Carol Ann Duffy
The Virgin Punishing the Infant
after the painting by Max Ernst
He spoke early. Not the goo goo goo of infancy,
but I am God. Joseph kept away, carving himself
a silent Pinocchio out in the workshed. He said
he was a simple man and hadn’t dreamed of this.
She grew anxious in that second year, would stare
at stars saying Gabriel? Gabriel? Your guess.
The village gossiped in the sun. The child was solitary,
his wide and solemn eyes could fill your head.
After he walked, our normal children crawled. Our
were first resentful, then superior. Mary’s child
would bring her sorrow … better far to have a son
who gurgled nonsense at your breast. Googoo. Googoo.
But I am God. We heard him through the window,
heard the smacks which made us peep. What we saw
was commonplace enough. But afterwards, we
why the infant did not cry. And why the Mother did.
from Selling Manhattan (1987)
The painting, by Max Ernst, is entitled The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Eluard and the Artist (you will find some variations of the title on the internet and, after doing some research, I think this perhaps stems from differences in translations of the original title; La Vierge corrigeant l’Enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Eluard et l’Artiste). The painting is on display at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.
Find out more about Max Ernst at the Max Ernst Museum website and on the video below http://www.maxernstmuseum.lvr.de/fachthema/englisch/index.htm
Adjective Magnet Words (Photo credit: Evelyn Saenz)
Some games are flashy interactive affairs with super graphics and addictive content that makes you want to play for just..a…little…bit…longer, whilst others, hmmm, not so much. Exquisite corpse sadly falls into the latter category but, before you look away wondering why on earth I should mention it, let me explain my reasons. First off it was invented (or maybe ‘adapted’ would be closer to the mark) by the surrealists in order to ‘channel spontaneous artistic ideas’. The surrealists’ main man, Andre Breton, thought that games in general, and games especially like exquisite corpse, were invaluable for tapping into one’s innate artistic abilities (won’t it be fun telling everyone that you tapped into your innate artistic ability before dinner?). The technique got its name from the very first round of play, “Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau” (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). Contrary to a lot of opinion the surrealists actually knew a great deal about art, and especially about the connection between psychology and art, and they had a Manifesto for goodness sake, so cut them some slack.
If you play exquisite corpse you sometimes feel a genuine sense of tapping into something significant, something monumental even. The clouds part and you feel as though you might just be looking into the mind of God. But then again sometimes you will come up with something supremely silly that starts you giggling and before you know it you’re rolling about at the idea of a quivering noodle stroking a voluptuous moose.
Trust me, you’ll know what I mean if you play it.
How to play:
- Get a dictionary. Yes, the one under the leg of the computer table is fine, you won’t be needing the internet for this one. Look up an adjective, a noun, a verb, another adjective and another noun. This is the slow method so, to get some momentum going for a faster game with your family/friends, pick out several words, write them onto small separate bits of paper (one word per piece), and place them into separate groups according to whether it’s an adjective, noun or verb.
- Choose your 2 adjectives, 2 nouns and your verb (without looking) and write them out as following:
- The Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun. You may get something like; the delicate swan cuddles wary babies. You can adapt the verb to be past or present tense and you might need to add something after the verb like ‘the’. You can play about with the thing when you’re finished.
- Do the same again 4 times = poem.
Alright, you may not be looking at the next entry for the Oxford Poetry Anthology but it might be better than you thought, or maybe it will just start you giggling while you’re standing in line at Tesco.
P.s. do let me know what you come up with, whether it’s genius and is headed for the winner’s list or whether it makes me laugh in Tesco. In fact, especially if it’s the last type.
André Breton, 1924 (Wikipedia)
Try a similar version online: http://harpojaeger.com/projects/exquisite-corpse/