Dec 12, 2011

I need to read more poetry… Don’t we all?

On a rainy day, taking shelter at the Met, my wife and I visited the exhibit: “Stieglitz and His Artists.” Long a fan of O’Keeffe, Steichen, Marin, and Dove, the works were especially enthralling, but I wasn’t prepared for seeing Charles Demuth’s “I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold” in person for the first time. So vivid and energetic, the numbers were electric as if seared into memory by a rifle flash; it is an iconic painting, and until I read the description summary posted alongside, I never knew it was Demuth’s homage to his friend, William Carlos Williams, and, specifically, his visualization of William’s poem, “The Great Figure.” The poem, all 13 lines and 31 words, was printed in the description, and I’d be lying if I denied that reading the words and seeing the image they inspired left me dumbstruck.

Now, I’ve written a few poems—a couple were even published—but my first love remains fiction and, almost by default, I fill the available reading hours with short stories and novels. This must change. Since first studying poetry during my MAW studies, I fully accepted the value of the discipline as a means to experience language, syntax, imagery, and to remain aware how each sentence I write may flow. But I’ve ignored the potential for fictional inspiration.

So often, as writers, we struggle to find words to express emotions we want our characters to show; at these times it only makes sense to seek out the words of artists who make every word count.

And it doesn’t hurt to wander once in a while through the halls of a museum either…


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