ISSN 1551-8086
return to home search for a contributing writer

seach for poems by title

archive of previous issues submissions information mailing list online store links to other interesting sites contact us  
  May 2006
volume 4 number 2
  home   (archived)
  center stage
Marie Lecrivain
Ellyn Maybe: poet and cinephile
  editor at large
Peggy Dobreer
Karen Corcoran Dabkowski:
The Blue House
Rafael Alvarado
Poetry and Transformation
Jerry Garcia
Why Poetry?
Marie Lecrivain
Scott C. Kaestner's Angeleno A Go Go
Marie Lecrivain
Donna Kuhn's typical girl
Aire Celeste Norell
J. J. Henderson's Murder on Naked Beach: A Lucy Ripken Mystery
Gene Justice
Niche Work, If You Can Get It: The Music and Poetry of Norman Ball
Francisco Dominguez
Gerald Locklin's The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems
  mailing list
Francisco Dominguez May 2006


Gerald Locklin's The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems

Gerald Locklinís collection The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems is a mixed study on the work of Modigliani and on Locklin's visit to the ďModigliani and the Artists of MontparnasseĒ exhibit featured at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the summer of 2003. The collection begins with the piece titled, ďAmedeo Modigliani: reverdy, cendrars, et cetera,Ē whereby the author acknowledges first all possible poets in attendance at the exhibition:

Why do poets have to affect

Such a depressing air

Of self-importance?

(probably because they know

how thoroughly expendable

all but a few are)

Do Locklinís poets in his piece mean to include him? Does standing in the presence of such historical artwork bring into question Locklinís relevancy as an artist? Such a line of questioning isnít thoroughly resolved, however, in Locklinís next piece, ďAmedeo Modigliani: Paul Guillaume,Ē in which the reader notes both a sense of humility and gratefulness in the authorís words, not just for himself as a humble artist, but for all the greats artists in history:

The art dealer wears the tie.

Thank god for the art dealers,

The owners of the galleries

The agents, publishers, and publicists

The curators, reviewers, impresarios

The tax accountants and the bibliographers

Thank god for all who wear the ties

And count the beans

And fight the battles

(sometimes with each other)

so the artist

(if heís fortunate enough to enjoy

the services of all or of any of them)

wonít have to.

So begins Locklinís exploration of Modiglianiís work with a variety of interesting speculation regarding Modiglianiís basis of work. Speculation in the sense that although Locklinís knowledge of Modigliani is visibly exemplary within the collection, he nevertheless wonders further afield for more possibilities of Modiglianiís motivation to his work beyond what is in history books and bibliographies. This is what makes The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems an appealing collection. It weaves between historical contemplation and hindsight on being an artist and even critique of the great artistís work all within one piece of work as best exemplified on ďAmedeo Modigliani: Reclining Nude, 1919Ē:

He was trying too hard here

To achieve the classic,

Realize perfection,

Assure himself a place in history.

Of course he must have known

He was dying.

Thus, forearms and breasts

Are all too large.

The hair of head, armpits, and vulva

Too exact in color.

The torso too self-concisouly elongated.

The pose too much a nod to goya. Velasquez, manet, to all of them.

Thus it was sure to be admired,

Bubbled over,

By those who think that final words

Are always best words.

It doesnít matter.

Heíd assured his fame

With the great portraits of the year before,

A wunderjahr indeed.

And this one is still better than almost anyone

Else could have doneóthe relationship of the

Figure to the background in itself is brilliant-

But itís not his best,

He simply worked too hard at it,

He had one eye on history,

When both should have been drinking her.

It is to be noted that Locklinís ability to bring each piece he uses for character study to life by, in some cases, also approaching the characters themselves in Modiglianiís work, breaks what could have been a monotonous formula of study character. In this case, Locklin achieves to expand the study beyond Modigliani the artist, but also the world around and the individuals within his life managing to include commentary between the relationship between the legendary artist and his subjects.

In The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems, Locklin manages to be simple yet ambitious in scope. By choosing to place his character study alongside the experience of his exhibition visit, he creates a compelling discourse on what it is to be an artist, juxtaposing between the great artist, Modigliani and a humble admirer, who also happens to be an artist, how art affects the person throughout his lifetime and how such art stands within the hindsight of history recorded. This point is most markedly made in Locklinís piece, ďan art student at a certain stageĒ:

She hisses at her elders,

ďhe is not considered major nowadaysĒ

I want to ask her why she cares

What heís considered,

Why she cares what her guests

Think of him,

How highly she herself feels

He should be esteemed,

And whether she does not find often

That she disagrees with those who drive

Her to the passive (though aggressive)


But we have all been students once,

And itís a terrifying thing to be,

So impressed by the glib self-assurance

Of the arbiters of fashion,

And as such so easily enlisted into the

(temporary) ranks of the cultural terrorists.

(The Modigliani/Montparnasse Poems, Gerald Locklin, copyright 2005, doom-AH Books, ISBN 0-9742099-1-1 $15.00)

copyright 2006 Francisco Dominguez


Francisco Dominguez

author's bio

    Francisco J. Dominguez emigrated from Mexico to the United States at the age of 13. Since then, he has written and published a book of poetry, Estranged by the Airfields of Vienna. Fran's creative work is mostly comprised of short prose and free verse. As an immigrant, his endeavors are based on an outside-looking-in perspective. Fran is the art editor for poeticdiversity, and has been writing poetry for more than 10 years. He lives in Long Beach, California.

Room 208