Posts Tagged: Indiana Review 37.1

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Online Feature: “Four Proofs” by Richard Siken

Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, 1905-1906

When she saw herself, finished, she said, It doesn’t look like
me. Picasso said, It will. Perhaps it will look like her
because it is the document and will remain, while she is
just a person who will fade. Now, when we think of her,
we think of this painting. Picasso was planning ahead.
The painting is evidence but not proof. There’s no proof
that she looked like that, even though we have
the document. She existed enough to be painted. She could
have been an idea, but that’s another kind of existing.
The hand is a tool. The brush is a tool. The paint as well.
There is no machine here, but the work gets done.
A hammer is a tool when banging its head but a lever
when pulling up nails. A lever is a machine, has a fulcrum
which can be moved to change the ratio of something
or other, effort for distance. There is a fulcrum in
the mind that can be moved as well. I do not know what
else to say about this.

Raphael, Saint George and the Dragon, 1504-06

It’s hard to talk about what you believe while you are
believing it. Fervor reduces thought to shorthand and
all we get is an icon. Give a man a weapon and you
have a warrior. Put him on a horse and you have
a hero. The weapon is a tool. The horse is a metaphor.
Raphael painted this twice—white horse facing east
against the greens, white horse facing west against the
yellows. The maiden flees or prays, depending. A basic
dragon, the kind you’d expect from the Renaissance.
Evidence of evil but not proof. There’s a companion piece
as well:  Saint Michael. Paint angels, it’s easier:
you don’t need the horse. Michael stands on Satan’s
throat, vanquishing, while everything brown burns red.
All these things happened. Allegedly. When you paint
an evil thing, do you invoke it or take away its power?
This has nothing to do with faith but is still a good
question. Raphael was trying to say something
about spirituality. This could be the definition of painting.
The best part of spirituality is reverence. There are other
parts. Some people like to hear the sound of their own
voice. If you don’t believe in the world it would be
stupid to paint it. If you don’t believe in God, who
are you talking to?

Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, 1609-1610

Wanted for murder, a price on his head, Caravaggio
does what he always does—he tries to paint his
way out of it. This bad boy—whose moodiness came to be
called the Baroque, this thug whose soul
was as big as Rome and full of anvils—paints his own
face on Goliath’s severed head and offers himself
up as villain, captured, to escape the hammers of the law.
Allegory, yes. A truth as well. But truth doesn’t count
in law, only proof. He took the gods and made them
human. His Bacchus was a worn-out drunk. An animal
likely to sleep in a pool of its own sick. He raised
the status of the still life, made subjects out of objects,
turned nature into drama—the bloom on the grapes,
the bloom on the boys, leaves as important as
nudes. Exaggerated light, pure theater. Evidence
of a mind he delights in. Evicted from Rome, he wants
back in. They want his head, and he’s prepared to
give it to them. He paints David in yellow pants while
the pope’s nephew arranges his pardon. July 1610—
Caravaggio rolls up his paintings and sets sail
from Naples, heading north. They stop for supplies. No one’s
heard of the pardon. Jail. He pays his way out,
but the boat and his paintings have sailed on without
him. He follows. Malaria. He dies three days before
his pardon arrives and three days after Rembrandt’s
fourth birthday. His painted head arrives in Rome weeks
later. All painting is sent downstream, into the future.

René Magritte, La Clairvoyance, 1936

Odin had ravens. Zeus was a swan. Magritte saw an egg
and painted a bird. Part of heroism is being able to
see the future and still remain standing. If you don’t
believe in God or Fate you still must believe in narrative.
I am waiting for you, here in the trainstation, says the
trainstation. Philosophy is thinking. Prophesy is wishful
thinking. It’s easy to find evidence of the future but
harder to make people believe you. This is only obvious
if you have tried. Odin had proxies. Zeus had disguises.
Magritte saw the back of his head in a mirror. Not
hindsight, not really. A debriefing. He claimed that an
image was treacherous. He was right about that but
he might not have understood directionality. His paintings,
though mysterious, conceal nothing. A possible world
and its incomprehensibilities. A purposeful distortion.
Dreaming in the service of. True in the sense of carpentry.


This poem originally appeared as “Three Proofs” in Indiana Review 37.1, Summer 2015, and as “Four Proofs” in the fourth printing of War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press). 

Emily Corwin (Poetry Editor):  In this sequence of epistolary poems, Richard Siken pushes me gently into the textures, the layers here—both the sensual and the philosophical embedded in these art objects. In each section, I gather information about the context, the associations, the physicality of the art—each piece like a lesson, an opening outward for the reader. Gorgeous and thoughtful, I always look forward to reading Siken’s work.


Richard Siken is the author of Crush (Yale University Press) and War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon Press).

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Online Feature: “Remedies” by Talin Tahajian

You were the color of a dove & I don’t know what to do
about that. I have never understood how to cup my hands

& take communion. Like a faithful daughter, I carry this
with me. I stab it with feathers & pray until it is covered

in gems. I rinse it in the river that knows my blood, wring
it out beneath a full moon. I know nothing about bird calls.

I know nothing about meat. Bless the river & all the fish
we poisoned. Foreign fluids. Bless the red birches forced

to watch. I want to burn something, so I char the flesh
of a catfish & think of myself. Girl as carp. Small tragedy

with freshwater pearls. I baptize myself in this water
& I see myself float in this water. Somewhere, a flock

of crows & I don’t hear anything over the soft breath
of river fish as they touch me in places that don’t exist.


This poem appeared in Indiana Review 37.1, Summer 2015.

Emily Corwin (Poetry Editor): Talin Tahajian’s poetry is tender, melodic, and sensuous. I can never get enough of her writing, especially this poem—the way she explores faith through images of birds, water, fish. This poem sweeps me up like the river running through it. If you have not read Talin’s work, you definitely should—her poems are necessary and gorgeous and exactly what you need.


Talin Tahajian grew up near Boston. Her poetry has recently appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Indiana Review, Best New Poets 2014 & 2016, Salt Hill Journal, Passages North, Columbia Poetry Review, and Washington Square Review. She’s the author of two chapbooks, The smallest thing on Earth (Bloom Books, 2017) and Start with dead things (Midnight City Books, 2015), a split chapbook with Joshua Young. She edits poetry for the Adroit Journal and is currently a student at the University of Cambridge, where she studies English literature.


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Online Feature: “Quotidian” by Corey Van Landingham

A friend calls me crying, again, and, wanting to describe
her taste in men, I look up poor vs. bad. Language
is changing, the internet declares. The rules don’t hold.
It’s a poor and a bad time to be dating, I tell her.

A questionnaire asks how many nights a week do I have
difficulty falling asleep. Five nights is labeled as Always.
Those two extra nights in the ether. Nights that would
nudge always toward infinity, spin out into some other

ineffable arsenal. When the therapist asked why I stopped
cutting myself, I told him vanity. The multiple choice
wavering inside my forehead, good enough. The options
on the questionnaire so perfect in their circles, making

time eerily check-offable. Like when I see the man
in the hardware store, who, years ago a boy, told me
to take my pants off as he drove me home, and,
because I was young and in love with my body

for the last time, I did. I tell my friend to be patient.
Before we had words for the days of the week, humans
still were touching each other, holding each other’s faces
between their hands, lifting their eyes up to the stars,

which will never be loosened from language, for us,
so much a part of the body that we almost, now,
forget it. Maybe I stopped sleeping with scissors
out of boredom. Maybe it was that each person

pausing beside me in the paint aisle I checked off
as Better. That two lost nights might separate Better
from Best, and what’s beyond that? What happens
when you choose something, someone, because,

for two nights a week, it could be worse? If my ass were
never bare on the leather for that man, buying a ladder
right there in front of me, then maybe I wouldn’t be still
shivering next to boxes of sharp objects, trying to decide.


This poem appeared in Indiana Review 37.1, Summer 2015.

Emily Corwin (Poetry Editor): Corey Van Landingham is one of the coolest, smartest voices in contemporary poetry. I read her collection, Antidote last autumn and it swept me up. “Quotidian” is a gorgeous piece, exploring matters of friendship, sex and romance, self-harm, wellness. Van Landingham interrogates here what a “good” life traditionally looks like, about what it could look like. This poem leaves me unsettled in the best of ways.


Corey Van Landingham is the author of Antidote, winner of the 2012 Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. A recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2014, Boston Review, and The New Yorker, among many other places. She is currently a doctoral student in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Cincinnati.