Saturday, March 24, 2012

Poetry Saturday: Lawrence Ferlinghetti meets Marc Chagall

I've always felt a certain affinity for Paris in the 1920's, and, as a child growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 70's felt disappointed at having missed the Beat boat of the 50's.

This is why I practically swooned this morning when I found that one of my favorite poems, which combines the Marc Chagall* (a painter working in Paris in the 20's) with Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti, (co-founder of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore) featured on Writers Almanac.


by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Don't let that horse
                                    eat that violin
    cried Chagall's mother
                                             But he
                        kept right on

And became famous

And kept on painting
                                       The Horse With Violin In Mouth

And when he finally finished it
he jumped up upon the horse
                                                     and rode away
                  waving the violin

And then with a low bow gave it
to the first naked nude he ran across

And there were no strings

What does this have to do with living in an ecovillage? Nothing, which is exactly the point. Trying to live sustainably is only one aspect of my life here. And that always feels just a bit surreal... :)


*The art of Marc Chagall looks like what you might see upon waking from a beautiful dream: the composition is scrambled with familiar figures and symbols, and riotous colors frame the memory. Chagall was born Moishe Shagal in 1887 in present day Belarus to a Jewish merchant family of modest means. His childhood in a small village was the subject of many of his works, which featured folkloric imagery such as Candlestick with the Burning Lights and the Fiddler on the Roof. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1907, where he studied art and first encountered the modern movements sweeping through Europe. In 1910 he was able to move to Paris, where he immersed himself in the École de Paris with the likes of Modigliani and Leger. Chagall's first solo show at Der Sturm Gallery in Berlin in 1914 firmly placed him among the talented avant garde artists of Europe. Chagall supported the Russian Revolution and became the first Commissar for Fine Arts. However, he resisted the power struggles and the direction the revolution was taking. He left the Soviet Union in 1923. During the 1920s he produced many etchings for book illustrations, including Gogol's Dead Souls and later a series of illustrations for the Bible. In the 1930s Chagall began working in stained glass and his work can be seen at the United Nations headquarters and in several buildings in Jerusalem. Chagall and his family fled Nazi-occupied Europe and lived in the United States from 1941-47. During this time he designed sets and costumes for ballets, such as Massine's Aleko 1942 and New York City Ballet's The Firebird 1945. Back in France in the 1950s, he began working with ceramics, and also produced the famous Paris series of paintings that feature magical scenes set against the Paris cityscape. You can also see some of the most spectacular murals produced by Chagall in the sixties at the Metropolitan Opera in Lincoln Center. Marc Chagall died in France in 1985, a little more than a decade after a museum dedicated to him was opened in Nice.