Plenty: Art into poetry
Macmillan Art Publishing, $77 hb, 128 pp
Here is a production that most poets would die for. Peter Steele’s new book is a spectacular hybrid beast, a Dantesque griffin in glorious array: it is a new volume of poetry and an art book, with superb reproductions of works of art spanning several centuries, from collections all over the world. Paintings most of them, but also statues, sculptures, objets d’art, a toilet service, the figured neck of a hurdy-gurdy, a hoard of Viking silver and a diminutive six-seater bicycle. And the reason for this pairing is that these are all ekphrastic poems, ‘poetry which describes or evokes works of art’, as Patrick McCaughey glosses it in his introduction. How Steele brought off such an ambitious venture I can’t imagine. There is insufficient space here to do more than gesture at the visual contents; they are full of delights and splendours: Vermeer’s geographer preserved in light; an ivory Virgin and Child (the latter modelled, evidently, on the young Caligula); a bronze horseman by Briosco; Velázquez’s wonderful An old woman cooking eggs.