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There are the Biennale’s Big Beasts, of course –

this year David Hockney’s ’82 Portraits

and 1 Still Life’ at the Ca’ Pesaro (each

painted in three days) and, at Palazzo

Grassi and Punta Della Dogana,

Damien Hirst’s ‘Treasures from the Wreck

of the Unbelievable’, which took ten years –

the pavilions in the Giardini

and the Arsenale; the freebies

in rented palaces and tenements.


And there are the abiding grand masters,

the Titians, Tinterettos, Tiepolos,

displayed in salons and basilicas;

the Bible transubstantiated into

oils and canvas, Latin verses made flesh.


And poor, visiting geniuses opting

for elsewhere – like Modigliani who stayed

five years near the Accademia

then chose the avant-garde Montmartre,

and whose ‘La Femme en Blouse Marine’

hangs in the Guggenheim Gallery

on the Grand Canal, worth seven figures.


This is a city of stratagems, opulence,

dissembling – each turn of a corner,

each slap of water on bricks in a canal;

no place for penniless innocents,

no place for those without reputations;

mercantile, mercenary, magnificent;

an improbable, floating metropolis.




© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • John Huddart
    September 27, 2018

    Let me be the first to congratulate you! A Baedeker of a poem – dispelling the destructive carnage of Casino Royale, and replacing it with composure, competitive creativity and the cunning of the wealthy.

  • David Selzer
    September 28, 2018

    The ‘destructive carnage of Casino Royale’?

  • Mary Clark
    October 26, 2018

    Lovely poem about a city I’ll never visit much less “know” and yet it is a floating iconic ancestral meme in Western consciousness, and so in mine. The artists toeing the line but now and then breaking free with small rebellions in the less focused on parts of their paintings. The ebb and flow of guile and innocence.

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