Movement in Squares

i

This art will start as a square canvas.
And at the finish a thumb-width frame
fashioned plain, and base metal.
But paint awaits conception
for the painter is confined.

we think of the key, each in his prison
thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

How Eliot resonates whilst I’m pondering an opener
a way out of this block. Between the blank beginning
and the hanging, possibilities stretch perpetually.
Such a yawning void, as in life sentences.

shades of the prison-house begin to close
upon the growing boy
but he beholds the light and whence it flows

Recitations from the long gone days of youth
and so the great lake poet activates
some artistry. No Wordsworth landscape
but contrary, abstract squares. Metallic momentum
that calls for cadmium. Viscous, vivacious yellows.

Sunlit crossbars hopscotch the horizontal
– with the finest outlined shadows
– the whitest high-lit contours.
And captive within, some aquamarine
several semitones down to creamy blues
like twilight skies in skylights.

“a slow and stopping curve southwards we kept.”

yes Larkin spoke of art. What else are those Whitsun views
from a moving train but ever-changing frames
of coloured shapes. And there where the track arcs
a broad sweep of sienna. Warm-toned depths
in descent, announcing contrast.

For finishing touch, an open vent
to brush some air with the finest hairs
across dividing lines. Quadratics on the move.


ii

Movement in Squares ~ Bridget Riley (1961)

It was all the rage then
was space-time warp pre-LSD
all sea-sick chess board men
the square plane skewed, an anti
rage, darker even than the bomb.

Then colour crayoned in the blanks.

For my poetry challenge we paint a poem from imagination, prompted only by the title of a renowned art work. And/or write an ekphrastic from the actual piece of art. I chose to do both (but only reviewed the painting after part i) and wrote a 6-word square poem as the artist Riley talking retrospectively, for Poetics: Poet as Painter

35 Comments on “Movement in Squares

  1. My goodness this is good! 💝 This is an EPIC poem, Laura! One which leaves a lasting impact on the reader with its lush language and imagery. Especially love; “What else are those Whitsun views from a moving train but ever-changing frames of coloured shapes.” Yes! 😀

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  2. This title seemed the most difficult to interpret to me, but you’ve made it look so easy, Laura! I love the way you start with a concrete image, the canvas and the frame, and then open it up to so much more with the poetic quotations. I especially love the lines:
    ‘But paint awaits conception
    for the painter is confined’,
    ‘Sunlit crossbars hopscotch the horizontal
    – with the finest outlined shadows
    – the whitest high-lit contours’,
    the ‘sea-sick chess board men’.

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  3. I love the actual mention of colors in the poem: the cadmium and vicious vivacious yellows….and my favorite named crayon “sienna” which is also a paint color. These lines
    “several semitones down to creamy blues
    like twilight skies in skylights” paint the words’ canvas beautifully.

    And then the optic painting described with words like LSD and “all sea-sick chess board men” made me smile. You certainly hit that one on the head!

    Both so very well done.

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    • thanks Lillian – did not want to overdo the colour so went with warm and cool. The ii ekphrastic is retrospective commentary from ‘the artist’ as opposed to the viewer. Just moved that way of its own accord!

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  4. I like how you laid out the parameters and they laid out the constraints. Very creative take on it. I thought about using this title and trying to do a board game theme. The actual artwork looks very different than what I imagined it would be.

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  5. I love how you let the square of the title be like a prison with the poet dreaming of colors, or maybe of words from the great poet. To me it is a great poem calling the muse to “colour crayoned in the blanks”… I think when a poet writes about the muse like this, she is walking in your shadow

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    • My muse and I really appreciate this comment Bjorn!! The way you link both parts with the colour and the blanks, the inspiration and the stuckness- something I had not registered.

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  6. Exquisite. The allusions add to the tonal contrasts as you move from one palette of contemplation to another. Fine poetry.

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  7. Loved the allusions and the philosophy “But paint awaits conception for the painter is confined.” Totally original piece! 💯

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  8. I love the process of your creative writing as you describe the photo in the square canvas. The colors are vivid as: Metallic momentum
    that calls for cadmium. Viscous, vivacious yellows.

    Its a challenge to think beyond the black and white frames but you captured the movements well with:
    Sunlit crossbars hopscotch the horizontal.
    And there where the track arcs
    a broad sweep of sienna. Warm-toned depths
    in descent, announcing contrast.

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    • many thanks Grace – the colour was one thing but as you say finding the movement was trickier so working from that feeling of being stuck helped me out!

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  9. Epic indeed! I have read your poem several times, each time coming away with a different emotion / thought … a great write, Laura.

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  10. A great poem Laura. This was a unique one… the squares made me dizzy! Abstracts come in all shapes and sizes!

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  11. I love the stark contrast of your two poems here, and the weaving in of other poets’ words in the first. You set yourself the hardest challenge and rose to it superbly! This particular picture gives me a headache when I look at it…

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    • I was so glad to have those renowned poets come to my rescue!! As for the Riley art- it’s typical early sixties breaking free from the monochrome post-war fifties before the psychedelic movement zapped us all! At least that is what I tried to convey with the square poem!

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  12. you took the most difficult prompt then moulded it together with imagery and poetry, well done!

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  13. kaykuala

    Quadratics on the move

    The close together seeing the painting below makes it very clear. And the painting itself done in that special treat of uneven shapes cleverly brings out lots of movements from a mere 2D rendition and matched most appropriately with the close. Beautiful shot Laura. Thanks for the prompt. It was a challenging prompt!

    Hank.

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    • even though I chose the artwork, I only glimpsed to link up and so my own M-i-S is quite different. Not my shot but a screen grab of Riley’s vertiginous art.I too found the prompt challenging(!) but glad you were able to join in too

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      • kaykuala

        Thanks, Laura. Ma’am! Hank feels off tangent after reading the others. Hank will do this again in the forthcoming OLN.

        Hank

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