Guernica at MOMA
I was ten,
I wanted an egg salad sandwich in the cafeteria, wanted
to see Pablo’s funny goat in the courtyard.
black lines scratched on a world of white exposed
its great thick neck, head turned up to empty air.
Dagger-toothed mouth screamed,
balled buccal muscles strained from lifting
its railed chest and back
to legs that might run to sweet grazing.
I moved from sketch to sketch to painting:
broken buildings and the impossible — above the horse --
naked light bulb — pupil of an eye.
I stood there.
Horse took me, took all I was, expanded to fill the room,
We two became chimera in a world of black and gray,
white spaces shined,
offered peace but no entrance.
I stood there. I stand here,
this memory stretches like metal heated under pressure,
frozen, ready to fissure.
The horse riding,
still riding me.
Jonathan Stolzenberg is a retired Developmental/Behavioral Pediatrician and Family Psychotherapist living in West Hartford CT. He is a docent at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain CT. He is a graduate of Harvard College and obtained a Master’s in Creative Writing/Poetry from Trinity College, Hartford at age fifty. His work has been published in The Notre Dame Review, The Texas Review, The Louisville Review, Caduceus, The Connecticut Review, and Gulf Stream Magazine. He has rejections from some of the best poetry journals, and is a proud member of The Back Room Poets.
The Potato Eaters
April, 1885, Nuenen, Netherlands.
Dark interior. Stillness. No romance.
Dinner. Potatoes. No pies.
A meager light curbs a scanty catch in the air – the old man’s white cup extended to the old lady in black; tending the tea, she doesn’t see thischance of mutual ambiance.
The denial continues with the young couple – the man’s gaze is sent away from the lady’s imploring eyes on the side.
The young diner entirely declines a sight into her plight.
Van Gogh has denied any sparkle of bonding between equals in longing.
He wanted to present the peasants’ plain existential account – the daily expenditure of muscle and mind to the last blow of strength and command.
Their potatoes are set on the table in good order, the light reverberates on their pealed orbs and evaporates with the steam, leaving a lonely unnoticed gleam - they are to replenish, not to enjoy.
Vincent’s peasant, at the table as in the field, is a sole warrior of strife, in the life’s knot’s tightest bent, with no victory at hand - nature’s hazardousdecoy, the dark side of the pastoral ploy.
Grumpy faces: smiles – snatched by the wind.
Battered hands: cuddles - burned by the sun.
Ruffled bodies: costumed joy - washed away by the rain.
Ruff attitude: fine manners – buried in the soil.
The peasant – Vincent’s liberator of the earth apple
from the underground’s dark grapple.
Ekaterina Dukusina lives in London. A graduate in Philology and Philosophy, she is interested in the history of arts, ideas, culture and universalism, going back to Sanskrit sources. Considering poetry as human’s alter ego, she is an avid explorer of the metrical word. Former educationist, she is now a volunteer at the V&A Museum; and at the British Museum for the interactive program Hands On. Her creative acumen is attested in the authorship of the British Library publication The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, listed by questia digital library at position 9 in one of their periodical selections 16 of the best publications on illuminated manuscripts.
Ekphrasis, Curation, and Visual Art in Sudeep Sen’s Fractals
Contemporary Indian English poetry in the third millennium becomes the primary matrix for cosmopolitan art. It provides a cultural and spiritual cornucopia, takes us back to the forgotten past, celebrates the diverse change in various forms of art and serves as a vital interface between the text and the image. From terse, unpunctuated verse to the folk tales, from the giant historical moment to the success stories of digital installation of art, contemporary Indian English poetry retrieves episodes and fragments from every corner of the world that we inherit. It becomes a space where various art-forms merge and morph into unconventional literary pieces.
Since there is a constant change in the modes of writing, use of white space, and themes in literary pieces, especially in Contemporary Indian English Poetry, a more meta-representational and rhetorical conceptualization of the term ekphrasis is desirable.
James A.W. Heffernan in the introduction of his book Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery writes, “ekphrastic poetry celebrates the power of the silent image even as it tries to circumscribe that power with the authority of the word. Over the ages, its practitioners have created a museum of words about real and imaginary paintings and sculptures” (1994). Drawing on a wide variety of forms of art from all around the world, especially paintings and photographs, the article tries to explore the spectrum of ekphrastic poetry in details.
Transforming words into movements and spaces into poetry Sudeep Sen in one of his finest collections of poems, Fractals, recreates visual poetry by expanding his work beyond language and text. Recognized as the seminal voice of the contemporary poetry scene, Sudeep Sen has made an outstanding contribution in shaping the contours of contemporary Indian English poetry and has paved the way for a new generation of sensibility. Fractals; a collection of over 300 poems split into three sections: “Newer Poems: 1998-2015”, “Selected Earlier Poems: 1980-1997” and “Selected Translations: 1997-2015”and various sub-sections exudes an aura of exoticism. The very first poem of this collection titled “Mediterranean” (21) creates the foreground for startling images airbrushed with subtle layers of emotions. To quote a few lines:
My lost memory
white and frozen
now melts colour
ready to refract
This poem conforms to the hallmark of ekphrastic poetry, where Sen unfolds the secret of Alexandria, a port city located on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt with erudition and poetic lyricism. The expression “my lost memory/ white and frozen/ now melts colour/ ready to refract” connects us with Lewis Mumford’s book The City in History, where he writes “what was left of the old urban drama was a mere spectacle…” The backbone of Egypt’s culture, once brimming with life, art galleries, and rich cultural history comes alive with Sen’s "Mediterranean."
Sudeep Sen’s “Blue Nude”(131-82) section from his collection Fractals displays his penchant for ekphrasis. The “Blue Nude” section (inspired by Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude series of cut out figures) is further divided into six sub-sections – ‘Dreaming of Cezanne’, ‘Picasso Triptych’, ‘Matisse Sequence’, ‘Canva’, ‘White Balance’, and ‘Mixed Media’. These six sub-sections immerse the readers in subjective experience, with its amazing range in terms of art-forms and artists from all around the world. The poems in this section also reiterate Sen’s engagement with visual arts.
The first section, ‘Dreaming of Cezanne’, has three poems, all based on the paintings of Post-Impressionist painter and French artist Paul Cezanne (1839-1906). The first poem, “The Cardplayers” is based on Cezanne’s series of oil paintings of the same name. Painted between 1890 and 1896, there are five paintings in this series: one is in a private collection; the others are in Musee d’ Orsay, the Courtauld Gallery, the Barnes Foundation and the Metropolitan Museum Art. The version varies in size, background and the number of players.
Through these paintings, the artist reflects the life of the ordinary locals or the Provencal peasants quietly smoking and playing cards. Sen in his poem “The Cardplayers” refers to the smallest (47.5 × 57 cm) and the most refined version of Cezanne’s painting. The poem catches every detail of the painting, from the colour of the background to the shape of the furniture, the position in which the players are sitting and the dress they are wearing. Reading the poems from this section is like visiting inside an artfully and meticulously curated museum of poetry which includes art pieces from every generation and of every kind. Sen’s artistic eye catches every microscopic detail. To quote a few lines from the poem “Cardplayers” (133):
The deal was done and stamped
on the brown rough leather
of the parchment. The wooden
table’s crooked legs hardly held
its own weight,
let alone the gravity of
smoke, spirit, and connivance.
The second ekphrastic poem in this section is “The Skulls,” (135) based on Cezanne's still life The Skulls, painted in his final period between 1890 and 1906. Cezanne’s work constitutes the most powerful link between the ephemeral and the permanent.
Skulls on wood,
on carpet, on drapery –
of bones, mummies
to be embalmed
in oil and graphite –
as I sprinkle
water and colour
on the shrine
of my night gods.
Painted in a pale light, using graphite and watercolour, this painting has inspired many artists including Picasso and Andy Warhol. This painting depicts four skulls, placed in a pyramidal configuration. These skulls take us to the traditional theme of a symbolic work of art called “Vanitas” which focuses on the temporality of life, the futility of all kinds of pleasure and the certainty of death (Google Arts & Culture). We find a similar theme of transience and mutability in the poem “Dungeon” (188) where the poetic persona of Sen visits a dungeon to look for Cezanne’s bones. Sen writes, “I had come looking for a holograph of Cezanne’s will and skulls, but what I found was a score-sheet – an opera with the aria highlighted.”
The third poem from the section “Dreaming of Cezanne” titled “Jacket on a Chair” (136) is based on the same theme. In the book Cezanne in the Studio: Still Life in Watercolors, Carol Armstrong writes, “With its empty, crumpled garment, Jacket on a Chair is even more blatant in suggesting human inhabitation by dint of its very absence than Cezanne’s sketches of empty chairs.” (34)
The chair’s wooden
frame provided a brief
but it wasn’t enough
to renew the coat’s
shape, the body’s
or the muscle
to hold its own.
The poems in this section are not just the celebration of different art forms, but it has to do a lot with human psychology, their dreams, delusion, and predicaments as well. Sen explores the complex and convoluted mysteries of the human psyche. His poems are consciously cerebral and appeal to a wide selection of people coming from different backgrounds and having different mindsets.
Sudeep Sen’s Fractals also brings forward an array of artists from different genres. From the eastern miniaturists to artists and writers like Gustave Flaubert, Andre Gide, Jorge Luis Borges, Milan Kundera, Italo Calvino, Kazuo Ishiguro and Pico Iyer, to saint and spiritual poet Shah Latif, from one of the finest Israeli poets Yehuda Amichai to the representative of Slovenian “historical avant-garde,” Srecko Kosovel, these artists provide exciting meta-poetical fervor to Sen’s poetic atlas.
Sen’s extraordinary sensory awareness, sensitivity to rhythm, astonishingly rich images, and a wide array of influences summarize what ekphrastic poetry can do. The philosophical insights, images, cultural references, and epic assemblage calibrate historical horizons and establish genealogies of events. The fusion of the visual with the verbal, allows the poetry to move freely without getting restricted in one medium.
Dr. Queen Sarkar
Dr. Queen Sarkar is a multilingual poet, an academician, and a translator based in Ranchi, India. Sarkar has been appointed as the “Ambassador of Good Will Seeds of Youth XXI Century, India – United Nations of Letters –Uniletras.” She is also the Ambassador of Peace for Switzerland/ France. Her review articles, poems, and research papers have been published in reputed international journals and anthologies. Sarkar has done her Ph.D. in Contemporary Indian English Poetry from IIT Kharagpur. Her research areas includes – poetry, translation, cross-cultural communication, cultural studies, adaptation and appropriation. Sarkar’s poems have been translated in Spanish, Arabic, and
Gujarati. She is also the bonafide member of World Nations Writer’s Union.
With the curtain peeled back you can see
beneath I’m wrought from timber, so
then, can claim I was once alive, lived
and grew beneath the sky. Now become
mere armature, though somewhere lurking
in this dynamo some leftover gristle,
electrical impulse. I’ve got feelings,
I swear it. For example, my blessed,
busted little heart is today at an utter loss.
Can we prescribe victim to someone destroyed
by a force without sentience? The apple may
want to rot and fruit at the foot of the tree
but gravity doesn't care much either way.
The good book says a person who suffers, says
at the hand of either agency or action so maybe
sentience is overrated in this world. But what
of cause and effect, of our invisible hands
puppeteering across the lives of others?
Every time I step through this door my body
becomes something to give and to take.
The good book says also: a person or animal
sacrificed, or regarded as sacrifice..
Theadora Siranian is a graduate of the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her poetry has appeared in Best New Poets, Ghost City Press, CONSEQUENCE, Rust + Moth, and Atticus Review, among others. In 2014, she was shortlisted for both the Mississippi Review Prize and Southword’s Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize. In 2019, Theadora received the Emerging Woman Poet Honor from Small Orange Journal. She currently lives and teaches at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan. Her chapbook, She, will be published as part of the Seven Kitchens Press Rane Arroyo Chapbook Series this summer. More of her poetry can be found at theadorasiranian.com.
Heaving the sashes skyward
and swinging the porch door wide
would not suffice.
Through-winds crash in,
tousling tail ends of delicate nets,
throwing them outward,
salt spritz gathers in its gusts;
not an invite
more a forceful request.
My whitewash, clapboard house
has partway succumb to the ocean.
Come! Be close with the ocean!
We unmoor our impromptu gathering,
this cloud-swallowed morn - ship it outside,
dogs in tow. The modest kitchen table,
heavy driftwood, loses its legs
among the surf grass, anchored
with a cast iron candelabra - stifled
ivory towers, exuding soot -
frivolous against the bruise of the sky.
A crochet tablecloth undulates
around an island of various fruits;
one castaway mutt, defending scraps
from long-beaked jabs and swoops.
Our chairs are lapped by sallow waves
I right my slice of cake, raise my thick-set mug
moor my brown, stiff-collared cape
behind my back
as one friend settles her fiddle
into her neck scarf; moon- bright waves
breaking about her night-ocean clothes -
right through to gentle ripples
in her stocking socks.
She thrashes hard -
will not be drowned by the loud heckle
of the ocean, the gull clatter
and our yapping pugs.
This seething wash,
like us, steals from the land,
that steadies the house.
While the gale crests our hair in chaos,
the other friend, whose colouring, she insists
makes the autumn suit her clothes,
turns to the water with a scolding pose
and dances out her contradictions.
This poem was inspired specifically by Andrea Kowch's painting, The Cape. Click here to view.
Stephanie has been writing poetry for little over seven years. Inspiration for her work is varied, but mostly she writes about what she knows and experiences, delighted by an excuse to be quirky. She has performed on a number of occasions and has had work published in The Curlew and on the literary website, Words for the Wild. Stephanie attends the Mid-Kent Stanza group, who do love an ekphrastic challenge.
The Two Saltimbanques
when words don't come easy
they make do with silence
and find something in nothing
to say to each other
when the absinthe runs out.
his glass and ego
are bigger than hers,
his elbows sharper,
stabbing into the table
and the chambers of her heart
without a smile.
she looks away
with his misery behind her eyes
and sadness on her lips,
back into her curves
and the orange grove
summer of her dress
worn and blown by sepia time
where she painted
her cockus giganticus
for her brush and skin,
mingling intimate scents
undoing and doing each other.
for some of us,
living back then
is more going forward
than living in now
and sitting here-
at this table,
with these glasses
standing empty of absinthe,
faces wanting hands
to be a bridge of words
and equal peace
as Guernica approaches.
Strider Marcus Jones
Strider Marcus Jones – is a poet, law graduate and ex civil servant from Salford, England with proud Celtic roots in Ireland and Wales. A member of The Poetry Society, his five published books of poetry https://stridermarcusjonespoetry.wordpress.com/ reveal a maverick, moving between forests, mountains, cities and coasts playing his saxophone and clarinet in warm solitude. His poetry has been published in the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Wales, France, Spain, India and Switzerland in numerous publications including mgv2 Publishing Anthology; And Agamemnon Dead; Deep Water Literary Journal; The Huffington Post USA; The Stray Branch Literary Magazine; Crack The Spine Literary Magazine; A New Ulster/Anu; Outburst Poetry Magazine; The Galway Review; The Honest Ulsterman Magazine; The Lonely Crowd Magazine; Section8Magazine; Danse Macabre Literary Magazine; The Lampeter Review; Ygdrasil, A Journal of the Poetic Arts; Don't Be Afraid: Anthology To Seamus Heaney; Dead Snakes Poetry Magazine; Panoplyzine Poetry Magazine; Syzygy Poetry Journal Issue 1 and Ammagazine/Angry Manifesto Issue 3.
Saint Michael and All Angels in an Initial I
How they crowd,
this little I.
row on row
of burnished nimbuses,
recede behind a striding Michael and
For all I know
his gangsta birds
are all that won me
two good years
and seven good enough.
this Lombard painter’s looped a bowl
in the Latin I: Iesu, Iudith,
my namesake. I grew up proud
false seductress, whore for God.
Like her I wielded
my own sword,
and borrowed glory.
But now I don’t know.
Blades have done their best,
not good enough.
If Pascal’s wager is a fool’s bet,
what’s left but to admire the gift
Was that his heretic idea, painting
the sea of faceless angels
stroke by stroke?
That the will to art
like the will to God,
leads not at the last
to the will exalted.
That I and the chanters
of his antiphon
will not see face to face.
That my coup de grâce
won’t come from one angelic
action hero’s sword
but from the company
of all those golden harrows.
Editor's Note: The poem refers to a Lombardic illuminated antiphon page illustrating the triumph of St. Michael with iconography similar to this panel shown by the Spanish Master of Zafra, in the Prado, Madrid.
Randall Couch’s most recent book is Peal (Coracle, 2017). He edited and translated Madwomen: The Locas mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral (Chicago, 2007), which won the UK Poetry Society’s biennial Popescu Prize for Poetry Translation, was one of two finalists for the PEN American Award for Poetry in Translation, and was named one of ten poetry books of the decade by the London Review Bookshop. His own poems and critical essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. A founding member of Penn’s Kelly Writers House, he has appeared frequently on its PoemTalk podcast, cosponsored by the Poetry Foundation.
How many ways can you write an ekphrastic poem or story?
Here are fifty different ways to approach an artwork to get to a poem.
Fifty Ekphrastic Approaches is an Ekphrastic Review ebook, $8 CAD.
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The Forlorn Hope—Vicksburg, 1863
Back in Vicksburg, the town was surrounded
With a battle line twelve miles long.
U.S. Grant sought to conquer the city,
But the rebel defenses were strong.
An advance storming party was risky;
They could possibly lose every man.
But they must cross a ditch and climb over a wall
Just to capture the Stockade Redan.
With extreme disregard for the danger,
While exposed to a torrent of lead,
The men carried their logs and their ladders
And soon painted the path with their dead.
The one hundred and fifty brave soldiers,
All unmarried and all volunteers,
Had advanced at a run while opposing cannon
Brought fresh screams to their still-ringing ears.
So, from ten in the morning 'til darkness,
They would fight the good fight 'til they fell.
A majority there didn't make it;
The remainder survived living Hell.
The survivors were honoured as heroes,
Received medals almost to a man
For extreme gallantry of the storming party
At the fight for the Stockade Redan.
Randal A. Burd, Jr.
This poem was first published by The Society of Classical Poets.
Randal A. Burd, Jr. is a married father of two and an educator who works with the disadvantaged in rural Missouri. He holds a master's degree in English Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Missouri. Randal is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sparks of Calliope poetry magazine. His latest collection of poems, Memoirs of a Witness Tree, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books late this summer.
Lesson From Stone
How to enter
a many-layered body--
connective tissue of bluestone,
unyielding edges, sharp,
Immune to grass
or grackles. Soles planted,
bracing for plummet, the touchstone
of the stout-hearted--
come unglued, nothing
tremble. Backbone, the keystone
of what must be
This poem first appeared in One Art: A Journal of Poetry.
Gail Goepfert has authored a chapbook, A Mind on Pain, 2015, a book, Tapping Roots, from Aldrich Press in 2018, and soon to be published, Get Up Said the World, 2020 from Červená Barva Press. Publications include Kudzu House, Room, Stone Boat, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, Bluestem, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, SWWIM, Rogue Agent, and Beloit Poetry Journal. She’s an an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is a Midwest poet, teacher, and photographer. More at gailgoepfert.com
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