No, it’s not a skin disease. Ekphrasis, (ek-fra-sees), is a written response to any form of art, no matter the art form or the resulting written work.
Familiar with The Girl with the Pearl Earring? It’s a painting by the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer, and inspired a book by Tracy Chevalier, which inspired a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth. For some, the movie was the introduction to the Dutch painter’s masterpiece.
This isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s one of the 35 original art pieces that 13 fellow poets and I have compiled for an upcoming exhibit, Vistas – Vision and Verse: an exhibit of ekphrastic poetry and the art that inspired it.
We are so excited! The idea was born in March. Four of us poets attended an art opening where another from our group was exhibiting a piece of textile art – a quilt with one of her poems printed on pieces of paper and stitched into the fabric. A gorgeous thing. She made the comment that one day she’d like to have both the quilt and the poem, in its entirety, shown together.
I was taking a poetry class at the time and had just learned this fun word and kind of poetry – ekphrastic. By the time the four of returned home Vistas – Vision and Verse was well under way. Of course we were just calling it ‘our little project’ in the beginning.
But that ‘little project’ grew!. Over the spring and summer we critiqued each others’ poems but had not seen the artwork. Last month we finally had our ‘Show and Tell.’ Of the 35 art pieces, most are original by the poet. We have photography, acrylic on canvas, pen and ink on paper, collage, mixed media, colored pencil and charcoal. Several of the pieces are huge! I have to say, all of us were pretty stoked when we saw each others’ work. And the combination of poetry and art gave a new depth to ‘our little project.’
We can hardly wait until November and December when Vistas – Vision and Verse will hang in the Springs House Gallery of the Lancaster County Council of the Arts. If you’re in the area, we’re having our Poets’ Opening Reception on Sunday November 4th, 2-4. and it will include a brief poetry reading. We’d love to have you drop in.
‘ . . . a common theory about art and poetry (made popular by Plutarch) is that art is mute poetry and poetry is a speaking picture.’ John Hollander
Here are some examples of more famous works of ekphrastic poetry
A Starry Night by Anne Sexton, inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night
Facing It by Yousef Komunyakaa, inspired by the Vietnam Memorial
Girl at Sewing Machine by Mary Leader, inspired by Edward Hopper’s Girl at Sewing Machine