Adam Vines’s Out of Speech, a poetry collection comprised of ekphrastic poetry based upon famous paintings as well as personal experience, draws on Vines’s travels from southernmost Argentina to the Louvre. Each poem begins by naming the art piece it takes as a subject, then moves toward unpacking their visual elements often through fascinating uses of enjambment.
More than just describing the artwork, Vines peels away surfaces to encounter shavings of shocking humanity lying beneath. In “My View From Here,” a poem responding to Yves Tanguy’s Les Vues, Vines sees an abstract red vista of segmented alien pillars the cancer polyps hidden in a barstool acquaintance he meets by chance outside the gallery. “Holes and Folds,” based on the group portrait The Swing by Jean Honoré Fragonard, finds a narrator focused on the most innocent of the lounging young men in order to question his objectives as a hand slides up a woman’s dress.
Vines’s visual inspection of minutiae leaves his reader questioning the subjects presented in the paintings. Will the awoken businessman in Hopper’s Excursion Into Philosophy leave before his lover stirs? What has made his countenance so dour? What of the open book forgotten on the bed? Is his shoe slipping into, or out of the light? The reader feels unsure even after turning away, and Vines leaves them contemplating in silence.
Out of Speech by Adam Vines. LSU Press, March 2018.
About the reviewer: Adrian Thomson is a creative writing student at Utah State University.