Tuesday Poem: ‘El Prado’ by Harry Ricketts

El Prado

A damp morning, just a touch nippy
for January. You’re here
in this indoor meadow, this art-house barn,
randy for epiphany,
or at least hoping to be surprised.

So Raphael’s Transfiguration
is certainly dramatic –
in fact, quite literally uplifting.
So why does that boy agoggle
at Christ levitating leave you cold?

Thirty-five years ago with a head
full of Gormenghast, Seventh
Seal, Crow, the Velvet Underground, you’d have found
El Greco’s silver-lit e-
longations ‘really weird’, but not now.

Now what hits home is Saint Barbara
by Parmigianino,
a left profile. Her face shines with youth.
Braided, brown hair hangs on her
right shoulder. She’s holding – what? – a part

of the tower daddy’ll shut her up in.
Her upper lip curves over
slightly. She wears rather a chic pink
number, such an inward look.
She knows exactly what lies ahead.

And here, opposite Van der Velden’s
flesh-heavy Deposition,
Robert Campin’s Annunciation.
Mary’s a blonde, long, straight hair,
bit plump. A nice girl lost in a book

and apparently quite unaware
of the heavenly rays round
her head, beamed down from top left,
or Gabriel patiently
kneeling, wings half-furled, with some pretty big news.

Harry Ricketts is a New Zealand poet, reviewer and cricketer who teaches creative non-fiction and English at Victoria University. His New Zealand Book Council bio states Ricketts “studied English at Oxford University and lectured in Hong Kong and Leicester before arriving in New Zealand to a post at Victoria University in Wellington in 1981. He has edited collections of verse, critical essays, and other works of non-fiction and his acclaimed biography of Rudyard Kipling was released in 1999. His poetry is defined by dramatic and satiric devices and tones, often grounded in personal commentary.”

Ricketts’ most recent book New Zealand Sports Writing was released in June 2010 and features eighty pieces of writing selected by Ricketts that cover a wide range of sports. You can read a full review of the book on Beattie’s Book Blog. ‘El Prado’ previously appeared in The Warwick Review in 2008. For me this poem is quite timely because I am heading to the Prado in just a few weeks. The poem deftly mixes the imagery of art with a whimsical voice that allows the poem to talk to ideas of perception and youth without being heavy. The result: a funny but pointed piece.

You can enjoy other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: ‘El Prado’ by Harry Ricketts

  1. I really enjoyed this poem. I know Harry’s other writing, but hadn’t read his poetry before. Particularly like the way he breaks the lines in unexpected places. thanks for putting this up.

  2. This is such a good poem, Harry. I love the chatty smalltalk opening and the conversational tone that is sustained right through to the wryly funny conclusion. In fact, after reading this a couple of times, I felt as though I had just been for a stroll around the Prado with an informed and wickedly humorous friend. Thanks also for the workshop in Nelson yesterday.
    Kia kaha,
    Maggie B

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