Friday 30 July 2010

Ars Poetica (2): Ekphrasis

Leicestershire: Grace Dieu (above)
and nearby Coleorton (St Mary's Church below)

Wordsworth was influenced artistically
by his patron, Sir George Beaumont,
who played a key role in the founding of the National Gallery in London

and lived at Coleorton Hall

I have had cause on two recent occasions to consider the nature of ekphrastic work, so I thought it might be a useful moment to formulate some (personal) thoughts and air a couple of queries on the subject.

From my undergraduate studies of Classical Greek, I know that ek corresponds to out, and phrasis to speak. We find ek or ec in English words like ectoplasm. We also find it transmuted to ex in words like external. We know phrasis, of course, from words like phrase and phraseology. Ekphrasis, a rhetorical technique, is therefore a combination of these word-parts, which when combined give a meaning of speaking out or proclamation - or to put it another way, of calling 'an inanimate object by name' [Wikipedia - see also a number of definitions garnered by Ryan Welsh at the University of Chicago].

The majority of ekphrastic poems (I believe) shed light on a picture without the two art forms being physically conjoined. They do, however, build an imaginary bridge between the 'verbal' and the 'visual'. Take, for instance, the iconic example of Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn. What is important here is that the poet brings a 'notional' or 'allusive' - rather than an 'actual' - image before our inner eye and makes us question what we visualise. There is no need for us to see the urn (which may or may not be a single artefact) portrayed in a given medium alongside the poem. The words alone do the work, conjuring up the object in our imagination.

We occasionally encounter ekphrasis in poetry as an actual and symbiotic pairing of word and image. That is to say, for example, that a poem text and piece of corresponding 'visual art' work in tandem to form a fusion or new creation. The one art form elucidates and illuminates the other in some manner - and this is a two-way process. We can all recall our childhood story and poetry books in which the bold and colourful illustrations added so much to each tale or poem. I consider this powerful marriage to be ekphrasis at its most basic (and on occasions at its most potent) level.

In these multi-media days of collaborative enterprises and opportunities, we are familiar with countless instances of art forms impacting on other media. Ekphrastic poetry could be 'illuminated' or 'enhanced' (I hesitate to say 'illustrated') by 'actual' painted work, pen-and-ink drawings or photographs. It may be of interest to note that a union of photography and poetry has appeared in the Poetry Book Society bulletin as Photoetry, but I see this as a form of ekphrasis rather than as something different again.

The questions lingering in my mind are ones of definition and distinction:
  • Are all 'visual' poems ekphrastic?
  • Are all 'illustrated' stories (like those in the children's picture books mentioned above) ekphrastic?
And in each case, if not, then why not?

* * *

Previous Coastcard posts touching on Ekphrasis can be found here and here. My Photoetry entry (with a couple of book recommendations) is here.

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Wednesday 28 July 2010

Magazine Moment (15): The Seventh Quarry

Swansea Bay from Mumbles,
with the Swansea-Cork ferry

I was delighted when the Summer 2010 edition [issue 12] of The Seventh Quarry arrived today, featuring an international spread of work from Wales, England, Holland, Romania, Italy, Catalonia, Israel, South Africa, Canada and America.

The magazine includes an interview with one of the leading Catalonian poets, Dr August Bover. Dr Kristine Doll poses interesting questions about the 'difficult to understand' label that attaches itself to the art of poetry.* I had the privilege of meeting August at a stimulating and memorable workshop in the Dylan Thomas Centre some months ago. Allan Peterson appears on p.5 as the issue's poet in profile.

The magazine opens with a poetry sequence including a moving piece, A Circle of Meadow, by Vince Clemente, The Seventh Quarry's Consulting Editor for America. A stylish concrete poem, Elephant, by Dave Lewis from Wales is embedded with 'memories' and 'stories' from the watering holes. Gerald England's witty contribution seems to me to combine the lazy dog pangram with a kind of abcedarium. I much enjoyed Gillian Drake's evocative poem, Lost - and am delighted that my poem, The Women of Linear B, has been included on p.11.

In Chapter 1 - Swansea Bay we are treated to an excerpt from a forthcoming Cross-Cultural Communications publication, Love For Ever Meridian; Finding Dylan Thomas in the 21st Century by John Dotson, who enjoyed 'taking in the shore-places of Dylan the boy' on a recent visit to South Wales.

The penultimate page of this issue carries a description of the latest Poet to Poet chapbook, Nightwatch by Aeronwy Thomas and Maria Mazziotti Gillan, in the series published jointly by Cross-Cultural Communications and The Seventh Quarry Press ... of which more perhaps in a future post.

Thank you, Peter, once again for another bumper edition!

* Postscript: On the subject of the meaning of poetry, there is a substantial article entitled by The Virtue of Verse by George Watson, fellow at St John's College, Cambridge in the current Times Higher Education Supplement (29 July-4 Aug 2010) - available online, with livelink highlighted above.


N.B. If you would like to take out a subscription
to The Seventh Quarry poetry magazine,
details can be found here.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Magazine Moment (14): Cultural Horizon Magazine (Romania)

A recent package from Romania!

I was delighted to receive the current copy of Contemporan Orizont Literar (Annul III - Nr.3 (17) / Mai-Junie 2010) through the post from Bucharest. Mihai Cantuniari is Director of this international - and often multi-lingual - publishing enterprise, with Daniel Dragomirescu as Editor-in-Chief. The magazine's new Foundation is a media partner of MTTLC, which comes under the guidance of Professor Lidia Vianu at the University of Bucharest.

This edition contains 60 packed and well presented pages of:
  • articles
  • poetry
  • critical perspectives
  • feedback
  • photographs,
in addition this year's second extra A4 supplement, El Boletin del Autor, representing Orizonturi Literare Spaniole, and featuring Pedro Javier Martin Pedros. Pedros is interviewed by Victor Mrata Cortado on the intriguing subject, 'Poezia este şi va fi mereu necesară' | 'Poetry is and will always be necessary'. Pedros considers those closet writers who 'write like angels', but whose words rarely see the light of day. What is it that makes us write? Why, I wonder, are some writers so reluctant to admit that they have secret scripts hidden away - in a 'celebrity-culture' world in which others are desperate to flaunt their work?

The main body of the magazine begins with 'A Preface to the Passions of Daniel' (editor-in-chief) by the magazine's Director. Cantuniari pays tribute to Daniel Dragomirescu, whose dreams, visions and tenacity of spirit have made the magazine what it is today, by forging ahead and 'co-opting a series of precious translators', under Alina-Olimpia Miron. Daniel has persevered to ensure that CHM has gone from strength to strength, rising to new heights and inspiring readers (and writers) from more and more corners of the globe. I am not alone in acknowledging a debt to the editor's cultural foresight.

Thank you, Daniel, for the opportunities that have arisen - opportunities to make new friends, to gain fresh perspectives on the multi-faceted world of the Arts, and to learn more about Romania itself.

This edition is definitely 'international' in outlook. The following countries are represented by those who have contributed:
  • Romania
  • Spain
  • Estonia
  • Nepal
  • USA
  • Israel
  • Finland
Britain, I am glad to say, is not forgotten - thanks to a section on the Feedback pages by Chris Kinsey. I interviewed Chris, BBC Wildlife Poet of the Year 2008, in an earlier edition in my occasional column, Dialoguri Galeze.

Do take a look at the magazine site here. New subscribers are always welcome - and the next edition including the latest in my interview series from Wales will be available soon!
  • MAGAZINE PRICE: 12 EUROS | 15 DOLLARS PER COPY (SHIPPING INCLUDED). PayPal details to the right of the magazine page if you click here.
  • The next issue is almost out, which will include contributions from Wales, including my interview with Susan Richardson and poetry by Byron Beynon. You can find the details here - and may perhaps like to order a copy for yourself!

Friday 23 July 2010

Poetic Places (5): Out in the Wild

Gannet flying inland from the Achiltibuie area,
north of Ullapool
[please click to enlarge]

I have just mounted a post on my new Wild and Wonderful blog about a Buzzard we saw in the Quiraing region of Skye. I have been thinking a lot about wild places and wilderness since we returned from Scotland, so it was a pleasant surprise to read Professor Morley's post about walking and writing. You can find it here: 'Rebounding Flowerheads'. His piece makes special reference to Scotland and the West Country.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Competition Corner (6): Writelink Poetry

I was thrilled and delighted to gain Second Place in the latest Writelink poetry competition on the theme of 'Rivals'.

My poem is about the creatures on the Burges wallpaper at Knightshayes Court, a National Trust property near Tiverton.

I've been 'bumping along' for days with my dominant [left] arm in a sling following a fall on Skye - so this news really cheered me up. Incidentally, the form I used was the French Quatern. It was not a form I had tried before, but as many of you know, I love to experiment.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Buried Treasure: Puffins!

Seth Apter's...

Welcome | Croeso to my Puffin Post, which I am re-posting as part of Seth Apter's Buried Treasure collaboration, in conjunction with Seth's inspirational art blog, The Altered Page. The brief was to 'excavate' an old post and give it a second life... so here goes. Enjoy!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Puffin Quest 3: OAPS (Old Age Puffins)

Coastcard Puffin Design
© Caroline Gill 2009

Puffins at the RSPB Reserve,
Bempton Cliffs, Yorkshire, UK

Those who follow my blog will know that puffins are probably my favourite bird. They float around in 'rafts' on the sea, looking like small jewels or beads in a necklace. They are often referred to as the 'clowns of the air' because they look so comical when they fly. I took a number of photographs, trying to capture their different poses: I hesitate to say their 'expressions' because this is a word I associate with humans. I hope you like the result!

Puffins seem to have been in the news a bit these past few months. I blogged about the rare sighting of the Tufted Puffin a couple of weeks ago.

[Ed.- you will find a link to that post from this one! You might also like to see my puffin bookmarks in this post].

I have now been given an unidentified newspaper clip about 'the oldest known puffin in Europe'. The bird was ringed back in 1975. Another puffin found in the same vicinity of Rough Island, part of the Shiant Isles, off Scotland had first been ringed in 1977.

By the way, if you enjoy exploring the natural world, you might like to hop over to my new 2010 blog, Wild and Wonderful.

Previous Comments:
steven said...

hello caroline - i was astonished at the ages of the puffins!!! i had no idea!! by the way - the puffin card is really lovely!!! they've always been my favourite bird. have a peaceful day. steven

Crafty Green Poet said...

I didn't know puffins lived so long!

Your puffin card is lovely, really captures their character...

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Poetic Forms (3): The Clang

My Clang is about spice...

Do you enjoy new poetry forms?

I am delighted that Professor Lewis Turco has posted a piece on the Clang form on his 'Book of Odd and Invented Forms' site. The Clang was invented by Llewelyn Nicholas. You can read two examples on the site, one by the creator of the form and the other by yours truly. If you would like to read the poems, you will need to go to the site [link above] and scroll down or search for 'Clang'.

We would be interested to know if you decide to have a go at writing a Clang...

P.S. My understanding today [24 hours on] is that Professor Turco has now taken down much of his 'Book of Odd and Invented Forms' site, with a view to editing the material for a possible print publication.

Monday 12 July 2010

Poetic Places (4): Loch Coruisk, Skye

The view from Elgol,
looking across Loch Scavaig towards Loch Coruisk

It gave me a real boost to return from Skye (nursing what seems to be a fractured ulna... final diagnosis still pending) to find that my poem, 'Turner's Loch Coruisk, Skye' [24/2009] had been awarded 2nd Prize as a result of Readers' Votes in issue 141 of Reach Poetry (Indigo Dreams Publishing, editors Ronnie Goodyer and Dawn Bauling). Thank you to all who voted and to Ronnie and Dawn for the cheque!

Incidentally, Wendy Webb's poem about (David and me at) Loch Coruisk appears in her volume, A Mermaid's Tale (Wendy Webb Books 2010). You can read more here on my Land&Lit

Sadly, my injuries meant that we were unable to take the boat over Loch Scavaig to Loch Coruisk on this occasion, but we had a couple of memorable visits to Elgol. If you would like to see what we enjoyed watching on the sea loch, you might care to click on this link, which will take you to my new blog, 'Wild and Wonderful',
about the natural world.

P.S. On the recommendation of the Quaerentia blog [and here], I took a copy of Robert MacFarlane's book, The Wild Places with me as holiday reading. I injured my dominant arm on our first full day on the island, so my reading plans have been delayed due to difficulty in holding the volume or turning the pages. Watch this space! I know the book contains a small section on Loch Coruisk.