Christopher Edgar welcomes readers into his poem as if he is about to show some extraterrestrial beings around our planet Earth, preparing them for the tour by providing tips and directions for proper navigation along the way. The poem is entitled Les Averses, the French language equivalent for rain showers, and the visitors coincidentally arrive in the Spring during rainy season. The effects of inclement weather are mirrored in blurred transitions, particularly notable in the uncertain beginning and ending points of the poem.
The poem moves forward without breaks; there are no periods and the sparse commas are interpolated in the middle of lines. To perform a thorough read, one must take into account the various overlapping meanings Edgar suggests. Each component may or may not interact with the words around it, emphasized by frequent references to Rogier van der Weyden’s painting Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin.
For anyone unfamiliar with the work, St. Luke is painting the Virgin with her child indoors while in the background a couple looks out upon a body of water. The building’s columns place St. Luke, the mother and child, and the two unknown background characters into three separate regions of the painting. The simultaneous linkage and disconnection between the artist, the object of art, and the outside world is explained by the tendency of bodies to understand those links and disparities with respect to each other.
The habit of bodies is
To sense disclosure
Laws of enclosure
Rough triangles, cylinders of arms
Gravity serves less the effect
Than art means oasis
We grasp disclosure, enclosure, gravity, and particularly art. These are our weapons against chaos, that unite us through our commonality of having the bodies that are attracted to them. Edgar’s message incorporates a global community, citing various culturally divergent countries and atmospheres. Instead of emphasizing their differences and relativity of perspectives, he seems to take a more post-postmodern approach in embracing connectivity and life. Society is a place of organization, safety, and association. Edgar presents language in a way that isn’t all that different.
The speech bubble is written
In a straight line spoken neither
By the lady nor the lévrier
Writing is linear, but speech is a bubble that encompasses disparate sides of society, it is something shared. Edgar indicates no definite points in time or place where one lifecycle starts or finishes, instead using the concave bubble shape and its ability to distort images, grow, shrink, and loosely encompass, to describe the power of art to connect across lines.
I grew up in New York City, and I now live in New Orleans. I know tourists, and I know the feeling of dread every time I am about to venture near their hunting grounds. But I also know that when I try to show visiting friends around either city, I learn some new tidbits and am often forced to reconsider my own comfortable perspectives due to those of the newcomer. So, take a stab at Les Averses, remembering to:
Please help yourself to the bank holidays
And mind the spiky forsythia
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Helena Duffee is a senior at Tulane University, studying English and Economics. She is a member of the Tulane Honors Program, and during the spring of her Junior year, she studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France at the American University Center of Provence. Before moving to New Orleans, she grew up in New York City and spent four years at a small boarding school in Groton, Massachusetts.