Give My Regards to Mondrian – A Haibun

Sunshine yellow paths slowly overcome with tomato red worries. If they were splattered, like ketchup on a a plate awaiting a french fry’s toe dip, the red would have seemed angry. But these right angles and straight lines speak to the weight of rules and how things should be. 

Rule follower blue is in each quadrant, of course, keeping watch with that tick-tock military march head swing of disapproval – or maybe it’s disappointment, or maybe it’s both. But it’s really the white – the soul-less white, the brain numbing white – that has taken center stage.  It defines and limits the yellow’s paths so happiness is constrained to this patch of canvas. 

Each parallelogram rigidly defined as if they can’t hear the songs from Broadway calling them to relax, to sway, to be pulled and pushed and twirled, to be tossed in the air and slid through the legs. The primary passion of colors needs to be the breakout star.

Right hand against left

Piano drama gives best shot 

Angle of Life’s Joy

Piet Mondrian, ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43, moma.org

Kim from Writing in Norfolk is hosting dVerse Haibun Monday this week. She challenged us with writing a haibun about the image above, a piece of modern abstract art by Piet Mondrian, a leader in this movement. “Broadway Boogie Woogie” was one of his last pieces of work.

I did a lot of research for this haibun so if finding out about the background work that went into writing a poem isn’t your “thing”, then feel free to skip this part and go straight to the “Like” button below! =) I love doing research and since we’re still sheltering in place, I have time.

I didn’t start off doing research but after the 2nd paragraph, I got a little stuck and that’s when I started doing some exploring particularly about the title of Mondrian’s art piece.

Boogie Woogie is a style of piano playing brought up from the southern part of the USA to the northern part by African Americans during the “Great Migration”. It’s inspired by jazz and gained popularity in the late 1930’s through WWII.

Boogie Woogie is also a style of dance, also known as the East Coast Swing.

Broadway, needs no introduction although I did find this interesting podcast about it’s history from the Bowery Boys. Around the 17 minute mark, they talk about the reason why Broadway is the only road in north of lower Manhattan that doesn’t seem to follow the beautiful grid pattern created by the Commissioners Plan of 1811. I thought it ironic that Mondrian would name his artwork full of right angles after a street that refused to conform to this square plan. Incidentally, Broadway is also called “The Great White Way”.

Currently, Broadway is closed due to the pandemic yet, I can still remember my first Broadway show, Cats, that I watched with my Dad for my 13th birthday. Since then, I’ve seen the Lion King, Hamilton, Chicago and Wicked there. The 2nd line of the haiku references a song from Hamilton called “My Shot”, which is mostly about taking advantage of opportunity.

I don’t know if Mondrian made all these connections when he painted this artwork and then named it. The BBC podcast that inspired Kim also had an interesting take on the relationship between Mondrian and Boogie Woogie (I didn’t listen to that podcast until AFTER I wrote my haibun so any similarity is purely coincidental. I swear on my favorite pen.)

For me, the artwork raised these questions: What are the rigid lines that seem to define our limits? Are they self-imposed? Or do we see them as being imposed by an “other”? How can we push, pull and twirl our edges to allow for flexibility and growth? To angle our abstract mind to find those higher meanings? To allow our vibrant, colorful, exuberantly moving joy to take center stage?

My haibun is, at it’s essence, about finding joy amidst the constraints of life – whether it’s the constraints of having to shelter in place and wear a mask, or the constraints of worries and “shoulda, woulda, coulda” rules in our lives. Can we turn our current limitations into something meaningful? This article says “Yes, if you have faith.” But what about the rest of us? What’s the angle of our life’s joy or are we content to live in the grid?

©️ 2020 iido

11 thoughts on “Give My Regards to Mondrian – A Haibun

  1. wow I absolutely love your haibun and really appreciate all the research you put into this Irma, impressive!

    I just went with her hint that could be Broadway elsewhere and immediately thought of the inner city area I love so much of the same name. Knowing all the nuances now I was rather naive … but does sound like a shot at the whites who do preside.

    Used to dance the boogie woogie in my younger days and have always been a huge jazz fan! My dance partner and I were invited to many 21st birthdays and other celebrations to do a demo .. we didn’t need an excuse! Over the shoulder between the legs we flew 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh Kate! I can envision the fun you had dancing the boogie woogie! From what I’ve read, jazz and boogie woogie were groundbreaking because of the improvisation and how it can take seemingly disconcordant sounds and make them beautiful. Sounds like you were a rebel even back in the day!

      It’s fascinating to me that other countries would also have a Broadway, but different than the NYC one. I do think that “empty spaces” (or ones that we think are empty) can have meaning – what is not said can be as important as what is being said.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the way you played with the title of the song, Irma, and appreciate the work you put into your haibun, which is ekphrastic and abstract at the same time! I enjoyed the fun you had with geometry, especially the ‘tomato red worries’ and ‘french fry’s toe dip’. Yes, the ‘right angles and straight lines speak to the weight of rules’. I love the focus on ‘the soul-less white, the brain numbing white’ in the second paragraph. The final paragraph made me smile, with its Broadway songs (which refer back to your title) and breakout star. I get the ‘Angle of Life’s Joy’ – just straight lines would be boring!
    By the way, I had no idea that Broadway is the only road north of lower Manhattan that doesn’t seem to follow the grid pattern. And those questions you pose are something to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! I grew up in NYC so I knew Broadway was an anomaly but I didn’t know all the history of why this was so. Your prompt attracted both parts of my brain. Thank you for hosting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Mondrian — aroused | I Do Run

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