06 April 2010

April Poem A Day Challenge Day 6

Some of you may have noticed, before I ventured over to the dark side of writing, I was an artist. I went to school to study art, fine art in particular, and as part of that degree, I was required to take four years of art history. I never regretted a minute of it. I was lucky enough to have a high school art teacher who also taught art history alongside the regular curriculum, and got us out to museums and shows to see the real thing. (Much easier to do when living in NY State.) As part of my college education I got to live in Italy for six months and study art history up close and personal, and that experience left me with a deep appreciation for seeing the real thing in art work. So today's prompt was a welcome exercise – sort of.

Poetic Asides: For this prompt, write an ekphrastic poem. According to John Drury's The Poetry Dictionary, ekphrastic poetry is "Poetry that imitates, describes, critiques, dramatizes, reflects upon, or otherwise responds to a work of nonliterary art, especially the visual." So, I've provided links to two pieces of art, and I want you to pick one (or both) to write an ekphrastic poem"
Flight of the Witches, by Francisco de Goya

Pocahontas, by Annie Leibovitz

A link to two images was provided. I ignored both. I believe to write a good ekphrastic poem, one has to feel passion for the artwork. While I really like Goya's The Third of May 1808, and The Nude Maja, (and love/hate Saturn Devouring His Son), the Flight of the Witches does nothing for me. It will be a cold day in hell before I write anything that gives credit to Annie Leibovitz images, especially ones that glorify 'white' washed Disney cartoons. I guess the passion is there, but writing negative poems is not my goal right now.

FYI, Leibovitz did the Dream Portrait Series, an advertising campaign from Disney "featuring celebrities as traditional Disney characters." Really? This is what passes as art now days? Jessica Biel as Pocahontas? Looking as excited as a Caucasian Old Navy mannequin can, freeze running through a fake landscape trailed by a blurry deer? I can't wrap my head around the image, let alone the idea. Maybe someone can explain it. Advertising FAIL for me.

Undigressing or Double Digressing - One of the first major paintings I saw in high school that had profound impact on me was in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. Guernica, by Pablo Picasso. (Really big Guernica image Here.) It was one of those paintings you could only stand before and study in silence. I came back to the museum several times to just look at it before it was returned to Spain. Pictures do not do it justice, they never do.

I believe to connect with a piece of art, you have to experience it, up close and personal. There is no other feeling like being smiled at by the Mona Lisa, or or gazing up at the Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel, or walking around (or through) a Christo sculpture. The beauty of poetry is trying to capture that feeling and pass it on to others who aren't lucky enough to have been able to stand a foot away from Starry Night, and disappear into the rhythm of the brushstrokes. Art, music, and poetry are all intimately connected, and what inspires one, usually inspires us all.

That's all I have to say about that.



Kathleen Cassen Mickelson said...

You actually had quite a lot to say about that! My son is an artist and we've had multiple conversations about differences and similarities in how we work, what inspires us, how we translate passion. The thing about the PAD challenge links, perhaps, is that they give emerging poets a taste of what an ekphrastic poem could be whether those poets have access to artwork or not. Maybe some of them will make a pilgrimage to a good museum and try the exercise again....

Constance Brewer said...

Kathleen - I'm nothing if not opinionated. :) I think poets should try out many forms of writing poetry, even those that at first glance, seem unsuitable. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger??

It's interesting how being artist and writer influences how I approach things. It's very hard to turn off one or the other, but paradoxically easy to fall into 'writer' mode or 'artist' mode when not consciously thinking about it. No wonder lots of creative people use consciousness altering methods. . .