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Poems and Paintings

for National Poetry Month

Pat Adams  Lois Dodd  Will Barnet  Loren MacIver  Tom Uttech  Neil Welliver 
Stephen Westfall  Vincent Smith  Brett Bigbee  John Walker  Emily Nelligan  Marsden Hartley

Intro - First 2 Paragraphs

Mark Strand and Neil Welliver

In honor of National Poetry month, this Virtual Viewing Room celebrates the interconnectedness of painting and poetry by coupling poems with the work of twelve gallery artists. The resulting show is a meditation upon the visual nature of poetry, and the poetic nature of visual art.

Most of the poems here were selected by the artists themselves, while those chosen to accompany the work of Loren MacIver, Will Barnet, and Neil Welliver are by poets with whom the artists were linked during their lifetimes. The resulting array of artists and poets create a web of conceptual, social, and geographic connections which speak to the multitude of ways in which literary and visual artists explore parallel thoughts.  Putting poems and paintings together in this way can expand the multisensorial experience of the viewer or reader, and deepen our understanding of how written and visual language convey abstract thought.

The paramount relationship between poetry and painting today is simply this: that in an age in which disbelief is so profoundly prevalent, poetry and painting, and the arts in general, are a compensation for what has been lost.

Wallace Stevens, 1951

Intro - Last Paragraph

Lloyd Frankenberg, Loren MacIver, Louise Crane and Elizabeth Bishop

As Adriene Rich writes in her 1976 essay Vesuvius and Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson: “…there is a more ancient concept of the poet, which is that she is endowed to speak for those who do not have the gift of language, or to see for those who—for whatever reasons—are less conscious of what they are living through... It is as though the risks of the poet’s existence can be put to some use beyond her own survival.” This description of the role of the poet also suggests the universal language at the heart of visual art: functioning at its root as method of transcendence that goes beyond the boundaries of the medium itself, conveying forms of consciousness that cannot strictly be communicated by words or images alone. Perhaps in this transcendent universal language, we can find the strongest force at play within the deep, longstanding magnetic pull between these two art forms.

EC

The painting is, like any art, more than the sum of its parts, and we have every right to expect that, even though we never do expect it and are always surprised each time it happens. It originates in a paradox and is nourished there. And there is nothing mysterious about that since the paradox is a commonplace, invoked almost daily by everyone, a part of speech.

John Ashbery, 1985

Pat Adams & Poem

Pat Adams, Our Time

Of Mere Being
by Wallace Stevens

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Wallace Stevens, "Of Mere Being" from The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play. Copyright © 1967, 1969, 1971 by Holly Stevens. 

Pat Adams Available Works

Lois Dodd & Poem

Lois Dodd, Digging Up Red Flowers

A Painter’s Thoughts
After and for Lois Dodd

by John Yau

It is someone else’s subject if you think it would look good if they painted it
If I work on this painting longer, it would be perfect and no longer mine

I am with my thin paint. Putting on a second coat will shut out the light
Morandi’s paintings are wonderful, but they have not influenced me

If I work on this painting longer, it would be perfect and no longer mine
I admire juicy paint on other people’s canvases, but that’s not what I do

Morandi’s paintings are wonderful, but they have not influenced me
Even if I never tell a story, my feelings and emotions will come through

I admire juicy paint on other people’s canvases, but that’s not what I do
In the beginning it was cows, just cows. Now it’s human beings

Even if I don’t tell a story, my feelings and emotions will come through
I don’t want fancy stuff, or even a lot of stuff. Don’t blame the abstract artists for this

In the beginning it was cows, just cows. Now it’s human beings
I don’t like distant views, I wouldn’t be happy going to the top of a mountain 

I don’t want fancy stuff, or even a lot of stuff. Don’t blame the abstract artists for this
The easel was there, I thought, well, this is fun: here I am painting myself painting.

I don’t like distant views, I wouldn’t be happy going to the top of a mountain
It is someone else’s subject if you think it would look good if they painted it

The easel was there, I thought, well, this is fun: here I am painting myself painting
I am with my thin paint. Putting on a second coat will shut out the light

John Yau, “A Painter’s Thoughts, After and for Lois Dodd,” 2021.

Lois Dodd Available Works

Will Barnet & Poem

Will Barnet, Eos

The Soul selects her own Society (303)
by Emily Dickinson

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I've known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

c. 1862, public domain.

Will Barnet Available Works

Loren MacIver & Poem

Loren MacIver, Town Flowers

Letter to N.Y.
For Louise Crane

by Elizabeth Bishop


In your next letter I wish you'd say
where you are going and what you are doing;
how are the plays, and after the plays
what other pleasures you're pursuing:

taking cabs in the middle of the night,
driving as if to save your soul
where the road goes round and round the park
and the meter glares like a moral owl,

and the trees look so queer and green
standing alone in big black caves
and suddenly you're in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves,

and most of the jokes you just can't catch,
like dirty words rubbed off a slate,
and the songs are loud but somehow dim
and it gets so terribly late,

and coming out of the brownstone house
to the gray sidewalk, the watered street,
one side of the buildings rises with the sun
like a glistening field of wheat.

—Wheat, not oats, dear. I'm afraid
if it's wheat it's none of your sowing,
nevertheless I'd like to know
what you are doing and where you are going.

Elizabeth Bishop, "Letter to N.Y." from Poems, © Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 

Loren MacIver Available Works

Tom Uttech & Poem

Tom Uttech, Nin Nomageb

Wellspring: Words from Water
by Kimberly Blaeser

A White Earth childhood water rich and money poor.
Vaporous being transformed in cycles—
the alluvial stories pulled from Minnesota lakes
harvested like white fish, like manoomin,
like old prophecies of seed growing on water.
Legends of Anishinaabeg spirit beings:
cloud bearer Thunderbird who brings us rain,
winter windigo like Ice Woman, or Mishibizhii
who roars with spit and hiss of rapids—
great underwater panther, you copper us
to these tributaries of balance. Rills. A cosmology
of nibi.  We believe our bodies thirst. Our earth.
One element. Aniibiishaaboo. Tea brown
wealth. Like maple sap. Amber. The liquid eye of moon.
Now she turns tide, and each wedded being gyrates
to the sound, its river body curving.
We, women of ageless waters, endure;
like each flower drinks from night,
holds dew. Our bodies a libretto,
saturated, an aquifer—we speak words
from ancient water.

Kimberly Blaeser, "Wellspring: Words from Water" from Copper Yearning, Holy Cow! Press, 2019. 

Tom Uttech Available Works

Neil Welliver & Poem

Neil Welliver, Marsh Shadow

Five Dogs 3 (For Neil Welliver)
by Mark Strand

Most of my kind believe that Earth
Is the only planet not covered with hair.  So be it,
I say, let tragedy strike, let the story of everything
End today, then let it begin again tomorrow.  I no longer care.
I no longer wait in front of the blistered, antique mirror,
Hoping a shape or a self will rise, and step
From that misted surface and say:  You there,
Come with me into the world of light and be whole,
For the love you thought had been dead a thousand years
Is back in town asking for you.  Oh no.
I say, I’m done with my kind.  I live alone
On Walnut Lane, and will until the day I die.

Mark Strand, “Five Dogs 3 (For Neil Welliver)” from Blizzard of One, © 2014.

Neil Welliver Available Works

Stephen Westfall & Poem

Stephen Westfall, Glide

Eclipse with Object
By Ann Lauterbach

There is a spectacle and something is added to history.
It has as its object an indiscretion: old age, a
gun, the prevention of sleep.

I am placed in its stead
and the requisite shadow is yours.
It casts across me, a violent coat.

It seems I fit into its sleeve.
So the body wanders.
Sometime it goes where light does not reach.

You recall how they moved in the moon dust? Hop, hop.
What they said to us from that distance was stupid.
They did not say I love you for example.

The spectacle has been placed in my room.
Can you hear its episode trailing,
pretending to be a thing with variegated wings?

Do you know the name of this thing?
It is a rubbing from an image.
The subject of the image is that which trespasses.

You are invited to watch. The body
in complete dark casting nothing back.
The thing turns and flicks and opens.

"Eclipse with Object" from AND, FOR EXAMPLE by Ann Lauterbach, copyright © 1994 by Ann Lauterbach. Used by permission of Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Stephen Westfall Available Works

Vincent Smith & Poem

Vincent Smith, Street Scene (From Saturday Night in Harlem Series)

Harlem Night Song
by Langston Hughes

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

I love you.

Across
The Harlem roof-tops
Moon is shining.
Night sky is blue.
Stars are great drops
Of golden dew.

Down the street
A band is playing.

I love you.

Come,
Let us roam the night together
Singing.

Langston Hughes, “Harlem Night Song” from Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, © 1987 by the Estate of Langston Hughes.

Vincent Smith Available Works

Brett Bigbee & Poem

Brett Bigbee, The Orbit of Intimacy

Blossom
by Mary Oliver

In April
the ponds open
like black blossoms,
the moon
swims in every one;
there’s fire
everywhere: frogs shouting
their desire,
their satisfaction. What
we know: that time
chops at us all like an iron
hoe, that death
is a state of paralysis. What
we long for: joy
before death, nights
in the swale - everything else
can wait but not
this thrust
from the root
of the body. What
we know: we are more
than blood - we are more
than our hunger and yet
we belong
to the moon and when the ponds
open, when the burning
begins the most
thoughtful among us dreams
of hurrying down
into the black petals
into the fire,
into the night where time lies shattered
into the body of another.

Mary Oliver, “Blossom” from American Primitive, © 1983.

Brett Bigbee Available Works

John Walker & Poem

John Walker, Champagne Day

Can of Black Paint, Can of White
by William Corbett

Moon through muzzy clouds
Pinstripe elegance
Schwitters found his
Black and white in the papers
Red Rose Frankfurts 1b 26c
Beech Nut Spaghetti Cans 25c
    Sundry
    Pictorai
    August 2, 1936
“The sexist thing in Thomaston,”
Said the kilted
Wide striped of black and white
Waves above, seals bark
Caught in Walker’s eye
Pin Cushion island
Trees above boulders
Apron of seaweed
Yellow ochre

John Walker & Poem Part 2

William Corbett and John Walker, 2016

Writer’s cabin tilts
You look out, up, stuck
Light a cigar from block
Of imperfect ones
And the painting opens up
You credit the cigar, smoke
Aboriginal upside down V
Spear point, sun dazzle
Off incoming tide
Man walking tongue of land
And because he’s a Brit,
Shields come into play
The hand shakes down
Black lines
I didn’t and then I liked
My shaky hand
The air champagne
Jet night and moon full
White like a Maine
Farmhouse
And morning’s blue cap
And lower down
The light that is
No color but light

William Corbett, Can of Black Paint, Can of White, © Estate of William Corbett.

John Walker Available Works

Emily Nelligan & Poem

Emily Nelligan, View Through Thrumcap

Ebb
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I know what my heart is like
           Since your love died:
It is like a hollow ledge
Holding a little pool
           Left there by the tide,
           A little tepid pool,
Drying inward from the edge.

© The Millay Society

Emily Nelligan Works

Marsden Hartley & Poem

Marsden Hartley, Mt. Katahdin, 1941, oil on Masonite, 22 x 28 inches, Private Collection

To the Nameless One
by Marsden Hartley

You, who have power over
everything obscure
Listen – come over here, sit by
my side
and let me say the things I want
to say –
I want nothing in the way of artificial
heavens!
The earth is all I know of wonder.
I lived and was nurtured in the
magic of dreams
bright flames of spirit laughter
around all my seething frame.

(1940 – 1943)

Marsden Hartley, "To the Nameless One" from The Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley, 1904 – 1943, edited by Gail R. Scott, © 1987.

“The Earth Is All I Know of Wonder” served as the title for the 2019 Marsden Hartley retrospective organized by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Marsden Hartley Available Works

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Pat Adams, Our Time, 1979, mixed media on paper, 21 1/4 x 29 inches
Available

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Lois Dodd, Digging Up Red Flowers, 2004, oil on Masonite, 12 x 16 inches
Available

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Will Barnet, Eos, 1973, oil on canvas, 58 x 58 inches
Available

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Loren MacIver, Town Flowers, 1940, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
Available

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Tom Uttech, Nin Nomageb, 2020, oil on linen, 46 3/4 x 50 3/4 inches, including artist's hand painted frame
Available

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Neil Welliver, Marsh Shadow, 1984, oil on canvas, 96 x 96 inches
Private Collection

Stephen Westfall, Glide, 2019, oil and alkyd on canvas, 32 x 26 inches
Available

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Vincent Smith, Street Scene (From Saturday Night in Harlem Series), 1954, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
Available

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Brett Bigbee, The Orbit of Intimacy, 2019-2020, oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches
In Progress
On Reserve
 

John Walker, Champagne Day, 2016, oil on canvas, 84 x 66 inches
Available

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Emily Nelligan, View Through Thrumcap, 1982, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ½ inches
Available

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Emily Nelligan, AUG 1 – 93, 1993, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ¼ inches
Available

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Emily Nelligan, Winter/Spring, 2002 (2), 2002, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ½ inches
Available

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Pat Adams, Our Time, 1979, mixed media on paper, 21 1/4 x 29 inches
Available

Lois Dodd, Digging Up Red Flowers, 2004, oil on Masonite, 12 x 16 inches
Available

Will Barnet, Eos, 1973, oil on canvas, 58 x 58 inches
Available

Loren MacIver, Town Flowers, 1940, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
Available

Tom Uttech, Nin Nomageb, 2020, oil on linen, 46 3/4 x 50 3/4 inches, including artist's hand painted frame
Available

Neil Welliver, Marsh Shadow, 1984, oil on canvas, 96 x 96 inches
Private Collection

Stephen Westfall, Glide, 2019, oil and alkyd on canvas, 32 x 26 inches
Available

Vincent Smith, Street Scene (From Saturday Night in Harlem Series), 1954, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches
Available

Brett Bigbee, The Orbit of Intimacy, 2019-2020, oil on linen, 8 x 10 inches
In Progress
On Reserve
 

John Walker, Champagne Day, 2016, oil on canvas, 84 x 66 inches
Available

Emily Nelligan, View Through Thrumcap, 1982, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ½ inches
Available

Emily Nelligan, AUG 1 – 93, 1993, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ¼ inches
Available

Emily Nelligan, Winter/Spring, 2002 (2), 2002, charcoal on paper, 7 ¼ x 10 ½ inches
Available