A Sunday Poetry

Gerry Volunteer 1

Gerry Hendershot volunteering at the Phillips. Photo: Emily Bray

Gerry Hendershot is an Art Information Volunteer at The Phillips Collection. Here he shares his process and his poem inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting, Sunday.

In February I attended a three-day poetry workshop near Atlantic City, NJ. Each morning, 100 student poets gathered to receive a one-sheet prompt, then were given two hours to draft a poem; in the afternoon, groups of ten student met for moderated discussions of each poem.

On the day I wrote the below poem, the morning prompt directed us to write about something that was missing using stanzas of 2, 3, or 4 lines, and to include a piece of furniture, a spice, a proper name, and a musical instrument. We had to submit a hand-written fair copy of 30 lines by Noon.

Because of my longtime love of art, I have acquired an interest in ekphrastic poems; that is, poems about art, such as W. H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts.” I recalled a poem by Victoria Chang, “Edward Hopper Study: Hotel Room,” which led me to think of Hopper’s painting Sunday.

I had recently attended a Spotlight Talk on Sunday, where I heard other viewers comment on its unsettling psychological impact. Like other works by Hopper, it creates in me a feeling of imminent danger, of something tragically missing.

With Chang’s exemplar as guide, and Sunday in my mind’s eye (aided by online images!), it was not difficult to meet the other prompt requirements— proper name, furniture, spice, and a musical instrument. Feedback from fellow student poets led to revisions—which are continuing.

 

Hopper_Sunday

Edward Hopper, Sunday, 1926. Oil on canvas, 29 x 34 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1926

Edward Hopper, “Sunday” (1926)

By Gerry Hendershot

After church, when I view him sitting
on the curb of an old-fashioned
wood plank sidewalk,

leaning forward, resting his arms on his knees,
cigar clamped in his teeth, its tip unlit,
its cold ragged head soggy with spit,

he’s gazing into the distance, eyes unfocused and blank,
sensing—not knowing—that something,
something is missing.

***

Bright sun beats the top of his balding head,
whitening one side of his face,
leaving the other side dark.

He’s wearing his work clothes, his not-Sunday-best clothes,
the sleeves of his white shirt held up by elastic red bands;
black vest, black pants, brown shoes. A waiter, perhaps,

or a barber. But the storefronts behind him are missing
any ads for today’s blue-plate specials, and a
red and white candy striped pole.

***

Is he missing the tools of his trade?
His revolving, adjustable, strop-hung chair? His shelf
full of brushes and scents, precursors of Boss and Old Spice?

Or does he miss in that sharp angled light from above
a rainbow of hope sung by angels with lyres
through windows of medieval glass?

Sunday, what’s missing
from his life
and mine?

Gerry Hendershot is a retired CDC health statistician who has been volunteering at the Phillips for 12 years.  He is a member of the nearby Church of the Pilgrims at 22nd and P Streets, NW, and co-founder, with his wife, of its Dupont-Pilgrims Art Gallery, an alternative art space for area artists.

#SpinePoetry for National Poetry Month: Part I

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we asked Phillips staff to venture to The Phillips Collection Library and (literally) compile books into stacks—turning the titles into cohesive poems. Marketing and Communications Intern Joelle Levinas kicked us off with this series of spine poems relating to the museum.

joelle-levinas_art in our time

Photo: Joelle Levinas

 

Art In Our Time
The Expanded Eye
Invisible Colors
Parallel Visions
Fast Forward
Art of Our Time

 

 

 

 

 

joelle-levinas_what is art

Photo: Joelle Levinas

 

What Is Art?
Places of Delight
Color and Meaning
Forms of Passion
Making Choices
Feeding Desire
Making Paradise
Fixing the World

 

 

 

 

joelle-levinas_collections

Photo: Joelle Levinas

 

Museum Collection(s)
Landscape with Figure
Modernism
Action/Abstraction
Portraits
Color and Culture
Impressionism
The Phillips Collection

 

 

 

 

Check back for more poems this month! Compile your own and share them on Twitter and Instagram with #spinepoetry.

A Collective Poem for a Painting

On Friday, Meagan Estep, graduate intern in Education, led a large group of visitors on a special edition of our daily Spotlight tours. This Personal Response tour had the group enthusiastically exchanging observations and ideas in a series of activities focused on a few permanent collection favorites. In one activity, we split into groups, each writing a sentence about a selected painting and then combining our sentences to form a poem about the work. Here are two of our creations:

 

Marc Chagall’s The Dream

Marc Chagall, The Dream, 1939. Gouache on paper, 20 9/16 x 26 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1942.

Marc Chagall, The Dream, 1939. Gouache on paper, 20 9/16 x 26 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1942.

 

A dark night of the Russian soul
Love in poverty
Tenderness amidst uncertainty
A feathery softness
Brings light to the darkness

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent van Gogh’s Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles

Vincent van Gogh, Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles, 1888. Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930.

Vincent van Gogh, Entrance to the Public Gardens in Arles, 1888. Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930.

 

I reach inward and consider my thoughts
To and fro
To and fro
Green and gold surround me
In a warm place
Sculpted Sky
Blue feelings rise up
Days go by, life unfolds