A friend and I were discussing ekphrastic poetry the other day, but the word ekphrastic had escaped those file folders in my mind. The more I tried to describe what I meant, the more it sounded like I had no idea and my words kept dragging me farther and farther down a rabbit hole. (I even have two poems from a few years ago that appeared in an ekphrastic anthology It's called The Way the Light Slants and it could use a few reviews. Take a look.) Honestly, even though it’s a device I use often, the word ekphrastic doesn’t ring a bell from my memories of high school or college English. According to Wikipedia, “In ancient times it referred to a description of anything,” this of course, I think is hilarious.
So even after reading the fancy online descriptions about ekphrastic poetry, I’m thinking the word is bandied about to alienate the average poet from those who have a higher, perhaps snobbier idea of literature. Can you hear my audible sigh?
Poetry should be for everyone.
|By Dante Gabriel Rossetti|
Of course, a great vocabulary can elevate poetry to higher, more sophisticated levels. Readers, who enjoy poetry, are smart enough to figure out what a writer is trying to communicate by rereading the work several times, or by looking things up. Understandably, there are times when the writing is so personal that readers can’t relate. With ekphrastic poetry, they may get a clue. A photograph, drawing or a video is described in detail, as a moment to share, thus making it even easier to understand. In simple language: it’s poetry written about a picture.
This brings me to the works of Dante Rossetti, an artist who lived from 1828-1882. All his paintings feature women with the most interesting expressions. His paintings remain so inspiring that I think I could write a poem about all of them. He was in fact, hired to illustrate poetry books and he also wrote romantic sonnets. Mere words however, would certainly fall short of his delicate portrayal ofthe gorgeous beauties he painted. Still, someday, I’d like to attempt a few ekphrastic poems on the whims, personal thoughts and deepest desires of his glorious subjects. Maybe a publisher should put together a poetry anthology based on this idea because everyone’s perspective on these attractive ladies would be original.
Have you ever written an ekphrastic poem?