I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music. Joan Miró
The half-box French easel stands in the corner of my office, drawing pad flipped to a stark white page. Waiting for gesso. Waiting for a charcoal pencil or paint. Waiting for me to show up. No different than the writer's white page I have faced most of my adult life.
We talk about the new year being "new," when in reality we bring our story forward embracing only an idea of newness; rebirth is not a winter activity, it normally belongs to the spring.
And yet . . .
Two new granddaughters.
And yet . . .
Out my window more snow and melting ice, rivulets of cold water that will freeze into thin sheets tonight. Into this bleak landscape, a riot of color, houses, trees and gardens. Joan Miró’s painting, “The Farm.” In a second painting, "The Farmer's Wife" holds one cat by a leg, another cat staring back at us, a triangle needing identification in the corner. Joan Miró, the French Surrealist painter, attempts to break through my wintry mood. Instead of poetry, I crave visual images, life that waits under the scrim of ice--I seek the passion that melts ice.
Joan Miró was a quiet man, prolific and consistent in his output. Unlike Pollack or Picasso, he was not possessed by alcohol or women, but by his art. No one's opinion was more important than his personal vision. His paintings are often considered childlike, primary-colored and flat on the canvas. Constellations, 23 gouaches, introduced the concept of a series of paintings to America. Miró was a working artist able to continually ask not only what his individual pieces meant, but what it meant to be completely open to possibility in a world that wished to define him.
A blank page or canvas means nothing if we don't fill it in. Fill it with experimentation or vision, but fill it in or we are not creators, we are dreamers. The poem not written, the painting not painted, are the ideas of creation. The idea is always more expansive than what we are capable of, and that frightens us. Once we put in the time and effort, once we honor how difficult the medium is to control, then we can claim to be poets or artists. Not before.
This winter is less about mastery, and more about mystery. The way I approach art is the way I approached writing poetry: show me how, give me the tools, then I will do it my way. There is nothing thrilling about copying anyone, poet or artist. We may do so in order to learn the craft, to understand what it feels like, but once we know, we must express what is original in us.
This winter, as I face the end of our poetry journal, as my best friend and co-partner in Tiger's Eye Press has moved, is less accessible, it is not easy to see vibrant colors or to appreciate the quiet that winter exemplifies. I have loved this quiet all of my life, but this season, it speaks less of dormancy and more of poignant endings.
Joan Miró appeared just under the ice that poetry had become. He took me to his studio, showed me brushes and turpentine-stained wood. He brought out incomplete sculptures and paintings. I could not tell if he disliked them or if they stalled in place for lack of time. We didn't say much, both of us given to bouts of silence. It was enough though, his imaginative leaps became threads of light that might lead to poetic lines, and even newly-sketched lines. I was shown that it doesn't matter what medium I'm working with, as long as I have the courage to begin . . . and the courage to complete.
"The Escape Ladder," one of 23 gouaches, The Constellations.