Rick Mullin’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies,
including American Arts Quarterly, The Raintown Review, Unsplendid, Méasŭre, The
Flea, and Ep;phany. His chapbook, Aquinas Flinched, was published by the Modern
Metrics imprint of Exot Books, New York City, in 2008, and his book-length poem,
Huncke, was published by Seven Towers, Dublin, Ireland, in 2010.
"Rick Mullin’s Soutine is a multi-layered marvel of a book. Its two protagonists
are the Jewish expressionist painter, Chaïm Soutine, and the author himself,
also an artist, but one who has had to make more common compromises with the
world. These partial biographies are turned for us in the liveliest terza rima
you are likely to find in contemporary poetry, rhyme rich, playful and tragic
almost in the same breath. More than a meditation on art and
ambition, Soutine celebrates both painting and poetry, while lamenting the
limits on our lives. Mullin uses words with such color and plasticity, such
concern for the joys and failures of the flesh, that his poem feels like a world
remade—or nearly so—against the most terrible odds. Read this book for its
verbal panache, its knowledge of painterly technique, but most of all for its
unvarnished engagement with life." — David Mason
The famous Bing a la rentrée.
Picasso’s there. He wears a floppy hat
as a disguise (a total giveaway).
And there’s Guillaume, the famous dealer. Fat
and fussy, dressed in black with pasted hair
and subtle touches of the caliphate
of high finance, the connoisseurs appear
and slowly acclimate beneath the wings
of Soutine’s rays. A painted abattoir
emerges from abstraction. Garish things
claim shadow space. A shock of recognition
runs the room—the maid in apron strings,
the side of beef, a flowing transposition
from the flailing cock against the bricks
to white chateaux and classic composition.
Guillaume believes his eyes are playing tricks.
Remember Rembrandt? This picture’s a Courbet!
It seems as if this man Soutine could fix
chaotic nature, make it sit and stay
and shudder as it breathes a final breath.
The hemlock rows behind the houses sway
beside a hanging pheasant in the throes of death.
Picasso couldn’t stay. He said goodnight
and half a dozen cubist painters left.
Madame Castaing, arriving in a tight
Chanel ensemble, glides with Marcellin
across the gallery, her smile, all white
and red, cuts brightly through the clientele.
“Kremegne!” she waves to catch the painter’s eye.
“Good evening, Madeleine, you’re looking well!”
“Marcellin remarked as we arrived the sly
arrangement in the window. Very like
a flesh and blood cathedral. A sacristy
of bones and meat. Parishioners are pike
and wild turkey in their apple pews.”
“It’s everybody’s funeral. Don’t strike
a match—formaldehyde,” Kremegne’s enthu-
siastic comeback. “Here you have it then.
The blood and bone cathedral of the Jews!”
“Mon Dieu! Do not tell Father Tatarin!”
She pecks the artist’s cheek. In fact, the priest
moves through this crowd, another man
in black unsettled at the painted feast.
Paulette and Léo entertain Guillaume
as Father Tatarin goes beast to beast.
Soutine, in perfect form, refused to come,
despising connoisseurs’ congratulations.
Michel asks Pinchus what they’d think back home,
“The mohel would find it somewhat ostentatious,”
says Kremegne. “But he might be jealous of the pike.”
“He really is a putz on these occasions.”
Meanwhile, Madeleine is moving like
the hostess at a party, showing friends
the pictures. “My husband, Marco, used to hike
near Cagnes-sur-Mer,” says Madame Geoffroy-Lenz.
“I know this country house!” “He’s done a series.
And we own a couple.” Madeleine extends
an invitation, fielding several queries
from Madame Giroux, who interrupts
the conversation. “Ah! Monsieur Gutierrez …!”
Madeleine moves on. “I’ve had enough,”
Zborowski grumbles, as he gulps his wine.
“Is that woman selling paintings?” “For the love
of God, Zborowski. That’s just Madeleine.
She’s being Madeleine,” Guillaume intones.
“Of course she is,” Paulette agrees. “It’s fine.”
It’s fine. The gallery of blood and bones.
The Calvary of cattle hunkering.
Devoid of cylinders, and spheres and cones,
devoid of cubes, the brilliant Bing
recalls the streets of Vilna and the dirty road
to Minsk. A destiny of wandering,
a want of love, of family, of home.
A choirboy looks down upon the gathering.
Within the hour, it’s purchased by Guillaume.