Hell (The Scream)

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Hell (The Scream)


Sartre famously thought it was

other people. An art critic thought it was

being locked in a small room

with Edvard Munch for all eternity.

The Nordic Cartographer of Hell said, 

“Disease and insanity were the black angels

at my cradle.”


His men and women writhe

in anguish – staggering from the canvas

into our cities, into our waiting rooms,

into our laps.


The scream crossing

the bridge reverberates throughout time and space,

turning Wordsworth’s view of nature

inside out.

Edvard Munch "Der Schrei"

Edvard Munch Paintings

I went to an art gallery recently and bought an old exhibition catalogue titled Munch & Photography. (cost £1!) Munch used a camera and based some of his paintings on the photographs. He also got some strange effects with double exposures and with people moving on a long exposure.

Munch is of course the supreme artist of alienation – not many of his paintings are uplifting, or at least not many have the exuberance of colour and energy of, say, Van Gogh’s. They do however reflect the existential awareness of the modern era and Munch was among the first artists to do this. His first paintings were done in the 1880s.

I thought I’d try a series of poems triggered by his paintings. Here’s the first two. I’d welcome feedback as I’m not sure about continuing! There’s a good blog about art history here:


Self Portrait between Clock and Bedmunch between bed and clock


The old artist stands between

a clock and a bed;

symbols of death the art critic said.

The paintings he’s painted

cover the walls, plastering over

the threatening days.

The artist’s face is gaunt and

the clock-face is painted out.


Weeping Girl


See time leaking from

the mantelpiece as Munch

opens the camera

shutter for Weeping Girl.

See a foggy figure behind

the bed: an ectoplasmic blur


toward the weeping girl

and us.