Poetry Friday: Ode to Poinsettia & WIP


Our days have shortened and gotten dark here in the Midwest U.S., so I’m going to share some colors of the season in poetry and art for Poetry Friday. The art is: Poinsettia, a WIP watercolor and watercolor pencil painting. I brought this in for my watercolor class to work on and was able to make a quick drawing while working with them. 

I learned a little bit more about Poinsettia’s as I was revising my poem. They are named after a botanist, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who discovered them in Mexico and “sent cuttings of the plant” back to the U.S. in 1828. He was also a physician and the “first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. The colorful leaves of the Poinsettia aren’t called flowers but are called “bracts (modified leaves).” Here’s a link if you want to read a bit more about Poinsettisa’s




Red flames of winter,
maroon magic bracts,
velvet green toss-a-turn leaves–
What wisdom’s in your perfect serrated edges,
and your densely foliated under-twinning’s?
What knowledge will you pass on from your
full-canopied sea of softly lit vermillion?
What questions will you pose of our over scheduled days,
our lack of time to wonder and contemplate?
How long will you hold your perfect form–
Before transforming my mesmerized
image of your entrancing self?
I’ll remember your pointed edges
curling ever so gently at their apex.
Your contrast of toothed and curved blades,
your seductive deep reds,
and coveted, concealed flowerets.
I’ll be thankful for this magnetic attraction
you lassoed around me in the darkening
days of the season.

© 2017 Michelle Kogan

I was hunting around for some poetry to share along with my poem and came across this poem by Muriel Rukeyser called [Murmurs from the earth of this land], you can find the rest of her poem over at the Poetry Foundation


By Muriel Rukeyser

Murmurs from the earth of this land, from the caves and craters,
       from the bowl of darkness. Down watercourses of our
       dragon childhood, where we ran barefoot.
We stand as growing women and men. Murmurs come down
        where water has not run for sixty years.
Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, from the ax of
        the stars, from the house on fire, ringing of glass; from
        the abandoned iron-black mill.
Stars with voices crying like mountain lions over forgotten
I also thought about this folksong God Bless the Grass, by Pete Seeger, while putting my post together.
Mary Lee Hahn is hosting this weeks Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog 
A Year of Reading    Stop by her site for more poetry. Thanks for hosting Mary Lee!


About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
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33 Responses to Poetry Friday: Ode to Poinsettia & WIP

  1. red flames of winter….wow!
    The watercolor is beautiful. I love all the under-colors (sorry…i don’t know the lingo for art). The purple and the rust and the lime-green. There really are no mis-matches in nature. all colors work together. Beautiful work, this week!

  2. lindabaie says:

    Beautiful painting, Michelle. I was just admiring the varied poinsettias at my garden store, loving this strange plant whose leaves overshadow the bloom, and now your wonderful poem shows those images in my mind. I love “toss-a-turn leaves” and the 2nd poem. And I love all Pete Seeger’s songs. I saw him in a small venue a long time ago and won’t forget that magical night. Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. murphpoet says:

    Lovely – both illustration and poem. “softly lit vermilion” is so apt. I love poinsettias, and usually buy one for my Christmas table. But n Australia they are cool room forced, and it is almost impossible to get them to live past January because it’s the wrong time of year for them.

  4. margaretsmn says:

    Beautiful poinsettia post, in words and painting. I haven’t bought any yet, but I do love to decorate with them. I usually prefer the fire red ones to the pink.

  5. I love both painting and ode. Poinsettias do indeed provide a flame of color in winters dark days.

  6. Beautiful, Michelle. You are truly a master of line and color. And your observant eye comes across so vividly in your poem, too, with the red flames and the velvet green toss-a-turn leaves, the softly lit vermillion, and the curling edges. I also love the pairing with the Rukeyser poem, especially with the references to fire. Wishing you a beautiful holiday season, my friend.

  7. jama says:

    Amazing poem and gorgeous painting, Michelle! Thanks, too, for the tidbits about poinsettias.

    Fave line: “What knowledge will you pass on from your
    full-canopied sea of softly lit vermillion?” Had a flash of GM Hopkins there. 🙂 Here’s to the red flames of winter!

  8. haitiruth says:

    Nice! Poinsettia is in bloom here in Haiti this time of year, and I love seeing it. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  9. So much packed into one post. I love the watercolor, one of your most lovely. Would make gorgeous cards. I love the naming history and the companion poem. The red flames of winter, the knowledge that they are blooming in Haiti from Ruth. Ahh. And the Murmurs from the tulip tree and the catalpa, seem to bring the whole world alive, all the seasons trembling in your words.

  10. I, too, love that image of “red flames of winter.” Thanks for this appreciative look in words and art at this foliage ambassador of the season!

  11. maryleehahn says:

    I’ll echo the others — gorgeous painting! I love that you write an ode to one of the holiday decorations we tend to take for granted. (Oh, to be Ruth and see them blooming out in the world!) I’m thinking I’ll write about my Christmas Cactuses, who have been blooming since Thanksgiving!

  12. Whoa. Michelle, this writing–“velvet green toss-a-turn leaves”–really goes all the way, like your paintings. Did you write before or after you found Muriel’s poem, which I also find to be sweeping and rich with surprising language? Gorgeous.

  13. Tabatha says:

    I like how closely you looked at poinsettias, Michelle! You really slowed down to savor their loveliness. Thanks for giving us their origin story, too.

  14. They are, indeed, winters red flames! Love this, Michelle.

  15. Laura Shovan says:

    This is a gorgeous sketch, Michelle. I hope you’ll share the finished artwork. These are my favorite lines of your poem — so much shape, movement, and color:
    Your contrast of toothed and curved blades,
    your seductive deep reds,
    and coveted, concealed flowerets.

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