Poems, They Are A'Changin
art reflects the evolution
Hello, Poetry Friend
This month I’m writing about the joint art & poetry show I’m doing with artist Nan Henke called Crossroads: at the junction of Poetry and Painting. If you’re in Fredericksburg, Texas in April, drop by the Fredericksburg Art Guild and check out our collaboration!
When a picture book is in production, the artist and writer don’t communicate — a publisher or editor acts as go-between. This ensures the best possible creative work can emerge without the writer or artist getting in one another’s way.
With the Crossroads show, Nan Henke and I got in each other’s way — in a good way. For weeks we talked and emailed and texted, but neither of us corrected or amended the other’s interpretation of any piece of creative work. I wrote. She painted. We often surprised each other.
That happened in a big way with her new interpretations of three of my crow poems, first published in Rainbow Crow. Nan had read all the notes in the back of the book, and she turned her knowledge into art, painting a parrot egg, a crow egg, and a golf ball (since crows like to steal these divoted treasures, even at our own Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Golf Course).
A poem can change over time, with each reading offering a new golf ball to savor. Or sometimes we read a poem with new eyes because we are different than we were at the initial reading. The poem “Natural Selection,” on which Nan’s painting of the same name is based, originated several years ago. It meant one thing when I first read the parable, another when I revised the poem into a rondelet, another when Rainbow Crow was published last April, and another now, with its sparkling rainbow-tinged twigs.
first published in Rainbow Crow
One white, one turquoise
Careful how you tread
One, a parrot, speaking with joy
One, a crow, your peace to destroy
Choose wisely now
– Megan Willome
I offer this tale of my changing views of my own poem to encourage you to please! do not! get hung up on what a poem means. I, the writer of this very poem, have not yet settled on its meaning. If you were to paint your own interpretation of it, you would add a new layer of understanding. If it’s a good poem, it will continue to evolve.
Look at the nest painting and the poem. Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to you.
What does Nan’s painting say that my poem doesn’t?
Do you have a poem that has changed its meaning over time? It could be one you’ve written or one you simply cherish.
Either create your own art from this poem or write your own from whatever has stirred in you. If you like, email me the results.
Thanks for reading Poetry for Life! Subscribe to enjoy more poetry (and red teacups).