Dionisio Martinez’s poem is inspired by a particular piece of music, but goes on to explore theartistic implications of visual art and of a different piece of music. The Moto Perpetuo of the title (meaning, of course, perpetual motion) is a short piece for the violin (with piano accompaniment) by Paganini). It is fast-paced and probably written to show off the virtuosity of the violinist. Here is a You Tube of it being played by Itzhak Perlman:
Dionisio D. Martinez
I’ve been walking in circles for what seems like days.
They’ve been playing Paganini, but you know
how intermittent the conscious ear
can be. How selective. Walking has nothing to do
with distance as clearly as Paganini
has nothing to do with the violin that plays him hard.
How it hurt Jackson Pollock, during his black
and white period, to hear the critics say
that he was painting black on white; how important
the gaps and absences were to him;
how crucial the distances, the gulfs; how
critical each emptiness to each composition.
There is that moment in, say, the finale of Beethoven’s
Fifth, when you hear nothing between the various
false endings, so you make your own music,
a bridge of silence from one illusion
to the next. A deeper and more refined
ear-Beethoven’s ear-takes care of this.
Martinez’s poem is divided into three sections. The first deals with his reaction to the Paganini piece. He probably can’t get it out of his head, as he walks in circles, a bit like the music goes round and round. But then he introduces the idea of separation between the experience of listening to the music and the music itself. The ear is selective, it hears and retains only certain parts of the music and the listener then creates their own interpretation. There is also separation between the intent of the composer, Paganini, and the performance by any violinist, who interprets the music in a unique way.
The second stanza moves to visual art, with Jackson Pollock, he of the splattered paint. The critics interpret his work, give it their own meaning, black on white for this particular phase of his output, but this does not match the artist’s own interpretation, in which the places where he didn’t put paint on canvas are as important as those where he did. So artistic creation happens multiple times, first in the mind and intent of the artist and then in each successive interpretation of the viewer, or listener.
The third stanza returns to music, with Beethoven’s Fifth, homing in on the finale, which builds to a series of climaxes, each with a short silence in-between. That is a space for the listener to fill in. Who can listen to Beethoven’s work, or that of any artist, and be sure that you are listening to it or seeing it, as the composer or artist intended?
The power of all art forms, including poetry is in the eternal collaboration between the work of the artist and the interpretation of the audience.
The Poetry Dude