Review of Janée Baugher’s The Body's Physics


The Body's Physics
by Janée Baugher
Tebot Bach, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1893670006

         “…our eyes from the gallery, burrowing into her
waiting to see what she has to give.”
What is immediately effective about Janée Baugher’s new book of poems, The Body’s Physics, published by Tebot Bach, is how she creates a theatrical distance in perspective between her readers and the various paintings and other artistic works embodied in her poems. She has, in essence, created a literary proscenium arch through which we may both read well-crafted pieces of poetry, and experience a grand collection of artwork through her eyes and with her voice leading us on intimate tour through her ideal museum. Her works are, at the surface, primarily ekphrastic – meaning that they are poems and collections of poems written to embody other pieces of already existing art, and to say something new and fresh, from the poet’s perspective, about their merit and importance as work contributing to the human colloquium. “At the top of the canvas, a new-blue sky, / stratus clouds aligned one next to another. / Jutting into sky’s day, a tree’s stoic silhouette.” This stanza, from “The Empire of Light,” is one of many where Baugher effectively blurs the texture between the medium of the art she’s observing with that of the natural world.  As a contributing artist, she has taken her language far beyond mere commentary and added her aesthetic colors to the spectrum to form new works of art in her own medium.

“You are the body
that makes shadow possible.
Your body
is light’s filter on shadow.”
Baugher’s vision in this collection is not simply aimed at superficial conversation about selected paintings and the artists who made them, but rather towards exemplifying the experience of creativity in all its forms. She’s striving to tell us how art, light, the tangibility of a physical medium, and the combination of the body, heart and spirit are all connected and come together to form the extraordinary material of human existence. The motion of this combination is embodied well in this stanza from the first poem “The First Spark of Day,” “You wake to red rotation / to the orange urgency of motion / to the emptiness of white. / And you quake black if you must.” Art is the sum of the human condition. Baugher has raised her artistic selections to a higher level of language to better understand their nuances and social commentaries; there she has expanded upon them. Light and darkness, colors and greys, temperatures, emotions, all lend themselves in myriad examples of human experiences as metaphors to bring her scenes, pastiches and vignettes to life, and there she has made a place for herself among writers who have something to say about art.
“The painter’s arrested her here,
          alone in her room where no one paws at her laces.”