Posted in: art, earth, faith, fleeting, ice, mystery, nature, poem, sculpture, sonnet, water

Notating Nature’s Delicate Song

The evanescence in British artist Andy Goldworthy‘s work is what first caught hold of me. (Click the link for Artsy’s wonderful Goldsworthy pages.) He works with nature to make sculptures of the moment, or perhaps the hour, using all natural elements. Ice, water, leaves, twigs, wind, rain are the easel, palette, paints, and media he sculpts with. It’s as if he’s having a conversation with nature and time, an intense wrestling almost. His work seems to say beauty is all around us but constantly changing, impossible to capture for long. It’s as if he’s trying to notate Nature’s delicate and constant singing.

Rivers and Tides, the splendid documentary on Goldsworthy and his work, actually is part of his work by letting us watch him work with fast disappearing natural elements. He describes his work as capturing something “intangible. It is here and then gone.” And Goldsworthy shows how quickly that intangible Something, a spirit of beauty in nature, arrives and departs. It’s a metaphor for life, of course. It’s about time and the sacredness of being alive.

Watching that documentary moved me to a tribute poem. I often like to write poems about pieces of art, but I think this is my only poem about an artist other than my father. This sonnet originally appeared in Image: Art, Faith, Mystery.

Self-Portrait by Andy Goldsworthy

One must have a mind of winter to regard the frost and the boughs

of the pine-trees crusted with snow – Wallace Stevens

He doesn’t appear to have a mind of winter,

this man handling shards of ice between

shaking gloves, tacking hewed splinters

together by flashlight. He has a keen

grasp of water’s arctic state. His stone

of a mind feels the light’s first crack

and dazzle through his muscle and bone.

He stakes his art on a pre-dawn slack

tide, hurrying an art’s punctilious making

for a sculpture sun’s full glory

will soon undo. But the camera, quaking,

again freezes art’s old story.

He rises satisfied with the dazzling rime.

A mind not of winter, but of time.

Visit for more information and writing by Rachel Dacus.