There is a final sentence in one of Tim Winton’s short stories in his intertwined anthology The Turning that winded me with its beauty, poise and connectedness to what had gone before. I can’t remember the story exactly, it was one of those grim seaside slices of life he is an expert at crafting, but I will never forget the feeling. I wanted then, and still want, to evoke the same feeling through my writing.
It’s not often I get my breath stolen away. Poetry can do it, but mostly through poems that are new to me. This is because some become too familiar, and while a thing of beauty can be a joy forever, the delicate shapes, and pointed truths of some poems are smoothed away over the course of much usage. Joy may remain, but not of the same magnitude.
This is why when I stumbled upon Irène Mathieu’s soil I was floored. It is from her book orogeny. This poem has a simple premise: one word pronounced by an individual can sound like another, and Mathieu runs with it.
I also find myself with similar reactions when reading the poetry of Omar Sakr whenever I have the opportunity (like here) and his essays work on the same level. There are some people who imbue the everyday with lyricism. And I am thus transported and confronted.
Art can do it. It doesn’t have to be new to me, but it must be ‘live’. There is something about the experience of art, whether in a gallery, on the street, or in a garden or home, or studio that makes the work alive. Perhaps it is about its environment, the play of light over oil paint, the reflections from metal and glass, the atmosphere and context. None of these quite happen in the same way when a statue or installation or painting is depicted in a book or flier or often online. It’s a pity, because art access is therefore unequal, but there is no real getting around it. The physicality of art is not properly captured in secondary representations. I’ve noted this before, but for all the photos of Starry Night I had looked at, none worked in the same way as standing before it in the dim hall of the NGV years ago, learning its size, and watching the paint ripple under golden spot lights and thus falling under its spell.