Wednesday, June 24, 2009


A Masterpiece

Van Meter Ames, Introduction to Beauty (New York: Harper & Bros., 1931; rpt. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1968), p. 151:
The great yea-sayers find beauty in the most unexpected places and put it in their books where we can see it when we cannot find it elsewhere.
John Updike, The Beautiful Bowel Movement:
Though most of them aren't much to write about—
mere squibs and nubs, like half-smoked pale cigars,
the tint and stink recalling Tuesday's meal,
the texture loose and soon dissolved—this one,
struck off in solitude one afternoon
(that prairie stretch before the late light fails)
with no distinct sensation, sweet or pained,
of special inspiration or release,
was yet a masterpiece: a flawless coil,
unbroken, in the bowl, as if a potter
who worked in this most frail, least grateful clay
had set himself to shape a topaz vase.
O spiral perfection, not seashell nor
stardust, how can I keep you? With this poem.
Cf. Anthony Burgess, Little Wilson and Big God (London: Heinemann, 1987), p. 21:
A healthy human bowel movement, so I was later to be told in the Royal Army Medical Corps, went 'twice round the pan and was curly at both ends'.
See also Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Notebooks (December 1803):
What a beautiful Thing Urine is, in a Pot, brown yellow, transpicuous, the Image, diamond shaped of the Candle in it, especially, as it now appeared, I having emptied the Snuffers into it, & the snuff floating about, & painting all-shaped shadows on the Bottom.
Related post: Primal Pleasures (W.H. Auden's The Geography of the House).

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