Friday, 8 April 2011


Following on from my previous posting the poem below is also part of my collaboration with the visual artist Melaneia Warwick. After wandering around inside a specific piece of her art I have tried to create a poem that engages with the narrative of her painting. 

This process is known as ekphrasis and there are many examples of poets creating such poems that have been inspired by works of art: 'The Disquieting Muses' by Sylvia Plath, which is based on the painting by the same title by Giorgio de Chirico'The Starry Night' by Anne Sexton based on the hugely famous painting by Vincent van Gogh and, much more recently, the absolutely stunning  'What the Water Gave Me' by Pascale Petit, which contains fifty-two poems in the voice of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo 

Here is Melaneia's painting 'Static' from her 'Gloaming' series that inspired my poem:

And here is my poem:


Dread was a concept you never really understood.
Only the sweet iron of stars and summer lightning
coloured your days as life straddled you, rode you
bareback and bitless over a switchback of tragedies.

When people spoke of the coming storm you saw
the twist of their lips but heard only tinkling cymbals.
Even the sweaty lick of their appled palms failed
to draw you from the reverie of your malted bed.

As the hours passed, you stared into a blackening sky
and waited, your skin frothed with latherin as prongs
of hot silver darted through your mane.  At long last
you began to smell the stench of your own immortality.

Spooked by the rumblings of a distant thunderhead
you jittered with ignorance as the first sparks fizzed
about your hooves. Hobbled and haltered, you gasped
as licks of yellow fire pulsed along bone-dry timbers.

Rafters, blazing like crazy now, collapsed and crashed
to the ground as the next bolt struck your blistered ego.
Veins popping, breath bloody and sputtered, you wept
black tears as the final explosion ripped off your legs.

That’s how I found you, petrified and smoking with insight,
a broken mustang, static beside the brightest blue ocean.


  1. Love the words "Even the sweaty lick of their appled palms failed
    to draw you from the reverie of your malted bed." have seen your name mentioned on twitter, will be following blog and twitter :)

    All the best


  2. I SO love your language Peter ~ and your words fit Melaneia's picture wonderfully. You always convey such deep emotional insights into your poems, and I'm glad you've been around to help heal the 'petrified'. A fabulous collaboration.: )

  3. Hi Steve ~ thank you so much for that wonderful accolade. Really pleased you enjoyed 'Static'.

  4. Hi Louise ~ thank you for your lovely comments. I always worry that my words will do justice to such fabulous artwork and your ever-so-positive feedback really helps to counter my anxieties.

  5. For me it is a really great interpretation to her intriguing painting and a kind of jungle adventure to read - I had to forge ahead from line to line, armed with the dictionary's bushwhacker to discover it image by image.

  6. Peter I am stunned into silence again and again by your incredible words. Inside though there is a whole world of emotion, I wish I could express it better in words, you are truly an amazing writer. Mel x

  7. Hi Martin ~ what a lovely image you present, of you forging your way through my poem, chopping down concrete words to discover the figurative meaning behind them. Thank you so much for your great comments.

  8. Hi Mel ~ it's such a relief to learn that you really enjoyed my poem. Faced with such a stunning painting I found it quite daunting when I first stepped inside it & began writing. But, of course, how could I not be inspired by such a colourful and quite beautiful visual narrative. Overjoyed that you like it ~ & thank you so much for your fantastic comments.

  9. This one made me tear up, Peter. Your extraordinary writing gifts move me more than you will ever know. "At long last you begin to smell the stench of your own immortality," choked me with emotion. I think you and Mel are going to be brilliant collaborators. Well done. I hope you felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction when this was finished. It is just beautiful.

  10. Hi Nicola ~ thank you ever so much for your lovely comment. Really pleased you like it.

  11. Hi Heidi ~ not for the first time, your amazing comments have blown me away. I really can't thank you enough. It pleases me so much that you can connect so deeply with my words. And yes, it is all about the collaboration really ~ how could any poet not be inspired to the highest level by Melaneia's incredible artwork. Again, huge thanks for all your encouragement Heidi.

  12. Absolutely stunning art complemented by words so beautiful and befitting. Lovely work. I bow to you both.

  13. Hi Lisette ~ what an incredible complement. Thrilled that you like our work. Thank you ever so much.

  14. An exquisite poem, Peter, full of drama, imagery and meaning. A true masterpiece as is Melaneia's painting. Your words are as exotic as a box of rare and delicious chocolates. I wonder if Martin's dictionary explained the word "apple" as an adjective, because I couldn't find it. What are "appled palms"?

  15. Hi Quirina ~ thank you so much for all your positive & encouraging comments. Mm! I can taste the exotic chocolates. 'The sweaty lick of their appled palms' was used to try & convey a sense of anxiety within those who 'fed' the young steed 'sweet titbits'. Naively, as young innocents do, he accepted the apples merely as treats, failing to taste the liquid anxiety on their hands.

  16. This definitely did the painting justice Peter, it was an amazing story poem and I also love your use of language. Great images you used here too!

  17. Hi Shan ~ thank you for your lovely, encouraging comments. Very much appreciated.

  18. This is such a powerful poem - you are an imagist par excellence.

  19. Hi Marousia ~ thank you so much for that delightful comment. I am truly flattered.