What is it and why should you care?
Simply put, ekphrasis is a written response (poem, short story, short short story, haiku, novel, etc.) to a work of art (painting, sculpture, photograph, fiberwork, etc.). It may be written from the perspective of the viewer, a figure in the painting, any object/item in a painting, a landscape, the artist, the sculpture itself, etc. It’s a sort of sky’s-the-limit kind of exercise.
For example, I participated in a show called, “Ekphrasis: Face & Figure,” and wrote a poem from the point of view of a young woman in a painting. I sat with the painting, spent time really seeing it. I jotted words and phrases as they came to me. Then, over the course of a month, the poem emerged in her words. It began, “If it’s true, what they say about men and girls who wear glasses …”
I also wrote a short story in response to a painting by Maine artist Leslie Anderson. (Shanti Arts Publishing and the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance invited Maine writers to submit stories and mine was one of the ten selected to be included in the resulting book, Summer Stories.)
More than 20 of Leslie’s paintings were presented. One entitled, Last Night At the Lake, featured lawn chairs on a dock facing a setting sun across the water. This immediately sent me into a story. The painting chose me!
Interestingly, in both cases (poem & short story), other writers chose the same painting as I did. The resulting poems and stories were, of course, very different from one another. This fascinated me and inspired this post.
Below, I am offering photographs of some of my works. I invite you to “respond” with a written piece of your own. (It may just be a line.) It may arrive full blown. It may require lots of time and space. Whatever your process, I suspect it will prove interesting.
I’d appreciate you letting me know your first impressions: words, phrases, images, thoughts, … But, that’s not necessary.
Please consider sharing the “end” result at some time. [Comment on this post, email me or send a message through Facebook.]
You are welcome, of course, to keep it to yourself and simply enjoy the ride.
Below you will find a series of faces and a figure:
(All photos copyrighted materials, Mary Lou Bagley)
Let one or more choose you. Then, … write!