My Reading of My Ekphrastic Poem, “The Currency of His Light.”

by Roy Beckemeyer

My new book, The Currency of His Light (Turning Plow Press, 2023) takes its title from my poem of the same name, which originally appeared in the online journal, The Ekphrastic Review, on November 23, 2020.

The poem was inspired by impressionist painter Claude Monet’s series of paintings, “The Houses of Parliament,” which were painted between 1900, when Monet was in London, and 1905, when he completed the series in his studio in Giverny, France.

Monet was attempting to capture the fleeting variations of light in the foggy, smoggy atmosphere of turn of the nineteenth Century London. In a letter to his wife dated Sunday 18 March 1900, he wrote:

‘Today was a day of terrible struggle, and it will be the same until I leave. Only I need more canvases: there’s no other way to get anything done, than to have different ones going for all kinds of weather, all kinds of harmonies, that’s the real way to do it and, at the beginning, one always expects to find the same effects again and finish them: that’s what leads to these dreadful transformations that are worse than useless.

‘As you see, it’s not enthusiasm that I lack, for I have something like 65 canvases covered with colour and I still need more, this country is something quite out of the ordinary: so I shall have to order more canvases. What a bill I’m going to have from Lechertier’s!’

During the time I was writing this poem, I also had been reading John Milton’s poem, “On His Blindness,” and was captivated by the line “When I consider how my light is spent…” That line, and Monet’s hours spent trying to capture elusive light on canvas made me think of time as a sort of currency (the only real currency any of us have to spend), and of his producing his paintings as investing in another medium of currency, as if he might be coining his own “currency”; hence the title.

Here is my attempt to convey the poem and Monet’s work as a reading accompanied by images of Monet’s paintings:

I hope you enjoy this video. Roy Beckemeyer, 03-23-2023:

Roy Beckemeyer reading his poem, “The Currency of His Light” accompanied by background images of paintings from the series “The Houses of Parliament,” (Claude Monet, 1900-1905).

Posted 03-24-2023 by Roy Beckemeyer.