I am a one trick pony these days; my poetic imagination seems more and more linked to image. I like the idea of the visual as a rough draft, something that needs translation by the poet in order to be fully alive. I'm under no illusion that the painting needs a poem, only that the poem adds a new dimension, allows for a quality of understanding that the painting alone does not fully hold. I keep returning to the fact that architecture students in ancient Greece needed to write poems about the buildings they studied right alongside their sketches. Their professors knew that the students would apprehend something different in the writing about the great buildings than they could by drawing them or learning their history.
My favorite essay on ekphrasis is by Terry Blackhawk, "Ekphrastic Poetry: Entering and Giving Voice to Works of Art." It is the opening essay in the anthology, Third Mind: Creative Writing Through Visual Art edited by Tonya Foster and Kristin Prevallet. In this piece she links ideas of apprehending art to both the visual and the literal. We enter and become the poem or the painting; we change the vision by looking and looking again, each time gaining a different perspective on the poem, on the photograph.
In the past, I was wildly skeptical of ekphrastic poetry. The poems produced often seemed stuffy and wooden. Why not use your own imagination, I wondered, instead of usurping someone else's art? Maybe it's because I am more interested in a more universal, multi-dimensional art than I used to be, or maybe it's because I realize there are some images that haunt me that I am more interested in collaborating with a photographer or a sculptor from across time or countries.
If anyone has a favorite essay on this subject or a favorite exphrastic poem - I'd love to hear from you. I'm especially interested in contemporary ekphrasis that may come from a bumper sticker or a movie still.