Poems are made from images

Author: Karen Vanhercke

I’m happy to announce a NEW creative writing workshop!

My favourite way to remember an artwork, is to write a short poem about it. Whenever I re-read such a poem, I’m transported back to the moment of encounter. The process of finding words to describe the artwork, leaves a clear cognitive pathway that I find easy to re-trace. Stronger than a photograph, the poem brings back all kinds of sensory memories. I keep them not for literary purposes, but as bottled moments. Sometimes the process is not finished and the words keep fermenting until the cork pops out!

Three of the four poems below were written for artworks by Lithuanian artists, whose works I discovered in MO museum and in the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius. The fourth poem was triggered by a photo by a British artist that I saw in New York. I’m curious if the words will resonate without the pictures next to them. I intentionally did not illustrate this blog post, because I want to give you an opportunity to visualise the poems yourself. I did however, provide the online references: if you click on the names of the museums you will find the images there.

Eglė Gineitytė, Friends, 2007

MO Museum, Vilnius

The trick is to trace this icy horizon 
all the way back to summer,
To travel from peppery snow to purple thrift.
To play the trumpet of your friendship
and to find it trotting along tirelessly,
a little wet nose pointing west. 

Romualdas Rakauskas, Blossoming, 1970

MO museum, Vilnius

When a black and white photo
turns its volume up
and pink petals of your laughter 
drift down from its frame 
to kiss my face and hands,
I feel rich, just standing there, 
owning nothing but my senses.

Silvestras Džiaukštas, Plants for a Balcony, 1974

National Gallery of Art, Vilnius.

This oddly angular desert, 
Windows all around -
They don't reflect you,
Nor the pale faced flower
That magically appeared
On a small cactus -
Clearly, you know,
How to make things bloom -,
But I can show you a boat
Moored on the edge of a dream
Ready to escape over green
Water that never runs out.

Paul Graham,  A shimmer of Possibility, (North Dakota) , 2005.

MoMa, New York

My engine already has miles on it
When the crack of dawn slips a wave cloud 
Under the canopy of a 3 pump Station
Merging metal and sky a deep Dieselrot
If I were a North Dakota German, I might
Slur my words this way: Bis Zum Horizont!