Poetry as Art

Poetry as Art

By John Thomas Dodds

quote vincent van gogh


I have all these unfinished paintings in notepads, on napkins, in files, on the computer. If only I could with a brush stroke, lay them visible to the ear.

Where does a stroke of inspiration come from? Is it always there waiting in the wings, or is it an accumulation of many things coming together at just the right moment. You know it’s coming, but you have no idea what it will be, how it will start, how it will grow, or how it will end. You just know you have a painting or a poem inside you; first the feeling, then the thought, then that first expression in a line, a word, a brush stroke. I imagine it to be a common occurrence in all creativity, the first note of music, the first bud on a plant, the first glance that leads to romance.

I have no doubt that moment of creativity is solely, and privately, an individual expression that only the writer or painter can experience. With me it can be something I feel, read, taste, and see; as if all the senses have a hand in the formulation of the thought. It is more than just experiencing and responding. That would put creativity in the realm of reaction and we are so much more than that.

Most of my poems have begun with a single word or a phrase that spills out on the page as an opening line and then the poem seems to take on a life of its own. It is opening door after door on the unknown until you come to one that beckons you to enter and sit down at a table where pen and paper are ready for your thoughts and feelings. Each poem kick-starts with a word or a line, and what follows is an exploration, an embellishment, a rounding out of that which originates in those first few lines, for example:

“This haven for lost souls I have journeyed to.”

“Sweet silence is music to the soul.”

“Imagine a songbird responding to your voice.”

or “My hands are making love to you all the time.”

What would be the single thought that escapes the painter’s mind, and lands boldly on the surface of a potential work of art? In watching mi esposa over the years playing in acrylic, I have recognized a process similar to my writing of a poem. In the beginning, or only because what came before has been relegated to the hallways of the mind, comes the board: non-descript, flat, a scrap of itself, followed by an idea, germinating in a whitewash of preparation for the possibility of a translation from thought, to inspiration, manifested in a stroke of fancy. Will assumes itself, a dynamic impulse takes over; a dab becomes a smudge, a toe dip of color and light, and from the surface of her imagination, Napoleon’s army, trampling the white Russian landscape in table red. The subject becomes an object of reflection assuming its place in space and time. Sometimes her creation takes on a semblance to what others might think, and she in a doubting fashion, blinks. Here the mind plays her soul, the painting becomes an expression of self—she hates it, she loves it—it’s not paint it’s grout!

Or, she marvels at what appears as a surprising shift of light, and just the right colors, layer upon layer of pure delight. In the evolution of a thought expressed with a stroke of a brush, there comes a point, not unlike a lovers blush, or the feeling of fulfillment, that it is what it has become, the sum of all its parts—and she has nothing more to say. When the act of creation becomes an object of expression, regardless of the form it takes, as with a mother and child, there comes a time to leave it alone.

I imagine painting like poetry to be cathartic, therapeutic, liberating, healing and very personal. It exposes oneself to the elements laying bare ones’ innermost feelings and emotions before an imaginary audience. It is letting go and not being afraid of expressing ones’ feelings.

There’s something about putting the pen down and letting a poem go, something akin to an orgasm of expression. In the end, the difference between her final product and my completed poem may be only in the audience that experiences it. The painting becomes prominent in a visual space that one comes across in passing, and is a constant reminder of that final brush stroke; a poem, if published, is relegated to a page in a book, on a shelf, and hangs in the heart of memories.


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Ojo Del Lago
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