“What the Artist Sees (On Grant Wood’s Landscapes)”, a Poem

What the Artist Sees (On Grant Wood’s Landscapes)

Grant Wood Fall Plowing via Wikimedia Commons

The artist looks outside and sees
Hills that roll like bolster pillows,
Grown impossibly large, impossibly soft.
He sees steeples that thrust themselves
Up and away like rockets yet to be invented.
Stacks of hay like houses like
Small men, clothed in coats of
Beige and brown, marching in lines
Toward the harvest home.

The artist looks outside and sees
Trees in colors no tree has ever known.
Brown but not brown. Yellow but not
Yellow. Not orange not green
Yet more than any. Not real but
Alive and growing and standing
And quiet. Waiting in the distance
For him to see them and make them
Real for all time.

The artist looks outside and sees
The entire world arrayed before him
The times and seasons laid out
From horizon to horizon the roads
Reach past, reach beyond, reach
For places he can not see but he knows
Because they are him. This world
Is him and he will fit it all
Into frames he, also, has made.


My friend Rachael introduced me to the landscapes of Grant Wood, who you will likely know better from his painting “American Gothic”. She asked me to spend a bit of time with his landscape art, then write her a poem about them because she felt the art needed poetry. I spent some time with them and, you know, she was right. This poem is what I wrote her.

(Photo Credit: “Fall Plowing”, Grant Wood, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

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