Gregory Warren Wilson is a violinist and performs internationally. He has two collections of poems, Preserving Lemons, and Hanging Windchimes in a Vacuum. Carole Satyamurti is an award-winning poet. She has published four collections, of which the latest is Love and Variations (Bloodaxe). Selected Poems was published by OUP in 1998.
by poets Gregory Warren Wilson and Carole Satyamurti about their work at the National Gallery, London.
The aim of this project was to encourage participants to look in depth at specific paintings in the National Gallery's collection, and then to write poetry based on them, or the experience of looking at them, under the guidance of the tutors.
We felt that the better informed we all were about the paintings, the better the poetry would be, and to this end a ten minute art historical lecture was given by Rebecca Lyons (Education Officer at the National Gallery) in front of each painting. This proved invaluable, giving everyone the chance to have their questions about the paintings answered by someone with specialist knowledge, and making each painting's larger historical context more accessible. It also provided us with specific vocabulary and terms, some of which were subsequently incorporated into the poetry produced.
Group discussion, both of the paintings and of the poetry they inspired, was an integral part of the project; the exchange of ideas, and the critical feedback on poems, both from tutors and fellow writers, was for some people the most stimulating part of the course. The Short Course moved chronologically through the Gallery's collection, selecting one painting from each century with particular themes in mind - such as narrative, self-portrayal, perspective, the female gaze. These themes, and the ways in which they did, and did not, relate to writing poetry, were discussed at some length within the group, and proved to be useful and provocative starting points.
By the end of the project, a number of poems were up on display on notice boards in the National Gallery, next to reproductions of the paintings. The prospect of being 'hung' provided quite an incentive. We're pleased to report that, following this project at the National Gallery, a number of participants have continued to meet regularly in other galleries in order to continue writing poetry based on the visual arts, and to critique each other's work.