Mar 13, 2011

Edward Hirsch, "Edward Hopper and The House by the Railroad"

Hirsch, "Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad"

I like Edward Hirsch's poem "The House by the Railroad" because it dares to question the temperament of an artist who creates bleakness, again and again. I also like Edward Hopper, but his view of humanity is no warm fuzzy, and maybe I too wonder how Hopper arrived at it. Of course, one can argue for such a perspective; in fact, it's easier than optimism or faith or joy and such soft notions. But therefore it's also refreshing to hear a poet say, "What entitles you to your grimness? Is there an emptiness in you that you should not presume to govern all of us?"

I wonder why Hirsch specifies Hopper's "underwater," "gawky," "desperate" house as a specifically American construction. And would the painter, the creator, also be reduced to a disappearing late afternoon shadow if he were in Europe or some other part of the world? Don't those places usually produce darker literature than American writers do?

Hirsch, "Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad"



PJ said...

Visual me suspects the tracks are hiding something, that it's all a matter of perspective.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm a bit confused here. Whose doing the presuming, you, the poet, the painter or the house?

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Here you go
"“It is in the nature of contemporary art to present itself as a bad risk,” he wrote in one of his best-known essays, “Contemporary Art and the Plight of Its Public” (1962). “And we the public, artists included, should be proud of being in this predicament, because nothing else would seem to us quite true to life; and art, after all, is supposed to be a mirror of life.” Leo Steinberg

Jean Spitzer said...

I like that the poem makes you look again at the painting.

Anonymous said...

What a brave poet -- he dares to be funny.

Brenda's Arizona said...

What do you think came first - the painting or the poem? Is the poem based upon the painting, or is the painting based on the poem???

OK, I admit, I actually felt sorry for the house...

Banjo52 said...

Paula, interesting. I've often not even seen the tracks till Hirsch points them out.

PA, probably the poet and I. As humans, we see things in human terms. Anthropomorphizing needs caution, but it's not the automatic evil many seem to think it is. We can and should try to get beyond a narrowly human perspective, but I doubt we'll ever succeed completely.

Jean, ditto what I said to Paula.

AH, funny????

Brenda, definitely the painting first. You know, I see what you mean about feeling sorry for the house. I think maybe Hirsch does too; it's Hopper he's angry at. Yes! I ended with a preposition!

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