It’s not yet too early for celebration,
sunwashed in white light. Clouds strewn
across the sky like milk blooming into coffee.
She moves through the season with tickets
in her hand, feathers around her neck. Flowers
dot the ground like tiny stars. Men watch
from above, as faceless as time, their breath
constant and insistent like the wind. The duchess
of watercolor and all her contradictions, no longer
carrying the globe on her back. No longer fishing
in the mountains of grief. She presses on,
her gaze resolute and looking forward,
as if the past is just a myth
told by somebody else.
Leela Srinivasan is an MFA student at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she holds a BA in Psychology and MA in Communication from Stanford University, where she wrote and published a collection of psychological poetry as her undergraduate honors thesis. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.
A Lady in Waiting
I can see by your expression that he is late.
How much longer, you’re wondering,
should you abide by the trunk of this tree.
You have dressed so carefully. It is a striking
outfit, pearl taffeta with ash-flowered trim,
the fitted jacket adorned at the cuffs
with three-inch-wide lace, the skirt’s top tier
pulled back in a small bustle to showcase
the shape of your hips. Your red-gold tresses
have been coiled into a French twist,
errant strands curbed by a black velvet ribbon,
tied in a comely bow at the crown of your head.
You have brought your folding silk fan,
the amber one with its daring crimson collar.
Did you intend to use it in coy flirtation
or was it merely to waft the heat from your face
as it is surely doing now on this breathless
mid-summer afternoon? Should I tell you
that you are destined to wait like this forever?
Mary Kipps has appeared regularly in poetry journals and anthologies across the U.S. and abroad since 2005. She is also the author of three Kindle eBooks of paranormal satire: All in Vein, A Sucker for Heels, and Bitten: A Practical Guide to Dating a Vampire.
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 Still Life, by Giorgio Morandi. Deadline is July 24, 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 GIORGIO MORANDI 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, July 24, 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!
12. Please share this prompt with your writing groups, Facebook groups, social media circles, and anywhere else you can. The simple act of sharing brings readers to The Ekphrastic Review, and that is the best way to support the poets and writers on our pages!
Pick up these Ekphrastic Review ebooks and join us in celebrating five years online!
The Ekphrastic World ($20 CAD/$15 USD) is a curated collection of visual art prompts from all over the world. Your purchase serves three purposes: it supports the Review on its anniversary; it gives you a big book of prompts; and it qualifies you to submit 15 poems or 5 prose pieces to the upcoming, corresponding anthology, due November 1. An ebook anthology with selected works from these prompts will be published in early 2021.
Fifty Ekphrastic Approaches is a collection of 50 ideas and exercises for you to use in your ekphrastic writing practice. ($8CAD/$6USD).
Click on covers to view or purchase securely.
Self-Portrait With Skull
Could have been carved from the chalk downs:
long scarp to the muzzle, yellow-white,
flint-blue, plus rust and mud. Among harebells, gorse
ploughed fields, a skim of umber,
bone wearing through. I can’t
do landscape any more. One of the children
found it, up on the Ridgeway; and I thought
memento mori, The Ambassadors. Arrogance!
Brittle, pared away, and the window-light
colours it earthwards. Imagine it galloping
against the skyline. Grins now. Such confidence.
For centuries. I was a painter, once.
I sit for myself. Empty-handed. Cobalt dress.
Ruth Valentine lives in Tottenham, England. Her latest publications are Downpour (Smokestack Books 2015), Rubaiyat for the Martyrs of Two Wars (Hercules Editions 2017) and A Grenfell Alphabet (self-published in aid of the Grenfell Tower fund). She's also published a novel, The Jeweller's Skin (Cybermouse Multimedia 2013) and various works of non-fiction. Ruth is an activist on migration and refugee issues, and works as a funeral celebrant.
Juliet Wood was born in 1939, grew up in London and trained at St Alban’s School of Art and The Slade School of Fine Art. Her long painting life has covered a nation-wide portrait practice, extensive teaching and exhibitions in London and the south of England, including a major retrospective with new work at the Bankside Gallery, London 2019. Juliet Wood’s paintings and oil pastels are inspired by the realities of contemporary life, human interaction and the poignancy of what is so often seen yet unspoken. She lives with her husband, the wood engraver Simon Brett, in Wiltshire and has three sons and two daughters.
Drawing Willendorf*, a Large Model
Colossal, mammoth, unclothed,
Lying in my studio, eyes closed,
She is a gigantic mountainside,
Earthquake fissured, rainfall softened.
Flesh becomes power within palisades
And gaps of enfolded crevices.
A spirit emerges from her shelters,
Fecund and fertile, filling our space.
I wait for a tremor to force my hand,
An aftershock or a thunderstorm,
Ready to draw her at the moment
Shadow, shape and perception collide.
She inspires broad charcoal for the hunt,
Images freed from burnt-out bonfires
Rendered quickly in sweeping strokes.
But, I draw slowly, to know her
In a thousand ink marks, pondering her,
The mother of shadow and luminance.
The soul of Willendorf, life’s origin,
In silence receives me, line by line.
*The so-called “Venus” of Willendorf is a small, Upper Paleolithic era carving, circa 23,000 BCE, of a large woman discovered in Austria in 1908.
A painter with twenty one-person shows throughout America, James Shay writes ekphrastic poetry based on his experiences making art. Before becoming a fulltime artist in 1997 he spent thirty-one years studying and practicing architecture. Photographs, models and drawings of his office's work were featured in shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other venues internationally. He is as yet unpublished as a poet, deciding this May to begin submitting poetry for consideration. He lives with his wife Karen, a sculptor, among the vineyards of Sonoma, California. From time to time, wonderful Sonoma Valley wines assist his writing and painting. The website is www.Jamesshay.com.
Women Birds and a Star
My bobinette flaps over each shoulder, fitted
to a Juliet cap garlanded by spring flowers, heels pared
to fit satin shoes, silk gown clings to skin
smeared with petroleum jelly, bird-tears darken circles
under feather-eyes, but flying high I’ll star-gaze
pulled by magnetic force to Saturn, deck myself in diamond
raindrops stuck to the mesh of my tulle veil.
Janet Murray completed an MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam Uni (2016) with Merit and won 1st Prize in the Fish International Poetry prize in 2018 with an ekphrastic poem called Vernacular Green which
was published in their anthology of the same year. It was based on Howard Hodgkin’s relationship with the colour green. She has had individual poems published in The New Statesman, Sentinel Literary Quarterly and Millstone Grit anthology. She is currently completing an advanced poetry course with Richard Price at the Poetry School.
Two women walk past the huge cavity where one of the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan, known to locals as the "Father Buddha," used to stand, June 17, 2012. The monumental statues were built in A.D. 507 and 554 and were the largest statues of standing Buddha on Earth until the Taliban dynamited them in 2001. Afghanistan. Sgt. Ken Scar / Public domain
The Buddhas of Bamiyan
The pair of great stone statues,
taller than thirty ferengi soldiers
standing each atop the other’s shoulders,
if such a trick can be imagined,
were guardians of our Valley
for longer than my people
In summer’s heat our children ran circles
round the statues’ feet to make a breeze,
held themselves stiff like tent pegs,
then rolled in and out of the crevices
between the monstrous cold stone toes
Big toe, middle toe, pinky toe.
The old men say their fathers’ fathers’ said
the statues were faced with gold once.
Gods brought from the East, then forgotten.
The old women say the statues were lovers,
who, for their sin, were cocooned
in the sandstone cliffs.
Near enough to hear the other’s heart beat
but never again
I wanted to see stone yearning toward stone.
That was my sin.
One morning I stripped off the blue burka
with its eye slits
that made my world dim and narrow,
looked upon the golden cliffs
and understood the majesty of the faceless Gods.
I will carry the dishonour of my act and that light
within me forever
like a black lamb and a white one.
In the fighting season
when the Taliban came
we ran with our children
into the painted caves
deep behind the statues.
Hide what you love.
They will smash it first
to kill you faster.
After the victory,
they took our men away
and declared the statues
an affront to piety.
The ritual cleansing of the Valley
with tanks, bombs on long sticks, artillery
lasted twenty-five days.
When the stones of the statues were dust
in our mouths and eyes
and brought nine fat cows to slaughter.
Lottie Erikson studied English Literature at Tulane University in New Orleans. Her first job after college was as Poet-in-Residence working with institutionalized populations in Louisiana. Most of her adult life has been spent living and working in other countries as an agricultural development specialist. She retired from Islamabad, Pakistan to the mountains of North Carolina in 2017.
The Ekphrastic Review in interview with Trish Hopkinson!
Trish Hopkinson is a widely published poet who blogs about submissions and literary journals and her website is one of three poetry sites mentioned in Writer's Digest's "101 Best Websites for Writers."
We talk about our amazing writers, about reading submissions, about journals we love, and our hope for more short prose and flash fiction. We talk about how we would love to publish more ekphrastic translations alongside the originals in their own language.
Check it out here.
Pelvis with Moon
At the crest of this girdle of bone
a moon like a luminous mask
of the dead. I wonder what the earth
has made of you: a story of scaffold
ditched fragment, new history of sand.
How much does the spirit weigh
within the sacrum’s basin? Was the life
of your pelvis as a bed, a cradle for sons,
or much later, this chipped hull in a desert
graveyard used as an object for art?
O’Keeffe saw through to a sky
so blue it seemed a carnivorous eye
to make of itself both the sea and reflection
of sea in a landscape of dust. Her vision:
bones more swan than decomposed
cattle. The stark plank of beauty:
Ilium. Pubis. Ischium. Coccyx.
The world beyond muscle
and utterance. Your mouth shut in all
of my dreams. The vision I want to bury:
your sunken chest, the treasure
I should not take from it. Here’s a story:
a woman was called to the desert,
pared down. Black. White. She relinquished the flesh
and blood of her New York lover to live
among the earth’s slow jaws. And it revealed--
or she began to see—the hard relics: mud, clay,
bone, her own permission to be a voice
of the unearthed mouth.
Sharon Fagan McDermott
Sharon Fagan McDermott is a poet, musician, and a teacher of literature at a private school in Pittsburgh, PA. Her most recent collection of poetry, Life Without Furniture, was published by Jacar Press in 2018. It wrestles with both finding a home and feeling at home in the world and seeking sanctuary in an often challenging life. A generous artist award from the Pittsburgh Foundation, as well as a grant from PA Council for the Arts, allowed Fagan McDermott to create and publish three additional chapbooks: Voluptuous, Alley Scatting (Parallel Press), and Bitter Acoustic, winner of the 2005 Jacar Press chapbook award, chosen by Betty Adcock.
clock, with pestle”
should’ve been the title
of this archipenko sculpture.
the precarious surgery
of dislocating bodies
like his own,
a russian in paris--
of foreign air on skin,
or of thin-boned foot
above foreign stone.
and he saw too
the blue-green patina of time,
mirroring it in his sculpture--
time as skin.
and what is worn.
in truth, the title was
a mild moniker
for the wild thing winding
through the colonic vats
of his casts and molds.
Stephanie Yue Duhem
Stephanie Yue Duhem is a 1.5 generation Chinese-American poet and educator. Her work appears in PANK, Glass, Lunch Ticket, and other journals. She was a winner of Red Wheelbarrow's 2018 contest, judged by Naomi Shihab Nye. She can be found online @nameandnoun or at www.sydpoetry.com.
The Ekphrastic Review
Find a writer, artist, or poem, etc. by searching here:
Join us on FB and Twitter!