January 4, 2013

Poetry Friday--"Evening Star"

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Evening Star, No. III," (1917), MoMA.

The painting above by Georgia O'Keeffe is the inspiration for this poem by Edward Hirsch:
Evening Star

(Georgia O'Keeffe in Canyon, Texas, 1917)

She was just a schoolteacher then
Walking away from the town
                                            in the late-afternoon sunset,
A young woman in love
                                    with a treeless place,
The scattered windmills and pounding winds
Of the whole prairie sliding toward dusk,
Something unfenced and wild
                                            about the world without roads,
Miles and miles of land
                                    rolling like waves into nowhere,
The light settling down in the open country.

She had nothing to but walk away
From the churches and banks, the college buildings
Of knowledge, the filling stations
                                                 of the habitable world,
And then she was alone
                                     with what she believed--
The shuddering iridescence of heat lightning,
Cattle moving like black lace in the distance,
Wildflowers growing out of bleached skills,
The searing oranges and yellows of the evening star
Rising in daylight,
                            commanding the empty spaces.

It may be considered an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrasis is art about art, which can be visual, written, or another form of art created in response. I think, however, that the poem here is more a study of the artist than the work itself. No matter, it's a fine poem!

Oops, I almost forgot...the Round-Up is being held in New Hampshire this week--right up the road a piece at Matt's place, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.


  1. You are wonderful about sharing ekphrastic poetry, Diane - and I LOVE this example.

    "The shuddering iridescence of heat lightning,
    Cattle moving like black lace in the distance" - gorgeous stuff.

    1. Robyn, I have another ekphrastic tanka to share next week, so come back then.

  2. Wonderful poem by Hirsch - so well done. Wonderful artwork by O'Keefe - so well done. The two together:
    Brilliant! Love ekphrastic poetry, only wish it had a prettier name!

  3. BJ, me too. I can never remember how to spell it, either!

  4. I'm not sure I've ever seen that O'Keefe. LOVE it. The poem describes the landscape where I grew up -- Eastern Colorado: flat, dry, empty, beautiful.

  5. I've never been west of Pennsylvania, Mary Lee! I can't even imagine...

  6. I love that O'Keefe painting, Diane. As you say, the poem is more about O'Keefe than the image in the painting. An interesting discovery - have you tried reading just the off-set lines, beginning with "in the late afternoon sunset," by themselves? It's like a poem within a poem! One that makes the painter the commander, rather than the evening star.

  7. Interesting observation, Joyce! I wonder if it was intentional on the poet's part?