Friday, February 05, 2021

Poetry Friday: Gooseberries and Art

On Monday, in response to a blogger's invitation to tell what is saving our lives right now, I wrote about people who are still making an effort at friendship, in spite of everything.  Later that same day, though, I wished I had added poetry. Poetry is saving my life. Because in between all the tedium of that day of online teaching, I found the time both to read some and to write some, and the day felt brighter as a result.


Here's the middle stanza of a poem about gooseberry fool, a dessert discussed in detail in this article. Basically it's made of fruit and whipped cream, and the word fool just means a trifle, a little something, a sweet treat at the end of a meal. 


Gooseberry Fool

by Amy Clampitt


Altogether, gooseberry virtues
take some getting
used to, as does trepang,
tripe à la mode de Caen,
or having turned thirteen.
The acerbity of all things green
and adolescent lingers in
it—the arrogant, shrinking,
prickling-in-every-direction thorn-
iness that loves no company except its,
or anyhow that’s what it gets:
bristling up through gooseberry ghetto sprawl
are braced thistles’ silvery, militantly symmetrical
defense machineries. Likewise inseparably en-
tangled in the disarray of an
uncultivated childhood, where gooseberry bushes (since
rooted out) once flourished, is
the squandered volupté of lemon-
yellow-petaled roses’ luscious flimflam—
an inkling of the mingling into one experience
of suave and sharp, whose supremely im-
probable and far-fetched culinary
embodiment is a gooseberry fool.
You can read the first and third stanzas (well, and the second too) here
There's so much to love about this poem, such as the sheer abundance of the words and descriptions, matching as they do the abundance of the gooseberry bushes. I think my favorite part, though, is how she compares gooseberries to turning thirteen. This helped me feel less annoyed with my students, whom I was attempting to teach online that day due to riots and such (and come to think of it, perhaps the riots explain, at least in part, my lack of patience). There's nothing like a compassionate, spot-on description to give you some perspective.

I am in a group reading through the book The Artist's Way. In this book, Julia Cameron prescribes an "Artist Date" each week. You're supposed to come up with some activity that will nourish the artist in you. Normally that involves leaving your house and going somewhere by yourself. But these days, Artist Dates can be virtual. I went on one on Monday, and then wrote about it. 
 Artist Date

I went to the
Art Institute of Chicago
on my lunch break,
even though Chicago is
1842 miles away.

I looked at a painting by El Greco
showing the Virgin Mary
rising into Heaven
surrounded by angels
and watched from the ground
by men in long robes.
She seemed to be standing
on the crescent moon.
I learned how Mary Cassatt
suggested the purchase of the painting
and how conservators cleaned yellowed varnish
off of the Virgin’s magnificent blue robe.

I looked at an ancient Greek statue
already broken before it came to Chicago
and how computer modeling
enabled the face of handsome Antinous
to look as it did
when it was first sculpted.

I looked at a Spanish jug
from the Renaissance,
a fine example of lusterware
imported to Italy by a rich man
to pour drinks at his table.
I learned how the blue and yellow jug
was made of clay,
and fired in a kiln,
and then glazed with tin.

I ate my lunch
as I gazed on these wonders
and drank my ginger tea,
which surely nobody would have let me do
if I’d really been in the
Art Institute of Chicago.

But oh,
I would rather have been there in person even so,
with my feet tired
from traipsing through the galleries,
my daughter at my side,
the real objects in front of me,
no online teaching to get back to after my leftover pizza,
and as long as we’re imagining impossibilities,
no pandemic
at all.




Kay said...

I love your Artist Date and the poem that came from it. It is amazing what we can do with technology (like visit a museum on our lunch hour) and yet like you I long for the real thing and no more pandemic.

Karen Eastlund said...

Oh I love your poem. Your museum visit felt like a true escape, so... kudos! And hooray for all the museum images online. Gooseberries and 13 is perfect,n'est ce pas?

Linda Mitchell said...

Ruth, I loved gooseberry fool! You're right. The layers of language that don't seem to have anything to do with fresh adolescence actually do. Such a good reminder of how complicated it all is...yet, a trifling in a full life. LOVE it!
And, what a wonderful poem about your artist's date. Glazed with tin? Neat-o. And, yes...let's just imagine no pandemic at all. That is the best last line of the day!

jan godown annino said...

hi dear Ruth, traveler of the heart & mind, I love your visit-to-the-art museum poem. Near the end I smiled reading it & felt sad, reading it. Both moods, just right.

jan godown annino said...

And I imagine some students & families are split about the purpose in politcs of the riots but either side will experience hurt from them as all riots have violence as a factor. My prayers are for your student families & your family r-- to all remain emain physically untouched & political as best off as possible.
xo Jan

Jone said...

The Gooseberry Fools sounds much like a Scottish dessert: Crananchan (raspberries, whipped cream with a tad of whisky and honey).

I love your poem about the Artist Date. The stanza about drinking tea and knowing you couldn’t do that if you were actually there. So glad to be in the artist community.

Linda B said...

I also love the comparison of gooseberries with thirteen, Ruth, having taught them & I adored "silvery, militantly symmetrical
defense machineries" - familiar! Even here in our own town, I've had a date or two with museums here, have ventured out only to one (nature & science) with the grand-girls. I love your date and sharing with us, too, the musing that tired feet would be okay if you were only there. I wish you could be, too, with your daughter!

laurasalas said...

Love your Artist Date poem! That wry ending--perfect. And I'm glad you're letting out some real feelings in your poems. I always think poetry is such a good way to process my life!

Janice Scully said...

Wonderful poem about your virtual museum visit that took you even beyond Chicago in space and time and about the restorations etc. And in the first poem, the connection of gooseberries to thirteen year olds resonated. What a fresh comparison!

Fran Haley said...

That Gooseberry Fool seems such a metaphor for many things - amazing wordplay, and I especially love "an uncultivated childhood." There's a needed freedom in the poem which is also very present in your Artist Date poem - beautiful, Ruth.

Bridget Magee said...

Keep "imagining impossibilities", Ruth. Inspiring poems, both, thank you. :)

author amok said...

Thank you for your poem, Ruth. Museum trips with my kid are one of the things I miss most of all during the pandemic. Virtual visits to explore the art aren't the same!

mbhmaine said...

I love your Artist's Date poem, Ruth. The details brought your virtual journey and so much more to life. There's wonder and sorrow entwined here. Deftly done.

Karen Edmisten said...

"or having turned thirteen."

Oh, my gosh, yes. Perfect. It made me happy to read that you'd zeroed in on that line, too, and that it gave a renewed appreciation for your kiddos.

And thanks for taking us with you on your virtual art date. I'm longing and imagining with you for that final line.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

What a very satisfying post, Ruth. I am so delighted to read this whole poem, to meet Amy Clampitt again while paying full attention, to think of you browsing the art over pizza and ginger beer. And while we're imagining possibilities, no pandemic, no riots, indeed. Poetry does get us through the thistly thickets. I'm having trouble doing anything else at the moment!

KatApel - said...

I can't help but think the Michelle would love wandering the Art Institute of Chicago space with you. I wonder if she already has viewed those pieces you described.