I first read this poem in 2019 while attending a fantastic week-long art workshop in Red Deer, AB. Ever since then, I've kept a copy on my studio wall. It reminds me that art isn't what others see, only what you want to see.
Anyway, if you didn't know, Claude Monet's eyesight started to deteriorate later in his life (relatable!!) after he had already become an accomplished painter. He resisted the idea of getting cataract surgery for ten years, which showed in his work as having less detail and major colour misperceptions.
This poem was written by Lisel Mueller and you can hear her read it here.
I've created a new copy for download if you'd like to grab one for yourself! (scroll to bottom)
Monet Refuses the Operation
By Lisa Mueller
Doctor, you say there are no haloes around the streetlights in Paris and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction. I tell you it has taken me all my life to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels, to soften and blur and finally banish the edges you regret I don’t see, to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water, so long apart, are the same state of being. Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built of parallel shafts of sun, and now you want to restore my youthful errors: fixed notions of top and bottom, the illusion of three-dimensional space, wisteria separate from the bridge it covers. What can I say to convince you the Houses of Parliament dissolve night after night to become the fluid dream of the Thames? I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other, as if islands were not the lost children of one great continent. The world is flux, and light becomes what it touches, becomes water, lilies on water, above and below water, becomes lilac and mauve and yellow and white and cerulean lamps, small fists passing sunlight so quickly to one another that it would take long, streaming hair inside my brush to catch it. To paint the speed of light! Our weighted shapes, these verticals, burn to mix with air and change our bones, skin, clothes to gases. Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms and how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
Wanna download a copy for yourself? Grab a colour PDF here:
Or a bw version here:
Art before dishes!