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Inward to the Bones: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Journey with Emily Carr

by Kate Braid

In her third volume of poetry, award-winning writer Kate Braid brings together two painters, Georgia O’Keeffe and Emily Carr, and takes them on a journey of the imagination. Braid was intrigued by a brief meeting of the two women in February 1930, when Carr was visiting Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York, and she speculates on the kind of friendship they might have shared. The result is a compelling series of poems, rich in imagery and written in the voice of Georgia O’Keeffe, that explores the world of the female painter in the first half of this century.

Braid’s sequence of lyric poems is a narrative of the lives of O’Keeffe and Carr. Although she takes poetic license with some recorded events, she remains faithful to the broad outline of O’Keeffe’s biography. We follow her from childhood and her important relationship with Stieglitz, to life in New Mexico and companionship with Juan Hamilton. Into the known fabric of lives, Braid convincingly weaves the imagined friendship of O’Keeffe and Carr.

Since both painters were obsessed with their respective landscapes, Braid intuits that each would have visited the other in her own milieu. Hence, she brings Carr to the arid desert of New Mexico where “drenched in green…This ground doesn’t feed her.” Similarly, when O’Keeffe returns with Carr to the lush forests of British Columbia she cries out, “I am buried alive!” Gradually, however, alongside her friend, each woman grows comfortable in a foreign landscape that inspires remarkable paintings.

This powerful volume succeeds on several levels. The voices of both O’Keeffe and Carr – she interjects in numerous poems – ring true. The nuances of speech and life will resonate for readers familiar with the lives and work of both women. The collection is shaped by a concern with women’s art, how it differs in form and content from that produced by men, and how women artists either are nurtured (in the case of O’Keeffe) or ignored (in the case of Carr) by the art world, once dominated by men. In Braid’s hand, O’Keeffe’s own theorizing about art is fascinating. Finally, the poems are accompanied by detailed notes that complement the examination of the creative process, the core of this moving work.


Reviewer: Ruth Panofsky

Publisher: Polestar


Price: $16.95

Page Count: 128 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-896095-40-2

Released: May

Issue Date: 1998-7

Categories: Poetry