April is Poetry Month

This post is adapted and expanded from one I did for FaceBook earlier this week.

Ars Poetica is about the written word and visual art coming together. I never knew about this kind of formal art and poetry event until I joined the gallery in Bremerton in March of 2019. It had been an annual April event for many years and it was one of the first art events I took part in with the gallery.

Artists were given a collection of poems and could pick one (or more) to respond to. Some artists were able to use a painting or other piece they had already created if it seemed to fit well with a poem.

The artwork was hung in the gallery for the whole month. A reading and art presentation was held in the gallery on a Sunday afternoon. Each artist and poet presented their joined works together. It was fun to experience the written word coming to life as the spoken word illustrated by visual art!

I found the painting I did but cannot find the poem that goes with it. Too much crap on my computer. Arghhh. Anyway, my painting is called “Moonlilies” and I was going for a Henri Rousseau kind of vibe.
Found the poem! It was taped to the back of the frame. (The picture was in my photo folderso I din’t actually have to look at the painting to post it)

In 2020, we were all set to go for the next Ars Poetica in April. I had a poem picked out and made a painting. But you know what happened that year- COVID shut us down and it just never happened.

This painting is one of the few I’ve done in acrylics. It’s hard to tell from the photo but it has a highly textured surface, including tiny glass beads in the paint that actually give it a weird shimmer in some areas.
They are both titled “Sol Music”.

Sol Music
Travis Davies

A morning’s light, assaulting from the east
Showers of electromagnetic radiation, catapulted 92.96 million miles
Delivering photons, colliding with a small wooden kitchen table

A solar-powered radio basks in rays of nuclear violence
and vibrates the air with jazz

Ars Poetica was not held in 2021 or 2022 either. As with artists, the writers’ group consists of mostly retired and some very elderly folks. Our collective fragility in the face of COVID was enough for people not to want to get together for group events until the risks seemed manageable. Last year, 2022, we did hold a poetry reading (sans art) at the gallery for local writers and the Bremerton Poet Laureate.

Ars Poetica is back on for 2023, and this time around, I will have 3 paintings on display, to go with works by 3 local poets.

The first one, “Acorn Woodpecker”, was specifically painted to illustrate a poem by Alan Chessman. Acorn woodpeckers bear a resemblance to the Pileated Woodpeckers we are familiar with here in the PNW, but there are far fewer of them since they require oak trees, and we don’t have so many of those. Since Alan never specified the type of woodpecker heard in his poem, I just chose one I that I liked.

Sunday Morning Reverie
Alan Chessman

Sunday morning reverie
Woodpecker drumming on a metal gutter
Beating his brains out for what?
Relentless riffing on rusty metal
Nothing nourishing in that
Just wearing out a beak
I think about my own sore head
from hammering the same tired actions
I gripe about imbecile leaders wait for others to change
lament my aging body and on and on and on
I’m going to talk with woodpecker
maybe we can peel back some bark
glean something nourishing
and both find what we’re looking for

The next one, “Early Morning Snow”, fits with a poem by Cindy Vandersluis. I made the painting several years ago. This is the view of our back deck from the living room just before the sun came up one snowy March morning.

Cindy Vandersluis

Remember that winter the storm
surprised even the birds?
Snow came down in silent, slanted shifts,
it drifted high and low,
covering everything from fence posts to
hundred-foot firs
to the blue patio umbrella,
a forgotten summer relic.
Amidst the blinding brightness
the white dog no longer looked white,
more the color of smoke as it rises from a bonfire.
Come sit here next to me ─
look at what we’ve accumulated.
Let the snow come down,
let it bury past regrets
and cushion future falls from grace;
just below the silence
lay the purple crocus in wait.

For my last entry, this is my painting “White Poppy”, created in 2020. A fellow artist at the gallery, Barbara MacCalla, saw the painting and wrote a poem to go with it. She died not long after that. I am hanging this piece (and her poem) in her memory.

White Flowers
Barbara MacCalla

The owl and I agree
White flowers are best
by moonlight