A Poem for An Old Woodcut

As I continue turning some of my early prints into booklets, I’m playing around with words I might include with the prints. This last print I’ve been working with (the one that’s also in my previous post) has a lot of black ink in it.  And that got me thinking about some writing I did a few years ago. In 2014 I took a poetry writing workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  After our meetings, I’d often wander around the Gallery, looking at various art works.  This prose and poem came out of one of those meanderings.  I’m contemplating the design of the booklet and will show it to you when I’ve completed it.

Here’s another photo of the woodcut I plan to use that I’ve cut down the middle.

FormVariation4thCut

And here’s the prose and poem:

Black Waterfall

On a day when the tomb-like qualities of the gallery seep into me too much, I enter the rooms of David Milne’s paintings looking for peace.  I find some here, away from the more flashy works of Lauren Harris and Frank Carmichael.  Milne’s are quieter, less assuming, but they give back to me, emitting life.

I stand looking at one that I like.  It’s called Black Waterfall, a scene in the woods by a small falls.  The water is, indeed, black, the colours subdued.  After many minutes, I am surprised to see what I hadn’t noticed: Milne, himself, at his easel in the upper left of the painting.  He’s the same colours as the trees, rocks and earth.  He has disappeared into the scene or become one with it.  I like the humility, the humour and the wisdom of his image, considering where the alienation from nature has taken humanity.

This is a painting I can carry with me, softening the dense traffic of the city, helping me inhale forested air where rivers flow, while the ghost of the artist amidst the trees silently witnesses my passing presence.

*

By the black waterfall

the painter has disappeared

into the trees, rocks and soil

where, being invisible,

he can more closely observe passersby

and the woods and water he’s depicting

camouflaged at his easel like a deer

but not bolting

steady of hand and sight

neither a conqueror

nor a slave

embodying a gentle way

to save a life.

©Lily S. May–May 2014


2 Comments on “A Poem for An Old Woodcut”

  1. […] A Poem for An Old Woodcut → […]

  2. […] with my writing about Milne’s Black Waterfall painting. You can see the initial idea in Poem for an Old Woodcut. There’s other related posts following that one. I decided to print my writing on thin […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s