Jardin du Poète
The garden’s ancient walls are low and broken
and thus (yes, “even at my age”) easy
to scale. They say this was a garden Goethe
adored. I see him sketching: helichrysum,
angelica (whose name reminds him of . . . )
and focused: parsing genus, species, love.
I’m sure he knew that cypress is the tree
that marks Italian cemeteries, death
embodied in the dark green spears that gesture
toward heaven. I inhale : crisp vetiver,
grapefruit and orange so pungent that I’m thrust
back to another garden, where I learned
of bitter oxymoron in the sweet
and luscious fruit he fed me, piece by piece;
the faintly musky warmth of his embrace;
the ancient stone walls crumbled, and my trust.
Copyright © 2017 by Moira Egan
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Moira Egan was born in Baltimore and has been hopping the globe ever since. She studied at Bryn Mawr, Johns Hopkins, and Columbia University, where James Merrill chose her manuscript for the David Craig Austin Prize. Her work has been published in journals and anthologies on four continents. She lives in Rome and teaches Creative Writing at St. Stephen’s School.
Synæsthesium is an unusual exploration of ekphrasis―poetry that takes a real or imagined work of art as its muse. The first half of the book, ‘Olfactorium’, is inspired by various fragrances and the olfactory flashbacks―real or imagined―induced by them. From everyday Old Spice to exotic Casbah, the poems take the reader on journeys peppered with the luscious language of perfumery. The second part, ‘Love and Work,’ is based on the works of Suzanne Valadon, the bold and unconventional model-turned-artist, peer and probable lover of Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and other painters. The poetic forms―sonnets, syllabics, a villanelle, a rondeau―reflect the content of the paintings and drawings of this great and under-appreciated artist.
“Moira Egan’s Synæsthesium, like a unique perfume in a beautiful flask, expertly mingles the base-notes of memory and desire, art and womanhood, in the clear container of form. She writes from deep within the senses, but she spills nothing with assurance of her craft. When we read these poems, we find that our own senses are renewed.”
—Carol Ann Duffy