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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Poem: 80 words
Poem: 65 words
+ Author’s Commentary: 313 words
By Susan Tekulve


[Two Ekphrastic Poems]


After Andrew Wyeth’s Breakup (A Self-Portrait)1

One hallucinogenic winter, 
your hands cast in bronze, 
your fingers reach the edge 
of an ice floe stacked 
like a jagged mattress 
imperiled by a river 
swollen by melted snow, 
cracked by a slant 
of cerulean sky. It’s not 
loneliness that frightened 
you, but the terror of losing 
the art of being alone, 
the only way you could feel 
the bone frame of ice 
and snow promising wonders 
of ordinary earth waiting beneath. 



After Andrew Wyeth’s Shoreline2

Kelp warms sand and stones 
like a feather boa, its plumes 
blazing orange, red, singed 
at the tips by indigo waves 
breaking against the sky, 
draping themselves over boulders’ 
soft shoulders as the seaweed dims 
like an aging 1920s beauty 
dragging her ragged scarves 
between earth and currents, 
reassuring the coastline, 
“It’s better to be looked over 
than to be overlooked.”3 



Author’s Commentary

In late January of 2024, my husband, Rick, and I went down to the Greenville County Art Museum to see the Andrew Wyeth paintings. This art museum owns 24 Andrew Wyeth watercolors in its permanent collection, the largest public collection of his watercolors in the world.

It was a stark day, a fitting time of year to view Andrew Wyeth’s work. Like so many people, I’d always thought Wyeth’s paintings were predominately gray, his favorite subject the harsh landscapes of human loneliness. On that January day, to my surprise and delight, the museum was hosting a traveling exhibit called “Running With the Land,” which featured Andrew Wyeth’s work alongside work by his father, N. C. Wyeth. The exhibit also featured paintings by Andrew Wyeth’s sisters, Henriette and Carolyn.

The first thing I noticed about the paintings in this traveling exhibit was the presence of light and vibrant colors—buttercups flickering along earthy green hillsides, cobalt waves rising toward cerulean skies, kelp the color of flames dividing the sea from the shore. The second thing I noticed was how often Wyeth added surreal elements to his otherwise firmly realistic settings to communicate a truth beyond what a “realistic” painting could reveal. An enormous shell the shape of a bird’s wing foregrounded a sea shanty; a single apple glowed like a pomegranate within the barren branches and dying leaves of a late-fall tree.

I must have walked that exhibit for at least three hours, recording my impressions of these unexpectedly vivid and dramatic paintings that I’d never seen before, or that I saw anew. These two ekphrastic poems are part of a series of poems that explore my shifting perceptions of Wyeth’s work.

The Running With the Land exhibit is no longer at the Greenville County Art Museum. However, you still can visit the paintings from the permanent collection: Eight Decades of Watercolors.


Publisher’s Notes:

Links above and below were retrieved on 17 April 2024.

1. Breakup (tempera on panel, 1994) by American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) may also be viewed online along with bronze life casts of the artist’s hands at Artnet.

See also Andrew Wyeth’s Drawings of His Own Funeral by Allison C. Meier in Art & object (29 August 2022).

2. Shoreline was painted in 1938 by Andrew Wyeth. Although I was unable to locate specific details about this painting online, I found the following image at Live Auctioneers:

Shoreline: 1938 watercolor painting by Andrew Wyeth

And Shoreline is among the two dozen artworks by Andrew Wyeth, as described in Ms. Tekulve’s Commentary above, in the permanent collection at the Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina.

To learn more about the artist, see also WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia, which includes 135 of his artworks.

3. “It’s better to be looked over than to be overlooked” was spoken by the character Ruby Carter, played by Mae West, in the 1934 American Western film Belle of the Nineties. The film was based on an original story by Mae West (1893-1980), an American actress, singer, comedian, and screenwriter.

Susan Tekulve’s
Issue 23 (April 2024)

newest book is Second Shift: Essays (Del Sol Press). She is also the author of In the Garden of Stone (Hub City Press), winner of the South Carolina Novel Prize and a Gold IPPY Award. And she has two short-story collections published: Savage Pilgrims (Serving House Books) and My Mother’s War Stories (Winnow Press), the latter of which received the 2004 Winnow Press fiction prize. Her web chapbook, Wash Day, appears in the Web Del Sol International Chapbook Series.

Her nonfiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in journals such as The Comstock Review, Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, Italian Americana, The Louisville Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, New Letters, Puerto del Sol, and Shenandoah. Ms. Tekulve has received scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She teaches in the BFA and MFA writing programs at Converse University.

Author’s website: https://susantekulve.com/

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Hummingbird, a poem by Susan Tekulve in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 16, 1 January 2023); nominated by MacQ in September 2023 for Best of the Net 2024

Six Artworks by Ms. Tekulve in MacQ (Issue 15, September 2022)

Socks, a poem by Ms. Tekulve in MacQ (Issue 14, August 2022); nominated in early 2023 for The Pushcart Prize XLVIII by Pushcart’s board of contributing editors

White Blossoms, a photo essay by Ms. Tekulve in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Fall 2019), selections from which were printed in Earth Hymn (Volume 6 of the KYSO Flash Anthology, 2019)

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