SEPTEMBER 2009


PENELOPE SHUTTLE

Nude Woman with Necklace by Pablo PicassonPablo Picasso
Nude Woman with Necklace 1968
Femme nue au collier
Oil on canvas
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2002   
 

Penelope Shuttle presents her poem, 'Old Explorer', based on Pablo Picasso's Nude Woman with Necklace. This work is currently on display at the Tate Modern.
Visit the Tate Collection online.


 
       Old Explorer

You create me
                 in one furious day,
                                  you old soul-snatcher
       
       You fling me on the canvas,
                 beating off old age
                                  in angry brushstrokes,
 
        on the eve
                of your eighty-seventh birthday,
                                  not asking me
   
        if I want
                 this vulgar river
                                  spouting from my sex,
 
       or even more rude,
                to be depicted nude,
                                  visible farts chuntering
 
       from my asshole -
                        Nude Woman with Necklace,
                                  you said,
 
       but I never expected
                        this ravaging,
                                  to become not so much
 
       a living landscape
                        as a slut-landscape,
                                 turned
 
        into a jagged mountain range,
                        my naked limbs
                                  a chaos of blood-red sunset
  
 and sea-green forest -
                         hey, Pablo, this is me, remember,
                                  your young spouse, Jacqueline,
 
        facing the gauds of your raging palette -
                         Rage, rage, against...
                                  You say I am
 
        terrible and splendid
                         as the Witch-Queen of Sheba,
                                  but why put such a sad look in my eye,
 
        such sorrow in the crook
                         of my up-bent right knee,
                                  why give me black rats-tail hair,
 
        black navel, nipples and asshole?
                         But you, you bad old man of the forest,
                                  raging, raging against the dying of the light
  
 just say - it's all there, 
                         I try to do a nude as it is...        
                                  Thanks a lot, Pablo,
 
  for seeing me as a nature goddess
                         lounging flatulently
                                  on cushions of red and gold -
 
        I lie on a painted divan,
                         you hover over me,
                                  Zeus in a cloud,
 
        Zeus in a shower of gold,
                         my ancient and annihilating lover,
                                  I'll never take up this bed
 
        and walk again, 
                         caught in the pincer grip
                                  of your angry love's yes and no,
 
        you raging against the dying of the light
                         Yet thanks to you
                                  I'm perfectly composed,
 
        my perspectives
                         shocked into serenity,
                                  any casual spectator in a gallery
 
        looking into my jetblack eye
                         will see you, Pablo,
                                  enraged Immortal
 
       Behind my back,
                          you conjure a vast sea
                                  riven with stark-white light
 
        welling up and high-tiding it,
                         then ebbing
                                  to richest dark blue -
 
        You strip me bare,
                         subject me to your lust for life
                                 till I'm just bones and blood
 
        of landscape,
                     merely a raw sexualized
                            arrangement of orifices
                                       breasts,
                                                        and cumbersome limbs -
 
        You reveal me to the core,
             leave me nothing to conceal,
                     utterly nue,
 
        but there are limits to your power,
                        old explorer,
                              despite your rage
 
        I slip from your controlling hand
                         into my own being -
                              Beware – should I care to, I'll rise
 
        from your canvas,
                         crush you beneath my massive careless heel,
                              like Time herself,
 
        prisoning you
                         forever
                                 in the world's endless gallery
 


PENELOPE SHUTTLE
lives in Cornwall, and is the widow of the poet Peter Redgrove. Her 2006 collection, Redgrove's Wife (Bloodaxe Books), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and for the TS Eliot Award.  Her new collection, The Repose Of Baghdad, appears from Bloodaxe Books in 2010. She is a Hawthornden Fellow, and was awarded a Cholmondeley Award in 2007.
 
Poems by Penelope Shuttle and Peter Redgrove appear in A Century of Poetry Review, an anthology from the past 100 years of one of the world’s leading poetry magazines. Published by the Poetry Society, the Poetry Review is the oldest and most widely read poetry magazine in the UK. Previous editors include Mick Imlah, Andrew Motion and the indomitable Muriel Spark. A Century of Poetry Review has been compiled by the current editor, Fiona Sampson, and is published to mark the Society’s centenary.