Some things I Admire about Anselm Keifer


“When, at the end of the 1960s,I became interested in the Nazi era, it was a taboo subject in Germany. No one spoke about it anymore, no more in my house than anywhere else.”  Anselm Kiefer

Some things I Admire about Anselm Keifer

Words were meant to carry meaning
like a cart or car,
a sigh or song,
but make crude vehicles
when meaning’s gone
or when it’s grown so vast we gasp, crushed as grass,
boot/tank/shrapnel-tramped, seeded
with mortar or mine–

Paint too
has limitations;
even with its leads, its cadmiums,
burnt umber–
how does line define
meaning’s capsize?
catch the copse where the cart collapsed?
the tracks where the trains did not derail?
the field where the sun was buried?

What pallet of straw, stick, gloam can make us see
the world blown down?

Something very big, with a difficult surface,
something we have to get a distance from
to really see,
something we try to get close to
to really see,
something we are seen by–what?
all that we don’t do in the world
all that we have done–
the huge don’t/done, mud


A poem of sorts.  9th for this April, 2015 National Poetry Month.  Inspired by a Real Toads Prompt by Ella of Ella’s Edge, to write about the better depictor–as it were–visual art or language–  The artist that came to mind for me is Anselm Kiefer, a great great (I think) German artist who makes extremely large paintings using a variety of materials including, and other than, paint.  He was born in 1945.

I wasn’t actually particularly thinking of the painting above in doing the poem, but this is one I’ve seen in person at an exhibition at Mass Moca (from which I’ve taken this image, without intending any copyright infringement.)  Images of Kiefer’s work can be found here.  Quotes here.

Note that when I first posted this, I did not put in a quote as asked by the prompt. (I forgot about it and only added this morning-Sorry, Ella!)   Kiefer has many great quotes about art and history, and I only chose this because it gives a context to the work .

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16 Comments on “Some things I Admire about Anselm Keifer”

  1. Jim Says:

    Nice comparison, k. I believe that you can make your brushes tell what they feel without words. The elephants do, they have personality. I’m not good at it, but even at my stick man stage (still) I have learned how to draw in darker or lighter fill.

    • Jim Says:

      It’s tax crunch time for me. Crunches do make it hard to read and comment. Writing a post is even more so. I like your comments, they are helpful. But it’s okay if you skip me for now.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Jim–you are very kind and I would not skip you! I meant that I may be a little slow. I was feeling super tired last night. Thanks. k. (And tax time is busy!)

  2. Sanaa Rizvi Says:

    This is such a wise and beautiful poem…. loved the way you have compared words and paint… both have their own significance 😀
    Loved the choice of artwork as well…!

  3. M Says:

    I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the prompt, so I admire your – analytic, as it were ~

  4. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    I think it’s a remarkable poem!

  5. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    What pallet of straw, stick, gloam can make us see
    the world blown down?

    This is so on point, Karin. How can artists portray the world we live in with any accuracy today, or at any time. The vast complexity of human interaction, trial and conflict defies paint or words.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hi Kerry–thanks. Kiefer first painted about Germany and WWII, of course–I added a quote now making that clear, but those paintings work for now too. k.

  6. Helen Says:

    You and I share the same appreciation for his art ~ Chicago in the late 80’s I believe my first in person glimpse. I fell head over heels .. his work is grand, intriguing, huge!

  7. Ella Says:

    Bravo! You embraced this challenge, so well~ The lines you shared of the paint not being the same, the world with its gaping broken heart~ Your images haunt, as they should-you gave us the heart of the artist, his hands painting his world!
    Hauntingly, brilliant!

  8. Words were meant to carry meaning
    like a cart or car,
    a sigh or song,
    but make crude vehicles
    when meaning’s gone……….. so true. You’ve said it well.

  9. hedgewitch Says:

    “…how does line define/ meaning’s capsize? ” great scissors of a line that cuts the shapes out created by both word and paint–also the deluge at the end fits the subject and avalanches on down with the things that are really, beyond our grasp because our minds are not big enough, which is probably in this case, just as well–yet even not grasping, they can still be smashed by thatTitan’s rain. Not familiar with this artist’s work, but you have made what you used familiar and real.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      He is really great. The image I used just happens to be a painting I’ve seen so I felt it was not quite infringing! Though not sure best for the poem. He started out with work very oriented to Nazi era and devastation of WWII–a student of Joseph Beuys–but really his paintings describe many broken fields–

      On Fri, Apr 10, 2015 at 10:56 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  10. Susan Says:

    LOVE! containers of the broken are impossible …but this poem does that impossible very well.

  11. othermary Says:

    This really is quite extraordinary. Your build your poem, like filling a car or cart, with words, with meaning. And so artfully done. This really should be read aloud to be appreciated fully.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thank you so much, Mary. I don’t think the title quite works to give a sense of Kiefer’s work or what I was getting out, but it is hard this month to quite get things right. I very much appreciate your kind comment. k.

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