Beckmann Variations and Other Poems

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Ekphrasis, that ancient mode found in Homer's description of Achilles' shield or Keats' Grecian Urn, is here transformed in Michael Heller's meditations in poetry and prose on work by the painter Max Beckmann. Heller navigates, sometimes with Yeats as his Virgil, through a gallery of Beckmann's pictures, seeing them as uniquely bringing home contemporary civilization's catastrophic impulses ('as if days were not for sanity'), impulses at once horrific and unsettling yet strangely beautiful and restorative.