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Synecdoche 4.0


Simile and metaphor are the tip of the iceberg. Among the 100-plus figures of speech, my current favorite is synecdoche: using the part to represent the whole or vice versa. It might help to read this poem by American Robert Francis, who wrote just twenty-one others:

Part for the Whole

by Robert Francis

When others run to windows or out of doors / to catch the sunset whole, he is content / with any segment where he sits.

From segment, fragment, he can reconstruct / the whole, prefers to reconstruct the whole, / as if to say, I see more seeing less.

A window to the east will serve as well / as window to the west, for eastern sky / echoes the western sky. And even less—

A patch of light that picture-glass happens / to catch from window-glass, fragment of fragment, / flawed, distorted, dulled, nevertheless

Gives something unglassed nature cannot give: / the old obliquity of art, and proves / part may be more than whole, least may be best.

Planning is underway for the third Agincourt exhibit — as yet untitled —which is scheduled for September-October 2017, ten years after the first. That happened at the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead [then called the Plains Art Museum, which I’d try to explain but it would just confuse you]; the next iteration of Agincourt may actually happen in Iowa, the state it purports to represent. [The part for the whole?] But these next eleven months will go like snow on water, so I’ve elected to panic now.

Since space available at Grinnell College is less than either of the earlier shows, there are two options: concentrate or abbreviate; probably both, neither of which are in my skill set.

Miss Kavana’s table and chairs

For the 2015 exhibit I hoped to build a writing desk and chairs for the home of Miss Rose Kavanaugh, principal of Charles Darwin Elementary School and friend of Howard Tabor’s mom.

miss kavana's table002

No craftsman, I. Fabricating these three pieces will be a challenge. But they (and their accessories) have many tales to tell: about Rose herself, her work, her friend and position in the community; about her extra-curricular activities, hopes, desires, and sense of living a full and productive life. Do you think I like her?

Her house exists in drawings and a model. The stained glass window beside her front door is ready to hang. Soon (I hope) some of its furnishings will hint at her physical stature. The penmanship of a half-written letter; the cover of a book half-read; framed art, flowers, a Chinese rug. A long-time friend of the project has offered to craft a stained glass lamp. What have we overlooked?

A few minutes considering this tableau might reveal as much of Rose Kavanaugh as a Ken Burns documentary. If it does, the exhibit will have been worth our effort.

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