Text used: Carl Goldhagen’s artistic statement “Paintings 2014-2018”
Kari Ann Ebert
Kari Ann Ebert is the Poetry & Interview editor for The Broadkill Review and the Project Director of Downtown Dover Poetry Weekend. Winner of the 2020 Sandy Crimmins National Prize in Poetry, the 2019 Crossroads Ekphrastic Writing Contest, and 2018 Gigantic Sequins Poetry Contest, Kari’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals such as Mojave River Review, Philadelphia Stories, Main Street Rag, The Ekphrastic Review, and Gargoyle as well as several anthologies. She has been awarded fellowships from Delaware Division of the Arts (2020), The Shipman Agency (2020), BOAAT Press (2020), and Brooklyn Poets (2019).
A few more weeks for our Bird Watching flash fiction and poetry contest!
Get our ebook featuring forty bird-themed art prompts, carefully curated by The Ekphrastic Review.
The ebook is $10 CAD. One winner in flash fiction and one winner in poetry will each receive $100 prize.
We are excited to have Tricia Marcella Cimera as our poetry judge, and Karen Schauber as our flash fiction judge!
Each participant can enter up to five poems, five stories, or a combination of both. Entries must be inspired by one or more of the artworks in the ebook.
Selected entries will be published in special showcases throughout the month of May. The cash prize winners will be chosen and announced by the end of May.
The winning fiction will be published again by Karen at Miramichi Review!
The winning poem will also appear in Tricia's Fox Poetry Box!
deadline: May 1, 2021
subject line: BIRD WATCHING SUBMISSION
number of entries: submit up to five poems, five stories, or a combination (all together in one email)
word count: poetry and flash fiction to a maximum 1000 words (yes, we love microfiction under 400 words, too)
Submit with your work a third-person bio, no longer than 200 words.
No simultaneous submissions for this contest please.
Send ONE email with all of your entries.
Edvard Munch: The Disease of Watching
My sufferings are … indistinguishable from
me, and their destruction would destroy my
art. I want to keep those sufferings.
― Edvard Munch
Years later, he described that night, crossing the bridge at sundown.
Unspeakably weary, he leaned on the rail and let his friends
walk on without him. Tongues of blood and fire roiled the
heavens. Earth had burst its horizon line. Something was
But where in this painting is the source of the scream?
Erupting from the distorted figure gripping its gaping face?
But clearly the couple on the bridge hears nothing.
In the lurid hues of the blood-bruised sky?
And yet, in monochrome lithographs, The Scream unsettled
the parlors of Europe.
In the tormented mind of an artist who now would never be anything
other than the man who painted The Scream?
Yes. Maybe there. Across the bottom of a later version, he penciled:
Can only have been painted by a madman.
But if the scream arose from his madness, how to explain us. We hear it
as ours, that scream, released from the rusted hinge of time to give
voice to our shattered age.
Who was he that night at twenty-nine, as he set out across a bridge with
his friends? And after: who was he then?
It must have been awful. Like living again and again through something
you did not survive the first time.
There are paintings like that.
Encyclopedia Britannica, first edition, 1771: If you’re looking for
insomnia, you find, “The Disease of Watching.”
His was a lifelong insomnia. Years of absinthe, bouts of depression,
anxiety, voices, incarceration, but it was the sleeplessness that
brought him to the limit of his endurance.
Through all those years, Munch watched the muddy, coagulated flow
of his sufferings, and he painted himself--
Self-Portrait in Hell, With Burning Cigarette, With Lyre, With Bottle of
Wine, Self-Portrait Beneath Woman’s Mask, With Cod’s Head,
`With Skeleton Arm—
each canvas torn from his mirrored flesh like a tissue of skin to become
the face of a man who no longer existed. He couldn’t paint a self-
portrait fast enough to be true.
At his death, there were seventy of them. More. A lifetime of faces to
drag through his nights, drag like a shadow across the floorboards.
Drag like a lake.
The Night Wanderer (1924): He is 61, living alone, a stooped and sour
old man walking the rooms of a darkened house in the hours
before dawn. His hands are not shown, deep, perhaps, in his
dressing gown pockets or clasped, as the elderly do, at his back.
He has tried to bury his eyes.
Imagine the mind of the man who painted The Scream, shuffling night
after night through this hall of mirrors, floors tipped forward,
walls out of plumb, a memento mori peering from every reflective
His skull-like face in the polished leg of the grand piano, in the bone
moon at the tall window glass, in the sheen of the floorboards, in
the face on his easel, half-formed, eclipsed by two ghastly
cavities, as if two thumbs had put out his eyes like candles.
Each self-portrait was his last. (Each self-portrait was his last but one.)
Why go on trying?
After a lifetime, who among us deserves a face?
Self Portrait between the Clock and the Bed (1943)
A stick of a man, erect and proper in a formal coat, he stands between a
clock with no hands and a narrow, neatly made bed. Paintings,
his own, selected from over a thousand, hang at his back.
But first, this face to master. His last. (His last but one.)
How does such a man die?
He died the following winter.
Sleepless, he wandered into the frozen night and caught a chill. It
`was, in the end, that simple. He was found in the morning shaved,
fully dressed, Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot open beside him.
This is an altered version of the original poem, with format modified for the web.
Marjorie Stelmach has published six volumes of poems, most recently Walking the Mist (from Ashland Poetry Press. Her work has appeared in American Literary Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, and others.
By the time I finished reading Moby Dick, I’d think about whales 24/7: harpooning leviathans, slicing them into pieces, and melting down the blubber. Thank god Cindy convinced me to chill and take her to the Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Vancouver, British Columbia. Under the triodetic dome, my life changed for the better as I immersed myself in jungle plants and listened to exotic birds singing and scolding onlookers.
That night, we celebrated Cindy’s 22nd birthday at the Gotham Steakhouse. All signs pointed to a romantic conclusion to the perfect day. Oddly, when her rare prime rib dinner arrived, Cindy methodically carved ample fat at both ends of the 24-ounce cut. Next, she began to feast on the warm, juicy marble.
Hey! I was cool. I acted amused. I watched her roll her eyes and savor her favorite meat. Then she forked a white hunk of fat in my direction and ordered, “Open wide!” Obligingly, I chewed on the tasty suet. However, after only ten seconds, Ahab beckoned. Next, I began to hear salt water waves lap against the Pequod’s hull, smell pungent whale blubber boiling in try-pots, and envision buckets of spermaceti being decanted in casks. Unwittingly, Cindy, sent me back aboard with Melville.
A Washington- based author, poet, educator, and Push Cart Nominee, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared in such literary magazines, journals, and anthologies as the Atherton Review, Street Lit, the Shot Glass Journal and Metamorphoses. Warner’s volumes of poetry include Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Edges, Memento Mori, and Serpent’s Tooth: Poems. His first collection of fiction, Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories, debuted in August 2020.
Dan is in the backyard in the late afternoon, his wine carafe that was once a milk bottle sitting empty now on the blue tablecloth even though he was supposed to wait for his wife. What the hell. He can decant some more wine, twist off the cap, and pretend it’s the good stuff. The radio is playing some jazz tune he can’t recognize but likes. In the time it takes for him to step into the kitchen to unscrew the cap so it will be ready for when Marci gets back from teaching class, two things happen. The first is a rat climbs into the milk bottle, and the second is the announcer says troops are being sent into Vietnam. Dan, who saw Ardennes, who was stationed in Seoul, who has been to so many other places with names he wants to forget, has been following the news for months now and has been waiting for and dreading this moment. They will not want him this time at his age, but he still feels like that little rat trapped in glass with the cheap smelling wine. The animal must be coated in it. It is upside down and scratching around, stuck in its greed for whatever calories might cling to droplets. Dan clicks off the radio and grabs the bottle, feeling the struggle inside of it. His first thought is to throw it as hard as he can against the corner of the garage, watch the little bastard struggle in the shards, but he can’t somehow, so he walks it back to the alley, and holds it over the other side of the fence upside down. When it doesn’t fall out immediately, he pats the bottom like it’s ketchup, and when he hears the creature land with a squeak and then move off, he tosses the bottle in the trash can, goes back to get two glasses and the wine, and waits for Marci to get back home so they can get the long quiet weekend started right.
John Brantingham: "I was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and my work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. I have eleven books of poetry and fiction including my latest fiction collection Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). I teach at Mt. San Antonio College."
making white hats for each roof
glistening in early sun--
Ribbons of snow
caked under the eaves
of the teahouse--
snow festooned on trees,
an extra layer to Fuji’s cloak
under a clear sky--
and there in the open terrace
some morning to-do among
the five figures warmly cloaked.
I am listening hard
like that one tree
cupping its ears to hear
as one lady points, another looks
back to see if the other looks--
not at the sacred mountain—
but at the birds. I imagine if she
predicts longevity, luck, love
Fuji-san will chuckle under his cape.
Kitty Jospé enjoys the challenge of bringing art alive through words. Docent at the University of Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery since 1998; MFA Pacific University, 2009. Her work appears in many journals, anthologies. Kitty will have a sixth book of poems appearing in 2021 from FootHills publishing.
Where Are You, God?
The Romans looking with pleasure
on the devastation they have visited
on the vulnerable represent all who kill
and destroy for the sake of power.
The mother whose arms are raised
to heaven, her voice crying out
in pain and protest, is any parent
whose children lie dead
at the hands of terrorists and tyrants.
The mother’s robe is stained
with her son’s blood. Her eyes ask
Why? Where are you, God, you
who promised to protect your people?
Look at my son’s feet. Just yesterday
they ran and skipped through village streets.
Look at these knees that knelt to worship you.
His hands once wrapped around
my neck, but now his neck is slashed.
His blood runs across the small ear
that loved to hear the chanted prayers.
God, how I can still believe?
Wilda Morris, a widely published poet, is Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago. Her latest book is Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick, published by Kelsay Books. Her blog at wildamorris.blogspot.com features a monthly contest for other poets.
Winslow Homer’s Sharpshooter
Homer knew the horror
of a war not at all civil
that marked the start
of modern war unfair.
A captain described
the job of sharpshooting:
“only to watch and kill.”
Stationed in tall pines,
a sharper’s telescopic sight
could kill one mile away.
Sometimes a soldier,
abruptly fell dead.
“With everything as silent as the grave
here would come one of those rifled balls
and cut a hole clear through you.”
Winslow Homer’s Near Andersonville
Homer was among the few who grasped
that the Civil War had three sides,
that slaves stood at a terrifying brink
shirts of grey or blue could not define.
This women at the doorway
stands on more than one threshold,
and she is thinking, thinking, thinking
about her difficult world--
as, in the background, Reb soldiers,
their red flag drooping on a windless day,
march a long line of Union prisoners
towards the hell hole of Andersonville--
a shift in plot that does not,
for the prisoners
or this worried watcher,
Winslow Homer’s Home, Sweet Home
Irony’s at home here.
Ever so humble, indeed,
are the tiny tents of residence,
where a pair of soldiers sadly listen
to a regimental band,
discernable in the distance,
play the most popular of songs.
The soldiers’ thoughts
wish away the war,
as they hear and re-hear
the bitter sugar sweet
chorus sound and repeat.
There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home.
Winslow Homer’s Artists Sketching in the White Mountains
Landscape artists must be
part of what they see.
Homer’s wry joke here gives us a line
of daubers in the midst of White Mountains--
each nattily dressed
but not at all a picturesque,
intrusion on the scene--
each with easel, palette, and umbrella--
unlovely against a lovely horizon
of clouds, mountains, and flowers.
The last of these sketchers
is Winslow himself
with his characteristic hat and mustache
and his name signed
on the backpack behind him.
That this is an occasion
for painterly camaraderie
as much as artistic productivity
is evident on the far left
where a bottle of wine
nests in a stump cleft,
the sun’s set.
Winslow Homer’s Bridle Path, White Mountains
Back from Paris, Homer chose a new path.
A woman riding high in White Mountains
becomes his largest canvas,
and a place to pose a newly special friend.
He sketched a tourist on the trail. In studio,
his model is Helena on a chair.
On canvas he lends her a special glow.
She is for him the fairest of the fair.
She likes Winslow and loves his wit
and knows he sets her on this trail to star
in a tenderly affectionate drift
of thought: a bridal plan, that is, far
from what she wants from her master in art.
She knows this rocky ride may break his heart.
Read our interview with Joseph Stanton about his ekphrastic book, Moving Pictures.
Joseph Stanton’s poems have appeared previously in The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrasis, Poetry, New Letters, Harvard Review, Antioch Review, and many other magazines. He has published more than 600 poems in journals and anthologies. His six books of poems are Moving Pictures, Things Seen, Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem. His other sorts of books include Looking for Edward Gorey, The Important Books, Stan Musial: A Biography, and A Hawaii Anthology. As an art historian, he has written about Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Edward Gorey, Maurice Sendak, and many other American artists. He is a Professor Emeritus of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Information on his most recent ekphrastic book can be found at: https://www.shantiarts.co/uploads/files/stu/STANTON_MOVING.html
Click here or on image to access the current ekphrastic writing prompt and the instructions and deadlines. Enjoy!
THROWBACK THURSDAY PICKS FROM ALARIE TENNILLE
April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. (my home) and in Canada (home of The Ekphrastic Review). It’s also my birth month, though I arrived a week and almost four centuries after William Shakespeare. To simplify my search for throwback picks, I thought I’d share a few favorite poems from past Aprils.
I didn’t realize how recent the celebration is — National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and observed since 1999 in Canada.
Time Slips – Laura Engle
Short and sweet – I’m always impressed when a poet can say so much in so few words.
“Time slips…fades and flops.” While it “looks like a towel thrown over a rack,”
Engle also captures the sound and motion of a fish flailing about when pulled from the background sea.
Space Station Crew Sees Lots of Clouds – Marc Alan Di Martino
Beautiful view. Great contrast between advanced technology and a child’s delight in birthday cake. We enjoy the frothy, descriptive delight, then are caught off-guard by pollution (“chemical-sweet”) and the great yearning we carry away when we get to that last line.
Painted Hands – Michael Gessner
The combined power, the cave painting of hands still reaching out to us with Gessner’s message, makes me think that perhaps ancient cave paintings were already ekphrastic, art and poetry in one, at a time when written words waited far in the future.
Hitchhikers in Mississippi, 1936 – Lennart Lundh
The poet’s love of words shines through in this beautifully descriptive poem. “The trees have forgotten summer” sets the tone for bleak winter and the even bleaker Great Depression. Although the photo makes us feel gloomy, the final line offers hope.
One Viewer’s Response to Todd Klassy’s 4 Round Bales – Bill Waters
“In a cloudless landscape / everything but the sky/ looks small,” and Waters understands that anything longer than three short stanzas would seem cluttered. He strikes the perfect balance between looking and seeing.
Horizons – Roy Beckemeyer
We are born knowing nothing that has come before us. Here the poet helps us sees new horizons, layers, and cycles. It’s wonderful to read the caption about a reptile footprint and leap to the single front leg of a backhoe.
Man on a Bench – Edward H. Garcia
This art-poem pairing appeared in the first April of TER (2016). I remember it because we have a museum guard created by Duane Hanson at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City. This is a quintessential ekphrastic poem, inviting viewers into the art. The man on the bench won’t scoot over, / invite [us] to sit down,” but Garcia makes the invitation.
The Autopsy – Mary McCarthy
I’ve been reading and then writing for The Ekphrastic Review for over five years, and Mary McCarthy’s name was one of the first that jumped out at me as a regular favorite. Here she combines her love of poetry and art with her knowledge of medicine. She’s a registered nurse and deftly explores what we can learn by careful observation, what we may feel we know, and what we can only guess.
Alarie Tennille is a longtime, regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. She is a valued prize nomination consultant for the journal, and has been a guest editor for our bimonthly challenges. She has won a Fantastic Ekphrastic award for her considerable contribution to the journal and to ekphrastic literature.
Be a guest editor for a Throwback Thursday! Pick up to 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 email@example.com.
Along with your picks, send a vintage photo of yourself!
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