In 1960, my mother and I emigrated from Scotland to Canada to join my father. Our family had faced challenges as a result of my father’s shell shock. In 1957, he experienced a serious breakdown. After a year in psychiatric care, he moved to Canada to start a new life.
Two years later, we were to join him, flying from Prestwick, near Glasgow, to Windsor, Ontario. Mother decided we’d travel to Glasgow a day early to visit Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross. Bought in 1952 by the then Director of Glasgow Museums, Tom Honeyman, whom my mother knew personally, the painting was housed in the Kelvingrove Museum and she wanted to see it.
“We may never get to come back,” she said.
I was only twelve, with no idea why Mother “had” to see this painting. After all, we’d looked at paintings in museums before. Wasn’t this just another painting?
We took the train and spent money on an extra night in a hotel, money we could ill afford. Our possessions had been shipped and all we had was a small suitcase each and enough sandwiches to meet our needs until we got on the plane.
Next morning, we waited for the museum to open. Once inside, we headed for the Dali, then hanging in a large room, centered on a long wall.
Reproductions of the painting are misleading. It’s not as big as one might anticipate—about six and a half by four feet—but it’s huge. We stood in front of it all day and stared. It didn’t matter how much our legs ached or how hungry we were, we couldn’t tear ourselves away. At closing time, Mr. Honeyman came and took Mother and me to dinner, our sandwiches now forgotten, squished and soggy in Mother’s handbag.
At dinner, Mr. Honeyman and Mother talked about how Dali had hung a stuntman to see how a human body responded to the gravity of its own weight. They talked about the water below, the bay of Port Lligat where Dali lived at the time, and the Spanish courtiers and their boats so tiny below the hung Christ. Why Spanish courtiers? They talked about the painting’s controversy—a “stunt,” “kitsch.” They talked about Mr. Honeyman’s bargain. He’d paid only £8,200.
All this talk flowed over and through me as I ate my dinner, made even more delicious by not having eaten since breakfast, but I don’t remember what was on my plate. I knew that I would never view paintings the same way again, even bad or uninspiring ones, because Dali’s painting was viscerally within me.
What it is that mesmerizes? The easy answer is the enormity of our situation coupled with the impact of the painting. But would that have happened with a different painting? No. It was this one. Dali. His vision.
For my mother, her words came true. She never saw the painting again, but if I travel to Glasgow, I must go to the Dali again. Every time, it hangs in a different place in the museum, but even when it’s at the dark end of a corridor, it hits me the same way—physically, in my chest, and emotionally, as I fight off tears. The pain of crucifixion jumps off the canvas, a testament to our human capacity for cruelty. Yet, Christ’s drooping head and the absence of his face somehow correlate with the sacrifice the subject represents.
It’s inescapable, irresistible, a permanent collection in my being.
Aline Soules' work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Houston Literary Review, Poetry Midwest, and The Galway Review. Her books include Meditation on Woman and Evening Sun: A Widow’s Journey. Find her online at http://alinesoules.com, @aline_elisabeth, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/alinesoules/
When I feel like a woman in a Hopper painting,
I long for a sunlit diner with a friendly name,
where the waitress calls me Hon, pours coffee,
hot and black, before I ask.
Every day I’ll have the turkey club on toasted white,
complete with frilly toothpicks, chips,
and a sad pickle, just so I can say Yes
when my waitress asks if I want The Usual.
I will overtip when she shrouds
the last wedge of lemon meringue with foil
and saves it for me behind the counter.
But I know myself.
One day, the light will glare, every smudge
showcased on the tall windows, the atmosphere
suddenly as fake as the red “leather” booths.
The Specials will look like leftovers.
I’ll begin to think things like,
“Did they never hear of composting?”
and “What’s with the huge plastic-coated menus?”
I’ll tire of turkey and being agreeable,
dull as a cheap knife.
Sometimes I wonder about myself.
Dorian Kotsiopoulos has featured at various poetry venues in Massachusetts. Her work has appeared in literary and medical journals, including Poet Lore, Salamander, Slipstream, New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, Women’s Review of Books, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, and Belletrist. A member of the Jamaica Pond Poets, Dorian works as a technical writer.
Edward Hopper’s Room in New York
Seated in the room’s one comfortable chair
a husband hunches forward, intent upon his paper
as if his life depended on the scores he finds there.
Just home from work
he has not yet loosened his tie,
nor spoken with his wife
who is wearing her bright red dress,
the one with the bow in back that
comes easily undone.
She knows he has not noticed
so she plunks the keys of her piano
to say to him softly
that she is there
and has been waiting all day
The room glows--
yellow walls, oak table and door,
the rosy tones of the man’s chair and the woman’s dress.
Something could come of this.
Joseph Stanton is a professor of art history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has published many books of ekphrastic poetry, with a new one scheduled later this year. His work has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, Image, New York Quarterly, and more. Over 500 of his poems have appeared in journals and anthologies. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, the James Vaughan Poetry Award, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award for Excellence in Literature, and the Cades Award for Literature. Ekphrastic poetry was one of the central concerns of his doctoral research at New York University, and he conducts ekphrastic writing workshops in New York and Honolulu. For more information on Stanton's latest ekphrastic collection see: http://brickroadpoetrypress.com/order-books/things-seen-by-joseph-stanton
In bronzing sun he toils away and swings with smooth broad strokes
his sickle blade made sharp and clean and ready with a stone.
And so it’s always been. Perhaps his instruments of war
have changed. With evening’s holy care and task of reverence,
he daily fells ripe wheat, not men. Chaff glints in yellow air.
He lives and strives alone beneath his roof and wide-brimmed hat.
When noontime comes he doffs his Union coat and works the land.
The storm that took his brothers’ lives yet lingers close at hand,
and mustering clouds of sky’s own stores of fierce and fence-less thunder
lurk in dark blue acres, always there to lay men low.
His sun-fired wheat burns harvest red while gray war smolders still.
In scything swaths of tender grain that gathers at his feet
he hears the hum of distant guns and sighs of dying men.
He wipes his face and drinks his fill and marches through the grass,
and leans and turns his body for the sake of aftermath.
Generals coldly wage and watch their battles from the hills.
Herodotus is watching, too, from hills beyond the frame,
who sees the men, but not as wheat, their blood, but not as rain--
he reaps the truth in all his numbers of the fallen dead,
and dreams of soldier-farmers turning killing fields to bread.
At 19, Brian Palmer moved to the American West to walk in the profoundly beautiful Rocky Mountains, on western prairies, through red rock canyons, and along Pacific shorelines. He came west to find adventure and solitude, to write poetry, and to fulfill his dream of living a full western life. He received his undergraduate B.A. degree from Colorado State University and taught high school English for 25 years, first in the Pacific Northwest and then in Colorado. He earned his MFA in Poetry from Western Colorado University. He has recently retired from teaching to pursue his poetry more fully. He currently lives with his wife in Fruita, Colorado and is excited to start down new (and maybe some old) trails.
Water Lilies 1
frog / green / water / black water / crickets chirping / trees cooing / trees crooning / dusk settles in / insects and creatures / make alien sounds / did they? / did we? / come from another planet? / frogs / gullet moves / white underneath / black eyes blink / scan the pond / go home frog / “I am home” / the frog says / the frog says / “You go home” / but I say / I am home.
Alexander Garza is a Mexican American writer from Houston, Texas. His work has been published in Nine Muses Poetry (forthcoming), Literal Magazine, and BroadwayWorld-Houston. His poetry and art explores topics such as mental health, race, class, and gender. Alex shares his journey at www.AlexanderPGarza.com and on Twitter/IG: @alexanderpgarza.
Cross of Mine
It is in chaos that I thrive,
in the spirals and drips
of my thoughts made manifest, splashed
frantically in your gaze,
in the the push-pull affair between
colours warm and cool.
Could you exist here, too,
not just as a spectator in your
familiar pose: arms akimbo, legs
planted flush against earth,
but as a lover, a dancer,
a gunshot, a virus in my veins?
Will you be the one to finally hoist
up my red-soaked cross,
the one I have carried west to east,
south to north,
the one I mend and cradle daily
while you merrily dream?
Or will you walk away
and give back
the spilled blue of my essence that
reached for your pulse in song?
Tiffany Shaw-Diaz is an award-winning poet and visual artist based in Centerville, Ohio. She can be reached through www.tiffanyshawdiaz.com.
Art History Lesson
One perfect, winter afternoon in the Louvre
I stood in front of Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe
for almost an hour. No one else was around.
Inside my mind, the snow falling outside.
I stared & stared: nude woman seated closely
with two clothed men. Their legs & feet intertwined.
His black shoe not quite touching her ivory statue foot.
Same old illusion, I thought--ménage à trois.
Her direct gaze—flash & depth of brown eyes!
A little ennui. Blue ribbon on straw hat. Spilled fruit
on the grass. Prostitute or goddess? Well yes, that’s all of us.
Julia Caroline Knowlton
Julia Caroline Knowlton holds a BA degree in English/French from Duke, MA & PhD degrees in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles. The author of a memoir (Body Story, 2004) and a poetry chapbook (The Café of Unintelligible Desire, 2018), she is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. Her accomplishments include an Academy of American Poets College Prize, a Pushcart Prize Nomination, and a fellowship at Antioch. Her poetry has been published in many journals, including Roanoke Review and Raw Art Review. She is currently focused on polishing and publishing her first full-length book of poems.
Three Inch Day of the Dead Musician
No shoes, no shirt,
flaked ribs and spine
a threadbare tux,
you grip your wire bow,
stroke air, bone fiddle lost
somewhere you stood propped.
you died a second time:
bits of a man no glue can fix.
Ghost bones, ghost hat aslant,
shadow on my desk,
what are you that
I mend not, nor forget?
Joan Larkin's most recent collections are Blue Hanuman and My Body: New and Selected Poems, both published by Hanging Loose Press. A longtime teacher and resident of Brooklyn, she now lives in southern Arizona. Her honours include the Shelley Memorial Award and the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. More at www.joanlarkin.com
And when the light has been taken,
when a blanket of black envelops the world,
when sounds are muffled by the thickness of dark,
that’s when she smiles.
No witnesses to this outrageous display
of unseemly hilarity.
She is the mother superior of the midnight mass
conducted in secret in chambers made of stones
planted at the holy site millennia ago.
She offers the bowl
to the sister whose bell-like giggles
earlier filled the clearing with joy.
A shy moon lifts itself
to rise above the clouds.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949 : A Child’s Journey and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back.
Ekphrastic Writing Challenge
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.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our last writing challenge featuring the work of Sofonisba Anguissola, which ends today at midnight. (Click here to see the Anguissola challenge.) Accepted responses for the Anguissola writing challenge will be published on March 29, 2019.
The prompt this time is Reply to Red, by Yves Tanguy. Deadline is April 5, 2019.
The Ekphrastic Review gives a warm welcome to contributing poet Shirley Glubka, who is our guest editor for this challenge!
Guest editor's note:
I'll be guest editor for the Yves Tanguy Ekphrastic Challenge. My own poetry and prose have ranged from confessional to narrative to meditative to whimsically experimental to formal to abstract, so I'm trusting that in this, my first formal experience as editor—at age 76, no less—I'll be open to all styles. I'm drawn to energy, craft, sincerity, originality. I'll look for a link to the art, but it need not be obvious. I'm willing to look closely. Poetry and short prose, both welcome. As Lorette, our hard-working ongoing editor says, have fun. Else, why do it?
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.
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 YVES TANGUY WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line in all caps please.
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 5, 2019.
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!
We have been featuring occasional guest editors for the ekphrastic challenges.
We're hoping this will inspire us in unexpected ways, add new flavours and perspectives to the journal, foster community, and widen readership.
Upcoming guest editors include Shirley Glubka, Joan Leotta, and Jordan Trethewey.
We're excited about this and about having a whole year of challenges, now that we've found an ekphrastic prompt system that is working in terms of consistency and longevity. Many great poems are about to be written!
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