Sunday, June 14, 2009

RED: Recurring Ekphrastic Discourse

ekphrasis: a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The subject of ekphrastic poetry came up several times at the last Deep Cleveland Poetry Hour. Featured readers Mark Hersman and Bennett Rader both read ekphrastic pieces and Nancy Nixon talked about her ekphrastic chain letter project. While I’ve written several over the past few years, I’ve never researched ekphrastic poems. And, I’ve never really sought out works of art to write about. I’ll just occasionally see something that “demands” a poem. Ideally, I would think the poem should be something more, or other than, a literal description of the work of art. I think one should attempt to search through the layers of depth in the piece, extend the piece beyond its borders, move it forward or backward in time or view its scene from a different perspective.

I don’t think of ekphrastic poetry as a writing exercise but, rather, as something that can take your poetry someplace new and show you something you would not otherwise have seen.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on ekphrastic poetry.

Plus, here are links to a few works that demand poems. Although I’ve written poems inspired by other works of all of these artists, I haven’t written about these specific works (maybe out of laziness, maybe because I can’t do them justice, maybe because the work of art itself says all that needs to be said). Anyway, maybe one of these works will speak to one of you and you will do my work for me.

William Claxton, “Helima and Chet Baker”

Jacek Yerka, “Theory of the Strings”

Jackson Pollock, “Full Fathom Five”

Ansel Adams, “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”


Amy J. Cooper said...

Hi! My name is Amy J. Cooper. I was excited that Nancy liked my idea for an ekphrastic collection written "grapevine" style and even more so when she told me the idea had landed on your blog. The project has just begun, so if yu are interested in joining us, feel free to let Nancy know or e-mail me at Since you don't know me, I should let you know that I have ekphrastic poems on permanent display with the art at the Bradley Cancer Center in Circleville, Ohio. These and other ekphrastic poems are in my collection "The Hills of Circleville," which came out in 2007. Whether you are interested in joining Nancy and me or not, I am glad to see the interest in ekphrastic poetry!

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Sounds like fun!

Some of the images that Jim links to in his post above are pretty impressive-- ought to stimulate a lot of poetizing!

Unknown said...

I first heard about Ekphrastic poetry in 2008 and I loved the idea so much (as someone who once drew and painted)that I decided that this was an ideal exercise for me. Unfortunately, I have always been afraid to start since I have no training in this poetic form and I don't think I would be any good at it.
But now, having read this, I think I am ready to put my all into it. Hopefully I'll be inspired by what I've read here.

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

I don't think you need "training"-- or, at least, I think that the best training is to do it, see what works, and do it again.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau