Join us Sunday afternoon online for our cat themed writing workshop!
You can use this workshop to start on your cat themed contest entries. (Click on Cat image in sidebar for contest information.)
We will dive into some paintings in the cats workbook this Sunday afternoon.
Our single session workshops are all about creativity, community, and curiosity. We discuss art together and do some creative writing exercises. These workshops are a wonderful opportunity for ekphrastic writers to connect with others, learn more about art, and write new material.
Hope to see you there!
The responses to the Murashko writing challenge are posted! Check it out, click on image above for a variety of wonderful poetry and fiction.
He painted beds without sleepers and sleepers without beds, the recumbent and reclining, his subjects laid out, tipped back, on swings, in boats, in melting snow drifts, in grass and leaves and soil, the flourishing and dying, the trapped and tranced.
Of his early years, he said, I was sick in bed so much of my life...I'd feel the stretch of the bedclothes over the mattress. And pillows always seemed like big mountains to me--interiority as landscape, convalescence as connective tissue in the body of time.
Be sure you look at me in death, his father told him, yet he painted the sleeping Helga nude in his father’s coffin, a kind of hypnagogic transposition he hid for over a decade.
I think there’s more chance of getting motion by stillness than by a thing that has great speed, he said, and decades later, of his mother-in-law’s passing: I felt the whole bed would drift out that front door and down to the river...
But while this strange half-bed stays rooted, does the room approach or recede? Here is the house of dream: simultaneous exposure and concealment; scumble of shadows in suspension; spans of glass and chenille rendered reticent, austere; that astringent northern light a form of indirect address—how many veils of transparency does visible silence require?
Against washes of distressed plaster, sightlines trouble the eye as everything tilts downward to the right, though we would not wish it all fresh, adorned, well-lit. The sojourner at the threshold needs this stripped-down space, the enigma of missing knobs and latches, the accumulated sleep of the other always opening deeper in.
Claire Bateman is the author of eight collections of poetry/prose poetry/flash fiction (Wesleyan University Press, New Issues Poetry & Prose, Etruscan Press, and others), and her forthcoming poetry collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, is in process with 42 Miles Press in Indiana. She has received individual artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission, and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. She is also a visual abstract artist, with work online, in local exhibitions and galleries, and as book covers. She lives in Greenville, SC.
Seeking Something Sweet
She wakes from a dream, pads downstairs seeking
something cool and sweet. Chilled cantaloupe cubes
would do. Better still, peach-flavored frozen yogurt.
Instead she finds a crimson bowl that holds a dead fish
whose open eye is fixed on her. Outside the window
a crescent moon looms close. It seems to watch
her every move. Unnerved, she peers at the floor,
discovers it’s covered by a shallow sea of green that laps
at her ankle bones. As she looks in disbelief, tiny waves
recede back to the breakfast nook, then surge toward her
higher than before. Now they reach her knees, her thighs.
Now her nightie’s soaked. Damn moon. Damn tides.
All she wanted was some frozen yogurt flecked
with peach. She’d eat the fish, but what good’s a fish
that’s so fish-like it might as well be painted by Dali.
Art—inedible, useless as feet on a snake.
Laura Ann Reed
Laura Ann Reed, a native of Berkeley, California, was a dancer in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to becoming the Leadership Development Trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She and her husband now reside in Western Washington. Her work has been anthologized in How To Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, and has appeared in Blue Unicorn, Grey Sparrow, The Ekphrastic Review, Verse Virtual and other journals.
The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons
Even the river is on fire. Ashes rain down on a crowd roaring with excitement. It’s huge, this conflagration, like nothing we’ve ever seen. For the rest of our days, we’ll remember this. You can’t see me clearly, but I’m there: a smudge on the bridge stopping to gawk at the spectacle — a weary costermonger, perhaps, poked by grimy elbows, tarred by spit, jostled for a better view, on the way home to my wife and dog, my supper and pipe, with empty pockets and a sensational story, pretending my next meal won’t be a watery soup of sprouted potatoes and sheep trotters served up by a consumptive child. Tomorrow I’ll trudge again through October’s wind alongside toshers, pure finders, and leech collectors, rat catchers, mudlarks and funeral mutes.
Do you remember us? No. You remember the kings and the martyrs. The grandeur and the horror. You remember the fire, not the sparks.
Amy Ralston Seife
Amy Ralston Seife is an award-winning short story writer who received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. The editor-in-chief of The Westchester Review, she also teaches creative writing classes and workshops in the New York area.
The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
The hustle and bustle of Piazza Navona evaporated in the coolness and silence inside San Luigi dei Francesi, a church near my Aunt Barbara’s apartment in Rome. I followed my aunt and parents through the opulent sanctuary to a darkened chapel within the church. A musky smell and the scent of candles lingered in the air.
Barbara dropped lira coins in a metal box outside the Contarelli Chapel. Clink, clink, and the lights turned on. My parents gasped when the lights revealed a trio of paintings by Caravaggio. The world-renowned works by the Baroque master about the life of St. Matthew didn’t interest me.
Oh great, my favourite, more religious art. I kept my sarcasm to myself, as I often did since turning thirteen. My parents and aunt seemed intent on visiting every church in Rome. I glanced at the second painting above the altar. I flinched and averted my gaze at the violence in The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, which depicted St. Matthew’s murder by a soldier. The Inspiration of Saint Matthew featured a bald and bearded man in an orange robe writing seated at his desk with an angel over his shoulder. Boring.
I paused before The Calling of Saint Matthew on the opposite wall. In a dark room, five men sat at a wooden table. The bearded man pointed at himself. At the head of the table, another man slumped. Two men stood before them.
Barbara joined me. “Do you know the story from the Gospel of Matthew?”
When I shrugged, she told me how Jesus inspired Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. She explained the standing man pointing was Jesus, and the bearded man pointing at himself was Matthew. The religious story behind the painting didn’t interest me, but I continued to be impressed by my aunt’s knowledge of Roman history, architecture, and art. Plus, on daily shopping trips to the local markets, she chatted in effortless, melodic Italian with the vendors. She seemed so cosmopolitan compared to the adults I knew in my rural Minnesota hometown.
A beam of light in the painting illuminated the seated men’s faces. I stood transfixed, unable to take my eyes off of the masterpiece. I had never appreciated art, especially a piece of religious art, until that moment.
Barbara pointed to the bright shaft of light, the same way Jesus gestured at Matthew. “Caravaggio is known for chiaroscuro.”
I crossed my arms in front of me and gazed upon Matthew’s awakening. “What’s that?”
“The bold contrast of light and dark.” Barbara’s immersion and understanding of the local culture brought Rome and the sites we visited to life for me in the same way Caravaggio illuminated his subjects. “It makes the people look three-dimensional.”
As we exited the church, I bought a postcard of the masterpiece, which was high praise from me at age thirteen. The postcard is long gone. Years later, my memories of Roman sites we visited crumbled like ancient ruins. The transcendent experience of standing before The Calling of Saint Matthew remains clear, like a piece of art restored to its original condition.
Kelsey Cleveland is currently working on a travel memoir, Waving Hello, Bowing Goodbye: A Dual Love Story with Japan and a Man. She now resides with her husband and teenage son outside Portland, Oregon, where her passport is safely stowed for now.
Four Ways of Seeing One Great Wave
amid crashing waves
the clear and present dangers
mount fuji can wait
come tsunami come
you purifying beauty
i embrace your death
only the big waves
reveal the mountains under
what the water hides
wave after wave after wave
John Paul Caponigro
John Paul Caponigro is an internationally collected visual artist and published author. He leads unique adventures in the wildest places on earth to help participants creatively make deeper connections with nature and themselves. View his TEDx and Google talks at johnpaulcaponigro.com.
Caravaggio, Crucifixion of St Peter
A cool diagonal cuts straight across
this eight-foot canvas, dropping from the left-
hand margin toward its foot at bottom right.
On it – St Peter, in the blazing white
a loincloth offers. He is head to toe
the sort of ivory a shaft of light
permits white skin, and upside-down. He lifts
his bearded head to gaze at where his good
left hand has been nailed to a cross. His feet
are also nailed, while his right hand is hid.
He’s a white-bearded patriarch; his brow
is furrowed; he is not the sort of man
one sees half-naked. At his feet – which means
erect – a bearded man in red and white
heaves this cross into air, sinew and cloth
alive in paint. In a sort of embrace
he holds the saint’s calves; and beside him stands
a man in green and olive with a cord
in two hands – sursum corda – as he works
to hoist this cross with his companions. And
on all fours, a third worker puts his back
beneath the wood to lift it. He’s in gold:
white skin in linen. At his hand, a spade
which rests on rumpled green cloth, of the sort
one finds in the Baroque. His feet are filthy –
a mom would say to wash them – for they work
in bare dirt. All the background’s black, as if
the light that marks this group had no commission
to reach the outside world. It may be God
who throws the group in chiaroscuro; for
the path of martyrdom is dark. Perhaps
St Peter might look Heavenward. Instead,
he gazes at his left hand, with its nail.
John Claiborne Isbell
Since 2016, various MSS of John’s have placed as finalist or semifinalist for The Washington Prize (three times), The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes (twice), the Elixir Press 19th Annual Poetry Award, The Gival Press Poetry Award, the 2020 Able Muse Book Award (twice) and the 2020 Richard Snyder Publication Prize. John published his first book of poetry, Allegro, in 2018, and has published in Poetry Durham, threecandles.org, the Jewish Post & Opinion, Snakeskin, and The Ekphrastic Review. He has published books with Oxford and with Cambridge University Press and appeared in Who’s Who in the World. He also once represented France in the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships. He retired this summer from The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, where he taught French and German. His wife continues to teach languages there.
Dancers in Green and Yellow, Edgar Degas
Notice the vibration. It starts with the dancer’s legs: shaking from strain. They wait in the wings for Act III. Their aching hips hinge forward out of anticipation and to offer relief. Now look at how the pastel and charcoal intersect to create tremors: the curve and dip, swoop, and cross, each dot of each medium ready to burst. The dancers feel this energy in the hips, pulsing into the tulle of their tutus. They lean on each other when the vitality overwhelms them. They hope their performance is enough to get them out of the corps and into a soloist’s role. They watch two principal dancers on stage in a pas de deux, cutting and pasting their faces on the female lead. Do you see their desire? Do you see how the explosion of colors are a projection of their passion? Do you see how their connection, collective body creates the energy of the painting, drive the crosshatched lines and trembling scribbles into grace? Look closer. Hitch your hips as they do. Feel your legs shake.
The circling floors of the Guggenheim swirl me and my mother up to a mass of bodies and behind those bodies are more bodies, these created from pastel and charcoal. They wear fluffy dresses with floral accents, gold spots shimmering on their costumes like stars. The ballerinas carry soft arms, the sharp points of their elbows erased. I cross my arms, covering my body, and my mom places hers on her hips, body exposed. “Stand up straight.” How many times have I apologized for my body? “Your bra strap is showing.” “Are you sure you want to eat that?” “Your side boob is showing. We’re getting you a one-piece suit.” These women look comfortable in their stances. They’re exhausted, yet unapologetic with their slouched shoulders, cozy with their plunging necklines. “I always wished you hadn’t quit ballet,” my mother says now. I pull my arms tighter around myself. My mother does a twirl, enchanted. She knocks into an old man with hunched back. “I’m sorry,” the man says. My mother scoffs. As a peace offering, I place a hand on the old man’s arm, soft and delicate, like I imagine the ballet dancers do when warming up at the barre. I can feel his bones through his baggy coat. His neck juts out from the awkward curve of his back like a side-stepping vulture. He too, places his flaky hand on my arm, and we lean close together, two bodies.
Courtney Clute has an MFA from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Passages North, Fractured Literary, Emerge Literary Journal, Lumiere Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, Parentheses Journal, and Z Publishing’s Florida’s Emerging Florida Writers: An Anthology. Her flash fiction has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net. You can find her on Twitter at @courtney_clute.
Alun Robert (writing name for Alan Woods)
Alun was a prolific poet from Scotland, based in Kent. As part of the Mid-Kent Stanza near Maidstone he was a dear friend to the group and a huge support to us all. Ever the gentleman he was quick to respond to emails and always willing to take time to offer advice on poetry in the making. He was published in many countries and had a passion for ekphrastic poetry. He considered The Ekphrastic Review to be a massive part of his poetry family and I am sure the readers will miss his wonderful and varied responses. There is ‘an Alun shaped hole’ in the poetry world which can never be filled.
It is with our deepest sorrow that The Ekphrastic Review informs our readers that one of our beloved contributors, Alun Robert, recently passed away, unexpectedly in his home. Our many condolences to his wife, family, and friends. He was a widely published and prolific writer, frequently honoured by the Federation of Writers of Scotland, and a regular feature in our challenge and main thread pages.
Alun was a thoughtful writer, carefully considering each artwork we posted, and sharing his process and discoveries about the artwork in his email with his submissions. He was joy to work with and publish. He contributed entries to the bimonthly challenges so frequently that we felt a sense of foreboding when he missed a deadline. Then we received the bad news from fellow contributor Kate Young.
The photo of young Alan below is from our Throwback Thursday feature, where he recently shared a list of favourite works. The photo above was something he shared with us to show us the Review was an everyday part of his life.
We will miss him.
(We published this poem of Alun's a month ago.)
The First Last Dance
In their dance, a dance to the music of time
treading a rhyme of rhythmic splendour
without control of their spectacle
four Seasons rollick with each other.
Attired in their shimmering silks
hair coiffured by all Hours
Seasons sing of solstice
while prancing hand-in-hand
in ever-decreasing circles
as Aurora proffers a new dawn
through a pareidolia of Apollo, the chariot
golden and horse-hitched
to melodic strains of Time’s lyre
reverberating through the ether
in sight of the herma of Bacchus
both youth and yesteryear.
Seasons cavort, laughter echoes
in the dance of outward facing veils
over a testament of eternal trauma
through yearnings for mortality
against the deity of Time’s nudity
with winged feathers sullen from
his flight of introspection, the greybeard
measured and transfixed
without beginning or end
twixt Seasons’ craving for continuity
yet ignored by a couplet of cherub
sheltering from the ides of Zodiac.
The four Seasons frolic forever
without control of their spectacle
treading a rhyme of rhythmic splendour
in their dance, a dance to the music of time.
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical free verse. He has achieved success in poetry competitions across the British Isles, Europe and North America. His work has been published by numerous literary magazines, anthologies and webzines in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, India, South Africa, Kenya, USA and Canada. Since 2018, he has been part of The Ekphrastic Review community. He is a member of the Mid-Kent Stanza, Rye Harbour Poetry Group and Federation of Writers Scotland for whom he was a Featured Writer in 2019.
The Ekphrastic Review
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