of lamb: part 2

of lamb

lamb lived
in the background.
lamb—small, plump,
unobserved. lamb was one
of the listeners.
he moved among
the rouged illusions
of dawn.
cheerful lamb
liked tinsel.
he imagined
a satin-clad
found mary
crying in the
as pretty as a poem
was mary.
lamb stuttered.
lamb leaves a rose on the lawn.
lamb and mary
were alike.
mary called him.


lamb settled on his pillow—
the material a faded print
of princes.
for lamb,
time was full
of time.
lamb's delicate breath
grew stronger,
his poems dreamy.
lamb imagined the story of a lamb
made human.
did not always make a good first impression
in conventional society.
lamb thought about
trousers, but he was
a nonconformist.
he was,
to use his own phrase,
half a man.
blurred mornings—
the smooth lawns sprinkled with lamb's imagination.
bright glint
in the garden—
lamb jumping
in december.


easter was a tough master.
a perm did not prove sucessful.
his anxiety
a glittering chandelier
rustling in his mind.
the nearest field,
sixteen miles.
foolish dignity
and moonlit tears:
his two prevailing moods.
vacillating lamb
owed everything,
owed nothing
to love.

—matthea harvey, from of lamb

i wanted to post more of the poetry from of lamb, the book i wrote about yesterday. when i first read + saw the pages of this book, i instantly thought of "mary had a little lamb," and loved the idea of a sort of love affair between a girl and a lamb. as you read the poem, though, the story becomes more and more about the hapless, heartbreaking tangles of love; the innocence of beginning it, and the sobering wisdom that arrives with the continuing reality it exposes.

however, as harvey writes in the note at the end of the book, there are several layers to this story:
i made a whited-out version of [david] cecil's entire book [a portrait of charles lamb]... for of lamb, we selected 106 whited-out pages and arranged them into a narrative. amy jean created paintings based on those pages, changing and complicating the story told by the words. the book you are currently reading, then, is like a game of telephone, or an archeological site, each layer taking something from the layer before and transforming it. first, there is the late lord david cecil's biographical engagement with his long-dead subject, published in 1986. then there is my erasure of that text, influenced by sarah josepha hale's nineteenth-century rhyme, "mary had a little lamb," the true story of mary sawyer bringing her pet lamb to school. ...
beneath all these layers lies the story of the sibling pair, charles and mary lamb. charles was born in london in 1775. his sister mary was eleven years his elder, and they were incredibly devoted to each other. in 1796, mary had an attack of madness, and after chasing her apprentice around the room with a knife, killed her mother and wounded her father. she was sent to a mental institution. three years later, after their father's death, charles brought mary to live with him, and was her companion and caretaker for the rest of their lives together.

sometimes you read something that makes a great impression on you, and for me, this is one. i think it's the english major in me—i love the layers and the number of different interpretations within these lines. and the art major in me is affected + inspired by how the paintings alter and add to those interpretations.

poetry + art = meant to be!
have a lovely tuesday.


Post a Comment