This Transition Year module aims to explore the link between poetry and painting. Since as far back as we can trace there has been a lively dialogue between the two art forms. Anyone who has read poetry will know that the creation of vivid images in the mind’s eye is one of the wonderful effects of this activity. Many famous painters have gone one step further and realised their interpretation of a poem on canvas. As well as going from word to image we look at the reverse. When one looks at a painting (a somewhat restricted, framed world) most are compelled to flesh out the story; what could be going on here? Who is this dark figure on the left? Why do these bright yellow sunflowers seem sinister? Writers are often drawn to translate the image back into words in their purest form; poetry.
At the end of the module students compose a poem of their own inspired by an image that fascinates them. Some forms of poetry suit particular images very well, capturing the essence of the painting. For instance, Igor Verkhovskiy has written a villanelle, an almost cyclical form of poetry based on rhyme and repetition. He was inspired by Pieter Bruegel’s 1563 painting of the spiralling tower of Babel.
(This poem can be read in today's other post here).
The images used in the course can be accessed by clicking on the links in the following list, followed by the relevant poems:-
- Paolo Uccello 'St George and the Dragon' (c. 1456) with poem by U. A. Fanthorpe 'Not My Best Side'.
- Pieter Brueghel (with ‘h’ until 1559) Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (1558) with poem by William Carlos Williams of the same title (also a look at Ovid’s 'The Flight', translated by Richard Brett).
- Pieter de Hooch 'Courtyards in Delft' (1659) with poem of the same title by Derek Mahon (the second link has both).
- John William Waterhouse 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' (1893, above) with ballad by John Keats of the same title.
- Edward Hopper 'Early Sunday Morning' (1930) with poem by John Stone of the same title.