The Midnight Heart

Poems on Stieglitz’s pictures of O’Keeffe

okeefeslideshow_2400579kThis month, I have some poems up on Compass Magazine based on the art and life of Georgia O’Keeffe. They draw on her paintings, her letters to her lover Alfred Stieglitz, his photographs of her, and descriptions of O’Keeffe by critics like Waldo Frank.It is in part inspired by the Tate Modern’s current  major exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work.

Years ago, when I was a teenager, I had as a Christmas present (probably from my mother) a book of postcards titled The Best Photographs of the Twentieth Century, or something like that. In that set was one of Alfred Stieglitz’s portraits of O’Keeffe’s hands, and something about it attracted me. I liked the fact that the hands looked like working hands, not ladylike or delicate. The hands seemed to me very powerful in a time when I was feeling particularly powerless. I kept that card for years, and then I saw O’Keeffe’s hands again in the Basque Country called Hablando con los manos, and another time in the New York Met. Each time I saw them, I felt as though the hands were telling me something about taking control of the image, about being powerful however you are framed.

More recently, I read the letters between Stieglitz and O’Keeffe, which were so very poignant and moving – a desire brought into being through letters. It is a complex relationship though. No one is entirely innocent, though each puts aside their reservations. the problematic aspects of their interaction that come to the fore later on. Nothing is perfect. No human interaction is without its issues, but at bottom, the letters represent that hand reaching across, looking for comfort at last.

See the poems here:


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