6 Poets who Moonlight as Artists

1. Frida Kahlo

Kahlo may be better described as an artist who moonlights as a poet. Kahlo’s self-portraits explore how people (in particular women) construct their identity, and how this fuses with the culture which surrounds us. In contrast to this introspection, much of her poetry is addressed externally to the love of her life, Diego Rivera.

“I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors / because there are so many, in my confusion / the tangible form of my great love” (From the Diaries of Frida Kahlo)

Self portrait, Kahlo

2. J.R.R Tolkein

The poetic verses in Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit form some of the most enchanting passages of the saga. Yet Tolkien didn’t just use poetry and prose to build Middle Earth. He drew painstakingly detailed maps, designed his own book covers and painted a series of illustrations to bring Middle Earth vividly to life. You can catch a huge cross-section of these works at Oxford’s Bodleian Library until November 2018.

“All that is gold does not glitter / Not all those who wander are lost” (The Fellowship of the Ring)

3. Rabintranath Tagore

Tagore’s poetry inspired three national anthems (India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and won him a noble prize in 1913. He took up drawing and painting aged 60. His work is characterised by simple bold forms and unusual colour schemes – likely a result of red-green colourblindness.

“But I find that thy will knows no end in me / And when old words die out on the tongue / new melodies break forth from the heart” (Closed Path)

Two figures, Tagore

4. William Blake

Blake used watercolour, drawings and print to illustrate his collections of poetry. Like his verse, Blake’s work is spiritual, ethereal and frequently moralistic.

“Gave thee life & bid thee feed/By the stream & o'er the mead” (The Lamb)

Blake - Jerusalem

5. Joni Mitchell

Purists might say that someone known primarily as a folk-pop singer has no place in a list of poets. We think that her conversational, eloquent and allegorical lyrics make her more than deserving of a place in this list, as both a poet and a visual artist. For Mitchell has been a prolific painter her whole life, with her work spanning from landscapes to abstracts to self-portraits. In her own words: "I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance."

You said “I am as constant as the northern star” and I said “Constantly in darkness? Where’s that at? If you want me I’ll be in the bar” (Case of You)

6. Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s activism, autobiographies and poetry have provided hope and inspiration to countless people. In 2015, one of her paintings was publically exhibited and auctioned for the first time. We hope that, in time, more of her work can be viewed by the public.

You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I'll rise.” (Still I Rise)



Feel inspired? Check out some of the fantastic artwork produced by our very own artists here. We haven't got any poetry featured - yet!

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