The Disquieting Muses: An Evening of Poetry Inspired by de Chirico

10 April 2017 / 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

In celebration of National Poetry Month, join us Monday April 10 for a special evening of ekphrastic poetry* inspired by Giorgio de Chirico, subject of the current exhibition at the Center for Italian Modern Art. De Chirico’s painting Le Muse Inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses) of 1918, in particular — now on view at CIMA — inspired works by both Sylvia Plath and Mark Strand.

Poet Mark Wunderlich will read Sylvia Plath’s poems inspired by de Chirico’s paintings as well as a new work composed for the occasion. Jessica Strand will read Mark Strand’s poems inspired by de Chirico and speak of the role of art in her late father’s work. And poets Michael Dumanis and Mary Jo Bang will also read work inspired by de Chirico’s paintings.

*ekphrastic poetry is writing created in response to works of art.


Presented in collaboration with the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and with the generous support of the Maurice English Poetry Award.

Mary Jo Bang is the author of seven collections of poems, including Elegy, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her translation of Dante’s Inferno, illustrated by Henrik Drescher, was published in 2012. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Michael Dumanis is the author of the poetry collection My Soviet Union (University of Massachusetts Press), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry; and coeditor of the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande). His writing has appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, The Believer, Boston Review, LitHub, New England Review, Ploughshares, and numerous other print and online journals, and has been recognized with fellowships and residencies by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Yaddo, the Ohio Arts Council, and others. He teaches literature and creative writing at Bennington College, and serves as Editor of the print literary journal Bennington Review.

Jessica Strand is a writer and cultural programmer/producer. At The New York Public Library, she produced extensive programming involving the libraries collections, outside partnerships, and created a marquee show Books at Noon, where she interviewed authors about their most current work.  Previously she reinvented the Strand Bookstore event series, producing dialogues between writers, artists, cartoonists, musicians, and cultural figures.  A collection of these conversations has been published in an anthology, Upstairs at the Strand (Norton, 2016). Since the election, she has created Dear America…, an organization that through programming brings artists, writers, and advocates for social justice together to express our diversity and encourage a dialogue that unites us as a country. She recently curated an anthology of poems called Love Found, which will be published by Chronicle Books in February 2018.

Mark Wunderlich is the author of three volumes of poetry, the most recent of which is The Earth Avails, published by Graywolf Press in 2014 and which received the Rilke Prize.  He teaches writing and literature at Bennington College and lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.


Giorgio de Chirico’s Willful Claustrophilia

26 April 2017 / 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for a special talk on Giorgio de Chirico’s “willful claustrophilia” with Ara H. Merjian, professor of Italian Studies at New York University and author of the recent book, Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Paris, Modernism.


With wooden fragments pressed close to the picture plane and set in shallow, cloistered spaces, Giorgio de Chirico’s so-called “Metaphysical Interiors” from Ferrara (1915-18) seem resigned to confinement. In his mid-century monograph, James Thrall Soby described the scenes as “still lifes …for which the word ‘claustrophobic’ does not seem too strong.” This description has stuck to de Chirico’s interiors ever since: a convenient counterpart to the presumed agoraphobia of his pre-war piazzas. A close reading of the paintings and their philosophical sympathies, however, tells a different story. And it is a story of willful claustrophilia.


“My room,” de Chirico wrote from Ferrara, “is a magnificent ship in which I can set off on adventures worthy of a stubborn explorer.” Even leaving aside the nautical pennants and maps that punctuate several paintings, these interiors posit the still and the static as means to exploration; they insist upon the willful constriction of space as the only path to mental transcendence. Continuing his self-appointed apprenticeship to Friedrich Nietzsche, de Chirico insisted in word and image upon the liberation of finitude. What Nietzsche called “the prison-house of language” forms not a hampering limitation, but rather – for a select few initiates – a means to far-flung exploration. Merjian argues that the unrelenting interiority of de Chirico’s Metaphysical still lifes burrows into the building blocks of architecture as a site of mental adventure, beginning with the wooden support of the canvas itself.

Free; RSVP required.


Ara H. Merjian is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at New York University, where he is an affiliate of the Institute of Fine Arts and the Department of Art History, as well as Director of Undergraduate Studies. He received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Giorgio de Chirico and the Metaphysical City: Nietzsche, Paris, Modernism (Yale University Press, My 2014), which garnered a College Art Associations Meiss/Mellon’s Author Award, as well as the forthcoming volume, Against the Avant-garde: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Art and Politics, 1960-75, for which he received a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant.



18 May 2017 / 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

The Center for Italian Modern Art is pleased to host its Giorgio de Chirico and Giulio Paolini Study Days on May 18 and 19, 2017. Each year CIMA’s exhibition serves as a kind of platform or theme to spur new research and dialogue, through the work of our fellows and other scholars; CIMA’s Study Days provide an opportunity for the sharing of this new scholarship and an in-depth discussion of the artist’s work.