Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Poetry of Architecture (and the Architecture of Poetry)

Speaking of architecture...
(outside the High Museum)
At our recent visit to the High Museum in Atlanta -- my last post was about the Ashley Bryan exhibit -- I got waylaid in the gift shop in part due to some beautiful books about architecture. I love thinking about the art of spaces -- lines and shapes and function. And I was struck how much architecture is like poetry. Here are some quotes from a book called THE ARCHITECT SAYS: Quotes, Quips and Words of Wisdom by Laura S. Dushkes:

 "Architecture is a discipline that takes time and patience. If one spends enough years writing complex novels one might be able, someday, to construct a respectable haiku. - Thom Mayne

Ha! This is SO TRUE. Writing is also a discipline that time and patience. And the less words, generally the more difficult to pull of.

"My work is a constant process of uncovering. Do not forget, there is no new history. The architects I am going back to are all still there. They do not move. I move." - Peter Eisenman

Isn't the work of a poet a constant process of uncovering? Wonder and discovery, and yes, always always movement. Which means we should always be challenging ourselves, always be trying new ways to seeing, thinking... and new ways of arranging the words.

"If you have total freedom, then you are in trouble. It's much better when you have some obligation, some discipline, some rules. When you have no rules, they you start to build your own rules." -Renzo Piano

I tell students that one of the things I love about poetry is the freedom - "no rules." What I mean is, any way you write a poem is fine. It doesn't have to rhyme or have a certain number of lines. It's up to you! BUT. Of course there are some obligations -- especially in form poetry. Which is why even those of us who highly prefer free verse should sometimes muddle through the forms. For the discipline.

"What if a building were more like a nest? If it were, it would be made out of local, abundant materials. It would be specific to its site and climate. It would use minimal energy but maintain comfort. It would last just long enough and then would leave no trace. It would be just what it needed to be." - Jeanne Gang

A poem that's just what it needs to be... that is the goal, isn't it? And to use local, abundant materials... one need not write about grand things, but every day things. Poems are everywhere!

"In a strange way, architecture is really an unfinished thing, because even though the building is finished, it takes on a new life. It
 becomes part of a new dynamic: how people will occupy it, use it, think about it." -Daniel Libeskind

Poetry, too, is an unfinished thing. I can't think of a single poem of mine that I wouldn't like to improve in some way. It's how we poets are always tinkering. And then when you put it in the hands of a reader -- well, it isn't yours at all anymore. It's theirs. As it should be!

"When an architect is asked what his best building is, he usually answers, 'The next one.'" - Emilio Ambasz

I don't know that I've ever been asked what my best poem is. But I think 'the next one' is exactly the right answer. Which is why... I'm signing off now to write a poem!


  1. Fascinating quotes and connections, Irene! <3 xo

  2. There are some terrific quotes here! It's always eyeopening to explore the places where different art forms overlap.


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