I wish I could express my response to visual art in a meaningful way. Whenever I praise a painting, I hear echoes of my Mississippi grandmother admiring a dress. (“It’s stunning. Just look at the lines! And the detail! And all those little sequins stitched along the bustline!”) Bleagh.
Last night I did some research on Welliver and discovered he was friends with Mark Strand, a very visual poet who studied art until he blundered upon one of Welliver’s paintings and “‘wondered instantly if … I’d made a mistake by pursuing painting. Well, I had.'”
“‘Looking at that Welliver painting had a lot to do with my becoming a poet,’ Strand said. ‘So thank you, Neil. If you were a worse painter, I would be painting still.'”
Here, to make up for my own inarticulacy, are some lines from a poem in Blizzard of One that Strand dedicated to Welliver:
I no longer wait in front of the blistered, antique mirror,
Hoping a shape or a self will rise, and step
From that misted surface and say: You there,
Come with me into the world of light and be whole,
For the love you thought had been dead a thousand years
Is back in town and asking for you. Oh no.
I say, I’m done with my kind. I live alone
On Walnut Lane, and will until the day I die.