Linda Nochlin: 'Another Side of Me'

Linda Nochlin, the Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art Emerita at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, is one of the most prolific and influential art historians. She is perhaps best known for her pioneering and ground-breaking contributions to feminist art history, starting with her article in ARTNews in 1971, "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?." But as Linda said at the very beginning of our conversation, "I do other things too". Her major books include Courbet (2007), Representing Women (1999), Politics of Vision (1989), Women, Art, and Power (1988), and Realism (1971), and she is currently writing a book on the representation of misery in France and England in the 19th century.

As our conversation continued, she told me about her other writings; she has been writing poetry since the age of 11.

"My recent poetry is another side of me. My poems are dark and often very negative about life. Most of them are unpublished."

Linda Nochlin graciously offered to read some of her poems. Below is one of them.

Ashes in my closet

In my front closet
Are three large boxes
Made of cedar, lined with lead.
They are for the dead.
They take up too much room;
They displace the coats and boots
They are in paper bags;
They are my roots.

These cedar boxes hold
My husband, my mother, my aunt.
You can't get much closer than that
To your past or your kin, all three
In a single unsuitable space,
Coat closet as lieu de mémoire
A less -than -sacred armoire:
They sustain me.

But sometimes as time goes by
I waver, I wonder why
I don't scatter them over the sea. That was
My original plan.
But somehow I never can
Contemplate life without them,
Solidly based,
The boots displaced
In my front closet,
Watching over me
Making me guilty
Keeping me less than free

The work of mourning's a bore
But my boxes are something more
Because they sit right on the floor
Keeping the dead alive
Keeping the past in the present
Keeping the ashes concrete.
(I can smell them at night in my sleep)

I curse when I search for a boot
And bump into their adamant weight
I rejoice when I think "Here they are
They never can leave me again"
They will always bring back the same pain,
They never will leave me again.