Friday, August 5, 2016

Poetry Friday: WONDER

It was an Instagram darling during its run. People couldn't stop posting pictures of themselves with the re-constructed trees, walls of bugs, glass marble-encrusted waterways, index card mountains, and hobbit-ish nests that had been installed inside the newly-renovated Renwick Gallery in DC.

Me, wondering

Each artist had a whole room to work with. No other art was displayed. It was a playground for both creators and viewers alike.

No wonder the exhibit was called WONDER.  I was lucky enough to catch it before it closed in June, and shared a few photos with my Poetry Sisters to inspire our poems this month.

For my poem, I chose to be look closer at In the Midnight Garden, created by installation artist Jennifer Angus. She works entirely with bugs.

Yes, bugs. (Her fascinating website is here.)

The Renwick Gallery puts it this way: "By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world."

And that is exactly what I'm interested in: that moment of being startled by art.
Because as much as I love art, I love watching people interact with art even more. I love eavesdropping on their comments and watching them tilt their heads and contort their limbs as the art invades their head space.

I mean, look at this guy...he really, really wants to take it all in, but the room is too small, and soon, he'll figure this out and walk through that next door and look back, but at the moment, he's doing what we do when we're trying to take art home in our pocket.

Okay. After I took that photo of him taking a photo, I slipped through the archway and and took these two photos, trying to take some piece of the experience home in my pocket, too.

Viewing In the Midnight Garden
by Jennifer Angus

Then I wrote a poem about them. To extend the wonder, of course.


Are they real? a child
asks. In answer, a woman looks
through the eyes of her cell phone.

Above her, a hot but bloodless red
backs death, the pixilated-eyed
watcher over her shoulder.

What do we capture of art, to port
tidily home in our pockets? Do mandalas
like t-shirt designs, fit into our hive

of possibilities? Look! A compass
rose points the way, as bugs flock
over other bugs, posed for family portraits—

or are they circled in therapy, masticating
unhealed hurts? In an aerial photo, I’ve seen
twenty-five thousand human bodies form

a blurry-edged Liberty Bell, but these flat-backed
bugs, so perfectly symmetrical, so aptly suited
for display, with their fine-wire legs and boldly

faceted bodies, could be fastidiously sewn
to a contessa’s dress. Snap. Snap. Snap.
The woman takes pictures. The child asks

again: Are they real? Yes. They are real—-
and clean, and desiccated, repulsion
removed so we can wonder

at wonder, at a museum within
a museum, at a body of bodies,
wing to wing, our mandibles open.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)


If you're curious about that fantastic magenta color of the walls, according to the Renwick website, "The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red."

And that Liberty Bell made by 25,000 human bodies? Here.

See how my Poetry Sisters wondered and wandered through the exhibit with their poems:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tara at A Teaching Life.


  1. I love everything about this! How great you could see this exhibit, and be so inspired.

  2. "at a body of bodies,
    wing to wing, our mandibles open."

    Wow, that is perfect. I love how you have articulated the wonder of wonder. Thanks so much for sharing with us and leading us in this!

  3. I think I love best that the child asked what was "real" and the woman replied by looking through the eyes... of ... her ... phone.

    Good Lord. What IS real???

  4. Tricia shared the article about the exhibit, too, and it must be marvelous to be there. My daughter works at the Museum of Contemporary Art & I've sat with her more than once at exhibits, watching others' reaction, love that you took that stance "What do we capture of art, to port
    tidily home in our pockets?"

  5. Wow. Even the PAINT was insects. (I'm so bummed that I didn't get to see this exhibit.)

    It is fascinating to watch people in an art museum or gallery. I wrote a poem about that once! And what we take home in our pockets -- on the last trip to the Dayton Art Institute, I took pictures only of hands in the art.

  6. Marvelous. Simply marvelous. The art of your wondering...and it's extension in your words allows me a pocketful of Renwick too. I live close enough to visit...and have a birthday coming up. I think I just chose what I will do on my day!


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