Excerpts from The Art of Travel, by Brad Whitehurst The Society November 8, 2012 Poetry Postcard Gallery Thumbing through glossies gleaned from countless trips – Old Master paintings, drawings, and prints reduced to four-by-six impressions – we’re induced to walk through pictures. Unmoored, the mind’s eye slips through memory’s gilded frame and into halls of house museums, sets sail down chapel aisles, funiculates up hilltop towns, recalls clear vistas, plein-air sketches stretching for miles. Dear travel mate, you’ve made a long career of recollected dates and artists’ names: collect with me more shoebox souvenirs to bring back home. The art of travel frames our lives in postcards, years of unsorted, dog- eared archives, the painted ground of travelogue. At the Louvre One summer I trekked through Greek antiquity, exploring reconstructed Attic pots, poring through metope fragments grouped in lots in rooms arranged in strict chronology. Another year French paintings were surveyed – gold grounds, Fouquet, the schools of Fontainebleau, Poussin, La Tour, Le Nain, Boucher, Watteau – each label read, the audioguide replayed. But you, my connoisseur, afford new ease. Whether Chinese porcelains, Flemish tapestries, Italian frescoes, sub-Saharan masks, or German altarpieces, your practiced eye and learnèd breadth will casually supply answers to questions I didn’t know to ask. Le Sens de la Visite Bulletproof glass recessed into the wall is strobe-flashed by a mob of paparazzi cordoned behind rope stanchions, straining, antsy to edge still closer, catch a glimpse. That’s all that can be seen from across the room, our backs to Veronese’s wall-wide Wedding at Cana: a swarm abuzz before the shrine of Mona, the ultimate gold brick bunkered in Fort Knox. So what are we all looking at? Curators privy to her frameless in the lab report that her sfumato smile’s intact, but no one milling here can tell if craters of concentric craquelure disturb the diva’s features, her beauty just an act. Still Life with Figs after Luis Meléndez (1716-1780) To cleanse our palates of Baroque machines, you motion to an unassuming nook most passersby and paid guides overlook, partitioned space where hangs the seldom seen enhancement of earthbound matter made serene. Against a background brown with Spanish silence, chiaroscuro’s mystifying science casts basket, loaf, green figs in a subtle sheen. Arrested by these lucent elements whose tactile volumes optically project beyond the picture plane from a depth of space that draws us in, we search for evidence of a shaping hand: the maker who perfects real presence in oil on canvas as if by grace. Café Scene Shall we proceed according to our plan now that we’ve eaten omelets, salades vertes, and read the Herald Tribune? Or just command more wine and let the street parade divert us from another self-conducted tour of one more two-star Gothic church set forth by Michelin? Why bother to demur? Shouldn’t we, ensconced, play this for all it’s worth? Bless Baedeker! For now let’s not contrive one more grand tour. The locals take delight in where we are, so let’s people-watch till five. No need for one more recommended sight, our tickets punched as tourist cognoscenti. I recommend rosé. Drink up! There’s plenty. Brad Whitehurst is a native of Richmond, Virginia. He lives in New York City, where he teaches at the Nightingale-Bamford School. He earned degrees in English from the College of Willliam and Mary (B.A.), Georgetown University (M.A.), and Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English (M.Litt.). His poems have been published in Shenandoah, Meridian, The Sewanee Theological Review, and other venues. These poems are among the entries for the Society of Classical Poets’ 2012 Poetry Competition. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.