“People as Evidence” by Lauren Camp
for Alice Neel
Not so much the eyes
but the middle of the gesture—
early bloom, late wrinkle, the most multiple parts,
nipple and fat roll. Leg and tangle and temper.
It was that entrance
to the center that made it impossible
to look away. Saturation of bones,
the subjunctive. Next I saw black-on-blue
hair and the swirl of a shadow on a cheekbone;
saw where light was offered to forehead.
She drew the fleshbruise of each person,
then smoothed them to drifts and deeper
insinuations of breathing. Desperate mouth
invitations. Each painting told subject-
verb-curl-cleft in overindulged shades
of shoulders and hollows. She knew every
rule and broke them to piles
of mudcolored poses. Hair and knees,
the uncomfortable compassions. Arms in despair
and the opening of casual shapes. For her,
no delicate structure. Cleaving creases
and cheeks to sorrows and obsessions,
she mixed warm and cool, let her fingers conjure
scars, detail, possible selves. With her wrists
she closed off mistake. The painting not saying
but willing to gather
what otherwise sensibly hid.
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Lauren Camp Artist Statement:
Arab American poet Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred
Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). One Hundred Hungers is a work of
imagination, research and myth about her father’s childhood in Baghdad and her interaction with
the rituals and language of his culture. Writer Margaret Randall has said, “More than simply
excellent poems, this book is an experience.”
Camp’s poems appear in numerous journals including New England Review, Poetry
International, Slice, Linebreak and Beloit Poetry Journal. Some of her poems have been
translated into Turkish, Mandarin and Spanish.
She is the recipient of the Dorset Prize, the 2014 RL International Poetry Award, an Anna
Davidson Rosenberg Award, and a Black Earth Institute Fellowship.
A long time radio producer, she produces and hosts “Audio Saucepan”—a global music program
interwoven with contemporary poetry—on Santa Fe Public Radio. www.laurencamp.com.