Friday, April 29, 2016

Forgery and Haiku

TLS March 4 2016

From Nick Groom's review of Oscar Wilde's Chatterton: Literary history, Romanticism and the art of forgery by Joseph Bristow and Rebecca Mitchell:

But it was [Theodore] Watt's model of immersive and untrammelled creativity that appealed most to Wilde: "by the artist's yearning to represent", Watts wrote, "if perfect representation seemed to him to demand forgery, he needs must forge". 
The "Chatterton" notebook is, then, a "crucible" in which Wilde explored the ideas that would shape his subsequent works and theory of the artist, serving as the epitome of the inextricability of life and work, and affirming the overriding important of Paterian "personality".... Among the first of Wilde's own comments is the claim that Chatterton's life and work are inseparable: "Without a full comprehension of his life the secret of his literature is not revealed". Wilde was attracted to Chatterton's exploitation of "the links between imagination, authenticity, and truth" that forged an "artistic originality ... in fabrications that conjured a literary past that historically never existed". He was super-creative, the ultimate artist, and enabled Wilde to show that "all artistic creation is an act of forgery". 
Similarly, "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." (1889), Wilde's fantasia on Shakespeare's Sonnets, extends forgery to the heart of the literary canon by drawing inspiration from the shenanigans of the "second Chatterton", William Henry Ireland, as well as the later Victorian editor-forger John Payne Collier. Bristow and Mitchell's impressively subtle reading of "The Portrait of Mr. W. H." reveals its criss-crossing layers of representation: an ekphrastic narrative of a forged portrait of the non-existent "Wille Hughes", supposed dedicatee of the Sonnets, who is conjured into being through a combination of textual criticism, historical scholarship and imaginative vision. Once traced in this way, the boy-actor Hughes then acts as the conductor of homoerotic desire in the text. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 had made any sexual relations between men illegal, but in a teasing denial (or protraction) of homoeroticism the narrative of "The Portrait" repeatedly discloses that Willie Hughes, the male object of infatuation, is a fake.


Bright birdcall
unstitches every seam
the old woman looks up

Ice clinking in the water bottle
blood flows
blood clots

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