I find poems sparked by artworks fascinating, particularly when they give a new perspective on pieces I know a little already. This poem, then, is a thrilling combination for me – a poet I admire writing about the work of an artist who intrigues me. Bourgeois’ art is both beguiling and knotty. The handmade, tactile quality of her work is often slippery – deceptively comforting, then unsettling as the detail of the work asserts itself. This poem seems to enact the process of grappling with Bourgeois’ piece.

Here’s a picture of the artwork Seven in Bed. 

Is there an artwork you'd love to see interpreted by a poet? Let us know what it is and who you would like to write about it at [email protected]. Entries received by 5pm on Monday, 4th August, will be in with a chance of winning a copy of Self-Portrait in the Dark. Read the full terms and conditions.

Sarah, Picador poetry editor

Seven in Bed

(Louise Bourgeois)

A muddle of thick limbs like a knot
of sausages in a butcher’s window.
It is night here, they are trying to sleep.
It is morning. They are awakening, yawning.
Pink as meat on a sheet of white,
they are seven in bed, and nothing
is quite what it seems. Two-headed,
Janus-faced, are they clinging to each other
or trying to escape? Their stitched seams
have a rawness, surgical. Long groans
attest to a struggle. Prisoners.
They are like wrestlers in a scrum.
Is it love? Do they love each other?

Self-Portrait in the Dark 'Seven in Bed' is published in Self-Portrait in the Dark by Colette Bryce.

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