Large Artist Sketchbook 2020: What of Them

You may know that in addition to my artwork I also write poetry (posted on my blog Claudia McGill Writes Poetry, Did You Know That?). For the next several months I will be posting here a combined art/poetry project, Large Artist Sketchbook 2020.

I fill up sketchbooks with all kinds of art. Some contain images only and some of them I use the images as inspiration for poetry. In these books the image is on one page of the spread and the poetry on the other. This book is set up in this manner.

I’ll show you the image and then add the poem that goes with it. See what you think.

What of Them

Am I safe
even in my own home
Do I dare turn the corner and confront
What? in which room in what hour

Can I trust the floor joists
to hold down the basement?
Do I believe the light bulb
will always obey the switch?
Is the water heater
standing in the corner
truly stolid, maybe,
indifferent, maybe – as it seems
but who can know? Who can know?

The slouching chair edging out of the corner
The dust-laden fading yellow rug
The faces that bloom on the vine
too lush too lurid too luxuriant
scratching at the window glass –
What do they want from me?

The eyes
in the house across the street
What can they see?
What have they seen?

Large Artist Sketchbook 2020 Image 1

21 thoughts on “Large Artist Sketchbook 2020: What of Them

  1. Nancy Bell Scott

    Wow. This reads like I have felt for much of the pandemic — yet you wrote it before the pandemic really changed our lives. So interesting! And I love the concept of floor joists holding down the basement.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I have been struck over and over, since I put the poems on the blog long after they are written, how they still seem to fit the moment, or have something to say about things that happened after the writing. I really wonder why this happens. My past self speaking to my current one? I guess things go in cycles or repeat and nothing is new, but just wearing a new outfit, maybe? Anyway, I have felt constricted here at home and that is unusual, as in the past I found it a refuge. IWe need balance, I guess. And all bad things are kept in the basement, aren’t they (if we believe scary movies)…

      1. Nancy Bell Scott

        If home usually was a refuge for you, it really seems something in you was anticipating this big change, as if you saw ahead or sensed it was coming. Home is most definitely a refuge/haven to me, always was, and I love it — for the past several years even more so since I don’t go out much. It has been an odd switch to be fearful while at home.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          Yes, I felt it too. Home as something constricting – the idea has never ocurred to me until recently. And not even so much for myself, though I do feel it, but I see around me examples of people who have not left home for say, weeks or months, because of their fears, and I wonder how they can maintain their equilibirum. Home must surely be a prison in those cases, I feel.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      The picture prompted this line (I drew elements of my own basement, which is a harmless place, under depictions of a library seating area) but once it came to me, I realized I had been thinking about things that you need to keep packed away and then what if the thoughts get out? Not good. We need our floors to keep the basement secure. Plus, as you know, in every scary movie, the bad frightening things are in the basement (if not in the attic).

      1. lifelessons

        Yes.. I intuited all of that, which is why it’s such a good line–plus such a twist on what we expect you to say, which is the obvious.

  2. JosieHolford

    Whoa! Great homebound paranoia here. Yes – I too liked the “Can I trust the floor joists” had me thinking:
    “Can I trust the walls? Do they seem a little closer today?
    And the cat. Why is she looking at me like that when I am only screaming to drown out the chimney?

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes. Sometimes home can feel strangling, or to expand it, maybe the everyday life suddenly turns sinister? And why? What sets that off? It interests me.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes. Everything is sentient in my world. Pictured or in my everyday life, I tend to think pretty much everything has a bit of a spirit or personality to it.

  3. Laura (PA Pict)

    You are so deft at imbuing houses and furniture with personality and I like that, in this case, the personality might be threatening, intimidating, and sinister.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I love doing houses and furniture, as you know, and every place is not a nice place, as we also know! I believe each place has a spirit, and like a person, if you do a portrait, you will pick up some of it, be it sofa, house, whatever.

  4. memadtwo

    Paralyzed. Imprisoned. You are right about how our relationships to where we live have changed. I’m thinking especially of those who now have the office and classroom occupying a home that was formerly a refuge from both. I myself am glad to be starting a new relationship where I can go in and out without fear. (K)

      1. memadtwo

        I was thinking today–even though New Yorkers are not giving up their masks, things do seem to be normalizing. People are out doing things again.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          Same here. Traffic is just crazy on the roads. And shopping. I was at a garden center yesterday at about noon and the place was packed. Not like that pre-pandemic, guess people have more daytime time on weekdays now.

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