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Sonnets of Michelangelo
Edited by Michael Ayrton
Translated by Elizabeth Jennings
ISBN: 978 1 857542 44 8
Categories: 16th Century, 17th Century, Italian
Published: October 2003
216 x 135 x 8 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
TO GIOVANNI DA PISTOJA ON THE PAINTING OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL
Like cats from Lombardy and other places
Stagnant and stale, I've grown a goitre here;
Under my chin, my belly will appear,
Each the other's rightful stance displaes.
My beard turns heavenward, my mind seems shut
Into a casket. With my breast I make
A shield. My brush moves quickly, colours break
Everywhere, like a street mosaic-cut.
My loins are thrust into my belly and
I use my bottom now to bear the weight
Of back and side. My feet move dumb and blind.
In front my skin is loose and yet behind
It stretches taut and smooth, is tight and straight.
I am a Syrian bow strained for the pill -
A hard position whence my art may grow.
Little, it seems, that's strong and beautiful
Can come from all the pains I undergo.
Giovanni, let my dying art defend
Your honour, in this place where I am left
Helpless, unhappy, even of art bereft.
Michelangelo's poems are like the letters of other artists: they range from formal words of thanks to passionate arguments; they flatter patrons, address lovers - and God; they reflect on art and on Michelangelo's own physical and metaphysical studies. He wears no masks in these poems. Elizabeth Jennings keeps close to his forms, investing in him her own celebrated skills. As in his sculpture, Jennings remarks, so in the poems, 'the dominating feature is vehement energy, an energy which is mastered by a longing for order.' Painter and sculptor Michael Ayrton contributes an introduction to this edition of the intimate work of one of the greatest artists of all time.
Table of Contents
Index of First Lines
Praise for Elizabeth Jennings 'Anyone who likes poetry will love it if you get them Carcanet's Collected Poems of Elizabeth Jennings. It costs a bit but you do get well over 1,000 poems, with barely a duff one; heck, you could even give it to someone who doesn't like poetry, and suggest it will change their mind.'
Nicholas Lezard, the Guardian, 1st December, 2012
'But there is no sterility here: I defy you to read "A Living Death" and not be on the verge of tears by the end of it ("I am caught up / Within a death that does not die") This is a supremely dippable-into book. Its bulk is liberating, not intimidating.'
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian, Tuesday 3rd April, 2012.
'it contains some of the finest lyric poetry of the 20th century'
Anne Stevenson, The Sunday Times, September 14th 1986
'in an agnostic age it is daring to write poems of religious rhapsody and more daring still to write as if the making of poems were a sacred activity.'
James Aitchison, The Glasgow Herald, May 7th 1989
'Her poetry ... conveys a strength of feeling and sincerity that few contemporary poets can match.'
Tom Velickovic, The Bookseller, September 16th 1994
'a pleasure, as well as a poetic education, to read'
Gwyneth Lewis, Poetry Review, Volume 84 no 4, Winter 1994
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