Roses

By Barbara Guest 1920–2006 Barbara Guest

“painting has no air . . .”
          —Gertrude Stein

That there should never be air
in a picture surprises me.
It would seem to be only a picture
of a certain kind, a portrait in paper
or glue, somewhere a stickiness
as opposed to a stick-to-it-ness
of another genre. It might be
quite new to do without
that air, or to find oxygen
on the landscape line
like a boat which is an object
or a shoe which never floats
and is stationary.

                              Still there
are certain illnesses that require
air, lots of it. And there are nervous
people who cannot manufacture
enough air and must seek
for it when they don’t have plants,
in pictures. There is the mysterious
traveling that one does outside
the cube and this takes place
in air.

                              It is why one develops
an attitude toward roses picked
in the morning air, even roses
without sun shining on them.
The roses of Juan Gris from which
we learn the selflessness of roses
existing perpetually without air,
the lid being down, so to speak,
a 1912 fragrance sifting
to the left corner where we read
“La Merveille” and escape.

Barbara Guest, “Roses” from The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest. Copyright © 2008 by Barbara Guest and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest (Wesleyan University Press, 2008)

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Poet Barbara Guest 1920–2006

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets, Painting & Sculpture, Nature, Trees & Flowers

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 Barbara  Guest

Biography

Barbara Guest rose to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of an informal group of writers known as the New York school of poets whose membership included Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Their innovative approach to poetry was influenced by modern art, especially surrealism and abstract expressionism. Guest drew on her own background in art (she worked for Art News magazine in the 1950s) to create poetry . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Poetry & Poets, Painting & Sculpture, Nature, Trees & Flowers

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Ekphrasis

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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