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  • Monuments, and: Rembrandt, Landscape with Obelisk, and: Rodin, The Thinker, and: Jouissance, and: From This Side, and: Portrait of Adam in Landscape with Swine
  • Peter Cooley (bio)

[End Page 27]

  • Monuments
  • Peter Cooley (bio)

Tomorrow, once my favorite word, is here. No, it can’t be, it has to stay out there with plans I had to be another man— Caesar or Alexander in the dawn, Nero or Constantine, my teenage dream before first light, before things have to be. Morning, you rush, pale illumination, lifting the distant trees, coming for me. You arrive on this page, wash it all gold I never dared to ask for. Why this gift? You tell me to follow the ancient text my father never showed me but he lived, simply I see now that he’s four years dead— Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations: a great man is not emperor or king but the man who does his best in all things.

Peter, do you dare to take on this day? [End Page 28]

Peter Cooley

“Looking at this group of poems, I can see how obsessed I am with fixity and flux. Why else would I choose, when writing an ekphrastic poem, one of Rembrandt’s paintings concerned with an obelisk and then use metaphors from music to describe it? Why else title a poem ‘Monuments’ when I am writing autobiographically about a book my father left me when he died?

“I have in the last few years written scores of ekphrastic poems for a three-part book I am assembling on Rembrandt, Rodin and Michelangelo. But I have never so blatantly admitted my desire to be a visual artist as I have in ‘Jouissance’: ‘I always wanted to be a painter. / The painter can just render, the poet / must, admit, try hard to say something.’

“And then there are my ‘eschatological poems,’ about death and paradise—both of them imagined constructions. The speaker in ‘From This Side’ has ‘crossed over’ into that alterity which is beyond literature and music and art but some synthesis of all three. There is no language for what he wants to say. Oh, why not admit it: he’s not a speaker; he’s just Peter Cooley with his face up against the impossible. But it’s not a bad place to be.”

Peter Cooley’s ninth book, Night Bus to the Afterlife, will be published in 2013 by Carnegie Mellon University Press, which has published seven of his previous volumes. The recent recipient of an Atlas Grant from the state of Louisiana, he is the winner of the Marble Faun Prize in Poetry from the Faulkner Society. He lives in New Orleans and teaches creative writing at Tulane University.

  • Rembrandt, Landscape with Obelisk
  • Peter Cooley (bio)

The exercise of wonder sounds like this: the lines that follow will resound with light, poor imitation of his symphonies but my answering back, nevertheless. My playing may be slow, cracked, off-key, dumb, a melody no one will hear but me, yet when I speak I’m in the orchestra, my instrument at least original.

Reader, invisible friend of the page, I’m counting on your not knowing this painting! The obelisk, monument on the right, fixed in the middle of the picture plane, rises in landscape just after a storm. Two figures down right, one of them on horse, pose, incidental to the wind just past.

Minutes before, everything might have died— everything—except this made-made creation. What does it stand for? Anybody’s guess. The obelisk brought me luck to sing it— [End Page 29]

Peter Cooley

“Looking at this group of poems, I can see how obsessed I am with fixity and flux. Why else would I choose, when writing an ekphrastic poem, one of Rembrandt’s paintings concerned with an obelisk and then use metaphors from music to describe it? Why else title a poem ‘Monuments’ when I am writing autobiographically about a book my father left me when he died?

“I have in the last few years written scores of ekphrastic poems for a three-part book I am assembling on Rembrandt, Rodin and Michelangelo...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 27-33
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-16
Open Access
No
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