Audubon by Anne Carson
Audubon by Anne Carson stories
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Audubon perfected a new way of drawing birds that he called his. On the bottom of each watercolor he put "drawn from nature"
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Audubon by Anne Carson

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Audubon perfected a new way of drawing birds that he called his.

On the bottom of each watercolor he put "drawn from nature"

which meant he shot the birds

and took them home to stuff and paint them.

Because he hated the unvarying shapes

of traditional taxidermy

he built flexible armatures of bent wire and wood

on which he arranged bird skin and feathers--

or sometimes

whole eviscerated birds--

in animated poses.

Not only his wiring but his lighting was new.

Audubon colors dive in through your retina

like a searchlight

roving shadowlessly up and down the brain

until you turn away.

And you do turn away.

There is nothing to see.

You can look at these true shapes all day and not see the bird.

Audubon understands light as an absence of darkness,

truth as an absence of unknowing.

It is the opposite of a peaceful day in Hokusai.

Imagine if Hokusai had shot and wired 219 lions

and then forbade his brush to paint shadow.

"We are what we make ourselves," Audubon told his wife

when they were courting.

In the salons of Paris and Edinburgh

where he went to sell his new style

this Haitian-born Frenchman

lit himself

as a noble rustic American

wired in the cloudless poses of the Great Naturalist.

They loved him

for the "frenzy and ecstasy"

of true American facts, especially

in the second (more affordable) octavo edition (Birds of America, 1844).

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