At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance

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S.R. Graham

At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance


        Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1890
      Originally created as a paneled poster
      for a dancer’s booth in some fading carnival,
      it was left in the weather and only survives
      because a passing gentleman liked the look of it
      and offered coin, which Lautrec accepted,
      I imagine readily, since there was the matter
      of the absinthe and the expenses of his ill health.
      I didn’t know any of this at the time,
      standing in the palm-filled cellar bar,
      windowless as a gallery, its . . .
      . . . . . . .
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Able Muse Write Prize for Poetry, 2020 ▪ Winner

    “This poem is a wonderful combination of an ekphastic poem, which describes a work of art, and personal narrative. The poem vividly and insightfully explores Toulouse-Lautrec’s picture of a young woman dancer at the Moulin Rouge, noting her expression, what she was wearing and who she was dancing with, as well as the rich lady looking aside and the blue and green colors above them all. But there is another person beside a copy of the famous painting in a bar, the poet pouring drinks for customers and when closing the bar all alone in the wee hours while admiring the painting. And the poet notes a consonance with the dancer, both of them getting along in places that offer the ‘illusion of levity’ and yet still dealing with reality, ‘a testament to the gravity / that couldn’t be escaped / even in the rushing circus of dance.’”
        —Emily Grosholz, Final Judge, 2020 Able Muse Write Prize (for poetry)
                on this winning poem, “At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance” by S.R. Graham.