Celebrating National Poetry Month: Part IV

The great Spanish poet Rafael Alberti, revolutionary and contemporary of Federico García Lorca, was also a painter, and in 1945 wrote an entire book of poems dedicated to artists and to colors. As with most poets, Alberti’s work was a paean to all that imbued his surroundings, and it was art that surrounded him in abundance. In his poem To the Paintbrush he begins,

To you, baton for shaping music,
conductor of the sea which opens the canvas,
silent, saturated pilgrim of night,
the crepuscular half-light, and dawn…


His words find an echo in the way many painters fashion their creative process, and it was quite unique in the instance of Alberti, where the literary muse and the visual mind worked as one.

Willem de Kooning, Asheville, 1948, Oil and enamel on cardboard; 25 9/16 x 31 7/8 in.; 64.92875 x 80.9625 cm.. Acquired 1952.

Similarly in the 1950s, the group of painters known as the New York School, (de Kooning, Rothko, Pollock, and Motherwell to name a few), were friends and collaborators of the New York School of poets, whose ranks included, among others, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, and Frank O’Hara. The shared social interaction of these artists and poets produced their very first publication, a volume of richly original poems and reproductions of both meditative and corybantic artworks that was put out “by John Bernard Myers under the Tibor de Nagy Gallery imprint.”[2] The generation of beat poets that followed, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti also plied their trades in communion with artists. Ginsberg crossed over professions and became an accomplished photographer.

National Poetry Month helps us remember these moments in which the visual is immortalized in ink; and such is the power of art – it vaults us into the eternal. It can be expressed in so many different ways: from the introspective, to the collective, to the tragic, to the humorous. Emily Dickinson, Richard Wilbur, Raymond Carver, Edward Hirsch, Lisel Mueller, Anthony Hecht, and countless other poets have written and been inspired by art and artists. These are just but a few of the myriad examples one can find. It surrounds us everywhere we go. Perhaps without knowing it, it will quietly find you.

[1] A La Pintura,  Rafael Alberti, “Al Pincel” (1.1-1.4), (translation by Martín Paddack), Alianza Editorial Sa, 2004, 1945

[2] http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5941

Martín Paddack, Museum Shop Book Buyer

Read the first, second, and third installments in Martín’s series for National Poetry Month.

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