Poems on paintings
Poetry written in response to visual artwork – which has become a bit of an industry – can be trite, pointless, derivative & merely descriptive, but at its best, when the art serves as a stimulus rather than “subject-matter”, can be original and extend what a poet finds possible.
The Border Poets / Royal Academy Schools Alumni collaboration A Brush with Words (further details obtainable from Tricia Henry) shows the kind of freshness that can be achieved.
Here is an example of mine, (offered without comment & as an introduction to paintings by Kay Lewis-Bell):
I could write a poem, Kay Lewis-Bell,
about your painting Girl*.
In a funny mood for a week
– rain every day
creates or reflects my mindset –
a refusal to settle
to two things I’ve promised to do.
The worst outcome? To disoblige a friend
or alienate some woman I’ve not met
and don’t warm to.
Still grieving for my long-stolen “everything” scrapbook,
I hanker to be painting like you
but can’t find the wholeheartedness to start,
must write instead.
Below her hair
the space above the neck, the shoulder,
on the left makes the shape of a coat-hook, a rowlock:
on the right a spear-head. A simple vertical stroke
marks the line of her larynx.
The hair’s a carmine crop
matching irises and mouth, lips a curl
like Lady Ottoline’s. Words fail
the character your deep warm body-colour
and eyebrow-squiggles evoke.
*and another starting from your
Woman in a Turquoise Dress:
I just noticed how Woman in a Turquoise Dress
has the ghost of a pair of goggles pushed up
on a white kid aviatrix helmet
straight from Tamara de Lempicka –
more likely a bathing-cap –
with pink broken columns behind.
I mention this because
my daughter’s on an island in Greece;
said she’d send a card.