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A Lovely Way to Begin Poetry Month

Like many, I'm an admirer of artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985). Years ago, while visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, I discovered his stained-glass windows, masterpieces celebrating the US and the arts, that he gifted to the museum in 1977 to commemorate the country's Bicentennial. He created the saturated blue panels at age 90, after an eventful and creative life. Every time I return to the city, I try to visit the panels. They are astonishing--

and an excellent introduction to Chagall's work, a magical combination of Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. In his early years, he painted his village in Vitebsk, which at that time was part of the Russian Empire, scenes from Jewish life, his adored wife, Bella, and dreamy canvases where his subjects defy gravity. He moved to Paris, experienced periods of intense creativity, and when WWII began, escaped to the United States. After the war, he returned to France, but remained grateful to the country that had sheltered him during Europe's devastation.

Recently, the Detroit Institute of Arts hosted an exhibit titled "After Cubism--Modern Art in Paris 1918-1948" that included a 1932 gelatin silver print of Chagall by photographer Andre Kertesz. I had never seen the image before, and was struck by Chagall's charming smile that went to his eyes (famously blue), and the view into his creative space. Now, whenever I think of him or see one of his works, I'll have this photograph in my mind's eye.

Soon after, I wrote the following ekphrastic poem that appears in the Spring 2024 Issue of the Gyroscope Review at page 40.

Portrait of a Man Who Knew Love’s Possibilities


                        After “Marc Chagall” by André Kertész (Gelatin silver print, 1933).


Behind a table in his Paris studio, Marc Chagall tilts his head, offers

a sepia-dissolving smile that reminds you of lilacs in June. He wears

a floppy smock over his shirt, collar half in, half out. His knuckles rest

atop the table strewn with his heart’s accoutrements: pastels jumbled

in a box; palette daubed with rose and delphinium height-of-summer

hues; corked turpentine bottles; a single mixing bowl; small studies—

flights of fancy he intends to show are real; and wild, paintbrush bouquets,

ready, bristles up.


He looks—at the world,

directly at you, his friend—

eyes, that bright, vast blue.

By Diana Dinverno


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