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A Scroll Painting -- Arthur Yap

Guest poem submitted by Ann Ang
(Poem #767) A Scroll Painting
 the mountains are hazy with timeless passivity
 sprawling monotonously in the left-hand corner
 while clouds diffuse and fill the entire top half
 before bumping daintily into a bright red parakeet
 perched suicide-like on a beautiful gnarled branch
 arched by the weight of fruit and one ripe peach
 hung a motionless inch from the gaping beak

 here is transient beauty
 caught in permanence
 but of what avail is such perpentual unattainment?

 i know the stupid bird can never eat the stupid peach
-- Arthur Yap
This poem speaks mostly for itself, to me it is about the essential
uselessness of some art. For those who have never seen a Chinese painting,
just think Amy Tan and tigers and goldfish and willows and songbirds. The
object of most scrolls is to capture 'transient beauty' or some similar
profound notion about nature.

About the poet: Arthur Yap was born in Singapore in 1943. His first
collection of poems, 'Only Lines' was published in 1971, for which he
received the National Book Development Council of Singapore's first award
for poetry.He has since published various collections of verse such as 'Man
Snake Apple' and 'Commonplace'. In 1983, he was awarded the prestigious
Southeast Asia Write Award in Bangkok and the Cultural Medallion for
Literature in Singapore. He is also a prolific painter.


33 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Matthew Chanoff said...

To me this poem seems obviously a reply to Keats, who says, in the
second stanza of Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on:
Not to the sensual ear; but more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal -- yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fare

And comparing the last lines:

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


"I know the stupid bird can never eat the stupid peach."

I'd have to give the nod to Keats.

sandi_ordinario said...

Comments on Arthur Yap's A Scroll Painting

The poet writes an excellent description of a painting. I
imagine this to be some kind of Chinese brush painting as
it shows "hazy" mountains and "diffused clouds" bumping
daintily into a bright red parakeet perched suicide-like.."
having a gaping beak just about an inch away from a temptingly
ripe peach.

The poet states further that this painting captures "transient
beauty in 'passive' permanence" Then he proceeds to ask the
question which I paraphrase: But what use is this perpetual
unattainment by the bird?

In the poet's artistic way, he is complaining that art can
never approach the dynamism of life. It is an assent to another
poet's assertion which goes: "Nature I loved and next to nature,
art." A preference in that order. This is expressed radically in
the last line of the poem.

I know the stupid bird can never eat the stupid peach.

A wonderful poem along the lines of a typical O. Henry short
story which has the surprise twist (or denouement) at the end.


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