Saturday, December 18, 2021

On Frida Kahlo's 'Wounded Deer' and after Rilke’s Sonnet to Orpheus 2:10

A couple of poems I wrote for my poetry students. These students are a long way from here, and we are a long way from them — a dynamic of the times. I am always wary of the 'ambient intimacy' of the internet, but I share these in the spirit of community. All poetry is a series of departures as well as arrivals, suggesting movement — flow.  The conversations that develop between 'artworks' are inevitably political and ethical ones, and if we write out of colonial spaces (regretfully, disturbingly, and in grim reality), a series of responsibilities arise that are often in tension with the 'aesthetics' of a piece. I refuse 'aesthetics' as a basis of anything generative, but contend with it every time I write a letter, a word, a line... and every time I use any of the senses available to me. This is an act of dissension whose irony is made even more emphatic through the use of this technology (computer, internet etc) to access 'art' and to comment and respond to it.

See Kahlo's painting here. And here's an anti-ekphrastic act, maybe:

Not On Frida Kahlo’s ‘Wounded Deer’, Not Really?


When the bow hunters sported the deer out of the woods near Gambier

I was not thinking of Frida Kahlo’s ‘Wounded Deer’, which I do now.

This is not appropriate in so many ways, but maybe it is in others.


When the pick-up truck with the stag in the back secured so the antlers

were safe — wall trophy, obviously — but the hindquarters flopping

and bouncing on the open tail-gate, hooves kicking off the road’s asphalt


(and I imagine sparks but it was flecks of staling blood), roared

past me on the road through the village, I was not thinking of Frida

Kahlo’s ‘Wounded Deer’, which I do now. Maybe I should have back then?


But now I am thinking it through, in another hemisphere, over fifteen years

later. I am trying to be the deer and the stag but not be Frida Kahlo —

I would never try to do that. Which makes me wonder as I unloose


arrows out of my skin — nine times I quiver, nine times I transfer

my essence to a tree, nine times I shape the memory into something visceral —

if I am really seeing the past now? There are no deer here, but there are


kangaroos and they suffer similar fates. I cannot see Frida Kahlo’s

head on a kangaroo, I cannot build the symbolism, archetypes and set

of personal references. I won’t mystify. If the sea at the end of a wooded path


is forced into the sky, so too are the hills of the valley into a different

but intimately connected sky. Wrong images. I wonder about translations of ‘karma’,

and reach for my feet to see if they are secure on an earth that turns fast —


or maybe it’s just turning at the necessary speed. Neither fast nor slow.  Maybe

that speed will stay the same no matter what the miners, industrialists and adventurers

do to it in all our names. It frightens me (and honestly, I don’t frighten easily —


well, not in a personal sense, anyway) that I have nothing to do with Frida

Kahlo or her deer-stag or her injury or bare forest or fetish for arrays of nine.

But then, why would I use a word like ‘fetish’? What am I painting here?



            John Kinsella

Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus: version  after 2:10 — a mimesis


How we machine machines

might be at the root of the problem,

a root system of fibre-optics

and nanoparticles, the equilateral


disjunctions in application

of field-work. We have made it part

of our avatars not only via imposition

but by unnatural selection:


each lyrical strain we tune

into our ‘feelings’, remade as satisfaction

and compliance of mystery.


Speech to text slips past the inexpressible.

Expansion of services is not the music

we associate with ‘ecology’ — house of the word.



            John Kinsella