Cycladic Harp Player (2700- 2300 BC): Three Views
To be so moved
by a thing so still
Strolling through galleries, I refuse my friend's offer to take a photo for me with her phone of artwork I stand long in front of, looking, maybe writing, maybe sketching, as if I don't have a phone of my own, which I might as well not, I so rarely, in a gallery, take it out.
It's not that I don't want a way to take it home with me, the art. I want it to become a part of me the way the arc of the harp frame seems to grow out of the player's arm just below the elbow the way the marble is hardly grooved to separate the sound box of the harp from the figure's thigh the way we say of virtuosi that their instruments are extensions of themselves.
Still, I scan the gallery gift shops for postcards of the art that I've stood long in front of. I found one of this marble figure in the shop at the Getty Villa, that imagined replica I thought J. Paul had loved so much he'd had it disassembled and sent home from Herculaneum to Malibu. In fact, he loved what he hadn't seen so much he had architects design a new one for him, a mirror-image of the original whose 2000-year-old remains are still buried beneath what remains of the Vesuvian eruption.
If I want an image later I will want it bigger than the little screen. I will want to hold it or lean it against a stack of files on my desk. A postcard gives me what I want, a language for my looking that I don't need to translate.
Would I have accepted if I'd been invited to take the harp player home? Maybe, if I could imagine a place in my house where it could stand as if in a gallery, the air around it blank as its grey background on the card, nothing else in my field of vision.
No translation needed
to recognize a feeling
in the upward gaze
of a pock-marked marble
face with no features
except the straight nose
from the forehead
closely attentive—the word
I find for the tilt of small head
on long strong neck looking off
with eyeless gaze to somewhere
where the music of its stringless harp
still echoes. Or maybe it's nostalgia,
from the ancient Greek for a song
of the ache to be home
Even without ears—unless
they're hidden by the harp's arch
—the figure listens,
a poet waiting for the song
to come home to the poem
Rebekah Wolman is an erstwhile middle school principal based in San Francisco, California, on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone people. A 2021 winner of Cultural Daily's Jack Grapes Poetry Prize and the 2022 winner of the Small Orange Emerging Woman Poet Honor, she is even happier on a mountain trail than she is at her desk.
Pale Fire Stare
I would dance,
in the night’s silver toned light,
break my mighty stance to bend
in the breeze with the long, thronged tails,
but by chance I serve a greater purpose.
A monument to the bent neck glares,
the mutterings at my body laid bare--
It’s cold in here.
Wait, you, the one enraptured.
I’m curious to know what you mean
by lingering on my pale fire stare?
I would tell you, in an impulse
if my stony mouth could chew
the words, my voice would scream--
who, who, who are you?
Like the thundering beat of battle
my heart would rage to crack the hardened,
forged body, my fingers would hope
beneath your hands I might soften,
tremble and blush at the inhales--
Astonishing, aren’t I?
I’ve waited to be brought to life,
through Ancient dreams and ecstatic tales,
the milky white moons of Neptune,
retellings of my illustrious creation.
Death can’t touch me here,
I’ve been cast in marble to their liking,
a fevered dream of near sighted devotion--
Am I built to suffer your parting?
I’ll stay here, burdened by the stare
of the incubus glare of my disciple
and a spider’s lying web casting
across my marbled cheek, unaged
by the sun touched room, the wearing
of passing shoes and the silence
of shadows at closing. I’d have more
for the child at my hip, toss them to the nymphs
before I’d let the world take them
as they’ve taken me, what’s mine,
their fickle, desperate, empty hunger
and what follows, a devouring.
Allyson Abernathy holds a BA in Creative Writing from Anderson University. She’s had fiction, non-fiction, and poetry previously published in the Ivy Leagues Literary Journal, Necrology Shorts, LitBreak Magazine, and featured in the collection Love: An Anthology of Love Poems. She is currently at work on a novel and resides in South Carolina with her husband, daughter, and two wild dogs.
The Workshop of Campin
painted it best – my absorption
in a shrouded book implicit requirement
that the angel’s message be worthy
of my time. A little spoiler alert
hovering just above the left wing.
In a different era
I would have been the girl
with a microscope in her room
ready to scrutinize a frost of cells
in order to comprehend the enormity
of what was being asked.
I would have filled notebooks
with my wrangling, tried to capture
the rushing sound, not quite wind, not quite wings,
voice recorder in hand, a ghosthunter,
so I could later play it back and play it back
to hear the words beneath the static.
Divinity gives us no waivers to sign.
It’s all or nothing, no meeting halfway.
So I would have insisted, and did,
on full disclosure. How, exactly. When.
What I should have asked
Isabel Cristina Legarda
Isabel Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to the U.S. She is currently a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cleaver, America, Ruminate, The New York Quarterly, and others. She can be found on Instagram: @poetintheOR.
At the Louvre with Angel
she’s the first
to make eye contact.
The one pointing the coy, an-
gelic finger--so sly--at the virgin’s lap.
Like you, her position in the composition
is one she’d never put up with for long. Like
you, she’d roll her head to get rid of the crick in her
neck, cut her eyes away from the painter’s gaze, so set
on capturing the stillness in the symmetry of upper to lower lip;
the ellipse of nose; the triangular lightness of brow; the multiple angles
in the drape of her dress--pooling precisely over the curve of her shoulders
into her lap. She’d have ruined the whole tableau, if it weren’t for the master’s skill.
You might even say that, after today, I know the shape of her better--her geometry--better
than I know yours.
Lisa Righter Sloan
Lisa Righter Sloan has been writing poetry for about three or four years, so her list of accomplishments is humble and brief enough to submit in its entirety: she has received three honourable mentions from the South Carolina Poetry Society for their 2022-2023 fall/spring contests, and her chapbook, Bodies, was recently published by Bottlecap Press. She writes and lives a pretty idyllic life in Charleston, South Carolina.
So, I Saw This Concert…
I’ve seen many concerts, but this last one was a first. We walked into a once-swanky, old-timey theatre with red, plush, crushed velvet seats that were now more crushed than plush. People were dressed up and down, in pajamas, jeans and gowns. As showtime approached, the theatre lights flickered. Then a vintage applause sign sputtered with a flashy little twinkle. We looked to the stage, to a weathered red curtain, fringed with faded, tousled, tangled, tassels that had opened to reveal, through the years, a galaxy of stars.
When the curtains opened, the first thing I noted was the lack of instruments on the stage. In fact, the lack of anything denoting a musical concert. Two people backed slowly onto the stage, pulling a giant image, on wheels, to the center. Then one stepped forward, toward us, introduced herself as the conductor, and announced: Blue and Green Music, by Georgia O’Keeffe. They all bowed gently toward the painting, with quick but sincere applause, and left the stage.
Some of us whispered, When does the music start? Others, more in the know, whispered, It already has. I’d seen this painting before but had never made the time to slow down and feel the music. But here, now, in this concert venue, there was nothing to do but feel for the vibrance, tones, and harmony of the colours, the lyrical qualities of the lines, and every insightful sound choice of the artist. I listened so deeply I could almost hear the unseen, inspiring touches, sights, sounds, and cycles, and the dreams dreamed in between, as she composed this musically visionary scene.
Just when I started to fidget and feel that I’d heard all that I could from this painting, the people returned to the stage and turned the image on its side. That was, I realized, the first movement. This next movement was filled with echoes and variations from the first, while revealing added dimensions and imaginative possibilities.
Other musically inspired, rhythmically infused paintings followed, interspersed with brief videos of musical painters warming up their instruments, drawing deep breaths, doodling colour scales, and checking the tones and timbres of their brushes. The program included famous works by Kandinsky and pieces by local painters at play with musical styles from pops to hip-hop. Various pieces were loud, soft, light dark, brassy, bold, cool, warm, and hot. Some were layered, free-style, electric, geometric, smooth, or coarse, and some were filled with squiggly lines or playful, staccato dots. Some works were splashed with symbols that rang so true they chimed like cymbals.
As the concert drew to a close, the conductor stepped out to announce that the final piece had to be removed from the program because Chagall’s horse had eaten the violin. She said Chagall’s mother and the poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, had seen this coming. So, for the finale, we were treated to a playful composition, created by Louis Wain, of cool cats playing music in the snow.
Some of us began this evening thinking it was a joke, one that would play out quickly and turn to boredom. Then we became lost in seeing, feeling, and tuning in to the music and the interpretive dances of meaning in this colourful, musical evening. On the way out, we all compared notes, quite literally, about what we felt and what music each of us heard, and we hungered to see more music, to hear more in the rhythms of quietude, to have our every-day senses and expectations flipped, opened, challenged, expanded.
We walked away humming and began to realize we were remembering music no one had ever actually heard, music sparked by seeing the sounds, as we imagined them—and we hoped to find the time—and the colours, words, notes, silences and sounds—to write it down.
Linda Eve Diamond
Linda Eve Diamond’s poetry has been performed at The Dancing Poetry Festival, screened at the REELpoetry Festival, displayed at the Dublin Art Walk, and published in numerous journals and anthologies. She has been honored to receive multiple poetry awards, including Artists Embassy International’s Grand Prize “for exceptional poetry that inspires dance and for furthering intercultural understanding and peace through the universal language of the arts.” Find her poetry, flash fiction, photographs, and latest publications at http://LindaEveDiamond.com.
Join us tomorrow for an intimate brunch gathering on Zoom, with Joan Leotta, a beloved food storyteller. We'll take a trip down memory lane and learn a bit about food in art history through the years. Joan will guide us in ways to use food themes and food related artworks to make delicious poems and stories. Bring coffee, tea, and croissants or scrambled eggs and enjoy a time of creativity and friendship.
Join us next Wednesday as well for a workshop introducing ekphrasis.
An Ekphrastic Brunch with Joan Leotta
Bring your tea, coffee, and breakfast and join longtime friend of The Ekphrastic Review and well-known culinary storyteller Joan Leotta. In this special workshop, Lorette will show a brief food tour through art history. Joan will share ways to look at food in art and direct a couple of writing exercises. Dig in!
A Beginner's Guide to Ekphrastic Writing
Join us on January 31 from 4 to 6 pm eastern time for an introduction to ekphrastic literature and the world of The Ekphrastic Review. We will look over some of the long history of ekphrasis, and share ideas about how writing about art improves your writing, imagination, and your life in general! This session will take us back to basics for those who are just starting to dabble in ekphrastic writing, but it will be fun as a refresher too. We will do some playful exercises to generate ideas but the focus will be on ekphrastic history, definitions, benefits, and approaches.
Being Next in Divinity to the Saint
Stanley placed them on the roof,
cluttered against the red tiles
though they were almost too many
to fit the view of life he longed for:
two women, a father, saint,
the boy he once was,
hens and geese, all crowded in
to be fed, to be painted,
all that he recalled, the waft
from the open dressing gown,
Patricia positioned high on the parapet,
Hilda overpainted with a saint,
each picture hot in the midday sun
and never the question either/or
as he fleshed them out,
but how best to say all that life is.
Gill Horitz lives in Dorset, UK and has worked in the Arts for many years with different groups and communities, and with a particular interest in developing new tellings of stories, using archives, theatre and sense of place. She co-founded Wimborne Community Theatre in 1991, which collaborates with professional artists and theatre-makers to develop local stories in the landscape and non-theatre spaces.
Cyclist and Crow
She seems relaxed. She pedals her Peugeot
with sneakered ease—but stares across the field
to watch the bird outpacing her. Although
she seems relaxed, she pedals her Peugeot
not quite as effortlessly as the crow
appears to glide; she’s earthbound, though two-wheeled.
She seems relaxed—she pedals her Peugeot
with sneakered ease—but stares across the field.
I know I’ll win. I hit the water first
and made a splash—but did I jump the gun,
undoing the triumph for which I thirst?
Can I still win? I hit the water first,
my arms and legs extended in a burst
of power—but false starts can’t be undone.
I may not win. I hit the water first
and made a splash, but did I jump the gun?
Woman Carrying Canoe
The image isn’t lewd; it doesn’t bare
her breasts or bottom. But it bothers me
that we don’t see her head—eyes, mouth, and hair.
The image isn’t lewd, it doesn’t bare
what should be private, but we don’t see where
her thoughts unfold—just limbs flexed forcefully.
The image isn’t lewd—it doesn’t bare
her breasts or bottom—but it bothers me.
Uncounted miles from any place she knows,
she slumps against her Beetle—stupid car
she never should have bought. In dirty clothes,
uncounted miles from any place she knows,
no phone, no food, she wonders why she chose
to make this trip alone. She’s gone too far:
uncounted miles from any place she knows.
She slumps against her Beetle. Stupid car.
Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling is the author of three collections of poetry: Shared History (2022), Arts & Letters & Love (2018), and The Truth in Dissonance (2014). Her work has been awarded the Rhina Espaillat Poetry Prize, the Frost Farm Prize, the Able Muse Write Prize, three New England Poetry Club prizes, and the Plymouth Poetry Contest prize, among other honours. An Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art, she lives on the coast of Massachusetts.
Saad Ali (b. 1980 C.E. in Okara, Pakistan) has been brought up and educated in the United Kingdom and Pakistan. He is a poet-philosopher and literary translator. His new collection of poems is titled Owl Of Pines: Sunyata (AuthorHouse, 2021). He has translated selected ekphrases by Lorette C. Luzajic into Urdu – compiled into a chapbook, Lorette C. Luzajic: Selected Ekphrases: Translated into Urdu (2023). He is a regular contributor to The Ekphrastic Review. His work has been nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology. His ekphrases has been showcased at an Art Exhibition, Bleeding Borders, curated at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in Alberta, Canada. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and Tagore. He enjoys learning different languages, travelling by train, and exploring cities/towns on foot. To learn further about his work, please visit www.saadalipoetry.com, or www.facebook.com/owlofpines.
Willy told them how
in eighty-eight years
life required him to
leave it only once,
yet as we stand here
Looking over where
old rings of water
turn into tree stumps,
time has supplied a
small craft it will punt
His side if we want
out of this sharp light
unshaded by elms,
somewhere we too can
enter that white house.
Barge for a king, the miller or what passer-by:
one is waiting for somebody in its dry dock,
a solitary craftsman bent there, splash of a
thoughtful bow wave. The woodwork of the frames is fresh,
beautifully shaped and butted, plugged with caulking,
unfinished, yes, but the sight of it makes you think –
if she were to slide back just a little from him
leaving those tools in the silt and that child with no
dear mother to tell her no, if it were at once
in the river, in the current, and swept away
not even Raedwald would raise a hand, the great crowns
go on arbitrating between cloud and flatness.
like brain matter, grey
usurping the bright
day, its sun-disc, and
Skying has become
the only way to
understand how we
dare look up while this
young star falls to earth.
Through the water he goes, ignoring us,
his load elsewhere, his mind running away
east from where the breakers will one day roll.
He’ll leave no trace of passing here, his plot
already lost before the defences
yield, but has this moment now to forge a
way through asking no man’s help, not even
aware of her. The horses drink. A dog
is mildly interested. If he brought hay,
none here today – perhaps there never was.
Still it tries to break through: but the elms
are united in their chorale, they
link arms and think of bark. No organ
is going to move them, and cattle
stay in the water belching methane
benedictions. But what’s that rising
up behind the spire, the glower of
rebellion against this wooden guard,
youthful urgency in its free form?
Change of scene at the proscenium
arch for the final act. All complaints
to the director. Blackout, curtain,
here it comes, and just as the English
elms have vanished, so that aspiring
dream goes too, and those who dreamt they could
recreate it in oil are washed by
a watery blur, colourless sheets
limply floating in the gallery.
Lone windmill on the beach, peaceful, perfectly unlike
industrial watchtowers that have been planted where
the elms still sucker and die – they whisper they’ll save us
though they have not heard of coffins and they cannot hear
laughter from the tall ships at all their lack of progress,
ever and only accruing power. X marks the
happy, long-departed landmark on this southern beach,
and how a handsome gentleman once stood and looked out,
musing on life’s frailty. He pricks a pig’s bladder of
paint and the windmill stirs. She will die. He tries again
turning into the easterly, but only the same
old empty rattling of lanyard on mast. He can do
nothing more. The sails will move. No grain left to be ground.
Laughing at it all, you were
expecting nothing special:
a thorn tree and these timbers
passing a slimy secret
in low murmurs at the bridge,
not this sudden urge to go
galloping into the new –
Hoof prints wiped into
oily skid marks, grey
roaring in the ears,
sound of the rainbow’s
end game being played.
Down there is what he said,
except that it’s clear he
doesn’t if you look at
him as he stamps out the
ashes and packs up to
move on the way we all –
and plain John both –
like to: up-sticks,
exit the frame.
Summer brings this alignment – a great stone
temple on the plain, the Academy
of Druids, their pictures hanging still, and
no one understanding. The skies try to
explain but are too confused to make clear
how megalith and sun converge so that
earth can tell you the time, can show us how
now’s hand and the hand of then spell out the
genius of this setting, source of pure
energy, and the heart of Englishness.
The particular paintings are identified acrostically in each of the nine poems. J.G.
John Greening is a UK poet, a Bridport, Arvon and Cholmondeley winner with over twenty collections, including two from Carcanet. He has edited Grigson, Blunden, Crichton Smith and Fanthorpe, plus several anthologies and published a number of books on poets and poetry. His essays, Vapour Trails, appeared in 2020 and his Goethe translations in 2022 from Arc. His Rilke is forthcoming. The Interpretation of Owls: Selected Poems 1977-2022 (Baylor University, USA, ed. Gardner) came out in March.
The Ekphrastic Review
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