Having worked as a cataloguer at the Archives of American Art for over ten years, and read thousands of collection descriptions, I’ve realized that creative people often find multiple outlets for their artistic talents. They paint and sculpt, and take photos. Some will give just about anything a try, including poetry.
I’ve always loved poetry, since Dr. Seuss and the nursery rhymes I learned before I was in kindergarten. The sonorous susurrations of the syllables speak to me and tell me stories I understand in my heart as well as my head. Finding out that many of our artists are also poets, made them more accessible; we had something in common!
John Henry Bradley Storrs was one of those multi-talented creative people; he painted, sculpted, made prints, and wrote poems. Below is one of his better poems, “Spring (In War Time),” written in 1915. It juxtaposes a familiar rural setting, a sunlit, tree lined road—which in times of strife becomes idyllic because of its ordinariness—with the horrors of war, where soldiers lie scattered and wrecked like broken toys. Storrs took his experience working in a Parisian hospital throughout World War I and distilled it into poems which tried to make sense of the senseless, as did fellow poets of this period Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
Terry Wolverton is equally creative as an author of both poems and essays, and as a literary artist. The poem below is from her time at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles, California, where she produced both performance art and literary art, and was an integral part in organizing many of its programs. Wolverton wrote this poem as a response to the question, “What is feminist art?”
Coming soon, part II: Charles Green Shaw and Isabel Fiske Conant.
Michelle McDaniel is an archival cataloguer at the Archives of American Art, who, in her spare time is a fiber artist, plays piano, and reads lots of poetry.