The art of architecture in words. By Jacqueline Osherow

Today we want to bring you closer to the work of the great architect through the poem Love Song to Antoni Gaudí by Jacqueline Osherow.

Ultimatum from Paradise - Jacqueline Osherow

A composition that is included in the latest compilation of the poetess, Ultimatum from Paradise, and that certainly exudes a real sense of admiration for the master architect. With the fervor of someone who writes about something that excites them, Jacqueline invites us to explore the work of Antoni Gaudí through his words. With all its forms, colors, symbols and innovations and with the special role of Casa Batlló, which is disclosed by several allusions to the aesthetic and structural solutions that hides inside it, which Jacqueline continues to marvel.

Love Song to Antoni Gaudí

Build me a lightwell; tile it deepening blue;
tend me a cathedral’s open forests;
conjure me mosaics out of broken
pieces of ceramic over undulating
fireplaces, windows, doorframes, walls;
give me blue, shafts of blue, waves of blue.

Position the lightwell so in spots it’s seen
only through distorted sheets of glass,
rippled so the blue tile swells to ocean,

the cathedrals, so mosaics shout hosanna
in excelsis and sanctus sanctus sanctus
from bell towers that might be tentacles
of vast deep-sea creatures in exile
sloughing off the ocean’s strict ubiquity
on rumors of the pliancy of sky.
But why this importuning? It’s all here
so like the havoc of hallucination,
I half think it originates with me-
whoever that is –I’ve lost all certainty-
can’t separate my longing from Gaudí’s
even if I do misread his parables:
for example, that tentacle cathedral’s
interior’s not forest but oasis;
those slim bare trunks are clearly palms’-
crowned, in gold leaf, on the ceiling’s vault
with fronds I take for disembodied wings

shed –it is a house of God- by angels.
But a tour guide reminds me that Gaudí
only copied what he’d seen in nature
or what –with their newly fine-tuned microscopes-
scientists had trained themselves to see-
hordes of structures: atoms, molecules
emerging from the dimness to disclose
matter’s surreptitious agitation.

Still, all evidence suggests Gaudí
was most enamored of the information
he could summon with a naked eye
attuned to fine degrees of variation:
the subtle patterns in a reptile’s skin
reborn as phosphorescent mosaic scales
in the outsized lizard fountain at the entrance
to the quirky, razzle-dazzle Park Güell
and the snake a little farther up the hill
uncoiling itself into a bench for lovers,

nannies, gossipers, exhausted tourists
some of whom have just come from the roof.
top maze of chimneys at La Pedrera
on the curved inversion of the curving ceilings
in the squat, arched attic rooms below
modeled on the ribcages of whales

while others are still reeling from the blue-
white to pearl to sea to sky to cobalt-
light-drenched arrow through the Casa Batlló

betraying every other earthly edifice
as, at best, a squandered opportunity,
at worst, an airtight substantiation
of the irreversible insolvency
of our close-fisted imaginations.

How we need you, Antoni Gaudí,
to gather us up single-handedly inside the limitless, each dreaming room
spreading to embrace us like the cloak
(lapis lazuli with borders of gold)
the munificent Madonna we’ve
anointed della misericordia
opens to enfold repentant sinners.

Our sin here: the simple-minded reflex
to shut ourselves inside the rectilinear,
a contour wholly alien to nature
whose sole enclosed dwellings
-dovetailed hexagons for wasps and bees-
avail themselves of only obtuse angles

but a curator friend will interrupt
my sketchy theories about nature
and point me to the rising trunks of trees:

clearly, nature’s lavish with right angles,
something I should certainly have noticed
in a poem paying homage to the architect
for whom basilica means desert oasis
teeming with the upright trunks of palms.

Still, for the most part, he liked to borrow
unpredictable clusters of angles
from the most unruly, expansive trees:
the Casa Batlló’s asymmetric drawing rooms’
undulating windows fanning out
like branches on the spreading maple sycamores
shading curves of boulevards below.
Staring out, we’re sparrows in their leaves,

each rise from lightwell to drawing room
on each successive floor of Casa Batlló
a metamorphosis from fish to bird
from sea to branch to sky to branch to sea.

I was wrong about those giant sea-creatures
whose tentacles you stole for your cathedral;
they revisit ocean all the time…

You’d never limit a breathing animal
to just one insufficient element
in a universe as multiple as this
even as you fetishize details,

each of which would be enough for anyone:
one pillar like a bone, one like an elephant’s foot,
a mushroom fireplace, a stained-glass hell,
a balcony that doubles as falcon’s nest
(its façade a Cliffside in the wilderness),
another one a mask, one more a skull,

your plan for twenty-six spiral stairways
in your unrealizable cathedral
a would-be free-for-all of giant snails,

and your single incandescent mosaic lizard’s
spine’s wavy fringe of vehement blue
an intimation of the nearby ocean

like the tiled lightwell through the warping glass,
blurred to a heaving surge of blue-
sun through skylight mottling the waves,
its litany: sanctus sanctus sanctus
and hosanna in excelsis, residue
of long-forgotten rumors reemerging
(am I hallucinating? Or are they true?):
darkness on the deep, wind on water,
light revelation, startling, new,
interchangeable, the sea and heavens,
their blue-spangled goblets running over,
tongs of burning coals, rungs of angels,
rising and descending, blue on blue

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