Artistic Reckoning

The following post for One Shot Wednesday is also my response to the latest Bookstains Poetry Challenge.  The challenge is write a poem about Grant Wood’s iconic painting American Gothic.  If interested in participating, then click here for details.

Approximately 650 miles from Winesburg, Ohio
Much nearer sticks to hospitable care
When boring wood lampooned beliefs
You may feel free
Bury me there

Ulysses & Grant would go home again
Iowa forgiving prodigal pride
Blond Emily Dickinson stares into oblivion
Poseidon’s prop gripped by father time

Behind them lies someone’s home
Spring arresting American plume
Sprouting hawthorn of unmentionable kinds
Reckoning they did die here too

Care for a reading?

53 Responses to “Artistic Reckoning”

  1. Hhehe LOVING it Adam!

    “Poseidons prop gripped by Father Tme….”

    I have to put this on the American GOthic Poetry Challenge NOW!
    Great contribution – and very much appreciated!

    • Thanks, Lynda. Your challenges provide a great way for poetry to combine with noteable works of art. Always a challenging learning experieince for me.

  2. […] who has the most wonderful poetry blog, full of challenges and delights!  Well worth checking our here AND with the added bonus of actually hearing the poems read by the […]

  3. you know – they look very unhappy…love the wood lampooned beliefs and the poseidon association…

  4. Incredibly interesting artist, Grant Wood. Studied in Europe then returned to his roots. Took an awful lot of heat for this one, yet he found acceptance in the end when people began to interpret the painting more as an homage to hard working folk. Personally, I love the ambiguity of paintings like this one. Lynda selects excellent subjects for her challenges. Thanks, Claudia.

  5. This painting was given to us by a wiseacre friend when we got married and now hangs in a spot of honor in our bathroom. Your poem does it more than justice–great great wordplay on the names, and that line “Blond Emily Dickinson” really got me. I’ve always had a fondness for this work of art, and your poem kind of echoes the ambiguity you mention. I can see them buried in the backyard quite easily.

  6. A tribute to a country this seems with simple and beautiful metaphors!Great Dustus!

  7. Adam,
    Such a different photo to write to, yet one that Americans know well. I too liked “Poseidon’s prop gripped by Father time”. Very well done and clever wordchoice used. Thank you for sharing! ~Corbie Sinclair

  8. This is terrific– vivid, with a good flow to it. xxxj

  9. ladynimue Says:

    /its more than entertaining to read your page ,, truly inspiring this is 🙂

  10. wow, your poetry always amazes me.

  11. A well written tribute to the good old USA. 🙂
    It was fun to read.

  12. What a fun prompt! You are a master of words. 🙂

  13. I love the play with “wood” and “Grant” – and then conflating the couple into Emily Dickinson (and there’s a resemblance!) and Poseidon.

    • On a related note, you can sing much of Emily Dickinson karaoke-style to the theme song of Gilligan’s Island. I do not mean to imply that Poseidon was responsible for the Minnow’s shipwreck. lol

  14. He has the look of *I’ve been married far too long* she has the look of *jail would have been far easier*. together they make a miserable pair. Emily Dickinson would have smiled at one point or another one would hope! Might try this next week see if time and health allows. As always Adam I reiterate what I said on Petes blog been reading you for over a year, made me want to blog art and poetry. Just wanted to say cheers x

    • smiles. thank you …as an aside, the people who posed for the painting (and not in front of the house) are supposed to represent a father and daughter—that’s where part of the controversy occurs b/c many interpret them as a couple with a healthy age gap between them.

  15. Excellent words for the pic.

  16. Lots of mileage obtained by this line: Ulysses & Grant would go home again
    I just have to admire it. Tridents and Poseidon too…there’s a little Greek and Italian homage buried in both your work and his. Lovely.

  17. Neat, i liked it Adam

  18. ladynyo Says:

    What a fine tribute in this poem to American art and poetry!

    Dustus, this is magnificent. You hit all the right icons and buttons.

    Lady Nyo…I didn’t know that about the Father and Daugther.

  19. Adam, you have laid out wonderful imagery here.
    Well suited for the art.

  20. dude fun word play…blind emily dickinson…lol, by the looks on their faces they may already be dead…smiles.

  21. It always bothered me to think they represented America… Nice write.

  22. I always thought it was a couple, too. Good to learn something new. Love the second and third lines along with the whole thing. You write smart poetry 🙂

  23. Ah, always entertaining to see one art stir another – and American Gothic’s one of those I’ve always been curious to see people’s interpretations of the story behind. Enjoyed the word play, and the solid references – quirky and entertaining image, Dustus!

  24. The Blond Emily Dickinson…wow you blew my image of her with that…your wit show through well on this one Dustus…fun read…bkm

  25. A great work of art from my native state. You can actually buy a pie from the lady that lives there now. Your poem is a great companion for the art.

  26. What a fine fiiiine take on this amazing piece of art, Adam.. you really inspire me to take up the challenge myself!!
    The pictures you have painted with your words here totally match up to the real thing too 🙂
    Quirky and witty.. now that’s yet another facet of your amazing poetry that I’m seeing today!!
    Much enjoyed!

  27. your words remind me of wood chips and dustus
    floating through the air like brown metal rustus*
    if in the garden he be adam, would she be the daughter of eve?
    ‘twas that devl’s pitchfork that tempted them to leave…
    she thinks, ‘he never smiles, he looks like a dork…
    i would feel safer if he’d put down that fork!’
    all i said was, ‘…i’m your daughter, you’re my dad…
    still, that’s the worst haircut you ever had!’

    *this is a good thing, said the footnote to the toe
    through the winds of time good stories blow.

    good stuff adam! i will never look at this iconic painting in the same way.*

    • brown metal rustus* (*spits out coffee*) Cracked me up and certainly footnote worthy! ahahaha “The Ramifications of a Bad Hair Day” Thanks, t

  28. I pass the exit for Winesburg on my way to Cedar Point in Sandusky.

    Kudos on doing double-duty, Adam! (Waste not, want not)

  29. Was it something he said? I’ve always wondered. The pitch fork was his last defense. Don’t know much about the painting otherwise. So some of the references I would have to google. From the comments though those in the know gave great appreciation.

  30. ‘Behind them lies someone’s home’ sometimes your words take us where we dint want to go and yet at times..exactly where we would like to be..nice twas Dustus.

  31. Brendan Says:

    I love the pairing of E. Dickenson and Saturn holding a Poseidonal scythe. Dickenson would heartily agree to such a match, midway between Amherst and blue heaven – Brendan

  32. like others here, i enjoyed the new look at this old familiar painting, through your words. also liked hearing you read it. it helped me hear the short, almost choppy, rhythm, which in turn gave me a feeling of heartland simplicity.

  33. Kind of eerie with spirits of place.

  34. this i liked…great write..cheers pete

  35. Heh, heh. Fun poem! Gothic in its own right. Love how you pulled in several American icons and cultural references. And as always, your language and syntax are striking, inimitable really. Great one shot!

  36. What a great response to the picture!

  37. betweenhearts75 Says:

    Love the silly nature of this image (and also a slight creepy too…I dunno maybe something to do with the pitchfork in hand sense….I know farming…but still…lol) Incredible always Adam “Blonde Emily Dickinson stares into oblivion” can really feel something drawing in that line…well it’s entire structure…wonderful work! Such a cool challenge too!!! 🙂 ~ April

  38. Good piece, made me smile. Everything works here.

  39. I thought they unburied them so they could pose! Seriously though, another wonderful write, Adam. This particular painting has always irked me for some reason, but with your piece below it, I almost feel sympathy rather than distaste. Loved the first stanza…bury me there 🙂

  40. Funny how that man and woman seem almost young to me now that I’m a lot older.

    Emily Dickinson, eh? She does find her way into many great modern poems,like this!


  41. I’ve been enlightened! Nice one!

  42. There is an energy in the turn of the one
    “bury me there”
    wow….I couldn’t get over that line
    started writing my own poem with that line
    ….good poem…but that line
    I was expecting to have it repeated

  43. Love the line ‘Sprouting hawthorn of unmentionable kinds’ sounds so delish and naughty.

    Thanks for stopping by with the comment.

  44. They are really unhappy looking people. Their faces speak volumes. I’m glad your imagination was listening. Intriguing One Shot, Adam.

  45. Razor blade sharp the way you worked in so many references bound not only by geography but by the movement of time through the poem. Learned a wiki’s worth about the picture just from reading through the comments but you’re poem does it justice in a way I’ve never quite seen before. It is a very positive use of the iconography of the image spread out in sort of a tableaux of Americana mixed in with several great classical reference points. You must have really put some sweat into writing this one. Very impressive piece. Take care,


  46. I enjoyed this one very much and its quite inspiring. Your word play on the painting is beautiful.

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya
    Twitter @VerseEveryDay

  47. as many times as i’ve seen this painting, i guess i have “seen” it only in my imagination. i would have sworn that she looked as old as him.

    great poem, Adam, but yours always are.

  48. Ah, were it possible to pluck words out of the air! How do you do it?! Lovely.

  49. I’ve seen the picture so many times over the years and often wondered about the meaning behind it. So much more interesting when you understand the history and symbolism of a painting.

    A sharp and observant piece of writing Adam. Good luck in the challenge.

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