It Speaks to Me: Art That Inspires Art (essays by artists)
Jori Finkel, interviewer/editor
Prestel Publishing 2019
Finkel, an arts writer, tells us in the Introduction that she has a love-hate relationship with the wall labels in museums.
Most often they’re too dry, too detailed in retelling what the work is depicting, and not adding to our appreciation, the awe factor. That’s why she set out to interview 50 artists, from many genres, asking them to choose and discuss a work, building, even landscaping, at a public museum where others can view the subjects themselves.
Each essay faces a colour photograph of its subject. The result is a beautiful and inspiring coffee table book, one you’ll want to keep for yourself and give as a gift to an art lover.
This hardbound copy is a bit pricey, but worth it. I won’t be carrying this to a secondhand book shop to sell.
I’ll briefly mention a few of my favorite essays. These are not always my favourite pieces of art in the book, but the essays that most spoke to me. You’ll see the wide range of the book.
Marina Abramovic on Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, a bronze statue not quite 44 inches (111.2 inches) high, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York
“This sculpture looks so abstract, almost Cubist, but it’s really a human figure walking, showing how you leave energy behind you as you move through space. It’s not very large, but at the same time you have a feeling of immensity.” The artist adds that her “own work in performance is also based on immateriality and energy."
Leonor Antunes on John Knight’s The Right to Be Lazy, site-specific and time-based landscape installation, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
It was fascinating that the artist chose an untrimmed, left to grow wild, round section of landscaping near the front entrance rather than a work inside the museum. Unlike the rest of the landscaping, which is very German, very tidy, this nature-made garden shows the effects of time.
Autunes regards it as “a manifesto written for artists, reminding us not to overproduce and fill the market with artwork. It’s a reminder of how we can do so much more with so little."
David Hockney on Edgar Degas’s The Rape of the Sabines (after Nicholas Poussin), oil on canvas, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of Degas than of Poussin or of these epic scenes of violence, but how amazing it is to see such a convincing reproduction.
In the nineteenth century, it was customary for young artists to learn by first copying the masters of the past. Degas painted his copy on site in the Louvre, though Hockney points out that the Louvre had much smaller crowds back then.
If I saw someone copying this beautifully, I’d stand all day at his back watching.
While doing research for a book, Hockney’s team “made a transparency of the Degas version to overlay on top of a printout of the Poussin….and you could see that Degas got all the negative spaces in the composition exactly right.”
Hockney concluded that Degas must have kept moving his easel during the day to be perfect aligned with the part he was painting.
Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. For Alarie, looking at art is the surest way to inspire a poem, so she’s made The Ekphrastic Review home for four years. She hopes you’ll check out her poetry books on the Ekphrastic Book Shelf and visit her at alariepoet.com.
Note: Paul Gauguin dedicated his final self-portrait to Kỳ Đồng
(né Nguyễn Văn Cẩm), a Vietnamese exile he befriended in his
dying days in Atuona.
My teachers called me “smart,” “child prodigy,”
and that’s how Prodigy became my name.
By eight, I’d aced a standardized exam
for grown-ups. Starved for heroes, men made me
their movement’s figurehead, their Jeanne d’Arc, she
whose pure bright light upheld her people’s claim
to freedom. Tyrants, fearing what I am
and what I might become, shipped me to sea.
I tried to feel at home in Polynesia:
to quench my pining for my motherland,
I taught myself the art of anesthesia,
and when Gauguin fell ill, I nursed the man.
I was his friend, his peer. He suffered seizures,
and as he sketched his last, I held his hand.
Jenna Le is the author of A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Indolent Books, 2018), which won 2nd Place in the Elgin Awards, and Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011). She was selected by Marilyn Nelson as winner of Poetry By The Sea’s inaugural sonnet competition. Her poems appear or are forthcoming from AGNI, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Rattle, and West Branch.
The Pretty Time Machine ebook is now available!
The digital version is the same, complete manuscript as the paperback version, with all of the poems.
Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems
Lorette C. Luzajic
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He painted her nude
mouth reddest red
yellow crêpe, knitted silk.
Petticoat light pink
buildings of ashlar
finely cut masonry
Belle Époque artists.
with accordion band
mussels and fries
la Rive Droite
when night falls
Place Pigalle and rue des Abbesses
Sacré-Cœur on its summit.
Ilona Martonfi is an editor, poet, curator, advocate and activist. Author of four poetry books, the most recent collection is Salt Bride (Inanna, 2019). Forthcoming, The Tempest (Inanna, 2021). Writes in journals, anthologies, and five chapbooks. Her poem “Dachau on a Rainy Day” was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Artistic director of Visual Arts Centre Reading Series and Argo Bookshop Reading Series. QWF 2010 Community Award.
Put Me Back Together When I Die
after Charlotte Salomon
The painter has three selves
plucked like daisies
queerly mouthing lullabies -
she loves me, loves me not.
In the corner, a child with a ball
the color of a Nazi uniform.
Her mother’s death was suicide:
no one tells the girl.
Above her head, a wagon
rolling over pitchers made of glass.
Exile, and her father sutures lies
with sickness still inside.
Below her chin, a rigid chair
where Opa made her sit, blue
to match the dress as pieces of her left,
drowning like blind kittens in their sack.
What is a self-portrait
when your only life won’t hold?
Shattered tulips wilting,
a heap of pears gone brown.
She bows before the sunflower
who hides his face like God.
Turned away, her disassembled face refracts
in fourteen hundred frames.
Each gouache cries, in empty boots,
in scattered drawings of a grave,
still, still, still, in hands that break,
pleading for a life.
Carrie Heimer writes and teaches in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her work has appeared in The Comstock Review, Relief, Rock & Sling, The Windhover, and Atlanta Review. Please read more of her work at her website: www.poetryissalt.com.
Užrašytos fotografijos/Annotated Photographs
stengiausi jus perprasti
žiūrėjau į veidus
bet iš tikrųjų ieškojau
ne jų paslapties
ieškojau savo –
ar mus sieja kas nors:
gija, siūlas, ryšys
ar esam paliesti
to paties piršto
ar laiku pakėlėme to
juodo telefono ragelį
ar pervėrė mus tvyksnis
tau praskleidė uždangą
visų veiduose atsispindi
tas pats sutrikimas
Photographs – Writers
I tried to grasp you
I stared at your faces
but was never really looking
for the secrets they contain –
I was searching for mine:
whether something connects us
a thread, a cord, a tie
whether we are touched
by the same finger
whether we picked up
the black receiver in time
whether the spark pierced us
when you know
it is given to you
the curtain parts
and sweet impatience
reflecting in every face
that same derangement
the coy audacity
Fred Herzog: Man with Bandage, 1968
iš įtūžio virpančiais pirštais
ir išlėkė kaip stovi
tik juodosios našlės
šildosi ryto saulėje
nulydi jį žvilgsniais
girdėjom šiąnakt tave
niūrūs tavo sapnai
kiek siekia rankos
o mirties –
driekias trys gatvės
Fred Herzog, Man with Bandage, 1968
he cut himself shaving
and painstakingly pasted
fingers trembling in fury
a bandaid cross on his chin
then fled as he was
wearing a white t-shirt
the city is empty
only widows clothed in black
warm themselves in the morning sun
while taxi drivers nap
and the black widows
trace his passage
their lips mumble
we heard you last night
your dreams are dreary
to your lungs
and your heart pound
you have life
as far as your hands reach
from head to toe
in the bracing air
three streets stretch
the yellow light
Masahisa Fukase, The Solitude of Ravens, 1975/1976
Masahisa Fukase, The Solitude of Ravens, 1975/1976
splashes of darkness
in the trees
by the raven’s claw
the moon’s talon
the bank’s ice
on ghostly snow
with your feet
View Algimantas Kuncius' photos, including Palm Sunday by the Gates of Dawn, here. (Right side, second down, three figures with fronds.)
Algimantas Kunčius, Verbų sekmadienis prie Aušros vartų, 1968
kaip grindinio akmenys
su gėlos vandeniu
ir trim kalbomis
– – – – – – – –
tik variokuose keičiasi
Algimantas Kunčius, Palm Sunday by The Gates of Dawn, 1968
like cobblestoned streets
with stinging water
in their eyes
and three tongues
in their mouths
they clutch their willow fronds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
all those years
all those years
and only the crests in copper coins
Jan Bułhak, Vakaro malda, 1900
ant galinių klauptų
ar yra man vietos?
tavyje, už tavęs
po tavo lukštu
– – – – – – –
atsakei į viską
Jan Bułhak, Evening Prayer, 1900
to kneel on
the back pew
is there space for me?
under the vault
in you, behind you
under your shell
- - - - - - - -
maybe I don’t need
to ask questions
you already answered
with my life
translated from the Lithuanian by Rimas Uzgiris
These poems were first published in Marius Burokas' book, Now I Understand (2018, Parthian).
"Photographs-Writers" also appeared in The Brooklyn Rail.
Marius Burokas is a poet and translator. He studied Lithuanian language and literature at Vilnius University. Now he is a freelance writer and translator. Marius made his debut with the poetry collection Ideograms (Ideogramos) in 1999. His third book – I‘ve Learned How Not To Be (Išmokau nebūti, 2011) was awarded The Young Yotvingian prize as a best young poet’s book, published in the last two years. This book was also awarded the Antanas Miškinis literary prize. In 2016, he won the Mayor’s Prize for poetry about Vilnius. He was editor in chief of How the Earth Carries Us: Twenty-Six Young Lithuanian Poets (Vilnius, 2015), and is now editor of the Vilnius Review. 2018 saw the release of his fourth poetry collection: Svaraus buvimo (Of Clean Being), and his first collection in English: Now I Understand (2018, Parthian). Burokas’ poetry has been translated into Polish, Russian, Latvian, Finnish, Slovenian, English, German and Ukrainian. Some of his poetry is also published in the New European Poets anthology (2008). He has translated the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams, and the prose of James G. Ballard, Charles Bukowski, Philip Roth, Jeanette Winterson and others.
Rimas Uzgiris is a poet, translator, and critic. His work has appeared in Barrow Street, AGNI, Iowa Review, Hudson Review, The Poetry Review (UK) and other journals. He is the author of North of Paradise, published by Kelsay Books (2019). Tarp, his poetry in Lithuanian translation also appeared in 2019. He is translator of Caravan Lullabies by Ilzė Butkutė (A Midsummer Night’s Press), Then What by Gintaras Grajauskas (Bloodaxe), Now I Understand by Marius Burokas (Parthian), The Moon is a Pill by Aušra Kaziliūnaitė (Parthian), and Vagabond Sun by Judita Vaičiūnaitė (Shearsman). Uzgiris has contributed significantly as editor and translator to two anthologies: How the Earth Carries Us: New Lithuanian Poets (Lithuanian Culture Institute), and New Baltic Poets (Parthian). He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Newark University. Recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, and the Poetry Spring 2016 Award for translations of Lithuanian poetry into other languages, he teaches translation at Vilnius University.
Join us for biweekly ekphrastic writing challenges. See why so many writers are hooked on ekphrastic! We feature some of the most accomplished, influential poets writing today, and we also welcome emerging or first time writers and those who simply want to experience art in a deeper way or try something creative.
The prompt this time is Figure, by Guillermo Wiedemann. Deadline is April 17, 2020.
1. Use this visual art prompt as a springboard for your writing. It can be a poem or short prose (fiction or nonfiction.) You can research the artwork or artist and use your discoveries to fuel your writing, or you can let the image alone provoke your imagination.
2. Write as many poems and stories as you like. Send only your best works or final draft, not everything you wrote down. (Please note, experimental formats are difficult to publish online. We will consider them but they present technical difficulties with web software that may not be easily resolved.) Please copy and paste your submission into the body of the email, even if you include an attachment such as Word or PDF.
3. Have fun.
4. USE THIS EMAIL ONLY.
Send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org. Challenge submissions sent to the other inboxes will most likely be lost as those are read in chronological order of receipt, weeks or longer behind, and are not seen at all by guest editors. They will be discarded. Sorry.
5.Include WIEDEMANN WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line.
6. Include your name and a brief bio. If you do not include your bio, it will not be included with your work, if accepted. Even if you have already written for The Ekphrastic Review or submitted other works and your bio is "on file" you must include it in your challenge submission. Do not send it after acceptance or later; it will not be added to your poem. Guest editors may not be familiar with your bio or have access to archives. We are sorry about these technicalities, but have found that following up, requesting, adding, and changing later takes too much time and is very confusing.
7. Late submissions will be discarded. Sorry.
8. Deadline is midnight, April 17, 2020.
9. Please do not send revisions, corrections, or changes to your poetry or your biography after the fact. If it's not ready yet, hang on to it until it is.
10. Selected submissions will be published together, with the prompt, one week after the deadline.
11. Rinse and repeat with upcoming ekphrastic writing challenges!
Not delivery, but instead
that nano-micro instantaneous
when something’s something new
botticelli’s venus birthed astride
an open-hulled shore-bound shell
westerlies swirling locks
the colours of salmon, sand
and spring – printemps – adrift
no pilots, gigs, or ushers simply
tug of instinct, artisanal tide
with wide spread beckoning world
where houngans, mambo, druids
palette-armed in ex-postdiluvial spectrums
egg-yolk concoctions imagined
emerge, dripping from sea-lapped rock
to the molar-grind of mussels
grit and clench of coital conclusions
symphonic, the slow, slow applause of oysters
an orchestra, balconied scallops, clams in a pit
waves wash, conduct, dissolve, for now
in splashes of saline steam
Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling nonfiction author of Wonderful Magical Words and Dromomania. His book, Gone Viking, is available here. His poetry is in the League of Canadian Poets Heartwood and Paper Dart Press UK PLAY anthologies. Bill’s poems, reviews and articles also appear online.
In myth making hyper yellow
black marks inhabit all space,
fly through charged layers
You understood this music,
sometimes sad staccato of limbs
and leaves flowing from loaded brush.
However you chose to order, set free,
this eerie benediction of dark and light
where sun is moon and moon is sun,
your shadow lands
speak to us of solitudes
You make me feel my mental roamings
are not wasted walks through rain,
for I am with winter shoved aside
both calm and fretful here.
Did you sleepwalk murky woods in trance,
burn down low the broken wish bone branch,
firebug the slow red scorch?
Did you freeze frame birds below the sun
just long enough to have us reach
and grab a wing?
You gift us glorious with stones mysterious
imbedded in your shoes, waves circling
your feet, arrowheads everywhere.
This poem first appeared in Beyond Bones.
Theresa Wyatt is the author of the historical poem collection Hurled Into Gettysburg, (BlazeVOX), 2018. Her poems have recently appeared in New Flash Fiction Review, New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co.) 2018, The Healing Muse, Spillway and The Medical Literary Messenger. A former visual artist and teacher for the New York State Department of Corrections, Theresa resides near Buffalo, New York.
Benjamin West’s Ben Franklin
Red, black, gold oil on slate,
draped in stormy robe,
face glowing in skylight,
his hero looks up,
ascends beyond the inches
of his small picture frame.
Set ambiguous, boots solid
on airy cloud,
he’s a near-apotheosis.
Designer of everyday
and swim flippers,
this Ben's superhuman
raised among angelic putti
holding taut his kite string,
monitoring his vial and rod,
It's not as lofty
as the Sistine's
between Father and Son,
but Ben's bent knuckle
reaches high, receives too
a spark of power
his key igniting
an illuminating flash.
Ann Taylor is a Professor of English at Salem State University in Salem, Mass. where she teaches both literature and writing courses. She has written two books on college composition, academic and free-lance essays, and a collection of personal essays, Watching Birds: Reflections on the Wing. Her first poetry book, The River Within, won first prize in the 2011 Cathlamet Poetry competition at Ravenna Press. A chapbook, Bound Each to Each, was published in 2013. Her most recent collection, published in 2018, Héloïse and Abélard: the Exquisite Truth, is based on the twelfth-century story of their lives.
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