norbert blei | six found-poems in the words and paintings of andrew wyeth

10 04 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 276 | April 9, 2009


Six Found-Poems in the Words and Paintings of Andrew Wyeth

We have all seen and discovered poems before we ever read them or found the words to write them ourselves. For as long as I remember I have ‘rescued’ (found?) poems in my surroundings.

Especially poems in the city: the writ of grit; words on walls; words scratched on homemade window signs; words twisted into colorful tubes lighting up the night skies, morphing into a mix of watercolor puddles at your feet in the glowing, wet streets; cryptic words and images chalked on concrete sidewalks by children, the truly legitimate artists of the world—ah, but for the moment.

For as long as I remember, I have communed with art and artists on every level. Brought things out-into-the-open within myself, outside myself. If ‘going-to-church’ had any meaning and effect upon me as a child, it was the glitter of gold and silver chalices; the sheen of sacred vestments, vigil candles flickering in ruby light; stained glass windows romancing the morning and evening light; the blue of the statuesque Blessed Virgin and blood-red robe of Christ, the Sacred Heart arm and hand outstretched to the multitudes; statues draped in purple during Lent. And the greatest graphic novel in the world which arrested a child’s wandering eyes when candles, chants, bells and incense lifted you toward being/not being there…that life everlasting medieval mural showing the way (for Mexican muralists and New York graffiti artists to come)…the journey, depicted along both walls of church, santuario, and cathedral: The Stations of the Cross. Lost and found. THIS way–>

Among my closest artist-friends in my lifetime, I have always seen ‘the writer’ (the poet), “the word” in the paint. Even when some never saw it, some refused to consider it. Or, in the case of my friend, Emmett Johns, we seemed mutually aware of what we held in hand, which I longed to capture (for his sake, my sake and others) in a book: I THOUGHT YOU WERE THE PICTURE, 1996, limited edition, 500 copies, Cross+Roads Press, #6. (Sold Out). The idea coming together after my seeing/reading stacks of his sketchbooks one winter, delighting in their richness of line, their sense of story, self-analysis, perception … everything down-on-paper as you see it, in the artists own words and images..

I experienced somewhat the same discovery recently going through books about Andrew Wyeth’s life and works. (See previous Poetry Dispatches –Wyeth & Peterson–at I saw the simple poetry of Wyeth’s own words whenever he spoke about what he saw, felt. How it all came together in painting. His life as art. His art as life.– Norbert Blei

Toll Rope

Inside the church at Wylie’s Corner, Maine,
I liked going up in the belfry.
The dry quality of that church steeple,
the dried flowers,…and the sea anchor
wrapped in black crepe
from the seamen’s funerals…
totally New England.

Mill in Winter

I’m intrigued by the first moments
of a snowstorm. There’s danger in it.
You never know how it’s going to turn out.
I love the bleakness of winter and snow,
get a thrill out of the chill. God, I’ve frozen
my ass off painting snow scenes!
I’m taken by the bleakness—
not the melancholy feeling of snow.
My winter scenes…they’re not romantic.
They capture that marvelous, lonely bleakness—
the quiet, the chill reality of winter.


Look at the feeling of the lips,
the feeling of the sleeping eye,
the light that goes over the body.
Anyone who’s watched a female
form at night in that kind of light
knows that this has a strong female smell to it.
This picture—and most of the Helga pictures—
are too real for some people. You have to feel
deeply to do this kind of thing. You can’t
conjure it up, There’s a penetrating and throbbing
sexual feeling in all of the Helga pictures. I felt
the country, the house, Germany, and the dreamy,
moist, rich female smell—the whole thing.
Wholesome…fresh…really American.

Open House

…a house on a back road in Maine
where horses were rented out to ride.
I took the nurse who was taking care of me,
after I had my hip operation…she loved to ride.
..a foggy day…the house was gray, with all these
horses—one even stuck inside the house,
sticking his head out the window. The owner had a
daughter who kept horses, and he told me,
“She’s got a few boards missing in the attic.”

Love in the Afternoon

I was looking out the window in the Mill…
I go to that window and open it in the morning,
close it in the evening.
I wanted again that tawny feeling of winter
and grasses matted… I was taken by the feeling
of almost falling out of that window.
I didn’t want a frame around it.
I didn’t want a feeling of the inside of the room…
I wanted the feeling of pushing this windowpane out
and letting in the air and that you’re just there
for a second.










[SOURCES: ANDREW WYETH Autobiography, introduction by Thomas Hoving, Konecky & Konecky, 1995, $50. ANDREW WYETH, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Introduction by David McCord; Selection by Frederick A. Sweet]



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