Warhol–Pop Art in Words

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Maybe Andy was on
to something.
screen-printed cans—
Campbell’s soup:
red and white,
silver and gray,
navy blue with a gold seal.
An icon of comfort in
the midst of so much dismay.
Tomato, Chicken Noodle,
Split Pea,
Bean with Bacon, Pepper Pot.
Mother’s Milk, Mother’s Comfort.
Bring it on.

Did you ever stop?
Really look at art?
I mean art in a grocery store?
“Wake up!”
Andy would say.
Listen closely.”

I pick up a navel orange.
Its dimpled skin
leaves a scent-mark
on my fingers.

“If you want to know me,
look at my art,”
“I’m a deeply superficial person.”

So I stare at him,
but he doesn’t glance back.
Eyes drifting to some
far-away place where
wholeness waits,
or to a party where
touching never held room
for emptiness.
The pull of gravity so great
the Mass collapses in
on itself,
Black Hole. Black Whole.

All that sparkles is
not diamond dust.
Even that wouldn’t adhere.
Your world
became glittered in so
much plastic.

Redemption plays in
pink and yellow
electric chairs.

Curl up,
snuggle in its lap
and die alone
while the nurse who
was there for you,

Oh my God,
I am heartily sorry,
So much pain.
I repeat, I repeat.
Marilyn in
black and gray
and brown,
blue and pink.
We are heartily sorry
who we aren’t,
what we are
and what they made us.

The woman handed
the boy
a piece of dense bread.
“It’s dry,” he said.
“Dunk it in your soup,”
she answered.

I wrote this poem way back in 2010, around the time the Nevada Museum of Art hosted a Warhol exhibit. Many, perhaps unknown details underlie this writing. Here are a few of them.

  • As a child, Andy was sick a lot. His mother sustained him on Campbells soup.
  • He surrounded himself with celebrities, but never found self confidence or the ability to fill that empty space within himself.
  • He pursued adding diamond dust to his work, but had problems with making it stick.
  • He painted a rather grim series of electric chairs.
  • He died at a young age of complications from gallbladder surgery. The private nurse who was supposed to be with him had left the room.

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I would love to have you join us for dVerse MTB where I’m hosting. The theme is Pop Art.


37 thoughts on “Warhol–Pop Art in Words

  1. Francisco Bravo Cabrera says:

    Andy Warhol (Warhola originally) became rich selling his graphic designs to ad agencies and fashion rags way before he ever painted but he wanted to be rich and famous, famous as a painter, not a doodler…but he had very little imagination, so instead of creating works of art on a canvas, he created himself and he became his greatest work! An anecdote of his life was when he asked his assistant (because he hired people to work for him in the Factory who actually did the painting or silk screening), in any event, he told his assistant that he had no idea of what to paint, and asked him for a suggestion. The man said to him, “paint what you most like”. So he started painting money…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] to Becky’s Lines & Squares Challenge, Oct. 14, which is sparked by Becky’s post Warhol-Pop Art in Words. A wonderful explanation and tribute to one of the greatest artists of the 20th century (he’s […]


  3. TiongHan says:

    I loved his approach to culture so much I dedicated one lesson to exactly this. (Back when I was still teaching young advertising people ‘the ropes’ in my spare time. Judging on what I nowadays generally see in terms of ads made me think it didn’t really make a splash.) I filled a 3-hour lecture on what I dubbed ‘The good, the bad and the ugly in research’ with just one slide featuring his quote ‘I would rather watch somebody buy their underwear than read a book they wrote.’
    What I found, and still find, so fascinating about the/his pop art movement was the idolization of the most mundane brands.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rob Kistner says:

    This is brilliant Victoria. I loved the way you carried us through thr nitty gritty of it all. Such beautiful writing I may never write again!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Prior... says:

    this was great – and I used to teach art to children for about five years – and we had a pop art unit that included some of Warhol’s works.
    Did not know his nurse left the room – or other tidbits…

    and there was much to like from your poem – so much –
    but this part stood out
    “I am heartily sorry,
    because soup is so hearty!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! I did not know a lot of these things about Andy. Wonderful poem, Victoria.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the way you slip from the art to the person and back again. It’s a complex poem, sensitively written. Sometimes biographical poems become more biography than poem, but this pulls free of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sad to think that no sparkle would adhere. There is so much more to his paintings of Campbell Soup than one would have originally thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m curious why you didn’t mention the shooting in which he almost died. He’s quoted as having said that before the shooting he felt he was living a kind of half-life, as if he were watching himself on TV.

    It feels like the last verse in your poem somehow speaks to that. I don’t know why – maybe the inherent sadness in the lasting effects of a traumatized childhood. The basic injustice of it that sends reverberations down one’s entire life.

    Campbell soup is such memorable part of so many childhoods. The only time I ever eat canned soup anymore is when I’m in bed with a bad cold. My sweet husband always goes and gets it. It has to be Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup – I cried the first time, when he came back with a substitute. In my defense, My temperature was up three degrees and had been sneezing continuously for the past six hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Although you wrote this almost 10 years ago, it is still so relevant Victoria. I love it all, but this stood out to me:
    I pick up a navel orange.
    Its dimpled skin
    leaves a scent-mark
    on my fingers.
    So abstract yet so real. Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful! Truly captures Warhol.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sabio Lantz says:

    Very interesting


  13. lifelessons says:

    A very sensitive portrayal. I especially liked the lines: Eyes drifting to some
    far-away place where
    wholeness waits,

    Liked by 1 person

  14. kim881 says:

    I can’t believe you wrote this nine years ago, Victoria, it’s fresh, as if you wrote it yesterday. I’ve only seen one or two Warhol pieces up close and personal; I know them mostly from books and magazines. Thank you for the unknown details – I knew some of them, but not about the details of his death, which are shocking.
    I like the way you started your poem with one of his most famous artworks, listing the colours and names of the soup, and later Marilyn, with the personal and emotional slipped into between, and then dived into his tragedy. I especially like the lines:
    ‘All that sparkles is
    not diamond dust.
    Even that wouldn’t adhere.
    Your world
    became glittered in so
    much plastic.’

    Liked by 1 person

  15. rothpoetry says:

    I love your in depth unveiling of Andy Warhol.
    It is amazing how tension and trouble of the mind seem to plague so many artists. I guess the tension and pain get reflected in the art. Or in Andy’s case the boredom of eating Campbells soup every day.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Interesting is a good descriptor. There may be art in cans of Dinty Moore, but I think I’ll go with Spam instead.


  17. Vivian Zems says:

    A fitting tribute to a wonderful artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Beverly Crawford says:

    Thanks for the Warhol interesting bits. My granddaughter just graduated U of Oregon with a degree in Graphic Arts. This challenge and its responses will interest her.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Rob Kistner says:

    Excellent piece Victoria!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Glenn A. Buttkus says:

    Super markets, as a photographer, are a fairy land of rainbows and scams and textures. This is such a strong poem in so many ways. It speaks to the “Profile” prompt, it informs and enlightens, it is rife with great word-smithing, and it illustrates many of the Pop parameters; so cool.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. msjadeli says:

    Victoria, thank you for bits of Andy’s background info. You seem to have a finger on his pulse, which he would have appreciated, I think. I agree with Frank on both of those quotes as sticking out for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. lillian says:

    Loving this! And most especiallly these lines
    “All that sparkles is
    not diamond dust.
    Even that wouldn’t adhere.
    Your world
    became glittered in so
    much plastic”…..
    and the dunkin’ in the end. Hmmmmma run-on in the pop art sense to Everyone runs on dunkin’ with roundabout doughnuts! :).

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Frank Hubeny says:

    I like Warhol’s reference to himself as a superficial person. Also interesting contrast in this line: “Black Hole. Black Whole.”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. kanzensakura says:

    I met him once at Studio 54. Interesting person. I like this poem. Wake up. Art is all around us. Even in the cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.

    Liked by 1 person

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