Does a poem mean?
We studied Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean? in college
I don’t think Ciardi gets it
“Have you ever felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?”
Whitman asks in futility of our post-modern age
I’m tired of Wallace Stevens
THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR never meant a word to me
I tried and gave up trying and now I don’t care
Precious language, specious language, and that’s about it
I want meaning in a poem more than precious language
And Plato cleaved art from truth and made much of propositions
Though his dialogues read like stories and some have myths
My English professor almost omitted Robert Frost
From his Modern American Poetry course due to Frost having “subjects”
Let alone rhyme and rhythm beats and feet, like Blake’s Tyger
It wasn’t all that long ago that Percy Bysshe Shelley
Imaged more than meant, or imaged as meaning
And it is late, and I am old, and the time and my age are making me cranky
Maybe it’s too much to say I don’t care about Stevens
I get Jackson Pollock, but own an expensive Andrew Wyeth print
I read Stevens, but I like Robert Frost
Time was, language communicated
Truth was told, wisdom was passed down to generations
Story was religion, and verse, prophesy
And art was more than style and originality,
Poetry more than precious word choice
But it’s late, and I’m getting tired and old
I still care how a poem means
I may be going the way of rhyme and rhythm, beats and feet
But it’s nice and sweet not to have to like Wallace Stevens anymore

Discovering Art

Good art affects me like symphonies.  Art moves my spirit and evokes states of mind in like manner as good music stimulates my feelings.  Colours laid together to create an effect, shapes, background, objects.  When I gaze on good art, I am lifted into a transcendental world and sacred space of the mind, heart, and soul.  Art is made of sensual materials–paper, visual shapes, and colors–and yet its effect is inner, intangible, spiritual.

I finally brought the fine art print I spent a lot of my liquid monthly income on (more than twice my monthly rent) into my home.  It’s a massive limited-edition print that covers almost half the wall from the ground to the ceiling.  I came home from church today, and when I looked at the print, I realized that the service wasn’t over for the day.  This work, “Spring Fed” by Andrew Wyeth, is both a realistic painting and not realistic at all.  It’s not really a painting of anything.  It is a painting of a square cistern in the foreground with a square window behind it.  You can see the square cistern in the foreground and look at the square window behind it, and the square window panes of the window, then look through the window at some cattle and a hill with patches of snow.  Is it a painting of a cistern?  Of a window?  Of cattle and a hill?  I don’t know how to consider the painting as a whole.  It is a magical complexity that is not an image of anything.  Then there are the colors.  The painting is almost a monochromatic.  The cistern is dark brown, the hill is brownish green, the cattle are brown, the walls are grey-green-off-white.  The complexity of the multiple layers of imagery and the color combinations create a wonderful effect that no photograph could.

Artists know that their work will end up on a wall, and that people will look at it day-in-and-day-out.  And yet the monochromatic color choices render the painting something that is even room decoration, too, and can be looked at again and again without tiring the eye and mind.  I say this with no deprecation of the greatness of it’s artistry.  Unlike a piece of music, which one can’t listen to over and over again without getting sick of it.

I have always enjoyed visiting museums and viewing art.  I’ve never owned a consummate work of this quality–even though it is a limited-edition print and not the original.  I don’t know of a purchase I have been happier with.  The cost is of no consequence.  My living room is transformed by this work of art, as I am, and will continue to be.