The Sunday Poem: Virginia Konchan




American Gothic


Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton was naturally stunned
by the commercial success of his pupil Jackson Pollock, whose No. 5, 1948,
a “nest-like drizzle of yellows and browns on fiberboard,” sold for 140 million,
becoming the most expensive painting in the history of modern art,
and this, after the (near) seduction of his one wife Rita!
Pollock: “She was the ideal woman.”

Childhood:  hunger.  His mother Stella, strangely inexpressive:
“She sat like statuary the entire evening and didn’t move once.”
Romantic History:  his approach with Lee Krasner, after
formal introductions at a dinner party: “Do you like to fuck?”

Mentor: “He couldn’t absorb words and he couldn’t use them,
but he picked up on the subtlest nonverbal signals.
Protégé: “Damnit, Tom, damnit! You know what I mean!”

Verbs used to describe Pollock’s process of applying paint:
fling, dribble, hurl, and dump
(drip having become the name of the style).

Art Historian: “None of Pollock’s paintings are true abstractions. They are
fundamentally figurative paintings, albeit in a way that’s hard to read.”

Reporter:  “So, Jack, how does it feel to be considered the father
of Abstract Expressionism?”
Pollock:  “What the hell is Abstract Expressionism?”

1943:  Compositional space of Mural: a barn. Technique:  two
days spent crawling over a thirty-foot canvas, flinging cigarette
ash, paint and glue.  (Bio. note:  He wrote Jackson Pollock across
the canvas, then hung the imagery from the letters of his name.)





About Virginia Konchan

A doctoral candidate in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Virginia Konchan’s criticism has appeared widely, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Boston Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Believer, The New Republic, Notre Dame Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Jacket, and Poet Lore, among other places.

To read more about Virginia Konchan and her work, you can visit her website.

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“American Gothic” © Virginia Konchan. This poem originally appeared in the Believer and was reprinted with permission by the author.


By | 2016-11-11T21:55:27+00:00 10.01.11|The Sunday Poem|2 Comments

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.


  1. Paul Oratofsky October 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Why would this be considered a poem? The language is strictly prose, and it reads like a list of review comments. I don’t understand its designation as a “poem.” Please explain.

    • Michelle Aldredge October 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Paul. Thanks for your question.

      While Virginia’s “American Gothic” may not conform to more traditional definitions of poetry, I would argue that its meaning is heightened by its poetic form–by the arrangement on the page, the use of stanzas, its concise language. The writer has condensed the life of Jackson Pollock into seven different viewpoints. It’s a bit like a gemstone–seven different facets of Jackson Pollock form the whole of the poem. Although the poem doesn’t use traditional rhyme or meter, this doesn’t mean that the author hasn’t made very careful choices about language, line length, word arrangement, etc. For all of these reasons, I think the piece could be considered “a poem.”

      In the end, I think definitions matter less than the work itself.

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