Friday, December 19, 2014

I Wish I'd Written This

After Kandinsky: Yellow, Red, Blue (1925)

By Katherine Gallagher

Watch the animal eyes that whisk corners
faster than an angel breathing passwords
in a mesh of yellow. Cloud-sure, life flags itself on. 
Circle after circle is mapped in the mystery
of a line quicker than an arrow, shot from left to right,
the dark corners turned in on themselves,
while the sea advances up the cliffs.

Presently a cat walks tall out of the waves,
eyes open, heading for the fire at the centre,
the red waves fanned, turned crimson,
surrounded by purples that ferry
the jigsaw’s spell. Choices multiply,
resonate, form patterns for love-songs
the heart claims again and again.

In the background, dark moons, resilient,
juggle patchwork squares, lines, and curves.
Light bounces off them as finally the perfect blue
you’ve been waiting for, dips, tumbles
into the still of the storm, among reds, purples,
all shades — this country you keep coming back to,
that walks you home to yourself.

From: After Kandinsky
Publisher: Vagabond Press, Sydney, 2006

Wassily Kandinsky, the great Russian-born painter and pioneer of abstract art, was born on December 16, 1866 and died on December 13, 1944. He was also known as an art theorist, and his ideas on colour, line and point are summarised in the Wikipedia article I've linked to his name.

He was a poet too, who wrote what he called prose poems, which we would perceive as free verse. He was as interested in 'pure sound' as he was in the nature of colour, but in my opinion was less successful in turning his experiments with words into great art.

I find his abstract paintings very beautiful — and joyful, which was his intention. London-based Australian poet Katherine Gallagher obviously loves his work too, as it has inspired some of her poetry.  I chose this particular poem partly because of its references to home. Christmas is just around the corner — a time when, for many of us, home becomes very significant. 

I've been acquainted with Katherine for many years, as she has made visits back to Australia, specifically Melbourne, where I used to live. But it's been a while. It was wonderful to discover her splendid interpretations of Kandinsky's paintings. Although this poem refers to the images in the painting, her descriptions seem to me redolent of Australia, as the country she 'keeps coming back to'. Stunning poem, anyway!

Unfortunately the book, After Kandinsky, is evidently out of print, but you can find Katherine's equally beautiful yet very different poem about his Blue Painting (1924) here and images of the actual painting here.  You can find more of Katherine's work at her Amazon page. I have her first collection, Passengers to the City, which is still in print, and I'm pleased to see that it and most of the others are available in Kindle as well as paper editions. You can also read a wonderful collection of her poetry, and her biographical details, at the Australian Poetry Library. The biography there tells us: 'She is active in poetry and community reading groups in London and continues to be involved in mentoring and workshops. Besides her own work, Gallagher has published translations of French poetry.'

She lived and taught in Paris in the seventies, and evidently keeps some connections with France. At any rate Viv Blake, one of our Poets United community, who lives in Normandy, spoke some little time ago of attending a workshop Katherine gave in France. Small world!

Her website also refers you to her books, and to her workshops and other projects, as well as including her literary biography and a list of interviews. She obviously leads a busy life, yet was prompt and gracious in agreeing to my request — at very short notice — to feature her here this week.

Katherine asked:
Could you please mention my publishers, Arc Publications  -  There are a lot of reviews of my poetry books on their site too. Also, my New & Selected is an e-book, details on Arc’s site.

This is the last 'I Wish I'd Written This' before Christmas. Have a great festive season, folks, and I'll see you in the New Year!

Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).


  1. Hi Rosemary. Today post - such a treat for me. Wassily Kandinsky - one of my favorite abstract painters, spent young years in my hometown of Odessa, where he has learned to play piano, cello and absorbed the magical sea air of creativity... ~ The poem made me happy, I love Katherine Gallagher poetic voice...~ Thank you for the interesting posts today and always! Happy holidays to you! Much Love and Inspiration! Productive and peaceful 2015 yr !

    1. Thank you — and how exciting that he grew up in your own home town!

  2. A fantastic share of two artists, Rosemary. Thanks so much. And thank you for bringing us this feature week in and week out, all through the year. Have a wonderful holiday season!!

  3. I saw this on Google the other day and I knew someone was going to turn it into a poem (hahaha). This is such an inspiring piece of artwork for poetry because interpretation is left wide open. Really great piece you have created Rosemary! :)

    1. Thanks, Ken. With a painting like that, and a poem like Katherine's, I had rich material to work with for this little article.

  4. Yellow-red-blue, each for a stanza and each vitally alive. WOW Looking forward to more next year, Rosemary!!

  5. Rosemary, thankyou for this marrage of Kandinsky's 'Yellow, Red, Blue' and Katherine's 'After Kandinsy's: Yellow Red, Blue, piece. her reference point of where he resided to create this lovely portrayal of the art work is wonderful let alone her lovely interpretive words..

    gracias for your continued sharing

    feliz navidad

    1. So lucky to find such a good marriage of poetry and painting!

  6. I like Kandisky's work, and I'm not usually a fan of abstract. Hmm, I wonder if I could try writing a poem about a painting..

  7. i learned about Kandinsky while in secondary school, when i was curious about art. i like his use of colours, and the mood of his works, which i find joyful, as you have pointed out.
    Gallagher's poem is a great work to be shared with this painting. Thank you Rosemary, for this week's share, and for all the insightful and well-penned articles in 2014 at this community. I try not to miss any of them, and i really enjoyed reading them. :)

    1. Yes, it's so good to find an ekphrastic poem that lives up to the artistry of the painting!


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