Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poetry and visual art: do you do it?



     I have been thinking a good deal about poetry and the visual arts these last few days. I learned that the first ekphrasis were poems written about art objects that did not exist like Achille's Shield which was re-imagined by W. H. Auden in his poem The Shield of Achille's bringing the imagine into a 20th century consciousness. I had always felt that there was something a little stuffy about poets writing about paintings (or sculpture or architecture) until I found myself so enraptured by a photograph that it stayed with me for four years until I tracked it down again. I had spent an hour at the Frye Art Museum waiting for a friend when I had come across a traveling exhibit of Pioneer  Women Photographers and had fallen in love with a photograph called "Hunger is the Best Cook" by Myra Albert Wiggins who is picture above in a self portrait.

   That's a long introduction to a simple question: do you write poems inspired by visual art (which can include bumper stickers, photographs, magazine ads). Why are you drawn -- or not drawn to these poems? Are they a form like a sonnet or a pantoum that allows your work a place to begin and also offers a loose structure? I would love to hear your ideas on writing poems from art.

   And as an interesting aside - Greek architecture students were required to write poems about the buildings they were studying. Through their poems they would gain an important understanding of the building's magnificence not captured in their sketching.

10 comments:

  1. I prefer the writing of poems and DOING visual art -- it's a way to expand the brain and keep things fresh.

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  2. Hi T,

    What type of visual arts do you do? Do you think your visual art and your poems connect in any way in terms of style, theme? How lucky that you have abilities in both worlds.

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  3. I think writing poems about art recognizes that art creates alternate realities--realities that you want to enter and interpret for yourself, just as a poet would "the real world." It allows you to create a fiction out of something fictional, to expand on those possibilities. (Not that I'm suggesting the made world isn't real; in fact, I'd say it's just as "real" as the "real" world and, thus, just as seductive to a poet...)

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  4. Linda,
    I like this! And it goes well with my idea that beginning with a piece of art becomes a kind of first draft of the poem. Yes, to art creating alternative realities. A wonderful reason to live an artist life ...Thank you for this ...

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  6. Susan, I do paper arts, collage, pastel work, and I'm just starting to get interested in fabric collages. I am blessed with a job where I get to paint on glass, and I'm given a lot of freedom to be creative with colors and develop new techniques. These various obsessions influence each other to the extent that they are all part of the larger creative process. When I was in Ireland last summer, I was so moved by the colors and contours of the landscape I felt as if there were not enough hours in the day to write (poetry, blogging) or put color-to-paper or bake lovely brown rounded loaves of bread. It's all of a piece, and what a joyful piece it is! (Also, a 'joyful peace'.)

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  7. I write poems about visual artists. Lots of them. I wrote a novel based on the life of Diane Arbus. I am currently writing about Henry Darger.
    Happy 2010!
    Rebecca

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  8. I knew a lot of architecture students in college. I, of course, was an english major. Think of what we could have shared!

    personally i think everyone should have to write poetry about their field of study, at least once.

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  9. Hi Rachel,
    Wouldn't that be fascinating -- and a great student assignment as well. Poems about business, engineering, and the travel industry. I think this is an idea with legs. What a strange expression ...I think that was my first time using it. Thanks for the idea!

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