Tim Keane's poetry collection Alphabets of Elsewhere (Cinnamon Press) features poems which originally appeared in Modern Painters, Shenandoah, Denver Quarterly, Mudlark and many other magazines. His poetry has been published in the US, Canada, UK, Singapore and New Zealand. He's working on a second collection called Waking Yellow & Blue and on a novel, excerpts of which have been widely published. His translations from the French of René Char and Vicente Huidobro appear in Cipher and Parthenon West Review. He lives in New York City.
about the poemsI started into poetry from writing prose poetry within stories I was working on, and so poetry still seems to me a facet of fiction writing: setting and visual descriptions are probably more important than any other consideration, at least in first drafts. I often start a poem from reflections on an art work. Cezanne’s “The Blue Vase” I saw in Paris in 1995 and brought back a print of it because I was interested in how the simple “Blue” of the title defies the reality that the blue which Cezanne creates for the vase doesn’t sit still under that designation “blue.” I always felt like that was the purpose of the painting itself: to dramatize the huge difference between a color in language and a color in actuality. Also it’s that rare painting in which, every time you see it, it’s like seeing it for the first time. “Penelope Tuesdae” was inspired by a photo from an amazing book of Annie Liebovitz portraits called Women (Random House 1999). The photo of this “go go dancer” is set up like Baroque or courtly portraiture. Yet the result is very contemporary. “The Blue Angel” refers to Marlene Dietrich’s famous role. That film is deceptively simple: Dietrich’s character is multi-faceted—humorous, sly, affectionate—she doesn’t just play the femme fatale, which was what I had assumed before I had ever seen it. Besides the interesting paradox that the movie’s “blue” title can’t deliver that color because it was in black and white, I wrote this poem also because stills from this film resemble not frozen images of action but vibrant and expressive scenes, worthy of those detail-obsessed Italian masters of fresco portraiture like Perugino & Co.