For our penultimate session of Poetry from Art at Tate Modern the curator of the Tate access project Marcus Dickey Horley gave us a Touch Tour in the States of Flux galleries. Usually, no sighting person is allowed to touch the sculptures, as Marcus provides the tour for blind and visually impaired visitors, but he requested special dispensation for us. Only the sturdiest sculptures can be touched and then it's through lint-free gloves, but imagine if you could feel Rodin's The Kiss. We also felt Umberto Boccioni's futuristic machine-man Unique Forms of Continuity in Space and Raymond Duchamp-Villon's animal-machine hybrid Large Horse.
After the Touch Tour and Marcus' fascinating insights into the sculptures, we read the adulterous kissers Francesca and Paolo's tragic story from Dante's Inferno (in Ciaran Carson's translation – half terza rima, half ballad). Their lips never quite meet in the Inferno and they are destined to stay frozen apart but tantalizingly close throughout eternity in the second circle of hell, after Francesca's husband murdered them as they were about to embrace. In the marble they do seem to have just about started, though you have to crane your neck in to see their lips. The sculpture was daringly frank for its day (1904), a curious blend of classicism and eroticism. We also read 'The Race' by Sharon Olds as a study of a poem about speed, for those who wanted to write from Boccioni's striding figure or the leaping war horse.
You can read poems from this session and the rest of the term, in the Miró exhibition, the Rothko room, and Lamia Joreige's Objects of War, in the pamphlet anthology Poetry from Art at Tate Modern 2011, to be launched at 6.45pm on Saturday 24 September, in the East Room at Tate Modern. Entry will be free, and there'll be readings, wine and great views. Please join us if you're in town.
The Kiss Auguste Rodin, 1901-4 Pentelican marble