Celebrating National Poetry Month at The Phillips Collection: Part III

George Inness, Lake Albano, 1869. Oil on canvas. 30 3/8 x 45 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection

Last December, we had the honor of listening to one of America’s greatest living poets, Dana Gioia, weave his baritone voice and wonderful words here at the museum. His poem Places to Return from the collection of poems The Gods of Winter (1991) makes me think of many artists and paintings in The Phillips Collection. I find that the beauty rendered in his poem evokes the perceptive quality of a painter’s visual interpretation of landscape and memory.

Places to Return

There are landscapes one can own,
bright rooms which look out to the sea,
tall houses where beyond the window
day after day the same dark river
turns slowly through the hills, and there
are homesteads perched on mountaintops
whose cool white caps outlast the spring.

And there are other places which,
although we did not stay for long,
stick in the mind and call us back –
a valley visited one spring
where walking through an apple orchard
we breathed its blossoms with the air.
Return seems like a sacrament.

Then there are landscapes one has lost –
the brown hills circling a wide bay
I watched each afternoon one summer
talking to friends who are now dead.
I like to think I could go back again
and stand out on the balcony,
dizzy with a sense of déjà vu.

But coming up these steps to you
at just the moment when the moon,
magnificently full and bright
behind the lattice-work of clouds,
seems almost set upon the rooftops
it illuminates, how shall I
ever summon it again?

[i]


[i]  Used by permission from The Gods of Winter, Dana Gioia, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 1991

Martín Paddack, Museum Shop Book Buyer

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

Celebrating National Poetry Month at The Phillips Collection: Part II

Paul Cézanne, Ginger Pot with Pomegranate and Pears, 1893. Oil on canvas. 18 1/4 x 21 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection

Artists and poets have a long history of creating mutually inspiring dialogues with one another.  At the turn of the 20th century, the extraordinarily lyrical and intuitive Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke comes to mind, who by his own admission was very much influenced by the work of both Rodin and Cézanne. While in Paris in 1907 (the year after Cézanne’s death), Rilke wrote several letters to his wife Clara about visiting and experiencing the work of Cézanne. On October 9, he wrote, “he [Cézanne] lays his apples on bed covers… and places a wine bottle among them or whatever happens to be handy. And (like Van Gogh) he makes his “saints” out of such things; and forces them – forces them – to be beautiful, to stand for the whole world and all joy and all glory.”[i] It is in such description that art and poetry find their universally communicative language. How many people have visited the works on display at The Phillips Collection over the past 90 years and been so similarly moved and inspired?

Martín Paddack, Museum Shop Book Buyer


[i]  Letters on Cézanne, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joel Agee, Fromm International Publishing Corporation, New York, 1985

Read the first installment in Martín’s  series for National Poetry Month.

Celebrating National Poetry Month at the Phillips Collection: Part I

Harold Weston, John Dos Passos Reading, 1933. Oil on canvas. 22.125 x 16 in. The Phillips Collection

April is National Poetry Month, and  it gives all of us at The Phillips Collection an opportunity to recognize how this vital art form often intertwines with the visual arts. In very much the same way a great painting can reach into our hearts and communicate so much emotion in the span of just a few brushstrokes, a poem has the same rare ability to capture the very essence of the human condition in but a phrase. This month, I will share a series of posts that highlight a connection between the two art forms.

Duncan Phillips had an extensive collection of poetry books, which ranged from W.H. Auden to Marsden Hartley to Edna St. Vincent Millay, and was known to have literary figures represented in some of the artworks he acquired. Harold Weston’s sensitive portrait of John Dos Passos is a fine example of such a crossing.

The tradition continues today at The Phillips Collection in recent exhibitions and wonderful programs with guest speakers, many of whom are distinguished poets who draw on the artwork here for parallels and inspiration. Last year we had a beautiful collection of Alvin Langdon Coburn’s photographs on display, among which he captured a stunning portrait of W.B. Yeats. In 2008, during the exhibition Degas to Diebenkorn: The Phillips Collects, the public had the privilege to see Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1947 portrait of William Faulkner. As evidenced, many traces of the literary world abound here at the museum.

Art and poetry meet more often than we may realize, perhaps. Can you name a few examples? Over the course of this month, I will give some more. The next time you are in a gallery, look around – the person standing next to you scribbling into a journal could be writing something for the ages!

Martín Paddack, Museum Shop Book Buyer