Monday, 9 May 2011


This is the third of four ekphrastic poems inspired by the wonderful artwork of Melaneia Warwick. Before I reveal the poem I thought it might be interesting to share some of the process involved in its creation.

As with the previous two poems I sat myself down, took several deep breaths and stepped inside Melaneia's painting. I wandered round, gazing at the remarkable images and artefacts contained within it, even stopping to speak to them at times.

When I stepped back out I had little idea where to start. I had not connected  to the painting like I had on previous occasions. I felt unable to find my place within it. Something was troubling me, preventing me from beginning. Although the artwork intrigued me, I was aware that it also disturbed me. 

I looked at it again from the outside, confounded by its surreal quality. It reminded me of a Salvador Dali painting entitled 'Sleep' which is a painting of a monstrous head propped up by crutches. And then it struck me: Recession was the narrative of a nightmare. Now I had my starting point. I could climb back inside & start to gather all the symbolism & allegories together in order to create my poem.

For a whole day I toiled to create a blueprint of my poem. I could sense a journey of individuation, as if the dream contained unconscious material that, when interpreted, would somehow enlighten me. But I struggled and struggled to identify a coherent pathway from art to poem. I began to write but my words were laboured and forced. After two more days I began to despair until the strangest feeling began to consume me. I felt as though I was trapped inside painting and poem and could not find a way out.

And then it suddenly dawned: this was about death! My resistance to face up to this ~ my own mortality ~ had prevented me from engaging with the artwork. The painting was loaded with scary, deathly images but, having realised what was happening, I was able to surrender to these images and, in doing so, transcend the polarity of the life-death split. As Jung wrote, acknowledging the imminence of death and the limits of our existence allows us to let go of our egos, freeing the way for our creative Self to discover true meaning.

Finally, having overcome the obstacles that had prevented me from 'letting go' of my ego, I realised who the serene looking lady was at the bottom of Melaneia's painting. She was my anima, my femme inspiratrice, waiting patiently to accompany me back from my nightmare to a new space brimming with creative potential.

Above is Melaneia's incredible painting entitled Recession from her 'Gloaming' series ~ and here is my poem:


Like Coppelius, you lurk behind my eyes
                                                     waiting for darkfall.

Palsied by sleep I fail to hear your crutches
clack across the slick red mezzanine in my skull.

It is the reek of your breath that rouses me.
Looking up I see your voluminous head,
glimpse your mantic forearms as you loom above,
an incubus of pink gristle 
          spewing spoonfuls of curdled dreams
                                                    into my brain.

I strain to squall, to fling away the sheets but I lie
                                                 zip-tied like a corpse.

One final retch and your sphincter blows 
blasting out your gullet, spilling melted muscle
                                        through the hole in my id.

In the underworld, death smirks like a bullet-riddled clown.
A cartoon phantom sings in oblivion
scragged by threads of luminous plasma.

Yet under your jib an ageless lady sits gracefully
                                          waiting for wakefulness.

I blink hard and find myself at the edge of my nightmare
grasping the last few drops of allegory that slither
from the brim of your hat.

Soon, I will wander beyond the mortality line
                                back into the blue bag of night

towards a purpose glowing with afterlight. 


  1. Your poem fits the picture brilliantly ~ so vivid & intense. Your words bought it all back briefly, I was there again, with the fear in the pit of my stomach, the feeling of helplessness...'I strain to squall, to fling away the sheets but I lie zip-tied like a corpse' ..the worst feeling imaginable! A feeling that lurks in the shadows in the middle of the night when your trying to sleep..'death smirks like a bullet riddled clown'...and lingers on days after the nightmare...great stuff Peter.. as always.. x

  2. Lovely post Peter. We have a new discussion on poems from paintings on WOWH if you fancy reposting? It's here...

  3. Hi Louise ~ firstly, thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Seems like you connected with it quite deeply. As the preamble reveals, I became overwhelmed with the emotions generated by Mel's incredible art & the process of writing the poem. When I put together the lines that you've quoted I could also feel the paralysis that you describe. I think it's the deepest I've ever sunk into a poem that I've written, yet the insights gathered during the whole process were well worth it. Thanks again Louise ~ I value your response & feedback so much ... x

  4. Hi Fiona ~ thanks for your lovely comment. Yes, I'll check out the link right now.

  5. Absolutely spectacular, Peter! I would have imagined the painting almost exactly the way Melaneia painted it, simply from your words. Your experience of being trapped in the poem and in the painting is exactly what you so eloquently and vividly expressed in your poem--that feeling of not being able to get out of a dream, of not being able to wake up. This is so brilliant.

  6. Wow, Peter, this was powerful! I had to reread a few lines, a compliment, as they were so strong I had to experience them again. I loved the whole idea of your going into the painting and spiraling down into it and your psyche.

  7. Hi Quirina ~ sincere thanks for such wonderful, positive comments. Yes, you are spot on: incredible parallel between being trapped in the poem/art & being paralysed in the dream, the latter being an experience that seems to resonate with almost everyone. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to comment ~ I really do appreciate it.

  8. Hi Jeannie ~ thank you for visiting & contributing such lovely comments. Entering all of Melaneia's paintings has been such a powerful experience but Recession really sucked me in &, at one point, refused to let me out. Yet it was at that point that I really began to gather insight into what was going on within me. A true learning experience for me & such a privilege to be able to collaborate with Melaneia in this way.

  9. Peter

    A grimly gripping poem as I said before! But with that beautiful ray of hope at the end. It is a wonderful drawing of inside the picture. I can feel the fear as I read it, nightmares are powerful things.

    Thanks so much for sharing it, and the insight into its creation.


  10. Hi Abi ~ you are so very welcome ~ thank you for your lovely comments. And sincere thanks for your wonderful reading of my poem, which can be accessed at

    Your reading brought the whole nightmare to life as I sat & listened to it ... but as you say, with a ray of creative hope in the final line.

  11. Brilliant poem for a rather disturbing piece of art, it's so strong and striking that you can't really ignore it! Still waiting for the return of Dr C here, certain lines in this poem reminded me of Stepgen King novels gun toting clowns. I apologise for being in absentia for a while Peter, tough month x

  12. I have just been on the most amazing journey into this painting with you, your poem could not fit more perfectly. Your words revealed so much they just about turned this amazing painting inside out, I am truly inspired by your brilliance! I am also rather haunted by your poem, it actually won't leave me alone so maybe I will have interesting dreams tonight........

  13. Oh wow! Thanks Max ... I am so thrilled that you've read my poem & left such a lovely comment. Seems like you followed in your father's footsteps & had a pretty deep experience of your own. Hope your dreams weren't too scary & that, like me, they led you to a place of deeper meaning. Thank you SO much sweetie ... can't tell you how much I appreciate your visit to my blog x