Cohering Clashes: William Blake’s The Red Dragon and The Woman Clothed in the Sun, a poem by Linda Chown

Bible for Thomas Butts (series)
c. 1805
pen and gray ink with watercolor over graphite

“The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.” Viktor Shklovsky

“Everything can go wild within the fierce symmetry of Blake’s art.” Laura Cumming

“Good and evil may well have the same face or physique in Blake’s conceit.” Laura Cumming



Brown bears in Yosemite, the rangers said in the heat, beware.
In all the splendor of this gray stone, thick smells of money over-
whelm the perfumed shorts of the extra-tanned tourists.

These bears they said could jump and strike,
so be safe, they said. It was almost like someone
had struck a match and turned safety upside
down. Made the dawn-to-dusk-already-insecurity-of
our-flimsy-poor- man’s-Camp-Curry-life more unfamiliar
and fearful. Made daily life big and soupy, defamiliarized.
Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky once urged artists to make
old things new by turning them strange and unfamiliar.
All these people saying unfamiliar things I muttered soft over their saying.

William Blake, he takes these extremities
and clashes them closer.
Mashes them into themselves.
When I look hard at these bold colored shapes:
that huge monster dragon, the woman pressed dainty upon a yellow sun-heart,
I don’t know if I’m seeing juxtaposition or sameness. Or know what he’d hope I’d see. They kind of collapse together curiously, peaceful and disturbed: different and bound.
In fact they meet strangely and fill space up almost as a voracious bundle.
I had almost missed their looking, that hot frozen attention,
examining each other inside like a scientist counting cells
What stuns when I look more is that they are so big,
so nearly eye to eye.
They stare hard it seems to preserve
the astonishment of this wordless moment

Just like the always strangeness of the way William Blake kisses our eyes,
daring our looking more in the fervent struggle to see it his way.
He takes emotions on a life ride, much like life in Yosemite
he rides us far into our fear of bears and awe of the stone and then that woman
oddly “clothed,” nearly buried in the sun who flaunts her looking
at the dragon, daring him with coy looking like a Victorian lady would.

Blake collided good and evil like this, he welded and wedded them,
Close and ineffable. Astride and authentic.
His heart-life on the side of the woman and goodness
But he would keep it whole and near, keep it together.
Laura Cummings surmised that good and evil may well
have the same face or physique in Blake’s conceit.
White and dirty, big and small.
Good and evil. Innocence and experience.
Those basics which we differentiate too soon.

Blake’s wild and immaculate art helps look deeply beyond that division,
To see it not as something finished, tamed and pretty
But its naked contrasts raked and real, agitated, and spun
In a sea/see of magnificents like they are, in all of this fixed looking.
Master Blake puts on his canvas what he knows when he sees it, not after.

© 2019, Linda Chown

Linda Chown

LINDA E. CHOWN grew up in Berkeley, Ca. in the days of action. Civil Rights arrests at Sheraton Palace and Auto Row.  BA UC Berkeley Intellectual History; MA Creative Writing SFSU; PHd Comparative Literature University of Washington. Four books of poetry. Many poems published on line at Numero Cinq, Empty Mirror, The Bezine, Dura, Poet Head and others. Many articles on Oliver Sachs, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, and many others. Twenty years in Spain with friends who lived through the worst of Franco. I was in Spain (Granada, Conil and Cádiz) during Franco’s rule, there the day of his death when people took to the streets in celebration. Interviewed nine major Spanish Women Novelists, including Ana María Matute and Carmen Laforet and Carmen Martín Gaite.


Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights.  Email thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

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Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications Poets Advocate for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

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