Bacchants

IMG_0157

Bacchants
after

Velásquez

Go down to Queen Street
on a summer evening,
or walk to Odell Park
and look in the dark
beneath the trees:

you’ll find them
gathered round a fire,
drinking meths or after-shave.

Fly Karsh from Ottawa.
Lodge him in the Beaverbrook
then bribe these Bacchants with free
booze and bring them to him.

One day their photos will hang
with those of Hatfield or Robichaud
in the New Brunswick Hall of Fame.

That’s what Velásquez did
when he painted his dwarfs
and topers, and you can see them
in the Prado today,
as famous as
Spain’s King and Queen.

26 thoughts on “Bacchants

    • One of Velasquez’s great talents was to work equally with courtiers and the court and then to paint the court dwarves, the local people, and working men and women with the same skill. I think of Vulcan’s Forge, The Water Carrier, the Lady frying eggs … when we gaze at them, we enter the marvelous.

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  1. The joy of Velasquez is that his art is timeless, perhaps reconstructing our sense of time when we enter his space. The joy of Velasquez is that his art is timeless, perhaps reconstructing our sense of time when we enter his space.

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    • I hadn’t considered the idea of ‘time’ other than in the sense that his time ‘become’ our time when we view his work and enter into a dialog with it. I’ll think further about this. The question: to what extent does the past reach ut to us? To what extent, an how, do we look back and what does that backward glance actually mean for us?

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  2. I have to remind myself that New Brunswick probably seems ‘exotic’ to people who haven’t been here. I am never sure whether this is the counter-argument to Bakhtin, or merely the extension of Bakhtin’s argument; that said, we can indeed hold a dialog with our past and then that too becomes, in part, our own time and space.

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    • I think parts of New Brunswick are exotic even to the people who live here, as I have done for the last 45 years. A variety of languages and of dialects within those languages makes for exoticism, as does the wonderful variety of the land itself with its rolling hills, rivers, multiple coastlines, forests, and abundant wildlife.

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  3. The joy of Velasquez is that his art is timeless, perhaps reconstructing our sense of time when we enter his space. Other places always seem so exotic to me, and worth writing about.

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    • There is something about his use of light and space: I find it so easy to step into his paintings. I can’t say that of many painters, Caravaggio as well. And occasionally El Greco. Salvador Dali among the moderns, more than Picasso. But this is all taste, and de gustibus non est disputandum. You cannot argue with taste!

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    • I am never sure whether this is the counter-argument to Bakhtin, or merely the extension of Bakhtin’s argument; that said, we can indeed hold a dialog with our past and then that too becomes, in part, our own time and space. The joy of Velasquez is that his art is timeless, perhaps reconstructing our sense of time when we enter his space. This happens too when we bring him forward into our own time and space.

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    • Thank you for visiting. I am always so pleased when an older blog receives some attention. Familiar spaces are so important and we must rejoice and take pleasure in our own time and place, if we possibly can.

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    • Thanks, Jane. We sometimes forget that what has happened elsewhere can happen here so easily. Also, we forget sometimes that we live intertwined with our fellow human beings. That’s in part why I admire so much the series of poems that you have been doing recently: they link past and present in such very important ways.

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      • Other places always seem so exotic to me, and worth writing about. I have to remind myself that New Brunswick probably seems ‘exotic’ to people who haven’t been here. The past also fascinates me, like another ‘exotic’ place.

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