Steve Whitaker, Literary Editor
Poem Of The Week: 'At The Juliet House, Verona' By Chrissy Banks
At the Juliet House, Verona
You can buy a heart. Plastic,
sealed with a seam. It’ll sit
in your palm, unbeating.
You can rub the bronze of Juliet’s
right breast, wish for a new love
to come to you within a year.
You can stand on the balcony
in blue shorts or a wedding dress
and call your Romeo’s name.
But the balcony was carved
from an old sarcophagus
for a Hollywood film of the play.
And history shows no Juliet –
although, if you write to her
at this address, Juliet will answer.
Chrissy Banks’ insightful poem articulates the triumph of Art over experience, underlining our need to will fantasy into something more tangible in order to satisfy a relentless urge for escapism. For the overwhelming commercialism of present-day Verona consumes a sense of proportion, displacing some of Shakespeare’s sublimity with a dramatic facsimile which has more to do with filmic bathos and kitsch than any meaningful connection with the fictional archetypes.
But Banks is one of the ‘less deceived’; the ‘final blazon’ of her protagonists is less convincing, even, than the specious commitment of the residents of an Arundel tomb, who might, at least, have proclaimed fidelity if they could still speak. The title of the collection from which this poem is taken - Frank
- is telling: the narrator is earnestly unblinkered as she explodes our tendency to myth-making, our increasingly dangerous occlusion of boundaries between reality and fiction.
The poet’s self-contained tercets pull no punches: detached from the object of her gaze, Banks invites the onlooker to draw a line between the quotidian – the ‘blue shorts’; the palimpsest of a ‘wedding dress’ – and the Art, delivered now in the soft-focus of Hollywood, which informs it. The sardonic tone which characterises the poem culminates in the delicious non-promise of the final lines, whose perpetuation of the charade’s momentum devalues the nature of a loving bond.
‘At the Juliet House, Verona’ is taken from Frank
and is published by smith|doorstop.
For more information about Frank