paul klee poems
Considering Klee’s powerful effect on such poets as Paul Muldoon, Sylvia Plath and Tom Paulin, this evening explores the way these poets, including Sail and Mole, illuminate Klee’s paintings, highlighting such themes as childhood, the tug of history and a sense of theatre, as well as Klee’s own practice as a painter and poet.
I cannot be grasped in the here and now. For my dwelling place is as much among the dead as the yet unborn. Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual. But not nearly close enough.
Paul Klee, epitaph
But between them the dusky
valley of men.
A reign of light
clarity on two mountains :
He was a natural draftsman, and through long experimentation developed a mastery of color and tonality. Many of his works combine these skills. He uses a great variety of color palettes from nearly monochromatic to highly polychromatic. His works often have a fragile childlike quality to them and are usually on a small scale. He often used geometric forms and grid format compositions as well as letters and numbers, frequently combined with playful figures of animals and people. Some works were completely abstract. Many of his works and their titles reflect his dry humor and varying moods; some express political convictions. They frequently allude to poetry, music and dreams and sometimes include words or musical notation. The later works are distinguished by spidery hieroglyph-like symbols. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about Klee in 1921, “Even if you hadn’t told me he plays the violin, I would have guessed that on many occasions his drawings were transcriptions of music.” 
The release of the almanac was delayed for the benefit of an exhibition. The first Blaue Reiter exhibition took place from 18 December 1911 to 1 January 1912 in the Moderne Galerie Heinrich Thannhauser in Munich. Klee did not attend it, but in the second exhibition, which occurred from 12 February to 18 March 1912 in the Galerie Goltz, 17 of his graphic works were shown. The name of this art exhibition was Schwarz-Weiß, as it only regarded graphic painting.  Initially planned to be released in 1911, the release date of the Der Blau Reiter almanac by Kandinsky and Marc was delayed in May 1912, including the reproduced ink drawing Steinhauer by Klee. At the same time, Kandinsky published his art history writing Über das Geistige in der Kunst. 
Klee’s first attempt to mix painting and poetry was in 1916, with a series of six watercolors conceived from Chinese poems. In this work, where the image is preceded exceptionally – but also necessarily -by the title-text, it should definitely be noted that the original order of the colored squares is imposed by the logos, even though the letters lose their linguistic function. This is no doubt what the wide gray band in the center of the surface confirms. Where the text disappears, there is only chaos, that is if we follow Klee’s theory of color, which is the inorganic mix (pigmentary or subtractive) of colors that justly gives gray. “In the beginning was the verb . ” said Klee in the “Creative Credo.”
The structure of the poem determines the composition. The weft of the image is a wall of colored squares of more or less the same size. The black lines of the Arabic capitals determine other chromatic partitions like the stones of a mosaic. The two parts of the composition, separated by a band of silver paper, correspond with the two stanzas of the poem. Even the chromatic schema is impressed by the text: From the beginning to the end of the poem a luminous blue emerges, little by little, from the initial gray.
Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
I’m fond of the fact that, beyond the title, Paul Klee does not appear in Jack Ridl’s luminous poem at all. I think Klee might have liked that, too. A painter who loved mystical colors blurring, earth to sky, might have liked a vividly descriptive poem which holds a long-ago moment as a hinge for everything to come. “It was just that we knew,” is one of those wondrous, instinctive lines containing everything. How rare is an evening like this? How possible? That couple in their 60s might have seemed old then, but they were so alive, so aware. I am crazy about those napkins. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye