Customer Review

October 30, 2014
Art Museums, a chapbook of poetry by Larry Thomas, is as richly textured as a Rembrandt painting. Each poem explores a different museum, from New York’s Museum of Modern Art to the Chinati Foundation’s contemporary art collection in Marfa, Texas. With utmost elegance, Thomas comments on architectural style, lighting, particular artworks, and even on sound, such as the "sibilance/of shuffled/shoes" on "gleaming marble" at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. In addition, Thomas writes from the perspectives of volunteers and employees: a docent, a restorer, and a dedicated security guard who "can hear the slow/deep breathing of the artists." Some of my favorite lines appear in “The Steps,” a poem about the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where Thomas pauses before a Cubist masterpiece by Picasso “to hear/the silence of Three/Musicians/playing a new way/of seeing seeing.” So concise a statement, and yet it offers such grand insight. I was both delighted and moved by the poems dedicated to Don Judd’s various installations at the Chinati Foundation, such as the fifteen concrete units “laid out on the desert” and “occupied with the lavender/air of dusk.” Thomas concludes the volume with a poem about Judd’s 100 aluminum sculptures, installed in former artillery sheds that were refurbished with wide windows, looking out on desert plains and mountains; the poem serves as an epilogue. After reading it, I returned to the collection’s first poem, written from the perspective of a docent, and noticed how it differs in tone and imagery with “Mill Aluminum.” “The Docent” leads us through “the treacherous seas/of permanence,” while the viewer of Judd’s sculpture enjoys an epiphany of landscape, glass, and metal conjoined “in a seamless/dance of light.” The lyricism of Thomas’ poetry is equally dazzling.
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