The November 11 issue of The New Yorker includes Vona Groarke’s poem “The Landscapes of Vilhelm Hammershøi” on page 61.
Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) was a Danish painter best known for his low-key, soft portraits and interiors. Enigmatic and secretive, his paintings were described as “highly traditional, but also distinctively modern” in the 2008 London Royal Academy of Arts’ exhibition, Vilhelm Hammershøi: The Poetry of Silence.
Not as well known are his landscapes, simple, often grey, and usually devoid of people.
Groarke’s poem captures and mirrors Hammershøi’s ”illegible fields” and skies devoid of promises.
Between water reading itself a story
with no people in it
and fields, illegible, and a sky
that promises nothing,
least of all what will happen now,
are the trees
that do not believe in
any version of themselves
not even the one in which
they are apparently everyday trees
and not a sequences of wooden frames
for ordinary leaves.
Pictured above: Landscape – Kongevejen near Gentofte by Vilhelm Hammershøi
(By the way, it’s pronounced Hammers-hoy)