Summer 2000 • Vol. XXII No. 3/4 PoetryJuly 1, 2000 |

Comment on Thom Gunn’s ‘In Santa Maria Del Popolo’ concerning Caravaggio’s “The Conversion of St. Paul”

As much as art about seeing in the dark and when the setting sun will bring the painting back to life from where it hangs in the chapel's night recess, invisible except its spectral parts, which look detached because the painter's blacked the world out before he's set the candle on the ladder, his single source of light to shape an animal and two men out of shadows. You say you're waiting for the sun to pull the parts together—beyond their sexual, other-worldly glow—to make the subject whole that shows a man, fallen from a height, humbled and converted, blessed or cursed too brilliantly by vision. Yet hardly enlightened is your conclusion once the enlightening sun arrives and you can leave, passing obscure among believers. My comment is I guess I couldn't wait, either for sunset or the risk of dark, so put my lire in the lumen box to see more or less what you saw: a tall, pale pinto still confused by the event, head bowed, right foreleg raised in step; the dumb, distract

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Stanley Plumly’s most recent book of poems is Orphan Hours (W.W. Norton, 2012). His collection Old Heart won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2015, his book of prose The Immortal Evening won the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism. Plumly is a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland. In 2010 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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By Stanley Plumly

As much as art about seeing in the dark and when the setting sun will bring the painting back to life from where it hangs in the chapel's night recess, […]

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