Michelangelo and Camille Norton I: Atlas

Atlas, Michelangelo Buanorrotti,Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

Atlas, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

“III. Atlas

Atlas has only the burden of the material against which he struggles—

raw marble, a torso, one shoulder, one heroic arm.

His arm pushes mightily against a dead weight

and disappears inside it, as if weight itself had a secret chamber

where one could think things through, away from the crowd.

His head’s in there too, thinking

of mind over matter or matter inside mind or the other way round.

Big mind is like a sky vault or like a mountain,

hard to support with the head alone.

And yet one needs a head to figure out

How mind attaches to the stuff we’re made of.


From “Three Slaves by Michelangelo Buonarroti”, Camille Norton, Corruption, 2005, p. 21

You can read the full text of this gorgeous poem on the author’s webpage here.  Check out the other poems she’s shared there too.  I enjoyed many of the poems in Corruption.


2 thoughts on “Michelangelo and Camille Norton I: Atlas

  1. Very interesting work, its as if the figure is emerging from the stone. It was interesting because I believe that is the method in which Michelangelo worked, the piece of stone gave him the image of the outcome rather than having a preconceived notion beforehand.


    • Hi, sorry for the very late response. But yes, I have heard something of that. I think I liked the poem and it moved me because it communicates interiority so well without losing the complexity or ambiguity of mind/matter, subject/object, the whole entanglement that is inspiration, process, artist and art object.


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