"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
Khalil Gibran

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Landscape ~ A Villanelle

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
Sylvia Plath


The artist, his brush and a landscape
With bridge; yonder a town, a church steeple.
We observe, as strange vision takes shape

Landscape with Bridge

In the foreground, a black cow seems misplaced
Or lost, left to wander the sheep hill
By the artistic brush, and a new landscape

Landscape with Cow

With farmer, alone, shouldering a spade
For his own grave, ashen soil left untilled;
We observe his brutal vision take shape

Landscape with Farmer

Under gun-metal clouds, an iron lake,
A dam wall, and dark smudges for people
Daubed by the artist’s brush in his landscape.

The Dam

A factory appears to be a mistake,
Hidden by trees, and one lonely disciple
Is observed as surreal vision takes shape,

Landscape with factory

Until we come at last to the tollhouse glade
Left to contemplate these scenes of upheaval:
A fashion of artist, brush and landscape
He observed, and disturbed visions took shape.

The Toll House


I began this villanelle, rather ambitiously, last week in an attempt to combine the poetic form with the artwork of Henri Rousseau, whose painting style was unlike that of any other primitive painter. He was ridiculed during his lifetime, but believed wholly in his skill: in his opinion, Picasso and he were the only two great living artists. He is now considered a self-trained genius by art historians.

I had quite a bit of trouble trying to translate my interpretation of his landscapes into some semblance of poetry, but felt I had gone too far with it to give up, and this being poetry writing month, I have decided to simply put the end result out there, with a little of Rousseau's aplomb.

Linking to Poetry Pantry #350


  1. This is beautiful, Kerry. I am impressed with how you used Rousseau's paintings as inspiration and wove the villanelle to accompany. What a rich composition!

    1. Thank you, Mary, I really hesitated over this presentation.

  2. shouldering a spade for his own grave.. the words match the mood of the paintings! Or maybe I am seeing them through your eyes/words.

  3. What an amazing concept it feels as if you have brought to life both the landscape and the internal worlds they offer

  4. A spade for his own grave has me intrigued. Every good painting should have such a poetic telling.

  5. I enjoyed your poem interspersed with the paintings... a beautiful illustrated villanelle. The artistic process, whether it be writing or painting, is challenging but the results are rewarding. :)

    Loredana from Magic of Words.

  6. Such a stupendous composition, Kerry!❤️ Especially love; "In the foreground, a black cow seems misplaced or lost, left to wander the sheep hill by the artistic brush, and a new landscape."❤️

  7. Your villanelle makes me think of home (in the Dominican Republic), especially the stanza about the factory... and the thoughts the words (and image) bring to mind.

  8. What an ambitious challenge you gave yourself ... and how beautifully accomplished!

  9. I am smiling at "a little of Rousseau's aplomb". LOL. I enjoyed both art work and your interpretations, Kerry.

    1. Haha! Yes, sometimes one must throw oneself on the mercy of one's kind readers.

      My thanks to all for your supportive comments.

  10. Love this style Kerry! How sweet to have them interspersed in between. Thanks for highlighting Henri Rousseau too, in the process!


  11. Brilliantly done, especially in light of challenge you put on yourself.

  12. Such a beautiful pairing of your words and Rousseau's images. And villanelle's are so challenging even without this additional task of incorporating artwork!

  13. Beautifully compiled. I keep promising myself to try a villanelle one day but have yet to get round to it!

  14. I think you've succeeded very well. The verses have a quaintness about them which suits these particular Rousseau paintings, and the villanelle form ties it all together .


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