Dear Readers and Writers,
Just a friendly editorial note to say thank you for being part of The Ekphrastic Review. Just by reading the poetry and stories in this journal, you are generously supporting the work of these wonderful writers! If we are small compared to massive news media outlets or best-selling mainstream novel publishers, these words still matter. We are participating in so many layers of communication, between artists from all over the world, from different times, between writers and readers.
Each artwork chosen for these challenge prompts aims to provide variety, mystery, and inspiration to writers, to take your writing in unexpected directions. Whether you let the work speak to you viscerally or stimulate free associations, or you play detective and look for any backstory that might get woven into your words, my goal is always to give you a rich experience. Encounters with art are the blood of ekphrasis, and define our whole raison d'être here at the Review.
Whether your work is selected this time or next, or not, we strive to include a variety of perspectives and approaches to every painting. We strive to welcome new voices and honour faithful participants, too. It is not possible to publish every entry, every time, but we are so grateful to every one of you for participating in this journey as part of this community.
If the work of writing and writers, or artists, means something to you, we ask you please to share these challenge pages and The Ekphrastic Review in general on your Facebook or Twitter pages and in your newsletters, groups, and beyond. Every additional reader matters to a writer. This small action that you may not even think about is huge. Every time you've mentioned a poetry book on your page or shared a writer's post, you have participated in the support of creation, expression, and dialogue. THANK YOU.
We also invite you to spread the love and invite someone into ekphrasis by giving an ekphrastic workshop to a friend, to a young writer, or to someone who may not have the means to participate. Our single-session Zoom workshops generate amazing conversations about art and artists and they're fun, too, with a variety of creative writing exercises. They are about connection, creativity, and conversation. We have gift certificates for the holidays that can be redeemed for any workshop in 2023. There will be sessions on single artists, on various themes in art, and wine and art write nights. One of the gift certificates is to give away, and one is to join as a friend at a discount. We also have a collage themed workshop coming very soon, and a Frida Kahlo night for wine and art. These workshops have nurtured ekphrastic writing, grown our community, and helped this journal survive. THANK YOU.
Anne Graue is the author of Full and Plum-Colored Velvet, (Woodley Press, 2020) and Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and has poetry in SWWIM Every Day, Verse Daily, Rivet Journal, Mom Egg Review, Flint Hills Review, Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art, and in print anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books, 2017) and Coffee Poems (World Enough Writers, 2019). Her book reviews appear in FF2 Media, Adroit, Green Mountains Review, Glass Poetry Journal, and The Kenyon Review. She is a poetry editor for The Westchester Review.
Radiating strength and virtue with every step he took,
He slowly healed our broken community,
Shaping it into one never before seen.
He was created free of sin and
He wanted that for us too,
For the shackles of sin to be no more.
Out of love for his brothers and sisters
He promised to undergo the
excruciating death of crucifixion,
finally liberating us from its restraints.
Honoring his promise, he was nailed to the cross.
His mother’s presence emitted a hopeful glow,
One that spread to those around her.
Gazing at her with weary eyes,
He laid down his life
Becoming enveloped with love
And the pain was no more.
Evelyn Sanchez is a senior at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, CT. She is taking an Advanced Latin course about the Aeneid and has been studying the ancient ekphrases that occur throughout the epic poem.
The Miracle Man
Somehow, almost four hundred years ago, you created
A grand Baroque crucifixion icon in the Spanish style
With the whole cast of characters included,
Golden light glowing on the Trinity,
The Holy Mother, enrobed in lapis blue, her hands upheld in prayer,
And cochineal blood mixed with groveling Magdalene’s tears
In the dark dirt at the foot of the cross.
The four corners are lost in mysterious darkness,
And shadows linger on the human faces too,
Visages that will never smile.
Somehow, this holy icon gave birth to a healing miracle,
Then engendered more miracles
Then a religious festival, the largest on earth
Still alive in Lima in the high cold mountains at the end of the world--
Processions in the streets with your masterpiece held high,
And thousands of followers, purple decorations everywhere, special snacks and pastries,
Even bull fights, and masses every day
Turning remote Lima into an October carnival better than Mardi Gras.
But everyone seems to have forgotten you.
Who were you anyway? What was your name? Benito? Pedro?
Surely you had an Angolan name in your homeland
Before the Portuguese slave traders sold you to a Spaniard with a
Huge gold crucifix around his neck, an image of a wounded man, bleeding, dying.
As your captor hauled you in chains to his smelly galleon, filled with gold and slaves,
You looked into that necklace as a mirror, and saw a suffering man, like you.
Your mother, dressed in blue cloth, dyed with indigo from the fields,
Stood on the dock tall and dignified, not screaming and cursing
The demon who dragged you away, but chanting a blessing for you in your new life,
The girl you loved since childhood, standing beside her, red flowers in her hair.
You saw many Spaniards in the years to come, and they all wore
A heavy chain around their necks and a gold crucifix, the totem of their tribe
As though they were the slaves in chains of the wounded man.
Did one of the other slaves tell you that the man on the cross came back to life?
And did you later learn that this re-born man was a miracle worker?
There is nothing a slave needs more than a miracle, and painting was yours.
Did the holy women’s blessing chant echo in your ears as your scarred hands
Worked with the brushes, the colours, the shadings of darkness and light
And you came to recognize the wounded man who came back to life,
El Señor De Los Milagros, as your twin?
Rose Anna Higashi
Rose Anna Higashi is a retired professor of English Literature, Japanese Literature, Poetry and Creative Writing. Her poetry journal, Blue Wings, was published by Paulist Press. In 2022, her poems have appeared in The Avocet, PoetsOnline, The Ekphrastic Review, The Agape Review and The Catholic Poetry Room. Many of her lyric poems and haiku can be viewed on her website: myteaplanner.com, which also publishes her monthly blog, Tea and Travels. Rose Anna lives in rural Hawaii with Wayne, her husband of nearly sixty years.
The perizoma and tear drinking handkerchief
were cut from the same cloth, divided
down the middle into seemingly
Within him an unknowing
turns the cloth into a shroud,
sorrow and shame softening to a rain
and in her hands a cloud.
A backdrop of gathering night,
dark clouds merge in the gloaming--
a singular cloth becomes a canvas
for an artist.
Christopher Martin: "I am a poet/lyricist and Buddhist living on the North East coast of England. My work has featured in various publications and competitions. I am currently working on my debut collection, due out 23/24 with the Black Cat Poetry Press."
From Lima to St. Mary's School
bursts and blooms and a sky fired by clouds
childhood rises and quakes Stop! with sorrow
gaze up gaze down there is no reflection
some may find comical this search for peace
shades of red on red on red on red pain
they were as always there to take those prayers
small child uses the earth to make his prayer
he can’t be seen there might be in the clouds
or being hidden in robes of deep pain
so what? others here were downed by sorrow
colored clothes and folded hands don’t mean peace
look again! tell me there’s a reflection
the columns shed the only reflection
a shame there was no other place for prayer
above the christ hovered the dove of peace
the only light an orb in auburn clouds
the sense in this work is the same sorrow
as the walls of St. Mary’s walls of pain
the father the son their plan of great pain
holy spirit sings whites of reflection
there was confusion amid the sorrow
what could they use for clarity but prayer
though we know that at the end under clouds
we know there were two marys who brought peace
Magadalene and Nazareth embraced peace
with impossible and angering pain
a child I was swaddled years in clouds
god omnipresent yet no reflection
god’s sky was the sepia of our prayers
the mahogany of our young sorrow
yes this painting brings up all the sorrow
but that is not to say there was no peace
an altar boy at st mary’s school prayers
memorized stations of the cross all pain
we children taught the grace of reflection
taught that one day we’d ascend through the clouds
encompassing the sorrow of the clouds
the days of peace and mary’s reflection
st mary’s prayers and years to handle pain
John L. Stanizzi
John L. Stanizzi is author of many collections including Ecstasy Among Ghosts. Besides The Ekphrastic Review, John’s work has been widely published including in Prairie Schooner, The New York Quarterly, Rattle, and many others. His work has been translated into Italian, including in El Ghibli, The Journal of Italian Translations Bonafini, Poetarium, and others. His translator is the Italian poet, Angela D’Ambra. A former Wesleyan University Etherington Scholar, and New England Poet of the Year (1998), John has just been awarded an Artist Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and Culture for work on his new memoir. He teaches literature at Manchester Community College in Manchester, Connecticut, and lives with his wife, Carol, in Coventry, CT. https://www.johnlstanizzi.com
(a fibonacci poem)
below. Does He see
or care about the suffering
of the crucified soul bleeding, groaning on the cross.
Women nearby watch, stay close, feel nearly as much pain
as the dying man, hear his plea:
forgiveness for all.
Tina Hacker’s newest poetry collection is titled Golems, published by Kelsay Books. The poems are based on the magical mud and clay creature from Jewish folklore who is conjured from the earth to accomplish a task. After fulfilling it and often having a good time, the golem returns to the earth. Tina has authored two previous collections of poetry: Listening to Night Whistles and Cutting it. In 2016 she was named a Muse of The Writers Place in Kansas City, MO, and currently serves as the poetry editor for Veterans’ Voices, a national magazine of writing by military veterans. Tina has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times.
The Women Stayed
In the midst of death’s horror
defying priests and fierce centurions
two women stayed, braved it all
to be sure his spirit would
not be alone as it left this earth,
left the body broken for our sins.
Faces brown like the slave
who painted it, a humble man
showing the world
women stayed and braved,
as even now women, girls
march, heads uncovered
for a girl whose death they
could not attend,
march for freedom
to live, to speak for the right
to live a life unburdened
by today’s centurions
Like the women at the cross,
it is our mission
not just to watch and wait
but to speak and act
to defy evil when we see it,
to remain faithful until the end
so the world can witness
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales featuring food, family, and strong women. Her essays, poems, and fiction are in or soon will be appearing in The Ekphrastic Review, Pinesong, Brass Bell, Verse Visual, anti-heroin chic, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, Ovunquesiamo, Verse Virtual, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Yellow Mama, and others. She’s a 2022 Pushcart nominee, received Best of Micro Fiction, 2021 (Haunted Waters), nominee for Best of the Net, 2023 and was a 2022 runner up in Frost Foundation Poetry Competition. Her first chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon came out in 2017 from Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, Feathers on Stone, is coming in late 2022 from Main Street Rag.
Brush with Death
So how compute ‘Adobe’ word,
so far from mudbrick, Spanish name?
But rammed earth term must bear its load,
through water, straw and earthy dung.
That soil of sand with silt or clay,
and straw - it binds, not breaking back -
those bricks dry on an even keel -
no cracking, shrinkage in the wall.
So rooted, firmly in the earth,
Angolan slaves who brush with death
would raise the Christ, redemption hope,
that vision reaching through the pain.
‘The Lord of Miracles’, renamed,
an altar piece to alter peace,
yet stood assured as quakes shook world;
how was its reputation gained,
from wishful thinking, bonded men?
And still today, the festivals
shift focus from the trembling known
to what might be in heaven’s orb -
so much to bear in deep Peru.
Street celebrations of the crowds;
scene linked back to the chains that bound;
new tremors warded off from ground -
the daily grind, mass chasm bridged.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales, UK, from ministry in the Methodist Church due to Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, including The Ekphrastic Review. His blog is at https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Nails pierce through palms that healed the poor,
hammer through hands that blessed, broke bread,
scald through feet shod with Earth’s sawdust—so to raise the dead.
Under clouds’ turmoil,
below the hover-shadow of a sacred bird,
rooted in clay yet
hung from the stars,
the Lord of miracles
is manacled to a cross, pinned
by the indignation of Pharisee and Sadducee,
spiked by rank hypocrisy of Roman rulers.
He has no feet to run away,
no hands to raise with pleas of Cease!
Instead, He’s bound and broken,
head bowed down, quivering
as the world shakes,
as the whole Earth quakes
below heaven’s high, high arch,
and darkness floods all cosmic space.
Through the blood-blurred wilderness of his distress,
Christ sees their piteous faces; looks deep
into their treasuries—loves and lives and memories--
sees beyond their modest shawls, their homespun veils:
not to damn them (Neither do I condemn you),
nor to show contempt (This woman welcomed me
with tears for water to wash my weary feet,
with hair for a towel to dry them),
but to offer love not ever shown before to women in this way.
In His mild eyes, they’re beautiful, these Marys of Jerusalem.
In His listening ears they murmur love truer than any mourning doves’.
The Temple curtain tears in two. Earth’s bedrock shatters.
The Maker of the universe has now unmade Himself
to raise us to the miracles of life, eternal life.
British by birth, Ballagher has lived and worked over seven decades on both sides of the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, often near coastlands. Never having had a collection of her landscape poetry published, Ballagher is currently working on a sequence of poems about Exmoor (UK). Recently one of these was chosen as winner in Poetry on the Lake's 2022 formal category with a pantoum about Tarr Steps in mid-Exmoor: https://www.poetryonthelake.org/competition
Afterward, The Pieta
They do not lay Him in my lap; they throw Him dead at my feet in a merciless pose, the immodesty of His groin cloth—displaced, genitalia exposed. My child, my Jesu. I rush to cover Him. My blue veil turning violet where it hits His hands, His feet, His side… I, the while, careful to keep my eyes downcast—as not to stir suspicion. I nod for John to assist me... Joseph’s makeshift stretcher waiting to spirit Him home. His wife, Magdalene, remains frozen and immovable. “I’ll take you with me,” I whisper, “until he returns to claim you.”
A 2023 Best of the Net poetry nominee by The Ekphrastic Review, Keith Hoerner’s work has been anthologized often. He has been published in 100+ literary journals across five continents and is founding editor of the Webby / Communicator Award recognized Dribble Drabble Review, in addition to a Best Book / American Writing Award Finalist.
the interior is impossible
to describe—it never
reveals itself, remains
travels through it
furtively, a passenger
blindfolded to the hidden
landscapes, the locations
of both boundaries
and doors, embedded
and concurrently refused
both entry and exit--
by secrets, drowning
in the unexplained
A resident of New York City, Kerfe Roig enjoys transforming words and images into something new. Follow her explorations on her blogs,https://methodtwomadness.wordpress.com/ (which she does with her friend Nina), and https://kblog.blog/.
Swell of Faith Becoming Wall
In poor indentured neighbourhood,
a house of friars stalwart stood
as message that the soul was free
and sacrifice was priceless fee
for seed of opportunity
to bloom as blessed community...
...and thus within, on wall of clay,
an artist humble would portray
the sacrifice unrecognized
that would so precious be so prized
as proof of everlasting hope
the dawn renews for those who cope
with shackles holding spirit fast
to yesterday's repeated past...
...and so its home became enshrined
as oracle where hearts divined
the courage to make dreams persist
where means were meager to enlist...
...and then, it seemed as no surprise,
when quaking earth became demise
of heaven's house, the wall would stand
where still the art of humble hand
remained as beacon left to see
a future brighter yet to be...
...where grateful hearts would recreate
the art in oils to venerate
as icon of a festive feast
to honor hope among the least
who line the streets where nature's wrath
became its restoration path
and celebrate foundation laid
where fear will never more dissuade...
...the swell of faith becoming wall
of souls embraced resisting fall.
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.
Que Es El Milagro?
What is the miracle?
Is it that a beautiful mural
was painted on an adobe wall
by an African slave?
Is it that after the earthquake,
when almost all had been destroyed,
the adobe wall remained intact despite
the surrounding monastery being rubble?
Is it the number of miracles
attributed to the painting?
Or is it that almost three centuries on
the people of Lima venerate it still?
The real miracle is exactly what is seen.
Pure, unconditional Love nailed to a cross.
Forgiveness and Redemption nailed to a cross.
Free Salvation and eternal life for all who seek it.
Este es el verdadero milagro!
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. As a freelance journalist his articles and interviews have appeared in a variety of British county and national magazines. His poetry has been published in The Ekphrastic Review, Poetry on the Lake, LPP Magazine and four anthologies with a fifth anthology due to publish more of his work soon.
"...the inner life---the imagination or the spirit---is not some trick
of culture, or upbringing or even genetics, but an actual different
order of reality....so that when they looked at love---as when they
looked at literature or prayer---they were like children baffled by
one of those optical illusion drawings: They saw the two profiled
faces but couldn't make out the grail formed in between."
Andrew Klavan, Shotgun Alley
"....all souls, turned
toward one another, while we pass
through a softer wind."
John Freeman, Wind, Trees
And when the white dove appeared above Christ's head in a painting, its haloed wings spread
over your cross, mi companero--in--love and adversity I prayed to El Señor de los Milagros
for a miracle; for your beloved hand to break free of pain --- the nails biting your flesh ---
so I could feel your blessing touch my bowed head as I knelt down near your feet
as your body hung, crucified, como un ciero, hunted and killed. Away from this place
of sorrow --- of hatred and hypocrisy --- there is a country with a magical legend about Lovers,
how they were protected by the spirit of a Great White Hart a magical being from the family
of Cervidae who watched from deep within the ancient forest when they met there, clandestine,
beneath trees in a clearing, the stag's eyes filled with compassion beneath his massive crown
of horns. Some say women with red hair are witches, filled with sexual need but you loved
me, believed I was the girl whose fiery passion could not save you. Death calls, now,
from gnarled branches and golden columns of Cathedrals nature sinned against,
though I carried ripe berries to a woodland altar, and Mary your mother, will wear a sky-blue cloak
for eternity, surrounded by a court of clouds; while I, a sorry sister, will dress in black, hidden
by bias, controversial in biblical literature though I cherish drops of your blood, like freckles
on my cheeks, mingled with the salt of tears when the night is my diminished companion
until you rise, emanating sunlight and I reach the safety of a foreign shore
carrying our future. Anonymous, I will look for lavender, purple as a bruise
healing in the red earth of Provence where your soul is my chosen landscape ---
votre ame est un paysage choisi --- and that beneficent light called sun and moon
are perpetual children, free of sin even in twilight, our collateral fruit, free roots
in a vineyard with Blue Apples.
Laurie Newendorp lives and writes in Houston. Her recent book, When Dreams Were Poems, 2020,
explores the relationship between art and life in dreams, surreality and poetry. Honoured multiple times by The Ekphrastic Review, her poems have been nominated for the Pablo Neruda Prize and Best of The Net. She received second place in the Houston Poetry Fest's Ekphrastic Contest, and she has been listed by The Ekphrastic Review as a Fantastic Ekphrastic. Mary Magdalene is designated the Patron Saint of women. Along with enigmatic references to her secret and controversial existence, she is associated with the words "Blue Apples" found on tombstones in southern France where there is a basilica dedicated to her in a medieval town outside Aix-en-Provence. Beneath a crypt in the church, there is a glass dome said to contain the relic of her skull.