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Enamel Eyes, A Fantasia on Paris, 1870: Poems
Due from LSU Press, Fall 2016
Jay Rogoff's new book of poems, Enamel Eyes, A Fantasia on Paris, 1870, will be published by Louisiana State University Press this fall. It will be his sixth poetry collection, his fourth to appear from LSU Press.
Enriching lyric poetry with the psychology and dramatic sweep of a historical novel, Enamel Eyes imagines “the terrible year,” when the Franco-Prussian War marked the Second Empire’s fall and subjected the City of Lights to siege and bombardment. Mere weeks before war erupted, as the poems detail, the 19th century’s great comic ballet, Coppélia, had dazzled Paris and Emperor Napoleon III; in many ways, the ballet’s obsession with a mechanical woman seemed to anticipate the conflict’s mechanized violence.
As Paris fell under siege, an air of surreality overtook the capital: ministers communicated with distant armies by gas balloon, citizens gathered nightly atop Montmartre to admire the beautiful destruction of exploding Prussian artillery shells, and starving Parisians ate horse, household pets, and rats, while the zoo’s exotic animals furnished the city’s finest restaurants.
Skillfully orchestrating multiple voices and poetic forms, Enamel Eyes delivers the period’s wonder and horror through the eyes of both famous and ordinary Parisians struggling through war and siege. In addition to Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, the book enlists the great painters of the period—Degas, Manet, Bonheur, Monet, and others— along with the real-life creators and fictional characters of Coppélia, especially 16-year-old ballerina Giuseppina Bozzacchi. Plucked from ballet school, she danced the role of Swanilda, the clever village girl who triumphs over the automaton Coppélia and her mysterious creator, Dr. Coppélius, in order to save her beloved Franz. Giuseppina was a sensation and became the toast of Paris, enticed and shocked by its cosmopolitanism until war changed the city and her life forever.
From Enamel Eyes, A Fantasia on Paris, 1870:
Swanilda Arms for War
If they dare send Franz off to war
with wide-eyed boys from wild-eyed lands,
embedding him in la belle France
like fruitless seed, I’ll turn his daguerre-
otype’s silver smirk and stare
to the wall. I’ll turn to stone. Franz,
there’s more to love than picking bones
with Prussian boys or playing with fire.
Here’s our scene: clean village square,
an alpine land so picturesque
war can plant no stone. Wave the flag!
Death to Bismarck! Damn Germany!
Franz, our conscript, stands for France
(in French the names sound quite the same).
Where’d he get that dumb German name?
Pigheaded as the Prussians!
Ten bricks short of a load, at least,
he dreams love pricks him to the field.
The miniature that makes him shiver
like a needle north in the naked cold
marking his heart now and forever—
she or I on his bare chest?
Reprinted from POEM. © 2014 by Jay Rogoff
Listen to Jay Rogoff read "Swanilda Arms for War"