"Viva la Difference: Poetry Inspired by the Painting of Peter Saul"
First of all, notice that the third word of the title lacks an accent mark, rendering it English rather than French. This book (magazine?) (anthology?) has a simple plan: to show a single painting by a single artist -- Peter Saul -- to numerous poets, and solicit their poetic responses.
One problem is the painting itself, which is reproduced on the cover, and lends its title to the book. It shows a fatuous fat man, kneeling next to a bed and caressing a misshapen creature consisting entirely of breasts and vaginas (and possibly one ear). Sally Van Doren observes that the creature is tri-racial:
Two nipples protruding from brown skin.
Two nipples protruding from pink skin.
Two nipples protruding from yellow skin.
That's the beginning of "Isn't She Beautiful." (Notice the absence of a question mark.) The painting is simultaneously misogynist and feminist (as art can be). But how to write poems about it? Describing the imagery doesn't seem to work, but neither does avoiding description. This book is a great idea, but so new that no one quite knows how to proceed -- even the soulful Paul Violi, who died soon after writing "Stalin and Mao Schtickomythia":
What's it look like?
What do you mean?
What do you mean what do I mean?
[That's an excerpt.] Or John Yau himself, whose idea the book was:
[Also an excerpt, from "I Less Am You Let."] Maybe the best work is by my old friend Sharon Mesmer:
The God of the overpowering I AM is in ME!
now that I am cocked-up with over-power.
That's the powerful beginning of "I Am Cocked-Up with Over-Power."
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