Hidden Behind a Screen

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By Rachael Isom

Mrs. Blake

During the past few months I have been one of several project assistants processing images for the online archive of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. Every now and then, hidden amongst the articles, minute particulars, and book reviews, I’ll stumble across a creative piece. Last week, while working on an issue from 1991, a poem caught my eye, but it wasn’t a poem by Blake; it was a poem about the Blakes, written by American poet Paulette Roeske. It’s called “Mrs. Blake Requests Her Portrait.”

William Blake, Catherine Blake c. 1805 (recto), graphite on paper, Tate Gallery N05188.

He keeps putting her off.
She, in her quiet way, insists.
Knowing he has a way with women,
romancing them in paint
the color of jewels, inventing
their most flattering features,
she expects he will exalt
her wifely figure,
the serviceable hips,
hair ripe with oil and smoke.
Over lunch he takes up
a dull lead stub and sketches
her profile: one miniature eye
downcast, half a mouth
and chin. Still chewing
the last bite of fish pie,
he adds a few squiggles for hair.
Pushing it across the table,
he trusts her to understand
that when he rendered Beatrice
crowned, Eve‘s exquisite neck
and Bathsheba disrobed,
his vision was of Catherine.<a target="_blank" …read more

Source:: https://blakearchive.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/hidden-behind-a-screen/