Well, I’m working on a manuscript. There are plenty of poems on paper, all pooled together in a file folder, scratched out on little notebook pages, some jotted down while I was supervising June exams. (I know….it’s illegal….I did invigilate, but I also wrote down a couple of ‘first lines’ for poems. It happens and, if you’re a poet, you know that if you ignore them, the words vanish as quickly and mysteriously as they have arrived.)
Last August, when I was in Hawaii for a few days en route to Australia and New Zealand, I found an exhibit of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. She and Ansel Adams both visited Hawaii to work on artistic commissions. It was common in the late 1930s and 1940s, I’ve discovered through research, although I’m sure they both battled with the eternal question of whether or not art should be made commercial. In any case, O’Keefe negotiated fiercely with the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (later to become good old Dole), committing herself to painting just two stylized posters even though they wanted more. Beyond that, she shifted from the island of Oahu and then moved over to Maui, spending about three months in the Hawaiian islands, but falling head over heels in love with Maui. Her paintings are stunning. They remind me of some of Emily Carr’s totem paintings of the Haida.
A shout out to my poetic guru, Susan Rich in Seattle, Washington, who has officially got me hooked on ekphrastic work. I did a lot of it before I went to Eyeries two years ago, but I’m fully committed to it now. Thanks, lady!
So…..here is the introductory poem for the “suite” or “sequence” of poems that I’m working on….based on the paintings I viewed last August at the Honolulu Academy of Art.
Hope you enjoy it!
(for Georgia O’Keefe)
From Sun Prairie, in Wisconsin,
to the badlands of New Mexico,
she searched for wide open spaces,
with deep reverence, as a seeker does.
Flipped through travel brochures,
found one for Hawaii, went there
to paint pineapple posters for Dole,
but fell in love with Maui,
her heart toppled by waterfalls,
lava bridges, bright salted ocean spray.
She was 51 then,
in a marriage that floundered
like a fish out of water,
when she bravely crossed oceans
to find white birds of paradise
and pineapple buds of promise.
Landed on Oahu, stayed in Honolulu,
afterwards shifting to Hana, on Maui;
transfixed by sea caves, sugar cane fields,
tasting tamarind, star fruit, avocado & mango,
so that they soon became colours on canvas,
marked on her heart ever after.
She expected so little of those islands,
after being seduced by the badlands,
but they surprised her, catching her unaware,
sweeping her off her feet, gathering up her heart,
paintbrushes mad with passionate abandon.