Barbara Hepworth Exhibition, St Ives
do you recall the white sphere
that prayed to the cross
& the form locked away
that sang through the case
& begged to be touched?
it ‘moved’ me. buzz
began in my grey matter
& slid the slow slip of art
down my spine; love like a ride, a
kind of prayer. a kind of god/mother
holding child or mother holding mother.
I wanted to pluck the strings
& run oil over the wood; would feel,
I believed, like kissing the moon.
or would it feel like my heart,
stripped down to the artery
& the rush of my desires?
Imogen Wade is a person-centred counsellor from England. She was nominated for the 2023 New Poets Prize and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award. She has been published in The Poetry Review.
Red Orange White Green Blue by Ellsworth Kelly, 1968
Five tall fields of colour not doing very much. Kind of flat, kind of past it. Red and orange are comfortable after their long association and don't need to say much, orange the junior and these days taking more of the lead. Green and blue, likewise, a long partnership though not without its competitive side, and they've got a lot of information to share or withhold or bargain from their nocturnal activities. White makes rather a show of holding the two couples apart at arms' length. And there they are, who we all owe so much, all of it, really, but stripped of the regalia and support staff and charitable endowments we’ve come to expect. All the limes and fire trucks and cloudless skies brushed aside. They’re limited around the edges but that’s just these present circumstances. Dive in and swim down but we’ll never get to the bottom of them. Almost invisible, our benefactors, like light that’s not being reflected by anything, or the people our parents were.
Peter is a queer psychotherapist, previously working in community mental health and HIV/AIDS, now in private practice in Portland and Los Angeles. He is the author of two books, Gay Fairy Tales (HarperSanFranciso 1995) and Gay Folk and Fairy Tales (Faber and Faber, 1997). He has lived through addiction, multiple bereavements and the transitions from youth to midlife and midlife to old age and believes you can too.
Alex Colville, French Cross (1988)
Clouds darken into the foreground:
an absence not to be borne floods
my memory and my heart recalls
the buried ashes of Grand Pré.
The green land is empty of people,
stretched in shadow, spanning distance
beyond field and telegraph pole,
trees rising above the horizon.
A girl on horseback turns her head
to look again at the worn cross
radiating its metal arrows
like a clock with too many hands.
She wonders who made it, and why,
the cross mute on its stone base
stained rust with lichen, as her horse
trots beside the wire fencing.
How many times has she been here,
thought of stopping, then rode on,
her horse resigned to its journey,
indifferent as history?
I watch her leave the empty land
behind, approaching the present
with a backward glance, as I do,
but destined never to arrive
in the now I must inhabit,
suspended between moments,
inhabiting a grief both mine
and not mine, scanning the sky.
Paul Robichaud is a Canadian writer based in Connecticut. His poems and essays on modern poetry have appeared in print and online journals in North America and the UK, including The Hudson Review and Agenda. He is the author, most recently, of the non-fiction book Pan: The Great God's Modern Return (Reaktion, 2021), exploring the god's role in myth, art, and literature.
Start the year off right with an ekphrastic breakfast with Joan Leotta, as we explore the story of food in art history and ways to incorporate food into your stories and poetry. Then we get back to basics with a beginner's guide to ekphrasis, suitable for those who are new to The Ekphrastic Review and those who would enjoy a refresher.
Looking forward to these and hope to see you there!
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.
Raising Andy Warhol
This stillness is not like you. This still of you in black and white hides the boy in you I remember as your neighbour at the corner of 20th Century and Pop. Still life. Some may label you Peter Pan of the art world—never sought to grow into a buttoned man.
Stimming in your mother’s kitchen swirled you into a dizzy space of imagination. Days at home in isolation, moving, climbing, exploring your mother’s pantry looking for cans. The casseroles from Campbell’s mixed the tastes of so many mothers—tuna noodle with mushroom soup; chicken divan with cream of chicken, sometimes asparagus, whatever was at hand; and tomato—the king of all that is hamburger pie. The red on the soup label caught your eye—flowing from Camden, home of RCA and other elements of the American dream.
Filling paper with colour when your mother placed a gadget in your hand. Was that a basting brush or did you tease for a butter knife for spreading paint across your palette?
Karsh, your photographer—sits you so differently from the wild of your child. Posing still, you could be a diplomat or philosopher in that suit and tie. You gaze off camera in the chiaroscuro of light from an unknown source. You have no secrets to reveal; everything you imagine is real, just larger than life itself. Your hands, the magic wands of art, though that brush of hair against your paint brush does not hurt to make your portrait appealing. You cast no shadow in this photo—proof positive—you are Pan with lengthy fingers that could dust a disco ball or slit the silk screen of convention
While studying for her MA in English from the Bread Loaf School of Middlebury College, VT, Cynthia Dorfman focused on the relationship between visual art and writing. She applied this interest when she guided illustrators in producing the first Helping Your Child series of booklets for the U.S. Department of Education, where she was a publications director. She is a frequent participant in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery writing program and is an Ekphrastic Review Challenge author. Her ekphrastic poem, “Dangling Woman,” was featured on an episode of The Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast.
Were the gods jealous and capricious? Were they just
when they condemned my city to the flood?
I can’t recall. All memories turned to rust.
Were we more given to violence and lust,
more full of hubris and obsessed with gold
than others were? And thus, the gods were just?
It is too late. So why wake up the past,
dig for my own and for my city’s faults?
It is too late. All memories turned to rust.
Or maybe not. Under the barnacles and crust
of centuries, the pain we felt, we wrought
retains its edge. Were the gods jealous? Were they just?
The sunken pain is solid. But why trust
the shifting foam of stories still afloat?
I crave oblivion—clean water, free of rust.
Since our destruction, empires rose and fell to dust;
yet we can’t rest, our tale isn’t fully told.
Were the gods jealous and capricious? Were they just?
What stains us red? Isn’t it only rust?
Yana Kane came to the United States as a refugee from the USSR. She holds a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University, and a PhD in Statistics from Cornell University. Having retired after a successful technical career, she is pursuing an MFA in Literary Translation and Poetry at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Her recent and upcoming publications include 128 LIT, Allium, American Chordata, EastWest Literary Forum, The Los Angeles Review, Platform Review, RHINO Poetry, and Точка.Зрения/View.Point. View.Point recognized her translations of poetry of witness from Ukraine and Russia as among the "Best of 2022." 128 LIT nominated her translation for the Deep Vellum Best Literary Translations Anthology 2025. Her bilingual poetry book, Kingfisher/Зимородок, was published in 2020.
Observing just “a hint of menace” in Giorgione’s The Tempest,
the famous art critic, host of a PBS culture campaign, asks in
his companion volume, “What on earth is going on?” Baffled
by the gaze of a mercenary swain, whose codpiece ogles a half-
draped mother suckling her babe, Kenneth Clark is thunderstruck
enough to answer, “Nobody knows; nobody has ever known.”
Let ‘em alone, in other words, enigmas blinding far-sighted scholars.
But meeting the viewer’s look with doe-eyed candor, the woman
in the picture might be telling us, “You see how it will go for me
and my child.” And the columns’ shattered tibias behind her,
a rickety footbridge in need of repair, the flash of lightning from
the upper air that frame this scene could tell us what Tarika Wilson
felt when SWAT team cops broke down her door, shooting off
her baby’s thumb and killing the mother before they were done;
or what Lady Macduff and son whistled in the dark when assassins
stormed their gate, knowing “to do harm” was “laudable.” Victims
may banter in the teeth of terror, but its bite the Sabine women
knew, the Tutsis and Rohingyas, the people of Ukraine in 2022.
Yet we must pause before Giorgione’s “steady flood of conflicting
interpretations” and throw up our hands at his work’s “precise
meaning,” Professor James R. Jewitt writes, surmising craft makes
art for the sake of sale, that “the rising status of landscape painting
during the early sixteenth century in Italy” relates a just-so tale.
You’ve gotta love history’s power to fabricate mystery, provided
it hews to guidelines approved by state and local authorities.
Take a riled-up school board in Iowa or Tennessee, plant them
at a slideshow with Goya’s Third of May, and ask if it renders
“psychological distress” or feelings of “discomfort” in anyone
who’s trained a gun on civilians. If so, it will have to go; we
don’t want people disrespecting vets or denting Army recruitment.
Kick to the curb Poussin’s Abduction, and while we’re at it, books
by Morrison, and Thomas Hardy’s Tess for waging class warfare
over a harlot’s hurt. “Guilt or anguish” in Oklahoma give reasons
to monitor access, as shame is what’s not wanted from art and history.
Beyond old Washington Crossing the Delaware, find the Pale where
looks can kill by showing all we just can’t bear of humanness.
Notes: “What on earth . . . nobody has ever known” from Kenneth Clark, Civilisation, page 115. Tarika Wilson: 26-year-old mother of six, innocent of any crime or threat, fatally shot by police in Lima, Ohio on January 4, 2008. An all-white jury acquitted Wilson’s killer and returned him to active duty. “To do harm is often laudable” from Shakespeare, Macbeth (IV.ii.75-76). “Steady flood . . . in Italy” from Dr. James R. Jewitt, "Giorgione, The Tempest," in Smarthistory, April 17, 2020. “Psychological distress . . . discomfort” from Iowa State Legislature, HF 802, signed into law 06/08/21. “Guilt or anguish” from Oklahoma State Legislature, HB 1775, signed into law 05/10/21.
Rob Schnelle is the author of Valley Walking: Notes on the Land (WA State UP, 1997). His work has also been published in the Seattle Review, the Bellevue Literary Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and elsewhere. A native of Massachusetts, Rob has lived for over thirty years in Washington State’s Kittitas Valley. Art, he feels, aims to find what form has not found before. Poetry does the same for language.
St. Luke Painting the Virgin
Something about the hands reminded him –
All veins and knuckles, worn and competent;
But this was she, the flawless, Heaven’s vent.
Religiously he thought of seraphim,
And worked her aged body into slim
Ethereality, ignored the bent
Illusion for God’s truth, magnificent
In lapis lazuli: a silent hymn.
And yet – he felt as clumsy as an ox,
Compelled by some old yearning to impede
The holy mission. Heaped with paradox,
The icon sagged, till in his shame and need
He heard his own voice cry, “What have I done?”
And hers, long missed: “You’ve done your best, my son.”
Julia Griffin lives in South-East Georgia. She has published in Light, Lighten Up Online, Snakeskin, and some other magazines.
Time, the river, winds the length of Egypt.
So much is asked of it, so much given.
Hemmed in by the desert’s desolation,
it fertilized pharaonic fantasy.
Its bulrushes hid the baby Moses,
prophet of the Bible’s Exodus.
Sandwiched by sand and toasted by heat,
it’s offered a verdant, varied relief.
Cattle graze along its banks; men harvest
irrigated crops of wheat and sugarcane.
What once transported quarried limestone blocks
now plies itineraries for tourist stops.
Aswan, Edfu, Esna, Luxor, Cairo:
it’s quenched the thirst of their pasts and present.
There would be no Egypt without the Nile.
There would be no life without its water.
And there would be no time—without its when, its while.
The White Nile from Lake Victoria in Kenya and the Blue Nile from Lake Tana in Ethiopia join at Khartoum, Sudan. From there the Nile flows north through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean.
After retiring as curator of historic maps at Princeton University Library, John moved out to Port Townsend, WA, and has traveled widely, preferring remote, natural settings. Since that transition, he has published Waypoints (2017), a collection of place poems, Twenty Questions (2019), a chapbook, and Delicate Arch (2022), poems and photographs of national parks and monuments. Galápagos, a chapbook of his son Andrew’s photographs and his own poems, will appear later in 2023.
A dusting of snow on the leaves
of grandmother’s Japanese maple.
We find a spider frozen in its web:
red leaves strung by silver thread.
Grandfather holds the Christmas wafer
above his dinner plate. Nativity in wheat:
evening light on the Holy Family gleams,
bloodless. Beneath a pale star, a mother
kneels in adoration, beams of starlight
cutting through clasped hands. She is
as cold as the word that we withhold
until it shimmers in our dreams.
Bread of the beating heart,
cast your shadow on our meal.
Grandfather breaks the face of the mother.
I eat her mouth; she is moondust on the tongue.
Always the shuffle of footsteps from
the other side. Stooped over the kitchen
counter, grandfather pares celery
into moth’s wings. I am pressing
my hand to glass. A draft of wind tosses
celery into the air. In the door frame,
cold hair tethers the darkness curled around
her. She steps inside and begins to thaw,
her cheeks incarnadine.
Mother, your palms
are cut like mine. On Christmas morning I wake
in the Green Chapel, having dreamt my skin
is tinged purple with the sunspots on your cheek.
Rachel Walker is a poet from Maryland. She currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she is an MFA candidate at UNLV. Her work has previously appeared in The Shore, Thimble Literary Magazine, and Mud Season Review.
The Ekphrastic Review
Join us on Facebook: