Little Dancer — The Degas Poems
by Lyn Lifshin
Paperback, 40 pages, $14.00 (list)
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Publisher: NightBallet Press
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The newest poem from Lyn Lifshin, imagines and explores the world of Marie Van Goethem, the “Little Dancer” sculpted by Edgar Degas. The Degas Poems contains 29 poems.
Now loved, Degas’ original wax version of the little dancer was hated,though his paintings had been greeted enthusiastically. His sculpture of The Little Dancer, Aged 14, was considered shocking and unsettling, like a little monkey. It is said one father cried, ‘God forbid my daughter should become a dancer.’ Many were shocked by her pose and the material used: human hair, beeswax, silk. Degas loved the opera and ballet but this statue was called ‘repulsive’ and ‘vicious,’ a threat to society. It forced viewers to look at the seamy side of life since most of the young girls came from very poor slums and working class families. Others were horrified that she seemed to champion ugliness and depravity. Degas never again exhibited the sculpture. And, though he painted ballerinas all his life, The Little Dancer was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered with dozens of other sculptures. His fascination with making sculpture was little know in his lifetime, unlike his portraits, history paintings, scenes from modern life, the world of horse racig, and the theater and ballet.
“We now recognize The Little Dancer sculpture by Degas as arresting and compelling, but there was a time when she was considered scandalous and disturbing. Lyn Lifshin’s poems celebrate her creation as a symbol of so many young and impoverished French female dancers who attempted to fill our world with grace, energy, and beauty. And Lifshin’s insightful and incisive Little Dancer poems remind us to remember her name, Marie Van Goethem, so that she will never fade into obscurity.”
—Christina Zawadiwsky, author of The Hand On The Head Of Lazarus and recipient of the National Endowment Award.
Poems from Little Dancer—The Degas Poems
THE LITTLE DANCER,
FLOWER OF THE GUTTER
a winged urchin,
Not pretty or ugly but a
The little dancer,
Lyn Lifshin has published over 140 books and chapbooks and edited three anthologies of women’s writing including Tangled Vines that stayed in print 20 years. She has several books from Black Sparrow books. Her web site, www.lynlifshin.com shows the variety of her work from the equine books, The Licorice Daughter: My Year with Ruffian and Barbaro: Beyond Brokenness to recent books about dance: Ballroom, Knife Edge and Absinthe: The Tango Poems. Other new books include For the Roses, poems for Joni Mitchell, All The Poets Who Touched Me; A Girl goes Into The Woods; Malala, Tangled as the Alphabet: The Istanbul Poems. Also just out: Secretariat: The Red Freak, The Miracle Malala and Luminous Women: Enheducanna, Scheherazade and Nefertiti.
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