for him (page 292):

Ludvig Ravensberg noted that Munch was reading Plato’s Phaedrus at the time. A central image of the text is that of the soul as two horses harnessed together. One is light and seeks to rise upward, while the other is a dark and pulls downwards. [The driver] seeks to control the balance between two conflicting impulses in the soul.

A sense of divisions within is not rare and not restricted to creative artists, as my own experience testifies. However, it is perhaps worth flagging up two other examples of this phenomenon in highly creative people. I’ve explored Pessoa’s experience of this at some length elsewhere on this blog. Briefly for present purposes, in a post of 2016, I wrote:

For the first time since I read him in the late 90s, this September I was triggered to go back to Fernando Pessoa by reference to his multiple personalities in Immortal Remains by Stephen E Braude (page 170):

Apparently, Pessoa considers the heteronyms to be expressions of an inherent and deeply divided self. In fact, one of the principal themes of Pessoa’s poetry is the obscure and fragmentary nature of personal identity.

Pessoa himself clarifies exactly what he meant by heteronym (A Centenary Pessoa – page 133):

A pseudonymic work is, except for the name with which is signed, the work of an author writing as himself; the heteronymic work is by an author writing outside his own personality: it is the work of a complete individuality made up by him, just as the utterances of some character in a drama would be.

What I had not remembered until yesterday, when I re-read the introduction Xon de Ros placed at the start of her book on Antonio Machado, that he also experienced a similar thing (pages 1-2):

 . . . His most memorable dramatis personae were not written for the theatre but for the press. These were his apocryphal creations, mainly Juan de Mairena and Abel Martín. . . . one of Mairena’s fragments [reads] ‘¿pensáis . . . que un hombre no puede llevar dentro de sí más de un poeta? Lo difícil sería lo contrario, que no llevase más que uno.’ [do you think . . . that a man cannot carry more than one poet inside? The opposite would be what is difficult, that he doesn’t carry more than one.]

Machado specifically refers to the ‘essential heterogeneity of being.’ From a spiritual point of view this raises interesting questions which I have explored elsewhere and need not be investigated here. What is intriguing is why this heterogeneity has only relatively recently been reflected so explicitly by creative artists and writers.

Perhaps we are now ready to look more closely at the art, rather than the life. This could be shaping up to be the most time I’ve spent blogging about a painter since the Van Gogh sequence.

How is it possible for a person who simply sets words to paper, who plucks a string or dabs colour on a canvas, to play… a remarkable role in the spiritual life of man? The key lies in the fact that art has a direct and real effect on the human soul.

(Ludwig Tuman in Mirror of the Divine – page 81)

The Trigger

Recently, an ITV documentary on the painter Edvard Munch highlighted the depth of my ignorance of the full extent of his achievements.

Until I saw the programme, I only knew of one painting by him. There are no prizes for guessing which painting I mean, and I am not going to insult anyone by spelling it out now.

The programme thrust powerful painting after powerful painting into my line of sight. How on earth, given my supposed interest in art and my undoubted knowledge of his existence, could I have failed for so long to discover his true value as an artist? We’ll come onto his failings as a human being soon enough: though they caused him great suffering, they helped fuel the intense creativity of his art.

My initial reaction, predictably, was to buy a book about him. Being unsure how this would all turn out, I chose cheaply and secured a copy of Ulrich Bischoff’s Munch for a mere £10.

It was well worth the investment. It contained some impactful reproductions of a few of his key paintings. What was lacking was an insightful account of the man.

I couldn’t help my attention being grabbed by coincidences of dates: he was born in 1863, the year Bahá’u’lláh declared his mission, and died in 1944, the anniversary of the Declaration of the Báb. These are of no real significance, but they augmented my interest none the less. His life spanned a period of great significance to me, including as it did the same two wars that deeply affected my parents and ending the year after I was born. That, as we shall see, he was affected all his life by the death of a sister, simply added to the magnetic attraction of his life to me. My childhood was overshadowed by the continuing grief of my parents for my sister, Mary, who had died four years before I was born. I wrote several poems on the subject.

I am flagging all that up in case it indicates a certain lack of objectivity in what is to follow.

There were a few scattered insights in Bischoff’s book, it’s true. For example, (page 8) he quotes Munch explaining the importance of apparently negative experiences in giving him a sense of direction: ‘Without fear and illness, my life would have been a boat without a rudder.’ He also had early experiences of death, far more intense than my own, who only knew of one death during my childhood, though it was a key one. He wrote (page 36): ‘I lead my life in the company of the dead.’ These included his mother, who died when he was five, and his sister, Sophie, who died when he was 15.

Bischoff did illuminate aspects of Munch’s art as well.

The Storm scanned from Bischoff’s book (Taschen)

He repeatedly uses a trope, of which I later learnt the full importance in understanding Munch (page 38). In his painting The Storm, ‘Munch has transfigured the seen world into a landscape of the soul,’ and (page 80) ‘for Munch, landscape always had to convey a message of human import: his visual idiom transformed the reproduction of landscape scenes into landscape of the soul.’ And finally, (page 82) ‘The details of Munch’s landscapes – trees, snow-covered hills, beaches or waves – were also symbols expressing a personal language of the soul.’ We’ll hear a lot more of the soul in a moment, with its significance extending beyond a relationship with landscape.

An earlier note I made, before even seeing the programme, prepared me for this. From some now unknown source I captured this: ‘He once wrote: “Just as Leonardo studied the recesses of the human body and dissected cadavers, I try from self-scrutiny to dissect what is universal in the soul.”

Munch, the man

I still can’t track down where I heard about Sue Prideaux’s biography of Munch. I noted it at the back of my pocketbook but I can’t find it anywhere in Bischoff’s book. Anyway, on a trip to Cardiff one weekend, I popped into Waterstones and there it was. I had no way of knowing, as I dithered about buying it, what an enthralling 328-page journey into another human being’s mind it would take me on.

Her stimulating focus on his mind and the insights his art gives us into the human condition is unfailing throughout the book. As early as page 11, discussing the painting Evening on Karl Johann Street, she writes, ‘faces shorthanded into near-skulls expressing the commonality of human loneliness that can never be shared . . .’

Evening on Karl Johan Street (scanned from Prideaux’s biography)

The origins of this pervasive mood were rooted in his youth and childhood (page 32):

Sophie’s death was a blow from which Edvard never fully recovered. A desolate longing for her remained all his life; he had lost his mother all over again. God had broken his promise.… the inutility of God and the inadequacy of Papa had been exposed in the face of the grim injustice of sickness and death.

This is again something that resonates with me: though my early experiences of hospitalisation were less traumatic they similarly dented my faith in God and in my parents.

The stress of his mother’s slow death from tuberculosis made his father prone to rages which led to beatings. The pressure was unremitting on Munch (page 37):

‘Illness, insanity and death were the black angels that hovered over my cradle,’ Edvard had written.

The disadvantages of this are all too obvious. There was a more positive side in the insights this darkness gave him (page 81-83):

Experience told him that each individual found his own landscape based on his inner feeling. . . One sees things at different moments with different eyes… The way in which one sees also depends on one’s mood . . .’

In addition, he developed, as he described it (page 106):

‘. . . a sensitivity to the metaphysical, to the paranormal influences to which we are all subject, even in this materialistic century.’

His position on this may have been somewhat more complex and inconsistent than this quote suggests, given that later (page 164) Prideaux writes, ‘He remained unable to believe in anything transcendental, and that included magic powers.’ I feel her summary at the end of the book probably defines his metaphysics and morality best (page 326-27):

[Munch was]: an implacable opponent of all –isms . . . [Central to the lives] of Munch’s tragic generation, had been the loss of meaning inflicted by the death of God. . . . Munch, too, had been one of the enfants du siècle who trod the narrow roof-ridge of disillusion, solipsism, spiritual disintegration and paralysing moral inertia, until the vision had come to him in Saint-Cloud. He, too, would have crashed down into the abyss of despair had it not been for his absolute need for some sort of religious faith. For Edvard Munch, just as for his father, it was impossible that God should die. The faith built upon the Saint-Cloud vision prevented the plunge into the abyss. Thereafter, his faith and his art together with his strong sense of moral responsibility towards his family were the icons clasped to his chest as, from time to time, he so nearly fell.

There is more to say but it can wait until next time.

The Sick Child (scanned from the Taschen edition)

Auden wrote, ‘The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of the world around us . . . I think it makes us more human, and I am quite certain is makes us more difficult to deceive.’

(Quoted in Ian Sansom’s recent Guardian article: see link)

Probably because I simply can’t let this matter drop, I just had to buy another book purporting to tell me what makes a poem a poem. Stephanie Burt’s book Don’t Read Poetry sounded really promising, because her starting point was (pages 7-8): ‘Don’t assume poetry ever means only one thing, other than maybe a set of tools for making things with words. . . . Instead, find ways to encounter kinds of poems and learn different reasons to read poems, realising various ways by various poems.’

And, to be fair, she delivered on this promise.

On the way she delivered a bombshell. Readers of this blog would already know of my Hearth dream, the most important thought-provoking dream I’ve ever had. For those who don’t here’s a brief taster (see link for the full picture).

This is the dream. I am sitting on a rag rug, the kind where you drag bits of cloth through a coarse fabric backing to build up a warm thick rug.  The rags used in this case were all dark browns, greys and blacks. It is the rug, made by my spinster aunt, that was in the family home where I grew up. I’m in the living room, facing the hearth with its chimney breast and its cast-iron grate and what would have been a coal fire burning brightly. I am at the left hand corner of the rug furthest from the fire. To my right are one or two other people, probably Bahá’ís, but I’m not sure who they are. We are praying. I am chewing gum. I suddenly realise that Bahá’u’lláh is behind my left shoulder. I absolutely know it. I am devastated to be ‘caught’ chewing gum during prayers but can see no way of getting rid of the gum unobserved.

In examining the imagery I concluded ‘More richly significant [than the chewing gum image] was the image of the hearth. The fact that it was in a chimney ‘breast’ helps convey the power of the realisation that came to me. The word ‘hearth’ is comprised of several other key words: ‘ear,’ ‘hear,’ ‘earth,’ ‘art’ and most powerful of all ‘heart.’ All of these words were separately of huge significance for me though I had some sense of how they might all fit together.’

Imagine then my astonishment when I came to page 120 of her book and was blasted by the sight of a poem by Ronald Johnson, part of his ‘beams’ sequence in ARK.

The sceptic in me had to ask, ‘Was the dream yet another example of possible cryptoamnesia?’ Had I read this poem somewhere before my dream in the late 90s? The poem dates from before then. 

I checked all my anthologies and also my books of criticism to see if I could find any references at all to Johnson’s poem and drew a blank. For now, it’s an open question. Maybe I had encountered the poem in a library book sometime. If so I have no memory at all of that event. Possibly it is just a coincidence. My creative dreaming had come up with a rich vein of imagery that another creative mind had already discovered.

Who knows? I don’t. 

For the purposes of my quest to discover what I felt made a poem a poem it did have interesting implications. 

Johnson’s poem looks as though it was exactly the kind of brickwall puzzle writing I have already explained I find difficult to accept as poetry. Even so, I had to accept that in the process of producing it he had nailed in a few cryptic lines exactly what my gift of a dream was about. 

When a poem is as baffling as my dream initially was until I decoded it, is it still a poem? Or can a poem be too individually esoteric to qualify for the title? 

I’ve dealt with that recently.  I wrote:

Montague Ulmman, in Working with Dreams, the book he co-authored with Nan Zimmerman, expands on this (page 73) when he speaks of ‘those qualities a dream has in common with art, especially with the art form which relies heavily on metaphor: poetry.’ He spells out where the incompleteness of dreams as poetry exactly resides (page 80):

‘. . .whereas the poet is addressing himself to an audience outside himself, the dream is a private communication intended to be personally, not universally, meaningful.’

Or is it still a poem if any readers anywhere understand and respond to the code that shuts out the rest of us?

Burt does deal with that kind of problem  in her chapters on Forms and Difficulty. Poetry can (page 174) reflect ‘the difficulty the poet herself has had in making sense of an unjust, incomprehensible, obdurate world.’ Also (page 181) a poet might want ‘to use difficulty two help us reexamine, slowly or painfully, what we already think we see, so that we can notice either the injustice or the beauty that we would otherwise overlook.’ Difficulty can even be a form of protest again an unjust state of affairs. Difficulty, or at least its twin, obscurity, can also arise when a poet is writing as the voice of a minority who speak in their unique way – a way not shared by the mainstream.

Clearly, my casting a blanket of doubt on the value of all such kinds of demanding poetry is at risk of seeming or being rooted in the defensiveness of a narrow mind, blind to the predicament the poet is articulating, some sort of cultural tunnel-vision.

Yes, I’ve been through periods of rebellion myself and resonated, for example, to protest songs and poetry. That does not mean my consciousness has kept up with reality in this respect. What it does confirm is that my resistance to accepting obscurity as legitimised by protest against reality’s unfairness and complexity has always been there, even when I strongly shared the protester’s sense of injustice. A level of accessibility has always been necessary to confirm poetry as poetry in my mind.

It needs to communicate as widely as possible if its message is to be effective, it seems to me. Rebellion and protest become ineffectual, as well as somehow too self-centred when their expression is not comprehensible to a sufficient number of people.

So, a sufficient level of accessibility is plainly a key criterion to meet if a poem is to be poem in my eyes. I do recognise, though, that if a poem needs to help raise our consciousness to a higher level, as Frost, Hayden and Auden would have it do, then it should not be completely accessible at the first or even the tenth read. I captured that point in an earlier post:

There was also something else that Frost valued (page 77), something akin to what Robert Hayden quoted as Auden’s version of it, that poetry is about ‘solving for the unknown’:

‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.’ [Frost] said that he never started a poem whose ending he already knew, for to have done so would, he believed, deny a fundamental purpose in poetry: that writing is an act of discovery. ‘I write to find out what I didn’t know I knew.’ Other times he phrased the idea slightly differently, but always the same basic premise: surprise leading to discovery. It was a thrilling and courageous approach to poetry . . .

That though may not be all there is to it.

I have always been concerned that art, in seeking to express reactions to the increasing chaos and dislocation in some aspects of our modern world, should not in any sense capitulate to that chaos so completely it loses coherence, music and pattern altogether. In my recent discovery of the full value of Edvard Munch’s work (more of that some time soon), I recently read Sue Prideaux’s excellent biography – Edvard Munch: Beyond the Scream. She describes him  as influenced in the early 1890s by the New Romantics who felt that (page 123):

To acknowledge that there was chaos did not mean that there would be no form in art.… A positive form that accommodated post-Christian chaos; that was the task.

I shall be returning to Munch’s take on art in the context of his troubled life shortly. As for poetry, I had planned to say more until I got derailed by Prideaux’s book. So, that will have to wait for now.

Warring Needs

(The edited picture was scanned from the Taschen edition of Munch, Self-Portrait with wine bottle.)

This is a very quiet time in term of footprints on this blog so I am as usual pausing for a moment at this time of year. I’ll be picking up the threads again in September.

Below is a picture I took after my wife left some unexpected strands of beauty in the bath.

After yet again recently revisiting the period of my father’s death in a poem, it seemed only fair to republish a few poems from an earlier sequence that will help put that in context. I have missed some from that sequence that don’t relate to the grief, and some others that I’ve only recently republished.

Reading in the Park