The poems in Mirabilia test the relationship between art and politics. They are ekphrastic poems complicated by historical narrative; or, they are political poems, inspired by artworks. The title poem is a tribute to the pangolin, the world’s most-trafficked mammal – implicated, some say, in the evolution of coronavirus.
Written in Fibonacci syllabics, it is also a reflection on Marianne Moore’s poem The Pangolin with its sense of nature’s perpetuity – lost in the years since her poem was written. The final sequence Great World Atlas tracks the destructive extent of nuclear testing across the world in the 1960s. It was written for Izabela Pluta’s artist’s book Figures of Slippage and Oscillation. The sequence Tongue reflects on da Vinci’s 1478 painting The Benois Madonna, including the circumstances of its creation in the Pazzi conspiracy and the life of Fioretta del Cittadino – perhaps the painting’s model – who gave birth to the child of the murdered man. Her child was taken; she was written out of the record. In other poems too, Gorton reflects on the experience of the female muse, wife, or mother.