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We spy beneath the banister

Pick two to write about. For one of them, tell me about one where the poem didn’t have enough visual description for you to agree it was based on the inspirational picture. Did it connect in other ways, perhaps? For the other, tell me about one where the poet did a good job using visual language to help you “see” the painting.

Be specific–mention the exact words and phrases that made you (1) chose to say it was or was not good at evoking the visual inspiration, and (2) believe the description was more emotional than visual.

This is a challenging assignment, but you won’t need to write several pages. Try to get 150-200 words for each poem.

Poem 1:

-First: Look at Vincent Van Gogh painting “The Starry Night” (1889)


That does not keep me from having a terrible need of –shall i say the word–religion.

Then I go out at night to paint the starts.

-Vincent van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist

except where one black-haired tree slips

up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.

the town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars

Oh starry night! This is how

I want to die.

It moves. they are all alive.

Even the moon bulges in its oragne irons

to push children, like a god, from its eye.

The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.

Oh starry night! This is how

I want to die:

into that rushing beast of the night,

sucked up by that great dragon, to split

from my life with no flag,

no belly,

no cry.

Poem 2:

First: Look at Marcel Duchamp painting “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2” (1912)

Read: Nude Descending a staircase

Toe upon tow, a snowing flesh,

A gold of lemon, root and ring,

She sifts in sunlight down the stairs

With nothing on. Nor on her mind.

We spy beneath the banister

A constant thresh of thigh on thigh–

Her Lips imprint the swinging air

That parts to let her parts go by.

One-woman waterfall, she wears

Her slow descent like a long cape

And pausing, on the final stair

Collects her motions into shape.


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