In a series of poems that move between narrative and lyric, the personas of Austrian artist Egon Schiele and his mistress/model Valerie Neuzil are revealed in exquisite detail. Dividing the work into three sections, equal energy is given to the artist, his model, and the alluring energy of Viennese eroticism. Creating intimacy through the use of first person and exposing drama through the use of the third, Hamon’s poems resonate with Egon’s and Valerie’s story: how they met, their intense desires, and the union and bond that would keep them together for years. Red Curls chronicles lives but in the retelling, captures the enterprise and intensity of Schiele as he pushed the culture of desire to new heights.
But not all of Hamon’s poems simply celebrate Schiele’s genius nor do they romantically colour the hard love that he shared with Valerie. Many poems are left to the reader to ponder as Hamon gathers the fragments and forces at work in her subjects. Other poems remind us of the mundane moments of Egon’s and Valerie’s financial struggles, their needling uncertainties, and the mitigating circumstances of family relationships. But never far from any revelation is the arching theme that, in Schiele’s world, the pervasive drive is to find inspiration in the erotic and an audience to support it. Sometimes Hamon conjures that Viennese world that would reject his bohemian lifestyle only to celebrate his artistic vision, other times she intensively explores the truth of her subjects through their portraits and Schiele’s paintings that themselves became the revolutionary and liberating edge of a generation of artists.
The various poetic forms featured in the book let the reader visualize the art and lives of Schiele and Neuzil. Throughout, three voices appear as dramatic monologues that allow Schiele, Neuzil, and a voice from the present to speak. Central to the voices is the emotion of desire and how the desire to paint, love, or write inspires us to a different greatness.
“These are poems that revel in non-conformity and glisten with the joy of how the world might be seen.”— Michael Trussler
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