“Gino Severini” by Josh Ascherman
Josh Ascherman is an undergraduate student at Harvard College, where he studies English and where he is a member of the Harvard College Poetry Society. This poem represents his first publication!
Reading this poem feels a little like watching the film Midnight in Paris: there’s a glimpse into an idealized past and the frisson that surrounds the birth of great art. There’s also the sense of melancholy that arises from the realization that art always fails to fully capture its subject. It always falls a little short. “It’s almost exactly how they move: a kind of/ pirouette flattened” which is to say, almost (but not quite) the same. Just a little less. “No sex, just body.” No action, just shapes. And then we arrive at the last stanza where the poet reaches the same conclusion as the filmmaker: We are alive in the present, so that is where we must do our living. “Dance,/ yellow dancers, and be enough.”
The dancers are not the only source of movement here. The poem itself moves from a view of the painter, to his painting, then on to his subject. The typeface had to convey the same sense of movement in its letterforms while remaining regular, like dancers moving through first position to second and so on, their spines as straight as the down-stroke on a capital T. Balham’s contrast between thick and thin is gradual, graceful in its transitions and without serifs; the typeface appears to be up on its toes. Garamond is similarly rounded in its bowls and connectors but has its seriffed feet flat on the floor to begin and end the scene. All of the text is right justified for a slightly altered perspective: the shape of a pirouette instead of the pirouette itself.