Explorer, A Poem

I don’t post much poetry here, but when asked what I do, I generally say that I’m a poet. I’m also a woodworker, writer and quilter. You’re more likely to see my other creative outlets here, but mostly I feel like a poet. One reason I don’t publish much of my poetry here is that I do submit my poems out to journals from time to time (no one publishes my poems, but sometimes I send them out) and most journals consider poems posted to a blog as “previously published,” and won’t look at poems I’ve posted here.

This fall I’ve been taken another workshop on ekphrastic poetry. It’s a twelve week class and I’ve been busy writing a lot of poetry. Basically it’s writing a poem a week and then doing a workshop on all the poems written that week by the class. It’s great feedback and I’ve been learning a lot. As a reminder, ekphrastic poetry is where we start with a piece of art and then write a poem in response.

The poem I want to share this week is based on a 1933 black and white photo of Ernest Gutman taken by Alfred Stieglitz. We do a bit of research into the artist and the media used for the art. Then it is up to the poet to re-interpret the art in a poem. Here’s the photo I was given to work with:

And here is the poem I submitted:


Andrew Reynolds
after “Ernest Gutman 1933” by Alfred Stieglitz

Face of an arctic explorer,
looking past the camera,
into a distant snowy sky,
for a hint of rock outcropping to cling to.

Body shrouded in white walls
with the shade pulled down to shut out the light.
Grey face held between light and dark - 
between bursting suns and fading night.

Eyes exploring the photographer
looking for that perfect angle
to set into wax
that metaphor looking at him.

Wax to create an empty space
where brass can flow.
Metaphor to feel
how to move from enigma
to sheltering rock.

This is considered “draft” quality and the next step is for me to edited and rewrite based on the comments I received in the workshop. This one didn’t generate many suggestions from the other poets, but there are one or two things I plan to change. Sometimes refining a poem comes down to removing a comma or changing a line break – not exactly the same kind of editing you’d do in prose – small details count as big ideas here as a poet is trying to say the most with the least words.

So let me know what you think and what changes you’d make to this poem.


About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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15 Responses to Explorer, A Poem

  1. Lokesh Umak says:

    Submit this poem at @weekendreads sign up and send it to the editor for review. Visit weekendreads.me. in post’s bio, promote blog links.


  2. Debra says:

    I think this is a very well composed and interesting poem, Andrew. I’m fascinated with the assignment, and think it takes a particular talent to write such a thoughtful poem in support of an assignment. I write a fair amount of poetry myself, but my better pieces are completely organic and not associated with an assigned topic. I give you a lot of credit for this one, my friend. Really nicely done.

    And it is a little frustrating that you can’t use your blog more frequently as a means to “road test” your work before submitting to a journal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a certain discipline in working from a picture – it helps you focus your thoughts and in someways actually makes writing a bit easier. I do some research on the art, the artist and in some cases the subject. All this helps jump start my brain.

      The journals view anything posted publicly as “published.” That’s why I do workshops where I can get feedback. If my blog was private, they would consider anything posted as not published. It’s weird.


  3. Excellent, Andrew – thanks for sharing! I wouldn’t presume to offer comments or criticism. The worlds of poetry and prose overlap only minimally; and to me, poetry is all about the vision of the poet. This is what you experience; this is your creative expression.

    Interestingly, though, I actually do a lot of “poetry-type” editing of commas and line breaks in my prose, to control the flow of the story. When I want readers to feel maximum emotional impact, I’ll often create paragraphs consisting of only one or two words. I learned the technique from my Grade 12 English teacher, who was a poet… go figure! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll admit that I’m not so good at editing my own poems. Sometimes a poet is just too close to the work to understand if the meaning can be transferred to another human.

      I have felt that writing poetry has strengthen my prose writing and being an acceptable prose writer has made me a better poet. There’s a lot of overlap – especially when you’re trying to communicate emotions, images or metaphors.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent start, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great draft Andrew…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. K.L. Hale says:

    It’s beautiful, Andrew! I’m NOT a professional poet, but I do love the flow of words. Your first stanza is very succinct. The fewer words to describe, without linking verbs, can sometimes help the flow. On 2nd stanza, for example, “Body shrouded in white walls, a shade shuts (or shutting) out the light “ (take out the “with”)…
    Since you used the word “looking” already perhaps in the 3rd stanza you could substitute “seeking” and take out “for that” and just say “seeking the perfect angle”….
    It’s a beautiful description of the photo! Again, I’m no expert, and these are just suggestions! You’re a marvelous writer!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I do find that I am not knowledgeable in poetry at all. While I like artistry through words, it is something that I haven’t studied much or tried. Therefore, it is difficult for me to make suggestions. That doesn’t mean I am not interested, though. And it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the words you write. I will be interested in reading the final draft of this. It is very thought-provoking already. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Poetry is simple, yet complex – it’s the art of saying a lot with few words. Some times, non-poets offer the best suggestions by simply saying, “I don’t get it.” Which means the poet failed to convey a message. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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