“I teach poetry in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York,” says David Lehman, “A favorite prompt of mine is to read “Musée des Beaux Arts” and other poems about paintings. Then I suggest that the students visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and write about Brueghel’s sublime depiction of summer, “The Harvesters.” Try it—not in competition with Auden (you can’t win), but with Auden’s marvelous poem as your model.”
My two cents:
Don’t be intimidated by “you can’t win.” Try it—not in competition with anybody, except perhaps yourself. Go ahead, and write your own marvelous poem.
The essay was featured in The Wall Street Journal, Review, Sat/Sun, May 14-15, 2016.