Hadara Bar-Nadav’s poem “Leg” was originally published in Bear Review and appears in her book “The New Nudity”−this poem incorporates the collection's title. This collection gives voices and lives to objects and body parts in surprising and often dark or mystical ways with stripped and skillfully crafted language.
“Leg” is an ekphrastic in response to Egon Schiele’s “Reclining Nude with Violet Stockings” and expresses how one views and perceives pieces of art and how the imagination connects the self to visual objects or people. The portrait of a faceless body is brought to life through Bar-Nadav’s poem with vivid and fractured imagery, creating tension within the first three lines, “She must be French, / a deco dream/ dimpled, curved”. The couplets are tight and compressed with strong lyricism and consonance that take you on this journey between the smokey elusiveness and angular sharp lines of this body. She is simultaneously described with soft and hard edges, “Ankle bone cut/ like a jewel” and “Candled,/ a rose glow// Her soft golds/ golding”.
Language in this piece is energetic, the lens moves across the body and draws a line from one end to another: “Arches of light − // calligraphic”. There is an urgency and darker turn that occurs as the speaker states, rather than asks, “What is a knee for,/ and so she kneels” being further pushed by , “Pulse and pulley// breaking and/ unbreaking the lines”, signaling that this woman is not real but she could be, questioning how or why her body lies in this way. There is a sense of natural positioning vs an influenced, arranged moment. It gives the figure an unpredictability in motion, with the upper portion of her body described as a “Quick horse/ of the torso”. The lens reaches the neck of the figure, the face unreachable, ending with the ambiguity of our wondering what happens out of frame and who she really is outs the collection's titleide of it. The final lines open the poem up to these questions and possibilities: “Her form kicks/ free of the frame”, and now the angles of her figure are wonderfully no longer traceable, driving our imaginations beyond the edges.
Hadara Bar-Nadav is an NEA Fellow and author of several award-winning collections of poetry, among them The New Nudity, Lullaby (with Exit Sign), The Frame Called Ruin, and others. In addition, she is co-author of the best-selling textbook Writing Poems, eighth edition. She is a professor of English and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri–Kansas City.