The 20 Poem Challenge returns.
Long awaited by first year participants, long feared by the uninitiated...
Fear not. The rules and regulations are easy. You commit to Ekphrastic but mostly to yourself to write 20 poems in 20 days.
Each morning, the first 20 mornings of September, The Ekphrastic Review will post a prompt.
You write something from that visual art prompt.
There is no reward and no penalty. The commitment is simply an exercise, a discipline, a practice, a creative outlet.
There is no fee. We do not believe in charging writers to read or publish their work. We do humbly request gifts on our GIFT page if you or your sponsors believe in what we do at Ekphrastic. All gifts will go toward the time of grooming and growing Ekphrastic.
You can finish as many or as few as works for you; you can tell everyone or no one. No one will know. It's between you and the lord of the poetry rings.
You can write prose, flash fiction, or poetry. Most people will write poetry, but you can participate with any kind of writing.
There are no rules. The Ekphrastic Review asks only that you honour your commitment if you make it: to write for every prompt over 20 days.
If your work turns out good enough in your mind, you are welcome to submit it to The Ekphrastic Review. This can be on the same day, or two months, or two years later.
Only submit the best of your finished poems. Please do not inundate us with drafts of everything.
If a poem didn't work, keep working, or move on. It's all good. The goal is to honour the commitment and see where it leads.
All that matters is that you take the plunge and spend five to fifty minutes per day, however long you want to dedicate, to play at what you might discover by doing so.
Oodles of great poems will be published in Ekphrastic, but there's no way all the worthy poems can or will be. The goal is personal, practical, and fun.
Some of the paintings or artworks will be familiar. None will be expected.
The challenge begins September 1 and ends September 28th, with prompts posted on weekday mornings. You can submit your greatest hits from September 1 through until the end of time.
That's it. There's nowhere to "sign up." You can let me know, but it's more important that you let yourself know. The commitment is to yourself and to poetry. Just say yes. Just do it. It's fun.
Forget your neurosis. Whether you are a street kid or Margaret Atwood, just do it.
Participate. Try. Grow. Succeed. Fail. Last year, we had some widely published, respected poets. And we had my father, who spent 40 years in a factory, and wrote his first poems ever during the challenge. The Ekphrastic Review has published first timers like Dad as well as Harvard educated writers and Pulitzer Prize winning professors. You have to start somewhere, and if you're already a genius, you need a twist and some fun for new perspective. Join us.
Please share this with all your friends. This project last year was instrumental in getting the word out at the beginning of The Ekphrastic Review. Tell your friends you are doing the challenge. We are committed to growing this journal so that YOU can be seen.
We cannot believe the response and readership and quality and volume of submissions in TER's first year. The Ekphrastic Review struck at a cord in a big way. We hope that the time spent programming this year's challenge will increase awareness of this special niche journal of literary works inspired by visual art. Just share it on your social networks a million times and thank you so much!!! We look forward to your inspired works!
On the way to my studio by the river, in the very early morning, the grain trucks line up, heaped with a pale sienna load that sends the sparrows hopping and hoping. They bring wheat from eastern Oregon, grown in the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Range, to be shipped around the world. Some truck drivers are also the farmers, wearing overalls like in a children’s book. David, the building maintenance guy at my building calls them rubes and toolies; he has to go out and yell at them not to pee in the dirt while waiting to unload.
My studio sits between the train track and the Willamette River. Ships cross my window in huge black isosceles while on the other side of me are the trains, with a long mournful wail that makes a vagabond of all my intentions to work. But is mine work? What is a working artist? A plumber would never be called “a working plumber.” He’s either employed or unemployed. The farmers come, feed the grain elevators, they return to the farm as quickly as possible, before the sly city parts them from their hard earned cash. The trucks haul their goods, the ships move products across the water and the artists in my building only change the shape of shapes, add and remove colours, chase ideas and concepts making me wonder—is it work?
I am closing my eyes, imagining Tehching Hsieh. He’s a performance artist and even my hero, though we’ve never met. It may be best to never meet heroes, though I met Allen Ginsberg once and he was terrific. Tehching did a performance where he stayed outside for an entire year. Another time he punched a time clock every hour for a year, and took a video each hour he punched in. It meant he couldn’t sleep, or do anything, for longer than an hour. He looks a little crazy in the video and it makes you feel somewhat ashamed to watch him, like those television ads they used to run of starving children and you were the one who had to turn the channel.
Tehching’s works were called “One Year Performances” because each one lasted a year. For one year he lived in a cage. Someone brought him food and emptied his feces. One year he punched the time clock. For a year, he lived outside, never going into any building. Between 1983-1984 he tied himself with a rope to another artist, Linda Montano, whom he barely knew. They ate, slept, worked, and presumably had relationships with other people. There is an iconic photograph of them walking on either side of a train track.
That year, the one of the rope performance, I gave birth to my first child. Was it work? It was effort. Was it art? I was the architect of that moment, though I was not entirely the sole creator. I love my sons more than I love art and even work, which is saying quite a bit.
And during that one year I lived in a kind of cage, because I lived in a body that was confined and I shared what went in and what went out. And for nine months and three, I counted the time each day. I could not hide anywhere I went, my body was public information. I had tied myself willingly to someone I hardly knew. After the One Year performances, Tehching spent a year making art he never showed anyone and then he stopped making art at all (or so he said—that’s what Marcel Duchamp said, and we know how that turned out.)
In the studio, it’s back to work. Tehching, Tehching! The dirty trucks come to life with a roar, ships churn up the white river water and the trains have vanished, the red barrier raised. All work is transitory and invisible, the products out in the world and what is between them runs on parallel tracks, awaiting the train.
Merridawn Duckler is a poet, playwright and prose writer from Portland, Oregon. Recent poetry in TAB: Journal of Poetry and Poetics, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Blast Furnace, Zone 3, The Psychoanalytic Review, The Meadow and Really System, forthcoming from Stonecoast Review, The Offing, Rivet, Nerve Lantern, Blue Lyra. She was runner-up for the 2014 poetry residency at the Arizona Poetry Center, judged by Farid Matuk. Her manuscript was a finalist in the 2016 Brooklyn-based Center for Book Arts contest. Recent prose in Poetica and humour in Defenestration. She was a finalist for the 2016 Sozoplo Fiction Fellowship. Her play in verse was in the Emerging Female Playwright Festival of the Manhattan Shakespeare Project. Other plays have been performed in Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon and Valdez, Alaska. Fellowships/awards include Writers@Work, NEA, Yaddo, Squaw Valley, SLS in St. Petersburg, Russia, Berta Anolic Arts Fellowship to Jerusalem, others. She’s an editor at Narrative and at the international philosophy journal Evental Aesthetics.
Listening to Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” at the Toledo Museum of Art
The audience across from me comprised of Frans Hals
burghers and their wives, ruffled collars and coarse
snoods, who tip their stern heads in rapt
appreciation, as they recognize bird songs
from picnics and country outings within the music.
They all seem ready to flash open their black
gowns to reveal gleaming trumpets cinched to their black
undergarments and blow furiously in this vast hall,
so all four players might cast aside their sheet music
and instruments and dance—with the rest of us, of course.
Though afterwards they’d have to renounce this song
and replace it with silent motionless rapture.
And thus, Messiaen, burghers, all of us, wrapped
and enfolded into eternal blackness
beyond the reach of any song.
For now, though, in this peopled hall,
where measured time proceeds on course,
we let it maneuver through us, this music
composed in a Nazi prison camp, music
that today keeps the museum guards in rapt
forgetfulness of their duty, to kick out coarse
sound and movement, to keep the black
clad musicians undisturbed, to usher from the hall
those mothers whose infants’ songs
won’t be bottled-up. Messiaen’s song
only partially pleases the burghers, for whom music
is only good when it draws huge crowds into the halls
of commerce, and goods can be sold and wrapped.
They emerged after the catastrophe of the Black
Plague and thrived, unmolested in their lucrative course
until the early 20th century. Of course
collapsing when fascist marching songs
and swastikas and black
armbands cuffed and plundered music.
For now, there’s only this rapturous
Requiem, unconstrained in this or any hall.
Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Thirteens, and Braids & Other Sestinas, and Walk Like Bo Diddley (to be released this fall.) He teaches philosophy and religion at Owens College in Ohio and edits creative non-fiction for Artful Dodge.
Imagine an alternate future
in which Tom Cruise
is elected president.
I’m not saying
it could really happen,
but imagine a future
in which the state
is one gigantic eyeball
that never blinks.
In this perversion
the group mind is such
that any deviation
is treated with the utmost
anyone who uses thus
in a poem will be summarily
executed. I’m not saying
it’s going to happen,
but sooner or later,
is going to blow himself up.
Elizabeth Knapp is the author of The Spite House (C&R Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 De Novo Poetry Prize. The recipient of the 2015 Literal Latté Poetry Award and the 2007 Discovered Voices Award from Iron Horse Literary Review, she has published poems in Best New Poets 2007, The Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and many other journals. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and a PhD from Western Michigan University and is currently Associate Professor of English at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland.
It was the last day of the big Winslow Homer exhibition
no tomorrows, time to get in the car
my middle-aged dog Annie jumped in the front seat
I gently lifted elderly Guthrie into the back
no time for a walk before we drove to the city
we’d stop at the beach on the way home.
The show was amazing and left me eager
to be near the ocean and feel it as Homer had
it was snowing hard
the wind was getting stronger
our walk would be as thrilling as The West Wind
or Watching the Breakers – A High Sea.
Annie charged down to the beach
Guthrie sniffed and sauntered
as the gusts grew stronger
he teetered and walked sideways
I saw with a shock for the first time
he’d become as small and vulnerable
as the fox in Fox Hunt.
The wild winter beach he adored
had turned against him
endangering him like the besieged sailors in Blown Away
the drowning women in Undertow
I crouched down to steady and guide him
half-carried him home
remembering the rescuers in Saved and The Lifeline.
My beloved dog was more battered
than the rocks on the shore in Weatherbeaten
weak from our misadventure
beaten by disease and old age
I relived the Homer exhibition every day for months after
just not the way I’d imagined I would.
Sheila Wellehan's poetry is featured or forthcoming in Chiron Review, The Fourth River, Pittsburgh Poetry Houses, Poetry East, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Yellow Chair Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Visit her online at www.sheilawellehan.com.
two bone flutes
older than our bodies’
carved when the stars
in their great precession
moved in a different order
across an unfamiliar sky.
Flutes made from
animals so long extinct
we know them only
by their bones.
Flutes used by our most distant
and tangential relatives,
who yet, like us.
in our earliest, our first archaic
were already making music
in the dark
Mary McCarthy has always been a writer, but spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. She has had many publications in journals, including Earth's Daughters, Caketrain, and The Evening Street Review, among others. She has only recently discovered the vibrant poetry communities on the internet, where there is so much to explore and enjoy.
In Which Hemingway Examines Fitzgerald’s Penis
when we were eating the cherry tart
and had a last carafe of
wine he said, “You know
I never slept with anyone
And so Scott went on
to detail for Hemingway
Or rather, a very specific
shortcoming. At least,
that’s what Zelda had told him.
The two men marched
from the bar
straight into the men’s room
so as to give Hem a better view
(the only surefire way to debunk a
fallacy of the phallus).
“That’s the oldest way in the world of putting people out of business,”
(he never liked Zelda anyway).
He insisted that her
cruelty was unprompted,
the angle from which Scott
viewed himself/made love
was to blame. A matter of degrees,
not of size—certainly!
But Scott still feared his manhood
wasn’t measuring up
and so Ernest, in an act of supreme loyalty, escorted
the young Casanova
to The Louvre in order to compare
his virility to the male statues.
Ernest tried to convince him;
if it was good enough for Michelangelo,
surely Scott shouldn’t complain.
But Scott’s angst was not so easily assuaged.
Good enough to be eternalized in marble, surely,
but not good enough for his baboo.
*The lines in italicized text originally appeared in Ernest Hemingway’s, A Moveable Feast (Copyright 1964).
Molly Cimikoski was born and raised in beautiful New Hampshire, but now spends her days in sunny Santa Monica, California. She recently completed her master's degree in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University and is pursuing her goal of becoming a professor.
We kept walking one
Warm Wednesday morning,
conversing, traversing away
from the city of Toulouse-
distance was a shield from prying eyes,
eyes and mouths attached to crowds
who longed to separate us.
We reached our favoured
meeting place under
a canopy of draping trees
miles from the road.
Side by side we sat
like primitive cave dwellers
who lacked civilized restraint.
I’m the shepherd, but she tends me,
maneuvers my soul into a swell
of honourable indecency;
I’m a doltish man under her touch
as our thighs gently grazed then pulsed.
to agree to leave France
after weeks of furtive
I brushed the sweat
from her golden hair-
of her sweet
She took the horn from my side
and impishly blew a farewell tune
dark clouds instantaneously
rolled in like the French army.
“We should leave now!” I said
draping her yellow cloak
over our heads as if to
parachute away to the gods.
Our thighs pulsed once more;
my shepherd instincts dominated
as I tended my luscious lamb towards safety;
airily secure under her alabaster slip,
my hand steered below her left breast.
And so we loped
not from The Storm
but from this cruel city-
Nancy Iannucci is a historian who teaches history and lives poetry in Troy, NY. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Amaryllis, Eunoia Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Three Line Poetry, Fickle Muses, Red Wolf Journal, Rose Red Review, Rat’s Ass Review, Faerie Magazine (FB photography), Three Drops from a Cauldron, Mirror Dance, Pankhearst, Picaroon Poetry, Yellow Chair Review, and her poem, HOWLING, won Yellow Chair Review’s Rock the Chair Challenge. She is currently working on her first chapbook.
Fixed in Place
Are you satisfied?
Adam stuck with Eve like the portraits
on the wall, finally. Though now
I dream of Lilith. It was unnecessary,
you say, and why bother now,
after all the paint dries? I had to tell you.
Lilith told me the sun was green
but I was raised under the yellow,
so my sight is fixed in place.
As long as she knows
after innocence and broken toes,
I am the only one wearing these colours.
M. N. O'Brien
M. N. O'Brien received his B.A. from Roanoke College, where he received the Charles C. Wise Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in SOFTBLOW, Drunk Monkeys, and Right Hand Pointing, among other journals. He lives in Hudson, New Hampshire and feels awkward writing about himself in the third person.
Nightview, New York, 1932
Here it is: a cozy of gems stitched down your sleeve.
hot against your temple.
You hold the lights like children in your gaze.
The tempo of traffic.
Inhale the shoe polish deep in the subway.
Shoulder the cold as if it’s a woman you can’t leave.
Heidi Seaborn is in her Poet 2.0 incarnation. She wrote prodigiously in her youth then stopped. After three decades, three kids, four marriages, 27 moves and a successful business career, she started writing again with the advantage of all that experience. Today Heidi lives in Seattle, and benefits from the mentorship of David Wagoner. Her poetry can be found in Puget Soundings, Concrete Wolf’s Ice Dream Anthology, the Flying South 2016 Anthology, Fredericksburg Literary & Arts Review, the Voices Project, in the book Fast Moving Water and elsewhere.
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Meghan Rose Allen
Mary Jo Balistreri
B. Elizabeth Beck
Karen G. Berry
Susan P. Blevins
Rose Mary Boehm
Charles M. Boyer
Catherine A. Brereton
Charles W. Brice
David C. Brydges
Mary Lou Buschi
Danielle Nicole Byington
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Fern G. Z. Carr
Tricia Marcella Cimera
SuzAnne C. Cole
John Scott Dewey
Suzanne E. Edison
Kurt Cole Eidsvig
Tara A. Elliott
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Ariel Rainer Fintushel
Edward H. Garcia
Adam J. Gellings
Grace Marie Grafton
Emily Reid Green
Rebeca Ladrón de Guevara
A. J. Huffman
Pat Snyder Hurley
Arya F. Jenkins
Brandon D. Johnson
Olivia J. Kiers
Loretta Collins Klobah
Kim Peter Kovac
Jean L. Kreiling
Stuart A. Kurtz
Tanmoy Das Lala
John R. Lee
Gregory E. Lucas
Lorette C. Luzajic
M. L. Lyons
Ariel S. Maloney
John C. Mannone
Mary C. McCarthy
Megan Denese Mealor
Patrick G. Metoyer
David P. Miller
Stacy Boe Miller
Mark J. Mitchell
Mark A. Murphy
S. Jagathsimhan Nair
Heather M. Nelson
James B. Nicola
Bruce W. Niedt
Kim Patrice Nunez
M. N. O'Brien
Pravat Kumar Padhy
Daniel J. Pizappi
Melissa Reeser Poulin
Rhonda C. Poynter
Marcia J. Pradzinski
Anita S. Pulier
Ralph La Rosa
Mary Kay Rummell
Janet St. John
Lisa St. John
Christy Sheffield Sanford
Janice D. Soderling
Mary Ellen Talley
Liza Nash Taylor
Janine Pommy Vega
Sue Brannan Walker
Martin Willitts Jr
William Carlos Williams
Morgan Grayce Willow
Shannon Connor Winward
William Butler Yeats
All works of art or literature are used with permission of the creator or publisher, OR under public domain, OR under fair use. If any works have been used or credited incorrectly, please alert us so we can fix it!