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Venice provides inspiration. Unsurprisingly.

Having never been to Venice before, but having previously been to Amsterdam, I was concerned with how likely I was to fall in one of the canals during a recent trip. Fortunately I managed to avoid anything other than a little spray from the Vaporetto during my stay, so my paranoia was unfounded. On this occasion…

For a sentimentalist it’s surprising how unimpressed I am with many of the benchmark destinations so frequently lauded by others, so I was unprepared for how taken I was with the city. It’s fair to acknowledge that the daily life of most Venetians in no way correlates with that of a tourist, so I recognise that my experience of Venice was much like any other tourist: artificial. That isn’t to undervalue it, far from it, most of life is made up of experiences founded on bad information, misunderstanding, or supposition. My wandering of the beautiful back streets and historic landmarks was no less real. The food was testament to that. Oh my, how have I written this many words without covering the food? Or the prosecco… with every meal…

Venice has such a charm to it that I can see why the Romantics were so absorbed by it, and why countless numbers of people have traveled there over the generations. My wife, the planner par excellence, had determined our ideal base would be in Giudecca, which is just across the lagoon from Piazza San Marco. She was absolutely right, as ever, and I would repeat that location for future visits. The photograph accompanying this post is of a few Venetians who greeted us during their morning wash one morning in Giudecca.

But none of this is what I’d intended to write about, but the city has such a gravity that all of my sentences seem to point back there.

During our stay we, like so many others, visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. It doesn’t take someone to know me for too long before they determine I’m broadly in the “I don’t know much, but I know what I like” category of art appreciators… i.e. clueless but vocal. Many of the works on display were unbelievably good, particularly the temporary exhibition of Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, which infuriatingly so many tourists strode through with barely a sideways glance; the works were incredible. Another moment that rooted me to the spot in the Collection was Energy Made Visible. I’ve often dismissed Jackson Pollock’s work based on photographs of them, but standing in front of Energy Made Visible totally blew me away; I absolutely “got” it.

Tiring of the indoor sunglasses brigade flocking from photograph opportunity to photograph opportunity we visited the little garden. One of the benches had a poem inscribed; it was the piece “Garden Bench” by Jenny Holzer. In honesty I wasn’t all that convinced with the verse but it prompted an idea. The stanzas run left to right in columns, but it made me wonder about whether it could arguably could be read left to right across the rows within the columns. That verse largely fell down that way, but I conceived the notion of creating a prose poem that worked as a grid. It’s entirely possible that a whole world of these verses exist of which I’m unaware, but I certainly don’t recall seeing any previously.

Returning later that day to Giudecca I began writing such a grid poem, and it is my intention to post some of these experiments in the coming months. This could turn out to be a bumpy road…

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Posted: November 15, 2015


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