I was inspired to create three compositions on three queer (gay, in this instance) relationships pertinent to Art History. I’m unknowing of why these were the ones that I picked, despite there being quite a few more of weighty impact, some of even more impact that those I chose. I was just reading up on some of them during Pride month and these were the ones that spoke to me sufficiently as to inspire poems. All of them play with some of the elements of the relationships, along with a coalescence of the arts they were occupied with and, of course, my own sentimental hand, which is never too distant of any of my verse. I also include a thin biography of the figures, might they be obscure for some.
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929), on the left, was a critic and the ballet impresario responsible for the creation of the Ballets Russes, a vagrant dancing company known for the formation of many significant dancers of the time, and one of them was Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), on the right, often considered one of the greatest if not the greatest dancer of his age. After Nijinsky married Romola, a known Hungarian aristocrat, Diaghilev threw him off the company, and though he later tried to form his own company, he failed to do so. Eventually, he fell into madness, spending his last thirty years in various asylums in Switzerland. Diaghilev went on to have a series of male lovers throughout his life. The last was Igor Markevitch, who later married one of Nijinsky’s daughters in what seemed to be the last nail of this turbulent history.
Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), on the right, was an English novelist of exceptional talent and one of a very fruitful harvest named the Bloomsbury Group, of which Woolf and Roger Fry were part of. He wrote a few novels, among them The Longest Journey, in 1907, and A Room with a View, in 1908, but the greatest and most lauded was indubitably A Passage to India, in 1924, after a period of fourteen years since his last large work. A Passage to India was special, however, since it was inspired by his greatest love, Ross Masood (1889-1937), on the left in the picture, the grandson of an Islamic reformist and son of a judge and jurist, both from British India. Forster tutored Masood in Latin, and since Masood was ten years his junior, it is believe that the relationship was never materialised beyond its platonic nature. Still and despite that, it is clear through correspondence and the aforementioned novel that it meant much to them both.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a French composer with an extensive catalogue of compositions and a profound influence to many others as part of the Six along with other composers of his time, like Louis Durey and Darius Milhaud, and Richard Chanlaire (1896–1973), of whom I found no picture but only a painting, was that, a painter, and assumed to be the first actual lover of Poulenc, who had others throughout his life. Despite there being virtually no information on their relationship, I found it of tremendous interest to explore, in verse, the romance of a painter and a musician, both attuned to wordless worlds which can hardly — if in any way — be replicated in text. The usage of the Georgian hymn comes about a citation I found of Benjamin Ivry, a biographer of Poulenc, in which he found that in a copy of his Concert champêtre that he gifted to Chanlaire, Poulenc wrote “You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, a reason for living and working.”.
I hope you enjoyed this small exploration; surely the compositions aren’t as complex or dense, but they have their own place, I find. They do, this time around. And it goes to show that poetry may come from any fount, if our poetic ear is so inclined. Verse, however, might be a bit harder to rope out, but it is certainly always there, ready to be rescued.
Thanks for reading,