The eye’s trade

Dancing through a maze of possible mimesis

The eye’s trade

Mute Poetry, Speaking Pictures

by Leonard Barkan

Princeton University Press (Footprint Books), $31.95 hb, 207 pp, 9780691141831

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.

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Published in May 2013 no. 351

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