I was incredibly fortunate to see many works of Mariano Fortuny last year in Spain. Although he is less celebrated abroad than the 20th century giants like Dali and Picasso, he was impossibly prolific and grand. Canvas after canvas cover the walls of the museums, many of them epic in size with countless figures and lush detail. It was a stroke of genius or fate that Fortuny married the daughter of a man who would be curator at the Prado Museum, ensuring his legacy would be preserved in one of the world's foremost art collections.
This work is unique in that it combines several elements of art in one piece. Painting, music, theatre, and literature come together in a strange dream.
The artist died suddenly and unexpectedly at just 36, of malaria.
Here are several responses to the painting by our readers and writers.
Stay safe and sound everyone!
Summer of 1866
Once more you’ve invited us to a party. Once more the only ones to attend are we three. Two of us scrub brushes on stretched canvas and you, Mr. Piano Man, scribble dots on pages wadded up as quickly as notes to muted strings. Synesthesia, imposing one sense in terms of another, rests no better in this room than umber shadows in a crimson spray.
paints a blank stare
Todd Sukany, a Pushcart nominee, lives in Pleasant Hope, Missouri, with his wife of over 37 years. His work recently appears in The Christian Century and Fireflies’ Light. A native of Michigan, Sukany stays busy running, playing music, and caring for four rescue dogs, a kitten, and one old-lady cat.
Lorenzo Casanova Reminisces.
How we loved those musical evenings
at Francisco's in calle Flor Baja.
Who can forget the night Juan Pujol
performed his Gran Fantasia sobre Fausto?
He mesmerized us with his passion, his energy,
his craziness as scores, once played, were hurled away
abandoned by the maestro to flutter to the floor.
His writhing fingers scuttled over the piano keys
like demon-possessed spiders in full retreat to Hades,
fearful of Feathered Death's descending talons.
Music filled the room arousing Mephistopheles' lust
for Martha while fusing Faust's and Marguerite's hearts
into a contrasting undefiled crystal love of purity.
And there were we, Agapito, lost in a sorcery of sound.
How we loved those musical evenings, my friend.
What nights! What nights they were!
Stephen Poole served for 31 years in the Metropolitan Police in London, England. He studied Media Practice at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London and also underwent training at the London School of Journalism. His articles and interviews have appeared in a variety of British county and national magazines. He has also been published online. He has been passionate about poetry since boyhood. His poetry has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review and he was a contributing poet to The Strand Book of International Poets 2010.
To Mariano Fortuny Regarding Fantasy on Faust
So rightly into dream you bleed
libretto now of little need
distilled, as purest essence found,
to ebb and flow of hammered sound
that you have sealed in silent tomb
where seen again the keys resume
the suite forever echoed heard
reminding soul your brush has stirred
that tale retold of living death,
temptation given flesh and breath,
deluding those who dare believe
that conscience spurned will never grieve,
is allegory thinly veiled
of faith forever so assailed.
Portly Bard: Old man.
Prefers to craft with sole intent
of verse becoming complement...
...and by such homage being lent...
ideally also compliment.
To remove every remnant of the inner crown.
To remove the depth of the seeing eye.
To let the saint live without glory.
Let sacrifice come to nothing.
To pour water on the altar of the kneeling.
Let the faithful lose their way.
To blind those with vision.
To let the world not see me as I am.
Only as I choose to be seen in the confusion and splendour
Of my spell.
Let me own the world and all that reside in it.
This is my mantra.
Sandy Rochelle is a poet, actress and filmmaker. Her award-winning film-Silent Journey- is streaming on Culture Unplugged. Dedicated to promoting films of social and spiritual significance. http://www.cultureunplugged.com/storyteller/Sandy_Rochelle
… and you’d think
for C. Marlowe, J. W. von Goethe & Parveen Shakir
… and you’d think
faustus was the protagonist of the play
… and you’d think
pujol couldn’t go beyond the eighty-eight pitches
… and you’d think
lorenzo and casanova were there for the musical performance
… and you’d think
only men desired to trade-in souls
… and you’d think
with the expulsion of iblis the orchestra concluded
2 we’re all dr. faustus
in some way,
we’re all dr. faustus.
some, for the sake of realising
some, blackmailed by
we all end up trading our souls
for some exchanges and returns
some, trade-in their eyes
and become the merchants of dreams
some, compelled to submit
their entire systems of thoughts as warranties
what is to be accessed is
as to which currency is in power
and an analysis of the wall street-of-life reveals:
these days, ones with the power to procure
hold self-respect as their precious.
… and in some way, this depiction and reflection brings stairway to heaven by led zeppelin back to the memory, too
 Iblis = Satan.
 This is my literal translation of the poem (in Urdu) “Hum Sab Aik Traha Say Dr. Faustus Hain” (In Some Way, We’re All Dr. Faustus) by The Late Parveen Shakir (1952 – 1994 C.E.)—one of renowned poetesses of the 20th Century from Karachi, Pakistan.
Saad Ali was born in Okara, Pakistan in 1980 C.E. He has been brought up in the UK and Pakistan. He earned his BSc and MSc in Management from the University of Leicester, UK. He is an existential philosopher-poet. Ali has authored three books of free verse and prose (so far) i.e. Ephemeral Echoes (AuthorHouse, 2018), Metamorphoses: Poetic Discourses (AuthorHouse, 2019) and Ekphrases: Book One (AuthorHouse, 2020). By profession, he is a Lecturer, Consultant and Trainer/Mentor. Some of his influences include: Vyasa, Homer, Ovid, Attar, Rumi, Nietzsche, and Tagore. He is fond of the Chinese, Greek and Arabic cuisine. He likes learning different languages, travelling by train and exploring cities on foot. To learn more about his work, please visit www.saadalipoetry.com.
He sits at his piano,
his creative thoughts exploding
in random flashes of brilliance.
His fingers flow freely
to catch his imagination wild
with the wonder of all that exists.
Wanton with delight
he conjures alchemy strong.
Order from chaos, she slowly births
and forms a memory for the whole world to admire.
Mark de Wet
Mark de Wet lives in Africa and loves to exercise his grey matter by writing poetry. He has published two books of poetry called The Cape Rubaiyat and Scattered Thoughts.
Fantasy in Fever
The room narrows (expands), moves memory
into (out of) misted corners. The floor is layered lava,
(no) sandpaper, (no) sheet music (but what song?).
The decommissioned battleship floats in its ignorant frame.
There are too many ways to drown.
I avoid fake news broadcasted over mirrors.
The business of days has phased out;
borders are myths though edges are everywhere.
Nothing is crisp or clean or clearly defined.
In shadow profiles face all directions.
Forgive me. Forgive me.
Feverish fugue, the insistent staccato circling back.
The owl’s infamous question wondering
who who remains here among us
I close my eyes for God’s slick oil spill,
generous brushstrokes of oblivion.
Jennifer Edwards is a speech therapist living in Concord, NH. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and can be found in the Portrait of New England, The Ekphrastic Review, Headline Poetry and Press (Erasure the Occupant Series #8), and the Poet's Touchstone. She's a poetry reader at Mud Season Review. Twitter @Jennife00420145
Faust was foolish
tripped up and tangled
in his own lust
and the petty work
His story rings familiar
like a warning
from some grim parent
we’re sure to ignore.
comes from the mother root,
Eve in the garden
before that fascinating serpent
preening like a diva
in the forbidden tree.
What has then and always
been the prize
worth such hard bargains
in every story we tell
every measure we remember?
Not to be as gods
and live forever,
but to see as gods-
the secret heart of things
the alphabet of creation
and the calculus of time,
to dance new worlds into being
the way gods do,
reflecting and inventing
visions to hang
like bright tapestries
against the cold forever,
to make songs
that burn like stars
before they fade,
into the stony bowels of earth
to fill the walls of caves
with painted animals
that seem to move and breathe
with grace and power,
alive here yet
so long beyond their time.
Creation is our most
our most persistent
and delicious sin-
to spin stories
the way gods spin worlds
out of dust and breath
out of nothing-
our first and everlasting passion
repeated in a thousand shapes
with paint and words and music--
in every step,
unrepentant, ready to pay
everything it costs.
Mary McCarthy, studied art and literature, worked as a Registered Nurse, has always been a greedy reader and word lover. She is hoping to outlast the pandemic and see what comes next.
Desire at No. 13, Calle Flor Baja
What shall we believe
of a piano planted inside a studio
next to a garden scene that shows
Mephistopheles floating above,
dressed in a purple suit with a rooster
feather in his hat, his cape offset by
the low flight of a white owl,
one of the devil’s emblems,
the flight that fantasy tends to take,
the flight path is a type of opaqueness,
more distracted, more fantastical.
The piano sounds strike innocence more clearly,
so that we feel the deal Faust agreed to,
transformed as a musical evening,
one where we see the milky pages
splayed on the rouge floor reflecting
how we live, weighing us,
like what keys to play before time expires,
which urges me to want to see you now,
with a gardenia before you arise
from those bed sheets since morning threads
light, for the ivory in the eye.
John Milkereit is a mechanical engineer working in the oil & gas industry who lives in Houston, Texas. His poems have appeared in various literary journals including The Ekphrastic Review, San Pedro River Review, and The Ocotillo Review. He completed a M.F.A. in Creative Writing at the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, WA in 2016. His most recent collection of poems, Drive the World in a Taxicab, was published by Lamar University Press.
after Gounoud's Faust
Shadows of heads still like roses
in a snow-dome; flame of red hair
levitates taking a woman's body
with it. Rows of entranced minds,
eyes unblinking, souls step out of
swimming melodies. The dead have
walked down from their heavens –
this fantasy isn't morose or sombre,
a pair of lovers drift between clouds.
White souls aligned like graves;
the piano, an invisible instrument,
a dove lands on black lips. Fingers
glide a bow on strings; waist svelte
like a conjuror's belt, tre(m)bles
jovial yet forlorn. Moon's counterparts
engage in may-pole dancing, design
the sky with foams of cloud-dust; stars
burst sprinkling as sequins. The gate
of emptiness opens, divided lovers
mourn eternity – soulless span; light
spills into famine carrying them away –
Sheikha A. is from Pakistan and United Arab Emirates. Her works appear in a variety of literary venues, both print and online, including several anthologies by different presses. Recent publications are Strange Horizons, Pedestal Magazine, Atlantean Publishing, Alban Lake Publishing, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Greek, Arabic and Persian. She has also appeared in Epiphanies and Late Realizations of Love anthology that has been nominated for a Pulitzer. More about her can be found at sheikha82.wordpress.com
Fantasy On Fortuny
play Scott Joplin rags
before he had written
and of course Easy Winners
all created in flat keys
to tread enharmonics
by stretching fingers over
the black notes of life
ahead of my time
deep into the darkness
but at least it is a paid gig
for I am the Entertainer
in this Strenuous Life
playing Elite Syncopations
paying off my debts
my dues to society
as my creditors to the right
shuffle feet, crack knuckles
while a duo on stage
the Manqué and his Master
(a Moorish carpet-seller)
trip at pace in a paradox
of ceremony and reality
across the stage lightly
in this theatre endowed
with ornamental bric-a-brac
yet somewhat bereft
of a plethora of customers
and atmosphere yet
in Row C
is an artist with easel
(perhaps a pre-foetal wraith)
set to capture these moments
with a marvellously sensitive eye
though I can see through him
to a judgment of the model
alone in the cumulus
an apparition of the arts
the erudite Faustian.
Alun Robert is a prolific creator of lyrical verse. Of late, he has achieved success in poetry competitions and featured in international literary magazines, anthologies and on the web. He particularly enjoys ekphrastic challenges. In 2019, he was a Featured Writer of the Federation of Writers Scotland.
Reading Faust to My Comatose Husband
Notes rise from musical scores scattered
on an Oriental carpet, the passionate Pujol
playing his Gran fantasia sobre Fausto.
Story fragments from Goethe’s masterpiece
manifest above the piano. Faust’s bargain
with Mephistopheles, a possible soul
for the taking. Though my husband deems
Mephistopheles the more tormented
of the two. Neither is totally blameless
nor evil as their roles unfold. Two artists
listen intently as Pujol’s notes fill the room.
The way I listened to the repeated wheeze
and sigh, compression boots closing tight,
then opening full, like an accordion, pulsing blood
through my spouse’s body. In his induced coma,
I read to him from Goethe’s book, the images
as fantastic as Fortuny’s painting.
Mephistopheles in his devilish red suit
and feathered hat, cajoling Martha
the Pimp in noir, as the owl of death hovers.
I read to summon him back from the land
of myth, to unveil the false rhapsody of Faust
and Marguerite. To lead him through
the thick forest of pneumonia, not knowing
what bargain he might have made.
I read to head him off before the gates
to the underworld opened.
Sandi Stromberg is a former magazine feature writer and editor living in Houston, Texas, after 21 years abroad. Her poetry has appeared with The Ekphrastic Review challenges, as well as in other small journals, anthologies, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. She has a poem upcoming in a new anthology on vultures, Purifying Wind, from Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press.
The Same Old Song
Larger than life you say--
the vision expands
as the color intensifies
like a rock crushing your soul--
Which side are you on you say--
the flames keep rising--
they gather and tangle
like lines on a very old body,
like thunder reverberating
from a place beyond the sky--
Third time’s the charm you say--
below all the fears growing,
around the edges of what we know
and what no one will tell--
You can’t fight fire with fire you say--
but you can clear a space,
fill what is left with treasure--
all the words that could have been spoken,
distilled into a symbolic language,
a voice that sings with some kind of truth--
Everything must die you say--
but what of after?
what of the consequences,
what of the skeletons?--
You never know you say--
what is held in trust--
what choice is really better,
what answer is really correct?
but then all roads find the same destination--
the cosmos surrounded by the abyss--
Larger than life you say--
Kerfe Roig plays with words and images inside her NYC apartment. She hopes to be released along with the rest of the world soon.
How grandly played - though scores so low -
to gain the Casanova’s love,
the art of music, paint, as one
at home with classmate, Catalan,
Flor Baja studio, Madrid.
The canvas notes the evening’s frame,
inspiring sketch by trinity;
performance wild as Goethe’s hand,
a purple suit, embroidered gold,
a silk cape, cock-a-hoop with hat.
Low sweeping owl speaks evil, death,
the devil’s revels, Brocken Harz,
where pines would weep their resin tears,
till May Day closed Walpurga’s Eve -
Frank abbess blessed, Pope Adrian.
The strokes brush freely, energy,
Mephisto’s magic alchemy,
fortunate pact named Faustian -
near heavy cloth, weaved dyeing nap -
so far from feather flying cap.
So celebrate as picture tells,
not dubious deals, immoral tales -
though warnings voiced in Johann’s play -
but sheer spiration forte’s keys,
Fortuny’s tag shared everywhere.
Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church, has had pieces accepted by some twenty on-line poetry sites, including The Ekphrastic Review; and Gold Dust, The Seventh Quarry, The Dawntreader, Foxtrot Uniform Poetry Magazines, Vita Brevis Anthology & Fly on the Wall Press ‘Identity’. https://poetrykingsnorth.wordpress.com/
Another early Sunday morning
after Saturday night's salon,
the lusting couples gone to bed,
the four of us soberly in search:
What would you ask of the devil,
not your harridan ex, but real Satan
bargaining for what soul remains?
We've been here before, still shrug.
All the things I haven't done yet.
Maybe the undoing of my wrongs.
Perhaps to avoid drinking absinthe,
which covers the first two at once.
And never to lose the use of my hands,
these equally valuable eyes and ears.
No decision had. None really possible.
The subject changes once again.
We're the artsy types, minus pretense.
Scattering scores and manuscripts,
we chase melodic styles and dances
across centuries, continents, people,
charting their progressions on the air.
Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.
The Eternal Feminine Draws us on High
The creator sung a deep song
of silence. And she breathed out.
There flowed universes, galaxies,
stars, planets. Then she looked
and saw that it was good.
Her energy filled her creation.
They became one. She wove
a net from pollen, moonlight, spring
and autumn colours and magical
moments, from birdsong and petrichor
and gave it to Gaia, her beloved.
With her breath of ice she
cooled the boiling metal.
Her profound, silent basso continuo
made the oceans recede; sharp,
piercing, joyful cries of no sound
let the earth heave and mountains fold,
her jubilant song rose in exulted silence
and life responded, unfolded,
permeated the earth.
And earth was humming.
Water churned against stone,
rocks moved against rock. A potpourri
of vibrations echoed between mountains,
bowled across oceans and tectonic plates.
She moved molecules, atoms, DNA, cells…
Sculped man. And woman. She had fun,
she was no longer alone.
Then she created music from millions of years
of star-songs, wind-sighs, electric discharges,
supernova explosions… added a bag of meter
and tempo, pitch, melody, harmony…
and hung it all on the big wisdom tree
in the centre of her garden.
Man and woman in their hubris
soon forgot from whom they took the gift
of music, the gift to create.
Rose Mary Boehm
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and Tangents, a full-length poetry collection published in the UK in 2010/2011, her work has been widely published in US poetry journals (online and print). She was three times winner of the now defunct Goodreads monthly competition. Recent poetry collections: From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949: A Child’s Journey, and Peru Blues or Lady Gaga Won’t Be Back, Her latest full-length poetry MS, The Rain Girl, has been accepted for publication in June 2020 by Blue Nib. Her poem, "Old Love’s Sonnet," has been nominated for a Pushcart by Shark Reef Journal where it was published in the summer of 2019.
The piano keys are stirred, ever so slightly
Like grass ruffled by wind,
Dreams alive again.
Usually, they talk politics
In the dingy-carpeted room
Stifled by smoke and hot air,
Egos inflated as always,
But save for the music,
Everything fades away,
Their words evanescing.
To them, it may only be
An assemblage of notes,
Though to him, it is art,
A song that breathes hope
Into his weary heart
No longer quieted by the strain of worldly pressures.
Suddenly, it’s no longer even Faust
Trading his soul for vague promises
Of what he had thought he wanted;
Now, it is his story,
The pianist’s vision of heaven,
The melodies float like a dove over the room,
And for once,
Those grizzled politickers in the corner
Turn away from their argument,
More sweet than bitter,
No longer playing Mephistopheles’ advocates.
The thirst for knowledge, the quest for truth
Is replaced by some yet greater virtue,
The peace of being content, free
From worries, fulfilled by the simple joy
Of music spun like strands of gold
From the imagination,
Painted by the restless heart
Stilled by the serenity of beauty,
A meaningful masterpiece.
Once again, the poet leaves the philosophers
Speechless, breathless with amazement
At how words are inadequate to describe
The stirrings of the soul,
Brought to life by the piano keys.
If only Faust had known of this salvation.
Kathryn Sadakierski’s writing has appeared in The Bangor Literary Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Nine Muses Poetry, Teachers of Vision, Dime Show Review, The Decadent Review, Visual Verse, iō Literary Journal, and elsewhere. Kathryn’s poem “Fall in New England” is forthcoming in Northern New England Review. She holds a B.A. from Bay Path University, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree.
The Ekphrastic Review
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