Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ARTSPEAK! Portraits poem after "Girl with a Pearl Earring"

Hello and welcome to day 26 of ARTSPEAK! Portraits, my 2017 National Poetry Month poem-a-day project, during which I am looking, listening with my spirit ear, and asking these subject to share with me their secrets. 

But first: Be sure to check in with birthday-girl Renee at No Water River to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing! Happy Birthday, Renee!

Also: earlier this month I visited Oakwood University and taught a session called "When Poetry Meets Picasso" on, you guessed it, writing poems inspired by art! Here's what the beautiful, talented Dr. Kem Roper blogged about it.

And now, here are the ARTSPEAK! Portraits poems so far:

25. "Gratitude" after Tahitian Woman's Head by Paul Gaugin
24. "The Postman in Spring" after Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin, April 1888 by Vincent van Gogh
23. "Dark the Day" after Little Dutch Girl by Robert Henri
22. "Tiger" after Tiger by Hwang Jong-ha
21. "Self-Portrait as a Painter" after Self-Portrait as a Painter by Vincent van Gogh
20. "What to Do in the Desert" after Nubian Girl by Ervand Demirdjian
19. "In Summer" after In Summer by Auguste-Pierre Renoir
18. "Night" after The Outlier by Frederic Sackrider Remington
17. "Boy Blowing Bubbles" after The Bubble Boy by Paul Peel
16. "Morning" after Buki Rinsen by Tsuchida Bakusen
15. "When Papa Paints" after Portrait of Anne by George Wesley Bellows
14. "Whistler's Mother" after Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1 by James McNeill Whistler
13. "In the Company of Kittens" after Contentment 1900 by Henriette Ronner-Knip
12. "Sixteen" after Jeanne Hubuturne-1919 by Amedeo Modigliani
11. "Promise" after Portrait of a Little Italian Girl by Maria Kroyer
10. "Portrait of a Writer" after Oskar Maria Graf by Georg Schrimpf
9. "Speaking of the Weather" after Profile of a Woman by Fujishima Takeji
8. "Happiness" after Self-Portrait with Straw Hat by Elisabeth Vigee le Brun
7. "Virginia, Sitting for a Portrait" after Portrait of Virginia (Little Girl) by Frida Kahlo
6. "Paint-by-Number" after Portrait of a Woman by Alexei von Jawlensky
4. "I Am" after The White Cloud, Head Chief of the Iowas by George Catlin
3. "What If?" after Portrait of Camille Roulin by Vincent van Gogh
2. "The Lady Confesses" after Portrait of a Lady with Mask and Cherries by Benjamin Wilson
1. "Mona Lisa in Love" after Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Today's painting is one I've been putting off, because it is so popular! I think there's added pressure when the painting is famous and already means something to the viewer. How can my poem bring something fresh to the painting? How can my poem not disappoint? Well, there are no answers to these questions! I can only write the poem that wants to be written by me. Which means setting aside all those expectations and just doing it.

Here's what the Girl with a Pearl Earring told me:

The Way You Look at Me
- after “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer

as if I am all rainshimmer
and skyglaze

as if I am a waterfall
of moonlight
tumbling out of an apple

as if I am not borne
of salt and currents

as if I've never been lost

as if I don't grit
against your teeth

as if there was never
any oyster –

only you

- Irene Latham
So... it's a love poem! Love poems are totally my default setting. :)


  1. Yes, you're right, a popular image. I've read the book a long time ago, but you've given a fresh look at this young girl's ideas about love. The 'rainshimmer and skyglaze" and the rather sneaky connections to the pearl is wonderful.


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