Another post about ekphrastic poetry! But this one is different because it’s about another project celebrating National Poetry Month in Lancaster, Vistas~Vision and Verse III: An Exhibit of Ekphrastic Poetry and the Art that Inspired It. This print of an oil on canvas is one of 19 pieces of art that inspired poems for this show.
As you may notice in the name, this is our third exhibit of ekphrastic poetry. Our first was in 2012 when a tiny seed of an idea grew into a full proposal in about a week, and into a full show with over 30 pairings of art and poetry in 7 months. I’m still in awe over how quickly that first show came about, how nervous we were in the months leading up to it because we really had no idea what we were doing or how it would come together. But it did! Vistas~Vision and Verse II was in 2019 and while it had fewer pairings, still a magnificent show.
This third collection of poetry and art was formed specifically for National Poetry Month and Debbie Jaillette, Director of the Lancaster County Council of the Arts, was immediately on board when my friend Richard Band and I approached her. Richard and I put the call out to our local poets and within 24 hours 18 of them had committed to the exhibit, half of them doing this for the first time. As in the past, the variety of forms of artwork make the installation an eclectic mix; the variety and depth of poetry makes the visitor stop and linger at each pairing. Most of the art chosen is by local artists.
The last time I wrote about ekphrastic poetry I used my poem based on an old photograph as an example. I’d found the old black and white in a junk shop. I obviously didn’t know the person or the situation of the photo, so I made something up–my poem! A friend commented that he’d not want to live vicariously through another person’s life for fear of being judgmental, though he did write he’d find it interesting. I thought he made a valid point and I hope my poems never cross the line between interesting and judgmental.
Not all ekphrastic poetry requires the poet to slip into another’s life. Some poems come about through the movement or energy in a piece of art, some from the colors or shapes, and some from the story about the art or the artist.
In this post I’m sharing a few pieces from Vistas and some notes about the poetry that came from them.
For the above print Meghan’s sister Julie Ann Cook is the poet. Julie not only took the emotions, but also incorporated the various colors in the painting into her poem. Julie is an artist also so she doesn’t see just green, she sees olive green, sees orchid, and butter glow.
This art and poetry is an example of erasure poetry-a block of text is used with portions of it being blacked out. Kathryn Waller, both the artist and the poet, took four pages of text and actually burned away text leaving a poem in What’s Left.
Fran Gardner’s art has been shown world-wide and for this show poet Lisa Hammond chose 4 connected panels, My Theory of Everything, to write from. The panels are mixed media using various fabrics and stitching. Lisa used the images of clocks, lines, numbers in the art to write about her own theories of time, math and how she discovered all not in school lessons but in life lessons. Another thing Lisa did was write her poem so the lines ended blocked, so the actual shape of the poem reflects the shape of the art.
Poet Terry Norton often writes about myths and in this print of a watercolor painted woodcut, Old Man and Death, he writes an apology–of sorts–from the Big Bad Wolf.
Artist Kat Spearman created this acrylic paint with mixed media collage, Lost Boys, and poet Katie Ellen Bowers used the title and movement of the fish to explore the sense of longing and drifting away from and toward each other.
My friend Richard chose Mark Hodges’ In Her World, an oil on canvas, and he did slip into the character’s life a bit. He wondered, if the reader fell asleep while reading, how would her dreams and the story intertwine.
My own chosen art is a set of copper sculptures, Whimsical Creatures, by Jim Clark and Kimberly Lucia. The proceeds from the purchase of the sculptures were donated to shelters and organizations that work with domestic violence survivors, and the fight against the abuse. The donations were made in honor of the artist’s daughter. I wanted my poem to honor both the survivors and the victims and took some of my inspiration from the mottled painting–it made me think of the various stages of bruising.
And a fun little tidbit connecting Monday’s post when I wrote about that first writer’s workshop I attended. It was organized by two USC-L professors. One was Fran Gardner whose work is in this show. The other was Betty Hodges, also a painter, and her son Mark’s work inspired one of the poets.
Vistas~Vision and Verse III: An Exhibit of Ekphrastic Poetry and the Art that Inspired It is now installed at the Lancaster County Council of the Arts, 201 W. Gay St., Lancaster. It will be up through the month of May so I hope you’ll take some time to visit. On Sunday the 23rd there will be a reception for the poets from 4:00-5:30 at the LCCA, and several of the artists may be there also. It’s free and open to the public and we hope you’ll join us!