How patiently my young son sat, who knew
he might be scolded, having torn his hat.
And were his flaming cheeks a residue
of shame for harrying our backyard cat?
I didn’t ask, just had the rascal pose
right then in rumpled clothes–his little face
in dappled sunlight like a shadowed rose.
And as I worked, I hoped the marketplace
would see the same appeal I could perceive.
My portrait sales of late had dropped away.
With seven children, I needed to achieve
success–to find a fresh approach. Portraying
winsome innocence in a girl or boy
would pay me twice. My dividend was joy.
Barbara Lydecker Crane
Barbara Lydecker Crane, a finalist for the 2017 and the 2019 Rattle Poetry Prize, has won awards from the Maria Faust Sonnet Contest, the Helen Schaible Sonnet Contest, and others. She has published three chapbooks: Zero Gravitas (White Violet Press, 2012), Alphabetricks (Daffydowndilly Press, 2013), and BackWords Logic (Local Gems Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, First Things, Light, Lighten-Up-Online, Measure, Rattle, Think, Writer’s Almanac, and several anthologies. She is also an artist.
Just a couple weeks left for our current ekphrastic contest, themed Women Artists.
Our guest judge this time is the amazing Alarie Tennille!
There is still time to finish writing about your favourite prompts from our special ebook, and you can still get yours and submit up to ten poems or flash fiction/creative nonfiction works.
The ebook is your entry ($10 CAD) and first prize is $100 with two runners up $50 each.
Here are the instructions again. Good luck!
Artists throughout history in many different cultures faced immense obstacles, and women even more so. Few female painters or sculptors have been acknowledged by history or books, and yet we have a rich legacy of creativity if we dig between the lines to find gold.
The subject was so exciting that I got carried away. It was my intention to select 30 to 40 prompts to inspire your ekphrastic writing practice, but ended up with 60. Many more were left on the cutting room floor. I hope each artwork will lead you to study more works by the featured artists, to learn about their lives and work and the worlds they lived in.
Use your ebook of 60 artworks as a reference and a book of writing prompts, now and forever. Enter up to ten poems or stories.
Selected entries will be published in The Ekphrastic Review, in a series of special showcases.
We are absolutely delighted to have Alarie Tennille as our guest judge. Alarie is a long-time contributor to the journal, a consultant for our prize nominations, a winner of our Fantastic Ekphrastic Award for her outstanding contributions to the journal and to ekphrastic literature, and a widely published and loved poet.
Alarie will choose a first place winner and two runners up from the published selections.
The first place entry will receive $100 and each runner up will receive $50. Winners may be flash fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.
Your purchase of our ebooks has made it possible for us to offer cash prizes in these new contests at The Ekphrastic Review. Your support also helps with the time, maintenance, web and other expenses, and promotion of this journal. We can't thank you enough.
1. Click on button below to get your ebook of sixty prompts by women artists.
2. Write from any or all of the artwork prompts. You may submit up to ten pieces.
3. Please submit all of your entries in one email. Wait until you have your complete entry to send.
4. You may write poetry, flash fiction, or creative nonfiction, or a combination, up to 1000 words each.
5. Deadline is July 7, 2021.
6. Send your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org. In subject line, put WOMEN ARTISTS CONTEST.
7. We hate to censor your creativity and will try to accommodate experimental formatting, but be aware that flush left formats work best for the web. Complicated formats or spacing is difficult or impossible to reproduce faithfully.
8. Your work must be inspired by the prompts in the book. They can incorporate a description of the art or connect to the artwork's history or subject matter, or to the artist biography, or they can use the art as a point of departure for imagination, memory, correlation, etc. In other words, the writing can be about the art or about anything else the art triggers you to dream up.
9. The Ekphrastic Review will publish selected works in special showcases from the entries. Of these selections, guest judge Alarie Tennille will choose her favourites. The judge's decisions are final.
10. The winners will receive $100 CAD for first place and $50 each of two runners up. Winners will be paid by PayPal.
11. Winners will be chosen and announced by the end of July 2021.
12. Please include a third person biography up to 100 words.
13. Please use copy and paste in body of email, or a word document. You may include a PDF to show formatting and italics, but please include it in addition to your copy and paste or word document.
13. Good luck and have fun!
Correction: I made an error in transcription when compiling the Women Artists ebook. Page 13 credit should read: The Conquest of Belgrade, by Katarina Ivanović (Serbia) 1845. Apologies for this mistake.
sometimes i wander
thru peacock shimmer
raptor gardens, sometimes
float on a foaming
void under blind masks
tongue like a dead whale
sometimes i spill
out the fissures
tangled tendrils of eyes
sometimes i crumble, scatter
birds, yes, there
are birds soaring
into canyons of sky
This poem appears in The Girl Who Wasn't and Is (bd studios, 2021).
Anastasia Walker: "i, scattered," is based on a drawing by my brother Bill. Bill was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in spring 2019. He describes this drawing, entitled Synapse, as “a self portrait based upon my journey through” the disease. A bit about me: a Maine native but an academic gypsy for much of my adult life, I’m a poet, essayist, and scholar living in Pittsburgh. Poems of mine have appeared in several journals, and my first book of poetry, The Girl Who Wasn’t and Is, is forthcoming from bd studios. Two of my autobiographical essays were published last spring: “Memory’s Disavowed Daughter” (Fourth Genre 22:1) and “Selling My Record Collection” (Shenandoah 69:2). Through 2016-17, I blogged for Huffington Post on trans and LGBTQ+ issues, and since spring 2019 I’ve posted occasional pieces on politics, social media, and LGBTQ+ issues on Medium. I’m also a passionate amateur photographer and musicologist, and love going for long walks and (when I visit home in the summers) swimming in the ocean. https://anastasiaswalker.blogspot.com/
The pounce-ready cat leans
toward the creek bank
like a sun-lusting cactus.
Both bend toward
a tasty future--sun's sugary
painting--The Cactus Lover--
on my memory’s reel.
This moment--the “stop”
in “stop motion”--is the yeast
I reach for in this poem’s brewing.
Nancy K. Jentsch
Nancy K. Jentsch’s poetry has appeared recently in Thimble Literary Magazine, Tiferet, Zingara Poetry Review and in numerous anthologies. In 2020, she received an Arts Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her chapbook, Authorized Visitors, was published in 2017 (WordTech Communications) and her writer’s page on Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/NancyJentschPoet/.
I sit by my wife’s hospital bed, pondering the irony of the acronym “I.C.U.” In my mind, the words “I see you” float above her bed in a cartoon bubble. I imagine it’s god speaking — finally taking notice of my wife’s suffering. Realizing it’s time to call her back in from the cold. To let her become a shimmer in my children’s eyes. Or, if she gets her way, a ghost haunting their tomorrow.
Too bad I don’t believe in god.
I scribble in my journal under the fluorescent light. A stream of consciousness, expelling tiny threads of despair. Hoping for clarity, peace — all that I can no longer give my wife, who is beyond comforting.
A young nurse enters to adjust the morphine drip. She is careful not to make eye contact with me, although she does cast an empathetic glance at my dying wife.
Let her be, don’t wake her, don’t open her eyes’ sorrow — let her remain concealed from suffering’s call. Let her clutch these moments gifted by the needle in her arm, doctor’s cocktail seeping slowly into her veins. Let her have the drip falling upon drip, scaling tears to the master of her affliction.
Let her be, for it is not long now. The ocean born of this remedy sighs, floating offerings of escape. During these moments when my whispers are more dread than comfort, when she hears but pretends not, hiding behind eyelids. Searching for hallucinations of happier days.
Let her new lover, this medication’s cloud, speak to her in their secret language. Let her be overwhelmed with dissected memories and cherished tales alike, rising to the surface on the fins of this drug awash within her, bleeding tiny ripples to spread its haze. Let her hear spirit’s call. For while hope dares blossom, birthing hope — the will to stay a while longer in this place (this place called home that was never home) — hope is a false prophet.
Let her recall our waiting children and realize they are stronger than they know. Let her be in the place where it is the water’s pull that is deeper, the stars’ cries that are louder, the invitation to bathe in eternity that is more comforting than this fight long lost. Let the distance move in.
Let her stop fighting to stay. Let her become our ghost, so that I can let her go.
Cheryl Skory Suma
After a Traumatic Brain Injury several years ago, Cheryl sold the Canadian healthcare company she founded. She then returned to her first love, writing, as part of her recovery process. Cheryl’s flash fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Blank Spaces magazine (winner, March 2020 Flash Fiction Contest, & Silver Medal, Sept 2020), Spider Road Press (H.M Flash Fiction Contest 2020), Longridge Review (finalist & Pushcart nom, Creative Nonfiction Prize 2020), Nightingale & Sparrow (creative nonfiction), La Piccioletta Barca (poetry), Public Poetry (Enough Anthology), and Erbacce (finalist, 2019 Prize for Poetry). Cheryl has a M.H.Sc in Speech-Language Pathology and a B.Sc. in Honors Psychology. You can find her on twitter @cherylskorysuma, and on her website cherylskorysuma.com
As in one’s hand a sulfur match, still white,
before it flares, sends out on every side
small, twitching tongues, so, ringed by a close crowd
of watchers there, her round dance—hasty, bright,
and hot—begins to flicker and spread out.
And suddenly it’s utterly on fire.
With just a glance she sets alight her hair,
and all at once with daring art she whirls
all of her dress into this fiery blaze,
as from the flames, like startled serpents, spring
her naked arms, roused up and clattering.
And then, as if the fire were running low,
she sweeps it all up, tosses it away
haughtily, with a gesture of disdain,
and stares: it lies on the ground there, raging on,
and blazes still, refusing to concede.
And yet, triumphant, sure, and with a sweet
and gracious smile, she raises up her head
and stamps it out with small, emphatic feet.
Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Susan McLean
Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzündholz, weiß,
eh es zur Flamme kommt, nach allen Seiten
zuckende Zungen streckt -: beginnt im Kreis
naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiß
ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.
Und plötzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.
Mit einem Blick entzündet sie ihr Haar
und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst
ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,
aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,
die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.
Und dann: als würde ihr das Feuer knapp,
nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab
sehr herrisch, mit hochmütiger Gebärde
und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde
und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht -.
Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem süßen
grüßenden Lächeln hebt sie ihr Gesicht
und stampft es aus mit kleinen festen Füßen.
Rainer Maria Rilke
As in the hand a sulfur match, white,
before it comes ablaze, on all sides
stretches out flickering tongues, so, in the circle
of nearby watchers, hasty, bright, and hot,
her round dance starts to flicker and spread out.
And suddenly it is utterly and completely in flames.
With one glance she ignites her hair
and all at once with daring art whirls
her whole dress into this conflagration,
from which, like frightened snakes,
her naked arms stretch, roused up and rattling.
And then, as if the fire were becoming low,
she draws all of it together and throws it away
very imperiously, with a haughty gesture,
and looks at it: it lies there on the ground, raging,
and flames still, and does not surrender—.
But triumphant, self-assured, and with a sweet,
welcoming smile, she lifts up her face
and stamps it out with firm little feet.
Rainer Maria Rilke, translation by Susan McLean
Author's note: "Although it is usually assumed that this poem was inspired by witnessing a dance by a Spanish flamenco dancer, I agree with the argument of Robert Vilain that it was likely inspired by the painting known as Gitanilla. by the Spanish artist Ignacio Zuloaga, with whom Rilke became friends during his stay in Paris. Vilain's argument and evidence may be found here:
Susan McLean, a retired professor of English, has published two books of her own poems, The Best Disguise and The Whetstone Misses the Knife, and one book of translations of the Latin poet Martial, Selected Epigrams. Her poems have appeared in Measure, Mezzo Cammin, Able Muse, and elsewhere.
I Know You
Your bust, on three layers of marble: an oxblood block,
red for the heart, a book-sized slab of deepest black,
for misery. The thick, umber base, veined with gray, is your
red-dark autumn. All on a tabletop of timeless ivory serpentine.
A bronze-black patina shades your skin, that of a European Jew.
Light reflected on your crown bypasses your eyes, catches the
weary folds beneath, then flows into the valley above your upper lip.
No indulgent fat can form. it is burned away.
This side of your long oval face and jaw is shadowed. Light
finds the wind-blown hair, bushy, behind your ears. You are
thinking, mouth calm, reflective eyes deep behind their lids.
A delicate face that draws to a pointed chin. Tired.
I have been heartbroken and uplifted by your symphonies,
played them on my horn, exhausted my lip to express their beauty.
Here, I see the heavy weight of creation in your eyes. Two years
before your death, the visions in your mind still fight for release.
Your wife Alma said that August Rodin “fell in love" with you
over the course of your twelve sittings. I imagine the robust
power of Rodin’s energy meeting the fine, irritable point of yours.
Thunder and lightning into clay, plaster filled with molten bronze.
Thea Calitri-Martin is a poet and musician who lives in the beautiful hills of Pomfret, Vermont. She enjoys reading and singing her poetry in various venues and is the principal french horn with the Vermont Philharmonic.
Interview with Bill Arnott
The Ekphrastic Review: Tell us a bit about the Gone Viking series, the success of the first one, your hopes for the new one, and how they came to be.
Hi Lorette. Thanks so much for the invitation; I’m a huge fan of The Ekphrastic Review. Okay, let’s talk about the Gone Viking series, my nonfiction travel memoirs. The books include first-hand adventures, a bit of history and a good dose of humour. Gone Viking: A Travel Saga (RMBooks 2020) is the first of the series, where I introduce the fact “viking” was originally a verb, meaning to go voyaging. Which I did, embarking on an eight year odyssey, trekking the northern hemisphere in the wake of Scandinavian explorers. To my delight the book’s a bestseller that’s received a number of literary awards. For these expeditions I’ve been granted a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society, which I have to say feels like getting a seat at the grown-ups’ table for explorers.
Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries (RMBooks 2021) picks up where the first book concludes, and covers ten years of personal travel across a broader swath of the planet, from the Americas to Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. The popularity of the books has spawned great engagement with readers. Our #GoneVikingCommunity appears on social media, with fun photos and reader shares from around the globe – individuals enjoying their copies of the book in different locales, often in a viking helmet or just having a laugh. It’s been a remarkable and humbling spillover from the books.
You are famous for your travel writing, but have also tried your hand at ekphrastic writing. How do these forms intersect or compare for you? What are the similarities and differences?
Like most writers, I write what I like to read, and I love exceptionally well-written travel literature. After years of reading the genre I realized many of my favourite authors were also poets. So I pursued poetry – taking classes, working with mentors – to simply improve my craft. Unsurprisingly, I came to love the medium in and of itself, with ekphrastic work being a particularly rich facet of the genre. Incorporating this into my writing, I feel, facilitates a much more compelling, sensory engagement.
Now I no longer see good travel-lit “intersecting” with ekphrastic writing. I see these outlets as much the same thing. Every in-depth travel experience examines the artistic nature of what we see and our interpretation of it. I think almost everything is an art form influenced by or derived from other art. So I tend to see ekphrastic elements everywhere: sights, smells, touch, taste, and sound.
When we’re open to experiencing the world you can’t help but find yourself immersed in ekphrastic influence and connection.
How important is viewing art to you when you are travelling?
I feel art viewing is essential to the travel experience, along with food, music, story-telling, flora and fauna. Art is one of those all-encompassing forms of expression, relaying history, land and people in an amalgamated manner. Plus, a gallery can be a lovely place to hang out when the weather’s crap.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you jot notes in a journal all along the way, or use a tape recorder? Do you work as you go, or wait until the voyage is over to recount your memories?
I incorporate a range of techniques, often finding something new to work in a given situation. I love including dialogue in my nonfiction, ideally with regional phonetics. But when I’m visiting with someone I’ll never break the flow by taking notes or recording the audio. I do my best to remember what’s said, and how it’s said, then write it down later. It becomes a bit of a test, like a performer learning lines, and it’s something I find not only challenging but rewarding, and when you get it right, supremely satisfying. When I’m on my own, however, on a plane, boat, bus or train, I’m invariably jotting notes of what I’m witnessing or what I’ve seen. More often than not honing a joke or two. Invariably another tributary to the thoroughfare reveals itself, and more often than not, another great ekphrastic opportunity!
Tell us about the art in your corner of the world. You mentioned Emily Carr, who was an incredibly courageous painter who trekked into the wilderness and along the coast. There are stunning histories of regional indigenous arts, and a lively contemporary scene as well. Share your experiences of art travel at home in your own neck of the woods.
I love that you’ve asked about these experiences in my neck of the woods, as it’s literally in the woods I’ve discovered common threads – creative bridges – between indigenous artists, Carr, and, yes, Viking artisans. One of those “eureka” moments took place on Vancouver’s North Shore on what’s called the Spirit Trail, a series of walks and hikes that traverse a blend of new and old growth forest along with residential and industrial development. It’s a place of crows, eagles and the occasional raven, frequent protagonists across a range of history and myth. It’s comprised of pockets of evergreen that feel as though you’ve wandered onto an Emily Carr canvas, and I found myself fighting an urge to check my trail shoes for spatters of oil in green.
Like so many places, here on Canada’s west coast we’re privileged to be surrounded by great art. My current home is on Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh land, so I’m able to enjoy outdoor installations and carving sheds around the neighbourhood. Vancouver Art Gallery also features rotating exhibits of Carr’s paintings, and with regular gallery visits I’ve been able to enjoy a remarkable breadth of her work. In both Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries I meet some amazing artists, not to mention pinpointing the inspiration for much of Carr’s art. I even stumbled onto a fascinating link between her most famous pieces and Viking sites around the British Isles. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’ll leave that reveal for the pages of my books (he said, cheekily).
A History in Paint
Excerpted From Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries
Weather’s turned again, changing like double jumps across a maritime checkerboard, determining the season. Clack-clack. Winter. Clack-clack. Summer. Two days after near-hyperthermia, we’re heading out to hike in shorts, tee-shirts and extra sunscreen.
This is the southwest corner of England, the Penwith Peninsula. Rail lines end at Penzance (yes, where pirates come from). Roads end a smidge beyond that. And everything else (apart from water) truncates at Land’s End, a seaside cliff facing a dreamy expanse of North Atlantic. History says what lies beyond must be Avalon, mythic birthplace of the Lady of the Lake, the Queen who passed King Arthur his sword.
But since the nineteenth century this stretch of the country with its tourmaline water and intense northern light has been a magnet for artisans – painters, potters, sculptors – all coming here to find, hone and share their craft. It’s home to the Newlyn School, one-hundred-forty years of painters capturing outdoors en plein air. Emily Carr was here, as a novice, painting beech trees and yews, before finding her place in the evergreen forests of British Columbia, Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, de facto eighth member to Canada’s Group of Seven.
With packs cinched snug on our backs, we trek coastal path from Lamorna to Mousehole, following clifftops over sea, where it crashes onto ragged granite. We climb through Monterey pines, cypress, vine-wrapped maples, and wind-blown gorse under high canopies of ferns. Fat, black bumblebees buzz in fuchsia foxgloves and orange butterflies flutter along the trail. In the distance, St Michael’s Mount cuts a sharp image in clean air and bright sun. The trail meanders toward the pristine fishing village of Mousehole: an inn and pub at the quay, white-washed stone cottages and Cornish flags flying with pride—a white X on black background. Two artists work in oil on canvas at easels on the beach. Tide’s out and brightly coloured boats—skiffs and dories—are beached in the harbour, leaning rakishly, as though posing for the painters.
The thread of land we’re traversing has attracted voyagers for millennia – Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Romans – following the Stone Age they came for Cornish tin and copper, the makings of sculptures and tools in bronze. Then came the Iron Age and Vikings, until Spain assumed the role of marauders-du-jour in the late Middle Age.
At Penzance we follow shoreline to Newlyn, the painters’ mecca. The smell of wood fires seeps from homes, making everything feel cozy and welcoming. We cross a swing bridge and pass the Art Deco Jubilee pool, built to commemorate King George V. The triangular concrete structure’s on a point of headland, built to cut crashing waves like a ship’s bow. Further on the promenade sit the Battery Rocks where Henry VIII built a barbican, fortified with bronze cannon to deter Spanish raiders. Ironically the Spaniards stole the cannon, possibly to the sound of yoink!
We pass through Penzance’s wherry town – ferries from days of olde. I imagine the smell of pine tar and old port sounds – groaning sheets and billowing sailcloth, the roll of barrels on gangplanks and shouts of pidgin – a soundtrack to adventure. There’s a petrified forest just offshore, visible at low spring tide. The Fishermen’s Mission sits near the pier, overlooking the lighthouse and Newlyn docks, one of England’s busiest fishing ports. It’s famous for crab, but northerly light and endless shoreline are what draw painters like a muezzin’s call to prayer.
St Michael’s Mount greets us, sitting like a chess piece in the bay. And from where I’m standing it aligns with Newlyn Lighthouse – a postcard view through salt air. A local guidebook describes the Mount as “one of those rare and singular objects which impresses the mind with sensations of veneration, pleasure and astonishment the instant it is seen.” St Michael’s, like Normandy’s Mont Saint-Michel, reflects pagan-Christian transition, power and propaganda the binding agents. St Michael was a dragon-slayer, same as Saint George. Whether there are different versions or multiple dragons, I can’t say. Point being these places – artist destinations – resonate with spirituality. From Newlyn we carry on through shallow sea – soft sand and warm ocean water – bare feet with pants rolled up, our very own pilgrimage, aptly enough, as this is St Michael’s Way, tributary to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, what travelling artisans and pilgrim’s call The Way.
Read an ekphrastic poem by Bill Arnott here.
Read Bill's review of editor Lorette C. Luzajic's ekphrastic prose poetry collection, Pretty Time Machine.
Bill Arnott is the award-winning, bestselling author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries. His work is published around the globe. When not trekking with a small pack, journal, and laughably outdated camera phone, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making friends and misbehaving. Bill Arnott Archives - Rocky Mountain Books (rmbooks.com)
Pre-order Gone Viking ll on Amazon.
The new TERcets podcast is out- episode 8!
Click here to listen to this very special poetry podcast with Brian A. Salmons.
In each episode, Brian selects three works from The Ekphrastic Review. This time, he reads Hedy Habra, Margo Davis, and Patricia Goodwin.
Many thanks to Brian for this stellar project, and to all of the fine writers he presents.
Stairway to Heaven*
De color atardecer
se visten los peldaños
en busca de la luna
acaso una noche profunda
when the stars blossom into light
iluminan el sueño americano
atop a highrise in New York.
When all are one
and one is all
el azul que se asoma
entonces subiremos al cielo
por escalones que escurren
de atardecer a nuestra cita
con alguna nube
ribeteada de plata.
*Led Zeppelin (1971)
Claire Joysmith is a poet, writer, translator, and former academic, now retired, fascinated by poetry and ekphrasic poetry; she has previously published, together with visual artist José Díaz, the volume Écfrasis, published by the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT), Mexico. She was born in Mexico City, currently lives in the Yucatán, and has worked for many years on border-related issues, specifically the Mexico-U.S. border as well as the less visible Mexico-Guatemala border (the Suchiate River). She has published poetry throughout the Americas, in both English and Spanish, as well as three poetry books: Silencio de azules and Bacalar: Esbozos de agua y tinta (both forthcoming in English translation), and Écfrasis (partially bilingual).
The Ekphrastic Review
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