I Know You
Your bust, on three layers of marble: an oxblood block,
red for the heart, a book-sized slab of deepest black,
for misery. The thick, umber base, veined with gray, is your
red-dark autumn. All on a tabletop of timeless ivory serpentine.
A bronze-black patina shades your skin, that of a European Jew.
Light reflected on your crown bypasses your eyes, catches the
weary folds beneath, then flows into the valley above your upper lip.
No indulgent fat can form. it is burned away.
This side of your long oval face and jaw is shadowed. Light
finds the wind-blown hair, bushy, behind your ears. You are
thinking, mouth calm, reflective eyes deep behind their lids.
A delicate face that draws to a pointed chin. Tired.
I have been heartbroken and uplifted by your symphonies,
played them on my horn, exhausted my lip to express their beauty.
Here, I see the heavy weight of creation in your eyes. Two years
before your death, the visions in your mind still fight for release.
Your wife Alma said that August Rodin “fell in love" with you
over the course of your twelve sittings. I imagine the robust
power of Rodin’s energy meeting the fine, irritable point of yours.
Thunder and lightning into clay, plaster filled with molten bronze.
Thea Calitri-Martin is a poet and musician who lives in the beautiful hills of Pomfret, Vermont. She enjoys reading and singing her poetry in various venues and is the principal french horn with the Vermont Philharmonic.
Interview with Bill Arnott
The Ekphrastic Review: Tell us a bit about the Gone Viking series, the success of the first one, your hopes for the new one, and how they came to be.
Hi Lorette. Thanks so much for the invitation; I’m a huge fan of The Ekphrastic Review. Okay, let’s talk about the Gone Viking series, my nonfiction travel memoirs. The books include first-hand adventures, a bit of history and a good dose of humour. Gone Viking: A Travel Saga (RMBooks 2020) is the first of the series, where I introduce the fact “viking” was originally a verb, meaning to go voyaging. Which I did, embarking on an eight year odyssey, trekking the northern hemisphere in the wake of Scandinavian explorers. To my delight the book’s a bestseller that’s received a number of literary awards. For these expeditions I’ve been granted a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society, which I have to say feels like getting a seat at the grown-ups’ table for explorers.
Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries (RMBooks 2021) picks up where the first book concludes, and covers ten years of personal travel across a broader swath of the planet, from the Americas to Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. The popularity of the books has spawned great engagement with readers. Our #GoneVikingCommunity appears on social media, with fun photos and reader shares from around the globe – individuals enjoying their copies of the book in different locales, often in a viking helmet or just having a laugh. It’s been a remarkable and humbling spillover from the books.
You are famous for your travel writing, but have also tried your hand at ekphrastic writing. How do these forms intersect or compare for you? What are the similarities and differences?
Like most writers, I write what I like to read, and I love exceptionally well-written travel literature. After years of reading the genre I realized many of my favourite authors were also poets. So I pursued poetry – taking classes, working with mentors – to simply improve my craft. Unsurprisingly, I came to love the medium in and of itself, with ekphrastic work being a particularly rich facet of the genre. Incorporating this into my writing, I feel, facilitates a much more compelling, sensory engagement.
Now I no longer see good travel-lit “intersecting” with ekphrastic writing. I see these outlets as much the same thing. Every in-depth travel experience examines the artistic nature of what we see and our interpretation of it. I think almost everything is an art form influenced by or derived from other art. So I tend to see ekphrastic elements everywhere: sights, smells, touch, taste, and sound.
When we’re open to experiencing the world you can’t help but find yourself immersed in ekphrastic influence and connection.
How important is viewing art to you when you are travelling?
I feel art viewing is essential to the travel experience, along with food, music, story-telling, flora and fauna. Art is one of those all-encompassing forms of expression, relaying history, land and people in an amalgamated manner. Plus, a gallery can be a lovely place to hang out when the weather’s crap.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you jot notes in a journal all along the way, or use a tape recorder? Do you work as you go, or wait until the voyage is over to recount your memories?
I incorporate a range of techniques, often finding something new to work in a given situation. I love including dialogue in my nonfiction, ideally with regional phonetics. But when I’m visiting with someone I’ll never break the flow by taking notes or recording the audio. I do my best to remember what’s said, and how it’s said, then write it down later. It becomes a bit of a test, like a performer learning lines, and it’s something I find not only challenging but rewarding, and when you get it right, supremely satisfying. When I’m on my own, however, on a plane, boat, bus or train, I’m invariably jotting notes of what I’m witnessing or what I’ve seen. More often than not honing a joke or two. Invariably another tributary to the thoroughfare reveals itself, and more often than not, another great ekphrastic opportunity!
Tell us about the art in your corner of the world. You mentioned Emily Carr, who was an incredibly courageous painter who trekked into the wilderness and along the coast. There are stunning histories of regional indigenous arts, and a lively contemporary scene as well. Share your experiences of art travel at home in your own neck of the woods.
I love that you’ve asked about these experiences in my neck of the woods, as it’s literally in the woods I’ve discovered common threads – creative bridges – between indigenous artists, Carr, and, yes, Viking artisans. One of those “eureka” moments took place on Vancouver’s North Shore on what’s called the Spirit Trail, a series of walks and hikes that traverse a blend of new and old growth forest along with residential and industrial development. It’s a place of crows, eagles and the occasional raven, frequent protagonists across a range of history and myth. It’s comprised of pockets of evergreen that feel as though you’ve wandered onto an Emily Carr canvas, and I found myself fighting an urge to check my trail shoes for spatters of oil in green.
Like so many places, here on Canada’s west coast we’re privileged to be surrounded by great art. My current home is on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh land, so I’m able to enjoy outdoor installations and carving sheds around the neighbourhood. Vancouver Art Gallery also features rotating exhibits of Carr’s paintings, and with regular gallery visits I’ve been able to enjoy a remarkable breadth of her work. In both Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries I meet some amazing artists, not to mention pinpointing the inspiration for much of Carr’s art. I even stumbled onto a fascinating link between her most famous pieces and Viking sites around the British Isles. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’ll leave that reveal for the pages of my books (he said, cheekily).
A History in Paint
Excerpted From Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries
Weather’s turned again, changing like double jumps across a maritime checkerboard, determining the season. Clack-clack. Winter. Clack-clack. Summer. Two days after near-hyperthermia, we’re heading out to hike in shorts, tee-shirts and extra sunscreen.
This is the southwest corner of England, the Penwith Peninsula. Rail lines end at Penzance (yes, where pirates come from). Roads end a smidge beyond that. And everything else (apart from water) truncates at Land’s End, a seaside cliff facing a dreamy expanse of North Atlantic. History says what lies beyond must be Avalon, mythic birthplace of the Lady of the Lake, the Queen who passed King Arthur his sword.
But since the nineteenth century this stretch of the country with its tourmaline water and intense northern light has been a magnet for artisans – painters, potters, sculptors – all coming here to find, hone and share their craft. It’s home to the Newlyn School, one-hundred-forty years of painters capturing outdoors en plein air. Emily Carr was here, as a novice, painting beech trees and yews, before finding her place in the evergreen forests of British Columbia, Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, de facto eighth member to Canada’s Group of Seven.
With packs cinched snug on our backs, we trek coastal path from Lamorna to Mousehole, following clifftops over sea, where it crashes onto ragged granite. We climb through Monterey pines, cypress, vine-wrapped maples, and wind-blown gorse under high canopies of ferns. Fat, black bumblebees buzz in fuchsia foxgloves and orange butterflies flutter along the trail. In the distance, St Michael’s Mount cuts a sharp image in clean air and bright sun. The trail meanders toward the pristine fishing village of Mousehole: an inn and pub at the quay, white-washed stone cottages and Cornish flags flying with pride—a white X on black background. Two artists work in oil on canvas at easels on the beach. Tide’s out and brightly coloured boats—skiffs and dories—are beached in the harbour, leaning rakishly, as though posing for the painters.
The thread of land we’re traversing has attracted voyagers for millennia – Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Romans – following the Stone Age they came for Cornish tin and copper, the makings of sculptures and tools in bronze. Then came the Iron Age and Vikings, until Spain assumed the role of marauders-du-jour in the late Middle Age.
At Penzance we follow shoreline to Newlyn, the painters’ mecca. The smell of wood fires seeps from homes, making everything feel cozy and welcoming. We cross a swing bridge and pass the Art Deco Jubilee pool, built to commemorate King George V. The triangular concrete structure’s on a point of headland, built to cut crashing waves like a ship’s bow. Further on the promenade sit the Battery Rocks where Henry VIII built a barbican, fortified with bronze cannon to deter Spanish raiders. Ironically the Spaniards stole the cannon, possibly to the sound of yoink!
We pass through Penzance’s wherry town – ferries from days of olde. I imagine the smell of pine tar and old port sounds – groaning sheets and billowing sailcloth, the roll of barrels on gangplanks and shouts of pidgin – a soundtrack to adventure. There’s a petrified forest just offshore, visible at low spring tide. The Fishermen’s Mission sits near the pier, overlooking the lighthouse and Newlyn docks, one of England’s busiest fishing ports. It’s famous for crab, but northerly light and endless shoreline are what draw painters like a muezzin’s call to prayer.
St Michael’s Mount greets us, sitting like a chess piece in the bay. And from where I’m standing it aligns with Newlyn Lighthouse – a postcard view through salt air. A local guidebook describes the Mount as “one of those rare and singular objects which impresses the mind with sensations of veneration, pleasure and astonishment the instant it is seen.” St Michael’s, like Normandy’s Mont Saint-Michel, reflects pagan-Christian transition, power and propaganda the binding agents. St Michael was a dragon-slayer, same as Saint George. Whether there are different versions or multiple dragons, I can’t say. Point being these places – artist destinations – resonate with spirituality. From Newlyn we carry on through shallow sea – soft sand and warm ocean water – bare feet with pants rolled up, our very own pilgrimage, aptly enough, as this is St Michael’s Way, tributary to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, what travelling artisans and pilgrim’s call The Way.
Read an ekphrastic poem by Bill Arnott here.
Read Bill's review of editor Lorette C. Luzajic's ekphrastic prose poetry collection, Pretty Time Machine.
Bill Arnott is the award-winning, bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries. His work is published around the globe. When not trekking with a small pack, journal, and laughably outdated camera phone, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making friends and misbehaving. Bill Arnott Archives - Rocky Mountain Books (rmbooks.com)
Pre-order Gone Viking ll on Amazon.
The new TERcets podcast is out- episode 8!
Click here to listen to this very special poetry podcast with Brian A. Salmons.
In each episode, Brian selects three works from The Ekphrastic Review. This time, he reads Hedy Habra, Margo Davis, and Patricia Goodwin.
Many thanks to Brian for this stellar project, and to all of the fine writers he presents.
Stairway to Heaven*
De color atardecer
se visten los peldaños
en busca de la luna
acaso una noche profunda
when the stars blossom into light
iluminan el sueño americano
atop a highrise in New York.
When all are one
and one is all
el azul que se asoma
entonces subiremos al cielo
por escalones que escurren
de atardecer a nuestra cita
con alguna nube
ribeteada de plata.
*Led Zeppelin (1971)
Claire Joysmith is a poet, writer, translator, and former academic, now retired, fascinated by poetry and ekphrasic poetry; she has previously published, together with visual artist José Díaz, the volume Écfrasis, published by the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT), Mexico. She was born in Mexico City, currently lives in the Yucatán, and has worked for many years on border-related issues, specifically the Mexico-U.S. border as well as the less visible Mexico-Guatemala border (the Suchiate River). She has published poetry throughout the Americas, in both English and Spanish, as well as three poetry books: Silencio de azules and Bacalar: Esbozos de agua y tinta (both forthcoming in English translation), and Écfrasis (partially bilingual).
The responses for the Derrick Hickman ekphrastic writing challenge are up! Click here to read some great poetry and flash.
When we think of summer, we think of sun and long days in the warm weather. And then, there are summer nights. There is something magical and dream-like about a mid-summernight (just ask Shakespeare). Years ago, I was obsessed with an image where the artist changed the background from white to black before publication. This led me to write a whole series of poems on the difference night and day could make. One of these pieces appeared in The Ekphrastic Review here: Collaboration, by Jennifer Met.
Thinking about this has inspired me to create not just one list of summer poems, but two—one for sunny day poems and one for night poems. The following poems featuring summer nights make us question what is seen and what is hidden, as well as the apparent joys of summer.
Litha, by Sheikha A.
As the sun sets on the summer solstice, there is a magical energy where we can see that things are not always what they seem.
Woman by a Pool, by Alan Clark
The author writes about his own painting, exploring what is hidden in silhouette.
Summer Fling, by Sara Eddy
Who can’t help but fall in love with this personification of summer?
Winslow Homer Painting a Summer Night, by Joseph Stanton
A poetic portrait illuminating the painting of a couple dancing in the summer moonlight. How can a painting of night use so much titanium white? How can a direct poem shed even more light?
Dream of a Summer Night, by Marjorie Stelmach
A poem about a painting about the famous Mid-Summer's Night Dream play. Here, the characters with wide eyes are still asleep because how can they reconcile their “oh-so-different flesh?”
Picturesque, But Night, by Mark Danowsky
A summer fair of pure Americana turns sinister with this poem’s closer examination.
Fake Sun, by Anthony DiMatteo
This poem is a mind-reader. The clues are all there in light, dark, and body language, but the poet eloquently puts it all together.
American Loggers, 1939, by Connie Super
This poem perfectly captures the feeling of lingering light at the end of a long summer day of logging deep in the forest.
Under the Purple Sky, I Ask of You, by Courtney Justus
While set in the summer, this atmospheric love poem features wool cardigans, indigo skies, German tattoos, burnt oak, and metal.
Blossoms in the Night (1918) by Paul Klee, by Ericka Ghersi (translated by Toshiya Kamei)
A Spanish poem with English translation that explores every aspect of painting before finally bursting free from its frame.
Jennifer Met lives in a small town in North Idaho. She is a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthology, a finalist for Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and winner of the Jovanovich Award. Recent work is published in Cimarron Review, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Superstition Review, and Zone 3, among other journals. She is the author of the microchapbook That Which Sunlight Chases (Origami Poems Project) and the chapbook Gallery Withheld (Glass Poetry Press). More at www.jennifermet.com.
Call For Throwback Lists
There are six years worth of writing at The Ekphrastic Review. With daily or more posts of poetry, fiction, and prose for most of that history, we have a wealth of talent to show off. We encourage readers to explore our archives by month and year in the sidebar. Click on a random selection and read through our history.
Our new Throwback Thursday features highlight writing from our past, chosen on purpose or chosen randomly. You’ll get the chance to discover past contributors, work you missed, or responses to older ekphrastic challenges.
Would you like to be a guest editor for a Throwback Thursday? Pick 10 favourite or random posts from the archives of The Ekphrastic Review. Use the format you see above: title, name of author, a sentence or two about your choice, and the link.
Include a bio and if you wish, a note to readers about the Review, your relationship to the journal, ekphrastic writing in general, or any other relevant subject. Put THROWBACK THURSDAYS in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Along with your picks, send a vintage photo of yourself too!
The Truth of Delusions
In a cavern in Dendera
is an ancient cryptic carving.
Sleek, svelte, bulbous at one end,
a transparent coil holds a snake
slivering in place.
Are those contoured lines my arms spreading wide
to embrace, to contain
the bursting venom of the reality inside?
Or is this carving an ancient filament
meant to bestow light on dark?
Rather than a snake,
is it instead a delusion,
the filament bursting, ready to explode
and scorch all truth eternal?
“Seek and ye shall find.”
So we seek – but we do not find.
All delusions bend the truth into a lie.
They deny a reality
that threatens us with the truth.
But we cannot bear the truth.
We will die.
Once again we have sought relief
from reality by way of fantasy.
Deluded, we falter,
but still we seek the truth transcendent.
Cynthia Pitman, a retired Advanced Placement English teacher from Orlando, Florida, has been published in Ekphrastic Review, Scarlet Leaf, Vita Brevis, Pain and Renewal Anthology, Time Anthology, Third Wednesday (One Sentence Poem Contest finalist), Saw Palm (Pushcart Prize nominee, 2019), Amethyst Review, Adelaide, Right Hand Pointing, Red Fez (Story of the Week), and others. Her first poetry collection, The White Room, was published by Kelsay Books in 2020.
I ache to live as poets past could live,
to “live gladly” in the presence of
“the enormous invulnerable beauty of things.”
I long to celebrate this great whale skeleton,
this architecture of vertebrae
graduated like cathedral columns
or the thick-wound bass strings of a sunken harp,
receding with the measured rhythm of an unsung hymn,
sinking like a fallen tree into the earth, into the sea again,
still wearing textured ravelings of skin,
revealing kinship, in its mighty decomposition,
with our own furred bodies.
We late poets are so confused by all this misplaced splendor
–a spring-like February day, a lone monarch.
These whale bones on the beach stir fears
about warming seas, starving pods,
disorienting underwater explosions.
“We are fools,” Jeffers believed,
“If we refuse the inhuman beauty, to chase our own minds and make
Which are meaner and easier–”
A century later, we are called to perhaps an even harder
balancing act than his, the soul-lacerating pain
of owning the destruction we have wrought
while at the same time holding and loving
what is still so beautiful.
Deborah Bachels Schmidt
Quotes are from Robinson Jeffers’ “Nova” and a draft of “The Ocean’s Tribute.”
This poem was first published on the HQ Gallery website.
Deborah Bachels Schmidt has a chapbook, Stumbling Into Grace, forthcoming from Orchard Street Press. Other publication credits include Blue Unicorn, California Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, The Lyric, and The Poeming Pigeon. A Pushcart nominee, she was recently awarded first prize in the Sonnet category at the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition.
House with Illuminated Windows
We stand in a room too large
And carpeted in red, all too many of us.
Interstitial, the space expends. Alone,
We tend to our mourning.
The tender one has run outside, attempts
To scream her grief back to the wind:
The rainstorm is coming. Bending pines,
For which we have no space left.
Inside, my sisters mourn the passing
Of their sister. Every face devoid of
Meaning. No-one on the deathbed.
Or outside. She is not in the stones.
She is not in the trees. Not in the house,
Harbour. Tonight, the silence of the sea
Lorelei Bacht is a European writer living in Asia with her family. When she is not carrying little children around or trying to develop their appreciation for modern art, she can be found in the garden, befriending orb weavers and millipedes. She once edited and published poetry, under a different name. Her current work can be found and/or is forthcoming in Open Door Poetry Magazine, Visitant, The Wondrous Real and Quail Bell. She can also be found on Instagram: @lorelei.bacht.writer
All right, now I have to ask you to lift your arm up again.
—Okay.… How much longer?
It won’t be as long this time.
—It can’t be.
Lift your hand back up, please. Thanks…
Please stand up and get back in the position.
—I can’t, man.
I’m paying you to do a job.
—I quit. You don’t need to pay me no more.
“No more”! If you quit now, all this time is wasted. Who’s going to pay me?
—I guess I could give you some of the money back.
I don’t want the fucking money back! I want you to pose!
—Don’t matter what you want, man. I can’t no more…. You try it. You could never have done this on your best day.
That’s right, and no one would have wanted my fat self even then. And you’ll never be a sculptor. Now please get up so I don’t have to talk to your father.
—He don’t know I’m doing this. He’d be ashamed.
So that’s how it is? And I suppose he doesn’t know what you’re spending the money on, either?
—Think you’re so fucking smart.
I was young too, once, my boy. What’s her name?
—It’s not a girl. It’s my friends… we shoot dice…
Whatever. Though I must say you’d be better off with a girl… or maybe not, come to think of it.
Never mind. Just be careful about your friends if any of them win too much.
—I just lose too much.
Be careful about that, too.… Has it been long enough?
—I can stand up…. Want me to clean where I sat on your nice pedestal?
The slave will take care of it. Just get back into the pose.
—Ah, shit! How’s this?
Arm a little higher, please. Excellent. I’m going as fast as I can.
Gerald Friedman grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and now teaches physics at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. He has published a little in physics and more in poetry in various journals.
The Ekphrastic Review
Find a writer, artist, or poem, etc. by searching here: