There is something dynamic and catalytic about Witek’s exposition of Christian themes in her poetry. She juxtaposes artworks and daily life, mystical experience with alert observation, in an original and contemporary way that pulsates with spiritual force.
In “The Docent Discusses the Massacre of the Innocents,” for example, she pictures a museum guide discussing the Italian High Renaissance artist Raphael’s rendition of the massacre of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by King Herod in his quest to counter the prophecy that a newborn baby would take his kingship. However, it is actually not Raphael’s rendition on which the docent remarks but the engraving made in imitative emulation of it by Marcantonio Raimondi, a less-well-known High Renaissance Italian artist. The docent discusses the painting, which hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., pointing out that Raphael himself could never have supplied the authoritative small touches lent by the more obscure artist. In other words, even the most famous or talented artist needs help; no person can create anything truly meaningful on his or her own.
Witek evokes the craft, power, and taut draftsmanship of Marcantonio’s engraving yet shows that Raphael represented the scene inadequately or incompletely in putting the imagery of the Italy of his own day into a scene that represented a distant time and place, and also in needing another’s hand. Witek also points out the...
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