This poem is taken from Stand 233, 20(1) May - July 2022.

Jo Burns and Emily Cooper Five Poems
What follows is a five poem sequence from a collaboration entitled, The Conversation. This follows a conversation held between three muses/lovers of Picasso: Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar and Françoise Gilot, as well as between ourselves: Emily S Cooper and Jo Burns. In this particular sequence of poems Dora Maar and Marie Therese are corresponding.

Synopsis of The Conversation

Picasso’s artistic periods are often defined by the figures that dominate them. You can track the changes in his style as he moves from model to model, each embodying different sensibilities. More often than not these figures are not named, but are titled by their actions: weeping, reading, reclining. What Picasso wilfully obscured was the women behind these paintings; their lives and works, their relationships with him, their children and careers that were so indelibly marked by their connection to a man considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.

At a recent exhibition of Dora Maar’s work, a painting that depicts a conversation between Maar and Marie-Thérèse Walter was hung in the room leading on to her photographic documentation of Guernica. This placement is not accidental; Maar and Walter famously came to blows in front of the work in progress in Picasso’s studio. This painting, of two women whispering over their shoulders to each other is the inspiration behind this collection. The poems are a discussion held between Maar, Walter and Picasso’s next lover, Françoise Gilot, as well as an exterior conversation held between the two poets: Jo Burns and Emily S Cooper. Within these intimate correspondences are secrets and confessions, what could have been said between these women had they spoken.

What drives this collection is not only the act of unmasking the women behind the paintings, but an exploration of what it means to be an artist, who can represent who and what value is held in both making art and being its subject.
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