The painting Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? by Paul Gauguin, intended as the painter's final artistic testimony, is the inspiration and framework for this book. In one way, The Gauguin Answer Sheet focuses on the intricate details of the painting and offers its lush Tahitian landscape and characters - a black dog, a pair of conspirators, a shy woman, a pleading goddess, and a crouching mummy among many others. In another sense, Dennis Finnell deeply probes the underlying implications - and personal associations - the painting offers. The poem's own questions, suggested by those in the painting's title, are concerned with origins, identities, and futures - of the poet and others. He reflects on the plight of the characters portrayed in Gauguin's painting and imagines their thoughts and feelings about life in the world outside. Along with his ruminations on these imagined characters, Finnell visits his own family history, reflecting on the lives of earlier generations, to affirm the shared nature of each individual's origins and identities. Time, space, painting and history, and imagination and reality interconnect in Finnell's poetry, offering an unusually imaginative, surprising work of art.
Dennis Finnell is the author of two additional books of poetry, Red Cottage and Beloved Beast, published by the University of Georgia Press. He is the winner of the 1990 Juniper Prize and a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation. He lives in Greenfield, Massachusetts.