Simonides of Ceos is said to have declared that ‘Painting is mute poetry, poetry a speaking picture.’ All of us know something of what he means, about our thirst for information from the arts: and, if you like, our scrabbling for the visible within a text. One half of his mirrored pronouncement is verified by those people who, in an art museum, hurry to the curatorial information alongside a picture. They want to discover what the painting is about. But the sought-after ‘aboutness’ keeps slipping away from the viewer, much as the point – but is it a point? – of a poem does.
The eye’s trade
Dancing through a maze of possible mimesis
Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures
by Leonard Barkan
Princeton University Press (Footprint Books), $31.95 hb, 207 pp, 9780691141831
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Chris Wallace-Crabbe AM is the author of more than twenty collections of poetry. His most recent books of verse include The Universe Looks Down (2005), and Telling a Hawk from a Handsaw (2008). He is Professor Emeritus in Culture and Communication at Melbourne University. Also a public speaker and commentator on the visual arts, he specialises in ‘artists’ books’. Read It Again, a volume of critical essays, was published in 2005. Among other awards he has won the Dublin Prize for Arts and Sciences and the Christopher Brennan Award for Literature. His latest book is Rondo (2018).
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