ANN’S MUSINGS – In praise of inspiration

In an earlier post, where I listed our Travel Pursuits plans for 2013, I included a thumbnail image of Edouard Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe (1863) to represent our Belle Epoque trip to Paris.

Almost immediately, I received this lovely poem from Kathleen Kirk in Normal, IL.

Woman in the Water

I am the woman in the water
wading in the background
still wearing my white undergarments,
strap falling forward as I bend
to reveal the white curve of my shoulder.

She is entirely naked,
sitting with the men,
looking straight at you,
her elbow resting on her thigh,
her upper arm obscuring the rosehips of her nipples
but revealing the full rounds of her breasts.

You will meet her eye, yes,
but you will be drawn to me,
bent forward, my right hand skimming the water,
my left, clutching the muslin,
hand spread wide
to focus your gaze
upon my modesty.

One day you will come to love me.
That is the day you will see
how the curve of my body
repeats the basket, tipped on the ground,
spilling its fruit—peaches, cherries, plums—
on our discarded hats and gowns,
on the green leaves
spattered with sun and shadow.

–Kathleen Kirk

[published in Ekphrasis, Fall/Winter 2005]

Several days later, I went to a Picasso exhibit in Toronto where I stumbled on this. Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe, after Manet (1961).

 Inspiration is everywhere,  a conscious and unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavour. Literally, the word means “breathed upon,” and it has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism.

One more example from my recent wanderings. Debussy’s Nocturnes were inspired by a series of impressionist paintings, also entitled Nocturnes by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Have a listen.


My thoughtlette for the day: Thanks be for inspiration. Originality is not only overrated; it is a fiction.

At age, 18, during my first trip to Europe, I entered the medieval church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin and immediately thought of the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Can you guess why? Of course, one did not inspire the other, but my mind was inspired by the rhythm of the church nave to conjure perhaps the most recognizable first four notes of any symphony.

I better stop.

Have you ever experienced a chain of inspiration? Or felt a ‘click’ of  connection between different forms of art?  I would love to hear your about your  experiences. So would others.



  1. Thank you, Ann! And by marvelous chance, my new poetry chapbook is titled Nocturnes and includes some poems written in response to some of Whistler’s nocturne paintings!

  2. OK, here you go, Ann!

    Nocturne in Grey and Gold

    James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Grey and Gold— Piccadilly (1881-83)

    At fifty I began to doubt my bones.
    My spine crumbled. My intellect diffused
    like a watercolor. Still, light shone
    from tall windows. Harnessed, confused

    horses emerged, shoulders and the dark heads
    of humans clustered in transit. In the haze
    there was still beauty. Bells sounded,
    the one clarity found in the rain-dazed

    world, and even the bells were muffled, hushed,
    finally, by the physics of the air.
    I did not fear death. It wasn’t death that rushed
    by on wings, obscurely. Death is fair,

    says the parable, coming to us all.
    And I walked blind and glad toward the unknown.
    It was the one word sung by the owl
    I feared, her epitaph hung on the drifting stone.


    James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne—Blue and Silver: Cremorne Lights (1872)

    No one noticed my shy shift to joy
    as the lights came on in the bay.

    The water reeds were characters
    of an ineffable alphabet.

    I switched from show tunes to Chopin,
    floating on the blues.

    I wrote my last testament,
    left my estate to nuthatch and finch.

    poems by Kathleen Kirk, from Nocturnes (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2012)

  3. Rosemary Gould

    Thanks, Ann and Kathleen. I really enjoyed the meditation and the poems.

  4. Stephanie Amos

    What beautful musings and poetry. I love how one site leads me to another, and each one represents a new beginning, a new connection.

    Curiously, Manet’s painting was on the cover of the Economist a few months ago, with the faces changed to those of Europe’s leaders.


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