Les Fauves*: New Poetry Book by Barbara Crooker

Poetry is the natural prayer of the human soul. ___ Rilke


I love poetry, probably because you have to compress all your thought into a small space. I collect poetry books, and I suspect this one will be added to my growing shelf of poetry books. I consider myself a “rhymnast,” a gymnast with words. But Barbara is a true poet and three of her favorite poems printed here from her new book are perfect examples of her talent. (I especially like “Scrimshaw” because I also live in Pennsylvania.)



~Henri Matisse

The last line of the poem is also Matisse’s
“From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands
I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like
a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.”

Henri Matisse


This hillside’s the shade of grape soda,

lawn an ooze of electric jaundice,

and the sky’s a violet slither. The red,

blue, and green trees are dancing, supple

and sinuous, and the leaves are singing, a riot

of light. He squeezed out red-orange like plastic

explosives. Painting is an act of belief.




So, I live in Pennsylvania, home of potato filling, cabbage slaw,

shoofly pie, apple butter, scrapple, red beet eggs, hog maw,

solid starchy stuff. But when I want to go wild, overdraw

my account, then I fly to Paris, change to a black lace bra,

matching panties. Stop at a bistro, eat oysters in the raw

with brown bread, unsalted butter, wine the color of pale straw,

then stroll down a leafy street, wander gardens I could draw

if I had talent. For a country girl, this is shock and awe:

even a folded napkin, a work of art. I’m sure there are flaws,

but I can’t see them. I prefer Pépé le Peu to Quick Draw McGraw,

Gérard Dépardieu to Brad Pitt, Isabelle Hupert to Kate Capshaw,

coq au vin to KFC, Bain de Soleil to Coppertone, scofflaw

that I am. Ray Charles said, Tell your mama, tell your pa

I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas,

but I don’t want to go there, or to Utah or Omaha.

I want to stay in Paris for that je ne sais quoi.





Sugar maples, little fires in the trees, every blazing gradation

of orange to red, and this makes me think of you, the way

you press the long length of your body against me, the heat

seeping through flannel, my own private furnace. If my hands

and feet had a color, it would be blue. From November

until May, I cannot get warm. Even my bones have cores

of ice. But you are a house on fire, an internal combustion

system, Sriracha sauce/jalapeño poppers/Thai curry. I stay up

late, read until you’re asleep, so I can slip my icy feet, frozen

toes under the smoldering log of your torso. Even in the dark,

you radiate. I am a cold front, a polar low coming down

from the arctic. And you, why you, you’re the sun.


*Fauvism is the style of les Fauves (French for “the wild beasts”), a group of early twentieth-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. While Fauvism as a style began around 1904 and continued beyond 1910, the movement as such lasted only a few years, 1905–1908, and had three exhibitions.[1][2] The leaders of the movement were André Derain and Henri Matisse, whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communicating the artist’s emotional state.
(Source: Wikipedia.com)

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