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Hopper

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)

.

,

Nighthawks

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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.

.

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by Therese L. Broderick

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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.

    Like

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

    Like

  3. ABOUT THIS POEM

    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.

    SOUND

    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.

    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.”

    INFLUENCES / FACT & FICTION

    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.

    Like

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