Although more widely known as an artist, Marsden Hartley (1877 - 1943) was also a poet. As a matter of fact, I read his poetry before I knew he was an artist. Born in Auburn, Maine, he was sometimes included in local anthologies that I read growing up, as I was also born in Maine.
His contemporaries - some of them his friends - were all the other poets we've been looking at over the past few weeks, but his mentors were of another time: William Blake, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson. He never studied poetry; he just read it. Form was not formal, rhyme and metre did not fit into a type. He liked how a phrase sounded and how it looked on a page; perhaps he approached writing the way he approached painting.
Gail R. Scott in her preface to the volume of Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley she edited in 1986 said, "Many visual artists are able poets on the side or articulate spokesmen for their work. Some writers also paint with varying degrees of competence." William Blake and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were also dual creators. Closer to home, our friend Terry is both an artist and a writer. So we shouldn't be surprised that someone of one creative bent would embark on another. Or that a person could be successful in more than one medium.
In fact, music was also a large part of Marsden Hartley's life. Although not a musician, he appreciated good music and musicians and wrote in a style that was often as lyrical and flowing as a musical line. Today's poem is one about, and inspired by, the pianist Vladimir Horowitz (with a nod to William Blake).
Those piston-driven fingers at the key-
board like tigers burning bright in the
middle of a cataclysmic rage,
tearing the tones apart as fish-hawks tear,
one claw holding them down, fish-snacks from
scattering the bones upon wind-bitten waves.
This sense of being aware at once of everything
in the full-fledged instance, leaving immortality
like a fleck on the face of the sun,
the man himself pulled out of a sheer mirage
leaving him bare of heart,
with stately soul drawn upward by the hair
like some mad thing in a Blake drawing,
only when we LEARN - are we suspended between
crashes of thunder and jabs of lightning
do we know the glory of the single moment
it is the certainty that we have lived what
the sense contrived outside all metaphysical
that music like this is made,
giving credence to wisdom's fiercest surmise.