Posts Tagged ‘Paleolithic art


Yesterday and Today Arrive in Chalk Song

A version of this review (and a better edited version) may appear in a future issue of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics.


Chalk SongChalk Song (Lily Poetry Review Books) is the first book of poetry that I have encountered with a triumvirate of authors – Gale Batchelder, Susan Berger-Jones, and Judson Evans. It’s quite a feat to compose poems with three minds swirling together, especially when I consider all the times I tried to write something by committee and that almost always led to over-simplification, compromises, and confusing text. These authors, however, have succeeded in following the advice of Robert Creeley, “Our approach was guided by Robert Creeley’s collaborations with visual artists, of which he said, ‘if collaboration is to be at all successful, it must be the result of different individuals . . . working together to make something that is larger than sensibility’” (ix). These three authors found a voice who speaks of and to the Paleolithic era, its art and artists, and to today’s eight-plus billion humans.

The concept of this collection of poems was inspired by Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which is documentary that explores the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France that contains some of the oldest known cave paintings in the world, dating back to over 30,000 years ago and maybe even 50,000 years ago. In the documentary, Herzog used 3D cameras to capture stunning images of paintings and sculptures. In doing so, he muses on the nature of human creativity and humanity’s connection to the past.

As I entered Chalk Song, I expected, based on the above information, investigations similar to Clayton Eshleman’s many poetry books on Paleolithic art which often through dream imagery examine the Paleolithic art and artists and the roots of human consciousness, or my collection of poems on Paleolithic art and culture that examines paleolithic art and artists to not only understand them but to better understand ourselves today. The poems in Chalk Song achieve both those ends, but they don’t feel obligated to remain situated in the Paleolithic era. It’s as if their book is a wormhole that not only connects today to the Paleolithic era, but it allows information to move back and forth For instance, there are references to x-rays, shepherds, cameras, cities, a Swiss Army knife, GPS, fortune cookies, etc. More specifically, here are the opening the second and third stanzas and closing stanza of “Codex Collapse Syndrome” (19):

Everything is early, spry with milt, the delicate climate

of arrival, draughts of air so narrow our ears fold back

their sounds. Comb over psalms smelt muzzles

from the overlap of horse heads. Music can’t

caress itself by these long-playing lassoes


Contour before line, overtones before the molten bell

of an opening. We are sphinx-cubs in our hiding places.

The sky on our skin still unhewn,

our scribbled brochures of lighting.


. . .


Anyone can draw a blue bead

on the G.P.S.  forking river for the vector

home, or carve a new nipple


Here, the speaker is navigating in and between two times and comparing methods of mapping. Or later in “Confetti Score” (25), where the speaker is talking to and asking a Paleolithic artist questions like, “If you hands had drawn me, would I have been marooned?” While still in the past, “Someone sneezes” and her (the speaker’s) “heather is cloned.” Then all of the sudden, she see “glyph structures . . . on the Internet.” The past has not only travelled through time, but it has been cloned and digitized and reality becomes blended like “computer strings [hanging] from elms.”

Throughout the collection, the poems, stanzas, and even lines at times behave like the paintings on a Paleolithic cave wall. The paintings in the same cave or even on the same cave wall do not appear to be related or have a narrative flow between them, but they are connected by artists’ visions and by a viewer trying to make meaning of and from them, much like Herzog’s documentary. When combined into the figurative cave of Chalk Song, the poems of three individuals create questions and meanings of our origins and where we are today, which is a place still deeply connected to 50,000 years ago. In essence, the poets indicate that the past is an echo of today.





Batchelder, Gale, Susan Berger-Jones, and Judson Evans. Chalk Song. Lily Poetry Review Books, 2022.





Chauvet Cave Negative Red Hand Print with Dupuytren’s Contracture

Chauvet Cave negative red hand print with Dupuytren’s contracture

This is the highest resolution I can find (or make). I’m still looking. If you have a better version or know of one, please let me know.//


I have a higher resolution. Two versions are below.

Negative Red Hand with Dupuytren's Contracture from Chauvet Cave (large)

If you click the above image, you can see this full sized. And from there you can download an 800 dpi 5.648″ x 5.164″ (4518 pixels x 4131 pixels) 36.337 MB image. (It might take a while to fully appear.)

Below is a close up of the same image.

Negative Red Hand with Dupuytren's Contracture from Chauvet Cave (small)

If you click the above image, you can see this full sized. And from there you can download an 800 dpi 4.684″ x 5.000″ (3746 pixels x 4000 pixels) 21.408 MB image.//


The Falling Cow

Somewhere on the internet there needs to be a good, high-res, big, static picture of “The Falling Cow” without the inner spine of a book interfering with the image and also with enough context around it, especially so you can see what looks like a smoky trail or a shadow-ghost of the falling cow.

The falling cow was painted using the spray technique, which means the artist put pigment in his/her mouth and mixed it with saliva and blew the paint through a tube or used pre-made liquid paint and then put the liquid paint in his/her mouth and blew it through a tube. However, the muzzle and horns were painted with a brush. The current idea for explaining why “The Flying Cow” was painted this way is because the surface was too bumpy to paint with a brush.

You should also be aware that this one of the few paintings that portrays movement. Most images are of static animals.

Originally, “The Falling Cow” was called “The Leaping Cow” or “The Jumping Cow.” But on closer examination, which can’t be done with this image, you can see the legs are up against the adbomen. The right hind leg can actually be seen through the cow’s (auroch’s) body. The arrangement of the legs suggests falling instead of flying. I, however, wonder if it is being dragged to the right or if it is flying to the left. Maybe it fell out of the wall where the shadow spot is or maybe it is falling in.

Also notice part of the body is in red.

Most important is the red quadrangular sign near the auroch’s mouth. What is that? A trap? A signature? A shamanistic image from the beginning of a trance? Why are there so many?

Here’s the picture of “The Falling Cow” with the surrounding images.

The Falling Cow with Surroundings

Click the image to see it bigger.

Here is “The Falling Cow” without the surroundings.

The Falling Cow alone“The Falling Cow” is located on the right wall of the Axial Gallery in the Lascaux Cave in France.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

The Cave

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