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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: “Blue Poles” by Caitríona O’Reilly

In the center of a large room at the Royal Academy in London, I stood dumbfounded as I stared at “Blue Poles” by Jackson Pollock. Crowds gathered around the painting, and small children sat on the floor trying to sketch the work before them. It felt like everyone in the room recognized the work’s splendor, but most, like me, could not put a finger on what made it so special. I bought a souvenir print of the painting and hung it in my room, but I was never able to express what drew me to it. Two years later, Caitríona O’Reilly’s poem provided the words and thoughts that I was not able to verbalize.

O’Reilly’s interpretation invigorates Pollock’s work as she highlights the colors in a “dream of perpetual motion” and the confining nature of freedom which can be grounded with blue poles.

–Karly Ball, WFU Press intern

Blue Poles


Freedom is a prison for the representative savant
addled on bath-tub gin and with retinas inflamed
from too long staring into the Arizona sun
or into red dirt which acknowledges no master
but the attrition of desert winds and melt-water.
Is that why you cast such desperate lariats
across space, repeatedly anticipating the fall
into disillusion, the sine wave skewered
by the oscilloscope, the mirror’s hairline fracture?
The West was won and there was nowhere left to go
so you vanished into a dream of perpetual motion
knowing that once to touch the surface
was to break the spell, but that while the colours hung
on the air an instant, there was no such thing
as the pushy midwife, the veiled mother in the photograph,
the rich woman’s bleated blandishments.
Tracing the drunken white line at midnight on the highway,
you were too far gone to contemplate return,
like Crowhurst aboard the Electron; not meaning
to go to sea, but drawing about you
such a field of force that there was nothing left to do
but plant blue poles among the spindrift and iron filings
and step, clutching your brass chronometer,
clean off the deck and into the sky
where a lens rose to meet you like a terrifying eye.

Caitríona O’Reilly, from Geis (2015)

Blue Poles (Jackson Pollock painting).jpg
“Blue Poles” by Jackson Pollock, Source: Wikipedia, Fair use, Link

Categories: Caitriona O'Reilly, Poem of the WeekTags: , , , , ,

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