15 June 2019

Georges Braque: Eole, or a Lesser God

"The poem's tempo
failed to keep up,
despite a following wind:

with the young storks
flying across the sky
pure and effortless.

and could only attempt
to mimic their beat

But the sluggish pace
of the poem
stalled and stopped:

the lagging engine,
fingers beneath the wing - 
the underside

tearing, with tearing,
the supple air
of the leaf - "
  - "Fleeting thought" by Ana Luisa Amaral,  from What's In A Name translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, New York, New Directions: 2019.

"I have always been very much engaged and preoccupied by the material, because there is as much sensibility in the technique as in the rest of the picture." - Georges Braque

"Their flight is knowledge, space is their alienation." - St. John Perse, from "Birds"

Aeolus (Eole in French) was such a minor god in the Greek pantheon that it is unclear whether he had one guise or three.  The four winds were the children of Aeolus, keeper of the winds and Eos, the goddess of the dawn, daughter of Hyperion and Theia so, combined, they may have formed Aeolus.  In Greek the word denotes one who is nimble.  Aeolus, who guarded the four winds, lived on a rocky island off the coast of Sicily where he the four winds imprisoned in a cave.  He only loosed them when ordered to by a greater god. 

Braque created his Eole as a sequence of forms: a triangular form is the neck, topped by a spherical head with a crescent (moon) for the god's face in profile at the end of an elongated neck. Hair flows out to the right, as though wind-blown.  Stars in the lower left hand corner also suggest that Aeolus is airborne.  Enclosed forms (triangle, crescent,etc.) surge to the left, creating streams of air in their wake.

Portuguese poet Ana Luisa Amaral is known for reinventing familiar stories in mythology and religion.  Lot's Wife wonders about her namelessness in a bible abounding in names; Amaral's  Ariadne would rather sit in a cafe on the island of Crete chatting with a dinosaur than spinning the thread that will allow Theseus to return to safety after slaying the Minotaur.

Ana Luisa Amaral was born in Lisbon in 1956.  Her first book of poetry  Minha Senhora de Que (Mistress of What) was published in 1990. She has published ten more volumes since and has been included in several anthologies of international poetry and translated into Spanish, Castilian, French, Dutch, Bulgarian, and Croatian.  What's In A Name translated by Margaret Jull Costa is her second collection to appear in English.  Amaral is herself a translator, having translated Emily Dickinson into Portuguese: she received her PhD. in literature on Dickinson's poems.

For further reading: What's In A Name by Ana Luisa Amaral, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa, New York, New Directions: 2019.

Image: Georges Braque - Eole, 1939, bronze relief, Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, Utica.

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