New Year’s Resolution: A Daily Dose of Art and Poetry

New Year’s Resolution: A Daily Dose of Art and Poetry

Exodus by Marc Chagall
Exodus by Marc Chagall

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions; but today Dom was toying with the idea of resolving to write a blog post every day. I admonished him, saying I thought it was perhaps too ambitious a goal. But I guess the idea lingered in the back of my head and now I’m finding myself on the threshold of a similar rash resolve.

This past week on Facebook there was a meme going around that I heartily approved of. The players would tag each other with the name of an artist, the tagged person would then have to post a picture by that artist. Anyone who liked the picture would be tagged with the name of another artist. And so art proliferated. I posted pictures by half a dozen different artists and handed out more than a dozen names of artists. It was lovely to see the pieces that people chose. Lovely to have my Facebook feed brightened for a bit with lovely pictures. Of course with the group of friends I have there are usually some pictures, most often religious pictures, floating around most every day. Either way, it’s nice to have a reminder to pause and feast on beauty.

And then I read this essay (or skimmed more like, it was really long) Can Poetry Matter?. In this piece, published in The Atlantic in 1991, Dana Gioia argues that poetry is irrelevant in the lives of most Americans:

AMERICAN POETRY now belongs to a subculture. No longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. Little of the frenetic activity it generates ever reaches outside that closed group. As a class poets are not without cultural status. Like priests in a town of agnostics, they still command a certain residual prestige. But as individual artists they are almost invisible.

It wasn’t conscious, but perhaps that essay was percolating as I thought about the Facebook art meme. I wondered if you could do the same thing with poetry? It might not have the viral superpower as the visual art pieces, but I bet I could get quite a few of my friends to play along. And perhaps they could get some of their friends… who knows how far it might go. And if it’s only me and my friends, well then we will all still have enjoyed a little poetry respite. Who wouldn’t benefit from reading a few poems.

And so I took the plunge and was rather surprised at how many people jumped in. Poems were flying left and right all over my Facebook page today. And I read some poems out loud to Bella and Sophie. And I thought I don’t want this to end. I want to read poetry every day. Or most days. Certainly more than I have been. I want to share my favorite poems and poets. I want to fell the thrill of the chase.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution: I’m going to try to post a poem every day. A poem and a picture to go with it. The connection between the two may be thematic or non-existent, I’m not going to strain myself too hard. Just something beautiful. Beautiful art, beautiful words. A space for loveliness. A pause for contemplation.

And I’m going to invite you to join me. Either post a poem or a picture (or both) in the comments of each day’s post. Or post them on your own blog and leave a comment on my post so I know they’re there. Let’s all share our favorite art and inspire each other to seek loveliness.

Because there’s no time like the present, I’m going to start a bit early.


by Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-
Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.
But here in the Advent-darkened room
Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea
Of penance will charm back the luxury
Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom
The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing
When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking
Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill
Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking
Of an old fool will awake for us and bring
You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins
And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching
For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-
We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning
Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.
And we’ll hear it among decent men too
Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,
Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.
Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and
God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,
The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges
Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.
We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages
Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-
And Christ comes with a January flower.

Patrick Kavanagh is a 20th century Irish poet who I first encountered when I was studying Irish literature for my MA at Boston College. One of my fellow students was a huge fan and I found a few poems I really liked. This poem, however, is one my friend Kate discovered when I tagged her with Kavanagh’s name in the Facebook game. It seems especially appropriate at this time of the year.

Today’s painting is Exodus by Marc Chagall, a Russian-born Jewish painter. I’m rather intrigued by the fact that he was fascinated by images of the crucifixion.

How to play along: post a link to a poem or a work of art. If you like, tell me how it connects to one of the pieces I’ve shared: same artist, similar theme, word association, whatever.

Join the discussion

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