Edward Hopper’s Excursion into Philosophy, no. 1
His eyes, dark coins,
prayer rug of light at his feet
wan yellow of despair.
Her hair, a brushful
of magenta, brown bleeding
across the pillow.
Two fingers of whiskey
in stained coffee cups,
a profane communion.
Blouse unbuttoned, belts
uncoiled, zippers racing
each other in sync.
Let me read you something.
Questions from another age
ravel the thread of what is.
Breath, pulse, desire itself
by a single thought.
Edward Hopper’s Excursion into Philosophy, no. 2
Where a man takes you, Momma said,
says more about you than him.
Meaning you get what you deserve.
I get a room with a window stuck open.
An invitation to jump. Leaning out,
the light is so bright it stings my eyes
like saltwater when they hold you under
until you scream bubbles. Like those saints
bleeding for God in paintings, their wounds
thick red mouths. “Hey, get in here,” he barks,
reading to me on the edge of the bed
something about this best of all possible worlds.
Ken Hines writes essays and poems on matters he finds puzzling. Some of those pieces have found their way into The Millions, Philosophy Now, Barrelhouse, Mocking Heart Review and AIOTB. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.
Hokusai’s The Great Wave
in wake of Fukushima, 2011
It is said Hokusai never intended to represent
a tsunami, but an okinami, a wave of the open sea,
erect, foam curling up its claw-crested fingers
over stunned boatmen surfing in reverence.
And I wonder what made that captive wave leap
out, release the dormant creature locked in
for centuries in shades of Prussian blue,
its delicate swirls spewing muddy torrents
over Fukushima’s shores, erasing in black ink
all shapes ever drawn, engraved or breathing,
its voracious appetite growing in silence, its heart
melting blackness into the heart of nuclear reactors.
What made it erupt like a maddened volcano
famished for blood, steel teeth crushing tiles, wood,
metal, belching in a roar engulfing homes, cars,
boats, buses, men, women, children, newborn,
unborn, all swept like broken twigs and fallen leaves,
carrying seeds that will not grow for seasons to come.
The wave of the open sea now speaks in tongues,
each curve, a threat, its filigree lines and blue hues
seem steeped in lethal pigments. In the print’s empty
spaces, spirits hold their breath, dotted droplets
filled with suffocated, inaudible voices, whisper:
Remember me, I no longer have this beautiful skin.
Remember the light that came out of my eyes.
Remember my story never to be told.
Remember my smile, my hands, my dreams.
Hokusai, your okinami has lost its innocence.
This poem first appeared in Sunrise from Blue Thunder Japan Anthology, and Under Brushstrokes (by Hedy Habra, Press 53, 2015).
Hedy Habra is a poet, artist and essayist. She has authored three poetry collections, most recently, The Taste of the Earth(Press 53 2019), Winner of the Silver Nautilus Book Award, Honorable Mention for the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and Finalist for the Best Book Award. Tea in Heliopolis won the Best Book Award and Under Brushstrokes was finalist for the Best Book Award and the International Book Award. Her story collection, Flying Carpets, won the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention and was finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Her book of criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa, examines the visual aspects of the Peruvian Nobel Prize Winner's narrative. A fifteen-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the net, and recipient of the Nazim Hikmet Award, her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies. https://www.hedyhabra.com/
Georgia O'Keeffe's Barn With Snow (1933)
Desirous of a mind
like snow along the plane
of a barn roof--
I approach the page.
Snow edges each window pane,
with its proof
Snow on the ground
rests like a settled
like a thick integument
against all sound,
a tidy scene.
One reaches an age
when one supposes
Brook J. Sadler
Brook J. Sadler: "In 2019, I was honoured to be a Featured Poet at the Dali Museum Poetry Series in St. Petersburg. My writing has also been supported by a residency at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and workshops at Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts, among others. My poems have been published with many literary journals, including The Greensboro Review, The Missouri Review, The Cortland Review, Boiler Journal, and ROAR. My prose essays appear in Ms. Magazine, Pleiades, Aquifer: Florida Review Online, Women's Review of Books, and elsewhere. I also publish scholarly essays in many academic journals and books."
To those of you who are working on poems from The Ekphrastic World ebook of prompts, the deadline has been extended to November 10.
November 1 seemed to come and go like an elusive thief in the night and some of you have expressed desire to finish or prepare submissions that you fully intended to send and time slipped away from you.
You now have until November 10 to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who have somehow missed this, The Ekphrastic World ebook of 60 prompts from around the world was created as a fundraiser to celebrate five years of The Ekphrastic Review. Your purchases supported the journal, and qualified you to submit 15 poems or five stories for consideration in our first ebook anthology, upcoming. You can still purchase this ebook to support the journal and grow your ekphrastic practice, and you have a week to write from the prompts and submit them if you too would like a shot at the anthology.
Thanks so much!
Click link below.
The Ekphrastic World: 60 Art Prompts From Around the Globe
Ode to Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War
I took a room on 10th Avenue
to be near, to witness
a majestic statue’s final days in New York City
Atop his pedestal, a resistant young man
astride a powerful steed
silhouetted and sanctified by neon, in Times Square.
Kehinde formed this statue
Now it redirects a path for us below
The rumors of war – they are rumors no more
They surround and suffocate
On the statue’s stoop, I sit with a cigarette-smoking Spiderman
Still costumed after posing for Instagram
All around giant LED screens, the city’s sirens
The sounds of slurring voices
Heads hovering over smartphones
Your silence resounds.
The cranes are coming
to remove you to Virginia
Tonight the city’s snow stains your shoulders,
and the “good” people on both sides
Look up: an ad’s half-clothed model, “queen of holiday parties”
Listen: the haunting whisper of a coy passerby, “cocaine?”
It’s the wee hours now, the cranes are coming
To remove you to Virginia
To take you to Richmond
To take you to Richmond
See that you are not troubled
Removal crews have arrived
The machinery is in place.
Your rebellious gaze looks West
Over proud shoulders, a warrior’s pose
In New York you welcomed shoppers
In Richmond, Lee and Traveller
Auden asks us to consider Henry James,
who upon observing Monument Avenue
wrote of melancholy, a bereft image, an infelicitous look
Tomorrow you decamp, South
Past capitols, the Mason-Dixon
Charlottesville and The Wilderness
Which is more welcoming, Times Square or where you ride?
Which is more prepared – horse or rider?
Say your name.
Are you seething or are you seeking?
Are you preaching or are you teaching?
for all these things must come to pass
Like Lee’s lieutenants you’ve left before dawn
for Richmond – Virginia.
But the end is not yet
Greg Shaw is a former journalist, co-author of several works of nonfiction on technology and the future (Harper Business and Columbia University), and a poetry student of Frances McCue, founder of Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. He is founder of Clyde Hill Publishing.
John James Reid
Architect & Poet.
76 Ballyskeagh Road, Drumbeg, Lisburn, BT17 9LL N. Ireland
Seamus Heaney Summer School 2018 & 2019
WB Yeats Summer School 2018 & 2019 (Irish Writers Centre Scholarships)
MA in Creative Writing 2019-2021 QUB Belfast
Several poems published in the USA: Clover - a literary rag, & Nashville Review
Francis Bacon, Study After Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope
That papal scream, mute, horror-shadowed.
Prisoner of infallible goodness.
The unheard urge to desecration, foulness.
Innocence? Hardly, rather the howl of flesh.
Go back to Velásquez, to his Pope’s giver of writ.
Knowing of office, ceremony, decree.
Document to hand, trim of beard, alert.
Due etiquette of power, Vatican red and white.
Compare Bacon, the iconoclast’s purple.
Caged, fist-curled, venting mouth.
Hidden eyes, exposed teeth, the ghost of himself.
A Dorian, ecclesiastical Hyde, the Opera’s phantom.
And those vertical paint-lines, tunneled bars.
They hold their pontiff inside his cylinder.
Cowl, collar, mitre, white robe, the parodies of command.
Peter’s heir a shouting inmate, a hidden masquerader.
Look to Bacon’s other popes, other heads.
Their Eisenstein scream, their Picasso deliquescence.
And Innocent’s utterance, to be seen as heard.
Convex, dysmorphic, the painting eye’s distortion.
A. Robert Lee
This poem first appeared in Imaginarium: Sightings, Galleries, Sightlines, 2Leaf Press, 2013.
A. Robert Lee was Professor in the English department at Nihon University Tokyo, 1997-2011. British-born, he previously taught at the University of Kent, UK. His creative work includes Japan Textures: Sight and Word, with Mark Gresham (2007), Tokyo Commute: Japanese Customs and Way of Life Viewed from the Odakyu Line (2011), and the collections Ars Geographica: Maps and Compasses (2012), Portrait and Landscape: Further Geographies (2013), Imaginarium: Sightings, Galleries, Sightlines (2013), Off Course: Roundabouts and Deviations (2016), Passsword: A Book of Locks and Keys (2016), Written Eye: Visuals/Verse (2017), Alunizaje/Lunar Landings, with Blas Miras (2019), Writer Directory: A Book of Encounters (2019) and Suspicious Circumstances. What? (2020). Among his academic publications are Multicultural American Literature: Comparative Black, Native, Latino/a and Asian American Fictions (2003), which won the American Book Award in 2004, Modern American Counter Writing: Beats Outriders, Ethnics (2010) and The Beats: Authorships, Legacies (2019). Currently he lives in Murcia, Spain.
Straight stem spine reaches up
the dark mother watches
over the lake her high leaves
shower in majestic light
as black twigs sway
above the serene surface.
All over the hillscape behind
golden needles spike through the mist.
Far behind the eternal rock pushes aside the clouds
and the early sun paints it in warm orange
as it glances satisfied over the peaceful scene.
With serene indifference
the white peaks lean against
a heap of restless clouds
sprinkles of green are brushed
over the smaller ridges in front.
A few needled giants spike proudly
above the snow-coated bushes nearby
on the shore of the frozen lake
in the centre
its surface a mirror
that calmly reflects
softened shades of blue and grey
putting the troubled sky to rest.
Curious stems sway over the sand
underneath the wooden twins
that caress the breeze
with sturdy palm leaves.
The golden light above recedes into copper
onto the waters of an endless wavescape
flowing from the horizon
pulsing towards the land
the shimmering waves
burst rhythmically into white
greeting the twins with joy.
Distant violet announces dusk
final glimmers of orange fade
from the summer green that covers remote hills.
Lonely pines stand strong
mossy meadow carpeting the scene
overlooked by the old father
settled near the pond
thick bark white wisdom
overseeing the water
blending with the dark green of the meadow
as the distant violet fades.
Martin Breul is a graduate of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He spent one year studying in Toronto, Canada, where he began to write fiction and poetry. Ever since, he is determined to spend time in coffee shops surrounded with books and paper, pretending to be a writer, until his fellow caffeine-addicts believe that he is one. His poetry appeared previously in Half A Grapefruit Magazine and his academic work has been published in [X]position. He is currently pursuing a MA at McGill University.
Join us for biweekly ekphrastic writing challenges. See why so many writers are hooked on ekphrastic! We feature some of the most accomplished, influential poets writing today, and we also welcome emerging or first time writers and those who simply want to experience art in a deeper way or try something creative.
The prompt this time is Tomato Soup, by Andy Warhol. Deadline is November 13, 2020.
We encourage submissions of flash fiction or creative nonfiction! Poetry is always welcome- we love poetry! We are simply hoping to attract more fiction writers and fiction readers. Please keep submissions under 1000 words.
1. Use this visual art prompt as a springboard for your writing. It can be a poem or short prose (fiction or nonfiction.) You can research the artwork or artist and use your discoveries to fuel your writing, or you can let the image alone provoke your imagination.
2. Write as many poems and stories as you like. Send only your best works or final draft, not everything you wrote down. (Please note, experimental formats are difficult to publish online. We will consider them but they present technical difficulties with web software that may not be easily resolved.) Please copy and paste your submission into the body of the email, even if you include an attachment such as Word or PDF.
3. Have fun.
4. USE THIS EMAIL ONLY.
Send your work to email@example.com. Challenge submissions sent to the other inboxes will most likely be lost as those are read in chronological order of receipt, weeks or longer behind, and are not seen at all by guest editors. They will be discarded. Sorry.
5.Include WARHOL WRITING CHALLENGE in the subject line.
6. Include your name and a brief bio. If you do not include your bio, it will not be included with your work, if accepted. Even if you have already written for The Ekphrastic Review or submitted other works and your bio is "on file" you must include it in your challenge submission. Do not send it after acceptance or later; it will not be added to your poem. Guest editors may not be familiar with your bio or have access to archives. We are sorry about these technicalities, but have found that following up, requesting, adding, and changing later takes too much time and is very confusing.
7. Late submissions will be discarded. Sorry.
8. Deadline is midnight, November 13, 2020.
9. Please do not send revisions, corrections, or changes to your poetry or your biography after the fact. If it's not ready yet, hang on to it until it is.
10. Selected submissions will be published together, with the prompt, one week after the deadline.
11. Rinse and repeat with upcoming ekphrastic writing challenges!
12. Please share this prompt with your writing groups, Facebook groups, social media circles, and anywhere else you can. The simple act of sharing brings readers to The Ekphrastic Review, and that is the best way to support the poets and writers on our pages!
The Charnel House
Oliver didn’t think about art, not that he had anything against it. It was just something he had never paid attention to while growing up. His mother painted watercolours, but he never considered her paintings art. Painting was simply what she did in her spare time. It was a hobby. Once when he was seven his aunt took him to see a Van Gogh exhibit. She told him that Van Gogh had a mental illness that accentuated his creativity, but she didn’t explain why anyone would be interested in seeing the paintings of a mentally ill person. It was the same with Picasso. Everyone said he was great, but no one explained why. When Emily, a friend from work, asked if he wanted to come with her to see a Picasso exhibit, he wasn’t sure what to say.
Two weeks before, he and Emily had gone to lunch at a café in the Mission District. He found her attractive, interesting. She talked about art, music, and nature, plus she was funny, and seemingly passionate about everything. When she asked about going to the exhibit, he admitted he knew nothing about art. But the more she talked about it, the more he wondered if he could learn what made Picasso great. But more importantly, he wanted to spend time with her.
The exhibit was called Picasso and the War Years, a collection of paintings produced before and during the Second World War. As the two of them walked from one room to another in the museum, Oliver found the paintings confusing and disturbing. He saw a grotesque dancer with distorted limbs holding a tambourine. He saw squiggly lines that suggested a bird from one perspective and a three-eyed woman from another. Another painting showed a bizarre looking female with an ear where her nose should be and a nose stuck to the side of her face. And skulls. There were human skulls, sheep skulls, and cow skulls. What was the point? he wondered.
Oliver glossed over the exhibit brochure and read that Picasso was the greatest artist of the 20th century. He assumed the museum people must know something, but nothing in the exhibit looked remotely familiar. There were no trees or mountains or cows in a field or portraits of normal looking people. The paintings seemed to have come from the mind of a madman. No other explanation made sense. He was clearly out of his element and began to think he’d made a mistake. Emily marveled at paintings he couldn’t possibly comprehend. Clearly it had been a bad idea to go with her to a museum. A woman like her would never be interested in someone like him. Oliver was anxious to get through the exhibit as quickly as possible. Emily wanted to take her time and study each piece. They agreed to meet later in the bookstore.
Oliver walked quickly through the next room glancing at portraits of strange, hideous figures. Dark, unexpected colors on contorted faces, many of whom appeared to be weeping. One figure was painted green. Several were little more than unorganized scribbles. One showed a nun in black with an exposed breast and her arms raised. Another depicted a screaming woman holding a dead child. The only concession Oliver could make was that the subjects and colors were bold.
He stepped into a room with a full-sized reproduction of Picasso’s most famous painting. The sweep of Guernica captured him. He stopped to take it in. A horse in agony. Dead and dying people. A ghostly figure coming into the house holding a lamp. A bull with demonic eyes. Oliver didn’t know what the painting represented other than a depiction of war. He took a deep breath and moved to the last room of the exhibit.
This room was dominated by a single painting more disturbing than the others. He stepped close to read the label – The Charnel House – then stepped back. It was gray and black with exposed, raw, yellowed canvas. The painting appeared like an open window, as though he was looking through onto a horrific pyramid of broken bodies, including that of a small child. They reminded him of overripe, rotting fruit, discarded refuse. In the lower part of the painting the light was dying, falling to angular pools among the bodies, into blackness at the edges. The drawn and painted figures were stripped, tortured, and bound. He noticed erasures of earlier, forgotten deaths. These figures, he realized, were the victims of every war, buried under a table of undeniable abundance with a pitcher, probably of wine, and a loaf of bread.
The label stated that Picasso had intentionally left the painting unfinished, since the brutality and senselessness of war hadn’t ended when Picasso stepped away from it. Oliver found that he couldn’t take his eyes from it, especially the large unpainted areas of the canvas. Perhaps because there was less brutality in the empty spaces. Perhaps because he felt safe resting his eyes there. Perhaps because they reminded him of the same soft yellow of the mud house outside of Kandahar, the one he had entered minutes ahead of his team members.
Oliver walked slowly through a courtyard surrounded by mud walls. A dawn rocket attack had destroyed most of the village. It was believed that the houses had been abandoned and insurgents were using them to store weapons. This house was one of the few still standing, although its wooden door had been blown in. As he approached, he heard the sound of someone crying. Oliver knew only a few phrases in Pashto. He called out tas-leem saa, the phrase for “surrender.” No one answered. He said it again. When there was no response, he called out in English, “come out.” Still nothing. He stepped to one side of the opening and shined a light into the room. The crying sounded like that of a child. Slowly, he stepped through the door and swung the barrel of his rifle across the room. He stopped at the sight of a small child, a girl, sitting on the floor next to a dead woman, probably the child’s mother. The woman was lying contorted on the floor in a pool of drying blood. As the other team members entered, Oliver turned and ran out of the house.
He turned away from the painting and closed his eyes, but the crying didn’t stop. He found it difficult to breathe. He looked behind him, saw a long wooden bench, and sat down. Then he glanced around the room. There were no children in the room, just an elderly woman sitting on the far end of the bench. He turned toward her. “Do you hear someone crying?” The woman looked at him, shook her head, and turned back to the painting. Oliver didn’t understand what was happening. The sound was so clear. Was it coming from the painting? He looked again at it and wondered if the canvas, paint, and imagery had entered his head. He felt a flash of anger at Picasso, as if the artist had used his brush as a weapon and Oliver himself had become the target. The crying seemed to grow louder.
“Oliver?” He jumped at hearing his name. It was Emily. He stood quickly and smiled an embarrassed smile. “Are you alright?” she asked.
“Fine, fine,” he said, rushing his words. “It’s... a remarkable exhibit. I’ll wait for you outside if that’s alright.”
“Sure,” she said, puzzled by his abrupt behavior. She watched as he quickly left the room. Then she turned and looked at the painting. She wondered why Picasso had left it unfinished.
Jim Woessner is a visual artist and writer living on the water in Sausalito, California. He has an MFA from Bennington College and has had poetry and prose published in numerous online and print magazines, including the Blue Collar Review, California Quarterly, and Close to the Bone. Additionally, two of his plays have been produced in community theatre.
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