Sonnet on an Ancient Chinese Earthenware Turtle, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

The idea, in those days, was to spend a week
beside a subject, soaking up its ways,
observing it intensely through the days
until it also crept through you in sleep,

And made its fixed impression on the mind
before a like duration spent apart.
Such was the truer naturalist’s art,
who suffers Nature to warp all his design—

For Man is also natural, and his hand;
and what the Artist’s memory mislays
confabulating Nature will replace
with readier and fitter clay of Man.

Then, not a turtle—not precisely, no—
But, imagined turtles are precisely so.

Torben Niemi is from Copper Harbor, Michigan. He is foremost a painter. Despite some formal artistic education he considers himself an “outside artist,” and his consistent themes are nature, animals, and antiquity.

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