I wrote the poem “The Figurine” in order to reveal the story behind a work of art. The mascot that adorns the hood of every Rolls-Royce car, the iconic little silver sculpture that has symbolized that brand almost since its inception, was inspired by a real woman. Her name was Eleanor Velasco Thornton. Of course my poem, being a poem, is a work of historical fiction, not a biography or a documentary, since it is filled with embellishments, inaccuracies, flights of fancy and my imaginings of scenes that may not have unfolded in real life the way I tell them. In my defense, since very little is publicly known about Eleanor, I did the best I could with what little I had to go on. For over a century the mascot has been polished, paraded, photographed, has travelled all over the world – and yet in all that time nobody has ever bothered to wonder about the woman behind it. I thought my poem might change that.
After I recorded “The Figurine” (a process that had plenty of ups and downs as I will explain some other time) I sent it to a friend to get her feedback. She had never heard “The Figurine” before but she was a fan of my other poems so I looked forward to what she had to say about this one. Being an accomplished artist and a discerning reader who knows lots of professional writers and poets (real ones I mean, not just amateurs like me) her opinion was something I greatly valued.
Naturally, me being the unrealistic optimist that I am, I assumed that she would be bound to listen to my poem right away because she couldn’t wait to hear it. She’d listen as soon as she had finished painting for the day, perhaps while she was still cleaning her brushes. And of course she’d be transfixed with rapture at my artistic genius. Who wouldn’t be?
Maybe she really did listen at the first available moment. But she didn’t call and after several days had passed during which I suffered in the agony of anticipation, I finally made up my mind to call her instead.
And that was my first mistake.
(To be continued…)