Original poem reprinted online here: "Blue Hanuman" by Joan Larkin
Originally read: May 15, 2013
More information about the Poet: Joan Larkin
There's a merge between the art and the representation. The actual and the interpreted here shifts through how the image is presented mixed with Hanuman -- a Hindu deity in the Ramayan. So the question, for me at least, is how much of the allusion do I need to know in order to "get" this poem.
Well, allusions in the title and the first line usually telegraph how much information a reader needs. Since the title is "Blue Hanuman" the focus is more of the adjective and how it interplays with the noun which further developed in the first line, "A four-armed flutist took me" -- note how the allusion works here, the adjective alludes to Hanuman while the flutist adds a different sense of the allusion as does "Blue" does to "Hanuman." This is how the poem merges the actual and the interpretations with carefully worded adjective/nouns.
"Whiskers silver" also brings more color to the deity, but also sets a free-flow impromptu tone to the poem as though the speaker was continuously associating the idol and the image because of this scene, "paint dashed by the artist on cheap paper." What does this add to the poem? "Cheap paper" focuses on the value. While more monetarily based, the image is rich and vibrant so the focus is on the image, "Intense concentration."
Coincidentally, the focus turns to the artist and the images become surreal as, "His ink hands rip open his chest , / pull skin aside like a velvet curtain-- / Rama and Sita alive." Now does the Ramayan matter at this point? Yes actually, but knowing a cursory knowledge of the story -- and how Rama and Sita's relationship work. Also note that the majority of the focus is on the male figure -- the Rama -- then comes the exile -- the Sita -- with the last few lines.
[...] And what devotion shall
my flesh show, and my broken-open breast.
His blueblack tall flicks upward, its dark
tip a paintbrush loaded blue.
The return back to color should add more of a symbol to the color blue, but my attention turns to the "Sita" figure who is unable to share the "core" of the artist. Now look at the adjective noun combination "broken-open breast" the adjective focuses what's left after something is broken into and what's the focus -- the shell -- the breast not the core.
Also note how the artist takes back control at the end of the poem, "tip a paintbrush loaded blue" which now sways the poem to the representation versus the interpretation.