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Staging Artifice; How is image presented?

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Lisa Clark

on 21 March 2013

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Transcript of Staging Artifice; How is image presented?

How is the staging of the external, with reference to the stage and dance, used to hide the internal self? How can poetical image be manipulated to create artifice? Key Questions Questions to consider In your opinion, does adding text or poetry make an image redundant? Is the writer able to manipulate the reader with the layering of artificial images? Critics
Staging Artifice; How is image presented?
A poetry collection concentrating on the images of the stage and dance Is the writer able to manipulate the reader with the layering of artificial images? How can poetical image be manipulated to create the artifice of the stage? How is the staging of the external, with reference to theatre and dance, used to hide the internal self? Ballet The Encore

She stands there
the last few feathers
strewn across her feet.
Frost at her lips and cheeks
begin to crack as the red bleeds.
She’s encased in creamy silk
ending with stubs swathed in
material, as she flexes and relaxes
one toe.

White glaze covers her reflection
flakes of snow dropped in her hair.
Her delicate arches and poise
are stolen by the audience commanding
more. Behind them is a
a black lake veiled by
crimson curtains covered with gold,
its shadowy depths
masked. A single ripple disturbs
the still.
Black Swan

An English garden, its lakes and lawns,
a corps de ballet of pale roses,
the drifting midwinter of swans.

She is lost in her shifting reflection.
The miniature bridge is stiffly arched
in its heavy slipper of stone.

Gone is the dark-haired, dark-eyed Russian
girl, bare-faced, black hair scraped back
from her aristocratic bones

who would sit mutely watching her swans.
Her breath tears at her throat
in a feverish spray of thorns.

In an empty theatre, the bouquets are strewn:
the elaborate costumes carefully hung
backstage in the many- mirrored room.

The sky darkens behind its stars.
The air is chilled. A frozen moon defines
the black swan rising from the lake. Herd explores a loss of innocence with
the dancers separating from their previous identities as they begin to embody their roles. Herd creates an idyllic image of 'An English Garden' which is then shattered with the darker imagery of the Russian ballet dancer, and the emergence of the 'black swan'. The last stanza strongly juxtaposes with the first, creating a tense atmosphere. Coldness embodies the scene, foreboding the arrival of the black swan. A sense of light and dark is used throughout the poem to highlight the innocence of the ballet dancer against the black swan, as she descends into the role. The use of flowers is also used to reveal the loss of innocence. Here the roses mentioned in the first stanza have turned deadly, tearing at her throat, suggesting that the dancer is turning into the black swan. Le mort du cygne

Painted behind her the ink
lake lays. Blurred with frost
and the milky reflections of
her white skin pimpled by goose
bumps. The cold bites through
chafing at her hands and fingers turning
them raw with crimson. They fade into the
plumes of downy cream gathered at her
waist encasing her delicate stature
which has folded with her dying
breaths. Diamonds ribbon her head
startling against the night sky.
She bows them in acceptance as
the navy water spills over;
le mort du cygne. Le Mort du Cygne: Anna Pavlova 1911
Sir John Lavery (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/lavery-le-mort-du-cygne-anna-pavlova-n03000) Swan Lake Swan Lake Finale
(

Sleeping Beauty

Inspired by seeing ‘Sleeping Beauty with Floating
Roses’, a memorial photograph taken in 1910.

What is the part of me to become this girl? Her outline
An iceberg in the death-world persevering fragilely as passion.
What might she have done to devour
The world’s prospects? Bare possibility weighed by
The logic of rotten fruit on the garden floor.

Now the ultraviolet womb’s sunk under her,
Closing ranks on the grail of another,
And her body little cherishes the disco-purple of her sex
Like a handbag’s soft clasp – instead the same generous
Tulips of flesh expire as if her body of chance
Always envied what she’d thought ugly, the carcass
Delighting in the diet of her inheritance:

The Sodom of her bruised heart, atrophied fruit of Eden.
O that I might love my unbeautying. Burlesque Masks Roland Barthes
Image, Music, Text clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others. artifice n. Oxford English Dictionary In the final stanza it appears that sin or sexual maturity has occurred. This is emphasised by 'atrophied fruit' suggesting that the fruit has been eaten, much like Eve did when she caused the downfall of man. Moreover, the use of 'bruised' suggests both the bruising of the fruit and the emotional effect sexual maturity had placed upon the girl. The first line suggests that the speaker identifies with the girl depicted in the image. This allows the reader to associate the speaker with the images of 'sleeping beauty'. Challenger juxtaposes the themes of innocence and sin throughout the poem. She uses the original sin of Eve against the well known fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty, to suggest that the speaker is hovering between sin and purity. The Masked Ball


A gilded mask is goldened by fallen curls
that graze against the soft exposed ivory
flesh lined in white diamond that cast
glares of harsh bloodless light
into the blurred faces of a distorted
night.

Her fingers clutch at the stem of a fluted glass
as veiled faces flit,
their intertwined bodies cloaked in
shadows against blazoned moonlight making
her skin shiver. Frost clings to delicate
eyelashes half hidden behind
the guise of paint, masking
them in a chalky sheen.

The glass shatters, curdles of blood glisten
down her chafed fingertips, as the concealed
faces eclipse her
into smudged dusk. The Masked Ball

Gilded mask, goldened fallen curls
graze soft e x p o s e d ivory
flesh lined white diamond cast
glares harsh blood l e s s light.
Blurred faces, distorted
night.

Fingers clutch fluted glass,
faces f l i t. Veiled
twined bodies cloaked
shadows blazoned light make
skin shiver. Frost clings delicate
eyelashes. Half hidden guise
painted, masked with
chalky sheen.

Glass s h a t t e r s,
curdles of garnet g l i s t e n
slicked champagne streams
sanguine fingertips, concealed
faces eclipse
smudged dusk. The story or background has
been removed in the new
version to single out the
imagery or artifice of the
poem. I have isolated words, such as
'veiled' and 'cloaked' to bring
the reader's attention to the
artifice of the ball. Throughout
the poem I hoped to create a
menacing tone, and to involve
the reader in the confusing
surrounding of masks. By elongating words such as
'shatters', I hope to add an
aesthetic quality to the poem which
also allows the reader to see the
literal shattering of the glass and
the artifice that the poem
encompasses. Welcome to the greatest show

spills of flesh you’ll never know
behind a smoke-screen of stockings and
lace. Painted faces artificially rouged
telling of drudgery. In the crease
of the cupid bow, a bead of sweat
smudges the rosy parted lips.

Curls of creamy skin tantalise and
tease hidden by gilded fans interlaced with
fingers, half-moon crescent
stains stroked across the rounded nails.
Fishnets part half way between
each leg, a hand chasing across its length as

soft cheekbones tighten into a
suggestive smile concealing soured breath
hardened by the stub of a cigarette hurriedly
dragged on before each show, a ring of
pink burnt onto its russet end. In this poem I have tried to embody the seductive nature of burlesque or cabaret. However, ugliness underpins the image, revealing the artifice. The woman portrayed in the image is able to be hidden behind makeup and costume, despite much of her flesh and body being on show. Thus, poetic artifice is used to hide the true image from the reader. Throughout, I've tried to give the reader hints to the artifice of the image. For example, 'smoke-screen' and 'painted faces artificially rouged'. Troupe de Mlle Elgantine
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

(http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O138112/troupe-de-mlle-eglantine-poster-toulouse-lautrec-henri/) Rousse (la toilette), 1889
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

(http://www.musee-orsay.fr/fr/collections/oeuvres-commentees/peinture/commentaire_id/rousse) Melanie Challenger Tracey Herd In Image, Music, Text, Barthes debates the impact of the cultural image. He argues that 'the viewer of the image receives at one and the same time the perceptual message and the cultural message.' For example, Swan Lake brings with it many cultural messages or the reader's own preconceptions of ballet and dance. In my poetry, I have aimed to subvert this 'cultural message' and ask the reader to consider or question their preconceptions.

The reader's preconceptions may ultimately change the way my poetry is read, or the interpretation they gain from it.

However, Barthes also questions whether text can 'add fresh information to an image.' Thus, this is something, I have aimed to do with my poetry, by revealing the artifice of the stage and 'beauty'.


Barthes, Roland, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ in Image Music Text, trans. by Stephen Heath, (London: Fontana Press, 1977) Gaston Bachelard
The Poetics of Space Bachelard argues that the reader 'must be receptive, receptive to the image the moment it appears' and 'to consider images without attempting personal interpretation.'

Therefore, in my own poetry collection, I have tried to impose a new image upon the reader's cultural preconceptions.

For example, most readers would associate the image of masked balls with secrets and intrigue. By using specific images, I've aimed to show how this intrigue can become threatening. Unlike my other poems, 'The Masked Ball' doesn't include a specific story which allows the reader to consider the image without any subjectivity.

Gaston Bachelard, ‘Introduction’ in The Poetics of Space, trans. by Maria Jolas, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994) As a reader, do your preconceptions of an image alter the way you view a poem? The American Ballet Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets, ed by. Roddy Lumsden, (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2010), p. 81 Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets, ed by. Roddy Lumsden, (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2010), p. 174
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