Monday 15 November 2010

Birthday Girls

On this strangely productive day in 1887 were born the artist Georgia O'Keefe (hence the picture) and the poet and unlikely celebrity Marianne Moore. I keep finding out new and strange things about Miss Moore - the latest being that she wrote the liner notes for Muhammad Ali's spoken-word album I Am The Greatest! She was also invited, in 1955, to come up with 'inspirational names' for Ford's big project, the E-Car. Among her suggestions were Resilient Bullet, Mongoose Civique, Varsity Stroke, Pastelogram and, in a flash of true inspiration, Utopian Turtletop. And what did Ford do? They ignored all her suggestions and called it the Edsel. No wonder it flopped - if they'd only gone with Utopian Turtletop, they'd surely have had a hit on their hands... Anyway, to mark the day here's the inimitable Marianne in full flow:

The Paper Nautilus

For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
Writers entrapped by
teatime fame and by
commuters' comforts? Not for these
the paper nautilus
constructs her thin glass shell.

Giving her perishable
souvenir of hope, a dull
white outside and smooth-
edged inner surface
glossy as the sea, the watchful
maker of it guards it
day and night; she scarcely

eats until the eggs are hatched.
Buried eight-fold in her eight
arms, for she is in
a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight
is hid but is not crushed;
as Hercules, bitten

by a crab loyal to the hydra,
was hindered to succeed,
the intensively
watched eggs coming from
the shell free it when they are freed,--
leaving its wasp-nest flaws
of white on white, and close-

laid Ionic chiton-folds
like the lines in the mane of
a Parthenon horse,
round which the arms had
wound themselves as if they knew love
is the only fortress
strong enough to trust to.


  1. There's also a rather lovely retro-themed blog called Pastelogram...

  2. I love the painting Nige! Hadn't heard of the artist previously, so thanks for the introduction.

  3. Glad you like, Kate - it's one of the few O'Keefes that doesn't suggest the pudenda femina (and I don't think that's just me)...

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