In the WTP Spotlight: DeWitt Henry

In the WTP Spotlight: DeWitt Henry


Enjoy our WTP Spotlights, notable selections featuring artists and writers from our Woven Tale Press magazine. To read the issue in full subscribe and you can also register on our site to enjoy our archive.


DeWitt Henry is the founder of Ploughshares literary magazine; author of Sweet Marjoram: Notes and Essays; The Marriage of Anna Maye Potts (winner of the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel); Safe Suicide: Narratives, Essays, and Meditations; Sweet Dreams: A Family History; and Falling: Six Stories. A graduate of Amherst College, MA, he earned a PhD at Harvard University, and his MFA from The University of Iowa. He is Professor Emeritus of Emerson College, MA.

On Statues

From WTP Vol. VII #10

A kids’ game: freeze!
If the kid who’s it
sees motion, then you’re it;
if she turns away, you move,
then freeze in different position
before she sees.

Were Medusa game
she’d turn everyone,
moving or not, to stone.

Stasis. Stationary. Static. Stature.
“A three dimensional representation
usually of a person, animal,
or mythical being
that is produced by sculpturing,
modeling or casting.”

Frozen and larger than life.
Graven images
tribute to power, public importance,
character and deeds.

Yearning for permanence
To be remembered, if not worshiped.

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Props for anxious tyrants
Lenin.  Stalin.  Il Duce.  Chairman Mao.
Sadam’s with chain and tackle
Toppled from its pedestal
in Firdos Square

The Colossus of Rhodes
(depicting Helios, the sun god)
was a seventh wonder
in the ancient world, but
collapsed in an earthquake.
“Pliny the Elder remarked
few people could wrap their arms around
the fallen thumb
and that each of its fingers
was larger than most statues.”
Afraid they had offended Helios,
Rhodians “declined to rebuild it.”

Statues portraying ideas
or mythical figures
are modeled for by
anonymous flesh:
Michaelangelo’s David,
Venus De Milo.

In keeping with More’s Utopia
thinkers in Boston’s Public Garden
outnumber warriors.  Besides
George Washington on his steed,
and a few others, we have
George Robert White (philanthropist),
Edward Everett Hale (author, historian, minister),
Wendall  Phillips (orator and abolitionist),
Charles Sumner (Senator during Civil War),
and William Ellery Channing
(Unitarian preacher and theologian).
Their bodies, aged, draped
in robes or humble suits
seem beside the point.
All are male, of course.

Easter Island long ears.
Lincoln Memorial.
Statue of Liberty.
Mount Rushmore’s presidents
(with Chief Crazy Horse in progress).
Meditating Bhudda.
Crucified Christ.
Virgin Mary.
Wooden Indian to sell cigars.
8000 tera-cotta soldiers to protect
Qin Shi Huang.

History is written by conquerers.
Pagan masterpieces were
subjected to iconoclasm,
noses and genitals chipped off,
crosses carved on foreheads.

What to do now with
with monuments of
Confederate racism?
Deface, destroy, or store them
out of sight?

Rodin’s marble
brings flesh to mind.  The Kiss.
The Thinker.  Don’t touch!
And yet…

What fine chisel
Could ever yet cut breath?

Oh, she’s warm! gasps Leontes.

His wife on a pedestal:
Standing Woman, 1932,
by Gaston Lachaise
in the MoMA garden.


I joke with my wife and kids
about final wishes.
Get me to the taxidermist.
Have me stuffed.
Keep me in the closet
a manikin or hat-rack
for children to mock.

Pass me down, an heirloom
as curious and embarrassing
as the big fanged
polar bear rug
with glass eyes and yellowing fur,
the hunting trophy of
a forgotten relative.

At his retirement party
the beloved cop
grinned from our paper
beside his melting likeness
sculpted in ice.



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