Monday, May 14, 2012

Rothko revelations: poems by Kathryn Lane

Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX

This past April 4, the Friendswood Public Library hosted a poetry reading by a group of poets known as Net Poets Society. Their newest member, a fine poet by the name of Kathryn Lane, read a poem inspired by the work of artist Mark Rothko. I was reminded how much I admire this artist’s work and later asked Kathryn if she would share these Rothko inspired poems with our from the reference desk readers. Those of us who live in the Houston area are privileged to be close to The Menil Collection, Rothko Chapel, and Cy Twombly Gallery off of Sul Ross Street.  I have visited these collections many times and have never left without feeling inspired by the experience.

This entry is timely given the fact that the Menil is celebrating Rothko Chapel’s fortieth anniversary with “an installation of rarely exhibited canvases by Mark Rothko, closely related to those the artist completed for the chapel.” 

Below we find two poetic expressions of the work of Mark Rothko by poet Kathryn Lane.

Kathryn Lane began writing fiction in 2009 after leaving an international finance position in Latin America and the Caribbean with Johnson & Johnson.  Her short stories have been published in Swirl and The Texas A&M Border Fiction Anthology.  While attending a writing workshop at Texas A&M in November of 2011, Kathryn attended a poetry reading and fell in love with the intimacy of poems and began experimenting with poetry.  Since then, her poems have appeared in Homeless Diamonds, a London-based poetry journal, Primitive Archer, Swirl and The Poetry at Round Top Anthology.  A native Spanish speaker, Kathryn has performed poetry in both English and Spanish.

Kathryn is a board member of the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council. 


Subdued light bathes the gallery

where paintings hang

in a mysterious, almost spiritual, quality.

Brushstrokes talk in hushed tones

over rabbit skin glue,

revealing shadows of vagueness

apparent in the under painting,

tails of pigment fanning out into fuzzy edges

like a million nerve endings dancing

on the reds, maroons and crimsons.

After all these years, the old

yet energetic blocks of color palpate

the artist’s energy: his ecstasies, his tragedies,

his doom, like a shadow of the man falling

upon a red canvas, foretelling the future.

Black Paintings

The paintings were black with a hint of brown, perhaps;

they hung on walls—brooding;

the rectangles hovering tensely next to each other

like unhappy lovers.

The silence suddenly seemed profound;

the room acquired a dimension beyond the mundane—

like the artist would have liked—

space widened, diffused light became three dimensional

and the paintings reflected movement and modulation of color.

I sat there feeling the luminosity of silence

observing dim light infuse breath and life

into the black paint until the silence inside of me

became too much to bear.

~ Kathryn Lane                   

More poems by Kathryn Lane:


  1. Kathyryn's writing reflects the powerful emotions triggered by Rothko's paintings. Her sensitive poems are a beautiful accompaniment. I look forward to reading her poems at the Rothko during my next visit while contemplating the paintings.

  2. Kathryn Lane is very talented, very insightful. And importantly, she has encouraged me to make another visit to Rothko. Only this time, my encounter with Rothko will be a little deeper, a little richer - thanks to Kathryn Lane.

  3. I will visit Rothko as soon as possible. I've never been there but after reading Kathryn's beautiful words, I must go.

  4. I have never been to the Rothko Chapel. However, after hearing my good friend's lovely description and her poetry. I plan to visit soon.
    Thanks Kathryn for the "experience" :)

  5. Kathryn´s beautiful poems make us truly appreciate Rothko's work. She is indeed one of the most talented and sensitive persons I have ever met.

  6. To be honest, when I visited the Rothko chapel last April, I left aesthetically down--but that's all right. You can learn from art that takes you into pain. These poems by Kathryn added another dimension to my experience.


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