Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Creative Process in a (Poetic) Nutshell!

Dear Writerly Friends,
I'd like to share this little gem with you, from the 20th Century French surrealist poet, Jacques Prevert - a beautiful encapsulation of creativity to inspire us all for the new year. Happy Word-Painting!

To Paint a Bird's Portrait

First of all, paint a cage
with an opened door
then paint something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful for the bird
Place the picture against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide yourself behind the tree
without speaking
without moving...
Sometimes the bird arrives quickly
but it can also take many years
to make up its mind
Don't be discouraged
wait for years if necessary
the speed or slowness of
the bird's arrival
doesn't have any relationship
to the result of the picture
When the bird comes
if it comes
keep the deepest silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when it has entered
close the door softly with the brush
remove one by one all the bars
taking care not to touch any
feather of the bird
Then draw the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful branch
for the bird
paint also the green foliage
and the coolness of the wind
the sunlit dust
the sounds of animals and the grass
in the summer heat
and then, wait for the bird to decide to sing

If the bird doesn't sing
it's a bad sign
it means that the picture is wrong
but if it sings it's a good sign
it means that you can sign

so you tear with sweetness
a feather from the bird
and write your name in the corner
of the painting

*(I've translated this poem from the French version 'Pour faire le portrait d'un Oiseau' appearing on the website, which presents a collection of Jacques Prevert's poetry in French, with English interpretations).


  1. wonderful! thanks for posting this, it's a beautiful poem and great metaphor for the creative process

  2. Nice, Joanna! How about translating some more Prevert?