Inland Water by Winslow Homer

Inland Water by Winslow Homer

We’ve just returned from a remarkable trip to Bermuda, where Samantha and I got engaged, and, frankly, we fell in love with the place.

The colors, the scents, the sounds, and the magical experiences we had — a bit like Alice in her Wonderland, actually, just took us deeper and deeper.

One such experience was meeting Tom Butterfield and Elise Outerbridge of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, which has as part of its mission the repatriation of works created by world renowned artists in Bermuda.

When we were there, Tom was hanging a show of Brooklyn artist Ogden Pleissner’s watercolors painted at St. George’s on the far eastern part of the country.

He took us down into the archives to see Georgia O’Keefe’s charcoal of a banyan tree, and Winslow Homer’s “Inland Water,” which was painted not far from where we were staying in Warwick Parish.

Samantha challenged me to write poetry inspired by Bermuda — not easy to do after a month of writing a poem-a-day during the month of April. But when we got home, my notes proved to have some gems.

Here is the first that has emerged,

“Bermudiana”

 

Light refracts off turquoise waters,

But “turquoise waters” sounds so trite

And cliché, until you see it’s true.

Not since Indonesia have I seen such a color.

Then there’s the colorful pastel houses

Of yellow and sea green,

Sage, russet, the occasional purple,

The coral pink ferry stops –

All with whitewashed limestone roofs,

Stepped and sculpted to channel and capture

Rain; the islands’ only source of fresh water.

These islands are awash with color–

Flowers from the tiny, purple-blue Bermudiana

To the brilliant red hubris of Chinese hibiscus,

Shrimp plant, with its shriveled crustacean-hued

Flowers stacked along the stalk,

And morning glories, a soft purple

Bruise against green skin–

 

Light is texture here, which is perhaps

Precisely why painters, especially

Watercolourists, have been so inspired

By this land- and seascape.

The island across the way from us

Was captured by Winslow Homer,

In the painting we saw at Masterworks.

The perfume of the air, frangipani

(Or was it something else?),

Which scents the towels during our stay.

We find ourselves exploring

All over Bermuda, drinking it in,

With our Dark ‘n’ Stormies.

We will leave a part of ourselves

Here, as we take back memories

Of being transported to the beginning

Of our beautiful engagement.

What a place for a proposal;

What a place to conjure

using all our senses,

and all of our sensibilities.

–Scott Edward Anderson
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snyderToday is poet Gary Snyder’s birthday. He is 83 years old.

I studied with Gary and he had a big impact on my poetry, which I’ve written about elsewhere on this blog.

You won’t find traces of his influence in my work, stylistically at any rate; rather you’ll find it in my deep engagement of nature, in how I pay attention, and “be crafty and get the work done.”

Happy birthday Gary!

Here is Gary Snyder’s poem, “Old Bones”:

Old Bones

 

Out there walking round, looking out for food,

a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack

plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,

barely getting by,

 

no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—

carry some—look for some,

go for a hungry dream.

Deer bone, Dall sheep,

bones hunger home.

 

Out there somewhere

a shrine for the old ones,

the dust of the old bones,

old songs and tales.

 

What we ate—who ate what—

how we all prevailed.

–Gary Snyder

 

And here is a recording of Gary reading “Old Bones”:

 

Diana and Actaeon by Titian

Diana and Actaeon by Titian

I hope you have enjoyed National Poetry Month for 2013 as much as I have. As always, I end with a “bonus poem,” one of my own that I am delighted to share with you.

If you haven’t had enough poetry, you can always check out and even subscribe to this blog below.

I’ve written about ekphrastic poetry before, the art of writing poetry about or inspired by other works of art.

Last September, Samantha and I were in London and went to the National Gallery’s “Metamorphosis: Titian 2012” show.

The multi-arts show brought together a group of specially commissioned works responding to three of Titian’s paintings – “Diana and Actaeon,” “The Death of Actaeon,” and the recently acquired “Diana and Callisto” – all of which depict stories from Ovid’s epic poem “Metamorphoses.”

The three paintings at the heart of the exhibition had not been seen together since the 18th century.

The National Gallery also commissioned poets to write poems inspired by the artworks (you can watch the poets read their poems here, and there was even a Twitter poetry contest.

The Death of Actaeon by Titian

The Death of Actaeon by Titian

I was inspired to write my own poems in response to the show, one of which explores the relatedness of two paintings, “Diana and Actaeon” and “The Death of Actaeon.”

Here is my poem, “Titian’s Metamorphosis”:

 

They are twin paintings, really,

Titian’s “Diana and Actaeon” and

The one depicting his death.

Look at the positioning: in

The former, Actaeon, poised

To the left, arm raised parting

The curtain, feet apart, all

Broad shouldered and startled.

Diana, right reclining, as an Odalisque,

Right arm raised and feet, one

Caressed by a handmaid, the

Other dangling to the floor.

Seer and seen, searing gaze

And startled, glance agape.

In the latter, the roles are

Reversed: Diana to the left,

Huntress, bow flexed and ready

To shoot, sharp as her earlier withering

Arrow-glare; Actaeon, already begun

His metamorphosis, stag’s head,

Toppling and startled still,

But this time not by beauty,

By the horror of his own dogs

Ripping at his unrecognizable

Flesh. Look how his upreaching arm

Mimics Diana’s in its twin,

Handmaidens become hounds,

The cadence of his weakness

Coming down with the heaviness

Of his antler rack, head-heavy

All forgotten heedlessness,

Of beauty turned bestial.

“If looks could kill…”

 

–Scott Edward Anderson

 

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