Edited By Ruben Moi, Brynhildur Boyce and Charles Armstrong
Verse, Visuality and Vision: The Challenges of Ekphrasis in Ciaran Carson’s Poetry
The first things I remember are the colours of my bedroom wallpaper, and their chalky taste under my fingernails. It would, of course, be years before I learned what the shades were called, which leads me to my first paint box. Hooker’s Green, Vermillion, Prussian Blue, Burnt Sienna: I knew stories must lie behind those names, and I resolved to discover them some day.1
Carson forefronts the fundamental tactile and narrative significance of colours to his poetic imagination in Shamrock Tea in 2001. This border-crossing book engages at length, among other aspects, with The Arnolfini Marriage, the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck’s famous portrait from 1434.2 By a stroke of the same brush, the 101 chapters in Carson’s choice of composition all take their titles from a comprehensive and detailed colour map from the first ‘Paris Green’ via ‘Blood Green’ and ‘Powder Pink’ and numerous other inventive colour assignations, to the penultimate ‘Bible Black’ and final ‘Blank’. Carson draws for this colouristic composition upon the Schilder-boeck of the sixteenth-century Flemish painter and biographer of the Netherlandish artists, Karel van Mander. A quote from van Mander’s painter book introduces in the epigraph the theme and composition of Shamrock Tea:
← 235 | 236 → He divided a panel into a hundred squares and marked them down, with numbered figures, in a small book, then painted these squares with various colours, various shades, greens, yellows, blues, flesh tints and other mixtures, giving the...
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