One core conviction at The Ekphrastic Review is that writing is thinking. Writing about art means thinking about the image and all of its thematic and symbolic possibilities. We believe it is one of the best ways to learn about art because it includes automatic contemplation of that image, even if just for a few moments while we conjure a small poem. Art is an invitation to communication. It connects us to the ideas and expression of the individual artist, giving us a window to another’s soul, ideas, perspectives, feelings, and experiences. The relationship between the artist’s work and the work of the viewer is different every time, renewed with each new audience connection. And each connection magically ignites a conversation between past and future, between then and now, between different people but also different cultures, different beliefs, and different experiences.
Those drawn naturally to The Ekphrastic Review are usually people who already have an interest in art and art history, writers who want to learn more about art and explore the ways it can inspire their own craft. But the journal is also, in some ways, what you might call “evangelical.” We love to share this invitation or window into art with others in hopes that they might discover the magic for themselves. We want everyone, from all walks of life, to experience the profound insights and connections and inspiration that contemplating art can bring.
So we are thrilled that teachers like Elizabeth Jorgenson extend the invitation to ekphrasis to her students. When Elizabeth approached us about curating the selections of art and publishing some of their works we said yes, yes, yes. We are bombarded with millions of images every day. The simple act of contemplating a few of them more carefully can change our relationship with images. Writing is one of the most meaningful ways to engage with images. As the journal’s founder and editor, I was amazed at the thoughtful poetry submitted in response to the three paintings I chose. Reading through these works, I felt astonished at how much thought went into each poem, at the variety of ideas presented, at how each writer addressed or interpreted the different themes.
My task was to choose a selection of works to publish in this showcase. The more I tried to pick a few, the more I felt I was leaving out. Since the class size was not too large, I asked Elizabeth if it would be okay to publish all of them in this case. Thank you so much to Elizabeth and to every writer who participated. I am proud to share the students’ talent, creativity, and insight in The Ekphrastic Review for our readers. I hope each of these young writers continues to pursue art and poetry in their futures.
Best wishes, Lorette
The View of No. 16 by Mark Rothko
A chill fall night.
Leaves falling left and right.
A night scarier than usual.
A night where fear and happiness are mutual.
Black cats scurry across the way.
The unknown seeps into the bay.
But little Cinderella charges out to start her quest.
The ultimate test,
fighting off zombies and witches,
to find her riches.
Racing superheroes down the block,
a race where she does not walk.
Following the black sky which has no end.
Darkness which isn't her friend.
Finding her treasure,
which fills her with pleasure.
Orange like a pumpkin,
but she is no bumpkin.
White as the moon,
the treasure will be found soon.
a treat the princess mourns every year.
Peace from the Horizon
The White fluffy clouds cover the Sky
So peaceful as the world flies by
The constant, comforting cover remarkably snow White,
Fading Sunlight seems to cast away any plight
Clouds converge to meet,
Above the calming center of citrus-orange heat
Clouds like a blanket, making a nighttime routine complete
The Sun acting like an all seeing eye, sitting low in the Sky,
Like an Orange on a branch barely yay-high
The Orange finally dips to meet the cold dark ground beneath
It’s almost as if the world is asleep Underneath
Author's note: "(The sunset) was my inspiration for that poem. The piece of art created by Mark reminded me of a cloudy sunset meeting the horizon line. Something about the piece seemed oddly comforting and to me, it felt the same as sitting on the beach after a long day in the sun watching the sun set. The piece seemed so calming, so minimalistic. Sunsets also seem minimalistic to me, they are a process that happens every day without fail and they don't require a lot of thought or effort on our part which is why my poem relates to the piece. Sunsets are peaceful and in my opinion are seen as a time for reflection so I wanted that energy to be reflected in the poem."
Stripes, filled with black, orange, and white
These colours seem to blend and mix
Lost in a stream of dark and light
As the colours bring together a fix
Perhaps it speaks of love and hate
The dance between the light and dark
A balance we must create
As we head through life and embark
Yet orange lies between it
A balance amidst the polarity
A balance created so none shall fall
So those in the world can dance in harmony
Outside the world of what we recognize
A blue expanse, dark and unknown
Tread with care and be wise
In a deep blue sea, ominous shadows are prone
The canvas, deep and blue,
in a sense invokes the ocean,
embodies a vast and untapped space.
Yet this canvas is neither vast nor empty,
as its space is filled with bands.
The top, the largest: a white band,
its top fading into the canvas
as a cloud into clear sky.
The pure white light,
though greyed through time,
overwhelms with its joy
the remainder of the dark canvas.
The bottom: a black band,
its looming shadow contrasting the white.
This band is the demise to white’s purity
night to white’s day
or death to white’s life.
Its shadow wavers barely
with a hint of blue from the canvas
but its strength in demise reigns strong.
In separating these,
the middle: a gold band.
Like the object of human endeavor,
the thin gold charts a path
through the ocean of the canvas
between the white purity
and the black demise.
Sunset Over the Horizon
The sun setting over the dark trees.
On the lake with a nice calming breeze.
The white clouds in the sky,
as the sun brightens the eye.
The blue water reflects the light.
Making the sun feel very bright.
As the sun lowers into the trees the sky darkens,
and the light from the moon begins to sharpen.
“The purpose of art: to make the unconscious conscious.”
A man sits, while his eyelids fight to stay open
figures try to change the notes, while they stay broken
In his dreams he prays for a solution
although, they invariably answer in allusions
Waking up, he feels he is missing something
though he doesn’t realize his dreams created a hidden reply
he tries and tries and lets out a sigh
“Why oh why won’t it work this time?”
His hand slowly starts to move, under the control of his mind
he feels as though his conscious and unconscious became intertwined
only then was the reply in his dreams shown
with it, harmony became known
The first part of my life was white.
As white as a dove, pure and loved.
Nothing was done wrong, everything was new.
The love was plentiful, overflowing from everyone.
From mothers to grandmothers
dresses to churches
fathers and cartoons.
The beginning was true.
The second part of my life was orange.
As orange as fire, burning and free.
With each step was a new adventure, a new opportunity to grow.
Running through the flames was a child, free as the fire itself.
With angry mothers and absent fathers,
the middle burnt into my mind like a hot seatbelt.
The last part of my life was black.
As black as the night, dark and unforgiving.
Mindless days of work, the day ending on the couch with a cold drink and tired eyes.
The loneliness loomed, and so did the darkness.
Every day felt the same as the last.
The world was unforgiving, with missiles and bombs alike.
The world became real, all throughout the night.
Intricacy in the Unadorned
Art, adorned with detailed design, and complex construction,
Yet, one does not need fanciful intricacies.
Indeed, found in the unadorned, lies the intrinsic quality of art.
Three simple rectangles, not even or regular in size display intense meaning.
Blinding white, like the pure innocence of the soul,
saffron like the spark of the ancient flame of life,
and black, that which marks the great abyss of death.
All contained within the deep, blue, endless sea of existence.
Three simple shapes,
four simple colours,
never ending possibilities.
never ending interpretations.
From which the intricate web of life can be seen,
from the first steps,
to the last breath.
Three shapes and four colours,
capture the joys of the orange flame of life, the black inescapability of death.
Contained within the simple exists the complex,
within the complex exists the simple.
Gazing upon the fundamentals,
the intricacy contained in the unadorned.
Colours of Life
White as the clouds above,
clouds in the sky make up the same colour as snow.
The snow shows the color of a dove,
the dove flying makes the sky flow.
Orange paints a picture in the mind,
the sunset makes people happy.
Happiness will not let them become denied.
When people see it, it makes them chappie.
Black, the beast of the world.
The blackness turns the life away,
the sadness makes the mind whirled.
The darkness of people create them to betray.
Blue is the colour of the sky,
which makes anything limitless to apply.
The Favourable Three
“The ancient Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, postulated that the meaning behind numbers was deeply significant. In their eyes the number three was considered as the perfect number, the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding.” (Welsh National Opera)
The serenity, the solitude, the loneliness.
The gentle sun, the rolling clouds, the beating rain.
The perfect pair, the newly wed, the newly widowed.
The cheerful, the content, the desolate.
The early morning, the afternoon, the midnight.
The busing crowd, the quiet whispers, the dead silence.
The rising action, the climax, the end.
The starting mark, the race, the finish.
The adolescence, the young adults, the funeral.
A young man alone in a room with his thoughts,
Pondering the idea of music and imagining that sound,
The two strands of chords click in his head,
He sits silently imagining the sound of music and rearranging notes,
Birds fly into his quiet room,
At first he thinks of them as a disturbance but then he realizes they are music too,
The chirps and flaps of the birds start to combine with his music to create a song,
Quickly the man writes down the notes to not forget them,
The Man opens his box to find more instruments for his symphony,
The room is now swelling ideas of music and chords and rhythms,
The man is ready to show the world what he has created,
Only if he knew that he would change history.
A man sits swiftly in the protection of a church,
he listens to the psalm of two angels,
Their melodies blend together to make the perfect rhythm.
He then hears the chirping of two birds,
they blend together with the music,
this melody almost puts him to rest, but not quite.
So, he then opens one of the two chests,
so he can add to the angels singing,
This tune would put him to rest.
The church echos with beautiful sounds: birds chirping and angels singing.
He falls asleep to the two harmonies.
As I sit and think,
I feel something strange,
a presence perhaps,
felt all around,
a presence perhaps,
that makes no sound.
The birds fly around as I wonder,
who sits before me,
changing my harmony?
And who sits behind in the corner of my room,
adjusting the tune?
I feel them all around,
but they make not a sound.
The presence grows and consumes my mind,
I feel it all around,
rising from the ground,
emerging from the walls,
but still no sound.
I sit in thought and wonder,
what do they want?
The feeling it consumes me,
pulling me in every direction,
as I wonder,
is it my time to go?
To you, it may seem futile.
A hopeless, exhausted endeavor.
As if one person were attempting to play every note of every instrument of an orchestra
Scattered throughout my dim, hollow chamber,
the works of such composer.
You can see the madness, but not the method.
The notes but no song.
“What's the secret?” you ask,
“What sounds can you hear?”
To you, it may seem chaotic.
Prisms and plants,
strung together in hopes they will sing.
Will the geometric and organic ever play a song in tune?
I hope, just as you, to unlock this melody
of our world’s vibration, soon.
The Abandoned Music Room
A musty blue smudged across the walls,
like stormy clouds rolling in.
Cut up paper shreds pasted on,
her face hidden within.
The room smelled of old newspapers.
Blocks of haziness plastered on the floor.
Chests full of old crumpled up music notes,
of the songs she used to sing and hum,
in her tomato red chair.
The music still echoes within the room.
The old decorations of different vases
hanging on the wall full of dust.
A rotten banana like blanket,
she would cover herself with, late at night.
When she wanted to be alone,
and find herself through what she loved most,
The Spirit Of Music
Music is an art that heals in times of darkness. An art that saves people in a time of need.
The walls are colourless, crumbling, and cracking.
Their gray dullness strengthened by the sands of time.
The tiles are brown, battered, and broken.
Their once bright blues and golds, tainted by the test of time.
The clouds outside are brown, dark, and dirty.
Their once bright fluffy whites, polluted into brown and grey darkness.
I sit here, alone, yet not alone, carefully creating my masterpiece.
I sit here as songs of love, life, and light fill my mind and space.
I pay no mind to the brown haze of my world outside.
I pay no mind to the dark deterioration of my room.
In my eyes, I see angels, grey yet magical, in the deteriorating walls.
In my eyes, I see plants and souls, small yet determined, escape the fragmenting floor.
Songs of love and life, only fathomable by angels, fill my heart.
Songs of growth and spirit, only possible by life, surround my body.
Such is my world, dark, colorless, and deteriorating.
Such is my life, alone yet not alone, creating my masterpiece.
So I continue, my music powering my spirit, pushing it to continue.
So I continue, my world seemingly dark, but to me, brighter than ever.
The Sounds of Life and Death
What sound truly encapsulates life?
Gaia lurks in the air,
considering each possibility on a harp string:
the shell, the leaf, the stone.
What sound truly encapsulates death?
Nyx appraises the same materials;
could one be the sound?
The neglected roots strewn across the floor say no.
The never-ending search continues
a room’s distance away from each other.
Maybe, the sound of life and death is the same.
After all, life and death are two sides of the same room.
A poem about being stuck by the fear of not reaching your full potential.
I am a perfectionist.
My body sitting here for years trying to make my music just right
These walls that surround me peel away from my everlasting fear of not being enough.
This room that I've spent every spare moment in is getting messy.
The colours that were once bright and beautiful, feeling like a fresh start,
have dimmed to the dark thoughts I will never live up to my full potential
The lady peacefully sits in the middle of the room
This room is buried under 100 feet of solid rock building
There is no escaping
Her name is wang
The tiles on the floor inspire her to create a beautiful piano piece
She spends hours constantly thinking in this room
The walls block out every bit of distraction from her thought
The ladies on the wall are the goddesses looking down on her to inspire her every move
The goddesses give her strength to keep pursuing the challenging art career
They keep her in this room for hours until she is satisfied with her work will she be let out
Will she survive the inspiration room?
The Ancient Room
The colour of ash fills the room,
covering every wall.
The cherry wood box with fragile glass,
vases with slim stems, leaves attached
the same colour as the box by the entrance.
The harmony of past memories
echo through the hollow room.
Projected through the old woman’s thoughts
memories of old.
The presence of past lives
breaking through the walls.
Floor patterned with dullness
with nature and the past
breaking the barrier below.
The bed lay above
nicely made with a curtain
only a ladder can reach.
A book shelf lie under the bed,
hoisting the bed like royalty
in the small side room.
Outside the room
leads to an eternity of nothing.
The Struggling Composer
Up all night,
working in the shadows,
trying to develop new music for piano players around the world.
Up all night,
harmony after harmony,
head down, pencil in hand, trying to write a composition for piano players.
Up all night,
pot of tea after pot of tea,
trying to compose the perfect piece for piano players.
Up all night,
no rest for weary,
the struggling composer striving for something new for piano players to play.
Up all night,
the composer wants to leave a legacy behind,
so he stays up all night working on the best piece for piano players to play.
Outside These Walls
It almost sounds like bees.
But no, it couldn’t be,
bees can’t survive in our world.
our skies darkened
our air lost its weight
our bees lost their breath.
I can’t make out the voices.
Are they in the walls? Are they in my head?
If I could just tidy up,
if I could just care for my home,
maybe everything will sound clearer.
Author’s Note: This poem is supposed to show the perspective of the character in the room, reflecting on how the world has turned into an inhabitable environment, and the lack of picking up after themselves leads to hostility. This is shown in the character's own room with the messiness of the floor and walls, and the symbolism of organizing all the pieces into harmony, or a less hostile world.
Gloom envelopes around the light, the light of creation.
One note after another, constructs of previous works scattered.
Instruments of creation, shelves upon shelves and tiles upon tiles.
Alone sits a man.
In tune with the staff.
Enveloped by creations.
Lifts each tool, each piece, each idea.
Man sees his creation, and desires perfection
So as creation goes.
The people below,
headed towards the mysterious room.
The strings he strung,
broke his mood.
The treasure once locked from the box,
flowed through the room.
The darkness from inside him,
started changing from within.
As the green curtain swayed,
his mood had changed.
That once terrifying mood,
caused a wall to be dark blue.
But as the song had played in the room,
the wall changed to a more light blue.
The people peering through,
to get a good look,
were in awe at the sight,
of what a song could do.
With the rhythm of the song,
still flowing in,
the man was finally at peace.
He accomplished making,
the “Perfect Song.”
The Unconscious’s Unity
Pale and gaunt, the sculptor strings
items of nature, of humans,
onto a musical score,
creating an abacus of objects of life.
Ghostlike fabrics and colourless vegetation
seep from a tiled floor,
from lifted tile
stretching upwards, far from the sky.
The sculptor is assisted by
figures in tears of the walls.
Forearms outstretched to fiddle with the sculptures.
Prisms and potted plants litter the floor.
Birds streak and rest in a chair.
A bed is inside a wall.
The outside of the sculptor's room is a brown haze.
Through the confusion,
only the sculptor’s
brings harmony to his work.
Beside me lay my box of ideas. Some fit, some do not, some will be saved for later. My face withers away in exhaustion but my mind is too tightly tied to the task at hand. I carefully craft the melody so that it lays parallel to my vision in mind. I work so intently that some ideas have fallen away from the box and made a new home on the cold tiled floor. The floor’s cool comfort is not a stranger to me but I keep on warm socks because I know as time goes on my toes will freeze. My visions of my music come to me from the past and from the future. They combine new and old ideas to create the perfect harmony. The future is bright and up-front with me helping me curate the thoughts that leak from my mind into the melodies of my music. The past sits alone in her shadowy corner. She is reserved, and she is alone. The memories of the past crawl back into the floor tiles to be forgotten but the most important ones stay unchanged like strong marble pillars protected and locked in a green box. When I need an old memory of an idea I sit back in my old wooden chair and dig through my green box for the perfect one. As I work at my melodies I draw inspiration from the pair of birds that call my old red chair home. I now settle for my stool but I don’t mind because they give me company. They have a pair of eggs that sit incubating in their nest. I await the day they hatch, grow up, and take their parents' place. Of course, that is all in the future which is destined to one day become the past.
An American Original
This is America. A sweet summer day. We relish shoulder to shoulder.
This is America. Sweet sounds of our voices drift through the neighbourhood.
This is America. Are we free? Is it over? A fresh beginning, fresh shavings of grass, fresh new clothes, fresh smiles.
This is America. We wait by the church, praying. West Chester.
This is America. The street my kids will grow up on, life, warmth. America gives us comfort and so we sing a song.
This is America. The neighbours gallantly smile to our tune. I can feel it.
Odd fades of hope.
This is America. The stark fence stares at me. And
We stare back with promise. “We’ll paint you.” The fence softens.
He says, “I’ll protect you.” The bullets the fence has taken. I say
“Thank you,” “Thank you so much”.
This is America. We need to bring peace. We need to bring hope. For America.
We’ll help. We are one with everyone. We are the same.
We demand. We plead. We fight. Because…This is America.
Time for School
The illuminating sun lights the streets.
The streets branch in a plethora of directions.
The directions children scurry to school.
The school produces smiling children as the illuminating sun.
The illuminating sun soaks on our faces.
The faces smile nervously scrunched gloomingly at the bus stop.
The bus stop is a ticking time bomb.
The ticking time bomb counts down as the yellow bus appears.
The yellow bus appears reflecting off the illuminating sun.
Time for school.
Men chat over yesterday's news,
Police chase, car accident, shoplifters,
They talk as fast as lightning,
Employment, children, life,
The chatter between the men doesn’t last,
They step away,
And step back singing,
Singing for EMPLOYMENT,
Singing for their CHILDREN,
Singing for LIFE,
The collection of voices fill the street,
With a sweet melody,
And above all,
They fill it with HOPE.
The Ekphrastic Review
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