These poems for Throwback Thursday were selected due to my admiration for the talent of their authors as well as my fondness or appreciation for the source art. I've been revisiting the journal's archives lately as I make final edits to my manuscript of ekphrastic poems (due to be published by Main Street Rag), trying to maintain my excitement for ekphrasis and to understand how my book fits into this literary tradition. I'm thankful that two poems from the manuscript first found a home at The Ekphrastic Review.
Conversation with an Eye Seen Through the Keyhole, by Jim Davis
Jim Davis brings us a wildly imaginative interpretation of Lorette C. Luzajic's abstract painting. Despite the fact that it's Jim's mind making the wild connections, we're still able to recognize so much more in the painting through the poetry: "Rubber ducks bob in censoring suds / Do you think I can fit inside the shower / caddy?"
White Doors, by Robbi Nester
I'm a sucker for paintings of doors and windows for some reason. Robbie Nestor's take on Vilhelm Hammershoi's haunting painting gets right at the core of what's so strange about the piece: "a book of lives standing on edge, eternally / ajar in the dusty back room of the afterlife."
Memories Suspended by Filaments, by Ruth Bavetta
Joseph Cornell's art provides wonderful sources of poetic inspiration since each of his artworks are catalogs in their own right. Ruth Bavetta's poem is interesting because it mostly catalogs the man and his method of creating before finally ending on a description of the specific piece: "Oh, / Bebe Marie, you are so beautiful, / pale pink, hidden among silvery wings."
Poems after John James Audubon, by Colin Morris
I have a great appreciation and a soft spot for Audubon's ornithological paintings. Colin Morris's series of poems drew me in right away with their creative and individual approaches to describing each painting: "Lemon-carmine throats / tremor, wings pulse / shutter green."
Magritte, by Bill Yarrow
Magritte is another artist whose work is a great subject for writing ekphrasis. Bill Yarrow's poem both tackles and achieves the weirdness of Magritte's surrealist art while also providing a strange and engrossing half-narrative, half-dream: "Now the tendon of God is stretched to plain view. / A million onions have been carried to the mirror."
What Remains, by Melanie Figg
I interned at the Minneapolis Institute of Art just over 15 years ago, so I'm amused by Melanie Figg's choice to write about this posthumous mourning portrait (as she notes, the painting's subject is rumoured to haunt the museum). Figg's prose poem is interesting because although its narrator seems to be the dead boy, it also examines our modern perception of this strange painting practice: "I thought death would be a place where no one saw me anymore. But I am everywhere, everywhere."
Cezanne's Tears, by David Leeds
Cezanne's art is recognizable for most museum-goers. What really pulls me into David Leeds's poem is his refutation of the imaginative for the scientific, which emphasizes the spectacle of realness and provides the analogy for the pull of the apples: "It is like Cezanne's apples. / How he traded the sweetness of the flesh / for the cold force inside..."
Dane Hamann is a Chicagoland editor and poet. He is the current poet in residence for derailleur.net, a newsletter/website devoted to professional cycling. His book A Thistle Stuck in the Throat of the Sun (Kelsay Books, 2021) is ostensibly about running. His second book, Parsing the Echoes, a collection of ekphrastic poems, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing Company.
Read Dane's ekphrastic poem, Grain, here.
Read Dane's ekphrastic poem, Field, here.
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