Gare du Montparnasse: Sonnet for Georges Méliès

This week’s Google Doodle reminded me that in 2013 I wrote a poem about Georges Méliès, one of the first film-makers, the father of special effects and author of the first political film: L’affair Dreyfus (1899). I had known nothing about Méliès until, in the course of my work as a translator and language coach I was working with Dr. Barbara Grespi, a professor of cinema and visual culture. Now, Barbara is one of those insanely intelligent, sophisticated, and stunningly beautiful Italian women who makes someone like me feel somewhat ‘less than’. So, I was thrilled that she had asked me to work with her on an English language presentation about tarot iconography in the films of Georges Méliès. When she first talked with me about the topic, I said George who? She graciously replied, “He’s famous for the film of the Moon with the rocket in its eye.” Sure enough, I wiki-ed and then Youtube-ed and came up with the familiar images.
In the process of finding out about Méliès I also got a bit of information stuck in my head. Five hundred of his films were confiscated by the French army in WWI in order to recycle the celluloid into heels for soldier’s boots.
When I started writing the poem that had been poking and shifting in the back of my head for over a year. I wrote 10 lines of blank verse and then I sat still and started again. It all came in rhyming couplets (which I rarely use and then never one after the other) and it turned into the first eight lines of this sonnet:

Gare du Montparnasse: Sonnet for Georges Méliès

 

What kind of boot heels do you think they made

Five-hundred films for la deuxième armée?

 

Celluloid soles France’s poor bastard sons

It is difficult to avoid the puns:

 

“Attrition: boot(less) battles lost when won.”

“Headline: (well)heeled dead sink in sanguine mud.”

 

Harder yet, the dramatic phrase hold back:

“Verdun: Europa’s epic fade-to-black.”

 

The cinemagician’s vanished oeuvre leaves

me, stumbling barefoot through 1916.

Fumbling across mounds of nameless bones;

Agape – Agape, from this place no train goes home.

Dancing couplets I misstep and massacre the waltz,

Lost within the sonnet’s frame, I’ve borne their witness false.

 

 

I ended up adding the last 3 couplets because I couldn’t help asking myself: “why are you writing about a toy maker and a special effects man when the ground is full of the blood and bones of the people who died wearing those boots?” Somehow, I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing a Google Doodle about Verdun any time soon.

Red String of Fate: by Brad Frederiksen

When heat huddles by white-hot horizons
and puddles black bitumen blue,
you don’t stop for water poured into a cup
to become cup before it is in you.

When white-hot horizons burn into the wind-
screen and ghost the glass over with ghost-skies,
you’re up to your nose in the end of a road
you’ve been driving so long you’ve gone cross-eyed.

When a breeze cold as glass can be cold in the heat,
and puddles of blue on black bitumen meet,
and plenty of dry leaves and dust are about,
and your eyes are on straight, and the ghosties are out,

the invisible Red String of Fate will rise up
like water still spinning is not yet the cup.

This work by Brad Frederiksen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

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Sonnet on Descartes’ Vinyard / Sonetto sul Vigneto di Cartesio: by Bonnie McClellan

SONETTO SUL VIGNETO DI CARTESIO

Paesaggio trascrive in polvere il fantasma del tempo
Tratto manomesso; friabile, reticolo evidente.
Maledizione di Jahweh, o di Minerva fatidico dono
Nudo frutto d’Eden, nel lavoro ridefinito.
Asse cartesiana della mente ben ordita
Contro il caos verdeggiante; la ruota della ragione.
EGO SUM dell’uomo tirato in campo ardente
Morbida, intransigente linea infinita.

Cosa abbiamo perso in questo mondo ben composto,
Arato dalla nostra razza divisa e consapevole?
Beatitudine incolta, dura, senza nome;
Primo bacio selvaggio tra Adamo ed Eva d’ossa fine;
Frusciante betulla sbiancata, mai scritta;
Panno primale della lingua, tessuto ma ancora spiegato.

*****     *****     *****

SONNET ON DESCARTES’ VINEYARD

Landscape writes out in dust the ghost of time
Well-fingered tract; friable, forceful grid.
Yahweh’s curse or Minerva’s fateful gift
Naked fruit of Eden, in labour, redefined.
Cartesian axle of the ordered mind
Brought against verdant chaos, reason’s wheel.
Man’s own I AM scratched out in burning field
Soft, intransigent infinity of line.

What have we lost in this well-structured world
Ploughed out by our sentient, divided kind?
A hard, unnamed, uncultivated bliss;
Adam and fine-boned Eve’s first savage kiss;
Clattering, chalky aspen undescribed;
Primal cloth of language, woven, yet unfurled.

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