Poetry: Taking a Line for a Walk

September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Burdened Children 1930 by Paul Klee 1879-1940I saw a class advertised this week in the UK, offered by Pascale Petit through Tate Modern, and thought I’d share it for those of you lucky enough to live near London. If you aren’t near London, the ideas presented in the class could be a resource for your writing, particularly if you are a visual person. The class is called “Taking a Line for a Walk,” and the title comes from the painter Paul Klee, who said that a “drawing is simply a line going for a walk.” Pascale takes this idea of Klee’s and uses it as a starting point for poetry writing. Her course description:

“First lines are a gift. We don’t always know what is coming next, where the journey of the poem will lead us. In this six-week course the group follow Paul Klee’s advice of ‘taking a line for a walk’, paying attention to where the poem wants to go, what colour and tone it wants to be, and embark on surprising adventures with language and image.” Klee’s image to the left is Burdened Children, 1930.

More info here:

This overlap of the line in painting and in writing seems to invite a playfulness that can overcome that “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-next-with-this-poem” feeling. I have several art books at home, and I’m looking forward to some free writes based on the paintings.

I visited my local museum this week and looked not just at modern art but Old Masters. I had Pascale’s course in mind as I thought about the lines in this painting (the flamboyant feathers) and the painting’s somber tone. This is “Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret by Rembrandt. Interestingly, I have been somewhat stuck on an Isaac Newton poem but found that viewing a roomful of 17th century still life paintings at the museum gave me some good details and thoughts on mood that I could use in my writing.

rembrandt high

Pascale teaches at The Poetry School in London as well. Happy to have discovered her insights. She has written five books of poetry, most recently What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo. Her blog can be found at http://www.pascalepetit.co.uk

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