Conditions of Desire
John Di Leonardo
Title: Conditions of Desire
Trade Paperback: 86 pages
Suggested Retail (Paperback): $19.95
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John Di Leonardo’s Conditions of Desire reveals the abundant possibilities of the contemporary ekphrastic poem. No longer is the form limited to vivid descriptive details, such as “the blue flicker of a fridge door”, “the wife raked salad”, or “sullen light”. More broadly, inspired by works from the Great Masters to current artists, Di Leonardo stages his short, concise poems from a variety of angles. While he may stand apart, observing the sufferer of “morning’s green gill” in “Divorced Birthday”, he also can speak directly to a figure in a painting, such as Botticelli’s Venus in “Reproduction”, or Salvador Dali’s Girl at Window in “Breakup”. Half way through “Sackville Station” he pivots, to compare his own situation with Alex Colville’s soldier and girl, or in “Horse and Train”, spins off the word “horse” to expand into a wider reflection on beauty and life. As an accomplished painter, he is able to analyze the techniques of a master artist in “Renoir”, but can also look compassionately both inside and outside the picture frame, as in “Ironing” where he contrasts the dreary lives of the women depicted, with the elegance of gallery viewers toasting the art to the clink of Baccarat crystal. Sometimes he steps right inside the painting himself, as in “Rite in Spring” and “From Above”, or as in “As the Steeples Slept”, he speaks in the voice of a woman, musing on herself in a childhood photograph about her debt to her own mother. Six of Di Leonardo’s own beautiful graphite nudes round out this collection as a visual counterpoint to his poetic words—words that will whet your appetite to see the original art that was their inspiration.
latest book, Looking for Light
Conditions of Desire is an accomplished collection of ekphrastic poems using artwork from artists across the ages to study desire in its various guises. Whether erotic or romantic love, maternal, conjugal or unmarried, as belonging to the brothel or as sublimated between the artist and his sometimes nude subject, Di Leonardo has a talent for drawing story out of art scenes using a select epistemology of details and for transcribing these portraits of lives into exquisitely chiselled, often poignant verses. Between Part One and Two (between the bed covers, so to speak), the artist-poet includes a series of his own erotic studies as if to pinion the subject and to establish the poet’s own perspective inside this kaleidoscope of poems.
author of, In Another Air