Heart to Heart: New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art
When Jan Greenberg invited poets from across the country to submit their creations based on twentieth century American Art, she received a torrent of startling, unexpected pieces that run the gamut from simple to sublime. The art represented here includes photography, sculpture, painting, collage, and more, and the poetry is as varied. Some pieces are short and dynamic while others include long flowing lines or rigid structure. Both free verse and traditional poet forms are explored. The results are both thought-provoking and sometimes startlingly clear.
Some poets choose to inhabit the subject of the work; others address the work directly. Still others use the works as jumping off points into their own lives and memories. As a result, Greenberg chooses to arrange the work thematically rather than chronologically. Surprisingly, this approach works well and makes the works accessible to a younger audience. More historical reference would have been interesting and might have facilitated understanding of the works, but as stand alone pieces separated from their historical contexts the art and poetry can be viewed in new and fascinating ways. For example, Donald Finkel’s piece “More Light” manages to approach Edward Hopper’s classic “Nighthawks” in an original way that– pardon the pun– sheds light upon a work that has been anaylzed nearly to death. Other pieces shine as well, including William Jay Smith’s “Woman at the Piano” inspired by the sculpture of the same name by Elie Nadelman. The sculpture itself fails to draw the reader in but coupled with the poem it is suddenly evocative and worth a second and third look.
Teens with an aptitude for art or poetry will find the works easy to get into, but more relunctant readers may be a harder sell. Nonetheless, the variety of artistic and poetic styles will help many hesitant readers find something to spark their interest. This collection would work well in a collaborative setting and might make a useful introduction to either subject. Whether among students or between young readers and parents, the pieces should initiate conversation about art, poetry, culture, memory, and perception.