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Joseph Cornell and Visual Poetry

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The artist, Joseph Cornell, has long been a favorite of poets... His inspirations include the opera, ballet, Mallarme, Poe, fairy-tales, Nerval, Verlaine, Mozart, DeQuincy, Dickenson, etc... He constructed images/objects out of fragments of imagery, texts, and music... creating something magical out of the bric-a-brac of the bibliophile's sanctuary:

Poets such as Octavio Paz, Raphael Alberti, Richard Howard, John Ashberry and Charles Simic have all written poems for him. Charles Simic went so far as to compose an entire wonderful slim volume of poetic prose meditations inspired from Cornell, entitled Dimestore Alchemy which I highly recommend.

Cornell was something of a shocking discovery for me... finding an artistic predecessor after my own heart... after I had already begun to explore collage and assemblage in a similar manner unaware of his example. Like Cornell my inspirations were all over the place: the "book arts" (think medieval illuminated books as well as Blake or William Morris), medieval architecture and reliquaries, J.S. Bach, the sonnet and sonnet cycles, Borges, etc,,,

I joked with friends that my "cutting up" of books amounts to something of a desecration for me as a bibliophile... and there was some truth here... some attempt to capture a feeling of loss, mortality, and destruction. But at the same time there was an attempt at creating something new... something along the lines of the Phoenix... or perhaps closer to T.S. Eliot attempting to make some sense of the wasteland by gathering the remaining fragments:

-Sonnet for Emily

-from the suite, Meditations on a Theme by J.S. Bach

-from the suite, The Winter Trio (Ghost Trio)

-from the suite, A Gathering of Poets

-from the suite, A Gathering of Poets

-from the suite, A Gathering of Poets

-from the suite, Quartet on a Theme by Dante

-from the suite, Meditations on Etruscan Ruins

-from the suite, Meditations on Etruscan Ruins

-from the suite, Meditations on Etruscan Ruins

from the suite, Canzonieri

-Walking on Eggshells (Endgame)


  1. Virgil's Avatar
    Hmm, while it's pleasing to the eye, I can't say it does anything for me. I'm afraid that's not my type of art.
  2. qimissung's Avatar
    The first four are by Cornell, right. Are the rest by him, also, or are they yours? They seem two very different styles, anyway. They are all quite beautiful.
  3. stlukesguild's Avatar
    gimissung...The works following the first four (by Cornell) are older works of mine... dating from some 3 or 4 years ago. Thanks for the comments.
  4. stlukesguild's Avatar
    Virgil... thanks for looking. I suspected they wouldn't be your cup of tea. For a long time I had little use for abstraction myself. Later, I began to question why I could appreciate abstract form and colors, etc... when it came to architecture or the abstract designs of Persian carpets or Celtic book design... but not in painting. I began to recognize that there was no inherent rule that painting must look like something other than what it is. I also recognized that even within a figurative work, it is the abstract elements that I so labor over: the color relationships, the way a line moves through the composition, etc...