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The Poetic Body: Poem Ears

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The Poetic Body: Poem Ears

Artist: Lesley Dill (American, born 1950)

Date: 1992
Medium: Lithograph, letterpress, and collage on paper
Overall: 18 x 13in. (45.7 x 33cm)
Signed: Lower right (graphite): 'Lesley Dill '92'
Markings: Lower right: [blind stamp]
Inscribed: Lower left (graphite): '6/20' Poem on artwork: 'I heard, as if I had no / Ear Until a vital word / Come all the way from life to me / And then I knew I heard [...] I saw, as if my / Eye were on / Another, till a / Thing / And now I know 'twas / Light, because / It fitted them, came in. I dwelt, as if myself were out / My / Body but within / Until a might detected me / And set my kernel in. And spirit turned unto the / Dust 'Old Friend, thou knowest me, / And time went out to tell the news / And met / Eternity.'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 93.13.3
Label Text
Lesley Dill’s work focuses on the body as a vessel for our spiritual selves. She found within Emily Dickinson’s poetry honest references to emotion and vulnerability that are compatible to her own interests. In this series, Dill inscribes a Dickinson poem onto a corresponding body part she created with delicate materials such as paper and copper foil. Dill’s goal is to resemble physical weightlessness and, simultaneously, to shield the figures from the harsh world that humans are exposed to and continue to create.

Charlotte Zee
Hamilton College Intern, summer 2016

Lesley Dill's four-print Poetic Body combines elements of Emily Dickinson's poetry with an appropriate part of the body. In Poem Eyes, for example, the text reads: "much madness is divinest sense to a discerning eye" and "much sense the starkest madness."

Dill has written, "I think of words, and especially the poems of Emily Dickinson (for their embodiment of psychological states of despair and euphoria as metaphors for being), as a kind of spiritual armor, an intervening skin between ourselves and the world. How nice to slip inside words, the meaning and shape of some emotion you're feeling, and go out into life."

© Lesley Dill