Monday, 5 October 2009

Poetry from Art at Tate Modern: Anselm Kiefer

I'm researching for my Poetry from Art course which starts at Tate Modern on 19th October, enthralled as always by some of the art, and hoping we can start in the Palm Sunday room by the German artist Anselm Kiefer which is in the permanent display Energy & Process on Level 5. There's not that much space in the Kiefer room and the group's large – 26 poets plus one Tate staff and myself. If they let us work in there I guess we'll set the chairs in two rows against the back wall, facing the installation. If we're not allowed then we could work in the room next door and walk in to write.

Anselm Kiefer is a deep-thinking, spiritual artist, and will be a stark contrast to the Pop Life: Art in a Material World exhibition where we'll be working in later weeks, and to the ironic cool of John Baldessari. But in each show there are pieces I am getting very excited about working with. For now, I'll leave these images to speak for themselves, but am collecting words towards writing about them, and more importantly, towards fun ways for the class to write about them. But whenever I peer into those vitrines behind the powerful palm presence, I see new misty shapes emerge.

For our last session, on Monday 23rd November, we'll be giving a public reading of poems written during this and previous courses, in the Pure Beauty: John Baldessari show on level 4, 6.45 to 8.45pm. Details will soon be up on the Tate Modern website, (click on Talks & Discussions and Courses & Workshops).
If you'd like to come, early booking is essential as space is limited . Entry is free.


  1. Hello Pascale
    Relished your post which lets us under the skin of what will be a wonderful course (lucky London dwellers...) Makes me think that a week's R&R in London would be so inspiring and refreshing. The photos here are subtle and inspirational. Thank you for all of this

  2. Yes, lucky London dwellers indeed. These pictures are a fabulous taster of what looks to be a very interesting course.

  3. Pascale,

    I hope that you will be posting here on your blog some of the poems written during your course at Tate Modern. I should very much like to see the fruits of the inspiration that the artwork provides to you and your students.

  4. Thanks for your comments, I can't wait to start the course and see what the students write, last year there were so many fine poems. In the spring term, there will be publication of their poems on the Tate website, and at the end of the summer term a Tate pamphlet of sample poems, so watch out for those. This term we will be reading at a public event on 23rd November, space is limited so book early if you'd like to come.

    Some of them are published or not long to be published poets and I am aware that posting poems on the internet preempts magazine publication, so with my own poems I tend to post poems already appeared in mags.


  5. Hi Pascale,
    I recently bought the Tree Keeper's Tale, thank you for the wonderful imagery, it has been inspirational to say the least. This course sounds absolutely fascinating, especially as I have been a fan of Anselm Kiefer ever since I was at college (RCA - 1993-5) and much of my work was based around his provocative imagery.

    I sometimes found it hard to draw the line between images and words and liked to write short pieces before doing any visual work - perhaps a kind of reverse methodology to this poetry workshop ;)

    Are you planning on running this course again in the future?

    thanks again,

    p.s. is there any way we can see the whole piece of artwork which features on the cover of the TKT?

  6. Hi Lune,

    Thanks for your encouraging words especially about The Treekeeper's Tale, I'm so pleased you found it inspirational. There's a wider shot of the cover piece in another post on this blog 'Cover Art of The Treekeeper's Tale'. It was a circle and I do have a slide of the whole piece but haven't got a scan of it. At some point I will scan more of my artworks from slides.

    I am running two more courses at Tate Modern next spring and summer, I believe a few places are left in the summer one. The Kiefer piece will be up until next spring they tell me. It's such poetic work.

    I was at the RCA 1985-7, in the sculpture school.


  7. Would be wonderful to see the whole of the Treekeeper piece someday!

    Looking forward to reading more of your work anyway.

    You have inspired me to write some poems of my own (shy smile), I was just wondering, do your poems usually form themselves around a meter or do you tend to let things free flow into their own organic rhythm? I have no clue how to look for or even write in a meter, no idea about poetic feet (?) but does that really matter?

    Some prose pieces I have written are very poetic, but could they be classed as poetry without a definite meter (or rhyme) going on somewhere?

    I know about art, about it's rules, about breaking those rules, artistic licence and all that and poetry seems much more formal and daunting.

    Lune x

  8. Hi Lune,
    I don't write in meter, but in free verse. However, I have a very instinctive feel for where stresses should be in my poems and the music is very important to me, that there's a chant quality. My theme is often wildness so I'm after an organic primitivism, and don't want it too regular. Don't be daunted by metre and its rather offputting Greek terms, it's a good thing to know about it though, just to see what's available to you as well as free verse. My advice is to hunt out poems that excite you and imitate them, musically and syntactically just to learn how they did it. Literally write your lines under theirs in triple spacing. Every word should count and have power. Px

  9. Thank you Pascale, sounds like a great place to start, I love the unstructured feel and it certainly makes me feel less daunted to know that a poem can be whatever it needs to be, whatever arises, whatever sings in the moment.