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ARTIST : Edward Hopper (1882-1967)

PAINTING : Nighthawks (oil on canvas, 1942)

EXHIBITION : reproduction of painting in book The Poetry of Solitude : A Tribute to Edward Hopper by Gail Levin (Universe, 1995)





None here may deflect the slant

of those blank windows, severe as

falcons, famished, across the


silenced street. At least one keen

sorrow will swoop tonight

upon them — some local tenement


grief, a hapless bargain, or this

cornered woman just about to

speak her hard, red truth.


Green curbs spanning like wings

of prey, one unlidded bulb raw

yellow. And no owner to cloak


the empty counter stools, brown

and mute: orphans frightened by

such still white cups of coffee.


By how much chatter is missing.



by Therese L. Broderick



About ThereseLBroderick

Independent community poet living in Albany, New York USA.

3 responses »

  1. rationaloptimist

    This is the kind of poem that challenges the reader — a good thing. It is not an “obvious” interpretation of the painting. The “hawks” in “nighthawks” is only indirectly a bird reference, the word really only refers to people who inhabit the night-time hours. But perhaps by using that word in particular, the artist did intend to evoke not just the “night” part but the “hawk” connotation, which might inject a darker, more disturbing atmosphere into the scene than would be there absent that title.
    It might be good if, when posting a poem about an art work, you supplied a link to an image of that art work.


  2. Revision: Love what you are doing with poetry and art:)



    My goal when composing any poem is to craft a passage of spoken language in which sound is at least as alluring as sense.

    This poem is still in draft stage. I intend to bring it for critique to a poetry workshop.


    In this poem I am experimenting with a higher relative degree of sound-to-sense than in previous poems. Here I aim for an ominous tone through the use of heavy diction that slows down passage through the poem. For the sake of resonance of sound, I sacrifice some clarity of sense.


    I’ve read one other poem inspired by this painting which mentions hawks flying above the scene; and I’ve read one other poem which compares the diner’s curve to the prow of a ship. In various other Nighthawks-inspired poems, the human figures are the lonely nighthawks. In this poem of mine, I’m comparing the empty buildings across the street to birds preying upon the diners. I emphasize not loneliness, but predatoriness (a notion cited by a Wikipedia article).

    There may not be such a bird as a nighthawk. The title of Hopper’s painting may refer to owls which stay awake late at night; or it may refer to sparrowhawks. Since hawks are closely related to other birds of prey, I felt justified in using the word “falcons.”


    Years ago, after visiting my terminally-ill father in the hospital, my mother and I stopped on our way home at a small city restaurant similar to a diner. I remember huddling there, associating that window booth with “keen sorrow.” This poem above began as a description of that place, and the “local tenement grief” was originally phrased as the “local hospital grief.” Earlier this month when I was writing this poem, I was also writing a holiday letter which mentioned all the small pets we have lost over the years. The death of those pets brought to my mind the fact that when a predator is around, prey become silent, losing their chatter.


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