Writer David K. Leff recently sent me a poem he wrote after visiting the American Gothic House a few years ago:Believing is Seeing (a poem about America's most recognized painting)
Posed with a pitchfork
before a board-and-batten, steep gabled cottage
with a pointed window, the American Gothic
couple gazes from the canvass in eternal taciturnity.
In the hushed, polished halls of downtown
Chicago hangs this two-faced symbol
of gritty, rural resourcefulness
and small-town rigidity.
I stand among millions who’ve stared back, unsure
what I’m seeing, caught between a kitsch joke
and a culture hungry for something deep, enduring
and blessed by high art.
A little battered and alligatored with old
paint, the structure still sits as Grant Wood
sketched it in a whimsical stop-the-car
moment. Having already been there without traveling,
I walked around amazed at its sudden
three-dimensionality, the sky as pale and luminous
as the painter’s pigment. I conjured
the grim-faced iconic couple out front, knowing
they never lived there, weren’t paired
or even painted together. But the artist’s sister and dentist
were destined to stand just beyond the porch,
married forever in a sacred, fractured authenticity
Not so much a painting as a mirror, this American
Sphinx is Old Glory and Miss Liberty,
has marketed greeting cards and television shows,
sold cereal and promoted politicians.
Patriotic fairytale more real than an Eldon, Iowa
house or two people who sat for their portraits,
it tells us stories we are starved to hear
because what we believe is what we see.
Thank you to David for sharing his lovely poem! You can read this poem, and other samples of his work, at his website: www.davidkleff.com
American Gothic House Center
The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!