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Jorie Graham, a poet fascinated by the problems posed by representation, also eschews ekphrastic convention in poems such as 'For Mark Rothko' (1980) where she 'makes an homage to [the artist] by proceeding deductively from the idea of a color in Rothko to the specific scene she observes from her window' (cited Heffernan 1993: 179). Similarly, poet John Yau writes that viewing 'painting, abstract painting in particular, made me think about how to get writing to move toward abstraction, or "music"' (). Ekphrastic writing is no longer merely an exercise, but a way to develop and expand a poem, or even create a poetics. Ekphrasis is not just descriptive; it is the poetic expression of the deep experience of art. Done well, it can capture the complex relationship between art, artist, and active viewer, and it can express the sum of the artistic experience, not just the parts.

01.09.2017 · Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art | Academy of ..

In his article 'Contemporary Poetry about Painting' (1992), Carl RV Brown argues that ekphrasis should be more widely taught in the English literature curriculum. He explains, 'the teaching of ekphrastic poetry promises many pedagogical advantages, especially in those cases in which the painting enhances students' accessibility to and enjoyment of poetry' (). In the decade and a half since Brown's article appeared, courses like Harry Rusche's 'The Poet Speaks of Art' at Emory University have been developed. Rusche's course asks students relevant questions about the ekphrastic product: 'Is the poem simply an objective verbal description of the work of art, or does the poet make conclusions about what the painting means? Could you reconstruct the painting from the poem without actually seeing it? Why does the poet dwell on some features of the the [] painting and ignore other aspects of the picture?' (). While both Rusche and Brown focus on ekphrasis from a reader's perspective, the same basic argument is easily applied in creative writing classrooms - considering a painting or other artwork might enhance students' opportunities for and variety of creative response. Brown, for example, does suggest that English literature students try their hand at writing:


Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art

26.08.2017 · Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art | Academy of American ..

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As an ekphrastic poem, Ashbery's is also bold in terms of address. Many ekphrastic poems emphasize a spirit of awe or reverence, but Ashbery does not dwell on such a connection. After establishing the beginnings of a relationship with the artwork, Ashbery speaks directly to and questions the painter, even frequently invoking his first name, perhaps again to call attention to their equal relationship. The poet wonders:

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Here Ashbery is not necessarily admiring. He's pointing out to readers that the painter may not be in control. Though Parmigianino's 'curved hand' is depicted in his , there is also Ashbery's own implied curved hand involved in the moment of writing the poem. Artistic control here is ambiguous and could belong to either Ashbery or Parmigianino. The author addresses the painter as a close friend (and sometimes enemy) instead of an unknowable historical figure. Ashbery notes that ' something new is on the way, a new preciosity / In the wind' and presses, 'Can you stand it, / Francesco? Are you strong enough for it?' (268-70). These questions directly challenge the painter and represent an affront rather than an instance of praise. The constructed intimacy between the author and the painter makes this possible. But Ashbery shifts to a more formal tone near the end of the poem. The relationship is re-assessed as 'Parmigianino / Must have realized [we don't accomplish quite what we set out to] as he worked at his / Life-obstructing task' (462-64), and it finally breaks down when Ashbery desires the painter to 'withdraw that hand / Offer it no longer ' (525-26).