Ekphrasis is a Greek word meaning “description.” The Poetry Foundation describes ekphrastic poetry this way: “a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the ‘action’ of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.” While the earlier emphasis was on vivid, detailed description, the term has come to apply mainly to “poems written about works of art” or “poems responding to art.”
Rattle Magazine hosts a monthly ekphrastic poem challenge (“Art Inspiring Poetry”) at its website, and I’ve been pondering playing…but haven’t yet. Then this image flitted by on Twitter the other day (posted by @VeganYogaDude), and I was seized, naturally, by the ekphrastic prompting.
“Rain,” by Eduard Gordeev
Here’s my untitled take on it:
The brilliant city street,
behind glass streaked with rain,
brilliant hues contrast
against the darksome sky—
a lurid beauty—
like the tear-washed face
of Tammy Faye,
arresting, an ever-surprise,
alight somehow from within.
So how about it? Wanna play? In an ekphrastic challenge, the general idea is for everyone to write about the same image or piece of art, but feel free to use any sort of art that draws you. You can use the one I wrote about, Rattle’s images, or bring one of your own, if you prefer. (If you use a different image, go ahead and post it along with your poem, with proper credits, of course.)
My own approach is generally to start by looking at the image two ways–a first-blush impression, and then taking a deeper, longer look for details and slower impressions (sort of a visio divina practice). Next, I’ll often start off my poem drafting with a poetic description, and then segue or blend into response or connection. Beyond that, there are no real regulations or limitations—tone, length, purpose, approach…all are entirely up to you.
How about it? You up for a little ekphrasis, darlin’?