in the trust that up high/ lie here together


“I absolutely agree. It’s interesting that it’s an experience of standing before a figure of a god, but in the 20th century. This god is broken, this god’s head isn’t there. The speaker tries to make a connection. Attempts to link himself to that source, even broken or lost, of authority, power, vision…

“Otherwise / the curved breast could not dazzle you so.” In Greek sculpture, there’s this line that goes underneath the abdominal muscles and down to the hips. (It doesn’t matter how many sit-ups you do, you can’t get this line.) He’s seeing that line as a smile. The stone otherwise—we keep hearing what it’s not. If it were this, actually broken, we couldn’t know what we do. The translucent cascade, the wild beast’s fur, the burst like a star, figure after figure, and what do these figures have in common? Well, not so much. Light in the case of the lamp and the star, and to some degree maybe the fruit—you can imagine the ripening fruit glowing. But it feels like the speaker here is groping to describe what’s in front of him. Trying to name this power, which is palpable, real, but perhaps essentially unsayable. When we confront a great work of art, a great work of the spirit, we feel something, but how difficult, how impossible it is to say what it is…

It’s very difficult to say rationally why the experience of beauty or spiritual power produces this strong sensation. The poem makes the leap for us that’s like the experience, I think, of seeing the work of art. The speaker tries to take it in, he thinks of all these figures to describe it, none of them quite do it, and then there’s the kind of immediacy of experience that’s similar to the Pound poem. Boom, the whole appears.”

Mark Doty, On ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo’

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