Friday, February 4, 2011

The Poet Speaks of Art

Cezanne's Ports  (L'Estaque by Paul Cezanne, 1883-1885)

by Allen Ginsberg
Paul Cezanne, L'Estaque (1883-1885)















In the foreground we see time and life
swept in a race
toward the left hand side of the picture
where shore meets shore.

But that meeting place
isn't represented;
it doesn't occur on the canvas.

For the other side of the bay
is Heaven and Eternity,
with a bleak white haze over its mountains.

And the immense water of L'Estaque is a go-between
for minute rowboats.


This poem by Allen Ginsberg was used by Harry Rusche of the English Department at Emory University for a course on paintings and poems.   Click here to read more.  Read below for another - a poem by Edward HirschEdward Hopper and the House by the Railroad .  (This painting is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art  and the The Cezanne painting L'estaque is also in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art)





The House by the Railroad by Edward Hopper (1925)


House by the Railroad by Edward Hopper (1925)


















by Edward Hirsch

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands.

But the man behind the easel is relentless.
He is as brutal as sunlight, and believes
The house must have done something horrible
To the people who once lived here

Because now it is so desperately empty,
It must have done something to the sky
Because the sky, too, is utterly vacant
And devoid of meaning. There are no

Trees or shrubs anywhere--the house
Must have done something against the earth.
All that is present is a single pair of tracks
Straightening into the distance. No trains pass.

Now the stranger returns to this place daily
Until the house begins to suspect
That the man, too, is desolate, desolate
And even ashamed. Soon the house starts

To stare frankly at the man. And somehow
The empty white canvas slowly takes on
The expression of someone who is unnerved,
Someone holding his breath underwater.

And then one day the man simply disappears.
He is a last afternoon shadow moving
Across the tracks, making its way
Through the vast, darkening fields.

This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

[will add more in time - feel free to suggest one that is new to the course list!)