Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poetry at New Britain's Museum of American Art

On April 17th, 2011, twenty poets read poems on paintings that were hanging at the Museum of American Art in New Britain. The poems were all written specifically for painting the museum had on display. Behind the podium was a large slide show of the paintings - so that as the poet read, the listeners could see the painting that inspired the poem.

This extravaganza was dreamed up and arranged by Colin Haskins (the CT Beat Festival & The Free Poets Collective) in cahoots with the very congenial museum staff. Particulars of the reading were fussed with by a few busy ladies from the free poets collective. I will be adding a few shots the readers are below, in the grainy manor of my phone. I wrote a poem for the occasion on a Georgia O'Keeffe painting in the museum's collection, that I had never seen before - of New York and East River, a surprising subject for O'Keeffe.

It was a wonderful event, really wonderful and I got a great poem out of it, well I like it anyway:

East River from the 30th Floor of the Shelton Hotel, 1928
a painting by Georgia O'Keefe

New York morning panorama
Center stage: blue wedge of river
of tugs and steamers
barges, buoys
gruff handlers yawning,
a days work taken on,
busy already at dawn

On its banks: A greyed up city of squared rooftops
synchronous to the horizon
aligned with smoke stacks and chimneys
ingrained with streets and avenues
a structure of shelter, housing:
the sleepy and the busy,
the languid and the industrious,
the despairing and the inspired alike

Here is a vast city as smooth as the velvet petal
of a white flower filling a picture frame
Or a row of desert bleached skulls
empty and eyeless, cast like dice
yet full of various purpose.

A city ready. egalitarian a city welcoming the day
a city that history will alter
as a painter alters a canvas
one layer covering another
visions and revisions
in this accented high-rise air
waking to this earnest tenement light

Written for an ekphrastic Event of the Free Poets Collective at the museum of American Art in New Britain CT, April 12?, 2011 subsequently included in Visions and Verses? an Exile Press/Free Poets Collective publication