George Seurat’s Evening at Honfleur
Seurat’s science calls horizontals calm,
but down the slope of pilings these turn sad,
while sunset breaks white against the solemn
black of jagged rock. His light’s a stern, mad
landscape divided into tiny balls.
This picture’s machine calculates why
one pale dot hued against the next recalls
a cool gaiety not unlike the sky
spread out above a certain slant of shore.
Somehow we understand this riddled air
and suspend it in thought above Honfleur
because Seurat saw something like it there.
His art’s divisioned dots define a scheme,
conceived as theory, that we must see as dream.
This poem was first published in Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, by Joseph Stanton, Time Being Books, 1999.
Read The Ekphrastic Review's interview with Joseph Stanton, here.
Joseph Stanton is Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has published six books of poems: Moving Pictures, Things Seen, Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem (co-authored with Makoto Ooka, Wing Tek Lum, and Jean Toyama). Over 500 of his poems have appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, New Letters, Poetry East, Ekphrasis, Image, Antioch Review, Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, and many others. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, the James Vaughan Poetry Award, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Cades Award for Literature.
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