Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nina Corwin, "On Listening to the Brahms Violin Sonata #1"

"...a grace note of magenta..."

Ekphrastic poetry is ode-like in that is a tribute to, an argument with a painting or sculpture or another poem. Or a sonata. It zooms in on a specific work of art, is inspired by the work or art as a whole, revels in its inspiration.

What strikes me about Nina Corwin's "On Listening to the Brahms Violin Sonata #1," beyond its breathtaking investigation into artistic choice, and its second sentence speeding along like a driver and a car freed to be their most cruising selves, is its exploration.

Respond to this poem's questioning, its suggestion and unabashed synesthesia--feeling the music as color.  Join Corwin and knowing the chords as hues--magenta, deep forest green. And those hues, as sounds, will play in our mouth. New images will appear, the chandelier, the chef with her cilantro, then textures offering a sense of, an equivalent.

Corwin shares her love of sound, of a specific piece of music, of the singular and exuberant freedom of listening when accompanied by speed and scenery.  This is a good poem. 

On Listening to the Brahms Violin Sonata #1

And just like that! Cruising up Route 94 with the classical radio station
crooning on all four speakers, when it gets to the moment of that certain
crescendo where the violin does what violins do so well, and the bow
catches the sinews inside my chest as if they were strings stretched across
an unfretted fingerboard, it strikes me that perhaps when Brahms composed
he chose his instruments the way a painter chooses colors, dabbing his
brush in a grace note of magenta because the violin can shimmy up a string
so sweet, maybe turning it over in his hands as he imagines the sound of
magenta rubbing up against the chords of a deep forest green, the way a
poet might choose a word, say, magenta because the sound curves against
the roof of the mouth, or the way a word like piano makes a kind of
corkscrew between the cheeks, how clutter clicks, and chandelier is sensual
and elegant at the same time, or how a chef picks a leaf of cilantro for its
clean line and timbre where taste meets texture curried up against a
cardamon pod, the contrapuntal harmonies when they echo with magenta or
piano, the chords they make together in a sentence or crooning on a car
radio, and it couldn't be flute or oboe, not here, this moment, but now, these
cadenzas, this final G major, now, the violin.
Nina Corwin. "On Listening to the Brahms Violin Sonata #1" first appeared in Poetry East, no. 52, Spring, 2004.

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