Monuments to the Everyday: Claes Oldenburg as Crime Poet?

The Apple Core, a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg

Pop artist as crime poet? Well, Claes Oldenburg's work repeatedly makes monuments out of the everyday detritus of living, from apple cores to clothespins. By aggrandizing the humble, he offers a fresh perspective and dispels complacence, which is what I think crime stories do. They delve into what's tawdry, venal, cruel, or tragic with such purpose and attention that we come to consider events and people far differently than we do blipped statistics or stale news items.

Here are three minutes of Claes Oldenburg's wonderful words, excerpted from his “Ode to Possibilities” (1961), read in honor of National Poetry Month and as an unusual stop on April's blog tour for crime poetry, 30 Days of The 5-2.

He's for  “an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap” and “an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, whatever is necessary.” IMO, that's the enduring attraction of the crime genre. Do you agree?

The complete text, with much more background on the artist and his work, may be found at the Walker Art Center.


  1. Gerald So

    Great post, Clare, and great read as always. I agree that Oldenburg’s intent mirrors crime writers’ intent with their fiction and poetry: to present the familiar in a way that makes the audience ask deeper questions.

  2. Deborah Lacy

    Love this Clare.What a great post.

  3. Kathleen A. Ryan

    I absolutely agree; Oldenburg captures the elements that reflect the never-ending curiosity of crime fic fans ~ all in one delicious poem 🙂
    Awesome audio work, Clare ~ you’ve read it beautifully, as always.
    Quite an interesting piece; thanks for shedding light on this poem, I was unfamiliar with it.

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