A Poem for my Nemesis

Henry, Prince of Wales by Robert PeakeWell, not quite. For all I know, we may be related.

But imagine my frustration at being beat in search engine results for my own name by someone who has been dead for almost 400 years. I decided to channel that frustration into a tribute in the form of a digital experiment.

What follows is the poem I wrote for Robert Peake the Elder, an English painter in the court of King James I. I have added links on various phrases in the poem to images of portraits that inspired the text. I have also included audio of me reading the poem, and a gallery of images at the bottom of the page. [Update 3/2/15: We have now produced a film-poem based on this poem as well.]

(to Robert Peake the Elder, c. 1551–1619)

Whenever I look for myself, I find you,
in the smirking red lips of nobility,
high foreheads unmarred by frown lines,
plunging into narrow noses, eyebrows
raised enquiringly, hand-on-hip or hand-
on-chest, close to the sword, the heart,
each making the art of dominion seem
effortless. You made danger your business,
painting the princess who became Winter’s
Queen, the prince who blazed into infamy,
one hand stroking the notable features,
the other rubbing blemishes to a glow.
You gave the public a profile to recognise,
suitors an image to scar in the mind,
enemies an opponent worthy to despise–
smoothing and lightening, your own figures
of nobility half-studied in the impatient
gaze of human sitters, half evoked in symbols
poured over the comely calves of gentle-
folk in gleaming silk
, pearls dotted
with a single hair of liquid gypsum
(making each oyster’s teardrop shine),
lace collars laced with linseed oil
(washed into translucence like a dream).
I ego-surf my way through glowing pages,
my own head shots mixed with Jacobites
and Tudors, Bohemians fancying themselves
as Grecian deities
, enmeshed and immortalised
by a computer’s comprehension of same letters
in same order, nothing more, while your
faces peer back from beneath the two words
I used to like to think of as “myself”.

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/91467782″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]