What do the eyes see? How can their vision be expressed in words? What do we do when the artwork is “untitled,” and we have no indication of the artist’s intent?
These are challenges of ekphrastic poetry. And yet, that is the magic, the miracle of what can be created. Enjoy meandering through the labyrinth of in-depth reflections on
As always, it was a true pleasure to read all the submissions and difficult to make choices. I’m sorry not to have been able to include everyone. But each response opened up yet another way of seeing the art.
Donna and I thank you for your wonderful responses.
When I see a piece
of abstract art
Could she not find the words
to describe her thoughts,
or could she not be further bothered
after all the effort of putting paint to paper.
Or does she seek to communicate
something more profound
and thus insists,
that the viewer
has full freedom
with no clues given
to sort out the shapes
the lines and blotches
falling on the surface
of the paper
the decaying detritus
of modern life
So I put myself in the picture
and take a wander
Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Consequence Magazine, Firewords, Vagabond Press, Gyroscope Review and So It Goes Journal. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com///www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/
A rhubarb travels
At warp speed. NASA captures.
Q: God, or garden?
Jenna K Funkhouser
Jenna K Funkhouser is an artist and writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her poetry has recently been published by Geez Magazine, the Saint Katherine Review, and Vita Poetica, among others. She is currently working on her second volume of poetry, an ekphrastic exploration of fully inhabited lives.
To donne e perkins Regarding Untitled
Is this to eye but disarray
or bloom that seeds by its decay
the truth that lies in moments framed
no matter whether ever named
that are embrace of doubt and yet
are all that somehow they beget
as purpled proof through prism seen
of light they bend to make them mean
whatever they have left behind
that beckons someone else to find
the beauty to behold as grace
so given, unexplained, its place
by force that we can never know
except by faith it leaves to sow?
Portly Bard: Old man. Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent...
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.
Not My Mother’s Daughter
As I lie spread eagle
across the dance floor, surrounded
by upright legs and gasps, I can feel
my skirt tossed above my waist.
I keep my eyes shut tight for a moment,
imagine I’m dancing cancan
at the Folies Bergère.
At least Mama’s not here
to see me making a spectacle
of myself. Those would be her
exact words. Tomorrow she’d tell
all the neighbors, I could have died
I just hope she’s looking down
from heaven right now
and has finally, finally learned
to throw her head back and laugh.
Alarie Tennille graduated from the first coed class at the University of Virginia, where she earned her B.A. in English, Phi Beta Kappa key, and black belt in Feminism. Just so you know, Alarie claims her poem is not autobiographical. Her mother would be the first one on the dance floor. She was known for dancing a solo hula at a few veterans’ conferences shortly after WWII. Since, she didn’t have a shy bone in her body, Alarie did sometimes wonder how Alice could be her mama.
Where once there was nothing,
a flower is born,
gloved petals waggling
haggard in the air.
Already it’s ragged
the pink rubbed
mapping the centre
where pistil or cone should be.
and this flower
splaying its flesh wide open
in contempt of decency,
of the hand’s impulse
to grope for a stem,
to pluck and to prettify.
Take me as I am,
Don’t box me in
with your rules,
expanding bigger and bigger,
less and less like a flower,
more and more like the universe
it always intended to be.
Janis Geve teaches literature at UMass Amherst, specializing in autobiography, disability studies, and service-learning. She has published previously in such places as Beltway Quarterly Review, Red Eft Review, The Florida Review and New Delta Review, among other places.
at the heart of it all
the average male adult heart
is ten ounces of red muscle
a woman's a little less
though it will beat faster
to move the same volume of blood
the heartbeat itself the result of
heart valves in motion
it's not the bard's pound of flesh after all
not the true seat of emotion
yet we'll argue head versus heart
a broken heart really does exist
intense sadness produces pain
with a true physiological basis
unlike in the stories it can heal
likewise a heart can burst with happiness
when the left ventricle swells due to joy
and blood is easier for a heart to pump
when the blood vessels are relaxed
proving laughter really is the best medicine
Emily Tee writes poetry and flash fiction. She's had pieces published in The Ekphrastic Review and for its challenges, and elsewhere online,.and in print in some publications by Dreich and in Poetry Scotland among other places. She lives in the UK.
from this very blood
you were sustained in
the dark mysteries of my
when we were inseparable
you gladly received our shared
and your cells knit together
and you became fully boy
you are fully man
tall strong dimple-faced
life calls you eagerly
and you smile and walk away
just as it is meant to be
still pumping nutrients
upwards through the arch and down
in the seat of love
Melinda Dewsbury experiences poetry as therapy, a kind of grounding exercise that connects physical embodiment with big ideas and deep truths. During the pandemic, she and her mother wrote Pandemic Poems back and forth to one another. In 2021, their experience was featured in an interview and poetry reading on CBC radio’s On the Coast. Melinda lives in Langley, British Columbia.
Ode to My Wound
Portal to skin strata
living on the river of ancient blood.
What demons swim in that stream
hunting for new cells to join this
gang of invaders?
You were so easy to manage
when I was young
a kiss a bandage and we
were safe. But old age has filled
that pool with too many monsters
immune to healing potions and poison
Are you the final battlefield between skin
and world the ill that will take me
Margo Stutts Toombs
Margo Stutts Toombs enjoys creating and preforming poetry. Her work lives in FreezeRay Poetry, Untameable City - Mutabilis Press, the Texas Poetry Calendar, Love over 60: An Anthology of Women’s Poems, The Ekphrastic Review, the Friendswood Library Ekphrastic Poetry Contest, Equinox, and Synkronicity. She performs spoken-word poetry and monologues at fringe festivals, art galleries and anywhere food and beverages are served. For several years, Margo has been the MC for the poetry/prose readings at Archway Art Gallery in Houston, Texas.
Spilled Supper Special
I love mama’s red beans and rice.
When I tracked in slick leaves
and slid into my chair too eager to eat;
it felt like matricide to be this clumsy,
sending a spoonful of such craftwork
to the floor, extra flattened by fat cat paws.
I tried to make up for this mistake,
with hand-folded, colored-pencil cards,
maroon carpet for your morning breakfast
smeared egg whites look well enough to me.
Or is it just another mess?
Years later, we each had our own bloody bouts,
the worst war of roses and ripped up reams
of divisive documents and tear-shot dreams,
a perfect picture now torn up and tossed away,
every crease a wrinkle, a white hair, a whimper.
I should’ve stirred the sauce some more,
seen our recipes weren’t so different,
or I wouldn’t have let the sun set
on a blooming, burgundy love
that was chewed up, spit out,
found wanting, left lacking--
When I sit at the table now,
and look down at the nicely-filled bowl,
and say my prayers as a ruddy light
illuminates my face against the gloom,
I admit that I miss mama.
Only she knows how to make it right.
Alexander Harber is sometimes an engineer, a LEGO builder, an illustrator, a poet, or a writer. He was born in New Orleans, but was forced to grow up in deep East Texas until he went to college. Now a permanent Houston resident, he is just starting to dip his toes into sharing his creative works with the wider world. Most recently, he was a contributor to the March/April edition of BrickJournal as well as the online multimedia journal Equinox by Hotpoet.
This is not a painting of…
an ailing oak, its prostrate trunk uprooted,
its bark bruised; its split branches bare.
a silent snow-child, freed from a folktale,
tiptoeing out in the chill of a street-lit night.
a dead kite, his foxed wings outstretched,
lying in the lane with his roadkill carrion.
a pair of neat scissors, cutting and snipping
a red and pink linen shirt into ragged strips.
a wriggle of well-fed earthworms, writhing
through the topsoil in the vegetable patch.
a hidden hare, her ears alert, her snout
twitching as she becomes her witch-self.
my old heart, beating and pumping blood
to my brain as it fizzes with weird visions.
Based in the U.K, Dorothy Burrows enjoys writing poetry, flash fiction and short plays. Her poems have been published in both print and online journals including The Ekphrastic Review. She has always enjoyed searching for faces and figures in clouds.
This woman held things
tightly inside her, so tight
that she hugged herself,
tied her legs into a knot
bit her tongue until it bled.
But when she let go,
she exploded like a bud,
sprawling her petals
wide open, calling the eye
to feast on her shades of red,
emerging from the shadows.
Gary S. Rosin
Gary S. Rosin’s poetry has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Concho River Review, contemporary haibun, dadakuku, Eastern Structures, Failed Haiku, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Texas Poetry Calendar, The Wild Word, and Visions International. He has two chapbooks, Standing Inside the Web (Bear House Publishing 1990), and Fire and Shadows (Legal Studies Forum 2008). Two of his ekphrastic poems appear in Silent Waters, photographs by George Digalakis (Athens, 2017). He is the author of two chapbooks, Standing Inside the Web (Bear House Publishing, 1990) and Fire and Shadows (Legal Studies Forum, 2008) (offprint). His poems “Viewing the Dead,” and “Black Dogs,” were nominated for Pushcart Prizes.
When Telekinesis Trumps Precognition
All her works were now untitled. He had told her that was to be her task, and she had accepted it once she had come to some level of admittedly begrudged acceptance with the situation. It was not overly difficult to assuage her feelings of having sacrificed her artistic mores; she had no choice, after all. He held all she loved hostage: the Sword of Damocles had nothing on the precarious high-wire act that would be her daughter, balanced on tiptoe from a spider-web-thin catenary barely clearing raging cataracts alive and churning with blood hungry Carcharodon carcharias. All she could do to prevent that catastrophe was to produce a new painting for him each day.
He rapped his restless fingers against the table, the teak hard and dark, a stage for his prognostications, his forecasts, his foretelling of victory or doom, of his daily deliveries of the events that were to come to true fruition, the fruits of this delicate yet delectable collaboration. Before he had found her in that out-of-the-way gallery in SoHo, he had worked his way through all the tools of his trade, from chicken entrails (too messy, too smelly, too primeval) to tea leaves (he could no longer stand the taste of it, had to whiten it to an almost purely dairy concoction), Rorschach blots (Freud and his minions be damned) to Tarot (too finite, too many predictable combinations), casting horoscopes (too many phony practitioners) to self-hypnosis (too much aligned and hard-wired to his personality).
The paintings at her exhibit had been a transformational experience. With his first glance he saw in each painting the levels of complexity of the world flung aside, the clouds of fog and smoke cleared, some new, unique, exposition of things whose time had arrived, of events that would be set in motion the moment he saw them: births, deaths, wars, cataclysms, all visible there and ripe for him to pluck and set before the world. All he had to do was see them on the page and announce them aloud.
“Almost through,” she said, “the ink is drying as I speak.” She manipulated the palette knife along the edge of the painting, shearing the sheet from the block of watercolor paper, handed him the image, curling slightly as it dried, freed now from the constraints of the block. Her eyes downcast, she stepped back. He held the page, aligned it before him on the tabletop, kept his eyes raised to the camera, its red light blinking the countdown. His readings were always more dramatic when he looked down at the image just as the camera came to life, so the audience could see the dawning comprehension on his face: horror, glee, exquisite joy, sly smirk—brief preview of what his stentorian voice would then expound.
He lowered his eyes to take in the fresh painting. His mouth opened, his irises expanded, his heartbeat revved up like a street racer, he looked stricken, unbelieving; his eyes strayed from the camera lens, he glanced her way. She was smiling. And then in the next instant he was there, on the wire, precariously balanced, wavering, arms out to his sides, the foaming water and snapping jaws beneath him, and he could see, in his mind’s eye’s final fleeting vision, her beside the desk, stepping into the camera’s view, her arms about her child, announcing to the world what he was only beginning to comprehend.
Roy J. Beckemeyer’s fifth and latest book of poetry is The Currency of His Light, (Turning Plow Press, 2023). Beckemeyer’s work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards and has appeared in Best Small Fictions 2019. He has designed and built airplanes, discovered and named fossils of Palaeozoic insect species, and has traveled the world. Beckemeyer lives with and for his wife of 61 years, Pat, in Wichita, Kansas. His authors page is at royjbeckemeyer.com.
That Night Was Like Chaim Soutine
hanging a carcass of beef, a ripe explosion
again and again. A blossom of red darkness.
I did not hear the gunshots. Not even one.
The pink pulse of ambulance and police cars
slipped through our closed blinds.
It was Thanksgiving night. We had just eaten
The TV was on—we nursed
our island of wounds.
It's no metaphor—how the pus drained
from your arm as the murders
across the street occurred.
Daybreak was speckled with flecks of light.
Neighbors and reporters shed drops of illumination.
I felt the blood in the artery behind my right ear.
Christmas decorations were affronted by morning.
We took out the trash.
Vanessa Zimmer-Powell’s poetry has aired on the radio and has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. Recently, she has taken an interest in writing and filming cinepoems and has been a ReelPoetry and Gulf Coast Film Festival juried cinepoet and filmmaker. Awards include first place winner of the 2017 and 2016 Houston Poetry Fest ekphrastic competition, top honors in the 2017, 2019, and 2021 Friendswood Library ekphrastic poetry competitions, and finalist in the 2023 ReelPoetry festival. Her chapbook, Woman Looks into an Eye is published by Dancing Girl Press.
exhales like a red lacewing
in a shadowbox,
butterfly over the burnt
dirt—no one hears her heart’s voice.
Inverted, I write
embrace, maroon costumes merge.
The graceful dancers
never worry past night's flight,
never worry past their lips.
John Milkereit resides in Houston, Texas working as a mechanical engineer and has completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop. His work has appeared in various literary journals including Naugatuck River Review and San Pedro River Review, and previous issues of The Ekphrastic Review. He has published two chapbooks (Pudding House Press) and three full-length collections of poems, including most recently, A Place Comfortable with Fire(Lamar University Literary Press).
The leaf has the markings of a Paul Klee
squiggles dots crosses
on terracotta crust crisp beneath her feet
it reminds her of the lines drawn on the canvas of her skin
a map for the surgeon’s knife
to slice through tissue and tumour
it is the tattoo she never asked for
the image cut in soft-light rouge
inked pitied reviled
she lifts the leaf fingers the veins
soft ridges like scars running on rust
subconsciously places hand over womb
feels the hollow dryness of parchment
like a page erased wordless
lets it fall in autumn soil to mulch compost
Kate Young lives in England and enjoys writing poetry, painting and playing the guitar and ukulele. Her poems have appeared in various webzines, magazines, and Chapbooks. Her work has also featured in the anthologies Places of Poetry and Write Out Loud. Her pamphlet A Spark in the Darkness has been published by Hedgehog Press and her next pamphlet Beyond the School Gate has been accepted for publication in 2023. Find her on Twitter @Kateyoung12poet.
Menopause: The Graphic Novel
Maybe I’m projecting and this is not a vagina
maybe its a tarantula, maybe it’s a heart
flattened by love, the sinister kind. I see a hint
of giant squid: mantle, funnel, frill and not a small amount
of flutter. Last summer I stopped shaving my legs
in solidarity with my daughter and to protest
the performative nature of sex, but now
I miss the smooth skin under my own hands
and wonder who did I set out to punish?
I thought the small hairs would be like eyelashes
but they were more recalcitrant than that. Clearly
I’ve lost sight of who I once was. By definition
I have been divine but also lacking in big-picture
capacity thinking. See the foamy waves? This
is an ocean-floor noir, a catch-me-if-you-dare
type of situation. I initially thought iris, but
beardtongue is more sleeper than place-keeper
in the garden bed, calling now: come little hummingbird
to my wet feeder; this nectar is all yours. Two-lipped and heavy
with seed, we’ve reached the tree line first learned about
on the topographical map of Maine. A smoking gun, a cigarette
you bummed and let turn to ash without once
putting it to your mouth. Capricious at the best of times,
a warm bed, a place to lay your frozen shoulder.
Crystal Karlberg is a Library Assistant at her local public library and a speaker for Greater Boston PFLAG. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in: oddball magazine; Lily Poetry Review; Threepenny Review, Beloit Poetry Journal; Penn Review.
Some days you come unexpectedly
across altars, temporary tributes to
tragedies, pop-up memorials -
outpourings of love.
Cards and candles and stuffed animals
among other tiny remembrances
lean against wire fences or lie upon
public stairs that lead to loss.
My eye is drawn to a black and white
Oxford saddle shoe. Upon closer study,
I see it's fitted with taps at toe and heel.
But there's just one dance shoe,
its mate nowhere to be found among
the other curiosities. Somewhere beyond
this memorial, someone sits alone
in a bedroom on the side of a bed
sobbing, holding the other shoe
pressed against a heaving chest,
whose heart continues to tap
its syncopated rhythm –
heel toe, heel toe, heel toe.
Mark Jodon is the author of a full-length collection of poetry, Day of the Speckled Trout (Transcendent Zero Press) and a limited edition chapbook, What the Raven Wants (Provision Press). He is an Iconoclast Artist. His poetry was recently published in Pensive: A Global Journal of Spirituality and the Arts (Northeastern University.
Love in the Age of Petticoats
"Little Nancy Etticoat
In a white petticoat,
And a red nose..
The longer she stands,
The shorter she grows."
Child's Rhyme, Mother Goose
"....paint char on the page."
Marsden Hartley, Letter To Chagall
"As evening came on, the light became
more and more bewitching...Things weren't
simply lit up, they radiated light from within."
Jean-Luc Bannalec, The Granite Coast Murders
1, Day Dreams
Windmills bring good luck in Paris turning in the wind
at the Moulin Rouge. As the century turned in a farm house
outside Austin my grandmother and her sisters were required
to lie down in the heat of the day stripped to cotton chemises
and petticoats, a light breeze from the open windows
catching curls on their damp foreheads as they pretended
to sleep in the hot afternoons. Up since 5 doing chores,
filling hours of grief until evening after their mother died,
they carried lunch to their father building fences in the fields.
The 2 oldest knew Latin, trained to be teachers; and my grand-
mother sewed, making everyone's clothes and I guess you could say
she fell in love with the potential of fabric -- plaids and taffetas,
white lawn and black velvet -- one gown I remember, dress-up
for a dance in the school cafeteria where she practiced the fine art
of dance steps... And when I came along, there was ballet and tap
(shuffle, ball, change) in a room with high ceilings, for music
and echoes (I was eager to leave, to walk by the ball field) --
Would Satine find Christian under the bleachers?
2. The Petticoats Go To Paris
Monsieur Lautrec sits in a chair holding his artist's sketch book
as girls come from below running up to their rooms in the Red Mill,
stripping off clothes as they go wearing only their petticoats
and camisoles. A girl who sings La Vie en Rose
will pose for the artist in a bathtub -- La Toilette -- her bare
shoulder blades, shadow-blue with cold resemble wings of angels
son amies to Jane Avril who does the Can-Can, printed on a poster,
Jardin de Paris where the latest gossip is about an elephant
in the garden. "How odd that shooting stars have become
the sky crying," Satine says to Christian hiding her heartbreaking
secret (she will die of consumption) to which Christian replies,
Oh, God, that I might kiss you one last time.... So long as there is breath
in my body, Satine, my soul shall seek yours wherever it wanders*....
3. How many petticoats?
How many petticoats was my grandfather's game. He'd ask his question
with a laugh, knowing it had to be at least 2 or 3 (he made fun
of how many) for a well-dressed pre-teen in the late 1950's;
and then it was 1963 as black satin (in French, the Satine) slipped
over my body all the way down to a rash of red petticoats, ruffles
fading to shades of lost pink and mauve "Let me see,"
my grandmother called from her sewing machine as I pulled on
black hose, and long black gloves a graduation gift from a great aunt,
one of her sisters. My face looked out at me from a mirror
as I pinned the night-black feather on my headband in the spirit
of Satine and Christian -- high jinks, romance, fabric in fragments,
the petticoat illusion of Can-Can kicks -- Is this how the French
lost their innocence?
In abstract art, Untitled
when time was a chorus line of color --
*Christian's speech is an adaptation of Raphael West's farewell to Jane Austen.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Her book of poetry, When Dreams Were Poems, matches life and its realities to reality's other side, the illusory nature of living to old age; and how women explore the nature of passion, expressed, as it is, in the story of Christian and Satine (the star-crossed lovers of the Moulin Rouge) and in the spirit of art, passed from generation to generation.