To celebrate National Poetry Month in April 2014, Public Poetry and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, partnered to create The Game. 

The Game is a poetry-based scavenger hunt for art in the galleries of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Using the clues provided by the four participating poets, participants found the four works of art on display at the Museum. The deadline to submit answers is April 30, 2014. Winners and answers to the clues are listed below.


Grand Prize Winner:
Claire Anderson: An intimate portrait created just for you by artist Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak PLUS a memorable meal with the poets

Runner-up Prizes:
Dominique Foster: MFAH Family Membership
Stephen Branch: A memorable meal with the poets
William Isbell: Signed poetry books

Poems, Clues & Answers

Here are the four poems created to inspire a hunt in the galleries.

Poem 1

They say a good deed doesn't go unpunished.
His punishment is more than most could bear.
His shoulders broad and arms both bronzed and burnished
Support a weighty metaphor for cares.

His fashion statement is more roared than spoken.
Accessorized with clasps of tiny sabers.
He kneels, awaits a promise soon unbroken
So that he may continue with his Labors.

You see his form and want to know:
If that's above, then what's below?

by Gwendolyn Zepeda

Clue: This American artist’s most prominent work is at Rockefeller Center in New York City. You’ll find this near other American art.

Answer: Poem 1 was inspired by Paul Manship's 1918 bronze statue, "Hercules Upholding the Heavens."

Poem 2

I will no longer obey the rule of celestial bodies.

I am cold and graceful, impervious
to color and time.  This spiny myth
is a prophecy fulfilled in your hearing.

I will no longer obey the rule of celestial bodies.

The sun and the moon blend in my throat
like glacier-filled seas. After my just labor
I rest my claws on banks of clouds.

I wrap my milky hips
        with my tail and sleep.

by Martha Serpas

Clue: The Law Building has, mostly, non-Western art. Look for this Asian object in blue and white.

Answer: Poem 2 was inspired by a Joseon dynasty-era "Cloud-Dragon Jar" in the Arts of Korea galleries.

Poem 3

Aquatic vase
exposes roses' bride,
cumulous days
limpidly implied;
high on a shelf,
the shoreline & the sea,
she fans herself
into a fantasy.

by Mike Alexander

Clue: This artist was born in Russia but fled to France to escape persecution. Look in one of the Beck Building galleries with coral colored walls.

Answer: Poem 3 was inspired by Marc Chagall's 1929 oil painting "The Woman and the Roses."

Poem 4
Even now They are Leaving

The indigo darkness
fell around them like a wreckage,
debris of blue sky washed
up against his shoulders, his thighs
tender, closed in shameful
nakedness. The woman, ghostly,
clung to him, a drowning
in her body, thorns and thistles
in the promised future.

The serpent is not there,
but imagine the betrayal,
the thin licking hiss just
at the left edge of the gilt frame.
Dawn chorus of mourning
doves hushes as the man guides her,
his ivory hand at her
heart, both stepping barefoot into
dust, praying, over and over.

by Bao-Long Chu

Clue: Look in one of the Museum’s longest galleries, in the Beck Building, for this painting by an artist who was born in Switzerland, lived mostly in Germany, but died in Britain.

Answer: Poem 4 was inspired by Johann Heinrich Fuseli oil painting "The Dismission of Adam and Eve From Paradise."

Meet the Poets & Artist

Mike Alexander published his first full-length collection, Retrograde, as well as well as an additional four poetry chapbooks. He has been on the editorial board of lyric, The Panhandler, and Mutabils Press, and ran the weekly poetry open mic at Helios for six years out of its ten-year run.

Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak was born in Cleveland, Ohio; completed her undergraduate art studies at Kent State University; studied at the Corcoran School of Art; and, in 1977, received her MFA in painting from George Washington University, Washington, D.C. Since 1991, the artist has participated in several national and international exhibitions and been awarded artist residencies in France, Ukraine, and U.S. venues. She is a member of the Studio School faculty at the Glassell School of Art. See more of her work on her website.

Bao-Long Chu, originally from Vietnam, earned an MFA in poetry from the creative writing program at the University of Houston and is currently the associate director for Writers in the Schools. His poems and essays have been published in several anthologies. His libretto for Houston Grand Opera’s East + West initiative, Bound, premiered in 2014.

Martha Serpas has two collections of poetry, Côte Blanche  and The Dirty Side of the Storm. Her third, The Diener, will be published in 2015. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Nation, Image, and Southwest Review. She is on the faculty of the creative writing program at the University of Houston.

Gwendolyn Zepeda is Houston's first poet laureate. Her first poetry collection, Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners, was published by Arte Público Press in 2013. Her second is forthcoming. In addition to poetry, Zepeda has published three critically acclaimed novels through Hachette, four award-winning children's books through Arte Público Press, and a short-story collection.