1st, Open Category 2008 - Jenny Mayor
Interior with Forget-me-nots (Matisse, 1916)
Each time she walked into his attic room,
unbuttoning her blouse, she would enter
the painting that hung above the wide bed:
among its chalky greens, she could remove
her rings, put them on the three-legged table
next to the bowl bursting with blue flowers.
She'd take off her skirt, her best underwear,
kick her sandals under the curved black chair,
stretch out like a cat on the coverlet.
Beyond the gauzy curtains, the rush-hour
traffic crawled and hooted along the street.
They whispered like thieves; she stayed far too late.
Under his gaze she'd stand on the patterned rug,
one foot out of the frame, gathering clothes,
putting on her watch, inventing excuses.
This short poem doesn’t put a foot wrong. It is a quite straightforward account of a visit, but the visit is into the painting, and the poem very economically integrates the details of the occasion with the details of the painting, so that ‘reality’, as it were, and painting fuse. The painting, in a sense, controls the poem. What I most admire is the restraint and delicacy of the piece; the poet allows the poem to say just what it needs to say, and no more, leaving sufficient clues for the reader to do the reader’s necessary work. It’s both satisfying and tantalising, celebratory and uncertain, at once.
U A Fanthorpe