Poetry | A Series of Ekphrastic Poems on Eileen Agar’s Marine Object by Suzannah V. Evans

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Ithell Colquhoun, Alcove II, 1948

Suzannah V. Evans is a poet, editor, and critic. The following series of poems was inspired by a visit to the exhibition Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired By Her Writings at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (reviewed here for The London Magazine), and more specifically, the poems are based on the piece Marine Object by Eileen Agar.

Suzannah has written for the TLS, PN Review, Magma, New Welsh Review, Eborakon, Brittle Star, and elsewhere, and she is Reviews Editor for The Compass. A selection of her poems was recently longlisted for the 2018 Ivan Juritz Prize for creative responses to modernism.

Marine Object 1939 Eileen Agar 1899-1991 Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1990 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05818

 

sea-wrung, sea-wracked, time-speckled

‘For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, or thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice’ – Virginia Woolf

You, salty, you, barnacled, you, sea-sprung, you,
made thing, found thing, cherished thing.

Barnacles have covered you in brittle kisses
and the sea has poked its tongue into your hollows.

You are a wide mouth, a silent mouth,
lips of terracotta and eyelashes of shell.

Spiny, salty, spindly, spumey, submerged
and now emerged, on display, in a cabinet

on a plinth, a white plinth, a starfish balancing
at your throat.

 

Starfish Balancing at Your Throat

A horn, a shell, a starfish, a terracotta, a yes, a lip, a burnished,
a thinking, a drowning, a crying, a barnacle, a wave, a heap.

Waves once wept over these barnacles that spot you like freckles.
Lips once touched the lip of this jug and hands once handled it.

Terracotta can break as men can break.
Waves break when you pick them up.

A starfish is on the lip, the very lip, of the jug,
the very lip and heart and throat of the jug
where once water poured.

An amphora, an amphora found, an amphora found broken.
An amphora like an ampersand found in the sand and dredged up.

An amphora split in two like a heart, like the rose inside of a clam,
split in two and spliced too with the objects of two years ago.

A crustacean, a flotsam, a lip, a horn, a ram, a bellow, a drinking,
a how though? a follow, an amplifying, a Greek a French a starfish *

 

a tiny, a briny

yes, a tiny, a briny, a
tiny brittle slipping and sucking
a slipping of barnacle lips
a tiny moment on a jug

a curling and a cleaving
a teeny tiny winding
a winding and a wending
always a wending, yes, always

a briny brittle slipping
and a briny brittle slipping
yes, always a tiny briny brittle
slipping sipping

 

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