Friday, December 4, 2015

December 4 -- Ellaraine Lockie

La Géante (The Giantess)
by Ellaraine Lockie

--After René Magritte's painting, "La Géante," which contains Charles Baudelaire's poem, "La Geanté”

She’s a lady liberated
from Baudelaire’s poetics
From his tomcat worship of women
For what generation of men over the expanse
of time has not knelt at the feet
of a well-formed naked female
Blown her importance out of proportion
with heavy breath of passion

Turned pubescent in her presence
with the predisposition to explore
her staggering proportions
To seduce her with flowery references to soul
steamy eyes and somber flames
And after the flush of fervor has faded
To lie in sated stupor under the cool
shadow of satisfaction

But Magritte’s woman
painted a hundred years
after Baudelaire versified her
appears as no oil-engendered giantess
She stands disrobed and secured in scale
to her domestic surroundings
Oblivious to her dwarfed husband
watching from a cat’s-eye view
in his business suit

She probably supports
the European suffragette movement
Cleans house without wearing clothes
Reads Virginia Woolf in English
And has enough certitude to do her own seducing
Growing in the husband’s grateful eyes
to the queenly size of her namesake

View "La Geante:" (Giantess) by René Magritte:

This poem was a response to the following poem:

The Giantess

When Nature in her lavish lustiness
Bred day by day new, strange monstrosities,
Would I had lived with a young giantess
Like a warm cat who at a queen's feet lies.

'Twere sweet to watch her soul and body blossom
While she disported her in terrible wise;
To guess if a fierce flame burnt in her bosom
By the wet mists that swam within her eyes.

Ah! freely o'er her mighty limbs to run,
To crawl upon the bend of her vast knees,
And when in summer, tired of the pestilent sun,

Across the plain she stretches calm and still,
Within her breasts' cool shade to sleep at ease
Like some small hamlet sheltered by a hill.

— Jack Collings Squire, Poems and Baudelaire Flowers (London: The New Age Press, Ltd, 1909)

Authors Note:

          I viewed Magrette’s “La Géante” in Cologne, Germany, at the Museum Ludwig and was transfixed by the painting.  Part of my fascination was the existence of Baudelair’s poem with the same title positioned in the right hand margin of the painting.  The poem was, of course, in French which I couldn’t understand.
          When the painting was still haunting me after I arrived in London, which was my next stop on the trip, I knew I needed to know more about it and the poem contained in it.  I was already familiar with The Poetry Library in London in the Royal Festival Hall, so I headed there at my first opportunity.  I researched for the entire afternoon.
          I was sure that the painting was an ekphrastic response to the poem that had been written nearly a hundred years before, but I wanted to understand Baudelair’s poem in order to see how the poem had been interpreted.  I found seventeen translations of Baudelair’s
“La Géante,” all quite similar in content.  Then I began thinking about how the painting might be interpreted today . . . thus my own poem,  “La Géante.”
           That was ten years ago.  I didn’t want the poem published without a reader’s quick access to the painting and the translation of Baudelair’s poem.  The copyright for reproduction of the painting was quite high and required annual renewal, so having the poem published wasn’t possible.  However, the painting can now be seen at the website that is mentioned with the poem.  Many thanks to John Brantingham and California Ekphrastic for including all three components in this presentation.   

Ellaraine Lockie is a widely published and awarded author of poetry, nonfiction books and essays.  Her chapbook, Where the Meadowlark Sings, won the 2014 Encircle Publication’s Chapbook Contest.  Her twelfth collection has been released as an internal chapbook, Love Me Tender in Midlife, in IDES from Silver Birch Press.  Other recent work has received the Women’s National Book Association’s Poetry Prize, Best Individual Collection from Purple Patch magazine in England for Stroking David's Leg, winner of the San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest for Red for the Funeral and The Aurorean's Chapbook Spring Pick for Wild as in Familiar. Ellaraine teaches poetry workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh. She is currently judging the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contests for Winning Writers.

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