Sunday 4 April 2010

Poetry from Art at Tate Modern - online poems

Our spring term of the Poetry from Art course is finished, but you can read poems by the group on the Tate Modern website. This selection includes responses to Joseph Beuys’ The Pack (above) and Lightning with Stag in its Glare (below), Giuseppe Penone’s Tree of 12 Metres (see previous posts), Robert Therrien’s Red Room and Arshile Gorky’s paintings Waterfall and How My Mother's Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life.

The poets wrote far more poems than this online selection, all started in the 10-15 minutes I gave them to write in the galleries. It's a large group, 27 this term and 29 in the next, so reading back takes a while and we spend time finding ways in. For our first session in the Joseph Beuys room for The Pack, I asked them to imagine what they might need to survive, as the 24 sleds are Beuys' survival kits of fat, felt and a torch. We discussed his myth of how,
during WWII, his plane was shot down over the Crimea and he was rescued by nomadic Tartars, who saved him by wrapping him in fat and felt. Then I asked them to write a poem responding to the installation, going through all eight senses in turn (the usual five plus kinesthesia, the organic sense and synesthesia).

                                        Lightning with Stag in its Glare Joseph Beuys

We then looked at the elemental poetry of Tomas Transtromer and storm poems by Eugenio Montale and Theodore Roethke to approach Lightning with Stag in its GlareI first saw this piece in the 80's when I was still at the Royal College sculpture school, and casting in bronze, so this thin cast of the side of a huge clay mound fascinated me as a technical achievement. I see it as both mountain skin and lightning bolt, retaining the power of the bronze furnace. Hard to think how to write poems from such an abstract piece in ten minutes but do read the results as well as poems about Therrien's glowy Red Room and Penone's carved larch, both of which also generated many poems. The summer term starts on 7 June and I already know where we'll be the first two sessions but I'm not saying yet.