The Merciless Poetry

Il critico d'arte e poeta Edward Lucie-Smith seduto su una poltrona, sullo sfondo un'opera d'arte con colori accesi.


Lucie-Smith’s very complex life, from geography to intellectual curiosity, was published in an interview on Fyinpaper (edited by Roberto Salvini) on 20 December 2019. He is an internationally renowned art critic, but sometimes lesser known as a poet. However, regarding his poetry, one could say it is almost his ‘second-skin’, to the point that this possible priority has no an absolute value. In fact, poetry has always been his primary interest, as an author, critic and promoter of literary culture since the 1950s.

Free verses, but carefully punctuated by a vigorous succession of content rather than rhythm for its sake. It seems that the sound and the rhythm of poetic phrasing give way to the mix between strong and raw life and existential reflections. In this mix, the familiar background and moments of art and poetry, caught in their bets with daily actions, often appear. Just when the reader feels that the Jamaican-born English poet is about to make the atmosphere rarefied, he creates a surge that, at the same time fantastic and realistic, immediately gives blood and body to the weaving of the story. And you realize that everything is throbbing in a raw and merciless way, especially dry. Words and language are essential and characterize immediately, let’s say physiologically, every thought-emotion pattern. A poetic voice out of geography. Descended into Western culture, of course, but also fueled by interculturality, not on the semantic ground, but definitely at the social and existential level.




When Bluebeard died

His first and last wife

Inherited his castle.


Now she could go

Into all the rooms

That were once forbidden.


Some were stuffed

With female corpses.


Those she already

Half-knew about.


In her time she had bagged and labeled

So many dried-out bodies.


What really surprised her

Were the endless


Cellars and attics

Inhabited by the living –

Whining poor relations,

Dependent children.


She had no need of those.


She tore up Bluebeard’s will.


A rich widow now,

She’s busy husband-hunting.




What happened to them all,

Those poets

I used to drink in pubs with?

Quarrel with?

Even sit on committees with?


I hear their faint cries.

They are imprisoned

Between the covers

Of prize-winning biographies.


My television screen flickers

With shadowy figures

Who look a bit like them.


‘But the voices are wrong,’

I say to myself,

‘And so are the gestures.’


Then suddenly I’m seized

By a great wind

That whirls me away

Towards a future

That has no place for them.




Courbet and Ingres,

My heroes!


Ingres admired the sign painter

Who got it ‘just so’.

Just enough paint on the brush,

No less and no more.


Courbet wouldn’t shut the door

Of his outside crapper.

He sat there eliminating

From his hairy backside,

Meanwhile admiring the landscape.


Like Ingres before him,

He knew what mattered –

Beautiful dirt, and

Inevitable dirt.



Your macho cowboy swagger

Once seduced a Jewish heiress.


She was indignant later,

When, unable to get it up for her,

You pissed in her fireplace.


Dribbling on canvas

Became your substitute

For the kind of sex

You could only find

Passed out cold

On the urine-soaked pavements

Of New York’s Bowery.


Now, in a museum storeroom,

In a country where they don’t

Even have a name

For what probably ailed you,

I see the monstrous demi-gods

Grappling and – is it? – coupling

Just under the surface

Of one of your mysteriously

Potent liquefactions.