March Slice of Life No. 4.
In February, I joined Laura Shovan‘s poetry challenge. Each day we were presented visual art as a prompt to draft an ekphrastic poem. On Day 17, Tricia Stohr-Hunt shared “The Tall White Sun” (1917), a painting by Charles E. Burchfield.
I knew nothing about the painting.
I knew nothing about Charles E. Burchfield.
So, before I began to draft a poem, I did some searching.
- I learned that that Charles Burchfield was “one of the most inventive American artists of the twentieth century.
- I took a virtual tour of the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The welcome read: “Welcome to the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the only museum exclusively dedicated to the art and artists of Western New York – including famed American watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield.”
- I learned that Burchfield journaled from 1910-1967, and more than 70 volumes (over 10,000 hand-written pages) are in the Charles E. Burchfield Archives at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.
Though I enjoyed browsing Burchfield’s paintings, I was captivated by pages from his journals. He not only sketched his subjects in pencil, he also sketched them in words. Here’s an entry from the same year he painted “The Tall White Sun.”
Nov. 1, 1917
A light snow in the night all things covered with white –
a cold faraway winter sunrise – There is a combinations of
midwinter and the yellow mellowness of late fall; apples
plums + peaches in green leaf yet, snow-spattered
I like the phrase “a cold faraway winter sunrise.” I think the winter sunrise always looks farther away than a summer sunrise. Come to think of it, since I am north of the 45th parallel, that would be true. Later that same month he wrote the following entry–
Nov. 24-25, 1917, Thanksgiving.
A feeling of religious expectancy in the trees.
Burchfield’s words–“a feeling of religious expectancy in the trees” –paired with “The Tall White Sun” inspired me to draft a found poem from the words of the Psalmist.
Song of Joy
Let heavens rejoice
Let the earth be glad
Let the sea roar and
The mountains and hills
break forth in song
Let the fields and their
Crops be jubilant
Let the trees of the field
Clap their hands
Let the trees of the forest
Sing for joy
Go out with rejoicing
Be led forth with peace
For the Lord cometh
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It truly is wonderful when we learn about people we knew nothing of before. Learning is never ending. I, also, am not familiar with this artist and will have to check him out. Love the idea of painting a scene in watercolors as well as words.
I think it is wonderful how we can visit museums, listen/watch people share their stories, and read very old out-of-print books, all via the internet.
Pictures are a fabulous source for writing! Love the learning, research, and creativity that your slice captures – all from one painting!
Thank you. It was amazing during the poetry challenge to read so many different poems, all inspired by the same visual art.
I just love this, it’s so fun and exciting to find out about new people, especially artists! And I love the found poem you finished with, thank you for that!
Thank you! I was so excited to find his journals online. I love looking in journals or at margin notes. That was one of the things I enjoyed most in London… going to the British Library and seeing Lewis Carroll’s original manuscript with his notes and revisions.
This one will have me thinking for quite a while. Now I’m curious about Charles Burchfield; thanks for introducing him to us.
Thank you, Barbara. I hope you enjoy reading the entries from Burchfield’s journals as much as I have.