Art from Art

Recently, I was inspired by a song to write a poem. This is the first and only time I’ve ever felt compelled to write a poem based on a song, not the first time I’ve been inspired by music, but the first time I’ve been inspired to occupy the space of that song and create a poem that occupies that same space. I went to speak with Professor Lytton about how to “cite” or give credit to the song in my poem without just “stealing” (the song and the poem share the same title). He told me about a poet who often based poems on other works of art. Inspired by this, I wanted to see if I could do more. So I tried to write a poem occupying the same space as one of my favorite paintings. Normally, when I sit down to write a poem, I’ll have one image or topic in mind, and from there begin hours of painstakingly uninspired lines appearing slowly on the page. But when I sat down to write these two poems, based on other works of art, the whole process just felt quicker, smoother. I wonder if this is because, rather than creating a work of art from nothing, I am actually just converting art from one form to another. This is to say, translating the atmosphere of the song to the atmosphere of a poem, or transcribing the space of the painting to written words on the page. Of course it’s a little more complicated than this because the space this song or this painting creates for me will be inherently different than the space it creates for someone else (at least in some small way). But the point, I think, might be that it creates the space for me—these works of art provide an atmosphere that only needs to be worked into words. One could say that that is the nature of any poem, that the world around us is full of little “works of art” that provide atmospheres/ spaces for us to write in (a similar sentiment to Donald Revell’s statement that imagination hinders poem writing). What do you think? Maybe I’m just imagining an ease of writing when occupying the space of another medium of artwork, or maybe there is a certain easiness to it. Let me know if you’ve had a similar experience!

4 Replies to “Art from Art”

  1. Hi Chloe,
    I think it’s cool that you brought up the idea of taking art from one medium to another. You’re on to something where this is concerned–maybe what you’re feeling by the whole process being easier is that the already existing art form has been successful in showing you its intent, and the poet in you aligns with this intent? Just a thought!

  2. I often write poems while listening to all kinds of music, and I definitely agree that the process feels faster. I’ve written one or two poems based off photographs before, and I felt like the process was a lot easier, as well. I love this method of writing poetry and I completely agree that it creates space. I don’t really see it as converting art from one form to another, unless I’m trying to, for example, describe the photograph exactly as I see rather than capture the emotion around it. You put it really nicely with mentioning the atmosphere surrounding music and art. I’ve never written a poem based off just one song before, and it sounds like it could be super fun!

    1. Yes, fascinating thoughts, Chloe – the technical term for this is ekphrasis, which is the creation of art in one medium e.g. poetry based on art in another medium (often, but not only, visual art). Check out Mary Jo Bang’s The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Towards Infinity for a book in which every poem is inspired by another artwork.

  3. Hi Chloe,
    This is a really interesting idea! I actually had a similar thought recently, because I was inspired by two words in a poem to write a poem myself.
    I think that artists are constantly inspired by different forms of art. Musicians get their inspiration for songs from other musicians or paintings or poetry, just as painters get their inspiration from music and poetry and so forth. In this sense, artists are constantly recycling each other’s ideas in different forms–though, as you say, it’s not quite so simple. I think that because we are “poets” that is simply how we express our inspiration from other forms of art. Sometimes a song or painting or film connects with me so profoundly that the only way I know how to express that and make sense of it is through my writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.